Property investment falls out of favour

Property - Melbourne
 
We launched Stockspot Themes in April 2016 and became the first digital investment adviser in the world to offer a range of curated investment options that clients could use to personalise their portfolio. We’ve developed sophisticated portfolio tracking and risk management software to enable us to manage this.

Stockspot Themes have given our clients access to 1,000 different portfolio combinations and allowed them to include a range of different markets and assets.

We’ve carefully selected 14 theme options from over 150 different ETFs available on the ASX. These ETFs complement our model portfolios and offer additional diversification benefits across markets, assets, sectors and personal preferences (like socially responsible investing). You can see our methodology for selecting the best ETFs in our annual ETF report.

We’ve seen great take-up of Stockspot Themes, particularly from our individual and SMSF clients that want to have more control over where they are invested.
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Investing your savings doesn’t need to be daunting

Investing doesn't have to be scary
 

Investing isn’t scary, but a lot of people think it is

Risky, time consuming and emotionally exhausting. Sounds like a bad relationship or like attempting Everest. Not what most people would like to associate with growing their savings.

Unfortunately, these are the feelings many Australians associate with investing. When asked why they are not interested in investing, most Australians cite lack of knowledge, disinterest and fear.

Many people still have memories of the global financial crisis and the effect that had on their own investments or those of family and friends.

These are all natural and very human feelings. Loss aversion or fear of the unknown is something that has helped us survive through history – it’s evolutionary. However that same fear holds us back when it comes to investing. We refuse to take a well calculated risk that could immensely benefit and enrich our lives because we are fearful of losing money.

If this sounds familiar you are potentially missing the most effective way to grow your wealth.
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Investing when you’re over 50

Investing in your 50's
 
It would be great if everyone started saving money early to take advantage of compound returns but it’s easy to see how people fall behind. The typical financial lifecycle involves saving up for a house deposit, having children, and all of the expenses that come along with raising a family.

Meanwhile for many people in their 50s and 60s, compulsory superannuation didn’t kick in until much later in life…

Plenty of parents reach the empty nest phase of their life once the kids are out of the house and slowly realise they are completely unready for retirement. The average superannuation balance for someone who is 50-54 in Australia is $142,644. That falls a long way short of the amount needed to generate a comfortable income in retirement.
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How to invest when markets go sideways

Sideways market
 
Sometimes markets don’t go up or down, they go sideways. Sideways markets can last weeks or even years. They can be particularly frustrating for a long-term investor.

As time passes and markets don’t go anywhere, it can be tempting to change your investment strategy or switch into cash. However like driving in heavy traffic, switching lanes is unlikely to get you there faster. The best investors resist the urge to change strategy during these times because they understand the secret to sideways markets.
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Why it pays to be a (lazy) investor

Better to be a relaxed lazy investor
 
In most of life’s pursuits, the harder you work the better your results. Work-out more and the fitter you become. Study harder and you can get better grades.

People apply the same logic to investing. If you watch and listen to as much market news as possible you can get ahead of everyone else. There is no shortage of share market newsletters, tipsters and TV commentators to help give you an ‘edge’ over the millions of other investors out there.

Since 1995 all the people reading, researching, charting, analysing, scouring the market for opportunities and actively trading have lost out to those investors who have done absolutely nothing. In fact those so called ‘lazy investors’ made triple the returns of their active counterparts.
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How SMSFs are using robo-advice

SMSF and robo-advice
 
Self-managed super funds (SMSFs) are popular because they offer greater control over how your superannuation is invested.

Despite their popularity, managing an SMSF well is difficult – it requires time, effort and investment expertise. This is why more SMSFs are using robo-advice to reduce this burdon.

SMSFs + robo advice

The emergence of robo-advice in Australia over the last 4 years and the increasing popularity of ETFs has resulted in an increase in SMSF trustees allocating part of their fund to a robo-advice service to manage.

Robo-advice is now the fastest growing area of wealth management globally, expected to grow to US$2.2 trillion or 5% of all money managed by 2020.

Considering that SMSFs are the largest segment of the Australian superannuation industry, managing $653.8 billion as at December 2016, it’s inevitable that more SMSFs will turn their attention towards robo-advice over time. In Australia this trend is still in its infancy however 2017 is shaping up to be the year more SMSFs started using robo-advice.
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Blame it on the ETFs

ETFs - punching bag
 
They’ve been described as worse than communism, and more dangerous than the misuse of antibiotics. Some would have you believe that they cause trading glitches, are making the market dumb and dysfunctional and are leading the world toward imminent catastrophe.

It’s no coincidence that the groups most threatened by the groundswell of money into ETFs and index investing are also their staunchest and most vocal opponents. Any time there is hostile press on ETFs, you can be sure the author behind it is an active fund manager.

The irony is that the job of active fund managers is to identify and profit from market anomalies and trends. Yet they are ostriches in the sand when it comes to the colossal shift in their own industry.

The trend out of active management into indexing started gaining pace in the early 2000s. The pace has been accelerating since 2009. Regulatory change around best interests duty and growing awareness of the benefits of low-cost investing have both contributed to the success of indexing and ETFs.

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The importance of Australian shares in your portfolio

Australian shares - ASX
 
Over the past 5 years US shares delivered a whopping 21% per year compared to a more modest 11% per year from Australian shares. This has led to a swarm of investors flocking into overseas shares and global ETFs.

With all of the talk about Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook you could be excused for thinking that investing in Australia was no longer the thing to do.

In spite of the excitement around overseas markets, Australian shares still form a key part of our portfolios. We believe they should remain the dominant growth asset for Australian based investors.

There are many reasons to continue owning Australian shares but here we’ll focus on two.
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Unpopular ETFs surge ahead

2017 Australian ETF Report
 
It’s that time of year when Stockspot releases its annual Australian Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) Report which analyses and compares over 150 ASX-listed ETFs.

The report is now in its third year and each time it grows as more ETFs are launched on the ASX. We think that’s a great thing as it means more people are embracing index investing for their portfolios and superannuation.

The ETFs we’ve carefully chosen for the Stockspot portfolios and themes continue to do well. We recently celebrated our third anniversary and you can read how our portfolios have performed here.

If you’re interested in reading about the different ETFs available we recommend you download the full report. Here are some of the main findings from this year’s report.
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How reliable is past performance?

Rear view mirror
 
If you’ve ever read the fine print of a product disclosure statement (PDS) for a financial product, you’ve almost certainly seen ‘The past is not a reliable indicator of the future’. Admittedly, we even put it in the Stockspot documents because we’re obliged to do so.

But in fact past returns can give you a much better idea about future performance than almost anything else. Markets tend to move in cycles so when one asset does well for a while that’s almost always followed by a period of doing worse. It’s known as mean-reversion and it’s why we rebalance our client portfolios out of investments that are up, into ones that have lagged.
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Jargon busting the finance dictionary

finance dictionary
 
You’re watching the tele as you get ready for work. The 7.20AM finance news comes on and you dash to brush your teeth.

You know for the next 5 minutes the finance expert is going to stand in front of a ridiculous number of computer monitors and ‘blah blah blah’ their way through the ‘market update’ and use finance jargon you don’t understand. It’s enough to make you weep into your first coffee of the day.

It often seems like the finance industry is created on a house of jargon designed to keep people baffled to the point that they just give up and collectively say ‘take my money’.

Here’s a list of some financial jargon terms you’ll probably come across at some point and what they mean in plain English.
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What are the best dividend ETFs?

Dividend ETFs and Dividend Harvesting
 
A client recently asked us if Stockspot would consider adding a pure income producing ETF to our portfolios to take advantage of ‘dividend harvesting’. We thought it was a great question so decided to share the answer with everyone!

Dividend harvesting is a strategy that involves buying shares just before they pay dividends and selling them just after dividends have been paid. At face value this sounds like a very sensible way to collect dividends without having to hang onto shares for too long.

However, like any investment strategy that involves timing your entry and exit points, dividend harvesting has risks. The biggest risk with dividend harvesting is shares tend to fall in price on the day they pay their dividend. Therefore any amount you gain in the dividend is likely to be lost on capital returns.
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How portfolio rebalancing works

Rebalancing scales
 
Portfolio rebalancing is one of the most important jobs of an investment adviser. It involves selling investments that have grown faster than others in your portfolio and buying more of the investments that have fallen behind.

Portfolio rebalancing helps reduce the risk you need to take to earn a certain level of return. Portfolio rebalancing can be expensive, time consuming and emotionally exhausting to manage yourself. This is why rebalancing is hard to get right as a DIY investor.
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Diversifying your investments – how to put eggs in different baskets

Eggs in one basket
 
You know the expression ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’? This should be the first lesson taught at investment school (if there were such a thing).

Placing your eggs in a variety of baskets or spreading your money across many different investments is diversification 101. If there are 2 lessons everyone should be required to learn before they invest they are:

1.  How compounding works
2. What is diversification and how does it work.

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What I’ve learned from 21 years of investing

21 years of investing
 
It’s been 21 years since I made my first investment on January 1st 1996. At the time I was 10 years old. Not your standard primary school hobby.

I was sport obsessed and starting to realise girls weren’t as annoying as I thought, but for some reason I quickly became fascinated by what made share prices go up and down.

Neither of my parents worked in finance but I was lucky that my dad had some shares in his self managed super fund and decided to teach me and my brother some of the basics. He let us choose a stock from the newspaper and gave us $1,000 (which later, to my dismay, I found out was only theoretical).

I had a few stock market wins, a few losses and I was hooked!

I kept a diary of every investment I made between 1996 and 1999 which I still have today. It looks more like a colouring-in book than a trading diary because I gave each stock a different set of colours – but in it I kept track of my running profit or loss, dividends and company news cutouts.
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The rise of socially responsible investing

Ethical investing
 
You may have heard some murmurs about socially responsible investing recently.

Given 2016 was the hottest year on record, Australia claiming the highest the gambling rate in the world and the recent scandals about labour standards, it’s fair to ask yourself:

“Are the companies I invest in helping the world?”

Enter socially responsible investing (SRI)

Known as ethical investing, sustainable investing or green investing, socially responsible investing is an investment strategy that considers both financial return and social good to bring about social change.

Its history is believed to date back to the Quaker Society in the late 18th Century when members were banned from participating in the slave trade. Seems fair enough today. Back then, it was a bold statement.

Fast forward a few hundred years we saw people question the ethics of companies during the Vietnam War. Dow Chemical, a napalm producer, was boycotted and the subject of protests across America for its war profiteering when a photo was released of a nine-year-old girl running naked and screaming with her back on fire from the napalm dropped on her village.

Recently fast fashion brands like H&M and Zara are under scrutiny for labour rights violations, some ethical funds have stopped investing in these brands.
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Best investment lessons from 2016

Best investment lessons from 2016
 
​2016 was the year of the unpredictable events. The world and financial markets were sent spinning several times over while commentators went into meltdown.

Who would have believed a year ago that​ Britain would leave the European Union, that Donald Trump will be next president of the United States​, and that both events would send global markets significantly higher!

There were many lessons to be learned from last year and we recently asked our clients to tell us the best investment lesson they’ve received in 2016. Here are some of their top learnings.
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Why you won’t beat the share market (but many still try)

Won't beat the share market

Four things you will learn:

  • Why picking stocks or trying to time the market is pointless
  • Why fund managers have become ‘the market’ (and what that means)
  • How behavioural biases lead us to make bad investment decisions
  • Why index investing is the smart investor’s choice

The US election is the perfect demonstration of the futility of trying to beat the share market.

Those who tried to time their market entry were whipsawed in all directions, share markets initially fell 6% before staging an 8% recovery to close up for the week. Not only did most ‘experts’ call the election result wrong, they completely misjudged the impact that Trump would have on markets.

Meanwhile those with portfolios focused in popular yield-sensitive sectors of the market like property saw their investments crushed due to events in bond markets that were completely outside of their control.

None of this is unusual… time after time, finance commentators have their predictions proved wrong by the market. Those who try and beat the market by timing entry and exit points, or picking stocks or sectors, are outsmarted by each other.

So why is it so difficult for even the experts to get it right?
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What is an ETF?

What is an ETF?
 
At Stockspot we believe Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) are the building blocks for the best investment portfolios.

ETFs have been around for roughly 20 years and are fast becoming the most popular investment option. Each year more money leaves managed funds and goes into ETFs. This is because they can easily be traded on the stock exchange, they’re low cost and offer instant diversification.
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Why you shouldn’t rush into tech stocks

Chasing tech stocks
 
It’s easy to get swept up in the hype of a hot sector, but there are big dangers when the music stops.

Investing in the hot stock or sector de jour is a always strong temptation, especially in markets where there are very clear winners and losers. These days global technology is that hot sector – particularly the big US tech giants. They’ve all doubled, tripled or quadrupled since 2012 so have easily beaten the broad market. Their returns have trounced Telstra, BHP and Woolworths.
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Active vs Index investing – what’s the difference?

Active vs Index investing
 
Active investing and index (or passive) investing are 2 different ways to grow your wealth.

Actively managed funds aim to beat the returns of a given investment market. Passively managed funds, on the other hand, are designed to mimic the returns of a specific market as measured by a particular index like, for instance, the S&P/ASX 300. This is why they are also known as ‘index’ funds.

Most of the money in Australia is managed by active funds but passive investing has been growing fast, particularly since 2008. We look at some of the key differences and why index investing has been growing in popularity.
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How are ETFs taxed?

How are ETFs taxed?
 
ETFs: Everything you need to know about tax on ETF investments in Australia.

One of the reasons exchange-traded funds (ETFs) have gained popularity with Australian investors is because they are tax efficient. If you’ve invested in ETFs on your own, through a broker, or with the help of an automated investment service like Stockspot, here are some tax issues to consider.

Keep in mind that this article is general information only and doesn’t consider any individual’s personal circumstances.
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How to build an awesome investment portfolio

portfolio-5-assets-banner
 
Clients sometimes ask us how we built the Stockspot portfolios, and why we selected 5 assets to invest in rather than 2, 3 or 10!

It comes down to the purpose of the Stockspot portfolios which is to maximise returns for each level of risk. Five assets allows us to give clients the best possible combination of returns, risk and costs.

To do this we leverage the benefits of diversification. Diversification simply means that by combining investments with different characteristics you can improve the quality of returns in your portfolio.

Quality of returns is measured by how much risk you need to take to earn a certain return. Since all investing involves taking some risk, the aim is to minimise the risk you need to take to earn the return you want. Diversification across assets enables you to take less risk to earn better returns.
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