Where Are the Customers’ Yachts? The problem with wealth management in Australia

Royal Commission
 
Five years ago this month I started Australia’s first online investment advice company. One of the reasons I set it up was that I saw too many people getting poor investment advice.

The traditional wealth management industry was positioned in TV advertisements as a way to get peace of mind and secure your future. Behind the scenes it was designed to do exactly the opposite. People were being overcharged, given poor advice and pushed into products that actually harmed their ability to reach their goals.
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Can ETFs make the world a better place?

ETFs making the world a better place
 
ETFs are often considered ‘passive’ investments, but in recent years their issuers have become much more active when it comes to their voting rights.

As ETFs have become more popular, the big 3 issuers – Blackrock (iShares), Vanguard and State Street Global now own significant percentages of many large companies around the globe. These funds find themselves in a unusual position, their success depends on the returns of the companies they invest in, yet unlike active managers, index funds can’t sell to take a stand on particular issues.

ETF issuers are coming under more pressure to take action on corporate matters via their ‘proxy votes’.
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People & perspectives: Improving financial literacy

Brownyn Bruce
 
Bronwyn Bruce is the founder of Miss Money Box, an educational blog to help Australian women expand their general knowledge around personal finance.

Like us here at Stockspot, she’s passionate about improving financial literacy and helping educate more Australians to have a better understanding on how to manage their savings. This started from a childhood passion for shares and being fed-up with how financial services market to women. Miss Money Box is all about taking control of your financial future.

We wanted to get to know the brains behind the money box so we sat down with Bronwyn to find out more about how she got started on her personal finance journey.
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Why tech shares are the worst investment today

Tech shares
 
One of the worrying trends we’ve seen lately is an unhealthy obsession with tech shares. Sure, their performance has been fabulous over the past decade and they’re accomplished and well known businesses, but that does not guarantee their success in the future.

Most people have already heard the reasons tech companies are hot right now. What you probably don’t hear are the arguments for why to avoid them. That in itself should be a red flag.

To play devil’s advocate these are 9 reasons to avoid over-investing in tech.
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Lecturing women about money won’t make them invest

Fearless girl - Wall Street
 
There’s a lot of hand wringing that gets done in marketing departments about how to get women to invest. Women are powerful consumers. Often the decision maker in key household purchases. Quite rightly any marketeer worth their salary wants to go after a valuable market segment.

It seems to me that recently we have started lecturing women about why they need to invest. The common arguments are the gender pay gap, the superannuation gap, savings accounts give you rubbish returns and my personal favourite, financial independence (ie a thinly veiled translation of a man is not a financial plan).

All sound arguments and well intentioned, if not occasionally condescending.
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How to handle money and relationships

Money and relationships

Let’s face it, money talk in any relationship or friendship can be a mood killer. When the dreaded money topic comes up it’s normal to try and shrink into your shirt and hope the conversation soon turns to fun things like happy hour and buffalo mozzarella.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we need to talk about money.

How you deal with money can impact your relationships. Infact Relationships Australia says financial stress is the number one cause of relationship breakdown. I’d wager that if it were more socially acceptable to be open about money, fewer people would struggle with debt.
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Best ways to deal with a credit card debt

Credit card debt

Paying on plastic can be a useful way to free up cash, particularly over Christmas and the holiday season.

However, many Australians will have to pay off credit card debt from the festive season well into 2018. It’s scarily easy to overspend on credit cards and it can be incredibly overwhelming to get on top of credit card debt once you’re in it.

We asked Sally McMullen, resident credit card expert for finder.com.au to explain some of the best ways to get your debt under control cheaper and faster.
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What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrencies - taking photo of a bitcoin
 
We recently wrote about why we think blockchain has the potential to transform all sorts of industries including our own but also why bitcoin may not be a great investment right now.

Markets have a tendency to get ahead of themselves when it comes to valuing new technologies. Sometimes it’s not the early bird who gets the worm, but the second mouse that gets the cheese.

This leads us into a related topic – cryptocurrency!

We have been asked by quite a few clients what they are, how they differ and how an initial coin offering (ICO) works?
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Asian market ETFs +34% in 2017

ETF Update - Quarter 4, 2017
 
Our quarterly update on the Australian ETF market as at December 2017.

ETF market highlights

  • ETF funds in Australia hit the $35 billion milestone, adding almost $10 billion in 2017.
  • Quarterly ETF growth was 12%, from $31.7 billion to $35.7 million at the end of December 2017. The additional $4 billion came from a combination of strong markets and consistent ETF inflows.
  • Many Asian share ETFs had an exceptional year, returning 25% to 38%.
  • Active asset allocation ETFs have fizzled due to poor performance from having a high allocation to cash in a year when markets rose strongly.

ETF funds under management since December 2013
Source: ASX
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How to invest in Bitcoin (if you insist!)

Bitcoin
 
Following on from our discussion on whether you should invest in Bitcoin and the difference between investing and speculation, we share our tips on how to be a smarter speculator.

We know Bitcoin probably got mentioned at least once at your office Christmas party this year. It did at ours.

You might be feeling down that you missed out or envious others around you have hit the jackpot. That’s a normal feeling. Those types of emotions are the fuel that drives speculation.

Our advice on speculating in Bitcoin (if you can’t resist the temptation) is the same as the advice we would give on investing in any other undiversified risky asset like individual shares, equity crowdfunding or art. You should still follow a sensible investment process to give you the best chance of success.
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The role of shares, bonds and gold in your portfolio

Coming together
 
Different asset classes have different jobs to do in your portfolio. Understanding what those jobs are will help you make sense of why all assets don’t rise at the same rate or the same time.

The 3 broad assets in Stockspot’s portfolios are shares, bond and gold. We explain the role of each in your portfolio and how they can balance each other at different times of the market cycle to smooth your returns and keep you invested to help reach your goals.
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How to safeguard your investments

Protecting your investment portfolio
 
This year market volatility has been almost non existent. Share markets have risen with little sign of worry.

The US share market has only moved by 1% or more 8 times this year, the fewest since 1964. It has also gone more than a full year without a 3% move, which is the longest stretch on record.

Calm markets means 2017 may go down in history as the most boring year in market history.

Number of S&P 500 Index moves per year

This is of course fantastic news for investors who have enjoyed great returns and very few hiccups along the way. However, history suggests the current period of market calm won’t last forever. Chances are we are getting closer to the next period of volatility, even if we don’t know exactly when it will take place.
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Why is financial advice important?

Importance of financial advice
 
Getting the right financial advice is important for people of all ages. Whether you’re starting out or well into your wealth creation journey, good financial advice defines your goals and the path to getting there. It gives you a map and ongoing support to help you take control of your future.

Financial advice encompasses many areas including investing, insurance and estate planning. It should be personalised to your individual situation based on your needs and goals.

Stockspot provides personalised advice on one particular part of your financial life which is investing. To provide advice we take into account other areas of your financial life like your debts and cashflow but our advice centers around whether you should invest and what you should invest in.

Regardless of where you get investment advice from if you’re not given a statement of advice (SOA) and investment plan then it’s not advice and you will need to decide yourself whether a product is suitable for you.
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What to consider when getting a mortgage

Mortgages - things to consider
 
Saving up for a deposit is the first major milestone to getting a mortgage (or home loan) and is one of the toughest to achieve. Frustratingly, getting a mortgage involves far more than simply achieving a savings goal; the approval process can be tedious and emotionally draining.

Here are some factors that can make the mortgage approval process easier.

Show you are reliable

A home loan is the biggest financial commitment most people ever make and lenders want reliable candidates. The application process is designed to prove this reliability, so having all the required payslips, IDs, and general proof of all your financial activity on hand, in chronological order can speed it up.
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Should I borrow to invest?

Should I borrow to invest
 

Whether you’re borrowing to invest in property, shares or a diversified portfolio of ETFs, the principles of borrowing to invest (also known as leverage or gearing) are similar.

Why would I borrow to invest?

Borrowing gives you the ability to invest more money than you currently have saved.

The basic idea is you can benefit if the value of what you’ve invested in rises more than the the interest you pay on the borrowed money.

People usually consider borrowing to invest for a couple of reasons:

  • To access the increase in the value of an investment over time without needing to pay for it entirely upfront, ie a house.

  • To access tax benefits – sometimes you can get a tax deduction for interest payments on the loaned amount when the interest is larger than any income earned. This is known as negative gearing.

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Investment update and portfolio changes: November 2017

Performance update - Nov 17
 

For the latest performance update – Stockspot: 4 years since our launch

We’re pleased to provide our 3½ year performance update and explain some portfolio changes we’re making to reduce risk and keep the Stockspot portfolios in line with client goals.

This update will cover:

  • Portfolio performance

  • Our approach to reviewing the asset allocations

  • Changes to the portfolios and why we’re making them

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Meet the team: Sarah

Meet the team: Sarah
 
Friday afternoon drinks in the Stockspot office has been taken up a notch now that we’ve got a resident wine connoisseur working with us. Sarah is our Head of Client Care and also a massive yoga fan.

We’ve challenged Sarah to tackle her passions at the same time – attempt an upside-down yoga pose while sipping wine in-between answering client queries.
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