Keeping track of your pension portfolio to get the best out of the contributions you’ve made

Most people, during their career, accumulate a number of different pension plans. Keeping your pension savings in a number of different plans may result in lost investment opportunities and unnecessary exposure to risk. However not all consolidation of pensions will be in your best interests. You should always look carefully into the possible benefits and drawbacks and if unsure seek professional advice.

A new retirement reality for a significant number of retirees

More than ten per cent of people who had planned to retire during 2012 are making alternative arrangements and putting off drawing their pension for the time being, according to the latest results from Prudential’s Class of 2012 research.

Being able to retire when and how you want to

Making your savings grow and being able to retire when and how you want to is likely to be one of your most important financial objectives, but achieving this goal requires planning and perseverance.

One of the principal tenets of spreading risk in your portfolio is to diversify your investments whatever the time of year. Diversification is the process of investing in areas that have little or no relation to each other. This is called a ‘low correlation’.

Reflecting popularity in the market

An investment trust is a company with a set number of shares. Unlike an open-ended investment fund, an investment trust is closed ended. This means there are a set number of shares available, which will remain the same no matter how many investors there are. This can have an impact on the price of the shares and the level of risk of the investment trust. Open-ended investment funds create and cancel units depending on the number of investors.

Participating in a wider range of investments

Unit trusts are collective investments that allow you to participate in a wider range of investments than can normally be achieved on your own with smaller sums of money. Pooling your money with others also reduces the risk.

Open-Ended Investment Companies (OEICs) are stock market-quoted collective investment schemes. Like investment trusts and unit trusts they invest in a variety of assets to generate a return for investors. They share certain similarities with both investment trusts and unit trusts but there are also key differences.

Acting in the investors’ best interests at all times

Open-ended investment funds are often called collective investment schemes and are run by fund management companies. There are many different types of fund.

Investing in one or more asset classes

Investing in funds provide a simple and effective method of diversification. Because your money is pooled together with that of other investors each fund is large enough to diversify across hundreds and even thousands of individual companies and assets. A pooled (or collective) investment is a fund into which many people put their money, which is then invested in one or more asset classes by a fund manager.

Are you investing for growth, income or both?

You should consider whether you are primarily investing for growth, income or both. If you want some income, but no risk to your capital, you could choose a money market or cash fund, which means a professional investor will be working to get the best available interest rates. If, however, you are willing to take some risk with your capital, you may wish to choose a fund that invests in bonds, which provide a rate of interest higher than is available with cash. Alternatively, there are equity funds that invest in shares of companies and seek to generate income rather than capital growth, aiming to pay out higher than average dividends. Funds that offer a mixture of both shares and bonds are known as managed funds.

Increasing the long-term value of your investments

In the light of recent market volatility, it’s perhaps natural to be looking for ways to smooth out your portfolio’s returns going forward. Investing regularly can smooth out market highs and lows over time. In a fluctuating market, a strategy known as pound cost averaging can help smooth out the effect of market changes on the value of your investment and is one way to achieve some peace of mind through this simple, time-tested method for controlling risk over time.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

When deciding whether to invest, it is important that any investment vehicle matches your feelings and preferences in relation to investment risk and return. Hence your asset allocation needs to be commensurate with your attitude to risk. Another key question to ask yourself is: ‘How comfortable would I be facing a short-term loss in order to have the opportunity to make long-term gains?’ If your answer is that you are not prepared to take any risk whatsoever, then investing in the stock market is not for you.

What do you want to achieve from your investments?

You may find your investment goals change if you get married, have children, or start a business, so it could be an idea to switch your investments into different funds. And as you approach retirement, you may want to move your money gradually into investments that offer more security.

Don’t miss out on using your tax-efficient allowance

An Individual Savings Account (ISA) is a tax-efficient wrapper. Within an ISA you pay no capital gains tax and no further tax on the income, making it one of the most tax-efficient savings vehicles available.

Gaining prudent exposure to stock exchange investment without putting all your eggs in one basket

Investment trusts are a way of gaining prudent exposure to stock exchange investment but without putting all your eggs in one basket. They are often categorised into country and regional funds and sub-divided further into funds that invest only in certain industry sectors. Investment objectives