Tips on investing in times of financial uncertainty

Investing your money during such an uncertain time can be daunting, but by following a few simple tips you try to ensure that your money grows over the long term.
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Not financial advice

This guide is designed to help you get an idea of how regulated financial advice works. It is not a recommendation on whether you should get professional advice or not.

This guide is designed to help you get an idea of the different factors that may affect your investments. Your capital is at risk. Your investments are not guaranteed – they can decrease in value as well as increase and you may not get back the full amount you put in.

While the pandemic has put virtually everybody’s plans on hold, there are still some things you can do to bolster your finances for the future. 

If you’ve been fortunate to be able to work from home over the last year, you may find that you’ve saved more than you would have in ‘normal’ times. 

So now could be a great time to think about what to do with these savings. Interest rates are rock bottom at the moment, which means that the return you’re likely to get simply by putting your cash in a savings account is going to be very low.

However, if you’re confident that you will not need to access some of that money in the short term, it’s worth thinking about investing. 

When we discuss investing, we’re primarily talking about putting your money into assets such as stocks, bonds and investment funds. There are also a huge range of other potential investment opportunities out there, including property, currency and commodities (such as gold).

It’s vital to understand that investing can be a high-risk activity, where the value of your investments are not guaranteed to increase. 

Stay calm and think about the long term

Whether you’re looking to invest during times of record high stock market performance or during volatile periods like now, there are a few simple principles to have at the back of your mind.

Perhaps the most crucial thing to understand about investing your money in assets like shares, bonds or funds is that you need to think about them as long-term investments. 

You’ll need to be comfortable with the idea of not being able to access cash tied up in those investments for at least a few years.

Investment experts typically say that the shortest amount of time you should be willing to keep your money invested for is about five years. The longer you leave your money invested, the longer you give it to grow.

By doing this you’re also giving your investments time to ride out any short-term market shocks.

Stock markets across the United States and Europe saw big dips last spring, as the impact of the coronavirus on leading economies were felt. This meant that overnight, the value of many people’s investment dipped significantly.

When this happened, many investors rushed to sell their investments. However, for those who had the time to ride it out, many subsequently saw share prices recover within a relatively short period of time.

While this uncertainty can be a cause of worry, simply remember that the longer your money is invested, the more opportunity there will be for it to grow.

Is now really a good time to be investing your money?

How you answer this question depends on what your aims are for your money and your personal circumstances.

While the idea of investing your money into the stock market during such an uncertain time may be daunting, one thing is for certain: with interest rates historically low, the measly returns you’ll be able to get by stashing cash away into a savings account will be eaten up by inflation.

Arguably the best way to approach this question is to ask yourself another: do you think that we’ll be in a better financial position by the time you want to access the money you have tied up in any investments?

By investing your money over the long-term you increase the chances that your money will grow at a rate that at least beats inflation.

How should you invest your money?

If you’re new to investing it may be a good idea to ‘drip feed’ your money bit-by-bit into a range of investments. This means that if markets go down, you’re then buying at a lower level, which can help when your returns smooth out over time if the price of an investment then goes up in future. 

Using your tax free allowances

One key way you can make sure you give your investments the best chance to grow is by using an Individual Savings Account (ISA). These come in different forms, but from an investment point of view the following types of ISAs will at least ensure that you can invest tax free.

Lifetime ISA

Lifetime ISAs are government-backed savings schemes. On top of the ability to shelter you investment gains from tax, you also get a cash boost as the government will add 25% to any amount you deposit into the account up to £4,000. 

Full details on how Lifetime ISAs work.

Stocks and Shares ISA

A Stocks and Shares ISA is like a regular cash ISA, except that instead of leaving your money in it to gather interest you can invest it. 

Compare top Stocks and Shares ISAs.

It’s important to note that the maximum you can deposit in your ISA accounts each tax year is £20,000. That’s £20,000 in total across all ISAs you may hold. 

So, if you have both a Lifetime ISA and Stocks and Shares ISA and transfer the full £4,000 allowed into a Lifetime ISA during one tax year, you can only put a maximum of £16,000 in the Stocks and Shares ISA.

Take advice when you need it

If you would like to get a better understanding of how investing can help you meet your financial goals, it may be beneficial to get help from an independent financial adviser (IFA).

An IFA can advise you on all the financial products and investments that they think meet your needs.

For full details on how to find the right advisor for your circumstances, read our ‘Five steps to finding an IFA you can trust’ guide.