This is not a load of bull.. we have had 26 BULL (rising) markets to date and 25 BEAR (falling) markets – the next is a BEAR but when?

When will the market fall?
For a BEAR market to happen, the current BULL - the 2nd longest ever and in its 9th year (4 years short of the longest, 1987 to 2000) - has to drop 20% and with deposit interest still on the floor (best demand rate is KBC Bank’s 0.3% and that’s before Deposit Interest Retention Tax – DIRT – of 37%) investors are not flocking to deposit takers with their cash for the paltry returns available.

Alternative investments where the returns might be considerably more attractive take the form of speculative and risk-laden options such as:

  • Wine investment
  • Classic cars
  • Numismatics (coin collections) and philately (stamp collection)
  • Rock ‘n roll memorabilia
  • Diamonds
  • Precious metals
  • Art
  • Mezzanine finance
Alternative investments include artwork

Safe investment?
One definition of the word 'safe' in the Oxford English dictionary is free from risk. In light of asset performances in recent years, there is not a single investor who could state their investment is risk-free. Between oil crises, earthquakes, floods, famines, credit crunches, the world is a different place than it was 12 years ago. Is anything safe today? 

Staying positive is crucial or as those nice people in Made in Chelsea say 'Keep Calm and Stay Positive'.

Remember, first of all, downturns do not stay down forever and neither do bull markets stay up. Everything is cyclical – here in Ireland, we have had a boom for over nine years since the last 'bust' and now we are all waiting for the next BEAR. 

Savings are key
Cash is currently king or queen as the case may be. Staying 'liquid' or having a Rainy Day Fund is imperative for three very good reasons 

  1. Emergencies – your clutch goes (for the uninitiated, that’s part of your car!)
  2. Sudden income loss – no bonus this year
  3. Investment opportunity – next door becomes available at half price.

Therefore, savings are key to our next boom. The question is where to invest in the meantime if you have savings and what to do if you don’t.

The property market is still currently on the increase

The property market is still on the increase though one could argue that the 'bottom' was about six years ago. It is also not just the bargain prices that make some properties attractive to buy, but properties - commercial or residential investment - with long-term guaranteed rental income will always sell. 

Aside from property, the other asset classes of cash, stocks, bonds and alternative investments should be examined and scrutinised for wealth preservation and growth.

The buzzword is diversification and while, as I said, cash is tops currently, consumers still want their cash guaranteed as per the Deposit Protection Scheme ( €100,000 per person per institution )

Cash - Remember the three deposit categories:

  1. Demand accounts (make withdrawals at any time)
  2. Notice accounts (you have to give notice – from 7 days, 30 days etc)
  3. Fixed interest rate accounts (you MUST invest for the period agreed – no withdrawals are allowed. Periods from 1 month, 3 months, 6 months to 1,2,3, 5 and 10 year fixed )

Amounts vary from a minimum €1 to €100,000 and in some cases a maximum of €1,000,000 to no maximum. Rates can vary and you really do need to shop around.

If you have the time and patience, you could open a myriad of accounts in different institutions availing in many cases of the €100K threshold policies of these deposit-takers.

For example, KBC Bank offers the best demand (available any time) account in the country – 0.3% up to €100,000 per person.

The best long-term deposit is NTMA’s 10 year National Solidarity Bond (available in post offices or online) offering 16% tax-free on maturity – minimum €500 and maximum €120,000 per person. Capital and interest are guaranteed by the government.
The regular savers account pay better rates if you can commit to a minimum of €100 per month up to in some cases a maximum of €1,000 per month. The best rate in this category is EBS at 1.75% (15-month savings) and KBC Bank at 2.5% (12-month savings – 0.5% PLUS 2% if you open an 'extra' current account with them).

If you do not have a savings plan, I beg you to start one now.

The trick to stocks is timing

The stock market has had a roller coaster run over the last few years  – for instance, most pension funds grew by c. 8% last year but, as everyone knows, this market is cyclical and can change from year to year.

The trick is timing – buying in at the lowest price and cashing out at the highest, or when you want to retire. Ahh, but you would need a crystal ball I hear you say.

A friend of mine told me recently the definition of a stockbroker. He proffered a person to whom you give your money until it is all gone – while humorous, it is also untrue.

Some of the stockbroking houses have incredible research facilities and can give you a bell, book and candle on your preferred stock and the way it might move.

However caveat emptor – they are not psychics and your decision of when to buy or sell can make or break your investment.

The decision, albeit an informed one perhaps, is yours and while you may delegate that decision to your stockbroker (called discretionary) you are in essence giving your stockbroker authority to gamble with your money and if you suffer losses, excuses as to how it happened!

Over the last few months, the emerging markets have stumbled, causing ripples from Asia on the stock markets across the globe. James Goldsmith is famed for his comment 'If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late'.

Still, I like the new breed of managed fund – easy to understand and simple to action. Email me for details.

Don't put all your eggs in one basket

Risk management
Taking the blunderbuss approach where you spread risk as much as possible across a whole range of stocks, bonds, managed funds and such like, depending on how risk – averse you are, will minimise that risk.

The prudent investor will not have all those eggs in the one basket. Advice again is so important and cannot be stressed enough.

While all investment is risk, Walt Disney summed it up in one sentence: "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them" – he never sat on his assets.

For more information click on John Lowe's profile above or on his website.