2017 was a strong year for the stock markets and investors. Pleasingly, our own actively managed portfolios got off to a strong start in their first full year highlighted by the more aggressive categories comfortably outperforming their market comparable benchmarks*.
But sophisticated investors don’t manage their exposures through the rear-view mirror. As we settle in to 2018, it’s a good time to reflect on some fundamental wealth planning questions.
1: Am I making my money work for me (really)?
‘Making your money work for you’ is a well-known adage in financial planning. The question remains why don’t we do it as much as we should? Partly because life takes over. We want to keep cash on hand in case we need it. We know we should invest but we are too busy to investigate all of our options. Even when we think we are putting our money to work, high fees or relatively low savings rates of return hold us back.
The reality is that the opportunities most banks offer to accredited investors are not inspiring and are certainly not comparable with those reserved for their wealthier (private) clients. It’s no wonder that investors are sitting on the side-lines which is a shame because if you put your money to work today, the effect of compounding over time on your portfolio can be very powerful, particularly with low and transparent fee structures. As the proverb states “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now”.
2: What goals am I trying to achieve?
Michael Jordan once quipped that “you have to set goals in order to reach them” – we agree. A common trait of successful people is that they set clear, tangible, objectives – for their businesses, careers and home life. Wealth planning is no different. But the reality is that we often have multiple financial goals at different times in our lives.
So why does traditional wealth planning focus on just one catch-all portfolio? We don’t think it makes sense. This is why we adopted a goals-based investing approach when we built CONNECT by Crossbridge – it’s exactly how we approach investing for our High Net Worth clients. Ultimately, all of our circumstances are different and we need flexibility. That’s also why CONNECT by Crossbridge lets you choose from a range of customisable options online or you have the option of picking up the phone to speak to our investment professionals at any time if you prefer.
3: What impact are fees having on my portfolio?
Most of us are aware that we are paying fees on our investments but we don’t exactly know what they are. The bad news is that you are probably paying higher fees than you realise and they can be a big drag on performance. And it doesn’t help that reporting standards and fees are not always straight forward. They vary from institution to institution and there are embedded fees that are often technically disclosed but buried deep within your statement. You might see advisory fees ranging from 0.5% to more than 3%; product fees on the funds you are buying of anything from 0.2% to 2% (for each fund), exit charges (up to 6% percent with some advisors) and transaction fees (multiple costs passed on to you for managing your portfolio). As an illustration, just a 1% increase in fees on a $500,000 investment can add up to more than your initial investment over 25 years.
We have one simple rule – low, transparent fees across our portfolios.
4: Am I managing risk effectively?
Warren Buffett famously said that trying to time the market is the number one mistake an investor can make, yet plenty of people still think they can do it. While anyone can make money chasing the index in rising markets (provided they get in at the right time), real skill is needed to protect against risk when markets turn. Full market exposure can have a major impact on your portfolio in that environment and it will take time for your portfolio to recover. Your appetite for risk will vary depending on your investment goals but an actively managed approach can help to smooth the peaks and troughs of market cycles and protect as well as grow your investments.
5: Where are the opportunities?
To quote another famous American, Mark Twain, “whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect”. While we’re big advocates of adopting a diversified portfolio, our experience with High Net Worth clients reveals that you need to look across the market for opportunities.
We launched CONNECT by Crossbridge because we felt that the mass affluent investors were not being offered the opportunities available to wealthier clients and they were being charged too much for too little for the limited products that were available to them. That’s why we believe in offering investors choices. While we won’t be offering Bitcoin in our portfolios just yet, we do offer access to 12 asset classes within our portfolios, more than any other digital advisor in Singapore, including a breadth of equities and fixed income exposures, global real estate and commodities.
Nothing is more personal than how you invest your money. You should take the same care over your portfolio allocations as you would over your business or over a major purchase, such as buying a house. Our aim is to provide the tools to help you take control of your wealth.
Snapshot of CONNECT by Crossbridge portfolio performance (net of fees) from 1 Jan 2017 to 31 Dec 2017:
* Performance figures are net of fees. Market-leading performance as compared against market comparable benchmarks. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Any investment with CONNECT is subject to market fluctuations and there can be no assurance that an investment will return its value or that appreciation will occur. In addition, there is no assurance that past outperformance is indicative of future matching or outperformance against benchmarks. The data presented above is for a specified period and past performance may be obtained upon request.
The writer is a partner at Crossbridge Capital.