Best buys: The personal finance magazines to put your money on

Money Observer

Launched 1979

Monthly circulation: 35,000

Cost: pounds 3.25. Annual subscription: by cheque pounds 33, by direct debit pounds 29.70.

Aim/target: "Our readers tend already to have some knowledge of the market."

Strength: Easy to read databank on share, unit & investment trust performance. Tessa and mortgage best deals. Feature-length analysis of subjects like smaller company investment.

Weakness: Too many uncritical fund manager profiles. No coverage of personal insurance.

Investors Chronicle

Launched 1860

Weekly circulation: 61,000

Cost: pounds 2.50. Subscription discount: 10 per cent.

Aim/target: "By comparison to others, we simply are more focused on shares than packaged retail financial products."

Strength: Reviews every share quoted in the UK at least once each year. Weekly, so up to date on market movements.

Weakness: dismissive of retail financial products, little cover on personal insurance.

Personal Finance

Launched 1994

Monthly circulation: n/a

Cost: pounds 2.60. Subscription discount: 37 per cent.

Aim/target: "Novice investors, who know little about money and retail financial products."

Strength: Relates lifestyle to product, with a strong emphasis on insurance and pension planning.

Weakness: Superficial analysis of products, with thin data on product cost and performance.

MoneyFacts Life & Pensions

Launched 1996

Monthly circulation: 6,000

Cost: Annual subscription only, pounds 49.50 (ring 01692 500765).

Aim/target: "We provide hard data across the full range of products, from mortgages to investment trusts. This is a reference work."

Strength: The bottom line without frills or hyperbole.

Weakness: No articles, and only available by subscription, so try your nearest central library for a copy.

Bloomberg Money

Launched 1998

Monthly circulation: first issue 30,000

Cost: pounds 2.95. Subscription discount: 25 per cent

Aim/target: "We're aiming both at committed investors, and people getting interested in the subject. We want to bridge the gap between specialist investment magazines and those that aim [uncritically] for the mass market."

Strength: Early days, but coverage ranges widely from a critical piece on fund manager M&G to the merits of collecting Spice Girl dolls as future investments. Good data on fund performance.

Weakness: picture of Richard Branson on the cover.

Moneywise

Launched 1990

Monthly circulation: 105,000

Cost: pounds 2.70. No discount on subscription

Aim/target: "To give people financial advice they need to make real life decisions, in plain English."

Strength: Could its breezy, easy style account for Moneywise having the highest circulation of titles reviewed? Starter level package with emphasis on practical, every day financial problem solving.

Weakness: Sometimes not enough in-depth critical analysis.

Money Management

Launched 1962

Monthly circulation: 20,000

Cost: pounds 5.50. Subscription discount: 10 per cent.

Aim/Target: "We are the bible of the personal finance magazines. We publish in depth surveys of retail product types and refuse to take providers at their word."

Strength: Tells you all you ever wanted to know about a subject, and has a very good fund performance data. Authoritative.

Weakness: Designed for industry professionals, boringly written, so make sure it has an article you want to read before buying.

What Investment

Launched 1987

Circulation: 35,000

Cost: pounds 2.75. Subscription discount: 30 per cent.

Aim/target: "Geared to experienced investors who already have knowledge of collective investment vehicles."

Strength: Only title reviewed to focus solely on unit and investment trusts, and private pension funds.

Weakness: Not for the beginners. Nothing on personal insurance.

What Mortgage

Launched 1982

Monthly circulation: 35,000

Cost: pounds 2.50. No subscription

Aim/target: "Forty-nine per cent of readers are first-time buyers, 30 per cent remortgaging, so they want simple, informative and unbiased copy."

Strength: Covers main stream mortgages, but also features on self-build and loans for the self employed. Mortgage factfile covers "99 per cent" of available loans.

Weakness: Nothing but mortgages. Extremely repetitive: bit like a wedding magazine, you are only likely to read it for a few months

Your Mortgage

Launched 1986

Monthly circulation: 15,000

Costs: pounds 3. No subscription

Aim/target: "There are fewer lenders offering more varied loans. We try to help you choose the right kind of loan, before you approach a lender."

Strength: February's issue offers you the chance to win a power washer worth pounds 1,000!

Weakness: Thin mortgage factfile, same criticisms as above.

- Iain Morse

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