Options: Think before you give up your PEP

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The Independent Online
I have a poorly performing PEP. Should I switch to another one?

Before you decide to call it a day, ask yourself a few questions.

How do you define 'poor performance'? If you expected your investment to appear regularly in the top 10 or thereabouts, think again. Even a very good fund manager will tell you that is not possible on a permanent basis.

Most managers aim to be in the best performing quarter of funds within their sector. Even just being above average is considered reasonable.

In what sector has your PEP been invested? If, for instance, part of it was in Japanese funds you may have been suffering from the recent poor performance of the Japanese stock market.

But in this case everyone is predicting an upswing. Right or wrong, the moral is: look at where the market is going rather than where it has just been.

Also, has the PEP's poor performance been recent or has it lasted a number of years? And how long do you want to keep it going?

Investing in an equity-based fund will leave you open to cyclical movements. You may also have agreed to invest in a PEP with high risks. You should be prepared to take a long-term view of the market and not panic just because your PEP has not sparkled for a couple of years.

That said, if your PEP has limped in among the last for each of the past few years and there is no sign of the fund manager being booted out it may be time to bale out yourself.

While your existing PEP may be a bit flabby, another offered by the same provider may have delivered a more muscular performance.

Ask whether you can transfer to it and what discounts are available. If your existing PEP's performance was down to poor management, be prepared to make a fuss to get a transfer discount.

If you transfer you may face a new one-off charge of anything up to 5 per cent. Your new PEP will have to rise above this new cost for you to gain out of switching.

Only a handful of companies operate early withdrawal penalties in return for no initial charge on the investment. You pay a sliding scale of costs depending on how long you have held it, starting at 3 per cent or more in year one and tapering down to 1 per cent after three or four years.

If you are prepared to sell up after just one or two years, maybe PEPs were never right for you in the first place.

More information: the Chase de Vere Annual PEP Guide, pounds 9.95 inc p&p, from PEP Dept, Chase de Vere Investments, Freepost, 63 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BR.

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