Personal finance: Try these books for size
Saturday 24 January 1998
Some new year resolutions are harder to keep than others, but at least you can console yourself about not losing any weight with a drink and cigarette. If your list included sorting out your financial planning priorities there is still time for affirmative action.
One place to start is by educating yourself on the subject. Bookshop shelves groan with titles. If you are looking for an entry-level guide to financial planning, try Jonquil Lowe's Be Your Own Financial Adviser. One of a series published by the Consumers' Association, this deserves an award for its use of plain English and commonsense approach.
Suitable for all ages, it includes chapters on main areas of financial planning including mortgages, personal insurance, pension planning and lump-sum investment. The emphasis is on planning in a family context and some practical tools are included.
For instance, there are charts which allow you to calculate income, expenditure, and the cost of your financial planning targets. A glossary includes straightforward definitions of terms often more widely used than understood. A list of useful addresses will let you contact anyone from the Bank of England to the Funeral Planning Council.
Debbie Harrison's Personal Financial Planner, published by Pitman, covers some of the same ground, but without these practical tools. Instead, the emphasis is towards a more analytic, investment-orientated approach.
The costs of buying and selling both retail financial products and equities is given useful coverage. Guidance is given on how to monitor investment performance.
Anyone enjoying this book may be led on to more specialist titles dealing with investment. These days, most of us buy equities through collective investments like unit and investment trusts.
Bruce G Williams's Picking the Right Unit Trust boldly promises the "secret of successful investment", with personal equity plan (PEP) secrets. It also boasts of "the easy, yet sophisticated, way to invest". These are big claims, as might be expected from a former vice-president of Citibank.
Perhaps reading this book will help if you are applying for a job with Citibank, but its emphasis on using PEPs as a means of building a portfolio looks redundant with Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) on their way to replace them. Also, the secret of "the easy, sophisticated way to invest" turns out to be nothing more interesting than investing in tracker funds.
Joanna Slaughter's Guide to Investment Trusts & Unit Trusts is an even- handed introduction to the strengths and weaknesses of each type of investment, and for its category wins an award for plain English and the explication of inherently complex subject matter.
Tracker funds do not appear in its index, while PEPs get a single chapter. Elsewhere, Ms Slaughter gives a concise explanation of how to choose and manage an investment portfolio, with regard both to income and capital gains tax. A final chapter puts these collective investments into a variety of contexts, including school-fee provision and pension planning. A good-value, middle-level guide.
For a summary of the analytic techniques used in investment decisions, try Caroline Sefton's A-Z of Investment. You may not actually buy share options using "straddling and strangling" but if you ever meet a stranger on a train who talks about it, mutual misunderstanding can be avoided.
This book also contains a valuable, if brief, section on investment software, including the names and addresses of firms marketing programmes for use at home which have won approval from no less an authority than the Investors Chronicle.
For those interested in building up a share portfolio, Richard Koch's Selecting Shares that Perform offers to reveal "10 ways to beat the index". The great and wholly original feature of Mr Koch's opus its inclusion of the (1-2-3) Test, designed by "that great American sage of human behaviour, Hal Leavitt".
Completing this test will tell you what kind of investment you should hold, thinks Mr Koch. It kicks off by asking: "Do you believe in God?", going on to: "Which of the next three characters are you most like, or least unlike, (a) Hitler, ( b) the Daleks, (c) Attila the Hun?" Readers should think carefully about exactly who deserves this book.
Be Your Own Stockbroker is more conventional. Its author, Charles Vintcent, takes a classical stage-by-stage approach to explaining just where an individual stands in relation to broker and market.
This includes commonsense definitions of concepts like "price to earnings ratios, and how to apply them". Due space is given both to fundamental value as a criterion for buy/sell decisions, and also for the use of bar charts recording past performance to predict that of the future.
The Financial Times Guide to Using the Financial Pages, by Romesh Vaitilingham, is a complement to any such guide but, as its title suggests, also tells you where to find and how to use relevant information.
Unlike any of the other books surveyed, it also takes a broad-brush look at the relationship between macro-economic performances and investment returns, covering UK economic indicators in detail. A good buy for someone already interested in the subject.
Among books on pension provision, Barbara Ellis' Perfect Pensions is concise and serves as an entry-level guide. Its main drawback is lack of information on state pensions, covered at far greater length in Jonquil Lowe's The Which? Guide to Pensions. With a ready reckoner on how much income you will need in retirement, Ms Lowe's book goes into more detail, but is written mainly from an employee's perspective.
Tony Reardon's Allied Dunbar Pensions Handbook covers not just individual provision, but also the structure of both small and large company schemes. Written with an emphasis on Inland Revenue rules covering each type of provision, this will tell you all you need to know relevant to the type of provision you have. Used as a reference book by pension advisers, it is accessible to the general reader and highly recommended.
25 October 2014 12:38 AM
'A third extra for free', gift sets, recommendations for a present for Grandpa - just some ways to make you pay more than you intended
17 October 2014 07:45 PM
The ethical investment industry is giving itself a makeover, but the problem seems to lie more with getting its message and its methods into the mainstream
17 October 2014 07:08 PM
Going down the wrong road: parking fines are nudging people into debt difficulties
17 October 2014 07:58 PM
Stacks of income: Drax is among the companies in Neil Woodford’s portfolio that he believes will pay strong dividends
17 October 2014 07:23 PM
Don't panic, it’s a wise idea to check investments regularly to ensure they are on target for your hoped-for returns
17 October 2014 08:18 PM
With little or no wage growth being seen in the UK, increasing house-price inflation could see the number of first-time buyers slide further, unless there’s a new accelerated house building programme
17 October 2014 07:19 PM
You should ignore the headline offers and trickery and work out the total cost of borrowing under different deals
17 October 2014 07:24 PM
Denise Leigh, who appeared in a production of Rigoletto with Alan Opie, was left without an essential service
10 October 2014 06:13 PM
A charity has calculated the cost to us all of unmanageable debt – from lost productivity to the extra demands on the NHS
10 October 2014 06:36 PM
The regulators are at last tackling the high-profile payday lenders, but they appear to be ignoring the growing problem of internet loan firms
10 October 2014 06:35 PM
As the cold weather hits, the question of soaring bills will be felt by each of us at home
- 1 2015 General Election: Green party will not appear in TV debate alongside Ukip – says BBC
- 2 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 3 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
- 4 North Korean officials 'publicly executed for watching South Korean soap operas'
- 5 Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
Nigel Farage and Frankie Boyle clash over Andrew Lawrence's 'Mock the Week' criticism
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...
£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...
£45,000 - £65,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is a well-known APAC Corporate and...
£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...
Day In a Page
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000