Personal finance: Try these books for size

There's no shortage of authors willing to offer fool-proof plans for making money. But a good guide on basic investments or pension planning can be harder to find. Iain Morse scans the shelves to pick the best.

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

How shops make you spend: The subtle art of the savvy retailer revealed

'A third extra for free', gift sets, recommendations for a present for Grandpa - just some ways to make you pay more than you intended

Many people unwittingly end up invested in sectors at odds with their ethical beliefs.

Simon Read: It is time to think again about ethical money

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

Going down the wrong road: parking fines are
nudging people into debt difficulties

Charges related to car parking rising and leading to serious money woes

Going down the wrong road: parking fines are nudging people into debt difficulties

Stacks of income: Drax is among the companies in Neil Woodford’s portfolio that he believes will pay strong dividends

Mark Dampier: Woodford’s young companies could be the stars of the future

Stacks of income: Drax is among the companies in Neil Woodford’s portfolio that he believes will pay strong dividends

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Simon Read: The markets might not be calm but you should be

Don't panic, it’s a wise idea to check investments regularly to ensure they are on target for your hoped-for returns

Only six per cent of the 13,000 new homes bought during Help to Buy’s first nine months were in London

Money Insider: Help to Buy must be boosted by building

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

House buyers can take their pick of more than 3,500 home loans, the most available since the financial crisis

Simon Read: Those cheap home loans may be built on shaky foundations

You should ignore the headline offers and trickery and work out the total cost of borrowing under different deals

Denise Leigh, who appeared in a production
of Rigoletto with Alan Opie, was left without an essential service

The opera singer, the broadband delay and why customers aren’t divas if they expect a good service

Denise Leigh, who appeared in a production of Rigoletto with Alan Opie, was left without an essential service

Problem debt adds £8bn cost to the economy

A charity has calculated the cost to us all of unmanageable debt – from lost productivity to the extra demands on the NHS

Payday loan stores are to face tougher regulations after moves proposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) call on more responsible lending

Calls for payday lenders to sign up to an officially recognised price comparison site

The regulators are at last tackling the high-profile payday lenders, but they appear to be ignoring the growing problem of internet loan firms

According to the research, only one in five customers trusts their energy company

Rap for energy firms won’t stop the rising prices

As the cold weather hits, the question of soaring bills will be felt by each of us at home

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Finance Assistant - Part time - 9 month FTC

    £20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...

    Marketing Manager

    £40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...

    Market Risk Manager - Investment Banking - Mandarin Speaker

    £45,000 - £65,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is a well-known APAC Corporate and...

    Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

    £60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain