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.
17 April 2015 06:00 PM
23 April 2015 12:00 AM
Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year
22 April 2015 07:29 AM
Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks
21 April 2015 09:54 AM
The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in 2014
21 April 2015 12:00 AM
The average quote for a buildings and contents policy has fallen by 3.6 per cent
10 April 2015 07:00 PM
15 April 2015 12:56 PM
Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month
15 April 2015 07:27 AM
A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state
13 April 2015 11:39 AM
Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
02 April 2015 01:14 PM
Video: Tom McPhail, head of pensions at Hargreaves Lansdown, says May's outcome could alter your pension
30 March 2015 04:22 PM
Video: Simon Read talks to Fidelity's Tom Stevenson
Will your credit card rewards be scrapped following new EU rules on charges?
What would happen if you put a statistician in a casino with £1m?
Simon Read: 'The fight must go on over equality on expat pensions'
More people are switching current accounts – but what do the figures mean?
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Why this father didn’t hide his daughter’s heroin overdose in her obituary
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
iJobs Money & Business
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...
Day In a Page
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
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
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
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms