Don't be fazed about London stock markets

Investors who expect a crash should put their PEPs to work in Europe, writes Ken Welsby

If you are nervous about the prospects for the London stock market, consider a phased PEP which will spread its investment over several months.

That is the latest advice from a number of IFAs. "There are really two issues but they both have the same effect," says Colin Beavan of Chew Valley Financial Services in Bristol.

"The market is close to a record high, so there could be a correction soon, and there is added uncertainty about the election and what that might mean."

So if people want to take advantage of this year's PEP tax allowance, one of the things to consider is a phased PEP. You put all of your cash into the plan before the end of the tax year, but it is invested in the market over several months, so reducing the risk.

This is quite different from a savings plan in which you make monthly payments, since any contributions after 5 April would not qualify for this year's tax allowance.

One phased scheme is offered by NPI, while another on similar lines is from New Directions, marketed through the DBS network of independent financial advisers.

Both of these can be attractive in present circumstances, says Jane Caudle, of Raynes Park, London, who also suggests diversifying away from the UK stock market.

She says: "The PEP rules say, in simple terms, that 75 per cent of the plan must be invested in European stock markets. So a number of fund managers such as Newton are now starting to promote plans which put 75 per cent of your money into European funds and the rest into the Far East."

Mr Beavan agrees: "Since continental markets are at different stages of the economic cycle, they can be quite attractive to investors. It's not always the easiest concept for people to understand."

A variation on this theme is put forward by Colin Chalmers in Leeds: "A lot of couples forget that they can each have a PEP every year. So what we are saying to people is that one partner can concentrate on UK funds while the other goes into Europe and the Pacific Rim.

"Couples who are investing the maximum every year - typically people running small businesses who are using their PEPs for retirement savings - can alternate from year to year, so that their portfolios are broadly balanced."

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