So what do the experts know?

Do financial advisers fare any better at investing than the rest of us? We look at the fortunes of five IFAs who have practised what they preach by putting their cash into ISAs
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"Put your money where your mouth is" - it's the maxim that says it all. The Independent on Sunday regularly asks some of Britain's biggest firms of independent financial advisers (IFAs) to recommend all sorts of funds for ordinary investors - from high-octane risk investments in China or India, say, to low-risk trackers in the UK. Most advise doing so via an individual savings account (ISA), which lets your money grow tax-free.

Now we're going to see how the advisers help themselves. We've asked five of Britain's most prominent IFAs if they're using their full ISA allowance this year, which investment sector they're going for, and why.

This year's ISA season is well under way, amid hopes that millions of us will take advantage of our annual £7,000 allowance before the end of the tax year on 5 April.

But there are fears that not enough of us are doing so. ISA sales actually fell last year, down by 10 per cent on 2004 - their lowest level since they were introduced in 1999 - because of either consumer apathy or ignorance, advisers warn.

Our experts are buying ISAs, but is their faith paying off? Here we look at the performance of their selections, the figures for which have been sourced by the Standard & Poor's ratings agency and show the growth of the funds in the year to 13 February.

THE IFAS AND THEIR SELECTIONS

Vivienne Starkey - Equal Partners

For several years, Ms Starkey has invested all of her £7,000 annual allowance in just one vehicle: Jupiter Merlin Growth. This is a "fund of funds" that invests in 15 other funds including Artemis UK Special Situations and JPM Japan.

Rather than put in one large lump sum, she invests £250 a month.

Fund performance: up 33.68 per cent.

Karen Ritchie - Financial Planning for Women

After parking £3,000 in a First Direct mini cash ISA (now paying 3.93 per cent) last July, Ms Ritchie plans to divide her £4,000 mini equity ISA allowance (the most allowed if you also invest in a mini cash ISA) between Artemis Capital and Invesco Perpetual Latin America.

The former invests mainly in blue-chip UK companies, while the latter "offers potentially high returns from cheap, quality shares".

Fund performance: Invesco Perpetual, up 75.68 per cent.

Tim Cockerill - Rowan & Co

This year, Mr Cockerill will split his full allowance between M&G Recovery and shares in a split-capital investment trust, Aberforth Geared Capital & Income.

The former seeks companies that are "struggling through a difficult period and are unloved by investors".

Aberforth is in effect a company listed on the Stock Exchange that itself buys stock in other small companies. Mr Cockerill is buying some of its shares at a big (40 per cent) discount.

He expects to make a significant gain but admits it could be "a rocky ride".

Fund performance: M&G Recovery, up 26.58 per cent.

Mark Dampier - Hargreaves Lansdown

Mr Dampier rarely uses his full ISA allowance. He dedicates most of his savings to a self-invested personal pension (Sipp), where he is entitled to 40 per cent income tax relief. But he always uses ISAs as a more flexible way to save.

In recent years, he has made monthly savings into his own firm's Multi-Manager Special Situations, which spreads his money across many different investment sectors via a raft of funds.

These include Jupiter Financial, Rensburg UK Select Growth and Artemis European Growth.

Fund performance: up 26.42 per cent.

Justin Modray - Bestinvest

Mr Modray is putting £5,000 of this year's allowance into Artemis Global Growth. The other £2,000 is for Framlington UK Select Opportunities.

Fund performance: Artemis Global Growth, up 42.29 per cent.

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