Wealth Check: 'I think now's a good time to buy into the market'

A small mortgage, a decent salary and a long time to go until she'll need to cash in her investments. So is the share slide an opportunity to make money?


The patient


Susan Stuart, 45, hopes that a looming recession and an erratic stock market will throw up potential buying opportunities for her investment portfolio.

Until now, the events and marketing manager for Old Spitalfields Market in east London has focused on stashing away spare cash from her £50,000-a year-salary in savings accounts. Yet despite the volatile market conditions, she reckons it's time to consider ploughing some of her money into shares.

"The rocky market makes it a good time to invest," says Susan, from Croydon, south London. "And while the crisis is understandably making investors nervous, I'm not close to retirement so can give my money time to grow and see it through."

At present, she has £5,000 in an online savings account with Egg, which pays 6.55 per cent including a 12-month introductory bonus of 1.8 per cent. She also has £3,000 in a cash individual savings account (ISA) with National Savings & Investments (NS&S) at 4.4 per cent.

"But I need to achieve the best possible return on my investments for a financially secure future, and perhaps these accounts don't offer the greatest growth," she says.

Susan also holds some 200 shares in Lloyds TSB bank, worth around £342 last week, and 800 in the utility group Scottish & Southern Energy, totalling £9,728. "These were both inherited, and I'm not sure whether to keep or sell them."

For long-term retirement planning, Susan has contributed to three separate pension funds, although at the moment she is not paying into any plans.

She has around £25,000 in personal pensions with both Windsor Life and Skandia, as well as a money purchase scheme with her previous employer, Intercontinental Hotels. She paid into the last of these funds for a few years, but is unsure of its value.

Susan bought her three-bed house 14 years ago for £65,000, and she hopes it is now worth around £250,000. She pays £500 a month for a 25-year offset mortgage at 6.45 per cent with Royal Bank of Scotland. "I've four years left on this," she explains, "after paying in regular lump sums to reduce its term."

For protection purposes, she forks out £75 a month for income protection with Phoenix Life. The policy promises to pay an income of around £1,600 a month if she is unable to work due to illness, redundancy or injury. She has life insurance with the same provider, paying £40 a month for around £190,000 of cover.

The cure

Riding out the recession with a small mortgage, decent earnings and the beginnings of a savings pot shouldn't be difficult for Susan, agree our panel of independent financial advisers (IFAs).

"She also has an admirable attitude to investment risk, as she considers the current market downturn an opportunity and isn't scared into inaction," says Martin Bamford from IFA Informed Choice.

Savings/investments

While Susan wants to create a long-term investment portfolio, she must first consider her cash accounts.

At first glance, she appears to be benefiting from a decent rate on her Egg savings deal. "But as a higher-rate taxpayer, interest after tax is reduced to 3.93 per cent, and down to just 2.85 per cent once the introductory bonus period expires," warns Mr Bamford.

She would be wise to shift some of this pot to the Egg cash ISA, paying 6.05 per cent with any interest earnt being tax-free, and she may be able to transfer her existing NS&I cash ISA money into this account to benefit from a higher rate. That is, unless she is keen to stick with the Treasury-backed savings body in light of the market turmoil.

Turning to Susan's share portfolio, Ajmer Somal from IFA Positive Solutions says she would be better off in equity income funds, although she could wait until stock prices have stabilised. These funds are traditionally less volatile than shares while still offering the opportunity for good long-term growth.

Danny Cox from IFA Hargreaves Lansdown recommends Invesco Perpetual Income and PSigma Income as funds with good track records.

Retirement

As a higher-rate taxpayer, every £100 Susan saves into a pension will cost just her £60 after tax relief.

Susan could sell her shares in Lloyds TSB and use the money to make a pension contribution, says Mr Bamford. "She would get higher-rate income relief to make up some of the fall in value in these shares over the course of the past year."

However, if she chooses this path it will mean crystallising that loss.

Shares are a long-term investment and there is every chance that in time the price of Lloyds TSB will rise again. No one can say how long this will take, however.

Whichever route she chooses, Susan needs to take a greater interest in her retirement fund. "Your forties and fifties are a crucial time to build funds for income in retirement, so it's vital to know the value and risk of any pension investments," says Mr Cox.

Susan's employer is likely to offer some form of pension scheme, even if it's only a simple stakeholder fund, stresses Mr Somal. If not, she should pay into a personal pension. A low- cost self-invested personal pension (Sipp) gives the greatest choice of funds, and she can consolidate her existing plans in this wrapper.

Property

Making regular overpayments on her mortgage has proved beneficial, reducing its term and leaving her in a good position during the property downturn.

"If she decides to try to sell in the future, setting aside some savings to buy a bigger property, without taking out a further mortgage, is advisable," says Mr Somal.

Once she has paid off her mortgage, Susan will be well placed to divert the money that was going on repayments into building up her portfolio of savings, investments and shares, the panel of IFAs agree.

The period after a mortgage has been paid off is often the key one in building a substantial retirement pot.

Protection

As a single person with no financial dependants and a small mortgage, paying £40 a month for life insurance is unnecessary. She may already have some cover through her employer, often referred to as death-in-service benefit, says Mr Cox.

However, the income protection policy is worthwhile, although it will only start to pay out once Susan has been unable to work for a period of three months. She should check that her employer will cover her salary for that time in the event of her being unable to work due to sickness or disability. "Alternatively, she should create an emergency fund equivalent to at least three months' expenditure to see her through before the policy kicks in," adds Mr Cox.

Deposit savings are normally the easiest and best route to achieving this rainy-day fund.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
News
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable
science

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
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

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

    Sales Executive

    £20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

    Payroll & Accounts Assistant

    £20 - 24k + Benefits: Guru Careers: This is a great opportunity for an enthusi...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week