Money: Money Talk: The investors who'll be left out of pocket

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The Independent Online
Both more and fewer people than might be thought will have been affected by this latest and any further market crashes.

More because it is not just people with PEPs and shares (admittedly a good proportion of the population after this year's rash of windfalls) who are investors now. The value of increasing numbers of pension plans depends on share prices, while millions of endowment policies taken out to pay off mortgages are also ultimately linked to stock market returns, albeit in the long term. Equally, just because you have shares does not mean crashes are automatically bad for your wealth.

The only real, as opposed to paper, losers are those who actually need to cash in investments - perhaps shares they had earmarked to help fund an imminent house purchase. Dare I say it, these pages did warn earlier in the summer that the historic highs hit by share prices made it increasingly dangerous to hang around in the stock market if you needed to cash in your chips in the short term.

People who have bought PEPs recently may also come to regret it, even if they have no immediate plans to cash them in. Come 1999, PEPs are due to be superseded by the Government's new Individual Savings Account (ISA). They will lose their income tax breaks and, while it may be possible to convert a PEP into an ISA, there may be a cost and it is not inconceivable some investors could be required to switch into different types of investment at that time. The combination of buying into the stock market at recent highs, the subsequent investment losses that will now need to be made up, the upfront charges on all too many PEPs and any conversion costs could leave not a few investors out of pocket two years hence.

There has been a flood of more than 1,000 submissions to the Government's pensions review, it was announced last week - which I trust will not delay the progress of this important review.

Wade through these submissions and you will find not a few weighty tomes from Britain's life insurers and banks, complete even with prototype passbooks for the new simple, low-cost "stakeholder pensions".

That Britain's biggest sellers of personal pension plans should seem so enthusiastic about a new world of pensions with simplicity and value at their core should be good news. If only they would apply the same enthusiasm to clearing up the pensions mis-selling scandal they are also responsible for and which they have been shamefully slow in clearing up.