Saturday, April 05, 2008

Moving abroad has certainly made everything that much more complicated. It seems like I have had to make decisions on everything, from where to stay to which utility provider I should use (water, electricity, telephone and Internet) to which gig I should attend (as some really good ones do clash, such as Soulwax and Four Tet on April 24, 2008) to where I should invest my money. This post is primarily concerned with the last question.

Over the last few weeks, I have had to decide where to invest (i) my CPF with the recent change in CPF regulation, (ii) my UK pension and (iii) my ISA allowance (a tax-free wrapper account for those resident in the UK). Thanks to my brilliant financial adviser back home, (i) was settled very quickly. It helps that my investment time frame is over 20 years because I don't foresee any need for the money in the short-term, and with that long an investment horizon, your investments usually will give you better than average returns compared to say, cash and bonds. In the mean time, if I ever feel the need to purchase property in Singapore, I hope I would have enough in my regular savings by then to be able to fund the deposit!

In the case of (ii) and (iii), I didn't have the luxury of an adviser... not to mention the fact that the choice of investments here can be, quite frankly, rather overwhelming. In terms of open-ended investment companies (OEICs, similar to unit trusts, except that they are incorporated, and therefore, not a trust), there are so many different fund managers to choose from. Then when you throw in the various asset classes and market sectors, it all gets a bit much. I'm not investing a great deal of money (certainly not enough to be warrant hiring a financial adviser) but still, it is my money and I get a bit iffy at the thought of potentially losing, well, anything, in spite of the fact that my ability and willingness to take risk is generally regarded as being on the high end.

Today being the last day to invest my ISA allowance for 2007/8, I was rather tempted to just let the deadline slip and not bother. However, I'm aware that the tax-free allowance does add up (although, mind you, it took me quite a few weeks to realise that the allowances accumulate, and are not an absolute amount for each year). In addition, as I'm studying for the CFA accreditation now, I couldn't in good conscience forego the allowance just 'cos I couldn't be arsed to pick up the phone. I mean, if the CFA Institute ever learnt of it, I might be disbarred!

I am kidding, of course. The CFA Code of Ethics may be a strict and puzzling one, but it ain't that draconian.

Anyway, with that in mind, I forced myself to call one of the established fund supermarkets here so that I could open an account. It was surprisingly quick and while I was a little disappointed that I had to invest a minimum of £1,000 in a single fund, rather than have an absolute total of £1,000 spread out over several funds, I was happy that the minimum investment was lower than the £3,000 needed to open the account online.

So, over the next few weeks, I'll be topping up my account, as well as diversifying from the one fund I put my initial investment in. I'm kind of excited at the funds I intend to invest in, though given the market volatility since the beginning of the year, I have to confess a certain amount of trepidation, even if I acknowledge that with my long-term time frame for my cash investments, the investments will definitely gain more than if I had put it in a savings account.

I realise that it must be the saddest thing in the world if I'm excited about the prospect of taking charge of my investments, but it does feel rather empowering. Living on my own, doing my own household chores, investing my own money, having no dependents and commitments (yet) and being beholden to no one... it's all rather exhilarating in a scary kind of way!

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