Investing is easy when you know how
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There are few barriers to making a simple ISA investment, says Peter Sharkey.
We're probably all guilty of it at some point, but whenever anyone tells me that processes x or y are so remarkably easy a child could do them, I'm immediately attentive and on my guard. After all, no-one wants to look so stupid that the person doing the explaining observes you as a white-coated scientist might look at a caged gerbil.
Usually, these 'it's so easy' conversations have technology at their heart and perhaps explain why many teenagers appear to be talking a different language. One of my nephews surpassed himself to such a degree recently that I thought he was speaking in tongues.
Increasingly exasperated, he explained a 'simple' instruction: 'Uncle Peter, just go into settings, click on mobile hotspot and tethering, switch off data roaming – that's in mobile networks – have a look to make sure your access point is internet everywhere, your Bluetooth paired device is switched on and you should then be able to connect directly with Nasa's Mission Control.'
He didn't say that last bit, but you get the picture. I was certainly reluctant to ask if he could repeat the instructions.
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But technology is not the sole cause of everyday frustrations; occasionally, it might just be discovering a different way of doing things. Let me give you an example.
We were in Spain on a short break recently and visited the coastal town of Almeria where I parked in an underground car park. My wife and I spent the afternoon strolling, enjoying an open-air lunch, the sunshine, warmth and simply relaxing before heading back to our hire car several hours later.
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After paying the parking
fee at an automatic machine, I grabbed my ticket and we meandered back to the car. Upon driving to the barrier, I began searching for a slot on the thick metal upright where you would insert the ticket and so raise said barrier. There was no slot. I checked the barcoded side was facing away from me and waved the ticket across the front and side of the upright. Nothing, though I did notice several dozen discarded parking tickets on top. Strange.
By now, two or three cars were queuing behind me. Cue more frantic waving, alternating the ticket's barcode between portrait and landscape, but still no joy. I pressed the buzzer for help, no doubt to the dismay of the drivers of the four cars behind. Not unreasonably, the man who answered only spoke Spanish and far too rapidly for my rudimentary understanding of the language. Was that a sixth, or perhaps seventh car joining the queue behind?
I was about to get out and apologise when a kindly Spanish gent walked over and beckoned me to hand him the ticket. He placed it flat on a dull red light to the upright's left-hand side, prompting the barrier to open, simultaneously preventing an unwanted headline: 'British man placed in Spanish cage with thick gerbils'.
The process was simplicity itself, but only once I had been shown how.
Investment can be a little like my confrontation with a Spanish parking barrier. It can often appear unworkable or unnecessarily complicated; indeed, some companies revel in making it sound so, usually to justify their fees, but in fact, investment can be very simple.
Most people want to meet their longer-term objectives, whether it's buying a house, a car, or putting money aside for retirement by investing, ideally while ensuring the investment process is as straight forward as possible.
You will have seen much written about ISAs recently, not least because the 'ISA season' has just careered to an end. In fact, however, the 'season' lasts all year: there's no part of the year when you cannot invest in an ISA, though putting money in at the beginning of a new tax year (which starts on April 6) and continuing to 'drip-feed' your investment over the following 12 months is likely to provide
better returns than leaving everything to the last minute, ie to April 2020.
The fact remains that ISAs can be opened with a few pounds, are very tax-efficient (your investment and all growth accumulates free of tax inside an ISA), are an extremely inexpensive way of investing and offer investors the opportunity to utilise some of the very best financial brains around. I'm loath to use the word 'simple', but ISAs are, which is why everybody should have one.
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For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey's regular column, The Week in Numbers.