By Andrew Hagger, Personal Finance Commentator
With interest rates on traditional cash based savings accounts steadily heading towards zero it’s not surprising that more of us are looking for alternative ways to earn a healthier return on our nest egg.
But how do you know where to put your money and when not to make a hasty decision that you may later regret?
Don’t know your AERs from your FTSE?
It’s clear from recent Crowdstacker research that many people are baffled by confusing terminology used in financial services, so it’s important that you undertake some research and try to and understand what you’re investing in rather than being lured in purely by the promise of double digit returns.
The number of different investment opportunities available is vast and includes fine wines, gold bullion, currency trading, overseas property, stocks and shares, peer to peer investing and unit trusts to name but a few – but each comes with its own benefits and associated risks, the key is to find something that’s suitable for your specific investment needs.
Getting your hands on investment information and independent opinion
If you want to keep up to date with investment opportunities and independent views on whether individual schemes are good, bad or ugly or perhaps have specific catches to beware of, then it’s worth spending a few minutes signing up to some key personal finance newsletters – these should be delivered via email for you to scan through or read each week as and when convenient.
It’s unlikely that there would be fantastic new opportunities available every week, but over time you’ll get to know what options are available and whether they may be right for you – the likes of BBC MoneyBox, The Daily Telegraph and This is Money would be a sound set of weekly newsletters to get you started – but not too much detail so that you’re drowning in it.
If you come across an opportunity that sounds appealing and not too risky for your liking, take it a step further and check on some discussion forums to find out what others are saying – you’ll usually find a search option, so you can type in the name of the Investment or scheme that you’re considering.
A couple of the more active and respected consumer finance forums can be found on MoneySavingExpert.com and Motley Fool (www.fool.co.uk) with the latter more of an expert resource in the field of stocks and shares, unit trusts and investment trusts.
Always undertake your own research – don’t take someone else’s word for it
Many of us have got friends or work colleagues who like to boast about a fabulous Investment opportunity that they’ve ploughed their money into, but even though you may know the person well as a friend, don’t assume that they know what they are doing when it comes to financial matters.
If someone tells you about their ‘can’t lose’ investment opportunity it’s key that you do your own digging around before parting with your cash otherwise you’re virtually investing blind – not a recommended Investment strategy if you want to sleep peacefully at night.
Similarly, don’t be swayed by cold callers offering you the chance of a ‘not to be missed’ investment opportunity – in fact always be ultra-cautious and on your guard if you’re approached “out of the blue” over the phone or face to face by an overzealous salesman – it’s more likely to be a scam than a genuine scheme.
A similar warning is needed regarding past performance - Just because an Investment delivered excellent returns last year, it’s no guarantee that it represents a good home for your savings now – so always, always check out independent third party comment on an investment you’re thinking of making – knowledge is very powerful in this field and the more digging you do and questions you ask, the less likely you’ll end up buying into a poor performing scheme and potentially losing a chunk of your capital.
Click here to browse the latest Crowdstacker Peer to Peer lending opportunities and lend to British businesses today.