As life in the UK slowly returns to normal, the financial path of many Britons has been changed, possibly forever.
Stripped of foreign holidays and impromptu trips to the pub on a Friday night, lockdown offered some a unique opportunity to clear debts and save money.
And with UK savings levels at an all-time high, many people are looking to start a business or eyeing up investment opportunities.
Research from Barclays Smart Investor recently revealed that one in six Brits invested for the first-time during lockdown — while of those already investing, one in three said that they had invested more money over the past year.
So, as the economy prepares to open up fully again, is now a good time to be taking those tentative first steps onto the investment ladder?
Rob Gardner, director of investments at St James’s Place, thinks so. ‘If you are financially resilient with your finances in a good place — then starting now is always a good time to invest,’ he says.
‘The main questions to ask are, “Do I have enough money in reserve to withstand financial shocks, such as the washing machine or the car breaking down?”
‘Those in that position can take those first steps to investing. Those who have debt, particularly credit card debt, should not be investing but should focus on paying that back first.’
Kyle Williams, 32
Operations manager, Salford
Since the beginning of the first lockdown, Kyle has been working from his home in Rochdale, saving money on petrol and trips to the work canteen. ‘I went from putting £50 in my car every two weeks to every two months,’ he says.
After paying off his credit card, Kyle was thinking more about his financial future and started looking for opportunities. ‘I was saving avidly and the interest rates in the bank aren’t that great, so I started looking at investment forums on Reddit and reading threads on what other people were doing.’
After educating himself through a mixture of reading books, online conversations and YouTube videos, Kyle invested £500 in an equity fund.
His next move was to invest in a blended fund, and he now tops up his investment in each by a hefty £200 every two weeks. Currently yielding around 6%, he is happy with his decisions. ‘Previously I never thought about where my money was going really, and I could be quite frivolous with it.
‘Now I think to myself ‘Why wasn’t I doing this ten years ago?”’
Aside from increasing savings, lockdown also offered a chance for many of us to sit back, take stock and re-evaluate one’s finances.
Susie Bearne, 39
Media consultant, Margate
‘I’ve always been quite cunning with money, managing whatever kind of salary I was on,’ says Susie. ‘I used the extra time that we had to really assess my finances and to make sure my savings were working for me.
‘I have a few sporadic pension pots that didn’t quite add up to very much money at all. So, lockdown just gave me time to go, “Right, OK, maybe you need to set up a pension.”’
As well as exploring ethical pension fund opportunities, Susie also put money into a Lisa and national savings bonds.
‘It was just future-proofing, I already had an Isa and I also set-up premium bonds for a bit of fun — it might not give you much return, but I just thought, why not.’
Nikki Jones, 28
Founder of the Bookish Mindset
While some chose to invest in the markets over the course of the pandemic, others started their own business. Nikki, from Portsmouth, used lockdown to launch The Bookish Mindset — a book subscription service that supports local independent shops.
Having saved money on travelling for her work as an engineer as well as on nights out and shopping expeditions, she launched the online business with just £1,000 start-up costs. ‘I noticed people picked up the reading habit a lot more and, as someone with a reputation as a book lover, I found myself recommending books to friends,’ she says.
For a monthly subscription, customers receive a box prepared by Nikki. Inside are books which alternate between fiction and non-fiction, bought from a local independent bookshop.
It also includes two other products sourced from small businesses and a tea. The business launched in February and is already sustaining itself. ‘It’s on its way to turning a small profit. I’m hoping within the first year we’re on track to making money, which is great.’
Jonny Parker, 26, and Matt Yeabsley, 26
Founders of Yabba Beer
Jonny and Matt are friends from university and used their lockdown savings to launch Yabba Beer — a low-calorie beer.
Jonny, a commercial lawyer, and Matt, a commercial analyst for a tech firm, have both kept their day jobs and invested around £2,000 each to get the venture off the ground.
‘It’s very much in the seed funding stage, and it’s sort of self-sustaining at the minute,’ says Jonny.
‘We’re definitely seeing a return on the money we’ve invested now in terms of revenue and beers sold so that’s great.’
The pair were inspired to start the business after a trip to Australia where they were impressed by the selection of low-calorie beers on offer.
They now sell their product online and are already stocking it at a bottle shop in Brixton.
‘Before lockdown we were not really thinking too much about investments or businesses or ways of growing our money.
‘I’m very happy in my current day job but I like the flexibility of having different income sources. You have more security should things go wrong and that has made a real difference.’
The seven essential principles of investing
By Rob Gardner, director of investments at St James’s Place
1. Plan your investments around the things you’re saving for. Your investment decisions should begin with the questions: what things do I want to do and when?
2. Set aside money for your short-term needs. Investments should be given at least five years to grow, ideally longer, so consider putting money aside for expenditure you may encounter in the meantime — this includes your rainy day fund for unexpected items such as a new boiler or a car repair.
3. Invest your money for long-term growth, not short-term wins. Think in decades. Your investments will move up and down over time, but the aim is to make them grow over the long term. Avoid changing long-term plans because of short-term changes.
4. Reduce risk by investing in different things. Diversification of a portfolio can help to reduce the risk of investing; this is in the respect of lots of different companies and different sectors. The more things you invest in, the less you are relying on any one of those things to make your money grow.
5. Take advantage of tax allowances to make your money work harder. Make sure you make the most of any allowances, and adjust your investments when allowances change and new allowances are introduced.
6. Make your money build the world you want to live in. Your investments shape the world around us; they grow companies, support governments and build infrastructure, choose investments that reflect how you want the world to change. You might want to invest in companies that are developing cures for diseases, that are supporting developing economies, or simply working to reduce the impact that they have on the environment.
7. Get regular help from experts who are on your side. A financial adviser can help you think through your ambitions and put in place a plan to achieve them. They can help you find the right fund manager, with the expertise to select the best investments for you. Over the years, your adviser can help you review your investments and adjust your plan as your needs change and in response to economic changes.
If you want more tips and tricks on saving money, as well as chat about cash and alerts on deals and discounts, join our Facebook Group, Money Pot.
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