While the investment industry prepares for a radical shake-up to pensions, AXA research shows that the financial decisions of millions of UK adults are being held back by widespread confusion on the basics on how ISAs work.
The research carried out on behalf of AXA Self Investor suggests there is too much complexity regarding investments as the over 55s, those closest to retirement, are unclear about the ISA basics –raising the concern that many people close to retirement age are failing to make full use of the new ISA allowance as an effective long-term financial planning tool. Only 41 per cent of those aged 55 and over thought they could put stocks and shares into an ISA and only 18 per cent thought they could take out more than one ISA each tax year.
The financial industry must do more to make investing more straightforward, as the research uncovered regional pockets of confusion about certain features of ISA investing:
- 22 per cent of people in Northern Ireland think you can only put cash in an ISA
- When asked to select which of six statements about ISAs were true, 33 per cent of Londoners selected don’t know.
- 70 per cent of people in Wales have not invested in an ISA in the current tax year
- 76 per cent of those in the North East don't know the new ISA limit is £15,000
- 36 per cent of Scottish people don't know the month in which the tax year ends.
Adrian Lowcock, head of investing, AXA Self Investor, said “With so much attention on the pension changes just weeks away, the financial services industry continues to focus on these issues and not those of potential investors. We need to take a step back and revisit the basics; be more transparent, cut out the complexity and communicate simply. We are an ‘instant gratification nation’; comfortable making complex financial decisions that deliver immediate or short-term results through things like comparison websites, or discount deals. If we are going to increase the amount of confident investors, we need to make longer term financial arrangements and decision-making far more engaging.”
Five top tips to consider when ISA investing:
- Know why you are investing - Before you start investing you need to set a clear goal of what you want to achieve; perhaps it’s for your children’s education or a special wedding anniversary treat. This will help you decide what risk you can take and what you should invest in. It is important to remember that investing is not for the short term.
- What is your appetite for risk - Your attitude to risk is quite personal and it will change, as will your capacity for loss. Age, lifestyle and surroundings can all impact how much risk you want to take and what your tolerance for loss is, and there are online tools to help you determine this. A simple measure is you shouldn’t be having sleepless nights over concerns of an investment falling in value.
- Do your research - Take some time reading up about the different types of asset classes, the benefits of ISAs, different types of investment styles. There’s lots of information around, try websites such as www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk Give yourself time to digest the information before proceeding.
- Finding the right investment service - There are a number of choices in this market and several important factors to consider including costs, service and jargon. Watch out for hidden fees’ such as exit charges. Keep an eye out for comparison tables from industry experts.
- Be more tax efficient, use your ISA - Taxes are another cost to the portfolio taken out of any profits you make. Investments held in an ISA will not incur any capital gains tax on capital growth, nor is there further tax to pay on any income earned. You get a new ISA allowance each tax year. In the current tax year (2014/2015) you can invest up to £15,000 within an ISA.
To learn more about ISAs visit: https://www.axaselfinvestor.co.uk/isas-and-more/