My year in review
For me and many of my peers, 2015 seemed to be a year somewhat in the doldrums. Not an awful lot happened of note. Certainly some fun was had but nothing particularly special happened – either bad or good. Most seemed quite glad to be moving on to a new year with brighter promise.
I always find that the new year is a good time to take stock of what happened last year and look ahead and predict what might be coming.
On the investment side stock markets retreated somewhat but nothing disastrously. It seemed that if you picked high yield defensive stocks you could do quite well. And of course you would need to have stayed out of China. Most commentators seem to think that the emerging markets is where all the action will be this year. I prefer to be more conservative and keep the money mainly in Europe and US with a little exposure to emerging. I have no appetite for the wild swings experienced in China so I will happily stay out of that market. I suppose sooner or later the recent crashes are going to mean that China stocks are very cheap but it is too much of a roller coaster for me.
Russia and Brazil in particular look completely knackered but there might be opportunities in the Far East and India. Especially if the dollar weakens.
Spain, in which I have an emotional and real interest, seems to be recovering and it could be a good time to buy that holiday villa you always wanted. There are still bargains to be had but prices seemed to have gone up about 5% last year for the first time in many. Ditto with Portugal. The best quality areas will be OK. Less good areas will not recover for many years, if ever.
There seems to be no slowdown in London property prices despite the fact that the UK government continue to tinker with the property taxation system. They can’t seem to make their minds up what to do. It would be good to get certainty on the system and obligations rather than deal with the numerous changes to the legislation which we have experienced over the last two years.
As readers will know, I am a big fan of classic cars and those prices continue to march on. The market seems to have been greatly helped by the recent pensions freedom granted by the UK government. Those with UK pensions now have a lot more freedom to withdraw their pensions early without being totally raped by the taxman. Anybody over 55 can take out a big lump sum without tax penalty. I think many have quite rightly concluded that they cannot trust the pensions administrators to give them a decent return. The charges are too high and the money managers too unimaginative. It always seems to be the case that even when the stock markets have doubled the pensions managers are crowing about having achieved a 10% return. And then the government have a habit of suddenly deciding that they are going to change the taxation system and make a raid on the pensions. UK expats can transfer their pensions offshore into a QROPS and get it out of the clutches of the UK taxman as far as possible. They are doing that in droves and that seems to make perfect sense. Those in the UK are deciding that they are better off managing their own money. Once they have it out of the pension there is not much point in leaving it in the bank as you get virtually no interest. So why not buy that car you always dreamed of. It appears to be the best investment around and if it is not you get to drive the thing and enjoy it. How much fun is it having a BP share certificate? I know that to get a top end classic restored by a respected specialist costs £250,000. So if you can buy a fully restored one, or an original which does not need restoring, for less than £250,000 it would seem to me to be good value. Why not?
Oil prices are spectacularly low and in the long term I think they are bound to increase. Maybe we should have an aggressive leveraged bet on the oil price going up? Ditto with gold.
But I still love hard tangible assets which you can enjoy so for me wine, art and cars are the way to go. Enjoyment is now the key factor. After all if you invest in the stock market you are presumably hoping that sometime you will have a pot of money to spend on stuff you like? So once the school fees and mortgage are secured why not start the process now?
The biggest disappointment of 2015 was England forgetting how to play rugby and getting knocked out of their own tournament in the group stage of the World Cup. What a disaster for them and potentially for the tournament. Luckily the rugby fans of the world gathered round and made nearly every game a sell-out despite no local participation. All the home nations under achieved with no northern hemisphere side in the quarter finals. But the minnows of the tournament put on a great show and even the lesser games were entertaining. The final was a good game, and nearly a great game. If Australia could have just scored again the tension would have continued. In the end the game was won 20 minutes out and a rampant New Zealand strolled home rather easily.
Roger Federer had one more crack at the Wimbledon title and at least took a set off the imperious Djokovich. I thought it was going to be Andy Murray’s year again. He played really well but then Federer took him apart in the semi-final. My journalist friends who were at the game said it was the single greatest display of serving they had ever seen. Shame for Andy. But he single handedly took Britain to the Davis Cup. What an achievement.
And next year it is the Olympics. I can’t imagine anything other than chaos in Rio de Janeiro so I will be staying away. I have never been to Brazil and want to go but I don’t think during the Olympics is the right time.
I hope everyone had a good year and will have a better one.