It is not uncommon for investors, particularly those in superannuation or retirement savings schemes, to be unfamiliar with how their money is being invested. All too often, there is disillusionment when the investment does not perform in line with the investor’s expectations. In most cases, this is not because the investment has been a poor performer, but because the investor either had unrealistic expectations of the investment or did not understand the nature of it. An investment portfolio or retirement savings scheme needs to be treated like a member of the family. It needs to be understood, nurtured and brought back to health when it isn’t doing very well. Having a stranger in your house brings about a degree of tension and discomfort, whereas with someone you know well, you know what to expect and what actions to take. Get to know your investments so you feel comfortable with them. This means giving them attention rather than putting them into the bottom drawer. Read the investment statement and the performance reports you receive. If you don’t understand them, ask questions and spend time on them so you do. If you are invested in managed funds, make sure you understand what kind of assets the funds invest in. Stay in tune with what is happening in each of the main investment sectors (fixed interest, property and shares) and the global economy. This doesn’t mean you need a degree in financial analysis or economics; it just means you need to take an interest in financial matters in the news and to have discussions with other people who are experts, such as your financial adviser, or friends with particular expertise. Each week, take time to learn something new about investing, perhaps by reading a book or going to an investing website or blog.
There is a worldwide trend for investors to want to make a positive contribution to the world by investing in companies that are socially and environmentally responsible. If you are passionate about the effects of climate change, the scarcity of food and water, and social or environmental policies in general, then you will no doubt wish to ensure that the companies in which you invest are going about their business in a manner that is consistent with your views.