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  • Writer's pictureStephen Walters

Why have I been so absent?

For a year I’ve been feeling confusion and agitation; a sense of fear at a widening gap between my desire to advise clients wisely, and my ignorance how best to do that. Telling myself ‘it’s unhelpful to make early judgments’ I’ve waited… waited longer… too long. I’d like to tell you where I am now. I accept you might find my views disagreeable.

At the state of the world I am in grief, for want of trust in political leaders. Excepting Ursula von der Leyen, I distrust political leaders to negotiate for peace and collaborative humanity. From the three military superpowers I see deplorable ego, belligerence and bullying. I have apprehension the world will slide into deeper, wider violence.

About climate change I despair at too many deeply vested interests. For sure we’ll overshoot 1.5 degrees; my concern is how far past 2 degrees we’ll surge. Lamenting that climate change already disproportionately affects the smallest contributors to the crisis, I wonder if too many of us think it’s someone else’s problem.

On top of that, the world’s ‘experts’ in economics and finance were first dismissive that post-pandemic inflation would rise and stick. Now I experience them under-estimating the challenge to bring it back under control. Meanwhile banks fail, markets pivot and wobble, and poor people everywhere suffer unduly the consequences of unforeseen impact.

Except for the dauntless, or for people with a view spanning a generation; in my opinion, this is a rotten time to invest new money in stock markets. Owing to the chasm between high inflation and low interest rates, now is also a rotten time to hold cash.

For all of us to whom I’ve recommended funds in markets - our ages range from ninety-six to six - I have no wiser guidance than to stay put. Since the start of the pandemic nothing have I moved in my own portfolio, because I cannot discern more valid places to invest than what I’ve chosen for all of us.

Of course I support everyone to be fully-subscribed to tax-efficient ISA and pension funds; but to invest large sums of new money in stock market funds, I’m not an advocate. Slower than I’d have liked to discern, and with regret to have been silent for much longer than has been helpful to all of you; I’m recommending for new subscriptions to:

1. ISA - either the Cash version with a bank or building society, or Cash fund in your Stocks & Shares account. My favourite:

  • Bank is whichever one you trust,

  • B.soc is Nationwide because it’s a mutual; owned fully by the people who save with it,

  • Stocks & Shares ISA provider is AJ Bell.

2. Pensions

  • Dauntless investors and/or long-term savers, to continue investing in themes we can reliably expect to persist relevant for even the youngest among us; clean energy, water, health, transport innovation, global infrastructure.

  • For more cautious and / or older people, my favourite cautious fund, the growth version of Prudential’s ‘PruFund’.

Last time the world suffered a credit crunch (2008) stock markets reached their nadir a full six months after the first bank failures. More than for an assassin, I yearn for a team of skilful mediators on behalf of the billions of us who seek mutual safety, peace and prosperity.

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