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Weekend reading: Airpods and moon tix

Weekend reading logo

What caught my eye this week.

There was something (else) notable about the first TV interview with the three lads from Manchester who restrained a knife-wielder run amok in Sydney earlier this week.

In the initial broadcast, I noticed two were wearing Apple Airpods whilst talking to the camera.

I thought this pretty striking. The wireless headphones are popping up all over London in the same way the iPhone’s once iconic white earbuds did a decade ago.

Nevertheless I was surprised to see them in the TV interview. Mancunians have their own inimitable sense of self-presence, but still – wouldn’t you take your Airpods out before a once-in-a-lifetime appearance on live TV?

That was my first thought. But then Airpod users often say they forget they’re wearing them.

And unlike, say, the ill-fated Google Glass, people love to be seen wearing them. Even when being broadcast around the world!

This trivial observation suggests to me that wireless headphones are going to become ubiquitous. Even your gran in the Highlands will be wearing them within a few years.

And that’s relevant around here because it means a £169 purchase – and that’s with a £30 discount – every couple of years has been conjured up by Apple out of nothing.

Put that in your spreadsheet

Yes, yes, a couple of you will tell me you’re still getting by with a Tesco mobile on a £5 contract and a pager.

There are always outliers or laggards.

But the bigger point is that a lot of today’s silly luxuries become tomorrow’s essentials.

The iPhone of course is the ultimate example of this kind of household expense that nobody really saw coming.

An early retiree at the turn of the century might have budgeted for a mobile phone, sure, but not one that cost £1,000 or more.

And just a few years earlier in the mid-1990s there would have been no annual mobile bill in the forecast at all.

Of course, there might have been a car in the budget – whereas today’s young urban corporate escapee might make-do with Uber – and perhaps a video tape recorder to capture that round-the-world retirement trip at the cost of a couple of grand.

Swings and roundabouts.

Tomorrow’s world

When I first started reading personal finance forums 20 years ago, I was amused by all the inflation conspiracy theorists that abounded, and I still am. Tracking inflation is difficult enough without introducing a nationalised swindle.

However I now see that those who argued we all have our own personal inflation rates made a really good point.

Broadly, stuff (iPhones and Airpods aside) is getting cheaper while services are getting more expensive.

But guessing what stuff and what services you specifically will want to use in 20 years time is harder than it looks.

It’s another reason why personally I wouldn’t want to follow a ‘spending down all my capital’ plan in early retirement (though I accept many feel they have little choice).

Using your current spending is a decent proxy for a decade or two, but what if you’re retiring at 40? Do you really want to miss out on the space travel, the personal teleportation, and the by then-mandatory weekly enemas with your personal gut flora therapist?

Well, okay. But surely not the space travel and the teleportation?

On the other hand, perhaps the robot revolution will lead to super-abundance and a century of deflation.

Tough call.

Inflating expectations

In this context, the news that inflation is currently running a little over target

Annual consumer price inflation rose to a three-month high of 2.1% in July from 2.0% in June, the Office for National Statistics said, bucking the average expectation in a Reuters poll of economists for a fall to 1.9%.

…seems neither here nor there, especially as anything could happen come 31 October.

With a sensible Brexit deal the pound could rally overnight and imported inflation fade away. Alternatively, with a bonkers no-deal, we might see a run on sterling and all kinds of craziness. Or perhaps just a damp squib either way.

So the Bank of England does face a bit of a dilemma.

But in the longer-term, in a world of accelerating change, we all face a bigger one.

Further reading:

  • What is the UK’s inflation rate? – BBC
  • How inflation is costing you more than you think [Search result]FT

[continue reading…]

Picture of The Greybear who is exploring an income strategy in retirement based around investment trusts.

Long time readers may remember that as I’ve written on Monevator many times, a few years ago I began repositioning my main SIPP towards income-centric investment trusts.

Mostly, this meant selling various passives and some funds, and replacing them with investment trusts.

This isn’t the place to reprise the merits or otherwise of that strategy.

Previous articles by me have:

For me it boils down to a combination of in-built diversification, (mostly) reasonable charges, and a proven investment model that in many cases goes back over a hundred years.

To which I might add that in some cases, investment trusts also offer access to asset classes that would otherwise be problematic for ordinary investors.

These days, for instance, my own portfolio features large-scale industrial and warehouse properties in the form of Tritax Big Box, and solar and wind farms in the form of Bluefield Solar Income and Greencoat UK Wind.

Terra incognita

Whatever their merits, investment trusts have historically faced an uphill struggle for mindshare among investors.

The financial press, for instance, has traditionally fêted open-ended funds, for reasons not unconnected to the amount of advertising that such funds undertake.

When soliciting interviews with active managers, the same logic applies.

Investment advisors, too, were slow to tout the attractions of investment trusts. The arrival of RDR back in 2014 and the demise of a number of cosy commission-based arrangements has changed that a little, but more needs to be done.

And – it has to be said – the venerable nature of a number of investment trusts hasn’t helped to bring about a nomenclature that appears investor-friendly to modern eyes.

The Scottish Mortgage investment trust, for instance, is nothing to do with mortgages, and the last time I looked it had no investments in Scotland. To be blunt, the name does little to hint at index-beating major investments in Facebook, Google-owner Alphabet, Tesla, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent, and other digital illuminati.

Put another way, investment trusts can be something of an unknown for many ordinary investors, with relatively few sources of worthwhile information.

New, better, bigger

Hence, back in 2015, I created a Monevator-published table of income-centric investments trusts, which became something of a popular resource.

Further updated in 2016, it was actually in the process of receiving a 2017 refresh when, as they say, real life got in the way.1

And somehow, here we are in 2019.

The 2019 table, updated at long last, contains a small number of improvements. Three, to be precise.

  • It includes many more investment trusts – roughly twice as many.
  • I’ve included a number of ‘specialist’ trusts, as well as property-centric trusts, not least because these asset classes now figure fairly prominently in my own investments.
  • Following reader suggestions, trusts are categorised and grouped together: UK-centric, global and international, specialist trusts, and property-centric trusts.

Click through to view the cloud-hosted investment trust table in a new window.

(Click through to see Greybeard’s table of trusts.)

The small print

There are four observations to make on the 2019 bunch of trusts.

The first is that among those trusts that featured in the 2016 list, costs are down: 18 trusts had a lower reported ongoing charge; four were the same; and two appeared to have slightly increased it.

Second, of the trusts listed, 24 feature among my own investments, with two more earmarked for purchase soon.

Third, to be included in the table trusts had to be a member of trade body the Association of Investment Companies, which means that a number of REITS that would otherwise make this list have been excluded. Among my own investments, for instance, are Primary Health Properties, Empiric Student Property, and Tritax Eurobox. These do not feature in the table.

Fourthly and finally, the SIPP in question which holds these trusts is now significantly larger, after two other pension investments have been rolled-up into it in order to cut costs and improve performance.

There’s still a fairly hefty five-figure sum in funds, but for me at least, the strategy of moving into income-centric investment trusts is delivering the goods.

Naturally this information is only provided as a starting point for Monevator readers doing their own research: If you invest in any of them, on your head be it!

Of course I hope it’s useful, and look forward to any comments. It’d be especially interesting to see an outline of the portfolio of any readers using investment trusts in retirement, if you’d care to share?

See all The Greybeard’s previous articles.

  1. My friend is now fully recovered from his heart attack and subsequent coronary bypass, and now regularly trounces me at our weekly exercise class. []

How to protect your portfolio in a crisis

How to protect your portfolio in a crisis post image

The standard story is that when equities collapse we should be saved by our bonds. Like a financial Clark Kent, this hitherto unassuming asset class takes off its glasses, reveals its cape, and soars above the chaos, lancing losses with laser beam glances.

The so-called flight to quality – when capital deserts risky equities to take refuge in high-grade government bonds – worked during the meteor strikes of 2008-09 and 2000-02.

But – oh big surgery-enhanced buts – it doesn’t always work.

UK equity and gilt returns since 1899 reveal that bonds are not always enough. Our portfolio defences need to be multi-layered like a castle, with walls, moat, archers on the ramparts, and pots of boiling oil ready to meet the potential threats.

How often do bonds rise to the occasion?

UK equities have ended the calendar year with a loss 43 times between 1899 and 2018 according to the Barclays Equity Gilt study, the go-to source for UK returns data.

That’s a timely reminder that you can expect to see an annual loss on your allocation to UK shares around one year out of every three.

So how often have UK government bonds (or gilts) proved an effective remedy for that portfolio pain?

For each year that ended with a loss for UK equities, gilts:

  • Rose 28% of the time.
  • Fell by less than equities 37% of the time.
  • Lost more than equities 35% of the time.

Two-thirds of the time you’d have been better off holding some gilts versus 100% equities during a down year – but even our safe haven bonds would have made things worse a third of the time.

Not ideal.

Do gilts save their best for darker days?

When equities lost 10% or more in a single year,1 gilts:

  • Rose 25% of the time.
  • Fell by less than equities 65% of the time.
  • Lost more than equities 10% of the time.

This is more like it! Gilts made a bad situation worse in only 10% of major market corrections. Nine times out of ten owning gilts cushioned the blow.

When equities lost 20% or more in a single year, gilts:

  • Rose 40% of the time.
  • Fell by less than equities 60% of the time.
  • Gilts have never underperformed equities in this scenario.

UK equities have lost more than 20% in a year on five occasions. Gilts didn’t do worse in these years but the airbag left you in a body cast three times. Double-digit inflation was running amok in each case – 1920, 1973, and 1974. Gilts got trampled like a traffic cop trying to halt King Kong.

To put some gory numbers on the UK’s biggest horror show:

You’d struggle to live on those crumbs of comfort.

As mentioned, gilts did register gains during the Dotcom Bust (2000 – 2002) and the Global Financial Crisis (2008 – 2009). Not by enough to fully cancel your losses if you held a 50:50 equity/bond portfolio, but enough to help you pay the bills and buy equities during the fire sale.

Just add cash

The problem is our memories are short and the textbook performance of quality government bonds during the last two meltdowns can easily blind us to the fact that gilts haven’t worked one third of the time.

Can we solve the problem if we diversify into other defensive assets as well as gilts?

Cash has lost value in real terms every single year since 2008. That dismal record might easily stop us digging deeper to learn that cash scored better annual returns than UK equities and gilts in 27 of the 43 drawdowns – or 63% of the time.

Note: The Barclays Equity Gilt study uses UK Treasury bills2 as a proxy for cash.

Cash looks worth holding because:

  • Gilts and equities were both down 72% of the time in a losing year. But adding cash meant that you’d have at least one asset in positive territory 51% of the time.
  • Cash outperformed bonds 65% of the time when equities lost more than 10% over the year.
  • Cash outperformed bonds 80% of the time when equities lost more than 20% over the year.
  • Cash beat bonds during all three of the supply shock years – 1920, 1973, and 1974. Cash was still down in real terms, but by much less than equities or gilts.

Index-linked gilts for anti-inflation

Might we improve our portfolio’s resilience with index-linked gilts?

These inflation-resistant government bonds (called ‘linkers’ by their fans) have only been around since 1983, which is a pity because they would have been more popular than flares in the 1970s.

  • UK equities have had ten down years since ’83.
  • Linkers only outperformed conventional gilts twice. And linkers were still in the red both years, just marginally less so than gilts.
  • Linkers ended down when equities lost over 10% in 1990, 2001, 2008, and 2018.

Index-linked gilts did register a small gain in 2002, when equities lost 24.5%. But all told they’re no replacement for conventional gilts as a safe haven.

With all that said, linkers are the only asset class regularly cited as offering useful protection against high and unexpected inflation.

Don’t expect equities, property, or most commodities to help when inflation is off-the-hook. Gold might assist, but not reliably so.

Talking of gold…

Gold for chaos insurance

Gold is famously uncorrelated with equities or bonds. It sometimes works when nothing else does.

We can take a look at whether gold improved a portfolio’s return during every UK equity market drawdown since 1970, thanks to the amazing Portfolio Charts.

There were 15 down years between then and now. Gold, equities, gilts, and cash all sunk together only twice – just 13% of the time.

Gold improved the portfolio return two-thirds of the time.

It did a spectacular job in the stagflationary 1970s. But it’s impossible to know how connected that performance was to the ending of US political controls on the yellow metal in 1971.

Gold also put in a good shift at the height of the Global Financial Crisis. It returned 90% between November 2007 and February 2009.

What’s less well remembered is that gold fell 30% in October 2008, swirling in the same toilet bowl as everything else. Year-end returns can only tell us so much about what it’s like to be a forced seller in the midst of a crisis.

There are many reasons to be wary of gold. It’s not a good inflation hedge for small investors and it has a long-term track record of low returns and high volatility – the opposite of what we want in an asset class.

But gold’s reputation as a safe haven holds up, on balance. Passive investing champion Larry Swedroe sums up the evidence:

As for gold serving as a safe haven, meaning that it is stable during bear markets in stocks, Erb and Harvey found gold wasn’t quite the excellent hedge some might think. It turns out 17% of monthly stock returns fall into the category where gold is dropping at the same time stocks post negative returns.

If gold acts as a true safe haven, then we would expect very few, if any, such observations.

Still, 83% of the time on the right side isn’t a bad record.

An asset that counterbalances falling equities 83% of the time is pretty remarkable in my view.

Gold may help you avoid being a forced seller of shares

Cash and gold do not feature in my personal accumulation portfolio because the evidence shows they’re a long-term drag on returns.

Instead, I’ve backed myself to ride out any crisis and to not panic sell if my portfolio heads south for a few years.

Living off your portfolio in retirement is a different ballgame, however.

A deaccumulator must sell to live.3 If a bear market lasts several years then ideally I’d have at least one asset class in my portfolio that’s above water when I need money. At worst, I’d want an asset that I can sell for a marginal loss.

The nightmare is selling equities at a loss over a protracted period and torpedoing the long term sustainability of your portfolio.

Retirement researchers have found that the dreaded sequence of returns risk hurts us most during the period that starts five years before you start living off your investments until about 10 to 15 years into your retirement.4

That period is the red zone for any retiree. Avoiding too much damage to your portfolio during that time is mission critical.

Which leads me to think that cash and gold should join my deaccumulation portfolio alongside conventional gilts and linkers to provide defence in depth when I’m most vulnerable.

Since 1970 there have only been two out of 15 total losing years for equities where all these asset classes ended the year down together.

I doubt I’ll hold more than 6% of my asset allocation in gold. In the deaccumulation red zone I could probably squeeze two years of living expenses out of that. The ever-excellent Early Retirement Now has also mentioned a couple of times that small allocations to gold (5-10%) can mitigate sequence of return risk.

Gold would be a one-shot weapon for me – fired off to protect my other assets from a worse loss. I’d be unlikely to replace it once used because I’ve only got to make it through that first decade or so. I remain firm in my belief that gold is an expensive insurance policy over the long term.

I feel similarly about cash. Again, I can see myself holding a couple of years supply to get through the height of sequence of returns risk.

One of the odd advantages of being a small investor is that I can probably do better than the Treasury bills rate by keeping cash squirrelled in the UK’s best buy bank accounts – refusing to let it rot when bonus interest rates evaporate. I’ve certainly done alright with cash in the last decade using that strategy.

The critical takeaway is that we need to diversify our defences so that the high watermark of a crisis does not flood our equity growth engines. History tells us not to rely purely on equities and conventional bonds to protect our portfolios.

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

  1. There are 20 instances between 1899 and 2018. Okay, okay, I admit I rounded a -9.6% and a -9.8% to -10%. []
  2. Short-term government debt with maturity dates of 12-months or less. []
  3. Editor’s note: Ahem. Presuming they’re not following a ‘living off the income’ strategy, which requires a larger starting pot of capital. []
  4. Peak vulnerability to sequence of returns risk can even last up to 20 years in the deaccumulation stage if you’re a precocious FIRE type looking forward to 60 years in retirement. []

How to get a 14% return from RateSetter

Mixing RateSetter’s £100 bonus offer and high interest rates should deliver a tasty return

Good news! RateSetter has brought back its £100 bonus for investors who put away just £1,000 for a year. To get the bonus, follow my links to RateSetter in this article. I will also be paid a bonus by RateSetter if you sign up via one of these ‘refer a friend’ links to claim your £100 bonus. This doesn’t affect your returns – it is paid by RateSetter.

I won’t cause any readers to fall to their knees screaming “No! How can it be? Why didn’t somebody tell me!” if I say it’s been hard to get a decent interest rate on cash for the past few years.

Even the Bank of England’s rate rises haven’t done much. High Street banks always drag their feet in passing on rate rises.

But in this article I’ll explain how you can effectively get a 14% return on a chunk of your cash by taking advantage of a bonus offer from RateSetter, the peer-to-peer lender.

True, this very attractive potential return does not come without some risk.

In practice, no Ratesetter investor has yet lost a penny. Every lender has received the rate they expected.

Nevertheless, peer-to-peer does not have the same protections as traditional cash deposits, so you should think about it differently to cash in the bank. More on that below.

If you can accept the risk and have the spare cash to hand, I believe this is a pretty safe – though not guaranteed – way to make a good return.

It also exemplifies how being nimble with your money can enable you to achieve higher returns – even in today’s low rate world.

Not a few Monevator readers have taken advantage of this win-win RateSetter offer over the past couple of years!

About RateSetter

RateSetter is one of the new breed of peer-to-peer lenders aiming to cut out the banks by acting as a matchmaker between ordinary savers and borrowers like you and me.

Rates change all the time, but as I write you can get up to 5.4% as a lender with RateSetter by putting your cash into its five-year market.

Since March 2018 you’ve also been able to open a RateSetter ISA, which means you get your income tax-free.

Meanwhile borrowers can get a loan charging less than 4%. RateSetter claims that rate is competitive with the mainstream banks, and says banks are its competition (rather than it simply getting all the bank rejects).

RateSetter charges no lending fees, which is great news for savers like us. Borrowers do pay a fee.

Over £2.5 billion has now been lent through the RateSetter platform. This is no longer a tiddly operation.

And importantly, of the 66,942 investors who’ve lent money with RateSetter not one has yet lost a penny of their investment.

In 2010 RateSetter set-up a ‘Provision Fund’, which is funded by charging all borrowers a risk-adjusted fee.

Money from the Provision Fund is used to repay lenders whose borrowers miss a payment, for as long as there’s money in the fund to do so.

It’s a different model to the initial approach of rivals like Zopa. Back then you were encouraged to spread your loans widely and accept a few would go bad, reducing your return.

The RateSetter approach is different.

But as sensible people of the world, we should understand there’s no magic here.

Downside protection

Some loans will still go bad. And those bad loans will still reduce the returns enjoyed by lenders in aggregate – because the Provision Fund fee levied against borrowers as part of the cost of their loan could otherwise have gone to lenders through a higher interest rate.

However what the Provision Fund does is share those losses between all lenders, reducing everyone’s return a tad.

This makes your returns predictable. Your outcome should be dependent on the interest you receive – rather than being distorted by the poor luck of being personally hit by an unusually high number of bad debts.

Note that the Provision Fund does not provide complete protection against a situation where all the loans made at RateSetter default. Far from it!

Rather the Provision Fund aims to cover the bad debts predicted by RateSetter’s models, with a margin of safety on top.

At the time of writing, Ratesetter says:

In the event that credit losses were to increase significantly, the following things would happen:

  • The Provision Fund would reduce in value as it reimburses investors for missed payments.

  • The Provision Fund is large enough to cover credit losses up to 116% of expected losses. If credit losses rose above this level, the Provision Fund would be depleted and investors would earn less interest than they expected, but their capital would be unaffected.

  • If credit losses rose even further and exceeded 231% of expected loses, investors would start to lose capital, which means that they would get back less money than they put in.

  • In this instance, it may take longer than expected for investors to receive their money back and access to funds may be restricted.

What would happen if losses did exceed the RateSetter projections?

First the Provision Fund would be used up, and ultimately exhausted.

After that interest payments could be redirected to repaying capital. You’d lose on interest payments, but it could cover lenders’ losses on capital unless the default rate got too high.

Finally, in a doomsday scenario with very high default rates, capital could be eroded. I’d expect other investments like equities and corporate bonds would also be taking a pummeling. But cash in the bank would not.

At the end of the day, I believe for most people the Provision Fund approach is preferable to the lottery of individual loans defaulting. But don’t mistake it for a panacea or a guarantee.

You could conceivably lose money if defaults are much worse than expected. More on that below.

How to bag that 14% return from RateSetter

At last, the good bit!

RateSetter is currently offering a £100 bonus to new customers who invest at least £1,000 in any of its markets and keep it there for a year.

This £1,000 minimum investment can be made up of new subscriptions and/or transfers from other ISA providers.1

The £100 bonus is paid once that year is up. It will be deposited into your RateSetter account, after which you can choose to do with it (and the rest of your money) as you please.

Clicking on any of the RateSetter links in this article will take you directly to the sign-up page for the £100 bonus.

For full disclosure, RateSetter will also pay me a £50 bonus if anyone does sign-up via my links, which would obviously be very welcome! My bonus doesn’t affect your returns. It’s paid by RateSetter.

As for your £1,000 investment, you can put it into any RateSetter market, which range from a rolling one-month option to a five-year lock-up. But you must keep it within RateSetter for a year to get your £100 bonus.

To keep things simple, let’s assume you invest your £1,000 in the one-year market, which matches the period required to qualify for the bonus.

The one-year market is paying 4.7% as I type.

So after one year you’d have your 4.7% interest on your £1,000 and you’d also receive your bonus, which works out as a return of 14.7% on your £1,000.

Very nice!

I’ve ignored taxes here because everyone’s tax situation is different.

The good news on taxes is that:

  • You can now open a RateSetter ISA and collect the bonus. You can fund this with a transfer from another ISA provider. In an ISA the income you earn is tax-free.
  • Most people even outside of an ISA will pay no tax on cash interest, thanks to the new-ish Personal Savings Allowance that covers the first £1,000 of interest earned by basic rate taxpayers, and £500 for higher-rate payers.

Is this bonus too good to be true?

A great question.

Clearly it’s not sustainable for RateSetter to lend your money out at, say, 4%, while paying you an effective rate of nearly 15%.

(The cost is even higher to RateSetter if it pays me a bonus, too.)

RateSetter must be hoping this is the start of a multi-year relationship with its new sign-ups, after they become comfortable with its platform.

Once you get over the initial hurdle, peer-to-peer is straightforward. I’ve used these platforms for ten years now.

RateSetter will hope many customers deposit more than £1,000 and ultimately prove profitable in the long-term.

Like all peer-to-peer lenders, RateSetter will be aiming to scale as quickly as possible. Greater size will improve its margins and enable it to continue to meet demand in both the savings and loans market. Scale is a critical factor in virtually all money-handling businesses.

Finally, I expect the cost of this offer is allocated internally to its marketing department.

If 5,000 people sign-up for the bonus that’s clearly a lot of money – but it wouldn’t buy very much TV airtime. At least this way RateSetter can precisely calculate the return on its investment.

I do think it’s a smart question to ask, though, and it neatly brings us back to risk.

A final word on the risks

I have already stated that peer-to-peer lending is not a straight swap for a cash savings account.

The risks are higher.

Firstly and crucially, there’s no Financial Services Compensation Scheme coverage for peer-to-peer lenders. If you lose money, the authorities will not bail you out like they would for up to £85,000 with a High Street bank savings account.

That’s important because even though no savers have yet lost a penny with RateSetter, that’s not a guarantee they will not do so in the future.

The economic situation could change markedly, say, or RateSetter could get its sums wrong on bad debt.

In the most likely (in my opinion) worst-case scenario, the Provision Fund would not be able to cover all the bad debts. This would mean some loss of interest.

  • According to RateSetter, as of August 2018 the loss rate experienced to date is 2.29%.
  • It currently projects this to rise to 3.33%. (Loans take a while to go bad.)
  • If credit losses rose to 127% of expected losses, RateSetter‘s model indicates the Provision Fund would still cover interest.
  • In what RateSetter terms a severe recession, you’d get no interest but it believes you’d get your initial money back.
  • If we saw 400% expected losses, investors might lose 5.6% of their capital.

This illustration is summarized in the following chart:

Provision Fund figures correct as of 1st August 2018. (Click to enlarge)

Source: RateSetter

As for the worst worst-case scenario, like with any business it is possible to imagine catastrophic situations where you’d lose much more.

But to my mind these would probably require fraud or massive incompetence within the company, and/or a far deeper recession than anything we saw in 2008 and 2009. (Probably both at once – as Warren Buffett says you only see who has been swimming naked when the tide goes out.)

Obviously I don’t think that’s at all likely, otherwise I wouldn’t have put any money into RateSetter.

But a hint of what might have gone wrong came in 2017, when the company intervened to restructure several businesses and cover repayments from one via its own funds. This prevented its bad loans from being defaulted to the Provision Fund. This decision to intervene reportedly2 delayed authorization from the FCA. It has subsequently been granted.

RateSetter says: “This intervention was an exception and will not happen again.”

As I understand it, RateSetter has since withdrawn from the wholesale funding operations that produced this situation. (Wholesale funding is when a company lends money to third parties, who then lend those funds on themselves.)

You invests your own money and takes your choice.

Personally, I am happy with the risk/reward here. Not everyone feels the same. My co-blogger, for instance, doesn’t use any peer-to-peer platforms.

As a halfway house to reduce risk one could perhaps only invest in RateSetter’s monthly market, in the hope this would give you more chance of getting money out relatively quickly if say the economy was coming off the rails. The price is a lower interest rate, of course.

I think it’s worth stressing again that nobody has lost money so far with RateSetter. And even if the economy turns very far south, you probably won’t lose more than a small percentage unless something very bad or criminal happens.

That would be a much worse situation than with cash, but not a catastrophe.

However we all know by now that bad things can happen, and every investment can fail you. Do not invest money you cannot afford to lose.

RateSetter and your portfolio

Personally I have always taken a pick-and-mix approach to spread the risk with these sorts of alternative opportunities.

For instance, I have used both RateSetter and Zopa, I’ve invested a little in mini-bonds and retail bonds, I have money with NS&I, and I have taken advantage of high interest rates and cashback offers with accounts like Santander 1-2-3 to boost my returns.

When putting money into the riskier alternative options, I only invest a low single-digit percentage of my net worth with any particular platform. Like this I aim to mitigate the risks of being hit by some sort of systemic or company failure.

I’m not going to labour the point on risk further. Most peer-to-peer articles barely mention it, and I’ve devoted half this piece to it. Consider yourself warned, and read the company’s extensive material if you want to know more.

I think peer-to-peer and other cash alternatives are interesting additions to our arsenal as private investors. But they’re not slam dunk safe bets. I size my exposure accordingly.

Get your £100 while it lasts

So there you have it – a hopefully even-handed assessment of the risk and reward potential of this £100 bonus offer from RateSetter.

From here you’ll have to make your own mind up.

I do hope some of you found this article interesting and enjoy those bonus-boosted returns.

  1. Note: Terms and conditions apply with transfers, so check the small print. The money must be transferred over within a certain time period, which may be down to the ISA provider you’re transferring from. Just setting up a new RateSetter ISA with a fresh £1,000 should be straightforward. []
  2. See this article at Reuters: https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-interview-ratesetter/ratesetter-recovering-after-asteroid-strike-bad-loan-discovery-idUKKCN1BN1PF []