Spare loved ones the anguish of doing it yourself

A BUNCH of letters are about to hit your doormat: the letters from your managed fund managers. They will tell you that you lost a bunch of money last year and for the next 12 months you will bore your dinner-party guests with stories of useless, BMW-driving fund managers and their fees. It will also prompt a lot of you to think about "taking control" through a self-managed super fund structure. Nothing quite like losing money in the short term to jolt you out of your inherent trust in the long term.

A BUNCH of letters are about to hit your doormat: the letters from your managed fund managers. They will tell you that you lost a bunch of money last year and for the next 12 months you will bore your dinner-party guests with stories of useless, BMW-driving fund managers and their fees. It will also prompt a lot of you to think about "taking control" through a self-managed super fund structure. Nothing quite like losing money in the short term to jolt you out of your inherent trust in the long term.

But let's be honest: strip the problem back to its bones and all it is is that the market has gone down. It's nothing to do with fund managers or fees. The moment you took the decision to be in managed funds, you took the decision to take the average return on markets less fees. It's the deal.

Despite that, this is the golden opportunity for all sorts of financial advisers to prod you to change everything. It is such an easy line to sell. Take control; fund managers are Muppets and their fees are a rort.

But before you do that,

let's separate marketing from reality.

To run your own investments, you need time. To run them successfully, you need time, interest, skill and passion. I know it looks like fun to be gun-slinging your super around under the guise of unemotional, sophisticated and intelligent investment, but all too often the reality is knocking your super around under emotional, unsophisticated, unintelligent gambling.

And there are costs, and they go beyond the set-up costs, the annual accountant's fees and the administrative burden. You won't find it in the brochures, but they include:

Your career. Having to do "investment" while you are flat-chat doing a job all day is a burden. If I was an employer, I'd ban online trading websites at work, in the same way I'd ban porn. It costs the employer money. Plus, I reckon if you put the work time spent stuffing up your retirement into developing your career or business, you'd get a much better return - certainly a more reliable return.

Your kids. I work at home occasionally and am more than aware that my family has to talk to my back while I stare at the sharemarket. Young families are passing moments never to be recovered. It is an expensive mistake to come home from a proper job and think your unofficial "investment" job entitles you to ignore your young children, especially on the weekends. The kids don't deserve their heads bitten off just because you're a crap investor.

Your relationship. From experience (not my own, I would add) I can tell you that investment can put a relationship under immense pressure. It is all about money, after all, the No. 1 cause for divorce (and marriage). Usually, one person gets the responsibility for the "investments" and heads off to the study and a world of mystery to the other. All OK if you do well, but you may not - and if you don't it can be very divisive.

If you take on the responsibility for your family's financial future, involve your spouse, involve anyone involved.

Let them know what's going on. Ask their opinion. Have a monthly chat about it. It came as a big surprise to me to find out it was my wife who had the big risk appetite, not me. All I had to do was ask. It was a very healthy moment. We are riding the same waves now (and I have someone else to blame when it all goes oblong).

And if you are not the one involved, involve yourself. They may not know it but they could need your help. If your study door has a "Do Not Enter" sign on it, you can bet your bottom dollar the SMSF is getting caned and you know, in this market, that's no one's "fault".

The great thing about managed funds is that it gives you someone to blame. Even though it's not their fault, it's better than blaming a loved one.

Marcus Padley is a stockbroker with Patersons Securities and the author

of the daily sharemarket newsletter Marcus Today. For a free trial, go to www.marcustoday.com.au


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