21 Dares

Sick of Bad News yet? The miseries are now scraping the bottom of the barrel. Two examples -

BBC online this week had as its main story, "BIRD FLU TERROR ALERT" - which went on to explain that as Bird Flu can be passed now through ferrets to humans, this posed "an extremely serious global health threat".

The next day the main story involved Italy's GDP falling 0.2% since the Summer, "proving" it is in recession. Not a mention of course of the statistical sampling errors involved in such complex calculations - probably plus or minus 5%!

Up here the word "do" is often pronounced "dae", and "dare" is the same as proper English - so here's my 12 Dares of Christmas, or "daes". For if we dare not, or dae nothing, the pessimists will win and we will all face a retirement far less prosperous than it should have been! The motto of the SAS is "Who Dares Wins". So using that as inspiration --------------------------

1. Dae yourself a favour. Check the interest rates you are receiving on deposits and Cash ISAs. They can be as low as 0.1%. And they can be swapped for cautious income funds yielding up to 7%. Some difference.

2. Dae have a long hard think about what your standard of living will look like in retirement. There are significant changes that should be made to your pensions before April. Dae phone us!

3. I dare you to ask us to have a fresh look at how tax planning can help your existing investments to improve your returns and reduce exposure to tax which, together, can increase wealth significantly.

4. Dae give yourself a shake and actually start thinking about pre 5 April tax planning now instead of at the last minute. It's better when you've plenty of time to plan properly.

5. Dae reframe your thinking about inflation. In just 5 years, every £10,000 in the majority of bank accounts or Cash ISAs have fallen to only £9,200 in buying power thanks mainly to the impact of inflation. There are better ways.

6. We all can do with more income, especially in retirement. These current low interest rates are hammering savers. But if you've funds also in old style PEPs or ISAs - especially if you're higher rate taxpayers - income funds can pay up to 6% net.

7. We dare you to apply the rule of 72 to your savings. 7 is integral in 72. If you divide your returns into 72, it tells you how many years to double your money. 1% pa takes 72 years, 7% return does it in 10.

8. How dare they! UK Financial Regulators have failed a generation of investors since this huge costly system was set up 25 years ago. There are at least 8 regulatory failures so far at an enormous cost to all of us, from the Equitable Life fiasco to Bank rip-offs. Dae ask us how we can help you avoid these failures.

9. In the last 2 years the same Regulators have fined no less than 9 banks and building societies for mis-selling. Who dares does win! So if you've any Bank products out there and you would like impartial reappraisal, dae come and see us.

10. We dare to be different by spending lots on research, some of it the finest in the world. We sit down with 10 top independent fund managers on average every 2 months. That's how we find gems before others, gems like Sebastian Lyon at Troy, or Stuart Rhodes at M&G. It keeps our clients ahead of the game.

11. In talking about the game, in our daring to be different approach, we formulated our fantasy football team for fund managers. So just like Barcelona we want to have the best goal keeper, defence, midfielder and attack for our clients. And our goal keeper - Sebastian Lyon - ably assisted by our experienced centre half, Neil Woodford, has protected clients during the difficult last 12 - 36 months. So dae check with us about how to improve your team.

12. But at the end of the day, it comes down to service. We genuinely dare to be different by communicating regularly too. Steve sends out Informing You 12 times a year and now Letter from Linlithgow comes out with the same frequency. We really dae care about providing service and advice to clients.

And finally, we must be daeing something right because we're in the Short List for the UK Best IFA Investment Adviser in the UK again. We think that's 11 times in the last 12 years. We dare to hope!

Alan Steel

This letter is the personal view of Alan Steel. Please check the appropriateness to your individual position with your adviser before taking or refraining from any action.