Podcast No.60 – When To Sell A Fund, Crazy Fines & The New Consumer Rights Act 2015

48 min Read Published: 03 Nov 2015

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MoneytotheMasses.com Podcast No.60 - When To Sell A Fund, Crazy Fines And The New Consumer Rights Act 2015

Hello, and welcome to episode number 60 of the "MoneytotheMasses Podcast" with your resident expert, as always, Damien Fahy and me, Andy Leeks. Damien, good to see your face again. How are you doing?

Damien: I'm good, Andy. I am very good, actually.

Andy: Good.

Damien: Actually, I say that. I've had another stressful week. I've had an odd crisis. I know people listening to this know about my builders; we always have a crisis with all the building going on, but this is nothing to do with builders. The biggest drama I had this week was I had to get my cat's toe amputated.

Andy: I imagine that is quite a crisis.

Damien: It is a crisis when you have a five-year-old daughter. I don't know quite how the cat did it, but the cat managed to turn up with its toe in the state I've ever seen a cat's toe before. Bone hanging out and everything, so the poor thing had to have its toe amputated. Now, it's in the kitchen with a cone on its head.

Andy: So it can't nibble at it?

Damien: Yeah. So it's moon-walking everywhere. You know when they keep trying to back out of the cone? I've got a moon-walking cat.

Andy: Poor cat. They lose a toe, and then just to add insult to injury, we're going to stick this thing on you that makes you look like an absolute numpty for however long it takes to heal.

Damien: I feel so sorry for the cat. I want to release it from its burden.

Andy: Come on, let's give your cat a name. What is the cat's name?

Damien: The cat's name is Coco.

Andy: Coco.

Damien: Coco the cat, yeah. I think she got her foot stuck in somewhere, and pretty much ripped her toe off. Well, almost. And then, they had to amputate it, the poor thing. But that is a drama when you wake up in the morning and find the place covered in blood and don't know where the cat is. So I was going around everyone's gardens, looking over walls like a Peeping Tom, calling the cat. But eventually, I came indoors after two hours of searching and found her asleep on the sofa.

Andy: Covered in blood.

Damien: Covered in blood, I don't know how she got in, but she did. So there you go. It's not a bad story, it's actually quite a good one in terms of the cat was okay, and can now moon-walk. Bless her. Right, how was your week, anyway?

Andy: Nope, nothing going on in my life. Certainly nothing that the listeners need to know about, Damien. Let's just crack on with the podcast, because I'd rather not bore you with my nothing life.

When should you sell an investment fund?

Damien: Okay. Let's crack on. We've got three things in this weeks show. The first one is investing - How to know when to sell a fund. The age-old question that I'm always asked and we touched on odd bits before, but people say "When do you sell a dud?" or "When do you know a fund is a dud?"

We're going to do a second piece on the Consumer Rights Act, which is a new piece of legislation that's come in to being this month, so that's October 2015. Which gives consumers more protection when they're buying goods and services. The last piece is a bit more fun. It's going to be about the ten crazy fines or the ten crazy things you can be fined for out there.

Andy: Okay, good stuff. So what are we starting with?

Damien: You choose, Andy.

Andy: Do you know what? I've got a feeling that listeners tune in for some good, hard advice on investing. I think investing is our most popular subject. Let's go for the investing.

Damien: Okay. "When to sell a fund" is a question that I'm always asked regularly by the press, in particular, but also by investors. "How do you know when a fund is a dud? Or whether it's just having a temporary lapse?" So a very difficult question, and I can only answer it from my own viewpoint and perspective.

So the first thing I would say is if a fund is starting to lose you money, then I would put it on a watch list. That doesn't mean I'd sell it. Because people start assuming if a fund loses you money, you should automatically ditch it. And you'll see in the press, there will be all these things about dud funds. It's a very popular piece with lots of the national journalists they will do a piece that just rubbishes particular managers and fund houses because it's very popular. So "The 10 Funds You Should Never Own," or something like that. Or "The 10 Worst Performers." All those sort of headlines where they go "And you'll never believe what happened next."

Andy: Yeah, exactly.

Damien: We are all obsessed with clicking on BuzzFeed-y type headlines, aren't we? We'll they even do it with investing.

So the first thing I would say is ignoring all that, if a fund has lost money, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to ditch it. The reason I say that is if a fund has lost money, the first thing you need to question is why. There might be a very good reason why it's lost money.

So to give you an example, there's a very well known fund manager called Neil Woodford. You've heard of him, Andy, probably. I think might I have mentioned before. The press are obsessed with him like he can walk on water and turn water into wine, but he can't; he's just a mere mortal. But he will tend to invest in slightly more defensive companies. Things like tobacco companies. People will always smoke no matter what happens. And pharmaceuticals, drug companies. Because people will always need drugs and tablets no matter what the economy's doing. Because when things are flying, those companies are very stable. People don't start smoking more because they're feeling good or because of the economy is improving.

So those funds would always under-perform in certain conditions. It doesn't make them bad funds. So, what you need to look at "Why are is a fund under-performing?" The way you find that out is to read any published commentary by the fund manager. Or if you just Google the fund's name and go into either news on Google or you search the whole Web. Then refine the search results to within the last month, and you will find an article with the manager being interviewed or a press release.

Andy: Have you got a tip on how you would refine it by a month? Because Google's got all these key things you can put into Google to do that, right?

Damien: I'll tell you what you do, Andy. If you go below the search bar, you'll see it has an option called News. This section just looks at things like the national press for the term you've put in. And if you go right along, there's a drop-down called search tools. Click on that and then another second row of options appears. In there, you can refine by country, or by time. The options you typically have are the last 24 hours, the last week, the last month, and the last year.

So when I am doing anything with investing or research, I would always screen within the last year. And that's the absolute maximum. I tend to start with last month. Because investment commentary is not updated regularly. It's only published a monthly basis, so you don't want to get anything that's probably more than a month old, because it will be out of date.

So let's say you typed in "Neil Woodford" into the news section. You will find everywhere where Neil Woodford's been mentioned in the press. Whether that's industry press or the national press i.e Telegraph, Times, or whatever. Because I'll tell you, if a fund manager is doing badly, they tend to come out and have to make a comment. Because what they don't want is you to start selling the fund en masse. So you will find out why they're probably under-performing and if there's a valid reason, because they are doing something in particular which was a reason why you liked the fund, then I wouldn't necessarily ditch it. You just need to then make a decision, your decision on whether you ditch, is whether you actually like what they're doing.

The next thing I would quickly say is check a couple of the stats. You can go on the factssheet for any fund, and you can find them on the likes of Morningstar and I think Hargreaves Lansdown have some of them. Check for a couple of stats we've mentioned before. Beta is one, which is a measure of how a fund's performance tracks its chosen benchmarks, that figure goes between -1 or 1, they're the two extremes. So if it is 1 it just tracks its index, -1 means it moves in the opposite direction. Just check what that figure is.

So my view is that you want a fund that's doing something different. If you've got a fund that isn't meant to be a tracker, that's still effectively tracking the market, I would ditch it. I think that would be a dud, because you're normally paying over the odds for it. That fund is basically a closet tracker.

There's a second stat to quickly check before you decide to ditch it, is something called the Sharpe ratio; S-H-A-R-P-E. That is a stat that shows you how much return a manager is taking for risk. In fund management, what you don't want is somebody who looks like they're doing well, but they're actually taking too much risk. That's why I look at that Sharpe ratio and the higher that number the better as it mean the manager is getting extra return for the risk he/she is taking.

The other reasons I would ditch a fund is if you don't like the asset they're investing in. You've decided to just change, it might be bonds, or it might be a certain type of equity, then you might just go "I don't like the sector." You might not like the risk levels. You might decide "You know what? Markets are volatile. I don't want to be in an equity fund." So you ditch it.

Or the other two reasons I would sell a fund is for cost. So if the costs have either gone up or are too high comparative to other funds and their closet trackers I would ditch them. Or they've changed their profile or the way they manage the fund. You do get that occasionally. The manager they change their investment mandate. Now, that will mean that whatever happened in the past, in terms of performance, is pretty irrelevant to what's going to happen in the future.

So the upshot of all that is I would never ditch a fund just because it was losing money in the short-term. Obviously, if that keeps going over the longer term, then I would move out.

The one time I wouldn't be bothered about changing is when a fund manager leaves a fund. High-profile fund managers are a bit like football managers. There are a couple of really big names in the investment world. And whenever they move around, all the journalists run around in circles like headless chickens and start asking everybody "Should you sell the fund?" They ask people like me. I always say the same thing, "Well, no." Because the fund should have had an investment process in place and it's more likely to carry on. Because I don't think many funds are really run by the seat of their pants, you know what I mean? They're not really gambling on the opinion of one genius. The investment decisions shouldn't have just been down to one person's complete whims.

A good example, again, don't want to mention Neil Woodford too much, but people who enter investing know who he is. He left his fund, and a guy called Mark Barnett took over. And he's done brilliantly after he took over. It's like when a Premier League team sacks their manager. If Man United sack their manager, they're going to try and get somebody in who's good. And if they're not good, they're going to quickly replace them with somebody else who's good. It's the same thing.

Andy: Like you say, there's a support network there already in place. There will be system managers. If you're using the football analogy, there will be people who were embedded within the fabric of that club that know how things work, and similar to the investing.

Damien: That's exactly what happened actually, Andy. Just to give people a bit of insight. I've been to lots of meetings where you meet the manager in the City. So you'll be in a small panelled room and there will be a table with a manager there, and you can ask him questions about how he's investing and he tries to tell you what he's doing. I've been to a few where you suddenly get a sidekick appear. You think "I don't remember seeing him before," and they let that analyst talk a bit more. You can soon start to pick up if there's going to be some changes. Because they obviously start to try and get the next person bedded in like you're saying, the football world analogy. They start to raise the assistant's profile, don't they? Their apprentice starts to come to the fore a bit more and does a bit more talking.

The thing is, if they've been taught well and they're embedded in the whole investment process there are usually no problems. There's been many successful understudies, as it were, or apprentices that have taken over funds.

So to sum up I would sell a fund is it's underperforming relatively for a long period of time and you can't find a reason for the underperformance. Or if it's no longer invested in what you want to be invested in. If that's the case, then ditch it. Maybe the level of risk the manager is taking is too high for the return they are achieving or the fund charges are too high. Again if you are unhappy then ditch the fund.

But this also goes back to the whole process idea I spoke about previously. That you need to have an investment process, and that is the best way. Because if you have a process where you're regularly reviewing your portfolio, you'll never get to the point of saying "Should I ditch this fund?" You're actually getting to the point where you are regularly reviewing your fund selection and just kind of weeding, like weeding a garden. That's how investing should be. When gardening you don't just sit there and let a weed grow crazily while thinking "When do I actually put it out? When do I chop it down?" Instead you weed all the time before it becomes a problem. That is what investing with a process is all about and that's what 80-20 Investor, my DIY investment service, is all about. So whatever your process, whether it's using 80-20 Investor or not, stick to it and you won't have to obsess about when to sell a fund.

10 bizarre things you can get fined for

On to our second piece of the podcast. The 10 crazy fines out there. "10 Crazy Things You Could Get Fined For." That's the title. But before we head onto that, I thought I'd put you on the spot, Andy. Have you ever been fined for anything?

Andy: Only the run of the mill stuff, really. The boring stuff? I had a speeding fine once.

Damien: Did you?

Andy: Yeah. I was driving to Norfolk and it's fairly flat and fairly boring

Damien: So your foot got stuck to the accelerator.

Andy: Do you know what it was?

Damien: Yes you were driving too fast.

Andy: In my defence...and I never put this to the police. Obviously, I accepted the fine because it's one of these ones that you just get in the post. I wasn't pulled over. It was a mobile unit on an A-road, and it was a dual carriageway. I could see this big yellow thing at the top of this hill and I was literally overtaking cars to try and find out what it was. It was like being sucked into the headlights, you know what I mean? I got a bit of tunnel vision. I thought "I really want to see what that is. What is that big yellow thing at the top of the hill?" It turned out, it was a speed camera. A mobile speed--

Damien: What did you think it was? Did you think it was a pot of gold and a leprechaun up there?

Andy: I don't know. But yeah, I certainly didn't slow down. I sped up towards it.

Damien: Did you wave as you went past? Or was it a look of sheer disappointment when you worked out that it was a speed camera?

Andy: As soon as I saw it, I knew the game was up. Yeah, lo and behold, two weeks later, it popped up through the door. What else have I been fined for? I've never had any parking tickets. I've always pretty good on parking tickets.

Damien: I hate parking tickets.

Andy: I can remember one fine I had. A Homebase car park, that's right. I thought I'd saved myself. Basically, I had to go nip into the city for a couple of hours. I would literally be there and back in about three or four hours. And I thought "I'm not going to park in the station car park because it's like £8 a day to park the car. I'm only going to be a couple of hours. That's stupid." So I thought "I'll park in Homebase," because I think I was getting the 10:00 train, I was going to be back at 3:00.

Anyway, they had a maximum stay of three hours. I was going to complain and contest it, but then they had a picture. They sent me a picture of my car entering the car park and exiting the car park with time-stamped. I couldn't really complain. And there were signs all over the car park saying "Maximum stay." They knew the game, because the thing is, Homebase was right next to the train station car park. They knew the game.

Damien: They knew it. I've been fined in Tescos and I wasn't even driving the car. I sold the car, and I got a letter through fining me for being in their car park when I wasn't even there. I've also been fined by Bromley Council which is where I live. I've been fined there many times. But almost always for parking outside my own house.

Andy: I'm sorry to hear that, Damien. I don't mean about the fine, I mean living in Bromley.

Damien: The badlands of Bromley. Andy often has to cut out the police sirens when we're doing this podcast because occasionally they go whizzing past the windows. But in Bromley, they have those little Smart Cars with a camera on top and they whiz up and catch people.

But what I want to talk about are some of the bizarre fines or the things you can get fined for. There are obviously things like library fines, car parking fines, speeding fines. But there are a host of things that are a bit more odd that we can get fined for. I'm going to rattle through these. I'll give credit; this was inspired by something I saw by LoveMoney.com, who did a piece on crazy fines.

The first one is actually household inquiry forms. You can get fined between £1,000 and £5,000 if you do not answer a letter. I don't know if you know the form that they send around every year to check the details of the people who are registered to vote in your household. So if you do not reply to that and you ignore it, you can get fined up to £1,000 which can actually extend to £5,000.

So in theory, you could get fined for not answering a letter. Even further than that, you can end up in prison. They can prosecute you and you can have a prison sentence.

Andy: I've never even heard of this service.

Damien: You're going to prison then, probably next weekend. But if you put false details in, you can end up going to prison. Not just not answering it.

Andy: I don't think I've ever replied to one ever.

Damien: Right, you've probably got a huge pile of fines that are chasing you around your past addresses.

Andy: I am registered to vote and we do get the polling cards through.

Damien: Probably your wife does it, Andy. That's what probably happens.

Andy: Well, it's one of the only things she does do, then. With the post, I mean. With the post.

Damien: Controversial. Right, number two, did you know you could get fined up to £5,000 for your alarm going off in your house or car persistently?

Andy: Really?

Damien: Yeah. So if your neighbour is one of those people whose alarm is always going off, or they've got a car alarm that's always going off, you can complain--

Andy: We've got one, we've got one that regularly goes off, and it's always about 1:00 am on a Sunday night.

Damien: You can complain to your local council. What they do is they serve an abatement notice. That's the beginning of the process and If the neighbour ignores all the notices they could end up having £5,000. The one I wish that my council would pay more attention to is dog mess on the ground, it's terrible round where I live with dogs. Owners go out at night and just let their dogs mess everywhere right by the schools.

Andy: Have they introduced a fine for anyone's cats leaving blood trails all over?

Damien: No, but it's only if there's a toe left hanging on a fence panel somewhere. Poor thing.

Andy: Poor Coco.

Damien: Poor Coco. Right. This is a slightly odd one. Handling stolen salmon. You can get fined £5,000...

Andy: This is another one for your cat, isn't it? Coco?

Damien: It probably is. Under the Salmon Act of 1986. I didn't even know there was a salmon act. But there was a salmon act that you could be fined under if you handle stolen salmon...very strange. The next one, I knew this one, actually, about sounding your horn at the wrong time of day. You can get an on the spot fine of £30 by a police officer if you sound your horn between the hours of 11:30 and 7:00 a.m in the morning. The fine can rise to £1,000.

Andy: I'm not going to bash the police here because I think they've got a job to do and stuff. But it's kind of rich where they're handing out on the spot fines for people that are sounding the odd horn. Yet they'll go through a whole neighborhood screaming with a siren at 2:00 in the morning and wake up a whole neighborhood.

Damien: Or wreck this podcast, in fact. I might start standing outside dishing out tickets. Just thinking about dishing out tickets...I don't know if anybody else had this. My local council employed the services of a private company to fine people for dropping cigarette butts. What would happen is when a person finished smoking and they dropped the cigarette butt on the floor, a guy in a sort of bomber jacket who appeared to be just a local person, stroke, nutter, would jump out at them and almost perform a citizen's arrest. He would then give the person a fine and demand their name, address. They would actually not let them move, they would block their way, it was almost intimidation. So there are some really bizarre ones where they can actually get a private company to start waging war on a particular portion of the public. So yeah, watch out for that if you come to Bromley. I don't know if they're still doing it.

This is a slightly odd one. You can get fined £200 if you fire a cannon within 300 yards of a house. If you're thinking of firing a cannon within a residential area, I would suggest you probably refrain if it's within 300 yards. Another one, eating while driving, £60. I agree with that. Obviously, you can't use mobile phones and they're a danger, you can't drink, you can't take drugs. Yeah, why should you be able to eat? Because if you're eating, you're taking at least one hand off the wheel. A lot of the time, two hands off the wheel.

I tend to not do it. Okay, I might dip the hand in a big of sweets, but that takes a second.

Andy: I agree with that. I've seen people eating an apple or even ice cream.

Damien: Andy, this is the point. The real headline for this one is a £60 fine for eating an apple. Because a lady was fined £60 a few years ago for eating an apple. She's one of the few people that have been prosecuted in this way. But yes, she had the £60 for eating an apple.

Andy: I think that's right. Because it's not the sort of thing you can put down. You're taking one hand off the wheel for a good few minutes, and that's just not safe driving.

Damien: Yeah, because even if you put it in your mouth...have you ever tried to put an apple in your mouth without using your hands, you'd feel like you're gagging. So it's not even possible to drive a car doing that. I think you should not be able to smoke while driving. Ignoring new rules about having children or people under 18 in the car, I think you should not be able to drive a car, even without passengers, while smoking. All the people who are out there who listen to the podcast who are suddenly booing and thinking "I'm going to turn off." I'm saying this from an ex-smoker's perspective.

I remember as a young lad...which is probably bit irresponsible, but driving on the road, having a cigarette and accidentally dropping it as I was driving. You can imagine the sort of bang the foot on the brake, jump out, "Where's that gone?" while almost burning yourself and setting your car on fire. I mean, it was okay, there was no one else around. But that's why I think you shouldn't smoke while driving. I just don't think...like the eating the apple, I just don't think you should be allowed to. Anyway, that's my whinge done.

Defacing a coin or notes. That's £100 fine.

Andy: Yes, that's a crazy one.

Damien: Apparently if you're a busker in Oxford, you can get fined £100 to £1,000 if you do not smile. New buskers under a law in Oxford must smile, enjoy themselves, and entertain others at all times. They can be fined between £100 and £1,000 for repeat offending..

Andy: So you can be fined for being rubbish as well, because it says there that you must entertain at all times. If you've got a particularly bad act, then you could be in trouble. It could cost you more than you make.

Damien: It will do, yeah. The last one is you are not allowed to shake your doormat after 8:00 a.m. as a law. That's a law from 1847, apparently, and the fine is a £1,000 fine for doing that. It goes further, Andy. And a possible prison sentence of up to 14 days if you break that rule.

Andy: So shaking a doormat after 8:00 a.m.?

Damien: So if you had the most bonkers day ever and was shaking doormats and firing cannons in your local area while honking your horn with your dog fouling on the pavement, you could run up a huge bill.

Andy: While busking.

Damien: While busking. You could have tens of thousands of pounds in fines. So we do live in a very bizarre society, it would appear. A speeding fine here or there is nothing compared to these.

New Consumer Rights Act 2015 explained

The final piece I want to do is an update to the rights that we have when we buy goods and services. And that has been launched this month, so October 2015, something called the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The reason I wanted to quickly mention it, there's quite a lot of detail in it, but just some high-level stuff. What has happened is there are three bits of legislation or rules that were replaced by the single new one, and they was the Sale of Goods Act which you may have heard of. There's two others which are not as well-known; the Supply of Goods and Services Act and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations. They were superseded by this new rule.

Now, there are two key things I just want to pull out, one of them concerns digital content and anything you buy that's online. Previously, you didn't have the same rights as if you bought the physical products. So let's say you went in and bought an Xbox game and you had the physical product. Well, if you downloaded an Xbox game, there were different rules for different content. You downloaded songs or you bought CDs.

Previously, it was very clouded. You didn't have many rights for digital content. Now, you have the same rights with digital content and goods as those that are physical goods and content. That's if it doesn't work, and you can now request refunds as you couldn't previously. It was very difficult to to get a refund previously; the rules were old, they weren't suited for this online era. But interestingly, there's a new tweak on it as well. If you were to download some software that contained a virus that you'd paid for and it ended up infecting your PC, the new rules will state that the provider of the software has to pay to repair your devices and remove the virus. So there's a whole new bunch of rules that have come in where you have actually got far more rights.

The second thing I just wanted to highlight, because you can read this stuff yourself, if you want to. But the main thing that's in there is they've tightened up the rules on the physical stuff as well, anything you buy. Because now, they've included a new 30-day period, a 30-day window where you can return anything that's faulty and get a full refund. Now, previously, it wasn't 30 days. They used to have this really woolly, reasonable term. So you had to say a reasonable time frame to take it back. That doesn't really mean anything. So now, they've said that you have got 30 days. So if you buy something now and you think it's faulty, in 30 days, you can say "I want my money back," and they need to give you your money back.

But they've also a few more rules around that, which I'll actually read them out because I want to get them spot on. After that 30-day period, retailers can either repair or replace the goods that are faulty. But the consumer gets to choose which option to have. Now, if the problems persist after the item has been repaired or replaced, shoppers can request a refund or a discount if they wish to still keep them. Alternatively, you can request a second repair or replacement for which you cannot be charged. And any faults that are discovered within six months of delivery are regarded to have been from the outset. And it's down to the retailer to prove otherwise and not you.

So the upshot of all this is that we've got much greater protection now. If you buy something and you're not happy with it, you can then challenge the retailer, and you've got some better consumer protection when you want to take it even further. That's a good thing. It's just a FYI out there to people is don't be fobbed off, as of October 2015, your consumer rights have got better.

Andy: That's good to see that they're doing things for us consumers. And yeah. The thing is, I have to grow a bit of a backbone, though, and actually have the balls and the gall to take these things back. I never do. I always say I'm going to. And then, if it's less than...I suppose I have about a ‎‎£50 window. If it's more than that, then I might bother. If it's less than that...

Damien: I'm with you, Andy. I'm not the best at taking things back and...

Andy: Making a fuss.

Damien:...making a fuss.

Andy: Very British.

Damien: Very British.

Andy: Right. Are we done for this week?

Damien: We're done. We're done for this week. Make sure you tell everyone about the podcast. We've had a couple more great reviews this week. People getting in touch. So keep emailing me, and keep emailing Andy, also follow me on Twitter, @money2themasses.

Tell everybody about the podcast. We want this to become the biggest podcast in the UK personal finance space. So please do it.

Andy: When you said "the biggest in the U..." I thought you were going to say "the universe." I thought "You're really reaching for the skies."

Damien: I'll tell you what, just scrap that. Universe. We want to be the biggest...if you're the biggest in the universe...yeah, universe. Just go for it.

Andy: Do you think there's rival podcasts...other places in the solar system? Do you think outside of the world...it always makes me laugh when people talk about universe. "We're the biggest this in the universe." Like there's other things happening on different planets.

Damien: They must have personal finance on other planets, surely, Andy. If they were an intelligent life form, there will be intelligent people like us talking about intelligent things to do with money. Such as "10 Stupid Things You Got Fined For."

Andy: There could be a little red martian called, I don't know, Damon Fohy.

Damien: That could be, Andy. I think it's getting late. MoneytotheMartians.com.

Andy: Play the credits.

Don't forget to claim your free copy of Damian's bestselling book, "The 30-Day Money Plan: Sort Your Finances in Just 5 Minutes a Day," worth £4.99. Just go to moneytothemasses.com/podcast to find out how.