Best Investment Ideas and Best Safe Investments for 2012

Here we list some of the best investment ideas and tackle the challenge of finding the best safe investments for 2012. What might appear to be one of the best investment ideas to the uninformed could turn out to be one of the worst.

Looking at the big picture for investment ideas in 2012, moderation in asset allocation and a balanced investment portfolio will be the most basic key to success. There are 4 asset classes, and average investors need to spread their money across at least the first three to keep their overall portfolio risk moderate. The 4 categories in asset allocation are: safe investments, bonds, stocks and alternative investments like gold and real estate (optional). Asset allocation can be simplified, because there are mutual funds available to average investors that represent each of the 4 asset classes. Now let’s get more specific about the best investment ideas for 2012 starting with safe investments.

Safe investments earn interest and do not fluctuate in price. You will need to look outside of mutual funds in 2012 to find the best safe investments because record low interest rates have taken yields on money market securities (and hence money market funds) down to just about zero. One of the best investment ideas if you have an account with a discount broker or major mutual fund company is to shop for one-year CDs paying higher rates if you can’t get competitive rates from your local bank. Do not tie your money up for longer periods just to earn a little more interest. One of these days interest rates will go back up and you will be locked in at a lower rate and face penalty charges if you cash in early.

Finding the best safe investments will be truly challenging in 2012, but here are some more investment ideas. If you are in a retirement plan like a 401k that has a fixed or stable account option do not overlook it. You can often get a much higher interest rate there (maybe 4% to 5%) than anywhere else outside of your retirement plan. If you own an older retirement annuity or universal life insurance policy, it might have a fixed account you can add money to that is guaranteed to never pay less than 3% or 4%. Remember, truly safe investments like U.S. Treasury bills and bank money market and savings accounts are paying WAY LESS than 1%!

Over the past 30 years bonds and bond funds have become a favorite with investors because they have been consistent performers and returned on average about 10% per year… basically about equal to what stocks have returned, but with considerably less risk. Many investors have fallen in love with their bonds funds and consider them to be among the world’s best safe investments. Bond funds are NOT safe investments. They have performed well since 1981 (when interest rates and inflation were at record highs) for one primary reason. Both inflation and interest rates have been falling for 30 years, which has sent bond prices higher. Loading up on bond funds now is NOT one of the best investment ideas for 2012. In fact, it is one of the worst investment ideas.

When interest rates and/or inflation turn around and head upward bond funds, especially those that hold long-term bond issues, will be losers. That’s how bonds work. One of the very best investment ideas for 2012 is to sell your long-term bond funds if you own any, and switch to funds holding bonds with average maturities of about five years. These are called intermediate-term bond funds; and average investors should have some money invested here as part of their asset allocation strategy to add balance to their investment portfolio. These are not truly safe investments, but they are much safer than long-term funds.

My best investment ideas in the stock department focus on stock funds. Do not go heavily into the more aggressive funds that invest primarily in growth and/or small company stocks. These pay little if anything in dividend income and tend to be more risky and volatile than the average stock fund. Go with funds that invest in high quality large-company stocks with excellent dividend paying histories. Look for funds that are paying 2% or more in dividends. One of the best investment ideas for 2012 and beyond: invest in no-load funds with low yearly expenses. No-load means no sales charges, and low expenses mean higher net returns to the investor.

Alternative investments include the likes of real estate, gold and other precious metals, natural resources, commodities, foreign investments and so on. One of the best investment ideas for managing a truly balanced investment portfolio is to include this fourth asset class as well. The simplest way for the average investor to add these alternatives to their portfolio is with mutual funds that specialize in these areas or sectors. My best investment ideas here: don’t go heavily into any one area, and don’t chase after a sector (like gold) just because it’s hot. Real estate and natural resources funds would be my picks as two of the best investment ideas in the alternative investments asset class.

Moderation and diversification across the asset classes will be the key to asset allocation in 2012. I have also listed some specific best investment ideas for keeping the average investor in the game and out of serious trouble should the investment scene turn ugly. Above all else memorize this: long-term bond funds are not among the best safe investments for 2012. They are not safe investments, period.

Investing – How To Choose The Best Option

Investors are increasingly forced to choose from a proliferation of investment options. They also have to deal with contradictory advice on how to achieve their financial goals and how to invest the savings they have accumulated during their lifetime. If you consider that there are more than 7000 mutual funds available in the United States alone, and thousands of insurance products worldwide, making the choice that will satisfy them ever after is daunting, to say the least.

No wonder people so often ask the rather general question: Which investment is best? The first part of the answer is easy: No single investment is ‘the best’ under all circumstances for all investors. Personal circumstances, goals and different people’s needs differ, as do the characteristics of different investments. Secondly, one asset class’s strength in certain circumstances could be another’s weakness. It is therefore important to compare investments according to relevant criteria. The art is to find the appropriate investment for each objective and need.

The following are the most important criteria:

  • the goal of the investment
  • the risk the investor can handle
  • liquidity required
  • taxability of the investment
  • the period until the financial goal is reached
  • last but not least, the cost of the investment.

THE GOAL

Goals determine the characteristics sought in an investment. You will be in a position to choose the most appropriate investment only when you have decided on your short-, medium- and long-term goals. The following generic goals are normally involved:

Emergency fund

Emergency fund money should be readily available when needed, and the value of the fund should be equal to about six months’ income. Money market funds are excellent for this purpose. While these funds do not perform much higher than inflation, their benefit is that capital is saved and is easily accessible.

If you already have a ready emergency fund covering more than six months’ income, you could consider a more aggressive mutual fund

Capital protection

If your primary aim is capital protection, you will have to be satisfied with a lower growth rate on the investment. Those above 50 are normally advised to be conservative in their investment approach. While this may for the most part be sound advice, you should also keep an eye on the risk of inflation, so that the purchasing power of your money does not depreciate. It is not the nominal value of the capital that should be protected, but the inflation-adjusted one. At an annual inflation rate of 6%, $1 million today will buy the same as $174 110 in 30 years’ time. A 50 year-old with $1 million would therefore have to lower his living standard substantially if he only retains the $1 million until he was 80.

Conservative investments like those listed above should form the normal basis for providing an income. Because of inflation risk, investments should be structured so that they can at least keep up with inflation. This means that at least a percentage of the investment source providing the income should be made up of other asset classes like property and equity mutual funds. The percentage would differ according to individual and economic circumstances.

Investors fortunate enough to have their basic budget provided for by a conservative fund could consider increasing their income with commercial property funds and tax-free income from dividends paid out by listed shares.

Capital growth

If an investor’s primary goal is to achieve capital growth, the real rate of return should be higher than inflation. This implies greater risk to capital in the short term. Investors aiming at capital growth should not be apprehensive, as they will reap the rewards in the long term.

The history of equity prices over the past 100 years proves equity investments to be the best performer, followed by property. This does not mean you should buy either of these investments blindfolded. Wait until the quality shares in which you are interested are trading at inexpensive price levels.

RISK

The investment with a history of the highest growth is not necessarily the one to choose. The Standard Bank’s Gold Fund increased by 178% during the period 13 August 2001 – 24 May 2002 (284 days). Judging only on the growth of the fund during this period, it performed exceptionally well. But would it be the right investment for a retiree? During the 805 days following this, the same fund experienced a negative growth rate of 44%! The problem with an investment that decreases by this percentage is that it will not reach its previous peak by increasing again by 44%. This is because the growth this time will take place from a lower base, so in fact the investment would have to increase by approximately 80%.

LIQUIDITY

Hard assets like Persian carpets, works of art and antique furniture may be good investments in the long term, but unfortunately they are not very liquid. The same is true of certain shares in smaller companies. Money market funds, on the other hand, are very liquid, but the returns may not always be as good as those from other investments. The need to liquidise the investment quickly is therefore also a criterion to consider when evaluating investments.

TAXABILITY

The taxability of an investment has a considerable impact on its value to the investor. When comparing the returns on different investments, the return after tax has been deducted should be used. The investor should always ask what will be left in his pocket after tax deduction.

PERIOD

Conservative investments with no potential for high returns are suitable for shorter periods, while investment-objectives with longer time horizons aspire to achieving higher returns. Money market funds are suitable for periods of one or two years. Income and conservative asset allocation funds for three or four years and flexible asset allocation funds, commercial property funds and value equity funds may be chosen for longer periods, dependent on the economic and interest cycle and the propensity of the investor to accept risk.

COSTS

The costs involved in an investment are normally things like administrative cost and commission. The percentage of the costs to the investment amount directly affects the value of the investment. Many of the currently available investment products are structured in such a way that investors can negotiate commission.

CONCLUSION

No investment strategy blueprint is going to be perfect for everyone’s circumstances. Investment opportunities should therefore be examined critically before any decision is made. It should also be kept in mind that there are different companies managing specific funds under the investment categories referred to above. Some are more effectively managed than others. Investors should therefore research investments as well as the managers thoroughly before investing. Otherwise, they could appoint professional asset managers to do so on their behalf. Time spent determining the type of investment you really need is time invested in your future financial well-being.