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Jargon busters: investment terms explained

The world of investments can be a minefield for old pros, and even more so for the uninitiated. The best starting point for a would-be investor is to learn to speak like the professionals by understanding the jargon:

 

Assets

Simply put, assets are anything tangible or intangible that is capable of being owned and that has value. Types of asset include shares, bonds, cash, trademarks and buildings amongst many others items.

Portfolios

A portfolio is the term used to describe a collection of financial asset investments held by an individual or institution.

Risk exposure

Every investor, be it a large financial institution or an individual, will need to decide how much risk they’re prepared to take on. An aggressive investor will have a portfolio consisting of a greater proportion of high risk investments. Conversely, a conservative investor will favour lower risk investments.

The type of portfolio suitable for you will very much depend on your financial circumstances. Check out APT website to see how risk models can be used to achieve the desired risk exposure.

Portfolio optimisation

Once you have a portfolio in place, it’s important to review your assets regularly and make any necessary changes to ensure your risk exposure still meets your requirements. Fund managers and other specialists will use the most sophisticated market risk analysis to optimise a portfolio. This specialised software gives the best chance of realising your investment goals.

Shares

If you purchase shares in a company you are, in effect, buying part of the company itself.  Shares, like any investment, can go up or down in value. For this reason, it’s better to have a diverse portfolio which includes other types of assets. Some shares will pay a dividend, which is a share of the profits made by the company in proportion to your shareholding.

Bonds

Bonds are a form of investment in which an investor loans money to an entity in return for a fixed interest rate and repayment of the original capital investment. They are considered a lower risk investment due to the fixed nature of the return, although it should be noted that they’re not entirely without risk.

Funds

An easier way to diversify your portfolio might be to let a fund manager do all of the legwork for you.  A fund can be made up of one or more asset classes, or it could include investments made in a particular geographical location or business sector.

The fund will consist of capital pooled from many investors, which will be invested as per the strategy set out in the fund’s prospectus. Thus, instead of buying shares or bonds in only one company, you could invest in a fund that in turn invests in a wide number of different shares or bonds.

Resources 

Financial tools and calculators

From the Guardian’s investment pages

4 strategies for managing a portfolio of mutual funds

Investopedia article

Prices and markets

From the London Stock Exchange

The right weather to get baking

Kitchens tend to be pretty hot when you are cooking more than pasta or fried eggs, so the winter is a great time to do some heavy baking. Not only this will warm up your house, but the dishes will be very hot and still steaming when you serve them. You will also eat rich and substantial food to fight the cold and the tiredness we all feel in the winter. Baking is a very satisfying cooking activity as well as a very easy one. Once the ingredients are all in a dish, a tin or on a tray, you only have to wait for the dish to be ready.

Pies, gratins and cakes

Winter cooking is generally associated with pies and there isn’t any food more comforting than a piping hot pie when the weather is cold and wet. Whether it is a savoury or a sweet pie, the possibilities are endless and the realisation easy. Anyone can bake a good pie, as long as you have a thick but still wet sauce and a good quality pastry. If you have the time and really like baking, make your own pastry, otherwise, a ready-to-roll will do.

Served with mash potatoes, a pie is always a winner.

Gratins are also a great dish when all you want is rich and hot food. Cook a classic dauphinois by slicing potatoes and baking layered in a dish with cream poured over, or add lardons through them and top with cheese.

Cauliflower mix with a thick white sauce and topped with cheese works great too and is an easy way to eat some vegetables.

Finally, baking cakes is the best thing you can do on a rainy week-end. It gives your home a great smell and provides you and your family or friends with something sweet to eat with a cup of tea after a walk in the cold.

The 10 worst grammatical mistakes in English

English is a complex language with countless rules, so it can be easy to make mistakes when it comes to grammar. There are some common errors that you can avoid, however, by reading the following article, which highlights 10 of the worst grammatical mistakes in English.

Between you and I

People often think they should use ‘I’ instead of ‘me’ when talking about themselves in relation to others, but this isn’t the case. A good way of remembering what to do is to take out the other person from the sentence and see if it sounds right.

The most prettiest

Words like ‘prettiest’ are superlatives. There’s no need to use the word ‘most’, as the adverb already implies that it’s greater than anything else to which it’s being compared.

Greengrocer’s apostrophe

A classic example of incorrect apostrophes is a greengrocer’s sign that has ‘cauliflower’s’ instead of ‘cauliflowers’. Using an apostrophe would mean something belongs to the cauliflower, which is wrong! An ‘s’ with no apostrophe means plural, which is right.

Greengrocer’s apostrophe

They’re over there with their friends

Homophones have the same sound but are spelled differently. A classic example is ‘they’re’ (which means they are), ‘there’ (which is to do with place) and ‘their’ (which is about belonging).

You’re your own best friend

A similar common mistake is using the incorrect form of ‘your’ or ‘you’re’ in writing. ‘You’re’ is short for you are, whereas ‘your’ is like their and is to do with something belonging to someone.

To whom it may concern

Use ‘who’ when referring to the subject of a sentence and ‘whom’ when referring to the object. An easy way to remember is to see whether ‘him’ or ‘he’ fits in the sentence, and then use ‘whom’ or ‘who’ respectively.

10 items or less

Variations of this phrase are seen in supermarkets at the express checkout. However, it should be ‘fewer’ instead of ‘less’ when talking about discretely quantifiable nouns.

fewer vs less

Affect or effect?

‘Affect’ is usually a verb meaning to influence, while ‘effect’ is usually a noun and the outcome. There are exceptions to the rule, but remember these general directions to know which word to use when.

Lay and lie

‘Lay’ is a transitive verb (‘laid’ in past tense) that requires a subject and one or more objects, whereas ‘lie’ is an intransitive verb (‘lay’ in past tense) and needs no object.

Never a borrower or lender be

Instead of saying ‘will you borrow me that?’ you should say ‘will you lend me that?’. One way to improve your grammar is to visit Skola.co.uk and find English courses for adults in London.

Useful links

Oxford English Dictionary
The online version of the well-known dictionary

Grammar Challenge
The BBC’s quiz on grammatical structures

Time to stop avoiding grammar rules
Guardian article on learning correct grammar

Something Physcial for a Digital World

I came across a start-up today. It’s the mPrinter;  a small printer that can be compatible with various devices such as your phone and computer.

It can print little notes or reminders, which can be much easier to remember when you have something physical, rather than just text on a screen. You could also make doodles and print games such as Sudoku!

Here’s a video from their Kickstarter page, explaining the mPrinter in more detail and what they’ll be able to do with funding:

The Rise of Electronic Tablets

With Christmas just around the corner, it isn’t a surprise that electronic products will be once more the most sought after presents. The game consoles will as usual rival with computers and phones, but this year, the real war will involve electronic tablets. The iPad will have to face assaults from many other tablets, mainly brought in by phone manufacturers but also by Amazon and Apple’s main enemy, Microsoft.

Things in the electronic tablets market have changed a lot since the released of the first iPad in 2012. Apple has now released the fourth generation iPad as well as its little brother, the iPad Mini. Since, many manufacturers have produced their own tablets, including Motorola, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Google and Microsoft.

Apple iPad

Now with keyboard

Today, tablets are incredibly popular, with Apple topping the sales with 100 million iPad sold by October 2012. Amazon follows with 7 million Kindle sold. One can only imagine how the number of electronic tablets sold will explode with so many brands out and Microsoft entering the market with the Microsoft Surface, released this year alongside Windows 8.

Surface by Microsoft

This new tablet is bringing a major innovation, a keyboard that also serves as cover and is connected to the screen via a magnetic strip. This could give an even bigger boost to the electronic tablets that could rival with computers. Indeed, until now, these tablets were great for browsing the internet, play videos, music and games, but not for typing.

While the tablets will not replace computers, they are great for those who are on the move or just looking for an entertainment product easy to use.

Smartphones

Smartphones are becoming a lot more advanced and can really make a difference to your life whether it’s socially or for work. Having a smartphone allows you to do many things that you would have never thought about doing on your mobile 10 years ago.

Email

Almost every phone has a built in email application that allow you to send and receive emails. This can make them ideal for work and busy people. Most phones also have software that allows you to view and read documents that you receive through email, SMS or on found on the internet.

Internet

Every smart phone has access to the internet, whether it’s through Wi-Fi or included in your contract. Browsing the internet is similar to using your internet on a computer at home; it is fast and easy to use. The internet is great for research, social media, checking the weather and much more.

Apps

Finally there are many different apps that can help you in your day to day life. For example you are now able to do online banking ,order groceries, check bus times, and keep up to date with social media and much more all through your mobile. For more information about smart phones click here.

10 cost-cutting tips for a small business in the UK

Times are tough for small businesses. As profit margins diminish, any possible money-saving measures must be implemented, and quickly. According to a study by Kingston University, between 350,000 and 400,000 small businesses close each year in the UK. This article gives 10 tips on ways to save money, from making cheap business calls to cutting down on energy consumption.

Piggy bank

Get paid on time

Receiving money late from creditors can cause a great deal of financial stress – it is estimated to cost British businesses £20bn every year. To avoid it, ensure that invoices are sent out on time, that the terms of payment are clear and that an efficient ‘chasing’ system is adhered to.

Advertise for less

Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter cost nothing to use, so make the most of them for advertising purposes.

Buy second-hand

Much of the equipment used in the day-to-day running of a business can be bought second-hand. Huge savings can be made at no detriment to the business – particularly with office equipment.

Reduce tax

There are a number of ways to reduce a tax bill. ‘Green’ options include obtaining company vehicles that have CO2 emissions of 120g/km or less. This allows the owner to claim 100% capital allowances. Similarly, 100% tax allowances can be claimed on energy and water-saving equipment.

Calculator

Cut energy consumption

Simple things like turning the lights off in rooms that aren’t being used can save up to 15% on electricity bills. Other useful tips include turning off computer monitors when not in use, reducing the temperature of the office by a degree or more, replacing all light bulbs with the energy-saving variety and recycling materials wherever possible.

Set up a VoIP phone line

VoIP allows businesses to make and receive calls using a business line based on their existing broadband infrastructure, thereby removing the need to pay for additional line installation. Providers such as Vonage (http://www.vonage.co.uk) have special packages offering phone lines for small businesses.

Share and share alike

Split costs with other businesses. If there’s unused space in the business premises, let it out to another business. Also consider engaging in shared advertising with sympathetic partners.

Reduce bills

With a little investment of time in finding the best current deals, the total outlay of bills can be reduced by as much as 35%, according to the UK’s Forum of Private Business. For owners who don’t have time to negotiate deals individually, one answer is joining together with other small business owners in a buying consortium. This larger body can negotiate better payment terms, delivery frequencies and discounts.

clearance sale

Watch out for thieves

It’s a sad statistic that 82% of UK workers have admitted to stealing from their place of work. Even small thefts add up, so make sure employees know that it’s not okay to take pens or envelopes home with them.

Keep finances under control

Disorganised finances inevitably lead to money being lost. The better organised they are, the more easy it is to see where any problems may lie.

Useful links

Investment Sense

6 personal finance tips for small business owners

Simply Business

Top 5 reasons why businesses fail

Forbes

Money saving tips for small business owners

How to get your child into a boarding school in England

English independent schools are widely recognised as being amongst the very best in the world so competition for places at them can be fierce. Top schools like the Alexanders International School (www.alexandersschool.com) are highly sought after for the quality of education on offer, the pastoral care and the opportunity for your child to network and make lifelong friends.

If you are looking for a boarding school in England for your child here are tips on selecting a school and getting that place.

Eton College Gift Shop

Choosing a school

You can narrow your search down to a manageable number of schools by being clear about your views on the following factors that will vary from school to school.

  • Do you want a single sex or a co-education school?
  • How many pupils at the school will be there at the weekend (i.e. how many are full boarders)?
  • At what age do you want your child to start boarding?
  • How much are you willing to pay including extra costs for uniforms, sports gear, trips and outings?

Whilst the school’s academic record is important there are other factors such as its ethos that are slightly less tangible but equally important in ensuring your child’s success and comfort. Things to consider may be the school’s location (town or country), the level of pastoral care it offers and how the school can cater for and nurture the special skills your child may have. In addition you will wish to look into the English language support that is provided and find out the number of other pupils who will also be requiring this.

Students walking

Selecting a school

Selection is a two-way process. Your school is just as keen to select the ‘right’ pupils as you are keen to select the ‘right’ school so always look to impress in any communication you have with schools you are interested in. Remember that many schools are popular and may operate waiting lists long before the year begins so always start applying early.

Your child can join a boarding school from 7 years old (and sometimes younger) but the usual entry points are in Year 5 (aged 9), Year 7 (aged 11) or Year 9 (aged 13).

Once you have chosen your schools of interest get in contact by telephone, letter or e-mail and make sure you give the school information about your child including name, age, date of birth, nationality, religion, previous schooling, examination record, latest school report, particular strengths or needs and preferred starting date. The school will send you a prospectus and may invite you to visit the school on an open day. Visiting a school is the best way possible to get a real feel for it so if you can do take these opportunities.

Calculator

Getting a school

If you are honest about what you want, research thoroughly and start applying early you will find an English boarding school that suits your child’s needs and offers them a fantastic academic foundation that will help them achieve excellent examination results and gain a high standard of English language.

 
 
Useful links

Good School Guide

Find an independent assessment of every UK school.

UK Boarding Schools

Benefit from impartial advice about UK boarding schools.

More advice on choosing the best school

Discover what other overseas parents consider when choosing a boarding school in the UK.

Furnish your House on the Cheap

For those who are about to enter their own home for the first time, there are many things to sort out and furnishing is probably the most pleasant one. Unfortunately, the price of renting or buying added to that of different bills and accounts to set up means that there isn’t much money to put into sofas, tables and bookshelves. The good news is, you can furnish your home very cheaply, even if you are not the king or the queen of DIY.

Recycle old furniture

There are too many things being built and manufactured when lots still have life in them. Sometimes, a bit of paint or varnish is all it takes to give a new lease of life to a bookshelf or a chair. The obvious source of old furniture is family and friends who might have some stuff they are about to get rid off, or collecting dust in the garage. You can also search the second-hand and charity shops, or even ask your local recycling centre.

As long as you only have to replace some screws or glue some parts back together, you will be able to recycle an item of furniture easily and for close to nothing. Some sanding paper and a pot of paint or varnish are all you need. If you want some advice, the web is full of DIY sites.

Other than costing a little, the advantage of recycling old furniture is that you can give a proper personal style to your house by choosing a colour theme. The vintage style is also very fashionable at the moment and some people pay a lot of money for furniture with a second-hand look!

Making your own Jewellery

You like jewellery but you often struggle to find something that suits you or your new outfit? Here is the solution: make it yourself! Not only this will cost you less but it could become a hobby and a channel to express your creativity. There are plenty of websites, classes and books where you can learn the basics of jewellery making, the rest is up to you and your imagination.

Gemstones, pearls and tools

We are of course not talking about creating elaborate pieces for a start, but it is possible to make earrings, bracelets, necklaces or other accessories like broaches yourself. If you don’t know how to start, nothing stops you to go in jewellery and accessories shop and get some ideas. Then a trip to a crafts and arts boutique will give you an idea of what you need or can buy: gemstones, pearls, beads, and tools.

The possibilities of jewellery making are endless and you can even recycle your old accessories. Let your imagination run wild and you will soon realise that many things around you can be used to fit your style, whether it is buttons, old badges or even plastic animals. Your jewellery will be unique and you might get demands from you friends for Christmas and birthday presents.