My 2021 investment checklist

My 2021 investment checklist
Resolutions I actually plan to stick to.
Dan Lane
Published
December 31, 2020
Updated
July 27, 2021

I’m still the same weight as last January and I managed to kill all my houseplants by the summer somehow. 

The daily disappointment from the Duolingo owl rounds off quite a terrible year for my resolutions.

So this time, I’m focusing squarely on how to be a better investor. 

Here are some things I’m aiming to do in 2021. 

They might come in handy if you’re thinking about making a list of your own, or you could get a few ideas from our investment principles.


Look beyond the virus

I’ve found myself becoming very short-sighted this year. 

We’ve all had reason to only think about the next government announcement, the next lockdown, the next Brexit update or the next vaccine rollout.

But, as an investor, that myopic view of the world can really do damage. 

The more we snipe at short-term news and share prices, the more we miss the bigger picture.

The temptation is to constantly make the investment case for the lockdown beneficiaries but, as we keep hearing, this will all eventually pass. 

And when it does, I don’t want to be left with a portfolio that needs a complete makeover because it’s suddenly out-of-date and backward looking.

A host of value plays have shown signs of bearing fruit in the final quarter but the double-edged sword there is that once you’re happy with their turnaround you have to go out and find something else. 

That’s when it pays to have other, more growth-focused, areas of the portfolio ticking over in the background.

When my Dad saw me making sharp, jerking adjustments to the steering wheel while I was learning to drive, he told me to look further out and stop concentrating on the end of the bonnet.

I’m going to try harder to follow his method of scanning short, medium and long-term distances in the market this year.


Trim the weeds, leave the flowers

The less said about my horticultural exploits this year the better. 

But I generally use the new year as a time to think about rebalancing my assets and remember Peter Lynch’s warning against doing it too aggressively.

He said, “Selling your winners and holding your losers is like cutting the flowers and watering the weeds.”

But rather than try to get involved in the high-wire act of predicting which of my flowers is still blooming and which is set to turn brown I'm taking a different approach.

A lot of us have become tech-heavy this year either because we’ve actively taken part in the sector’s growth, or our passive investments have naturally developed a bigger weighting to the US leaders.

Either way, it would be a brave investor to say tech has no part in our future and cut exposure completely. 

But there is a case for some of the sector’s stars starting looking overvalued.

For me, that’s a good chance to look at second-order companies, not directly involved in the tech, using it to make their businesses better and, to some extent, future-proof.

I might be trimming my winners but I’m seeking to add to more stable sources of growth where I can find them.

It’s a bit like Levi’s kitting out the prospectors heading out west in search of gold. Even when the rush ended the blue jeans stuck around.

Use my tax allowances

This one’s more of a reminder for myself than anything else. 

I’ve been around long enough to see countless people ring up and place ISA deals at 23:59 on the final day of the tax year and I don’t want to be one of them.

If you want to maximise your tax efficiencies in 2021, think about tapping into that £20,000 ISA allowance and contributing to your workplace pension, or even opening a SIPP.

Young people are predicted to change jobs around 13 times during the course of our working lives - that’s a lot of pension paperwork to sift through. 

So, if the idea of bringing them all together in one place sounds good, a SIPP might be useful.


Don’t ditch the shortcuts, just get better ones

I’m a huge advocate of getting to grips with your behavioural biases before you start investing.

You can read all the seminal market books you want but if you let emotion take over in the heat of the moment it’s all worthless.

The way we think about investing needs attention because we are hard-wired to seek shortcuts where we can.

We don’t want to get involved in all the price-to-earnings ratios and EV/EBITDA because it feels complicated and, if we’re honest, we can’t be bothered.

So rather than commit to spending hours filling my bedroom window with equations like A Beautiful Mind (which I know I won’t do) I’m going to compromise.

I plan to give myself a few rules of thumb when it comes to valuations and the key measures, like risk, that I know I should look at when I'm evaluating a company. 

You might already be doing something similar with a few spreadsheet functions throwing out a ‘buy’ or ‘sell’ when you put in your numbers. 

I’ll share my valuation and risk parameters throughout the new year. 

Hopefully it can keep my impatient side happy and satisfy the more thorough investor in me at the same time.

When it comes to bias, often the worst thing we can do is try to cut it out - because if we could do that, we would have by now.

What I’m going to work on is mitigating the bad investor brain, recognising its impact, and making it easy for myself to do the opposite.



Important information


This should not be read as personal investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions or seek independent advice. This article has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and is considered a marketing communication.

When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

SIPPs are a pension product designed for people who want to make their own investment decisions. You can normally only access the money from age 55 (expected to rise to 57 from 2028). This article is based on current rules, which can change, and tax relief depends on your personal circumstances.

Before transferring a pension you should ensure you will not lose valuable guarantees or incur excessive transfer penalties. Pensions are usually transferred as cash so you will be out of the market for a period.

Freetrade does not currently offer drawdown products for our SIPP.

If you are unsure whether our SIPP product is right for you, you should contact a qualified financial adviser.

Freetrade is a trading name of Freetrade Limited, which is a member firm of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Firm Reference Number: 783189). Registered in England and Wales (Company Number: 09797821).


Important Information

This should not be read as personal investment advice and individual investors should make their own decisions or seek independent advice.

When you invest, your capital is at risk. The value of your portfolio can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

Eligibility to invest into an ISA and the value of tax savings depends on personal circumstances and all tax rules may change.

Freetrade is a trading name of Freetrade Limited, which is a member firm of the London Stock Exchange and is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales (no. 09797821).

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