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Savers in search for fresh ways of making money

The latest round of cuts in savings rates is likely to spark a new wave of interest in alternative ways to make our money work.

OPPORTUNITIES: Investing in wind energy, like crofter Tom Robinson, pictured with grand-daughter Sinead, could offer an alternative route to returns. Picture: Gary Sutherland
OPPORTUNITIES: Investing in wind energy, like crofter Tom Robinson, pictured with grand-daughter Sinead, could offer an alternative route to returns. Picture: Gary Sutherland

For those prepared to take some risk with capital in exchange for income of at least 4%, there are plenty of suggestions on offer.

Anyone ready to buy individual shares, perhaps through their Isa, could look for the ideal combination of blue-chips seen as safe and defensive but with high yields.

There is Centrica, with a prospective 4.8% yield for 2014, and National Grid, which promises dividends will grow in line with inflation and has a prospective 2014 yield of 5.4%.

Centrica is benefiting from rising gas consumption, which was up 9% last year and may rise 15% this year, and intends to buy back £500 million of shares, deliver £500m of savings, and double its US profits by 2018, says Sheridan Admans of The Share Centre.

He says National Grid's recent share price weakness provides a buying opportunity - though by the same token Centrica is trading close to its all-time high.

Mr Admans also likes Glaxo­SmithKline. He said: "The defensive nature of the sector and stock, as well as the competitive yield of roughly 4.5%, makes this a core holding to investors looking for income and portfolio stability."

He adds that GSK is committed to dividend increases, share buybacks, and bolt-on acquisitions. On Vodafone, with a prospective yield of 5.2%, he says emerging markets and data services are growth areas, as is its US operation where "in the past Vodafone has passed on the dividend to investors and may do so in the future, however at present it has no defined agenda to do so".

For a more diversified approach, with steady returns and controlled risk, financial advisers will typically construct a portfolio of funds aimed at delivering a 'total return' of capital and income.

Jeffrey Deans, founder of Glasgow-based independent financial adviser Save & Invest, said: "I would generally advise clients to hold cash reserves of 10% to 15% and then invest into funds which are independently selected and monitored to achieve their objectives."

The firm aims to generate 4% income a year for clients using "multi-asset" investment funds from the likes of Jupiter Merlin, JP Morgan, Cazenove and Aberdeen.

Mr Deans says: "Importantly, within these funds the management teams are unconstrained in the types of investment asset classes they can hold, allowing them to alter the mix and type of assets held in response to market conditions, to reduce the risk to capital whilst also seeking to generate sustainable income."

Portfolios might include Aberdeen's multi-manager multi-asset fund (yielding 4.1%), JP Morgan Multi-Asset Income (4.35%) and Schroder Asian Income Maximiser (7.3%).

The firm is also happy to use low-cost tracker funds such as Vanguard FTSE100 Equity Income to reduce costs.

David Thomson, investment director at VWM Wealth in Glasgow, says picking assets with 5%-plus returns will "skew ­investors towards higher yielding assets such as high yield corporate bonds, property and high yielding shares".

He says some of these have already had a strong run, and they would narrow the investment options. "We focus on producing a well-diversified portfolio which we believe will give the best return for a given level of risk.

"Then we simply cream the required percentage income off the top often by taking a fixed monthly amount … Many of the wrap platforms and fund groups are now well geared up to provide a regular income in this manner."

He says the total return approach can also enable use of capital gains tax allowance, and analysis of long term past market performance suggests that "even the most cautious strategy ought to be able to generate a return (income) of 5% over the longer term using this approach".

WWM's typical funds include Jupiter Merlin's four risk-rated funds aiming at returns of 5% to 6.5% and the M&G Global Dividend growth fund which targets 7%. Adventurous investors determined to look for 7% returns with at least some of their money may be attracted by peer-to-peer lending, following word from HM Revenue & Customs that they could become eligible for tax-free Isas.

Stuart Law, founder of Assetz Capital, said: "The Government must act to improve the current Isa offering - investors are currently forced to choose between sub-­inflation returns on cash Isas or the volatility of stocks and shares.

"If these talks are successful and the Government does allow investors to include P2P lending in their Isa, we estimate that this would increase returns for higher-rate taxpayers lending through Assetz Capital by 82%, providing them with gross returns of 9%-10%."

Meanwhile the still riskier option of backing start-up companies through crowdfunding, which typically offers returns of at least 7-8%, is set to be brought under Financial Conduct Authority regulation from April 2014.

The FCA said: "We want it to be clear that investors in the majority of crowdfunds have little or no protection if the business or project fails, and that they will probably lose all their investment if it does."

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