Mon04242017

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Another great article published on ezonomics.com this time about things to think about when using price comparison websites….

Price comparison websites can be a quick way to compare insurances and other products.

But a new report prepared for the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) highlights potential pitfalls of these online aggregators – with the FCA’s chief executive reportedly telling Parliament many of the websites are “gamed”. An FCA consumer study tells how thinking traps – including framing and herd instinct – can help explain why shoppers don’t always get the best from price comparison websites.

The research highlights some traps and offers tips that may help give more power to shoppers.

1. Do you still need that extra? People who have had a particular level of excess or an insurance add-on in the past find it easier to carry on doing so, rather than questioning or changing their decision, the research says. The research calls it a “non-decision” and tells how it is a symptom of the status quo bias. It can pay to examine add-ons and excesses to see if they still suit your needs.

2. Does a website really know better? When shoppers logon and see numbers already appearing in the online field for an insurance’s excess amount, there can be “an assumption these are the right levels”. A similar dynamic can exist if search results don’t deliver the expected results – users might question if their expectations are wrong rather than the website. Known as authority bias, the research tells how it is the tendency to overvalue the opinion of an “authority” – whereas shoppers may have a better idea of what they want.

3. Beware the green tick If an insurance quote is accompanied by a green tick or a red cross, the icon alone can be used to gauge the quality – “often without looking beyond this surface level”, the research found. It is a type of framing, when the way in which something is presented skews our view of it, or can be symptomatic of limited attention bias. A better idea may be to try to ignore the green tick and see if the policy suits you.

4. “All those people can’t be wrong” Even if shoppers are dissatisfied with using a price comparison website, they may persist because so many others are using the online tools, the research says. A type of herd instinct or social norm, it taps into the idea that crowds are wiser than individuals and that “all those people can’t be wrong”.

5. Is last year’s premium the best benchmark? Shoppers often use the cost of last year’s insurance premium as the reference point when renewing and try to “match” it for the next year, the research says. Paying more than the previous year can feel like a loss and – particularly given our loss aversion tendencies – it says many seek to avoid the loss “at the exclusion of other factors such as the quality or range of cover”. Remembering what’s important to you for an insurance may make more sense.

6. I’ll take the quick option We tend to love immediate gratification – finishing a dreary job quickly so we can go for coffee with friends or play sport. Known as present bias, it can be evident with shoppers using price comparison websites if they chose to “get the job done quickly” rather than fully engaging with the product or its implications.

A personal tale of using a price comparison website
ING senior economist Ian Bright 
blogged for eZonomics back in 2011 about his personal story of renewing car insurance using a price comparison website.
Bright told how the process took his spare time over several days, reading the small and fine print of contracts. Like the FCA, Bright wrote that the complexity of financial products makes them difficult to compare and states that understanding the terms and conditions is key.
“It is also important to note that cheaper is not always the best in these circumstances,” Bright wrote.

You can find the original article here: http://www.ezonomics.com

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With Luxembourg's Grande Braderie next Monday fast approaching, here are 10 tips to get the most out of a shopping spree during the sales:

1. Keep your sales receipts: too small, too big, wrong colour? You never know...

2. Make sure that you are aware of the return policy. Sometimes, during sales periods or a braderie, there are special conditions – even no return! 

3. Compare prices from different shops to get what you want at the best price and check if the applied reduction is correct.

4. The tag has to indicate the old price as well as the reduced price, or the percentage of reduction applied to the item.

5. Evaluate the item's price and quality by having a look at the tag. You'll find everything you need to know about its composition. For example, items in natural fibres are more expensive than synthetic ones.

6. Be careful with reductions above 50%. Often these items are from previous seasons or have defects.

7. Be careful not to overspend just because you’re paying with plastic instead of cash.

8. Pay attention when you look for items on sale: they have to be separated from new collections.

9.  If you have the feeling that you've been cheated, refer to the consumer protection association; in Luxembourg, it is the Union Luxembourgeoise des Consommateurs (ULC), www.ulc.lu.

10. Even if it may be difficult, be careful at the excitement of shopping: have a look at several shops, compare prices and buy only items that you really need!

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You are concerned about our planet? Waste is driving you crazy, especially at work? You want to play your part and contribute to protecting the environment while at work?

Keep reading and you will discover that your small contributions can build towards achieving a greater purpose for the future of the planet.

1. When you are leaving your office, shut down your computer and turn off your screen. You will save some electricity.

2. Set up your printer in double-side mode. This way, you can print on both sides of your paper and save our trees.

3. Put an empty box close to the printer for used single-side printed paper: these papers could be used to take, notes for example.

4. Shut down all peripherals and electronics (scanners, computers, TV, etc.) when they are not in use.

5. Keep copies of your important emails and files on your desktop. This way, you will avoid having to print them.

6. If you bring your lunch from home, use a reusable lunch box and cutlery.

7. Organise carpooling with your colleagues. You will save money and you can spend more time with your colleagues.

8. Recycle your coffee cup, your toner, etc. - many companies offer a wide range of recycling possibilities.

9. Replace your marker pen and highlighting pen that contain toxic solvent with more eco-friendly writing materials.

10. Don’t forget to get a plant for your desk/office: Plants can absorb pollutants present in the air and make it cleaner! 

 

Friday, 25 July 2014 22:01

Barbara Daroca: Tell Me About Money...

 

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Our blog, MyMoney.lu, covers a wide range of issues in relation to personal finance; browse the following topics and click on the link at the end to discover what the experts are advising...

- Does “savings vs. Borrowing” equal “Head vs. Heart”: It’s time to discover some financial habits in Luxembourg

- How to prepare the future of your children? Studies last longer and joining the professional life is harder which lead parents and grand-parents to save for their children. It’s never too soon to think about the future especially when it concerns our loved ones.

- The devil is in the detail… also of your savings! Have you started eating more salads and taking the stairs rather than the elevator? With the first rays of sun most of us get “in action”  to prepare for the upcoming summer season – the short sleeves, the short skirts, the beach… Some people don’t bother: to get (back) in shape and be on a diet takes effort and, most importantly, endurance.

- Tax deductible pension savings plans: Everybody knows they should do something for their pension, but more often than not we seem to think that our pension is still a long way away and that providing for it can wait another day. In this article I will explain you a bit more about pension savings plans. These plans not only help you prepare your financial future, but also allow for a nice tax reduction via the money you are saving.

- The ups and downs of interest rates: A few weeks ago, Bloomberg announced that “Draghi unveils historic measures against deflation threat” and shortly thereafter there were headlines in all respectable news outlets announcing a decrease in interest rates. Did you wonder why that was newsworthy in the midst of your summer holiday preparation?

- How to save for your real estate property? According to our last poll, 44% of respondents save to acquire a house or an apartment. To help you, we wanted to put in perspective the tax deductible home savings plans (Bausparvertag).

- Inflation: Will you be a winner or a loser? Inflation has been a top of the agenda discussion item for a while now, but it is mostly treated from a macroeconomic perspective. But inflation basically hurts people’s purchasing power and there can be huge differences with regards to its impact on individuals. Who would be the winners and losers in case of an inflation kickoff? What is the impact of inflation on different people? Let’s consider the impact of an increase of the inflation rate in some typical life situations in Luxembourg

- What is an Automatic Savings Plan? If you don’t need your full salary/pension or pocket money to cover your monthly costs you should consider the Automatic Savings Plan. Do you want to find out why ?

- 5 tips for creating a good password: Finding a password which is easy to remember and effective against hacking is not always easy. So here are a few tips for creating a password which is easy to remember and very secure.

- Step 1: Savings accounts for different purposes: A bank can attach more than one savings account to one current account and open more than one standing order.

Click here to explore the above topics and discover what the experts are advising...

 

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The summer has arrived and the preparations for a well-deserved holiday have started. Before you leave, I would like to give you some tips to help prepare the financial side of your trip.

Using your debit card at your destination: Check in advance if you can use your debit card for payments and withdrawals at the local ATMs; don’t forget to look up any possible costs linked to using your debit card abroad. In general, withdrawals and payments in another currency than the Euro imply higher costs. Most banks publish their tariffs on their website, so it is easy to check.

Using your credit card at your destination: Like with debit cards, check for any costs linked to the use of your credit card. Also make sure your card is activated for the country you are visiting. In order to combat credit card fraud, some banks, like ING Luxembourg, have limited the use of credit cards to certain countries. Contact your bank to activate your card for your destination.

Foreign Currency: Luckily for us, the Euro is accepted in banks and foreign exchange agencies pretty much everywhere. Nevertheless, if you want to take some local cash with you, check if your bank offers this service for the currency you need, and if they do make sure you order your foreign currency on time. There is also a foreign exchange office at Luxembourg's Findel Airport.

Checking your finances: The best way to keep an eye on your finances when travelling is by downloading the mobile app of your bank. Most apps allow you to check your balance and to check your latest operations (like your credit card expenditures). Checking your balance on your own phone is safer than doing it with the computer in the lobby of your hotel!

The advantages of your credit card: Check the insurances offered by your credit card. In some cases you get an extra protection by just using your credit card for the payment of a product or service.

Emergency Contact numbers: Prepare a document (online or on paper) with the most important phone numbers, including the numbers for blocking a lost or stolen card.

These are just a few simple tips, but they can really prevent some nasty surprises. At ING Luxembourg we have prepared a page with all the useful information needed to fully enjoy your trip. See www.ing.lu/ING/EN/Personal/Topay/haveanicetrip/index.htm

Have a good one!

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With all the football going on, the choice of topic is easy! Here are some handy tips on picking the World Cup’s winner!

Tuesday, 03 June 2014 01:52

Barbara Daroca: Everything’s Possible

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Everything’s possible...

... like writing a blog post on a tablet behind ING’s guest desk at LuxExpo while my colleagues give out start numbers to eager runners.

... like participating in your first marathon when you’re two years old.

... like realising your dreams.

If you put your mind to it, everything really is possible.

I’m sure you will recognise the motto of our latest campaign surrounding the ING Night Marathon. Many of you have watched the video (see below). Some maybe even participated in the event, accelerating and slowing down as they saw fit.

Spread the word around! Everything is possible. A little planning ahead; a strong belief in what it is that you’re trying to achieve; support from those around you; a cool head when things don’t happen as you’d hoped; and we can all make great things happen.

I stress the point of planning. Many big decisions are financial decisions, so be smart and plan them accordingly. Your bank should be among those around you supporting you with relevant advice and clear information. It’s never too early to start saving. Don’t be afraid to ask.

 

 

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As we are now in full swing with the preparations of this year’s edition of the ING Night Run, I take the liberty to repost a story by Nathalie Spencer, Behavioural economist and independent researcher, that was posted earlier this year on the site www.ezonomics.com which provides a fascinating insight into how children think and their understanding of the value of money.

Trying to decide whether to buy a new shirt while shopping with my niece, she suggested I should “just put it in the basket!"

The 5-year-old's voice of authority urging me to pile the trolley up high was not a sign of greediness, rather it demonstrated the relationship children have (or don’t have) with money. A growing body of research has been exploring ways to teach children about money. And some of it suggests that a shopping trip was actually a good moment to learn.

Learning how “three can be less than one”

Making smart money decisions can be challenging for even the old and wise – and for children, concepts that adults take for granted are ideas that need to be learned.

The seemingly simple activity of saving up for a new toy (or a new shirt), for example, requires a child to understand the meaning of exchange, have a sense of their future self (and the relation to their current self), practice delaying gratification, understand the concepts of now and later, have good counting skills and understand that denominations represent value (it can be tricky explaining that three pennies is less than one pound even though three is more than one).

In addition, under-8s are not yet able to effectively distinguish between wants and needs, according to a May 2013 publication by the Money Advice Service. My reluctance to purchase the shirt was because although I wanted it, I couldn’t rationalise to myself that I needed it. For children under 8 years old, this distinction isn’t so clear.

Learning from doing what I do

A growing body of research has been exploring the effectiveness of formal financial education across a range of ages and into adulthood. In January 2014 alone, two major studies were released – one finds that many traditional financial education initiatives have virtually no effect on financial capability and another for the World Bank finds they tend to improve some skills (saving and record keeping) but not others.

It is likely that providing information alone is not sufficient to teach young children about money issues, partly because they lack the context to apply the information.

Children learn through imitation (copying others) and induction (noticing patterns in experience), explain the authors of the Money Advice Service research Dr David Whitebread and Dr Sue Bingham of the University of Cambridge.

Because children naturally imitate the people around them, they can pick up financial behaviour and decision-making from adults.

Research cited here suggests parents are also the key source for information for high school students and that parents’ saving behaviour influences that of even their adult children.

Learning through pocket money and chores

Giving a child pocket money for chores can help with counting skills and create a situation in which to learn about concepts of income and work, according to research presented at the Royal Economic Society. The findings also suggest that habits learned in childhood appear to have long-lasting effects in terms of financial behaviour and decision making in adulthood.

Furthermore, academics in Italy also report that pocket money is linked to an increased likelihood to save as an adult.

Learning through waiting

To help lay the foundations for healthy saving behaviour, it might pay to teach children strategies to help them delay gratification.

For example, help them to shift attention from the rewards to the actual process of waiting.

As described in a previous eZonomics article Why trust is important for marshmallows and investments, people are more likely to delay gratification if they trust that the reward will eventually come.

To that end, providing a stable, reliable environment (so the child has faith that the future reward being saved for will indeed eventually be available) may be helpful.

In a similar vein, Sarah Brown and Karl Taylor of the University of Sheffield found that, for older children (aged 12-17) in the United States, pessimism about their future life and education was linked with a lower level of savings than youth with brighter expectations.

Learning through banking

Children may also benefit from having their own bank account from a young age.

Back in 1997, researchers wrote about a positive correlation between saving in an account as a child and later savings in adulthood.

Learning from hitting the shops

Finally, situations in which children can learn by doing are shown to be very powerful.

It might be as simple as letting a child hand the money to the cashier at the ice cream counter and accept the ice cream cone in return. This teaches about the concept of exchange and helps reinforce that money can only be used once - it doesn’t get returned once it has paid for something.

Another idea is to include children in the household shopping. Again it provides an opportunity to practice many of the skills and concepts and provides a fitting setting to discuss the difference between wants versus needs.
But watch out: If your young shopping companion is as persuasive as mine was, you may find some of your “wants” making it to the check-out till. I took my niece’s suggestion and bought that shirt.

 

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Watching children frantically search for Easter eggs of all kinds, shapes and sizes made me reflect on the saying: Do not put all your eggs in one basket. How well this explains the reason for diversifying risk in your investment portfolio.

Below please find an article written by our ING Group economist on what diversification really is.

Diversification

“Spreading risk” is a well-worn mantra and investors are often prodded to diversify. But what does diversification really mean? Diversification in saving and investment terms means avoiding holding too much of one’s wealth in only a few assets. Yet this seemingly simple statement holds many implications for investors to consider. In investing literature, diversification is often used to warn against owning only a few shares rather than holding several shares or investing in a market index fund.

However, diversification may also refer to mixing investments between shares, bonds, property and cash or even opening savings accounts with several banks if you have large amounts of cash earmarked for different purposes.
Thinking about the principles behind diversification may help you understand the potential dangers associated with buying shares in the company or industry you work. Likewise, it may clarify the implications of owning a house if you are tempted to buy another property to rent out in the hope of making money or providing income in retirement.

Why diversify?

The theory goes that diversification helps to spread financial risk by mixing a variety of investments. The idea is that prices of different kinds of investments (such as cash, bonds, property and shares) tend to be driven by different factors. Or in the most basic terms, if one falls the other might rise, or at least lose less.
One way to think of diversification is that it is the opposite of “putting all of your eggs in one basket”.

How much of any one asset should be held?

The amount of diversification a person can and should take depends on many personal factors. When people are young and with few commitments, such as children to care for, it can make sense to build investments – perhaps in a pension fund – with a very high concentration in shares. Older people may wish to diversify their investments into more than shares. This is the main idea behind lifecycle investing, which can be thought of as form of diversification.

Three examples where diversification should be considered:

1. Don’t put all of your basket into one Apple

When investing in share markets it’s sensible to diversify across companies and industries. However, thinking traps such as “availability bias” can skew our judgement because we may favour investing in shares regularly mentioned in the media. In October 2012, for example, according to portfolio monitoring site SigFig, nearly 17% of all individual US investors held shares in Apple, three times as many who owned Google. The share price that month reached over $670, six months later it had slumped to under $400 – highlighting the perils of putting so much faith even in a wildly-adored company.

2. Keeping the right company

Another instance where the merits of diversification are often ignored are company share schemes. Because of these incentives employees may have a large proportion of their investments tied to the performance of just one company – they are said to be “over exposed”. This is a risk (as this poll suggests) they may never consider otherwise. What if the company fails? Employees could lose their jobs, their savings and their pensions in one tragic turn of events.

3. Home or away?

Investors should also consider different geographic regions to mitigate the effects of “home equity bias”, the tendency to over-invest in your home country. Developed markets such as Europe, the US and Japan may offer slower growth but more stability. Conversely, emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil and Russia may offer the potential for more growth but also more risk.

In any case, be vigilant...

You may have heard that the value of investments can go down as well as up, but in some instances this can mean all your investments. The recent financial crisis in 2007/2008 saw shares in all sectors across the world slide, as well as commodity falls and a property slump.

So be warned – as ING Group chief economist Mark Cliffe says in his sixth video lesson from the financial crisis that, in extreme circumstances, even the most diverse portfolio can crash.

 

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This past weekend I opened up my brand new Panini FIFA World Cup Brazil Official Licensed Sticker Album and started opening up packs of stickers. It takes me back to those days in school looking to trade for the last stickers that were still missing just a few days ahead of the big event…

It’s a crazy exercise in many ways. I read somewhere on the Internet that people spend around €500 per album these days. I guess it partly depends on how many people you can trade with, on how fast you want to complete it, and on your disposable income. And there’s where the economy lesson kicks in.

Children today can earn valuable insight in how the economy works while finishing their album!

- They need to save their pocket money to purchase sticker packs (savings & investments)

- They need to search for bartering partners and develop negotiating skills to trade the necessary stickers (sale & purchase)

- They quickly understand that desired stickers (such as team insignias and super stars, or the last few to finish off the album) are often times harder to obtain and therefore also more “expensive”, being traded at 2 for 1 instead of 1 for 1 (supply & demand law)

I remember bringing different friends together because I had the sticker friend A wanted but I wanted the sticker of friend B, who in turn wanted a sticker that I didn’t have but friend A had. If there’s a will, there truly is always a way.

I expect I’ll spend my Easter holidays negotiating with my niece and nephew to complete the double sticker stadiums of the first pages of the album. I love bargaining with them – they’re ruthless! And if we’re still missing some in May, we’ll keep an eye out for the swap meets that are organised all around Luxembourg. Maybe I’ll see you there...

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