In an uncertain economic climate, keeping your finances in good shape can be a difficult task. If you have long term goals, or simply think it’s a good idea to be prepared for unexpected financial burdens, a savings or investment plan makes a lot of sense. Saving for the future means you’ll be in a position to help your children through higher education, or insure that you retire comfortably in your old age. Whether you’ve gained experience or are new to navigating the savings and investment market, a solid, long term financial strategy gives you both options and peace of mind. What do I need to know? You have a range of options when it comes to choosing an investment or savings product. The approach you select should reflect your needs and long term goals and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different accounts or ‘wrappers’ financial organisations offer: ISAs – Individual Savings Accounts offer a high-rate of interest with the added incentive of tax exemption on the money you accumulate. Be aware that there is a limit on the amount you can contribute to an ISA per year. ISAs are available in both ‘cash’ and ‘stocks and shares’ categories. Investment bonds – a lump sum is invested in a range of funds and assets with the intention of making the highest capital gain. While this option carries increased risk, significant tax incentives are available. Pension and retirement plans – it’s never too early to start thinking about putting money away for your retirement and tax relief on the many pension products available make this type of saving an attractive option. Keep in mind, money put into a pension scheme will not be accessible until you reach a certain pre-determined age. Offshore investment – although a legally complex area, moving money into an offshore account may bring significant returns. While your money may grow in an offshore account, you’ll be required to pay tax on any gains should you decide to move the money back home. What are the risks? Choosing to save or invest depends a lot on the extent to which you want to risk your money. If you have a clear idea of an amount of money you wish to accumulate over a certain period of time, an ISA or similar savings plan could be the better option. While the amount you stand to gain may not be as much as an investment strategy, your cash will be protected against the dangers of the stock market. On the other hand, if you feel you have the time and money to risk in an investment, the stock market can deliver the returns you’re looking for. If you don’t have the experience to devise an investment strategy on your own, finding a financial advisor to help you through your decisions is a very good idea. Financial advisors will be able to select an appropriate investment plan for your personal needs and provide information and advice at every stage.