Top 10 Stocks and Shares ISAs
What Is a Stocks and Shares ISA?
If you have found that cash savings are not delivering the investment you require, or if you are a first-time investor, it may be worth looking into opening a stocks and shares ISA.
An ISA is a tax-saving route to investment as interest from an ISA is not taxed in the same way as normal savings or investments.
An ISA may offer a more reliable route to long-term growth than many alternative tax-saving options. It is important to note, however, that there is an annual ISA allowance limiting how much you can invest.
A stocks and shares ISA is a type of ISA that has investments within it instead of cash. Regardless of the name ‘stocks and shares’, this form of ISA can hold a wide range of different investment options.
It is important to note that a stocks and shares ISA is not an investment in itself. It is an account in which you can purchase a wide range of different investments on a tax-free basis, up to the maximum allowable limit.
The usual route to a stocks and shares ISA is to select an ISA provider who will offer you a range of product types to choose from. These can be pre-made or bespoke, depending on which ISA provider you choose.
Anyone over the age of 18 can open an investment ISA.
What Is the Difference Between a Cash ISA and an Investment ISA?
A stocks and shares ISA is rather different from a cash ISA, which is a form of high-interest bank account on which you don’t pay interest.
With an ISA for stocks and shares, you are investing rather than saving money.
The key benefit of a stocks and shares ISA is that it is easier to invest in a range of opportunities without having to pay tax on the growth from them. Of course, if you exceed your ISA allowance limit, you’ll need to pay tax on any additional investments and funds made.
An ISA simply acts as a route to investment, rather than being an actual investment itself. This means that there are plenty of investment options to choose from; your ISA simply acts as the means to get to that point.
Another benefit of a stocks and shares ISA in comparison to a cash ISA is the increased potential for growth.
A cash ISA will always be limited by the interest level offered by the provider. A stocks and shares ISA is not limited in the same way; interest comes from the places where investments are made.
However, it is important to note that a stocks and shares ISA comes with a higher level of risk than a cash ISA.
Key Pros and Cons of a Stocks and Shares ISA
As with most forms of investment, there are advantages and disadvantages to a stocks and shares ISA:
- You can have a range of investments without paying capital gains tax on growth
- A stocks and shares ISA is a great introduction to investing
- Potential for growth is far higher in a stocks and shares ISA than a cash ISA
- Stocks and shares ISAs are high risk as they are a volatile asset
- You cannot always access your funds when you need them due to the volatility of the market
- The restrictive limit on annual ISA allowances means you can only invest up to a certain amount
Investing is not for everyone, especially investing that comes with a level of risk, like stocks and shares investment through an ISA. Before you choose to open a stocks and shares ISA, it is important to understand the financial risks involved.
Is a Stocks and Shares ISA Right for You?
A stocks and shares ISA could be a good fit for your financial investment needs if you:
- Want to put your funds into investments but want to protect your profits from tax charges
- Don’t need to have immediate access to your funds, and are keen to keep your money invested for a long period. Ideally, this should be at least five years
- Have not used your ISA allowance for the current tax year
- Are comfortable knowing that the value of your investments may move up or down depending on their market value
- Understand the risk that comes with any form of investment
What Types of Investments Are Available via a Stocks and Shares ISA?
A stocks and shares ISA acts as a tax-free wrapper around an investment of your choice. However, any growth that occurs outside the allowable tax-free bracket is taxable.
There are lots of different investment types available via an ISA.
How to Choose the Right Investment ISA
When it comes to choosing the best stocks and shares ISA, it can seem like a daunting task as there are many providers to choose from.
While each stocks and shares ISA is designed to do the same thing, each provider has specific pros and cons. For instance, some stocks and shares ISAs carry fewer costs than others.
The price differences between various investment platforms can vary significantly. Some platforms charge a fee based on percentage, others charge based on the size of the investment portfolio. Other providers charge a flat rate or a combination of different types of rates.
When selecting the right stocks and shares ISA, it is important to take into account your specific circumstances.
For instance, percentage-related charges tend to be a better option for investors with small portfolios worth under $50,000. On the other hand, for anyone who regularly buys and sells investments, it is best to select a platform that works on a flat-fee basis.
It is important to know the size of your initial investment before selecting a stocks and shares ISA as this will impact which ISA is best for you and your specific investment requirements.
Choosing the correct stocks and shares ISA is an important step, but there is no one-size-fits-all option. Ultimately, the investments determine the success of a certain ISA, not the ISA itself.
How to Open and Pay into an Investment ISA
The process of opening a stocks and shares ISA for the first time can seem intimidating as there is a lot to take into account. However, by following a few simple steps you can make the process easier and less daunting.
Step 1 – Determine How Much You Want to Invest
Remember, the amount that you allocate to a stocks and shares ISA will need to be an amount you can afford not to have access to right away, so it is important to think carefully about what you choose to invest.
If you will need access to your funds within five years, it may be better to opt for a cash ISA rather than a stocks and shares ISA.
Step 2 – Decide Who Will Manage Your Funds
The next step is to decide whether you will be managing your funds yourself via a fund supermarket or whether you would prefer to have someone else manage your funds on your behalf.
If you opt for the latter route, it is worthwhile considering whether you will use a specialist robo advisor service, such as those offered by Nutmeg and others, or whether you will use a more traditional approach and work with a wealth manager.
A robo advisor service is a form of online fund management that uses specialist algorithms to manage funds effectively. Compared to traditional wealth managers, it is a far more budget-friendly option.
Step 3 – Think About Risk
Before you begin trading, you must take the time to think about your attitude to risk.
If you are unsure, consider undertaking a free online risk assessment to determine how you feel about investment risk.
Step 4 – Select Your Investments
Once you have completed the forms for opening a stocks and shares investment ISA, the next step is to think about your investments.
You can invest as soon as your ISA is live, although there is no pressure to invest immediately.
When you choose to invest is a personal choice. Some investors prefer to add a lump sum to their ISA account, others opt to slowly drip feed funds into it throughout the year.
Ensure that you carefully research all potential investments and monitor the market carefully to help mitigate the associated risks. Don’t let your funds sit in your account unused for too long. If you don’t invest them, you won’t gain any interest.
Step 5 – Get Your Account Settings Right
Once you have opened your stocks and shares ISA, the next step is to ensure that your account settings are correct.
For example, you can create alerts, set limits on how much you spend within a set period and set up paperless reporting.
Top 10 Stocks and Shares ISAs
Selecting a stocks and shares ISA can be a complex process as there is a lot to consider.
These are some of the top-rated providers of stocks and shares ISAs:
Low monthly fee, easy to manage and access to various investment options.
24/7 access to your account, easy to see how your investments are performing and a range of options for managing your funds.
No minimum initial investment amount, no minimum monthly investment amount and over 2,000 available investment funds to choose from.
No required minimum investment amount, over 2,500 investment funds to choose from and a very low minimum monthly investment rate.
Low monthly fee, easy to manage and access to various investment options.
Available from a low monthly rate with a monthly flat fee in place, no exit fees and low trade costs.
No minimum investment lump sum required, no minimum monthly investment amount and over 2,500 investment funds to choose from.
Low monthly fee, monthly investments from as little as £25 a month and over 3,000 funds to choose from.
Flat-rate ISA with a very low monthly fee, unlimited zero commission, instant trades and a choice of over 3,000 funds covering various sectors from the global market.
Thousands of investment-fund opportunities to choose from, access to expert guidance and advice, low fees and 24/7 support.
A stocks and shares ISA offers the potential to boost your savings significantly in comparison to a cash ISA. However, it is important to be aware that stocks and shares ISAs always come with a significant element of risk, and returns are not guaranteed.
You could end up with a total loss, so it is crucial to be aware of this before you start.
A stocks and shares ISA can be used for a wide range of investment options, from unit trusts and exchange-traded funds to individual stocks and shares.
This means that you can invest anywhere, knowing that any earnings – up to the upper limit – will be tax-free.
WikiJob does not provide tax, investment, or financial services and advice. The information is being presented without consideration of the investment objectives, risk tolerance, or financial circumstances of any specific investor and might not be suitable for all investors. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Investing involves risk including the possible loss of principal.