时尚双语:经济危机:我们老百姓能做些什么?

Billions of pounds have been wiped off the value of shares after recession fears sparked panic selling across the world. The experts say there is more pain to come - and everyone will eventually feel the impact of the market downturn.

I have shares, should I worry?

If you are still holding stocks and shares in individual companies you're either a hardy soul or have been burying your head in the sand as the markets have been jittery since the start of the year. "This is fairly late in the day - nervous investors will have already moved into cash or safer investments," says Martin Bamford, an independent financial adviser at Informed Choices.
Baby

If you do hold money in the market you need to decide if it is time to crystallise your losses, or if you have the stomach to sit tight and hope for a recovery. Parents who have invested their child trust fund (CTF) voucher in the stockmarket should not be too alarmed - there are years to go before the money can be withdrawn, or in the case of a stakeholder CTF is moved to safer investments, in which time the market could recover.
I moved my money - will I be OK?

It depends where and when you moved it. Money market funds, which had traditionally been seen as a safe haven for investors, have been falling too, while commodities prices have also been dropping. Property funds are doing badly and even cash accounts, which used to be regarded as the safest of safe places to put your money, have had a bad week with the collapse of Icesave. Fixed-interest securities, which traditionally do well when stock markets fall, have failed to ignite this time round, but Bamford reckons they will bounce soon. But he adds: "There is risk in every type of asset class in a recession."
My pension is invested in the stock market. Should I be worried?

Most people start moving money into safer investments as they near retirement, so those with pensions invested in stocks and shares should still have time on their side. However, Bamford says there will be some people approaching retirement who are still exposed to the markets. "There will be people who have been completely caught out by this," he says. "They might have to reconsider their plans for retirement - the timing and their lifestyle may have to be different."

Earlier this week, Hargreaves Lansdown said the value of personal pensions had fallen by a fifth since last year. The latest wave of falls will have wiped even more off their value. However, the firm's head of pensions research, Tom McPhail, says if you have more than 10 years until retirement the best strategy "is just to ignore what is going on at the moment". He explains: "This will all have probably played out by the time you get to retirement, so you should keep paying your regular contributions to your pension."

I have an occupational pension - will I be hit?

You could be. If it is a defined contribution scheme, where the amount you receive when you retire depends on the performance of the assets in which it is invested, then you are in the same boat as anyone with a personal pension. If you are about to retire the company operating your work pension should have been moving your share of the money into safer assets, so you won't be hit too hard. If you have years to go before you finish work, then there is time for losses to be recovered.

If you have a final salary scheme, where the amount you get is linked to your earnings, then you will be insulated from the falls in the short term, says McPhail. "In the medium term it will have an impact, though. One result that we will see is final salary schemes closing at a faster rate than at the moment."

Ros Altmann, an independent pensions analyst, says most employers are likely to give up on final salary schemes: "Most of them were in deficit before the market falls, and almost all will be now." More worrying, she says, is that if your company fails and you end up having to claim your pension through the Pension Protection Fund, you will only get 90% of what you had saved.
My pension has plummeted and now I have to buy an annuity

Unless you have reached 75, at which point the rules say you have to use your fund to buy an annuity to provide you with an income, you might want to sit tight in case the market recovers. The sum of money you have with which to buy the annuity will determine how much you have to live on for the rest of your life, so you might want to wait to see if your fund recovers some of its value and you can buy a better income. The government is considering suspending the rules so that those who have reached 75 can also wait.

However, McPhail warns: "The risk of not cashing in your investment is that there is no certainty that the market will recover soon." And while you wait for it to bounce back, annuity rates could fall. "If you are keeping your money in the market waiting for a recovery, then keep your eye on annuity rates too," he says.

If you are concerned, it would be wise to take advice.
I don't have shares or a pension - will I be OK?

"It's easy to see it as just problems in the financial markets, but this is going to have a knock-on effect on everybody," says Bamford. "The only questions are to what extent and how long it will take to feel the impact."

As the FTSE falls value is knocked off the UK's biggest companies, leaving them with less money to invest. Instead of expanding their businesses they could start reducing staff numbers, leading to redundancies.

Those companies do not exist in a vacuum - they do business with other firms who will also be hit if they start to rein in their spending. Workers everywhere could eventually feel the impact of the downturn.
Is there any good news?

A little. The price of oil has slumped in recent weeks, which should mean cheaper petrol and could ultimately push down gas prices. Interest rates have been cut by 0.5% this week and further cuts are likely as the Bank tries to prop up the UK economy, which is good news for the third of borrowers on tracker mortgages. And while base rate cuts are usually bad news for savers, the fact that banks and building societies are seeking cash means they are still offering attractive interest rates on deposits.

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