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No easy ways to get more for your money

By Tony Wan

Over the last few years most of us have exercised a degree of caution honed during the recession within the confines of a tight monthly budget, and against seemingly ever rising costs. But with low interest rates and cheap oil it's almost a surprise to find a few extra pounds in our pocket each month.

Savers have been losing out since interest rates fell to an historic low of 0.5%. It isn't likely to get better any time soon, with current predictions suggesting rates will stay on hold for the rest of the year as the economy slows.

High interest deposit accounts, a contradiction in name, continue to provide a miserly return. The difference between instant access accounts and five year fixed rate bonds or ISAs is marginal, ranging only between 1.5% and 3%.

This is good for millions with variable rate mortgages - but even a slight rise in rates could have a considerable impact on the average monthly income.

So, are there any other decent, easy to understand investments out there? The answer is simple. No. There really is very little return unless you look at higher risk investments.

Current stock market volatility means that you have to be brave to invest in stocks and shares. The key is knowing when to buy and when to sell.

This is difficult for most economists, let alone the average investor, and with the current debate over the UK's continuing membership of the EU, there is even more uncertainty and volatility ahead.

Corporate bonds and equity income funds offer a potentially higher return but they too come with a health warning and require a degree of financial sophistication and understanding of the market. And then of course there are the fees.

Property continues to be a popular investment. Recent figures for Northern Ireland suggest that the market is on a steady increase. Stamp duty rates are to rise to 3% from the new tax year on buy-to-lets. This will put pressure to invest before April.

In these times of low returns and economic uncertainty it is easy to play it safe with a fully-protected deposit account. In my opinion, the alternative investments don't offer enough return for the risks involved once fees and expenses are deducted. One potential new investment which has only been mainly available in London is peer to peer lending, or crowd funding. This could be the new avenue mid-range investors have been looking for.

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