As people begin to look ahead to spring cleaning to make their homes more pleasant, investors may want to take the same approach to tidying up their portfolios, in an attempt to make their financial lives easier. The first part of this article discussed some of the things to watch out for in considering whether to dispose of annuities and life insurance policies that you may no longer need or want.
In addition to insurance products, many people have other types of assets that may not have panned out the way they'd hoped. Although most investors generally stick with marketable securities that are easy to buy and sell, such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, some investors use investment vehicles that are harder to liquidate. In addition, some people looking for vacation bargains choose to buy into timeshares or travel-membership clubs that promise nice benefits but come with their own costs. While you may not always get all of your money back, finding a way to make your exit as painless as possible can bring a useful end to a bad experience.
There are many types of investment vehicles that limit investors' ability to buy or sell their interests. Even something as simple as shares of stock can be difficult to dispose of if the company doesn't trade on a public stock exchange. With more complex investments, such as limited partnership interests, unit investment trusts, private equity investments, and private placement offerings, you need to look very closely at the documentation you received when you made your initial investment to figure out your rights and continuing obligations as an investor.
Unfortunately, if liquidity is a major concern, then the best way to deal with these types of investment vehicles is not to get involved in the first place. However, such investments can appear to be extremely attractive when you're first considering whether to participate. For instance, if you're interested in profiting from rising oil prices, you can always buy shares of large oil companies such as ExxonMobil
The institutions that manage illiquid investments generally tell their investors how they'll eventually cash in on their returns. However, even when things work according to such plans, it can often take several years before investors start getting even a portion of their capital back. If unexpected events occur, you may have to wait even longer than you had planned, and in some cases, you may be asked to make an additional investment to help keep the venture afloat.
Often, your best strategy is to wait it out until you can get distributions from your investment. However, if you absolutely have to sell, you have a few options. In some cases, the managers of your investment vehicle may have provisions that allow owners to liquidate their interests. Although you may have to accept a discounted value, this is often the easiest way to dispose of an illiquid interest. For some types of investments, you may be able to find buyers in thinly traded informal secondary markets, but it's extremely unpredictable whether you'll get any positive response at all.
When it comes to vacation properties, some people find themselves trapped in timeshares. While the idea of having a guaranteed week or two at a favorite location may seem attractive at first, many timeshare owners find that the costs of maintenance fees and other expenses make timeshares less economically desirable than they initially believed. As a result, many timeshare owners seek to put an end to their expenses by disposing of their timeshares.
As interests in real estate, timeshares can be bought and sold. However, the fractional interest that a timeshare represents is less desirable than owning a property outright, so it isn't always easy to find a buyer. In addition, the rules for timeshares can be difficult to understand, especially with different timeshare management companies using different sets of rules for the various properties they manage.
To sell your timeshare interest, you generally have a few choices. If you simply stop paying your maintenance fees, then some property managers will cancel your timeshare interest. However, you won't get any of the money you paid for the timeshare back, and some managers may continue to bill you for fees if you don't let them know. In rare cases, your manager may pay you for your timeshare, but you shouldn't count on it; often, they have plenty of timeshares they're trying to sell already.
The other main choice is to try to find other people interested in buying your timeshare. The best candidates are those who already own timeshares at your given property, since they may be interested in doubling their time there. If you can't find a buyer, then you may also want to consider donating your timeshare to charity. The charity can sell your timeshare interest at a fundraising event, and you can usually claim a tax deduction for your donation.
Tidying up your investment portfolio of unwanted or unneeded assets is something you should do every once in a while. While it may sometimes cause short-term pain, it's usually good for you and your finances in the long run.
To put your finances in order, it's nice to have some help. With the Fool's personal-finance service, Motley Fool Green Light, you'll get useful tips on how to make your investments simple yet lucrative. Our free 30-day trial gives you access to current and past newsletters, along with a host of other resources. Try it out today.
Fool contributor Dan Caplinger isn't the world's best spring cleaner, but he does keep his investments in good order year-round. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy is good for everyone.
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