Six steps to spring clean your investment portfolio

Authored on
06 Feb 2024



Soon, spring will be upon us, believe it or not, and many of us will be tempted to rejuvenate our houses or get cracking on clearing the garden. But not everybody will spare a thought for their investments this spring – and they probably should.

Even the most considered investment portfolios still need regular reviews to keep them on course, and to account for any changes in your circumstances that might call for a different tack. The spring is quite a good time for this activity, as you may well be using your pension and ISA allowances, and so already have some investment decisions to make. There’s no need to make changes simply for the sake of it, but you might find a few holdings in your portfolio which leave you scratching your head as to why they’re there.

Everyone will approach a portfolio spring clean slightly differently, but if you’re searching for a bit of structure, there are six questions around which you can base your review which should cover a lot of bases.

1. Has your personal situation changed?

Probably the most important thing to assess is whether there have been any material changes in your personal situation. Getting married, having a child or buying a bigger house can have an impact on your finances, such as your life insurance requirements, and the need to update your will. But life events might also affect how much risk you’re willing to take with your investment portfolio.

Perhaps you’ve come into an inheritance which means you feel more comfortable dialling up your investment risk, because your financial security has increased. Or maybe you now plan to retire earlier and draw on your pension, so it might be a good time to reduce the risk of your portfolio. Consider what, if anything, has changed personally, how this might affect your attitude to risk, and whether your portfolio is still a good match.

2. Has your portfolio become bent out of shape?

Market prices aren’t static, and as a result, neither is the shape of your portfolio. Over short periods this won’t make much difference, but given time, the equilibrium in your portfolio can be lost as some bits move up faster than others, and may mean that your portfolio becomes too reliant on one fund, or one region. Regular rebalancing is therefore an important discipline to keep your portfolio in good order.

As a simple example, consider a portfolio that was 50% invested in the UK stock market and 50% invested in the US stock market five years ago. Today, if left untouched, that portfolio would be approximately 60% invested in the US and around 40% invested in the UK, because the former has performed so much better than the latter. After a review you might conclude you’re happy with the current split, but at least you would have made a considered decision, rather than simply letting the balance in your portfolio be dictated by market movements.

As well as the regional split of your portfolio, you should give some consideration to the allocation across asset classes (if you aren’t fully invested in shares). That means taking a look at your exposure to shares, bonds, property, cash, gold and any other assets you might hold.

This is all easier than it might sound at first, as many investment platforms will offer you an online tool that breaks down your accounts by region and asset class. You should also check whether any specific funds you hold have done a lot better than others and now constitute a large part of your overall pie. That’s clearly a good sign, but it’s worth making sure that your portfolio isn’t too heavily reliant on just one fund manager, no matter how good they are, because even the very best can go off the boil.

3. Have you got any poor performers?

You should also check your portfolio for any serially poor performers. These are not funds that have had a bad year, or even three years, simply because their investment style is out of favour, but rather funds which have lagged behind competitors for a long period, and show little sign of change for the better. You should consider replacing fund duds with more promising active funds, or cheaper tracker funds. The latter won’t outperform, but at least they aren’t charging the higher fees associated with active management for the privilege.

4. Is the investment case still solid?

As well as inspecting performance, it’s worth checking that the fundamental reasons you bought an investment are still in place. For funds and investment trusts, make sure there hasn’t been a change in fund manager or strategy, and if there has, consider whether it’s still fit for purpose. If you invest in individual shares in your portfolio, consider if the reason you bought into a company has now run its course, or has still got some legs. Also consider if the business has undergone a material change in strategy or circumstances that make it a less attractive investment proposition.

5. Have any new ideas or opportunities cropped up?

A portfolio review is a decent time to scout around for new investment ideas, which might replace funds or stocks you’re selling. Are there any emerging trends you might want to buy into? Or are there any fund managers who have impressed you with performance, and now merit inclusion in a portfolio, or perhaps a bigger share of your assets? One thing that has changed over the past couple of years is a big fall in bond prices, and a rise in yields. Those who have shunned bonds as part of the diversification in their portfolio, preferring instead perhaps property, gold, cash, or absolute return funds, might pause to give thought to whether bonds should be back on the menu.

6. How can I reduce my tax bill?

The final piece of the jigsaw is to make sure your portfolio is invested as tax efficiently as possible. Over the course of spring you can make use of this year’s pension and ISA allowances, and then from 6th April will be able to use next year’s allowances too, so there’s an opportunity to shelter a lot of investments from capital gains and income tax. The sooner you put your investments inside the ISA or pension, the sooner the protection kicks in.

This year tax planning feels particularly relevant, because the capital gains tax allowance has been cut from £12,300 to £6,000, and is scheduled to fall again to £3,000 from April. Gains above this level on investments not held in a tax shelter are potentially liable to tax. The dividend allowance has also been cut from £2,000 to £1,000, and is set for a further chop in April to just £500. Again, dividends received above this level are taxable if not held in a tax shelter.

In an election year it sounds like some tax cuts might be brewing, but the reductions to these allowances were introduced relatively recently, so it would be surprising to see them reversed. In any case, you can take steps to protect yourself from tax on your investments using pensions and ISAs rather than hoping for a Hail Mary from the Chancellor.

Learn about ISAs

Learn about pensions


Remember that the value of investments can change, and you could lose money as well as make it. How you're taxed will depend on your circumstances, and tax rules can change. Tax, ISA and pension rules apply.  

These articles are for information purposes only and are not a personal recommendation or advice.