Latest news

October

7 signs of stress and how to combat them to improve your wellbeing

National Stress Awareness Day is on 3 November. Stress is something everyone experiences at different points in their lifetime, but it can harm your wellbeing and health. Recognising the signs of stress means you can take steps to reduce the impact it has on your life.

According to a study from HR software provider CIPHR, Brits feel stressed eight days a month on average. That adds up to around three months a year. Almost 8 in 10 people said they felt stressed at least once a month. So, if you feel stressed, you’re not alone.

The research found there are many reasons for stress. Financial anxiety and a lack of sleep were the most common causes. Things like health, work in general, and cleaning were also found to have an impact. Recognising the signs of stress is important for managing the effect it has, so here are seven of the most common symptoms.

1. You feel tired

Even when you plan to get eight hours of sleep, stress can still leave you feeling exhausted in the morning. This may be because you’ve had a restless night, or had trouble going to sleep because your mind is focused on your concerns. It can be a vicious circle too, as a lack of sleep can exacerbate other signs of stress and add to your worries.

2. You experience regular headaches

The occasional headache is common, but if you’re experiencing them frequently, it could be a sign of stress. Stress headaches will often feel like pressure on either side of your head and may be accompanied by tense shoulders and neck. If headaches are common, it’s also advisable to seek medical attention, which can ease concerns if you’re worried about your health.

3. You feel more emotional

Stress can heighten emotions and may mean you react differently in some situations than you normally would. You may, for example, feel more tearful or irritable during the day. This is one of the signs that can worsen if you’re experiencing a lack of sleep too.

4. Your diet has changed

Hormones released when you’re stressed can affect your relationship with food. For some, stress can mean they lose their appetite in the short term. For others, it can lead to stress eating, which could mean eating more or choosing unhealthier foods. A poor diet can contribute to stress, tiredness, and your capacity to carry out day-to-day activities.

5. You feel overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed and like you’re not in control of things is common when you’re stressed. It can mean if you’re facing a problem, you’re not able to come up with a solution to resolve it. When you have a lot on your plate, being overwhelmed can mean you feel less able to tackle it, potentially causing even more stress.

6. You’ve lost motivation

Whether you’re putting off work tasks or avoiding doing the things you used to enjoy, stress can mean you lose motivation. While it can seem easier to avoid these things, it can mean you miss out on activities that would lift your mood.

7. You get ill easier

As well as an emotional impact, stress can have a physical one too. Stress can impact your immune system and mean you become ill more frequently. It can also mean it takes longer for you to recover and feel like yourself again.

5 ways you can combat stress and boost your wellbeing

If you’ve been feeling stressed, it can seem like there’s little you can do. But some relatively small steps can have a real impact on your wellbeing and help reduce the levels of stress you’re experiencing. Here are five ways to do this:

Exercise

Stress can mean you feel lethargic but pushing yourself to exercise can release feel-good hormones that can boost your mood. Where possible exercise outdoors to get the added benefits of fresh air and nature.

Set small goals

Setting out a plan can help you take back control and work towards your goals. Setting small targets can help keep you on track and mean you feel like you’ve accomplished something each day. Remember to celebrate the positive steps you’re taking.

Connect with people

Stress can lead to people feeling isolated and you may avoid spending time with others, whether that’s your family, friends, or colleagues. Make a conscious effort to make plans to socialise.

Create some me-time

Think about what you enjoy doing and schedule some time to focus on this. It could be reading a book, going for a walk, or something entirely different, but don’t feel bad about spending time on the things that are important to you.

Talk about your worries

Don’t be afraid to seek help or talk about what is causing you stress. It can help you see things from another perspective and create a plan to reduce stress. In some cases, chatting with loved ones can help, in others working with a professional to talk through your worries can be beneficial.

5 behavioural biases that lead to investment mistakes

Investment decisions should be based on logic and fact. But it’s easy for emotions and biases to affect your decisions, and this can lead to investment mistakes.

Behavioural bias can be useful in some circumstances. It’s a way of making mental shortcuts when you need to make complex decisions. When you consider how many decisions you need to make day-to-day, being able to make quick decisions is important. However, it’s just as important to recognise when biases can be harmful, and investing is one example.

Biases may come from your past experiences, unconscious beliefs, or the way you use information. Being aware of how biases may influence you can help you reduce the risk of making a mistake. Here are five common cognitive biases that could have an impact on your investments.

1. Confirmation bias

When you’re deciding which stocks, shares, or funds to invest in, you’ll seek out information to help you make a decision. However, in many cases, you will already have a preconceived idea about whether an investment opportunity is “good” or “bad”.

Confirmation bias refers to the tendency to place a great emphasis on information that supports your existing beliefs. With so much information on your fingertips online, it’s often easy to find something that fits in with this. While placing importance on the source that supports your views, you may also disregard information that doesn’t fit your existing ideas. It can mean you end up making investment decisions based on a small sample of information without fully assessing how reliable or relevant it is. Being critical of information is crucial.

2. Loss aversion

When you think of potential investment mistakes, it’s likely that taking too much risk is what comes to mind first. Yet, taking too little risk can be just as damaging.

Previous research suggests that people are more sensitives to losses than wins. So, you’ll feel more pain from a loss than you’d feel joy from a win. In investment scenarios, it can mean you avoid taking risks even when evidence suggests it’s worth it. As a general rule of thumb, the more investment risk you take, the better the potential returns, so loss aversion can mean you miss out.

However, it’s important to take a balanced view of risk. Investment values fluctuate and can fall as well as rise. You need to consider what your risk profile is when investing. It can help you avoid loss aversion while still choosing investments that are appropriate for you.

3. Anchoring bias

How do you decide what a piece of information is worth? Anchoring bias refers to the phenomenon of placing too much emphasis on a single piece of information and anchoring your views to this.

Let’s say you purchased a share and evidence suggests it’s time to sell. Anchoring bias can mean you hold onto the share for longer because you’ve anchored on the higher price you bought it at. This anchoring can give you the view that the share is more valuable than it actually is. This is despite the share price you purchased it at having no impact on the present.

As with confirmation bias, being critical of the information available is important.

4. Hindsight bias

It’s natural to look back at investment decisions and consider what you could have done differently. However, hindsight bias means you attribute different levels of control to decisions depending on their outcome.

It’s a tendency to see beneficial past events as predictable. So, if you made an investment decision that’s performed well, you’d put it down to you foreseeing that the company would perform well. In contrast, you consider bad events as unpredictable, so if an investment performs badly, it’s because it was out of your control. Hindsight bias can make it difficult to objectively look at past investment decisions.

5. Bandwagon effect

Investment decisions should reflect your circumstances and goals, but the bandwagon effect means you make decisions because it appears many people are doing the same thing.

For example, after reading a news article about how everyone is investing in Silicon Valley stocks, would you be tempted to invest in opportunities within this sector? It could be right for you, but if you haven’t reviewed your current portfolio, risk profile, or the investment themselves you could be making a mistake. Speculative bubbles are often the result of the bandwagon effect.

Need help making investment decisions?

Working with a financial planner can help you reduce the impact that bias has on your investments and other financial areas. Being able to discuss your investments and why you’re making certain decisions can be all you need to highlight where bias is occurring. We can also help you understand which investment decisions make sense for you with your goals and situation in mind. Please contact us to talk about your investment portfolio.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Why money conversations are important for you and your loved ones

How often do you discuss your finances? In the UK, talking about money and our long-term financial plans are often still seen as a taboo subject. Breaking down this barrier could help you and those who are important to you make better money decisions.

Talk Money Week will take place between 8–12 November and aims to encourage people to talk more about finances. From discussing pensions in the workplace to saving goals with family, having an open conversation about money can be a positive thing. Despite this, Talk Money Week research found that 9 in 10 adults, the equivalent of 47 million people, don’t find it easy to talk about money, or don’t discuss it at all.

Talking about money can be difficult, but according to research, people who talk about money:

  • Make better and less risky financial decisions
  • Have stronger personal relationships
  • Help their children form good lifetime money habits
  • Feel less stressed or anxious and more in control.

It’s a step that can help improve your financial wellbeing and long-term resilience. It doesn’t just help you, either – it can support the financial security of the people around you too.

If money isn’t something you talk often about, it can be difficult to start conversations and get into the habit. Here are three reasons to start doing it now.

1. Take control of your finances and goals

Money-related stress is common. Research from CIPHR found that 79% of people feel stressed at least once a month, and money was the top cause of this. Some 39% of people said money was the thing they worried most about.

Talking about your concerns can help your worries seem more manageable. When you’re stressed, it can be difficult to make decisions and understand what your options are. Talking about it can help you create solutions and take control of your finances.

You shouldn’t just speak about concerns, either; talking about what money will allow you to do can help motivate you and keep you on track. For instance, talking about a savings account that will help you book a dream trip, or how increasing your pension contributions will mean you can retire early, are just as important as sharing the things you worry about.

2. Make better financial decisions

Financial decisions can seem complex and, at times, it can be difficult to understand what your options are. In other cases, you may take certain steps simply because that’s what you’ve done in the past, even if it’s not right for you now.

Perhaps you save into a savings account with your current account provider because that’s what you’ve always done. But a conversation with a colleague could highlight that there’s an alternative account that’s offering a higher interest rate to help your money go further. Or a conversation may mean you start to consider investing some of your savings rather than holding cash.

Talking about money can help you look at your finances from a different perspective and mean you make better decisions.

3. Pass on your financial knowledge

Over the years, you’ll have picked up your own body of financial knowledge. By making it part of everyday conversation, you can help people around you make better financial decisions too. Perhaps you could highlight why paying into a pension early makes sense to younger generations, or have some tips for starting an investment portfolio.

It can also help you foster a relationship where loved ones feel comfortable coming to you to ask for advice or share their concerns. It can mean they’re less likely to bury their head in the sand if they’re struggling or to miss opportunities.

Having open conversations about money and how it can help you achieve goals can help loved ones make better decisions.

When should you talk to a financial planner?

Talking to loved ones about your finances can be beneficial. However, there are times when working with a financial planner can help you get the most out of your assets. A professional can help you understand the complexities of things like tax allowances, as well as how the decisions you make now will affect your goals.

By working with a financial planner, you know you can have confidence in your plan. It can be useful at any point in your life, including milestones like retiring, and is a step that can ensure you remain on the right track long term. If you’d like to arrange a meeting, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

5 reasons you need to write a will (and keep it up to date)

Half of the adults in the UK don’t have a will. While you may have a reason for putting the task off, there are many compelling reasons to make time to write a will that could provide peace of mind.

A survey from Will Aid found that 49% of UK adults do not have a will in place. A fifth said their reason for putting it off was because they do not want to think about death. While contemplating passing away is difficult, it is important to think about what you’d want to happen to your estate after you die.

Even if you have a will in place, you should regularly review it. Over time your wishes and circumstances can change. What you wrote 10 years ago may no longer align with your goals. Whether you’ve welcomed grandchildren, inherited money, or simply changed your mind, your will should reflect what you would like to happen to your estate. It’s a good idea to review your will every five years or after big life events.

If it’s something you’ve been putting off, here are five excellent reasons to make writing or updating your will a priority.

1. A will is the only way to ensure your wishes are followed

Without a will, your estate will be distributed according to intestacy rules. This can be very different from what you want, particularly if you have a complex family or want to leave something to several people. The only way to ensure your wishes are followed is to write a will.

2. You can use a will to name a guardian for your children

If you have children, you can use a will to name a guardian for them. Despite this, only a quarter of parents have named a guardian for their underage children in their will, according to Will Aid.

Without a named guardian, a court would decide who looks after your children. In some circumstances, this may not be who you wished and could even be someone your child does not know well.

3. A will can reduce family conflicts occurring

Grief can lead to family conflicts and has the potential to cause long-term disputes. In some cases, how your estate is distributed may be contested and it could cause rifts. This may be due to one person believing they know what you would want, which sharply contrasts with what another believes. Setting out your wishes clearly in a will can provide certainty and reduce the risk of family conflicts arising.

As well as putting a will in place, it may be worth speaking to your loved ones about your wishes too. This gives you a chance to help them understand why you may be making certain decisions.

4. You can leave a charitable legacy in your will

As well as leaving wealth to your family and friends, you may want to support a charitable cause too. Your will means you can leave a legacy to causes that are close to your heart. There are several different ways of doing this, from leaving a specific sum to charity to leaving a proportion of your estate. A legal professional will be able to offer advice on the different options you may want to consider.

As well as having a positive impact, a charitable legacy can also reduce a potential Inheritance Tax (IHT) bill. If you leave more than 10% of your estate to charity, the rate of IHT paid will reduce from 40% to 36%.

5. If your estate could be liable for Inheritance Tax, a will can reduce the bill

As well as leaving a charitable legacy, there are other steps you can take to reduce an IHT bill. Writing a will can help you maximise allowances so that you can pass on more of your wealth.

You can leave £325,000 to loved ones without any IHT being due, this is known as the “nil-rate band”. In addition to this, you may be able to take advantage of an additional £175,000 allowance known as the “residence nil-rate band”. You can use this if you leave your main home to your children or grandchildren. Naming your children or grandchildren in your will as benefactors of your home can increase the amount you can pass on without leaving an IHT bill.

Depending on your circumstances and goals, there may be other things you can do to reduce IHT. For example, placing some assets in a trust and passing these on through your will may be right for you. Keep in mind that trusts can be complex and often irreversible, so it’s important to take appropriate advice. If you’re worried about IHT, there are often steps you can take to reduce the bill.

If you’d like to discuss the value of your estate and how you can pass on assets to your loved ones, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing, tax planning, or estate planning.

Capital Gains Tax reaches record highs. Here are 5 tips to reduce your bill

In the 2019/20 tax year, taxpayers paid a record amount of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) to HMRC. If you could face a CGT bill, there are some things you can do to reduce it.

According to Which?, individuals paid £9.9 billion in CGT in 2019/20, up from £9.5 billion in the previous year. CGT is a tax you pay on the profit when you sell an asset that has increased in value; this could include stocks and shares, property, or material goods. The rate of CGT you pay is dependent on your Income Tax band and the asset you’re selling, but it can be as high as 28% when selling residential property that is not your main home. As a result, it can significantly eat into your profits.

If you could be liable for CGT, here are five useful tips that could help you reduce your bill.

1. Make use of your CGT allowance

Each tax year, you have an allowance known as the “annual exempt amount”. This is the amount of profit you can make before any CGT is due.

For the 2021/22 tax year, this allowance is £12,300. Planning the disposal of assets to make full use of this allowance can reduce the amount of tax due. For instance, spreading the sale of assets over several tax years to ensure you don’t exceed the threshold can mean you avoid or reduce how much CGT you need to pay.

The annual exempt amount is frozen at £12,300 until 2026, making efficient tax planning even more important. Inflation means the value of assets is likely to continue rising during this period, so more taxpayers could find they unexpectedly exceed the threshold.

It’s also important to note that the annual exempt amount is £12,300 per individual. So, if you hold assets jointly or transfer assets to your spouse or civil partner, you can effectively double the threshold. However, you cannot carry forward unused annual exemption into a new tax year.

If you’d like to create a strategy that makes use of your CGT annual exempt amount, please get in touch.

2. Maximise your ISA contributions

If you could pay CGT when selling stocks and shares, maximising your ISA allowance makes sense.

Each tax year, you can place up to £20,000 into an ISA. You can hold this money in cash or invest it. If you choose to invest, the money can grow free from Income Tax and CGT, making ISAs an efficient way to invest. Again, the ISA allowance is per individual. So, as a couple, you could add up to £40,000 each tax year to ISAs between you.

You cannot carry forward unused ISA allowance – if you don’t make use of it, you lose it.

3. Take advantage of Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax reliefs

Gains made in an EIS are free from CGT if you hold the asset for more than three years. However, these investments are not suitable for everyone.

EIS were designed by the government to encourage investors to invest in smaller companies. These are typically higher risk than traditional investments. You should carefully consider your risk profile when investing in an EIS and keep in mind that you will need a long-term investment strategy to make use of the CGT tax relief. If you’d like to discuss if EIS could be right for you, please contact us.

4. Offset your losses

If you’ve made a loss when selling some assets, you can offset these against a CGT bill. Losses that you wish to offset must occur in the same year as the gains. You will also need to register losses with HMRC. Offsetting losses can help you balance your gains and reduce a tax bill. However, it can be complex and it’s important the right procedures are followed.

5. Reduce your Income Tax levels

As the rate of CGT is linked to your Income Tax band, reducing your taxable allowance can mean you pay a reduced amount of CGT overall. There are several ways to do this, including making pre-tax contributions to your pension and making donations to a charity. This could help you save for a more comfortable retirement or have a positive impact on a good cause.

The above list isn’t an exhaustive way to reduce CGT. Depending on your circumstances, there may be other steps you can take too. If you’re worried about a CGT bill and would like to learn more about how you could reduce the cost, please contact us to create a bespoke plan to mitigate your tax liability.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Has your income increased? Here’s why you should boost your pension contributions

Almost a fifth (18%) of UK adults said their income had increased in the three months to June 2021, according to an LV= survey. As the pressure of lockdown eases, employees are also less worried about losing their job or being able to find work. If you have more disposable income now, it could be worth boosting your pension.

There are many reasons why 9.5 million people have benefited from an income increase. For some, coming off furlough as they head back to work will mean their income has increased. For others, a pay rise, switching jobs, or even cutting back on other areas may mean they have more disposable income than they did just a few months ago.

So, what should you do with the extra income?

With lockdown measures lifting, it’s not surprising that 28% plan to socialise more and 36% plan to go on holiday in the next 12 months. A quarter also said they were planning special days out with their family to make up for lost time.

While spending some of your savings or additional income on the things you enjoy isn’t a bad thing, adding some of it to your pension could secure your future. Here are five reasons to think about boosting your pension regularly or with a one-off contribution.

1. Your contributions will benefit from tax relief

Assuming you don’t exceed the Annual Allowance, your contributions will benefit from tax relief. This relief means some of the money you’ve paid in tax is added to your pension, providing an instant boost. So, your money can go further when paid into a pension.

Usually, tax relief is paid at the highest rate of Income Tax you pay. Your pension provider will typically claim it for you, but you will need to complete a self-assessment tax form to claim your full allowance if you’re a higher- or additional-rate taxpayer.

2. Your employer may match your contributions

If your increased income means you could put away more into your pension each month, it’s worth checking what your employer’s benefits are. Some will also increase their contributions to your pension if you do. Others may offer a salary sacrifice scheme that would mean you benefit in the long run.

3. Pension investments can grow free from Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax

When investing for the long term, a pension can make sense. This is because returns from investments held in a pension are not liable for Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax. If you want to invest for your future, a pension can help you reduce tax liability and get the most out of your money.

Instead, you may pay Income Tax when you take an income from your pension. The amount of Income Tax due will depend on your income from all sources, so it is possible to manage your withdrawals to minimise tax.

4. Your investments benefit from the compounding effect

As you can’t access your pension until you’re 55, rising to 57 in 2028, your investment returns are themselves invested to potentially deliver further returns. Over time, these additional returns can add up and help your pension grow at a faster pace. With workers paying into their pension over decades, this compounding effect can mean a more comfortable retirement.

While over the long term, investments have historically delivered returns, it is important to remember that investment values can fall too. If your pension value falls, focus on the long-term trend and what your goals are.

5. It can help you create a more secure retirement

If retirement is some way off, it can be easy to put off adding to your pension now. However, even a slight increase in your pension contributions in your working life can mean the difference between meeting your retirement goals and falling short of them. Setting out what you want your retirement to look like, whether that involves exploring new places or relaxing with loved ones, can help you see if you’re on the right track.

Remember: it could be some time before you can access your pension

While there are compelling reasons to add to your pension, you need to consider when you will want to access the money. Your pension usually isn’t accessible until you’re 55, rising to 57 in 2028. If you’d want to use the savings before this age, you should consider alternatives.

You should ensure you have a financial safety net should the unexpected happen too. Do you have a rainy-day fund to fall back on? As you can’t access your pension, you won’t be able to pay for a leaking roof or cover expenses if you need to take time off work. As a result, you should ensure you’re financially secure before increasing your pension.

Please contact us to talk about your pension and how to get the most out of your savings.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

September

National Insurance and Dividend Tax rise as government suspends State Pension triple lock

This week, the government has made two major policy announcements that are likely to directly affect your finances.

A much-anticipated National Insurance rise will result in an increased burden on workers including, for the first time, those above State Pension Age.

In addition, the government has suspended the State Pension triple lock, meaning that pensioners will receive a much more modest increase than anticipated.

Read on for everything you need to know about these policy changes.

The new “health and social care levy” will push up National Insurance bills by 1.25%

Despite a clear commitment in their last election manifesto not to raise taxes, the government has unveiled a 1.25% hike in National Insurance contributions from April 2022. This is to raise additional revenue to fund health and social care.

From April 2022, employees will begin to pay the levy through an increase in their National Insurance contributions. The 1.25% increase will also be levied on employers.

This additional contribution will then become a “health and social care levy” from April 2023 and will appear as a separate deduction on payslips.

According to the Guardian, an individual earning £50,000 can expect to see their National Insurance contributions rise from £4,852 to £5,357 each tax year, equivalent to a £505 tax increase. If you earn a salary of £100,000, you can expect your annual contributions to rise by £1,131.

The government says that, for the next three years, the tax increase will generate an additional £12 billion a year for health and social care. Of this, they have earmarked £5.4 billion over the period specifically for social care, with another £8.9 billion going on what is termed a “health-based Covid response”.

Once the NHS backlog starts to clear, ministers say that more of the money will go to social care, although how this will happen has not been set out.

Extra money will also be sent from Westminster to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which the prime minister said would receive more money than they paid in, as a “union dividend”.

A million working pensioners will pay National Insurance for the first time

In another radical reform, around 1 million working pensioners will pay National Insurance contributions on their earnings from 2023.

Under the current system, taxpayers stop making National Insurance contributions when they reach 66, the point at which the State Pension kicks in.

It will be the first time that a government has asked pensioners to pay, with contributions starting at a rate of 1.25% in April 2023.

The Telegraph reports that a working pensioner earning £60,000 a year will go from paying nothing to paying £630 a year in National Insurance on top of Income Tax.

The government has proposed a cap on lifetime social care costs

Currently in England, if people have assets worth more than £23,250 then they must pay for their social care and there is no cap on the costs.

Under the new system, anyone with assets below £20,000 will not have to pay anything towards their care. Those with assets from £20,000 to £100,000 and above will have to contribute, on a sliding scale. This depends on contributions from local authorities, which deliver much of social care.

People in this bracket will not contribute more than 20% of their assets each year and, once their assets are worth less than £20,000, they would pay nothing more. However, they might still contribute from any income they receive.

Those with assets above the £100,000 threshold must meet all fees until the value of their assets fall below this amount.

Boris Johnson also announced a lifetime social care “cap” of £86,000, meaning that no individual will be asked to pay more than this sum for care in their lifetime.

This new means test system and the £86,000 cap will come into force in October 2023.

Dividend Tax is set to rise from April 2022

Alongside the National Insurance rise, Dividend Tax rates will also increase by 1.25% from April 2022. This change will mostly affect investors and business owners.

If you take home more than £2,000 a year in dividends, you will face a slightly higher bill regardless of your Income Tax band.

For example, if you’re a basic-rate taxpayer receiving £3,000 in dividends then you will pay Dividend Tax on £1,000. The government’s proposed changes mean that your bill will rise from £75 to £87.50.

Alternatively, if you’re a higher-rate taxpayer taking £10,000 in dividend payments then you would pay 33.75% on £8,000 of dividends. This would result in a Dividend Tax bill of £2,700, up £100 from the current system.

The government will suspend the State Pension triple lock for one year

In a move designed to save the government around £8 billion a year, work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, broke a second manifesto commitment by announcing that she was suspending the State Pension triple lock for one year.

She told the House of Commons that sticking to the triple lock – which promises that the State Pension will rise by the highest of inflation, earnings, or 2.5% – would be unfair, given that wages were increasing at a rate of well over 8% a year.

The distortion to national average earnings has been caused by the pandemic, as earnings fell at the start of the first lockdown before rising sharply as the furlough scheme ended. Had the government stuck to its commitment, pensioners would have expected an increase of between 8% and 9%.

Instead, the State Pension will rise more modestly in 2022 – either by 2.5% or price inflation. All eyes will now be on September’s inflation figure (announced in October) to determine how much the State Pension will rise next April.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about how the National Insurance increase, Dividend Tax rise, or triple lock suspension will affect you and your finances, please get in touch.

Should you consider ditching your car on World Car-Free Day?

Wednesday 22 September is this year’s World Car-Free Day, which is designed to promote increased use of public transport and environmentally friendly transport alternatives.

It encourages motorists around the world to avoid the use of their car for one day, with some cities and countries even organising special events to commemorate the occasion.

It falls within European Mobility Week, the European Commission’s primary method of raising awareness of sustainable urban mobility. More than 800 towns and cities across 25 different countries have registered for this year’s event so far.

But why should we give up our cars for a day? For many, cars have become synonymous with daily life, and people struggle to imagine themselves without them. Most people have a “dream car,” something they strive towards or, in some cases, can only ever imagine.

World Car-Free Day encourages you to examine your own situation: how easy would it be to survive a day without your car? Read on to find out some reasons why you may want to participate this year.

Transport accounts for about 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions

The BBC reports that, around the world, transport accounts for about a quarter of all CO2 emissions. Three-quarters of these transport emissions are produced by road vehicles, including cars, motorbikes, lorries, and buses.

The average petrol-powered car in the UK produces 180g of CO2 for every kilometre travelled. Completing just 10km of travel on World Car-Free Day through other means could save 1.8kg of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

Leaving your car at home might just save you some time too, depending on where you live. City centres tend to have far more robust and reliable transport options, and road vehicles are often given restricted access thanks to pedestrianised areas and limited parking.

For example, travelling through London by car can often take twice as long as using the underground to get to the same destination. Alternatively, walking or cycling can even sometimes be quicker than taking the car, especially as these provide shortcut options that regular traffic can’t take.

And let’s not forget the effect that could have on your health. You don’t need to be told how important exercise is for the body, but with millions of us stuck inside since the beginning of last year, getting out and about a bit more can only help.

Plus, driving is stressful. Road safety charity Brake published a report in March 2021 that stated that 87% of drivers admitted to feeling stressed or angry at some point behind the wheel. Perhaps more worryingly, 11% of motorists admitted that they feel this way every single time they drive.

Ditching the car for a day not only reduces stress levels, but greatly reduces your chances of being involved in a road traffic collision. According to a government report, since 2010, between 1,500 and 2,000 people have been killed on the road in the UK each year, with over 100,000 people suffering minor injuries between July 2019 and June 2020.

Lastly, cars can be expensive. Of course, the cost is dependent on the make, model, age, and other factors of your own vehicle, but cutting down its use even just for a few days a year could save you some money. Less frequent use means less petrol and, potentially, fewer repairs and services too.

There are plenty of far more environmentally friendly transport methods

Perhaps the term “environmentally friendly” is used a little too liberally here, but the truth is that most transport options are significantly better for the environment when compared to cars.

The best method of transport to prevent CO2 emissions is either walking or cycling. Thankfully, the human body doesn’t pump greenhouse gases into the environment at the same rate as a petrol engine, so taking the opportunity to do some exercise helps both you and the environment significantly.

For example, Imperial College London found that just ditching the car for a single trip every day can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by about 0.5 tons a year. This may seem like a big ask, but substituting the car for a train or bus could also give you more time in the day.

The travelling time that would usually be spent fully focusing on the road is suddenly freed up. This could give you the time to catch up on some work, keep up with the Netflix show you’re watching, or read a good book.

Per passenger, buses have a significantly lower rate of CO2 emissions than a car, and trains lower still. This is especially true with the growing demand for electric trains, which the Transport Network reports currently makes up about 38% of the UK’s rail network. And with trams making a comeback recently too, your public transport options are constantly growing.

You don’t need to change your whole lifestyle, just a few days a year

The point of World Car-Free Day isn’t for you to ditch your car for good. It is to raise awareness of the positive impact you could have on the environment by leaving your car at home a few times a month.

Have a look at your local area and the other transport options you have available and think about how you could avoid your car on the 22 September. So many of our identities are synonymous with our cars that we forget that other options are out there.

If you find it fairly easy to go without on the day, consider your options going forward. Try avoiding your car once a month, or even once a week, to take some steps toward helping the environment. Consider investing in a bicycle if you don’t already own one, or figure out if any of your regular trips are within walking distance.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Financial education: 3 fun Scout activities to try at home with your children

With a history going back over a century, the Scouts Association has been helping children across the UK develop life skills. The badges youngsters earn are commonly associated with getting outdoors but they cover a huge range of areas. The newest badge focuses on developing money skills and offers inspiration for home activities you can do with children too.

It’s not the first time the Scouts have offered activities based on financial education. Between 1916 and 1925, scouts could earn the Thriftyman Proficiency Badge, which focused on the importance of saving. The latest addition will go beyond saving to look at how money is used and encourage children to think more carefully about how they spend money.

While primary school can seem young to start thinking about money, research suggests we start to form financial habits from the age of seven. Starting early can give your children the financial acumen and confidence they need to succeed in life. Even if your child isn’t part of the Scouts, learning about money at home can set positive habits. If you need some inspiration, the activities scouts will need to earn their Money Skills badge can help. Here are three ideas to get you started.

1. Make your own bank

Learning to save money is essential. It can help children understand the value of money, the difference between needs and wants, and form a habit that will be vital in adulthood. This activity is creative while encouraging them to think about how and why they should save. It includes answering some questions to get your child to think about saving:

  • What and why do they want to save?
  • How will they save?
  • What is their goal?

The activity covers saving outside of money, for example, points in a video game or even sweets. Looking at what saving means in life can help them make wiser decisions. But if you’re focusing on money, helping them think of the larger items or even experiences they want, like a new toy or trip to the cinema with friends, is a great place to start. From here, you can create a savings chart or piggy bank that will track their progress towards the goal.

If you haven’t already set up a savings account for your child, doing so together can help cement the ideas learnt in this activity. Being able to see how their savings account is gradually increasing can encourage them to think about saving money when they receive pocket money or gifts.

2. Budget building

This is an activity where you can work together or even turn it into a competition. First, you need to distribute tokens. The Scouts recommend playing some games to earn tokens first. These tokens can then be used to purchase items and materials, with the objective being to build the tallest tower using them.

The items used could be craft items or even household items. Those that are most useful for building a tall tower come with a higher price tag. It’s a game that can boost problem-solving and creative thinking skills, as well as getting children to think about the value each item offers. By only allowing them to purchase the items at the beginning of the activity, it can get them used to setting out a spending plan and sticking to it. They can also learn from their successes and mistakes.

3. Go Phish

Online security is becoming even more important as more financial transactions take place online. Teaching children about the importance of keeping your money and personal details safe from a young age can help them spot a scam and protect themselves.

As well as talking about tips for staying safe when using online accounts, this activity means coming up with a new password for an imaginary account, from simple ones that are easy to remember to more complex ones. Then, using a password checker, you can see how long it would take for each password to be cracked. Who can come up with the strongest one? You can also play a game of guessing what’s included in their password. Have they used their birthday or the name of their favourite toy, for example?

It’s also important to put losing a password into context. Explaining what could happen if someone else used their accounts can help ensure they take more caution when online.

These activities are a great way to start introducing financial concepts and the importance of money to children. Talking about money at home and involving them in some household decisions can improve their grasp on the topics and make sure they’re comfortable with money from a young age.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

83% of parents are saving for their children in cash, but it might not be a good idea

The Independent reports that 76% of parents and guardians in the UK are saving money for their children under the age of 18. Helping your child step into adult life with some savings could prove vital for their mental wellbeing and financial stability and could help them further down the line.

But, of those saving, 83% do so exclusively in cash. While perhaps the easiest and simplest option, it may not be the best way to generate a nest egg for your child. In an environment of low interest rates and rising living costs, the cash you have saved now will likely not have the same value in 5-, 10-, or 15-years’ time.

One alternative to saving in cash is to invest your money. Making an investment may seem daunting, but it could prove to be the most efficient way to save for the future. Read on to find out why investing your money might be the best way to save for your children.

Inflation reduces the value of cash over time

The purchasing power of your savings will reduce over time thanks to inflation. Inflation represents the average rise in the prices of goods and services and stands at 2.5% as of June 2021 when compared to a year earlier. Simply put, something that cost £100 in June 2020 cost £102.50 in June 2021.

If the money you are saving for your child is kept in a savings account, you may gain a little interest on the amount, but it’s unlikely to keep up with inflation.

As of the start of August 2021, Moneyfacts states that the junior savings account with the highest interest rate pays an Annual Equivalent Rate (AER) of 3%. This is the only account that pays a rate that beats the rate of inflation. If your money is in any other account, it’s likely losing money in real terms.

Saving for your children is a long-term project as you’re likely to be putting money aside for 10 years or more. Because of this, it could be worth investing your money for better returns.

Investing could provide higher returns than savings accounts, but it isn’t without risk

As interest rates are so low, if you’re setting money aside for a period of five years or more, it could pay to invest the cash instead.

Online investment manager Nutmeg looked at available market data between January 1971 and May 2020 and found that long-term investing dramatically increases your chances of returns.

For example, investing for one day during that period gives an investor a 52% chance of generating a profit, but investing for 10 years raises this to 94%.

And the longer you’re invested, the better. Nutmeg found that “an investor that invested in the stock market for more than 13 and a half years at any point between January 1971 and May 2020 never lost money.”

In a 2020 blog, Financial Expert reported that if you had put £1,000 in a 2% interest savings account in 2010, that money would have been worth £1,148 in 2020. However, if you had invested £1,000 in the FTSE 100 in 2010, that money would have been worth roughly £1,579 in 2020.

However, returns cannot be guaranteed, and all investments carry some level of risk. Investment values can fall as well as rise. It’s important to weigh up the risks when making investment decisions. If you have any questions, we’re here to help.

A Stocks and Shares Junior ISA is a tax-efficient, hassle-free investment opportunity

There are a few ways to go about investing for your children. One of the most tax-efficient methods is through a Stocks and Shares Junior ISA (JISA), where you don’t pay Income Tax or Capital Gain Tax on your returns. When you contribute to a Stocks and Shares JISA, your money is typically invested in a range of assets across the globe, from shares to government bonds.

You can contribute up to £9,000 into a JISA in the 2021/22 tax year. Remember that the money cannot be accessed before your child turns 18 and your returns will be based on the performance of the underlying investments.

Research from Schroders, published by City AM, show that saving money into a Cash ISA between 2000 and 2018 returned four times less than a Stocks and Shares ISA. However, remember that the past performance of an investment is not necessarily indicative of the future.

Investing could help you build up a bigger nest egg for your child

If you’d like to see the money you’ve worked hard to save for your child increase faster than the rate of inflation, saving in cash may not be the best idea. Though riskier, investing your money may generate higher returns.

While it is important to remember that the past performance of a stock is not indicative of the future, stock market investments tend to outperform cash savings accounts in the long term.

The method of saving that you choose should be personal to you depending on your situation, so be sure to contact us and speak to a financial adviser when weighing up your options. We can help plan for you and your children and come to a decision on the best course of action for your situation.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance

Why rising house prices could mean you need to reconsider your Inheritance Tax plan

House prices have reached record highs this year. While you may be pleased the value of your home is increasing, it may also mean you now need to consider Inheritance Tax (IHT). Or if IHT already plays a role in your plans, they may need updating.

A combination of rising demand, the Stamp Duty holiday, and 5% mortgage guarantees to support first-time buyers means house prices have reached new highs. According to the Halifax House Price Index, the average house price in June 2021 was £260,358. That’s 8.8% higher, the equivalent of £21,000 more than 12 months earlier.

The rise in house prices now means that your property alone could take up a significant portion of your IHT allowance and may mean your loved ones face an unexpected bill when you pass away. With a standard tax rate of 40%, IHT can have a huge impact on your estate and what you leave behind. There are often things you can do to reduce an IHT bill, but you will need to take these steps before you pass away.

It’s normal to approach estate planning with some trepidation, but it can ensure your wishes are followed and your pass on your wealth to family, friends, and others that are important to you.

When do you need to consider Inheritance Tax?

According to the Financial Times, HMRC collected £5.2 billion in IHT in 2019/20. While it’s something only around 5% of families need to consider, house prices rising faster than inflation may mean more estates will be liable to IHT in the coming years. It’s important to understand it’s something that could affect you.

Most estates will benefit from two allowances:

  • The first is the nil-rate band, which is £325,000 for the 2021/22 tax year. If the value of all your assets is below this threshold, your estate will not be liable for IHT.
  • If you’re leaving your main home to children or grandchildren, you can also use the residence-nil rate band, which will increase your threshold by £175,000 in 2021/22.

As a result, you can usually pass on up to £500,000 without needing to consider IHT.

Any unused allowance can also be passed on to a spouse or civil partner. In effect, this allows couples to pass on up to £1 million before IHT is due. That can sound like a lot, but soaring house prices mean the average property eats up more than a quarter of this allowance. If you live in a more expensive region or your property is above the average national price, IHT could affect how your estate is distributed.

It’s an issue that’s likely to affect more families in the future too. It’s expected that the IHT allowances will increase each tax year by the rate of inflation. Currently, house price rises are far outstripping inflation, which the Bank of England aims to keep below 2% a year.

Easing of the Covid-19 lockdown means inflation in the 12 months to June 2021 was higher than expected at 2.4%, according to the Office for National Statistics. Even this higher-than-expected figure is much lower than the 8.8% rise house prices experienced. If the trend continues, property will take up more of your IHT allowance, so it’s essential you keep this in mind when planning your estate.

5 steps you can take to reduce an Inheritance Tax bill

1. Write a will

Writing a will is the only way to ensure your wishes are carried out. It’s also an important step when making full use of your allowances. For instance, naming your children or grandchildren as beneficiaries of your main home ensures you can make use of the residence nil-rate band.

2. Place some of your assets in a trust

In some cases, placing assets in a trust means they do not form part of your estate when calculating IHT. It is possible to still receive an income from these assets. However, this isn’t always the case, and forming a trust can be complex. It’s important you take legal and financial advice if you’re thinking about using a trust.

3. Gift during your lifetime

While leaving an inheritance is the traditional way to pass on wealth, you can also provide gifts to loved ones during your lifetime. This can reduce the value of your estate while your loved ones benefit. However, keep in mind that some gifts will be considered part of your estate for IHT purposes for up to seven years. To discuss what gifts are considered immediately outside of your estate, please contact us.

4. Leave something to charity

Passing on some of your wealth to charity can support organisations that are important to you, but it can also help you reduce an IHT bill. Providing a charitable gift may mean your estate comes under the IHT threshold, so your estate doesn’t face a bill. You can also reduce the IHT rate from 40% to 36% by leaving at least 10% of your entire estate to charitable causes.

5. Keep your estate value below the thresholds by spending

Finally, spending some of your wealth to fund your retirement or later years can keep the value of your estate below thresholds so no IHT is due. Splurging on a holiday or updating your home can mean you enjoy retirement more and avoid an IHT bill.

Depending on your circumstances and goals, there may be other steps you can take to reduce an IHT bill. You may also want to explore ways that an IHT bill can be paid for. A life insurance policy written in trust, for example, can provide loved ones with a lump sum to pay the bill. This leaves your estate intact to pass on how you wish.

If you’d like to discuss IHT and whether rising house prices mean it would be valuable for you to consider, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate or tax planning.

When can you access your pension? It might be further away than you think

The age you can access defined contribution (DC) pensions is rising. Research suggests that many people are unaware of this, but it could affect your retirement plans.

At the moment, you can access money saved into a DC pension scheme from the age of 55. However, from 2028, this will rise to 57. If you’d hoped to access your pension at 55, whether you plan to retire then or not, the additional two years may mean you need to rethink your plans.

The pension age is rising as longevity increases, which means your pension will need to last longer. When it rises in 2028, it will be 10 years before you can claim your State Pension. This provides retirees with some flexibility to retire sooner and create the lifestyle they want. The government could also announce further increases to the pension age in the future.

7 in 10 adults aren’t aware of the rising pension age

While 83% of UK adults are aware there is a minimum age to access a DC pension, many are unsure when this is, according to an Aegon survey. Two-thirds of people questioned correctly identified 55 as the current minimum. But just 22% knew that the minimum pension age will increase to 57 in 2028.

If you don’t turn 55 until after April 2028, will the change affect your pension plans?

You don’t have to be planning to retire at 55 to be affected. Perhaps you’d hoped to take a lump sum from your pension to pay off the mortgage early or travel before returning to work. Or you may have been hoping to cut back your working hours, using your pension to bridge the gap before you can claim the State Pension.

Two years may not seem like much, but if you’d planned to use your pension in some way before turning 57 it can leave a hole in your finances. It may mean plans you’re looking forward to are no longer possible without adjustments. Understanding if it’ll affect your goals now can help keep you on track.

So, if after looking at your plans you realise that the rising pension age will have an effect on them, what can you do?

1. Push your plans back

The simplest solution is to simply push back your plans that relied on accessing your pension back by two years. In some cases, these two years may make little difference to your overall lifestyle and goals. If this is the case, it’s something you may want to consider. And if this is something you’re thinking about, you should weigh up your priorities now and in the future.

2. Change your plans

Depending on what your plans are, adjustments may mean they’re still achievable without having your pension to tap into. If you’d hoped to cut back working hours, cutting back your disposable income in the short term could make sense. Or if you’d planned to take a lump sum from your pension to travel, a shorter trip may still mean you’re able to do this. Reviewing what your goals are can help you figure out what changes make sense for you.

3. Increase your savings now

If your 50s are still some time away, knowing that the pension age is rising gives you time to act. Putting more money away in a savings or investment account that will cover your plans means you won’t have to make changes in the future. If you’re not sure which is the best way to save for your future, please contact us.

4. Use other assets to bridge the gap

You may be able to use other assets to fill the pension gap. This could include savings, investments, or property. Depleting other assets now means you can forge ahead with plans, even if your pension isn’t accessible. However, keep the bigger picture in mind: could using these assets now affect longer-term plans or your financial security?

If the rising pension age could affect you, we’re here to help. Please get in touch to discuss your retirement aspirations and how your assets can be used to help you achieve them.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

Why switching to a sustainable pension is the best thing you can do to tackle climate change

From ditching the car to recycling your waste, you probably take a range of steps to help protect the environment and our planet. As the world slowly moves towards sustainable, green energy, perhaps you want to do even more to help fight climate change?

You might think you’re doing everything you can to go green, but did you know that you can help the environment with your pension? By investing your pension into a sustainable, or ethical fund, you could significantly reduce your impact on the environment.

The Financial Times reports that a pension worth £100,000 invested in a sustainable fund could be the equivalent of taking five or six cars off the road a year.

Ethical pensions have recently risen in popularity, alongside many other funds with a focus on ESG principles. ESG stands for “environmental, social, and governance”, which cover some of the factors sustainable portfolios may consider, alongside financial factors, when making investment decisions. And investing through ESG funds doesn’t mean your investments will yield lower returns either.

Read on to find out more about sustainable pensions.

Switching to a green pension could be 57 times better for the environment than going vegan

With the power to tackle climate change by simply switching your pension, there’s no need to drastically overhaul your lifestyle.

As Pensions Age report, your pension pot alone could do more for the environment than 57 people switching to a vegan diet. In fact, a sustainable pension could be 21 times more effective than giving up flying, becoming vegetarian, and switching to a renewable energy provider combined.

They even claim that a sustainable pension could be 20 times better for the environment than switching to an electric car, which is already one of the other most effective methods of tackling climate change.

Euronews reports that transitioning an average-size pension pot (around £30,000) to a sustainable pension could reduce as much as 19 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

If you have a pension pot of £100,000, you could be cutting as much as 64 tonnes of carbon emission each year. That is the equivalent of nine years’ worth of the average citizen’s carbon footprint.

A sustainable pension is a way to fund ideas you believe in

Which? states that there is an estimated £3 trillion in UK pensions that are used to fund everything from wind farms to essential government services. However, only 22% of pension holders know the types of company that their pension is invested in.

A sustainable pension avoids putting your investments into certain companies, depending on the policies of the specific fund you choose. For example, they may not invest in the assets of oil companies and instead invest in electric motors.

If you don’t like the thought of your money going towards tobacco producers, weapons manufacturers, or high-emission companies, a sustainable pension may be right for you.

From climate change, to education, and gender equality, there are plenty of options for your investment. After all, the main goal of an ESG pension is to represent the views of those invested in it.

A significant number of pension providers have announced their plans to make their default pension services have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. For some providers, this is the goal with their entire portfolio.

Investing in a sustainable pension helps both your future, and the planet’s

One concern is that there is too much focus on sustainability instead of profitability. With more than 200 pension funds already being labelled as “sustainable”, do they really perform as well as those without such a strict focus?

The data suggests that yes, they do. Which? reported the findings of a Morningstar analysis, which found that three-quarters of ESG funds performed above average when compared with similar, standard funds.

They may also provide greater longevity and security, as 77% of ESG funds available from 2009 were still going in 2019. This is compared to just 46% of non-ESG funds.

The pressure of well-performing ESG funds is also encouraging firms to improve their pension policies. The more sustainable pensions that are made available, the more widespread the positive impact.

Sustainable pensions are a step forward

It is no doubt that sustainable pensions are a step forward. Switching to a sustainable pension is a great way to help support ideals that you believe in while also supporting yourself in later life.

A sustainable pension fund invests in the ideas you believe in. And, with the returns often just as positive as traditional pension funds, sustainable funds provide a beneficial alternative for pension contributors.

Are you interested in learning more about sustainable investments? We’re here to help you understand how ESG factors can be incorporated into your portfolio.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

September

Guide: Leaving an inheritance vs gifting during your lifetime

Have you thought about how you’ll pass wealth on to those who are important to you? Traditionally, this has been done through inheritance, but it’s becoming more common to gift during your lifetime.

Our latest guide explains why more families are choosing to gift during their lifetime and the pros and cons of each option. Whichever option you decide is right for you, our guide will enable you to fully understand your situation and make sure your wishes are carried out, and will explain everything from writing a will to calculating the long-term impact of gifting.

It can be difficult to think about how you’ll pass on wealth to loved ones, but it’s important to set out a plan.

Download Leaving an inheritance vs gifting during your lifetime to discover the steps you should take.

If you have any questions about passing on wealth, please contact us.

August

How financial planning can help you strike a better work-life balance

Financial planning is about much more than simply growing your wealth. Not only can it reduce financial worry, but it can help you achieve long-term goals, reduce stress levels, and increase your mental wellbeing.

Perhaps you feel like you don’t have enough time to spend with those you love? Or maybe you’re striving for early retirement but you’re not sure how to get there? Financial planning exists to guide you through these issues with confidence.

Pandemic burnout and the increased work week

Covid-19 has influenced almost everything since early 2020. The Guardian reported earlier this year that UK workers have increased their working week by 25% since working from home.

In the UK, the average time spent on a business network each day increased from 9 to 11 hours. However, employees aren’t the only people affected; two in five company owners reported struggling with depression, anxiety, or exhaustion in 2020 and early 2021.

Not only have people been working longer hours, but now the line between work and leisure has blurred. Many people have complained of an inability to switch off after a workday.

Financial planning could help to strike a much-needed balance between work and life. But how?

Helping you strike a better work-life balance

Often, financial planning is associated with building wealth. While this may be part of the process for some people, it’s not always the case. Financial planning focuses on how to help you achieve your goals.

If you’re in a position where you want to start cutting back working hours or taking other steps to achieve a better work-life balance, financial planning can help you understand what your options are. By looking at what is most important to you, a bespoke financial plan could give you the option to reduce how much time you spend on work. In some cases, this may include cutting back on outgoings, depleting wealth, or adjusting other steps you’ve been taking.

Rather than assessing how much money you have, the process of financial planning is about understanding what makes you happy and how money could you achieve these things. With work affecting other aspects of life, rethinking your work-life balance could improve your wellbeing.

A demanding job may mean you’re able to afford a nice car or a large family home, but if you’re unable to take the car for a drive or spend as much time as you’d like with loved ones, is it worth it?  For some, rethinking their job will be appealing.

According to an Aegon report, just 4 in 10 people have thought about what gives their life joy and purpose. Spending some time thinking about this and making the answer central to your plans could help you get more out of life.

So, how does financial planning help here? It can help you understand the type of lifestyle you could still achieve if you did step back or how other assets can bridge an income gap. It can give you the confidence to create a work-life balance that suits you.

Striking the right balance as you near retirement

It’s not just getting about getting the right work-life balance now either. Financial planning can help provide more opportunities in your later years.

Since Pension Freedoms were introduced in 2015, which gave retirees more flexibility when accessing their pension, transitioning into retirement has become more common. Cutting back working hours or moving into a less demanding job has become a popular way to ease into retirement. It can help you create a work-life balance that suits your lifestyle goals.

Transitioning into retirement is appealing for many as it can still provide structure and meaning to your days, while still giving you more free time.

But is it something you can afford to do? Or are you hoping to retire earlier than the traditional retirement age?

Financial planning can help you take steps to give you the freedom to create the retirement lifestyle you want. It can give you the confidence you need to make retirement decisions that make sense for you.

If you’d like to discuss your finances and how they can help you live the life you want, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

The best hikes in the UK to challenge you

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and boost your health. Hiking in the UK can take you to some stunning locations while improving mental and physical wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be an epic hike to still deliver a sense of satisfaction and let you enjoy the great outdoors.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, there’s a huge list of hikes across the UK to choose from.

Hiking for beginners

If you’re new to hiking, the key is to pace yourself. It might be tempting to pick that long hike that promises breath-taking views, but start small and slowly build up your level of fitness. It’s not just the distance you should consider either, but also the elevation and terrain. Walking uphill or over uneven surfaces is far more tiring than a gentle path.

You may also want to give yourself a goal to work towards during the hike. For example, by choosing a hike that passes by a local village to stop at, or a picnic spot to relax by, you can help break up your hike.

Finally, before you head out, make sure you’re prepared. You should familiarise yourself with the route, make sure you have good hiking boots and appropriate clothing, as well as a bag containing essentials like water and first aid supplies.

So, where should you plan a beginner’s hike? Here are four to consider.

1. Conic Hill, Loch Lomond

Conic Hill is a challenge without being too much for beginners. Located on the eastern side of Scotland’s Loch Lomond, it has impressive views for you to enjoy as you make the climb to the top of the hill. You’ll start in the village of Balmaha and it’ll take around an hour to reach the top. It can be a steep walk to get to the top of the 361 metre hill, but the path is well-trodden and you’ll be rewarded with views of the loch and its islands.

2. Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, Peak District

This hike is known as one of the best ridge walks in the UK. It’s a 6.5 mile loop and will take you through some of the most admired parts of the Peak District. You should plan for the hike to last around five hours without any breaks. You’ll reach the top of Mam Tor – also known as the “Shivering Mountain” – and pass the Blue John Cavern. The hike starts and ends in Castleton, so it’s ideal for having a pub lunch or visiting a tea room once you’ve finished your hike.

3. Four Waterfalls Walk, Brecon Beacons

This hike will take you through peaceful woodland to four beautiful waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons. It’s a circular route that is just an hour’s drive from Cardiff, so it’s a great option if you want to visit the city too. The trail is 6 miles and takes around 3.5 hours to complete. The paths around the waterfalls can be steep and muddy so make sure you have sturdy footwear to keep you safe and your feet dry when stepping in puddles. If you want to see the falls at their best, plan a trip on a bright autumn day.

4. Ballintoy and Portbraddan, the Causeway Coast

The Causeway Coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and boasts sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and rocky outcrops to take in, as well as being the backdrop for some Game of Thrones scenes. You can spend days hiking the Causeway Coast and, while parts of it are challenging, the hike between Ballintoy and Portbraddan is a smaller segment that’s perfect for beginners and can be completed in a couple of hours.

Trails for experienced hikers

If you’re an experienced hiker, you might be looking for something a little more adventurous, whether that’s reaching the peak of a mountain or a multi-day hike. You may even be thinking about ticking off a bucket list item with a hike. Here are four options to add to your list.

1. Hadrian’s Wall, northern England

Why not walk coast to coast across Britain? At 84 miles long, Hadrian’s Wall is a great option for a multi-day hike that will take you from one end of Britain to the other as you follow the UNESCO World Heritage Site and pass through some of the most beautiful parts of northern England. Most of the route is relatively gentle but there are sections with climbs and descents, and certain sections can become very busy, especially during the summer months.

2. The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

This hike offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland. It’s a relatively short walk but lava and glaciers have sculpted the land, leading to beautiful terrain that can be challenging with its rocky paths and ascents. It won’t be the longest hike you ever do, but the view will ensure it’s one you remember. The walk will take you past distinctive landmarks like The Needle, a jagged pinnacle, and The Prison, a rocky peak that some say looks like a medieval keep.

3. South Downs Way

If you’re looking for a long multi-day hike, heading to the South Downs Way is perfect. At 100 miles long, this National Trail takes you on the old routes and droveways along the chalk escarpments and ridges of the South Downs. You don’t have to venture far to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. Along the way, you’ll find signs of pre-historic landscapes and pretty villages, and you might be lucky enough to spot wildlife as you pass through five National Nature Reserves. The route is relatively easy, but this is a good option if you’re looking for a distance challenge.

4. Ben Macdui, Cairngorms National Park

The Ben Macdui trail is an 11-mile loop trail that’s rated as “difficult”. Ben Macdui is the highest mountain in the Cairngorm Mountains and the second highest in Britain. Scaling it allows you to take in the Cairngorms plateau. The path comes close to some steep drops, so it’s important you’re steady on your feet. It can also be difficult to navigate the plateau, especially in winter weather. Much of the walk takes you above the treeline for fantastic views and once you reach the top, you’ll be able to look out across the mountain passes.

What is pension tax relief? How it can help you reach retirement goals

There are many excellent reasons to save into a pension. One of them is the tax relief you benefit from, but many pension savers are overlooking this valuable boost to retirement savings.

According to a Royal London survey, just 15% of people fully understand how tax relief on pensions is paid. Importantly, once people had a better understanding of how pensions tax relief works, 25% were more likely to increase pension contributions. Tax relief can help boost your savings and put you on a path to a more comfortable retirement.

What is pension tax relief?

Pension tax relief is offered to encourage more workers to save for their retirement.

When you contribute to a pension, some of the money you would have paid in tax on your earnings goes into your pension rather than to the government. Tax relief is paid at the highest level of Income Tax you pay:

  • Basic-rate taxpayers receive 20%
  • Higher-rate taxpayers receive 40%
  • Additional-rate taxpayers receive 45%.

In Scotland, the tax bands are slightly different and affect how much tax relief you receive:

  • Starter-rate taxpayers receive 20%
  • Basic-rate taxpayers receive 20%
  • Intermediate-rate taxpayers receive 21%
  • Higher-rate taxpayers receive 41%
  • Top-rate taxpayers receive 46%.

If you wanted to add £100 to your pension, tax relief means you wouldn’t need to take the full amount out of your own income or savings. If you’re a basic-rate taxpayer, you can add £80, and the government boost will mean an extra £20 is added, as this is the amount that you would have paid in tax when receiving your income.

Higher-rate and additional-rate taxpayers would only need to add £60 and £55, respectively, to their pension to benefit from a £100 boost.

Tax relief is a useful way for making your retirement savings go further and can mean you’re able to look forward to a far more comfortable retirement. Tax relief is one of the reasons that adding money to a pension is a tax-efficient way to save for the long term.

The relief you receive will usually be invested through your pension, helping it to grow even further, along with your and your employer’s contributions.

How do you receive pension tax relief?

Usually, your pension provider will automatically send a request to HMRC for 20% tax relief, but you will need to complete a self-assessment tax return to receive your full entitlement if you’re a higher- or additional-rate taxpayer. It’s worth reviewing your pension contributions and tax relief to ensure you’re receiving your full tax relief.

2 pension tax relief allowances you need to be aware of

While tax relief is valuable, two allowances limit how much you can place into your pension while benefiting from tax relief.

1. Annual Allowance

The Annual Allowance is the amount you can save into your pension each tax year while still benefiting from tax relief.

The maximum Annual Allowance is £40,000 or 100% of your annual earnings. However, if you earn more than certain thresholds, your annual allowance will reduce under the tapered Annual Allowance. These thresholds are:

  • £200,000 threshold income (your net income for the year, including salary, bonus, etc.)
  • £240,000 adjusted income (your income, plus the value of your or any employer pension contributions).

For every £2 you exceed these thresholds, your Annual Allowance is reduced by £1. The maximum deduction is £36,000, meaning some high earners are left with an Annual Allowance of just £4,000 per tax year.

If you’ve already started drawing an income from your pension, you may be affected by the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA). This will reduce your Annual Allowance to £4,000.

It’s important you understand what your Annual Allowance is to make the most of your pension contributions and avoid unexpected tax bills. If you have any questions, please contact us.

2. Lifetime Allowance

The Lifetime Allowance is the total amount you can save into your pension while still benefiting from tax relief.

The Lifetime Allowance is currently £1,073,100. This may seem like a lot, but it can be easier to exceed than you think. The Lifetime Allowance applies to the total value of your pension, including your contributions, employer contributions, tax relief, and investment returns. Over decades of working, you may be closer than you think to the allowance.

You can still add to your pension if you exceed these limits, but you could find yourself with an unexpected bill. In some cases, it still makes financial sense to contribute to your pension. For example, your investments will still grow free from Capital Gains Tax, and your pension scheme may offer auxiliary benefits, like a spouse pension, that are valuable to you. In other circumstances, it may make more sense to invest or save your money elsewhere.

If you’d like to discuss how pension tax relief can help you build up your retirement savings or whether you’re close to exceeding your allowances, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

Should you take a tax-free lump sum from your pension to celebrate retirement in style?

What are your plans for your first few years of retirement? Being able to take a tax-free lump sum from your pension can open up a whole host of possibilities. But would you be better off leaving your money invested?

When Pension Freedoms were introduced in 2015, it gave retirees more flexibility. One of the benefits introduced was the ability to take up to 25% of your pension without paying Income Tax on it once you reach 55, rising to 57 in 2028. It’s certainly an attractive option and can mean you have the cash to turn your retirement dreams into a reality. From undertaking home renovations to travelling the world, you could start your retirement in the style you want by taking a lump sum.

It’s an option that proved popular among retirees. According to Financial Conduct Authority data, between October 2019 and March 2020, £3.8 billion was withdrawn from pensions as tax-free cash. While it can be tempting to take the money on offer, there are a couple of questions to consider first.

1. What do you plan to do with the money?

The first thing to think about is what you would do with the money if you did take the tax-free lump sum.

Whether you want to book a once in a lifetime trip or lend a helping hand to family members, setting out where the money will go can help you understand if it’s something you want to pursue. In some cases, there may be alternative ways to fund your plans, allowing you to leave your pension untouched.

Some people take their tax-free lump sum without any plans to use the money. It can be tempting to take the lump sum simply because it’s available to save for a rainy day. However, adding a lump sum to a savings account means it’s likely to lose value in real terms. Interest rates are lower than inflation, so the spending power of the money will decrease over time.

You may also consider withdrawing the money to invest it. However, keep in mind that your pension is usually invested and is a tax-efficient way to save for retirement.

2. How will it affect your long-term income?

While you may be thinking about kickstarting retirement by ticking off bucket list items by using your tax-free lump sum, you need to look at the bigger picture too. You save into a pension to create an income throughout retirement, not just those first few years.

Taking a quarter of your pension to spend from the outset can have a huge impact on the income your pension will deliver for the rest of your life. As a result, it’s important to consider the pension lump sum in the context of your wider retirement plans and ask questions like:

  • How long does my pension income need to last?
  • What income do I need throughout retirement?
  • Do I have a buffer in case of the unexpected?

It can be difficult to understand how taking a lump sum now could affect your income in 20 years. Financial planning can help you weigh up the long-term impact of the decisions you make now. In many cases, clients find they can afford to pay for retirement goals and have financial security, but reviewing your financial plan before you take a lump sum out of your pension means you can have confidence and fully enjoy the experiences you’re looking forward to.

Taking your tax-free lump sum at 55 isn’t your only option

You don’t have to take your tax-free lump sum as soon as you reach retirement age to use it.

You can leave your pension untouched and take the tax-free lump sum at a date that makes sense for you. This way, your pension remains invested and has the potential to continue growing. While you can access your pension at 55, you may not be ready to retire for a decade or more. An extra 10 years of investment returns on the lump sum you could have withdrawn can have a real impact on the size of your pension when you retire.

What’s more, you can spread out the tax-free benefit too. Rather than taking a single tax-free lump sum, you can withdraw multiple lump sums, of which 25% of each is tax-free. For some, this can help manage your tax liability and ensure your income suits your needs.

So, there’s one than one way to take advantage of the tax-free lump sum when accessing your pension. If you’re thinking about making a withdrawal from your pension and you’d like to discuss which option makes sense with your retirement goals in mind, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

State Pension triple lock: Could the pandemic mean a bumper rise?

Every year, the State Pension triple lock is debated. The government has already ruled out scrapping the State Pension guarantee, but the pandemic could mean it costs far more than expected. If you’re a pensioner, you could see your income enjoy a record rise.

What is the State Pension triple lock?

The triple lock guarantees that the State Pension will rise each tax year. This helps to preserve the spending power of pensioners as inflation means the cost of living rises.

The State Pension will rise by the greatest of these three measures:

  • Average earnings growth
  • Inflation, as measured by the consumer price index
  • 2.5%.

When calculating for the 2021/22 tax year, the 2.5% measure was the greatest. So, those receiving the full State Pension saw their income from it rise from £175.20 each week to £179.60. Over the year that adds up to an extra £228.80 a year. That may not seem like a lot, but the triple lock is important for ensuring pensioners can maintain their standard of living. Over the long term, inflation would have a serious impact on spending power.

Maintaining the triple lock was a Conservative manifesto pledge but there has been speculation that it will be scrapped or changed. However, a government spokesperson confirmed in June that they remained “committed to the triple lock”, according to a Reuters report.

What has the pandemic got to do with the triple lock?

The pandemic means the government could face a far larger bill to maintain its triple lock pledge.

During the pandemic, lockdowns affected average earnings. This means as millions of people return to work, take-home pay has increased significantly and has skewed official data. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), April 2021’s pay growth was 8.4% when compared to a year earlier. The ONS notes that the average pay growth rate has been affected upwards by Covid-19 lockdowns.

As a result, pensioners could be on course to receive a record increase to their pension for the 2022/23 tax year. The Telegraph estimates that it could cost the government £7 billion to meet its triple lock commitment if the State Pension rises 8.4%, around £5 billion more than the minimum 2.5% increase would cost.

For pensioners receiving the full State Pension, an 8.4% increase would mean their income rises to £194.68 a week and their annual income increases by £784.16. To put that rise into perspective, the triple lock was introduced in 2010 and since then the largest annual increase has been 5.2% in 2012.

Government backbenchers call for amends to be made

While the government has reaffirmed its commitment to the triple lock, some MPs are calling for the way the rise is calculated to be amended for one year.

They state that the ONS figures are distorted, as in reality many workers have faced pays cuts and job insecurity over the last year. Speaking to the Telegraph, Nigel Mills, chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on pensions, said: “The triple lock wasn’t meant to be based on artificially out of line earnings data.”

Instead, he proposes calculating a two-year average earnings figure to smooth out the “artificial spikes”. The chancellor plays a key role in the decisions, and with a need to balance the books against pandemic borrowing, it could be something Rishi Sunak considers. A final verdict isn’t expected to be made until November.

Maintaining your spending power in retirement

Considering how your spending needs will change throughout retirement is important. Inflation means you need to consider how your outgoings will change over a retirement that could last several decades. The triple lock helps to protect your State Pension income, but that’s likely to be just a small portion of overall income; what about the rest?

There are things you can do to help ensure your retirement income continues to keep up with inflation. When purchasing an annuity, for instance, you can opt for one that increases each year. Or if you’re accessing your pension flexibly, managing investments can provide an opportunity for savings to grow to match inflation, but there are risks to consider too.

If you’d like to discuss how to make sure your pension and other assets can provide an income throughout retirement, even as the cost of living rises, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

7 things you need to do this Pension Awareness Day

Pension Awareness Day is just around the corner and is the perfect time to review your pension to make sure you’re getting the most out of it. So, ahead of 15 September, here are seven things you can do to get your pension into shape.

1. Check your pension savings

Start by looking at the headline figure; how much do you have in your pension? And how is it forecast to change?

Being able to see how your pension is growing and the forecast value at retirement can help you keep motivated and understand if you’re on track. As well as having a lump sum in mind when evaluating your pension, it’s important to understand how this will translate into an income in retirement. You may have a goal to save £300,000, but what will that mean for your lifestyle? This is a question financial planning can help you answer.

2. Take a look at your pension’s performance

As your pension is invested over the long term, assessing performance is important. It could have an impact on the retirement lifestyle you can look forward to. When reviewing your pension, keep a long-term view. Rather than focussing on how the value of your pension has changed in the last month or even year, look at the bigger picture. Investing means your savings will be exposed to some short-term volatility, what’s important is the overall trend.

If you’re not sure how your pension has performed or if changes would make sense for you, please contact us.

3. Review how your money is invested

Do you know how your pension is invested? By investing your retirement savings, there is an opportunity for the money to grow over the long term. Pension providers will usually offer several fund options for you to choose from. However, if you’ve never looked at how your pension is invested, it’s likely your money is in the default fund.

For some savers, this will be the right fund option for them, but it’s something you should check. The funds on offer will cover a range of risk profiles and some may incorporate ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues.

4. Find out when your retirement date is

Your pension provider will set a retirement date for you. This will be used as part of your pension forecast but it may also be used to inform how your pension is invested. For example, some providers will start to reduce the amount of investment risk you’re taking as you approach your retirement date.

Make sure the assumption your provider has made is correct, it could affect your pension’s performance and whether decisions suit your plans.

5. Speak to your employer about the pension incentives they offer

Most employees will now benefit from employers contributing to their pension at a minimum rate of 3% of pensionable earnings. However, many employers offer additional incentives that you could take advantage of.

Some employers, for instance, may increase the amount they contribute if you increase your own contributions. Alternatively, a salary sacrifice scheme could mean you end up with far more in your pension. It’s worth reviewing what your employer offers and if it can help you create a more secure retirement.

6. Check if you’re receiving the correct amount of tax relief

Tax relief provides a boost to your pension contributions to encourage saving. Essentially, the government adds some of the money you would have paid in Income Tax to your pension when you contribute. Tax relief is given at your nominal Income Tax rate.

In most cases, a basic-rate taxpayer’s tax relief is automatically claimed by the pension provider. However, this isn’t always the case and if you’re a higher- or additional- rate taxpayer, you need to fill in a self-assessment form to claim your full entitlement.

7. Rediscover any “lost” pensions

Losing a pension is easier than you might think. Moving homes or switching jobs can mean you end up with pensions that you’ve forgotten about. Take some time to review all your workplace pensions and ensure providers have the correct details.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimated there were 1.6 million “lost” pensions in 2020 with a total value of £19.4 billion. One of the reasons for this is that just 1 in 25 people think to tell their pension provider when they move home. Even a small pension pot can help to boost your savings. The government’s pension tracing service can help you find lost pensions.

If you discover forgotten pension savings, you may want to consider consolidating them. It can help make it easier to keep track of your retirement savings and reduce fees. However, there are drawbacks to consider too, we’re here to discuss your options.

If you’d like to review your pension and make sure you’re on track for the retirement you want, please get in touch. We’ll help you understand the lifestyle your pension will offer and whether you’re getting the most out of your savings.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

July

7 apps to give your brain a workout

If someone mentions getting into shape, you probably think of exercising, getting outdoors and eating better. But a mental workout is just as important for your health.

Just a few minutes a day can help keep your brain healthy and your mind sharp. With so many apps available on smartphones, there are plenty of ways to start building positive habits with just a few taps. If you’re looking for ways to train your brain, these apps can provide a fun place to start.

1. Lumosity

Lumosity has been around for a decade and has become a popular app. It includes a series of mini-games to get your brain working. The games are split into categories including speed, memory, attention, flexibility, problem-solving, word, and maths. The variety of colourful games means you can focus on a particular area or create a workout that covers them all. The app can also create a daily programme for you and will track your scores to show how you’ve improved.

The app will start with a fit test to provide you with a baseline and then provide three quick games every day to make it easy to fit into your daily routine. You can use the app across multiple platforms, from your mobile to a desktop computer. While there is a free version of Lumosity, to unlock all the games and features, there is a monthly subscription.

2. Peak

Peak is a slick app containing an assortment of mini-games that are designed to push your cognitive skills. Again, these exercises are broken down into several subjects ranging from mental agility to language. There are more than 30 games to choose from in total to ensure your daily workout remains fun and fresh. Each day you can log in to complete a daily set of games that promise to get you thinking. You can also set goals and the app will provide challenges that link to them.

The app provides you with plenty of statistics to track your progress too. Not only does it let you see your own brain map but lets you compare it to your friends, your age group, and others that work in your industry. There’s plenty to keep your focus on the free version of Peak but you can choose to upgrade your membership for a monthly fee.

3. Happify

Happify is a little different to other apps that focus on boosting your speed and concentrating. Instead, it delivers a series of games that were developed to improve mindfulness and help users overcome negative thoughts and stress. It aims to help you break old, potentially negative, habits and take control of feelings and thoughts.

The app is free and includes games to play, as well as meditations. With over 65 tracks designed to improve mental health, this is a brain training app that can boost your emotional wellbeing. One of the interesting features is a huge report on character strength, which outlines which of the 24 identified strengths, from creativity to leadership, are most essential to who you are.

4. Elevate

Elevate’s series of games are designed to improve your focus, processing speed, and more as you go through a personalised daily exercise. As well as helping you to develop particular skills, the app also aims to boost self-confidence and productivity that could benefit you.

The app logs your streaks and scores on a calendar encouraging you to log on daily. There are over 30 games that become more difficult as your scores rise. The app offers a basic version for free, which limits the number of games you can play each day, and an enhanced version, which you’ll need to pay for. The pro subscription unlocks more games and lets you play them as often as you want.

5. Not the Hole Story

Not the Hole Story can get you thinking by figuring out the answer to lateral puzzles and more. If you like solving riddles, this is a great app for you to download. The app can broaden the way you think and how you approach problems as you work your way through the challenges.

If you’re struggling to complete a riddle, the app will provide a series of hints that allow you to improve your skills over time. It’s a great option for completing puzzles with someone else or sharing the riddles with family and friends to see if they can solve them faster than you.

6.  Fit Brains Trainer

Fits Brains Trainer is a bold and colourful addition to brain workout apps. As with the above apps, it provides a series of games that can help to improve areas like concentration and memory. One key difference is that it includes an emotional intelligence training function. Some of the games focus on building skills like self-control, perseverance and people skills, providing users with a chance to improve their emotional control. As with the other apps, you can log your results to see your progress to motivate you to stick to a daily workout plan.

As with some of the other apps, you can complete the exercise on your smartphone or log in to your computer and a subscription unlocks more features for you to try.

7. Sudoku

While there isn’t just one Sudoku app, there are plenty of free options for you to download to complete these number puzzles. Sudoku can really get you thinking and boost your logic skills in the process as you work out which number belongs in each tile. The puzzles have been around for decades but started to become popular around the world in the 2000s.

Beginner Sudoku puzzles can be completed in minutes giving you a quick workout each day, while the more challenging ones can take some time to puzzle out. It means you can set the level of difficulty you want and there’s definitely a sense of satisfaction when you complete a particularly challenging one.

Everything you need to know about financially supporting children through university

It’s that time of the year when thousands of teenagers across the country are waiting to find out if they’ve been accepted to university. As your child or grandchild starts the next chapter of their life, it’s natural to feel some concern as well as pride in their achievements. Understanding what university means financially can help put some of your worries to rest.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, there are over 2.5 million students, with about 1.7 million studying for their first degree. It’s a figure that’s risen over the years as more young people go to university to further their education. However, it does mean that more teenagers are taking on the cost of fees and living independently so it’s important to manage finances.

For most students, student loans will play a key role in being able to afford their course and lifestyle costs.

Student loans: How do they work?

For the 2021/22 academic year, full-time UK undergraduate students will pay a maximum of £9,250 for their course. Over a typical three-year course, that adds up to £27,750. This can be covered by a student loan.

On top of this, students may need to take out a maintenance loan to cover living costs. For students living away from home, they can borrow £9,488 for each academic year (£12,382 when studying in London).

If your child took out the full tuition and maintenance loan each year for a three-year course, it’d add up to £56,214. That can seem like a daunting amount of debt to graduate with. However, student loans don’t work in the same way as a traditional loan.

Students going to university this year to study for an undergraduate degree will be part of “plan 2”. This means they won’t need to start paying back their student loan until they earn more than £2,274 a month (£27,288 a year). Once they exceed this threshold, the amount paid towards a student loan is fixed at 9%.

So, if they earn an income of £35,000, they will pay 9% of their salary over the threshold to pay off the loan; £57.70 a month. As a result, paying back student loans can be manageable and may be viewed more like a “graduate tax” rather than a traditional loan.

What’s more, the student loan will be written off after 30 years if the full amount hasn’t been repaid.

Do children or grandchildren still need financial support after taking out a student loan?

While student loans aren’t prohibitive for most wanting to pursue further education, studying can still be a financial struggle.

According to Save the Student, the average student’s living costs are £795 a month and more than half of this (£418) goes on rent. As a result, many could struggle to make ends meet if they’re relying on the maintenance loan alone.

Students may need to get a part-time job to support themselves or rely on support from family. So, if you want to help, what can you do?

There are many ways you can financially support children through university. If you have the funds to provide a lump sum, paying rental accommodation can be a huge weight off their mind. Alternatively, providing a reliable income to cover essentials or paying for course materials can help them budget more effectively. If you’re in a position to offer financial support, it can mean your child or grandchild can focus on studying.

While you may want to offer financial support, it’s important you understand the implications of doing so. Would paying for accommodation affect your long-term plans, for example? If you’re unsure what support you can offer or where to withdraw money from, making your child or grandchild’s education part of your financial plan can give you the confidence to proceed.

Preparing teenagers for financial independence

Even if you’ll be providing financial support, passing on financial education is an important step when teenagers go to university. For many, it will be the first time they’re expected to budget, manage bills, and take control financially. That can be a daunting prospect. It’s also common for students to be offered overdrafts and credits cards, so it’s important they understand how they work.

Spending some time talking about the basics of finances can ensure your child or grandchild is equipped to handle their own money at university. The maintenance loan, for instance, is deposited in a student’s account three times a year and they’ll then need to budget to ensure it lasts several months. Setting out a basic spending plan and going over the bills they need to consider each month can help them keep track and ensure they don’t spend too much too soon.

Do you want to support a child through further education? Whether they’re going to university this autumn or it’s still several years away, we can help make it part of your financial plan. Please contact us to talk about your goals.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

ESG investing: The impact climate change could have on your investments

Last month, leaders of the G7 nations gathered in Cornwall for a summit. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic was top of the agenda, but climate change also featured prominently. As countries reaffirm their support for limiting climate change, it could affect businesses and, in turn, investors.

All seven G7 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US – reaffirmed their support for reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This means that equivalent of emitted greenhouse gasses will be either offset or sequestered. It’s a step that aims to balance carbon emissions to reduce the impact of climate change.

The Cornwall summit comes just six months before the UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow. COPs bring together almost every country on earth for a climate summit. From 31 October, 190 world leaders, along with tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, and businesses will take part in 12 days of talks. During the COP, countries will update their plans for reducing emissions.

At COP 21, hosted in Paris in 2015, every country agreed to work together to limit global warming. This is known as the Paris Agreement. However, the commitments laid out have not come close to reaching the goal. As a result, COP 26 has more urgency than ever. Among the targets of the summit are:

  • Accelerating the phase-out of coal
  • Curtailing deforestation
  • Stepping up the switch to electric vehicles
  • Encouraging investment in renewals.

How could this affect your investments?

As governments around the world take action, some companies could find measures designed to limit climate change have a negative effect on them. For example, companies that operate within the coal industry could find their profits start to fall if they aren’t proactive in securing other sources of income as coal is phased out.

Governmental policy can and does have an impact on business profitability. With climate change uniting countries around the world, businesses that fail to consider incoming policy and sentiments may suffer.

It’s not just your investment portfolio that could be affected either. As your pension is usually invested over your working life, climate risks could have an impact on your retirement savings. It’s a challenge that The Pensions Regulator has recently drawn attention to. The organisation called on pension trustees to act now to protect savers from climate risk.

David Fairs, The Pensions Regulator’s executive director of regulatory policy, analysis and advice, said: “Driving trustee action on the risk and opportunities from climate change will create better outcomes in later life for workplace savers.”

He continued that pension schemes need to devote more time to integrating the consideration of climate change right across the decision-making process.

So, how do you reflect climate risks in your portfolio?

Understanding which businesses pose a climate risk can be time-consuming and complex. Multinational companies are complicated and while one area of the business poses a climate risk, others may not. The good news is that more institutions are publicising their investment decisions around climate risks, making it easier for you to invest in a way that reflects climate concerns.

Some investment funds already have clear climate policies and may restrict what companies they invest in, or actively seek to invest in firms that are taking positive action.

As climate action continues, there will likely be more funds that consider climate risk in some way, providing investors with more choice. Likewise, companies will seek to reduce their impact on climate change if it could harm their profits and operations. So, while considering climate risk may seem like a relatively new concept now, it could become one that’s commonplace as the COP goals draw nearer.

Action on climate change presents opportunities too

As well as climate risk, governments taking more action presents investors with opportunities. For instance, among the targets are encouraging electrical vehicle uptake and investment in renewables. With a focus on developing these areas, they could present an opportunity to climate-conscious investors to support emission goals and make a return.

Of course, there are no guarantees when investing. Investing in green technologies and innovations doesn’t mean you’ll receive returns. You should still take all the usual steps you do when investing, including assessing the risks and how they’ll fit into your overall portfolio.

Considering climate change is just one very small part of ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investing but it could help you manage risks and seek opportunities. If you’d like to discuss how you can incorporate ESG factors into your portfolio, including climate change, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Is £26,000 the secret to a happy retirement?

How much do you need to live the retirement lifestyle you want? It’s a question that’s on the mind of many people as they near their retirement date. Now research suggests that couples need an income of £26,000 to live comfortably, but if you want some luxurious extras, that needs to rise to £41,000.

Which? surveyed nearly 7,000 retirees to understand what they spend their money on and how it impacts the lifestyle they lead. The responses were split into three lifestyle categories – essential, comfortable, and luxury. The table below highlights the annual income you’d need to secure these lifestyles.

  One-person household Two-person household
Essential £13,000 £18,000
Comfortable £19,000 £26,000
Luxury £31,000 £41,000

 

In retirement, you’re probably hoping to live in comfort, with a few luxuries that mean you’re able to enjoy your time. So how do these sums relate to the lifestyle you can expect?

With a £26,000 a year income, the research suggests a couple will be able to pay for all the essentials, like utility bills, insurance, and household goods, with some left over for treats. This includes a £4,644 budget to spend on European travel and holidays, £1,476 for recreation and leisure, and £1,332 to make charitable donations.

The luxurious budget of £41,000 estimates you’ll have enough to splash out £7,620 a year on long-haul holidays, £4,861 to pay for a new car, and £1,128 on expensive meals out on top of the treats in the comfortable income bracket.

How much do you need to save to secure a £26,000 income in retirement?

The first thing to remember is that your full retirement income is unlikely to come from your personal and workplace pensions. Your State Pension can make up a significant portion and help you cover the essentials.

If you have 35 years of National Insurance Contributions on your record, you’re entitled to the full State Pension. For the 2021/22 tax year, the full State Pension adds up to £9,339.20 a year. Keep in mind that the State Pension Age may not align with when you want to retire. The State Pension Age is currently 66 and will reach 67 by 2028. As a result, if you want to retire before this age, you’ll need to draw a larger income from your pension to meet goals to begin with.

You can supplement your State Pension from a variety of sources, such as your savings, investments, or properties, but pensions will play a central role for most people.

If you have a defined benefit (DB) pension, you’ll know what annual income you can expect when you reach retirement age. However, if you have a defined contribution (DC) pension, your pension forecast will be a lump sum that you’ll need to take an income from throughout retirement. If you have a DC pension, it’s important that you understand how it’ll translate into an income.

Which? estimates that a couple would need pensions worth around £155,000 alongside their State Pension to produce an income of £26,000 when taking a flexible income. This rises to £442,000 to fund a luxury lifestyle. For a one-person household, the figures are £192, 290 and £305,710, respectively.

However, the above calculations make certain assumptions. For example, that your pensions only need to last 20 years. As life expectancy rises, you may spend far longer than two decades in retirement. It also assumes an investment growth rate of 3% a year. If you decide to take a flexible income, investment performance can affect your long-term income and you’ll need to manage withdrawals.

The only way to achieve a reliable income if you have a DC pension is to purchase an annuity. An annuity will pay out a regular income throughout your life and can provide long-term peace of mind. To purchase an annuity, couples would need pensions worth £265,000 and £757,000 to reach the comfortable and luxurious goals, respectively.

How much do you need in retirement?

While the research provides a useful benchmark when saving into a pension, your lifestyle goals may mean a very different income is needed to support you throughout retirement.

Both the comfortable and luxurious budgets include housing payments to cover rent or a mortgage of £3,240 a year. In retirement you may not need to include these in your plan, allowing you to achieve these lifestyles with less money. On the other hand, you may plan to spend more travelling or on your hobbies than the research estimates.

Setting out what you want your retirement to look like, even if it’s years away, can help you set a pension goal that will help you turn your dreams into a reality. If you’d like to discuss what your pension means for your retirement, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

Developers snap up urban properties for retirement villages: The pros and cons of retirement property

City and town centres have been hugely impacted by the pandemic. While the number of offices may dwindle, property developers are reportedly snapping up urban developments to turn them into retirement villages. It could offer retirees considering these types of properties far more choice.

While moving out of your home and into a retirement village can fill some with dread, today’s retirees have more options than a traditional nursing home. A retirement village can provide security, access to a range of facilities, and a community, but they’re not the right option for everyone.

Retirement villages might usually be associated with getting away from the hustle and bustle of urban centres, but some developers plan to use vacant retail and office sites to build new apartment blocks, according to a Guardian report. If you enjoy living in an urban location it can make local amenities, from shops to entertainment attractions more accessible in your later years. It could also help to regenerate town and city centres after a challenging year.

Retirement villages aren’t a new concept, but they’ve evolved over the years. They are simply housing developments built especially for older buyers. The properties could be houses, bungalows, or apartments. They usually come with communal areas and it’s these spaces that have developed over the years. As well as dining rooms, some retirement villages now offer onsite amenities like swimming pools and restaurants. Often there will be an onsite manager to provide extra support if it’s needed.

So, what are the pros and cons of retirement villages?

The pros of living in a retirement village

Properties are built with older people in mind

Your current home may be suitable for you now, but will it be in 20 years? Properties within retirement villages are built with older people in mind to provide a comfortable place to live in your later years. This may mean they are more accessible should you need to use a wheelchair in the future, or the bathroom already has mobility features in place to help you live independently.

They can provide a community with facilities in your later years

Retirement villages offer more than just a home; they also offer a community for you to be part of. Other residents provide an opportunity to make new friends and be involved in clubs that interest you. Many retirement villages have onsite facilities to support a community feeling that you can enjoy.

Many sites offer additional support and care options

If you’re worried about how you’ll cope in your later years, a retirement village can offer peace of mind. There will usually be a site manager and staff who can offer additional support and, in some cases, care services can also be provided in your new home.

Property maintenance is usually taken care of

If you buy a property within a retirement village, you won’t usually need to worry about things like repairing a leaking roof or maintaining the garden. There will typically be a team to take care of this on your behalf, meaning you can focus on enjoying your free time.

The cons of living in a retirement village

The community has a lack of diversity

While many retirement villages benefit from guest facilities so your friends and family can stay, the community will be made up of other retirees. While some will see this as a benefit, the lack of diversity can mean it’s not the right decision for some people.

Properties in retirement villages are usually leasehold

In most cases, retirement villages sell properties that are leasehold. This means you own the property, but not the land it’s built on. Instead, you have ownership of the property for a set period that’s defined in the lease. This means you’ll need to pay ground rent and service charges, so you need to consider how this will affect your retirement income. It could also impact the legacy you leave behind for loved ones.

You could face exit fees

There are many reasons why you may want to sell your property within a retirement village. In some cases, doing so will mean you face an exit fee. It’s important you read the small print before purchasing a retirement property to ensure you understand all the potential costs and keep in mind that your situation and wishes could change.

Retirement properties can be more difficult to sell

While there is a demand for retirement properties, there will be restrictions on who you can sell to. For example, buyers may have to be over 55 and this naturally limits the number of potential buyers. As a result, it can make a retirement property more difficult to sell than a traditional home.

If you’re thinking about buying a property in a retirement village, you need to consider your lifestyle goals and how your finances will support your decision. If you’d like to make purchasing a retirement property part of your financial plan, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

What to consider if you’re worried about retiring with debt

When you think about retiring, you probably imagine you won’t have any debt. While retirees may have traditionally cleared their credit cards and paid off the mortgage, those nearing retirement today are facing more challenges. Nearing your planned retirement age with debt can be worrisome, but it doesn’t mean you have to cancel all your plans.

Changes to work and lifestyles mean it’s now far more common to have debt later in life.

Property is a good example of this. Older generations are likely to have purchased their first home while still in their 20s. This meant they had plenty of time to pay off the mortgage before they were ready to retire. Today, house prices have soared. The challenges of building up a deposit and being able to afford mortgage repayments mean the average first-time buyer is now in their mid-30s. So, retiring while still paying off your mortgage is more likely.

Similarly, having children later in life and job insecurity may mean you’re nearing your retirement with other forms of debt. There are many reasons why you may still have debt – the important thing to do is create a plan.

Over three-quarters of 45 – 54-year-olds have debt worries

According to Standard Life, the average age of a 2021 retiree is 60. With pensions accessible from the age of 55, rising to 57 in 2028, retirees have more flexibility than ever. While retirement can seem like it’s some way off when you’re 45 – 55, it could be just a matter of years away, and the sooner you start planning, the better.

Some 78% of 45 – 54-year-olds worry about debt, an Aviva survey found. Worryingly, 34% said they do not know how they’ll pay it off and 24% aren’t sure how much their debt adds up to. Covid-19 has exacerbated the issue for many. One in five say their debts have increased in the last year.

If you’re worried about debt, it doesn’t have to mean you need to delay your retirement plans. However, being proactive is crucial. So, if you’re thinking about retirement and the impact debt could have, what should you do?

Review your current situation

Your first step should be to take a step back and assess what debt you have. When it comes to debt, people can be guilty of burying their head in the sand, but ignoring the problem just leaves it for another day.

Understanding how much debt you have, from credit cards to your mortgage, can help you put a practical plan in place. Factor in what you’re doing now to reduce the debt, and how this will impact the level of debt you have when you retire. In some cases, you may find you’re on track to be debt-free in retirement or that a small adjustment now could help you reach that goal.

Remember to look at the level of interest you’re paying. Start by overpaying on any high-interest forms of debt you have and consider switching providers to access a lower interest rate. Some credit cards, for instance, will provide you with a 0% interest period when you transfer a balance, so all your payments go towards reducing the amount owed rather than paying the interest.

If your current situation means you’re likely to retire with debt, here are four options to consider:

1. Continue servicing debt in retirement

You don’t have to be debt-free in retirement, but you do need to ensure you can continue meeting repayments. This means calculating what your retirement income will be. Do you have enough to service debts? How would it affect your retirement plans? For some, carrying debt into retirement makes sense, but you should make sure you look at the bigger picture and what it means for your long-term income and the cost of borrowing.

2. Use your pension to reduce debt

For most people, their pension becomes accessible at 55, rising to 57 in 2028. If you have a defined contribution pension, you can take a flexible income, including lump sums. This could provide you with a way to pay off your debt as you retire. However, there are two important things to consider here.

First, your tax liability. You can usually take a 25% tax-free lump sum from your pension, but additional withdrawals may be subject to Income Tax. As a result, taking out significant lump sums can push you into a higher tax bracket. Second, taking a lump sum out of your pension at the start of retirement can have a long-lasting impact on your income and retirement plans. It’s important you understand these implications before proceeding.

3. Using other assets to pay off debt

While pensions are often associated with retirement, other assets can help you enter the next stage of your life debt-free too. Do you have savings or investments you can draw on to pay off the debt as you retire? Or could you downsize to a new property to release equity that could be used to pay off debt? Don’t just look at your pension but consider how your other assets could be used.

4. Change your retirement plans

Finally, you may need to adjust your retirement plans. For instance, delaying retirement by a couple of years could mean you retire debt-free and can enjoy a more comfortable retirement. To understand if this is the right option for you, you should set out what your priorities are and what you want your retirement lifestyle to look like.

If you’re starting to think about retirement and aren’t sure how existing debt will affect your plans, please contact us. We’re here to help you create a financial plan that matches your goals for retirement.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

July

Guide: 10 simple but effective ways to create a better you

Search the internet and you’ll find a myriad of self-help sites aimed at helping you to improve your life and get the most out of it. Our latest guide explores some practical steps you can take to improve your overall wellbeing now and in the future.

Among the steps that can help create a better you are:

  • Setting out your goals
  • Making your mental wellbeing a priority
  • Spending time on the things you enjoy
  • Getting outdoors
  • Creating a financial plan.

Download “10 simple but effective ways to create a better you” to discover some of the things you can do to improve your life in the short and long term.

June

10 of the best UK beaches to relax on this summer

You don’t have to go abroad to find beautiful scenery. If you want to relax on a beach, heading to Spain or further afield is likely to come to mind first, but the UK is home to some incredible beaches that are perfect for a summer trip.

Travel abroad for a holiday is now allowed and the government’s “green list” sets out destinations you can visit without quarantining when you return home. However, Covid-19 uncertainty remains and the cost of holidays to green list destinations has soared. So, it’s no surprise that more Brits than ever are planning a staycation. If you still want some time at the beach, these ten spots are ideal.

1. Kynance Cove, Cornwall

Cornwall is a staycation hotspot thanks to its stunning coast. Kynance Cove is just one of the local beaches you’ll want to enjoy thanks to its white sand and turquoise water. It’s a busy spot but well worth getting up early for, the dramatic rock formation will make you feel miles away, especially on a sunny day. There are plenty of coves and caves if you’re feeling more adventurous, but make sure you keep an eye on the time and tide.

2. Achmelvich Bay, Scotland

Achmelvich Bay boasts beautiful white sands to relax on that come to life in the summer months. There are plenty of paths to hike along and it is a popular destination for water sports, from water skiing to kayaking, and fishing. If you’re lucky enough, you could also spot porpoise off the coast in the warmer months, as well as other wildlife. If you’re planning a longer trip to explore Scotland, Achmelvich is on the North Coast 500, a road trip route that takes you across Scotland.

3. Holkham Beach, Norfolk

If you’re looking for long, sandy stretches to enjoy, Holkham Beach in Norfolk is perfect. As the tide rises, a spectacular shallow lagoon emerges too. Pinewoods and wildflowers back the beach, offering a beautiful backdrop for walks. It’s also where the closing scenes of Shakespeare in Love were shot, as well as many other films, making it a great place to visit for film buffs.

4. Formby Beach, Liverpool

Formby Beach is one of the gems in Merseyside and is now managed by the National Trust. It boasts extensive sand dunes and sweeping coastal pinewoods. While it’s a great place to relax, it’s also the perfect place to head for a stunning coastal walk. Erosion even means you can find evidence of prehistoric animals and humans here. If you look closely enough at low tide, you can spot footprints dating back to 6000 BC.

5. Blackpool Sands, Devon

From a distance, and despite the name, Blackpool Sands looks like it’s a shady shore, but it is made from smooth pebbles. While sunbathing on the sand may be off the cards here, it means the water is incredibly clear, perfect for taking a dip or getting out on the water on a pontoon or kayak. It’s an award-winning spot that can help you feel like you’ve jetted off on holiday without needing to leave the country.

6. Rhossili Bay, Gower Peninsula

The Gower Peninsula is one of the most picturesque spots in the UK, with plenty of golden sands and small coves. Rhossili Bay is just one of the spots worth visiting, with perfect white sand and limestone cliffs. Despite how beautiful it is, the beach is still unspoilt. At low tide, you can also see the remains of the Helvetia, shipwrecked in 1887, just poking out of the sands.

7. Camber Sands, Sussex

The sandy shores of Camber Sands stretch for nearly five miles, so if you’re looking for space to relax and explore it’s a great place to head. It’s one of the best places to beach comb, so keep your eyes peeled as you stroll across the sand. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at some water sports, including kite surfing. This is another beach where blockbuster films have been shot, including Dunkirk and The Theory of Everything.

8. Berneray Sands, Outer Hebrides

Found on the Isle of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides, Berneray Sands offers incredible views of the mountains of Harris that offer a great backdrop for a day out. While the Outer Hebrides may not boast exotic weather, a Berneray Sands photograph was once mistaken for a Thai resort, showing just why it’s worth a trip.

9. Barafundle Bay, Pembrokeshire

When exploring south-west Wales, Barafundle Bay should be one of the places you visit. You’ll need to walk across the clifftops to reach it, but that means it stays relatively quiet, even during the summer months. If you want to get off the beaten track, you can enjoy turquoise waters that are great for a dip. Be sure to come prepared with food and drinks to make a day of it as there are no facilities on site.

10. Whitby Sands, North Yorkshire

Just a short walk from the town of Whitby, a trip here is perfect for a British seaside experience. With blue waters and sand for miles, it looks like a scene from a postcard; it even has bright beach huts to add to the holiday feeling, especially if you pick up some fish and chips for a walk along the coast.

What you need to know if you’re a Power of Attorney

Taking on the responsibility of becoming a Power of Attorney can be daunting. If you’ve been named a Power of Attorney, whether you’re acting on someone’s behalf now or could do so in the future, understanding what it means is important and can help you make the right decisions.

What does being a Power of Attorney mean?

A Power of Attorney gives someone the ability to make decisions on someone else’s behalf if they lose the mental capacity to do so. This could be due to a range of reasons, such as dementia or a serious accident.

By naming a Power of Attorney, you can ensure someone you trust can make decisions for you and act in your best interests. It’s an important step to take to provide a safety net when it’s needed most.

However, if you’re named as someone’s Power of Attorney, it can be scary to take on this level of responsibility. Understanding what it means and what decisions you’ll need to make can help you feel more comfortable in the role. Here are seven things you need to know if you’re a Power of Attorney.

1. There are 2 types of Power of Attorney

First, there are two different types of Power of Attorney, and you may be named for both or have responsibility for just one area.

A health and welfare Power of Attorney may be required to make decisions about a person’s daily routine, medical care, or life-sustaining treatment. A property and financial affairs Power of Attorney can make decisions relating to money and property, including managing bank accounts or selling a person’s home.

2. A person can name more than 1 Power of Attorney

If you’re a Power of Attorney, you may not be the only person acting on the individual’s behalf. There is no limit on how many Power of Attorneys can be appointed. Individuals can also name replacement attorneys to step in if an original attorney is unwilling to act or becomes unable to do so.

If there is more than one Power of Attorney, it’s important to pay attention to how you can make decisions. You may need to make decisions “jointly”, meaning you must always make and agree on decisions together, or “jointly and severally”, which means attorneys can make decisions on their own as well as together.

In some cases, there will be tasks that must be made together, such as selling property, while others can be made separately. The person naming a Power of Attorney must set out how they want you to work.

3. There may be restrictions on what you can do

When naming a Power of Attorney, a person can set out restrictions and conditions, which are legally binding. These may limit the power that you have and it’s important to understand what they are from the outset. For instance, as a Power of Attorney you may have control over a person’s bank account and their bills, but not have the authority to sell their home.

4. The individual may also provide guidance

While any guidance provided isn’t legally binding, it can help you understand the person’s wishes and continue to act in their best interest. When naming a Power of Attorney, for example, they may have set out what type of care or medical treatment they’d prefer if they need support.

5. You may be paid for out-of-pocket expenses

Acting on someone’s behalf may incur some expenses, such as postage or photocopying costs, for example. You can claim these expenses back. You should keep an account of these expenses, including relevant receipts. However, it’s important to note you cannot claim for the time spent carrying out your Power of Attorney duties unless you are a professional attorney, like a solicitor.

6. You must act in the best interests of the person

When acting as a Power of Attorney there are certain principles you much follow. You have a legal responsibility to act in the best interests of the individual and take reasonable care when making decisions on their behalf. Where possible, you should also work with the individual to help them make their own decisions, offering practical advice to support them.

7. It is possible to end a Power of Attorney

Being a Power of Attorney isn’t always a commitment until the person passes away. In some cases, a Power of Attorney may be used in the short term. For instance, perhaps the person has been involved in an accident and only needs support until they recover.

You may also decide you no longer want to act as a Power of Attorney and you can step back if you wish to. This is known as “disclaiming”. To do so, you must fill in an LPA 005 form and send this to the donor, the Office of Public Guardian, and any other attorneys.

Acting on the behalf of someone else can be challenging and you may not know which decisions are “right”. We can offer you financial advice and support throughout the process, as well as helping you to set your own affairs in order, including naming a Power of Attorney if necessary. Please contact us to speak to one of our team.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning.

Scam awareness month: What you need to know to spot a pension scam

Have you ever been targeted by a scam? Fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated, and their scams can be hard to spot. This Scam Awareness Month, learning how to protect your pension could safeguard your retirement plans.

According to Action Fraud, in the first three months of 2021, fraudsters took £1.8 million from pensions. Victims have made 107 reports of pension scams during this period. However, this may just be the tip of the iceberg. Some savers that have fallen victim to a scam may not realise it yet or have not reported the crime.

14 million Brits worry about pension scams

If you worry about falling victim to a pension scam, you’re not alone.

Given the huge impact a pension scam can have, it’s not surprising that millions of adults say they fear falling victim to one. An LV= survey revealed that 27%, the equivalent of 14 million people, worry that they may unwittingly fall prey to a pension scam.

Nicola Parish, the Pension Regulator’s executive director of frontline regulation, said: “Pension scams are devastating with victims potentially losing life-changing sums. Savers must be cautious about making decisions about money that may have taken a lifetime to build, as it can be snatched away in an instant.”

Losing some of your pension savings can be devastating as you often cannot recover the loss. It could mean the retirement you’ve worked decades for is no longer possible. It could mean that you have to scale back plans, work for longer, or that you face financial insecurity in your later years. Understanding how pension scams work now can help protect your future.

So, what can you do to protect your pension?

5 things to keep in mind to protect your pension from scammers

1. Be cautious if you’re contacted out of the blue

The LV= survey found that 14% of UK adults have received unsolicited emails, texts, or calls about transferring or releasing money from their pension.

You should treat all contact out of the blue with caution. Cold-calling about pensions is banned, including text messages and emails. Genuine financial advisers or planners that you want to work with will not contact you out of the blue. Scammers may try to entice you with offers like a “free pension review” or “pension liberation” that will allow you to access your pension sooner or reduce tax. These phrases are red flags.

2. Check who you’re speaking to

Even if you’re expecting to be contacted about your pension, you should always check who you’re speaking to. The Financial Conduct Authority register can help you check if the person you’re speaking to is regulated.

Keep in mind that some scammers will use the details of real firms to encourage you to talk to them. Only use the contact details listed on the register and if you’re unsure, hang up and contact the firm directly using these details to check.

3. Understand your pension options

Fraudsters rely on victims not understanding their pensions fully to pull off a scam. For example, pensions are not usually accessible until you are 55 (rising to 57 in 2028) but scammers will often claim they can help you access it earlier. They may also suggest unusual ways to access your pension to minimise the amount of Income Tax due.

Understanding how your pension works and your options when you retire can provide you with the insight needed to spot a scam. If you’d like to discuss how you can access your pension, please contact us.

4. Be cautious of high returns, guarantees, or unusual investments

Investing is a way to grow your wealth and it’s normal to want to get the most out of your investments. However, claims of high returns, especially guaranteed returns, are likely to be a scam. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. All investments come with some risk and returns cannot be guaranteed.

Some scammers will also suggest you withdraw money to invest in unusual assets, such as overseas property or forestry. Keep in mind that your pension savings are usually already invested, and a pension provides a tax-efficient way to do so.

5. Don’t rush into making decisions

Finally, you’ve taken decades to build up your pension pot, so don’t make a snap decision when deciding how or when to access it. Scammers will try to pressure you into making quick decisions, so you don’t have time to think clearly. They may pressure you by offering time-limited deals or even sending a courier to your home with documents. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and ask for some time, a genuine financial adviser will understand.

Sometimes, simply speaking to someone about your plans can make it clear that an opportunity is a scam. If you’re not sure if you’re being approached by a scammer, you can speak to us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Over 55s planning once in a lifetime experiences, but could finances hold back aspirations?

While the mantra might be “life begins at 40”, over 55s are planning to live their life to the fullest as Covid-19 restrictions lift. Retirement might be associated with taking it easy and putting your feet up, but over 55s are planning to explore new places and tick other items off their bucket list in the coming years. However, finances could hold some back.

With more free time and fewer commitments, retirees are finding they have an opportunity to pursue their dreams. According to a Royal London survey, 64% of over 55s are planning to travel more once the pandemic is over, and many others are hoping to tick off once in a lifetime experiences. The survey found the top bucket list items are:

  • Seeing the Northern Lights (53%)
  • Travelling on the Orient Express (42%)
  • Visiting one of the seven wonders of the world (36%)
  • Moving or purchasing a home abroad (25%)
  • Going on safari (22%)
  • Taking a hot air balloon ride (20%)
  • Going to a major sporting event (20%)
  • Driving a supercar (16%)
  • Volunteering for charity (13%)
  • Going to a festival (13%).

How do you want to spend your 50s and 60s?

Thinking about what you want to achieve in your 50s and beyond can set you on the right track for reaching your goals. Whether you want to travel more in the next few years or spend time on a hobby, creating a plan means you’re far more likely to be able to tick off your aspirations and live the lifestyle you want.

Setting out your goals now means you can put a plan in place to achieve them. While the research found over 55s are keen to carry on experiencing new things, it also discovered they could be held back.

Nearly half (43%) of over 55s said they’d regret not achieving their bucket list items. A third (36%) cited lack of money for the reason they haven’t yet achieved goals. For others, work and family commitments, or poor health was holding them back.

Making your goals part of your financial plan can mean you have the confidence to pursue them.

Do you have enough to complete your bucket list?

As you retire, it can be difficult to understand how your assets will create an income. Often, you’ll need to bring together multiple sources of income and consider how your needs will change over decades. As a result, you may not be sure if you’re able to tick off bucket list items without placing your financial security at risk.

Financial planning can help you understand if you have enough to reach all your retirement goals. It can help you understand how all your assets, including pensions, savings, and property, can work together to provide an income in retirement.

However, for those unsure if they have enough for once in a lifetime experiences, the real value of financial planning comes in understanding how their decisions in early retirement will affect the rest of their life. If you withdraw a £30,000 lump sum from your pension to travel the world, would you still have enough for the rest of your retirement? What would happen if you needed care later in life? Would spending now to turn a dream into a reality mean you’d have less choice?

We can help you put these decisions into perspective. Using cashflow modelling, we can help you visualise how spending to complete your bucket list will affect your income in the short and long term. This means you understand the full implications of the decisions you make.

In many cases, we find retirees can meet their goals or that there are steps they can take to release capital from other assets. Financial planning can give you the confidence to pursue your dreams, whether that’s booking an exotic holiday or booking tickets to a sporting event you’ve always wanted to attend.

If you’d like advice as you retire that considers your aspirations, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

How to check if you’re owed anything from the State Pension

You may have seen the recent news that thousands of people have been underpaid by the State Pension. If it’s affected you, it could mean you’ll receive a lump sum and higher State Pension payments in the future. Read on to find out more and how you can check if you’re owed anything.

The State Pension error was first raised by a pension consultancy firm last year. It is the result of complex rules around women’s entitlement under the old State Pension system.

Under the old system, women were entitled to 60% of the basic State Pension their husbands received once they reached the State Pension Age. While women could build up a State Pension in their own right, many had gaps in their National Insurance (NI) record or paid a reduced “married woman’s stamp”. As a result, some women may have retired with little State Pension entitlement of their own. Instead, they relied on their entitlement to their husbands’. But errors mean this hasn’t always happened.

The issue may also have affected widows and divorced women. Widows can substitute their own NI record for their husband’s and qualifying for 100% of the basic State Pension if their husband had a full record. Divorced women could use their ex-husband’s NI record up to the point they split up.

Are you owed some State Pension?

If you’re a woman born before 6 April 1953, you should check to see if you’ve been affected. In most cases, the error has affected women over the age of 80 that are married, divorced, or widowed.

The amount those affected will receive in compensation will depend on their circumstances:

  • If your husband reached State Pension Age after 2008, the pension top-up should have been automatically applied. However, an error in the system means some pension boosts have been overlooked. If this has happened to you, you will receive backdated payments, plus interest.
  • If your husband retired before 2008, you needed to have claimed to receive an enhanced pension. You should have received a letter from the government informing you, but many women say they didn’t receive this. In this case, it will be treated as a new claim for a pension and backdated for just a year. It could mean you lose thousands of pounds.

The average payout is expected to be around £13,500. Some will receive much more than the average. According to a Guardian report, one woman received just 86p a week from the State Pension for more than 12 years and is now owed £42,700.

If you think you’ve been affected, you don’t need to contact the Department of Work and Pensions; they will notify you. However, you may still want to understand if you’re owed something and factor this into your financial plan. If you think your State Pension has been underpaid, you can contact us. We’ll help you make sense of your State Pension and other assets.

What is the government doing to fix the error?

So far, the government has only provided an estimate of the scale of the issue. However, the Department of Work and Pensions expects to pay compensation to tens of thousands of people. It’s estimated the total cost will be around £3 billion.

While the government is taking on more staff to create a dedicated team to resolve the issue, those affected could be waiting until 2023 for an answer. It may take even longer to receive repayments. So, even if you have been affected, it may be some time until you hear from the government and receive the money due.

Keeping track of your State Pension

Even if this error doesn’t affect you, it’s a reminder of why it’s important to understand what you’re entitled to and how you’ll create an income in retirement. The State Pension isn’t enough for most retirees to live on alone, but it provides a foundation. Even a small reduction in the State Pension each week can affect your retirement plans.

You can check your State Pension forecast here, but the rules can be complex and it’s easy for mistakes or miscalculations to occur. We’re here to help you understand your State Pension and how it can provide for you alongside other assets you may have, such as workplace pensions, savings or investments.

If you’d like to discuss your retirement and income, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Why adding your savings to your pension could mean your money goes further

Seven in ten (72%) UK adults have saved money due to the pandemic, but just a fraction plan to add these savings to their pension, according to an LV= survey. While considering short- and medium-term goals is important, making a one-off pension contribution can mean your money goes much further.

Average pandemic savings are almost £5,500 per household

Reduced costs over the last year have meant some households have been able to put the money they’d usually spend on commuting, childcare, or going on holiday into their savings account. On average, these households have been able to put away £5,500 in the last year. Some 8%, the equivalent of 4.4 million households, have saved over £10,000 as a result of Covid-19.

If you’re among the pandemic savers, what do you plan to spend the money on?

While some savers will use the money to cover essentials and improve their financial security, many plan to use it to enhance their lifestyle now. The survey found the most popular plans were:

  1. Pay into savings or a Cash ISA (28%)
  2. Book a holiday (21%)
  3. Home improvements (19%)
  4. Essential everyday living costs and bills (13%)
  5. Essential home or car repairs (12%)
  6. Non-essential everyday living, such as days or meals out (11%)
  7. Pay off debt (10%).

In contrast, just 5% said they’d add their savings to their pension. Even if retirement is some way off, adding a one-off lump sum to your pension could be beneficial and, in fact, could mean your money goes even further.

4 reasons to add your savings to your pension

1. You’ll receive an instant boost from tax relief

When you deposit money into a pension, the government will add some of the money that you would have paid in tax to your retirement savings. Tax relief is paid on your pension contributions, both regular and one-off payments, and the level depends on the rate of Income Tax you pay. A 20% tax relief provides an immediate boost to your savings. If you’re a higher- or additional-rate taxpayer, you can claim more.

2. A pension allows you to invest tax-efficiently

If you’re saving for retirement, a pension is a tax-efficient way to do so. Your money will usually be invested and can grow free from Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax. Instead, you will pay tax when you withdraw money as part of your income in retirement.

3. The compounding effect can help your money grow faster over time

As your money is invested for the long term, you have an opportunity to benefit from the effects of compounding. This is where investment returns are themselves invested to generate additional returns. Over time, it can help your money to grow faster. The longer your money is invested, the longer you’ll have to benefit. However, you need to keep in mind that your savings won’t be accessible until you reach pension age; currently, this is 55 and will rise to 57 in 2028.

4. It can help you create the retirement lifestyle you want

Your retirement lifestyle might not be something you’ve thought about yet, but to achieve the lifestyle you want it’s important to plan early. Even if retirement is decades away, building up your pension now means you’re taking steps to reach goals in your later life, whether you want to retire early, spend time travelling, or are looking forward to spending more time with family.

Is a lump sum pension contribution right for you?

While there are benefits to adding your savings to your pension, it’s not the right option for everyone.

If, for example, you don’t have an emergency fund to fall back, putting the savings in an accessible account can boost your financial security. Or, if your regular pension contributions mean you’re nearing either the pension Annual Allowance or Lifetime Allowance, a one-off contribution could mean an alternative is more suitable. As a result, you should consider your circumstances and goals before depositing money in your pension.

Please contact us to discuss how you can use your pandemic savings to help you achieve goals, whether you’re thinking about retirement or short-term plans.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

April

April Market Commentary

This market commentary has been produced for some time now but March 2021 was the first month when a ship made the headlines. Anyone who watched a news bulletin will have seen the mega-container ship the Ever Green firmly wedged across the Suez Canal. The ship, which is 400m long, was finally re-floated having caused perhaps the most expensive traffic jam in history as it held up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods every day. (more…)

March

March Market Commentary

Welcome to the March Market Commentary: as you will see below, February was a good month for world stock markets with virtually all the major markets moving in the right direction.

It was also the month which saw the rollouts of various vaccines accelerate in many countries. As we write on the morning of March 1st, the Telegraph is reporting that more than 20m people in the UK have now received a first dose of the vaccine, with ‘vaccines for over-40s to start this month.’ (more…)

February

February Market Commentary

It might be appropriate to start January 2021 by looking back at last year. At the start of January 2020, we were fairly sure what we would be writing about, which included the run-up to Brexit on the 31st and a gradual thawing of US/China relations with a long-awaited trade deal due to be signed. (more…)

January

January Market Commentary

2020 has been a year like no other, and yet – as we will see below – the majority of world stock markets have enjoyed a good year. It was also a good year for Joe Biden, who defeated Donald Trump in November’s Presidential election, and for supporters of Brexit.

Finally, some 4½ years after the Referendum a deal was agreed with the European Union, and the UK’s transition period ended on December 31st. (more…)

December

December Market Commentary

Is the end of November a time to celebrate? All the stock markets we cover in the Bulletin made significant gains in the month; the UK’s second national lockdown ends this week and, as we write, Christmas is a little over three weeks away.

Or is the glass half-empty? We’re going to come out of lockdown into far harsher tiers than we’ve previously experienced. There are already dark mutterings of the tiers extending well into the New Year and, for many families, Christmas is going to be very different this year.

(more…)

November

November Market Commentary

The end of October brought plenty of bad news for Western economies as scientists stood in front of graphs and talked of ‘inexorable rises’ and ‘exponential increases.’

Unsurprisingly, stock markets duly took note. We report on 12 major stock markets and only two, India and Hong Kong, were up in October, with all the major Western markets falling. (more…)

October

October Market Commentary

September was a difficult month for world stock markets. It was one of those rare months when none of the markets we report on managed to gain any ground as fears of a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a global sell-off in shares. It was also another month of bickering as tensions continued between India and China (more…)

September

September Market Commentary

August used to be known as the ‘silly season’ – a phrase coined by the Times in 1861 to describe the lack of news in August and early September when parliament was in recess.

Well, there was plenty of news in August 2020. With coronavirus and its effects, the continuing squabbles over Brexit, the US Presidential election and the resignation of the Japanese Prime Minister, the headline writers had more than enough to keep them busy. Objectively, much of the news was gloomy – redundancies continued to pile up, jobs growth in the US stalled and Japan recorded its biggest economic slump on record. (more…)

August

August Market Commentary

If there was one word that characterised July, it was tension. Tension between Beijing and Hong Kong, tension between China and the US, and tension between China and the UK over Huawei. (more…)

July

July Market Commentary

Looking back to the start of last month, June began optimistically as the Space X astronauts reached the International Space Station and ended on an even more upbeat note as Boris Johnson launched a ‘new deal’ for Britain and declared: “This is the moment to be ambitious.” (more…)

June

June Market Commentary

For the second month in a row, we went back to the previous month’s Commentary before we wrote a word. How did we leave April in this rapidly changing world? (more…)

May

Stories to sustain us: Where do you get your energy from?

 

In my post of 12 April 2020 (How long is this sustainable for?) I promised a series of mini-blogs to highlight stories about companies that see the link between the sustainability of their business and that of the planet. I’m giving myself free rein here to look at anything from what big, grown-up companies are doing to get with the programme, to young, earnest start-ups with ground-breaking ideas – and all that comes in between. Happy reading!

 

A sustainable story for today: Walking on solar panels

As ministers from around the world gathered around their computer screens at the end of April for the annual Petersburg Climate Dialogue (intended to be held in Glasgow this year – not confusing at all then), there was much talk of seizing the day. For example, in the UK we haven’t used any coal to make our electricity for over a month and energy generated from renewable sources such as wind has overtaken that from fossil fuels for the first time because a) lockdown has slashed demand and b) apparently it’s been very windy. We know this is only temporary, but still, can we not keep it up? (more…)

Stories to sustain us: It’s plastic, but not as we know it

In my post of 12 April 2020 (How long is this sustainable for?) I promised a series of mini-blogs to highlight stories about companies that see the link between the sustainability of their business and that of the planet. I’m giving myself free rein here to look at anything from what big, grown-up companies are doing to get with the programme, to young, earnest start-ups with ground-breaking ideas – and all that comes in between. Happy reading!

A sustainable story for today: a new kind of plastic

This first one is no more than a snippet about an idea that is still in the development stage. I’ve chosen it because it’s one that inspires hope and shows how taking an interest in sustainable investing is about so much more than finance. (more…)

How long is this sustainable for?

 

The never-endingness of the current situation is prompting Carole to find out more about investing in companies that were already recognising that ‘this can’t go on’

 

So, I’m starting to feel like I’m stuck in a permanent Sunday of my childhood where no shops are open (it was the seventies, you know) and you can’t call for your friends because we are all supposed to be having family time. Even a Groundhog Day scenario seems appealing right now – what with its community gathering and small-animal excitement. So quickly have we become conditioned to the new rules of (dis)engagement that a friend told me she had found herself accidentally social-distancing from her husband in the kitchen. I questioned the “accidentally”. (more…)

May

May Market Commentary

Right now, even a week seems a long time in the news agenda. Remembering the end of March, when we wrote our last Stock Market Bulletin, feels “The figures that follow will not make for pleasant reading,” we wrote. “It is scant consolation that they would have looked much worse in the middle of the month, before governments around the world rushed to put stimulus packages in place to protect their economies and businesses.” (more…)

April

April Market Commentary

In March, the coronavirus outbreak seemed to steal all the headlines, giving us almost hourly updates as it transformed our lives, and made the word ‘unprecedented’ feel like an understatement. Inevitably, there has been a serious impact on world stock markets, which have suffered their worst quarter since 1987. (more…)

March

March Market Commentary

Not the election of Donald Trump, not the US/China trade dispute. Not even Brexit. We cannot recall a single issue having so completely dominated a month’s news – or threatened to have such serious consequences – as the outbreak of Coronavirus in China. (more…)

What can we expect in the Budget?

With the government’s first budget set for 11 March, we wanted to take a look at some of the main measures that are expected to be included. Will the Conservatives adhere to the spending commitments made in their manifesto? Or will they do a u-turn on some? Here are a few of the key areas to look out for: (more…)

February

February Market Commentary

China grabbed the headlines again in January, but this time not for trade. On 31st December, the Chinese authorities had notified the World Health Organisation of an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. Today the country is in lockdown, the death toll is rising fast, the number of infected is rising faster. (more…)

January

January Market Commentary

The end of the decade saw the US/China trade dispute continue to make plenty of headlines. However with Donald Trump signing a long-awaited ‘phase one’ agreement on 15th January, it appears 2020 could see tensions ease. Trump is currently due to travel to China later in the year, where ‘phase two’ of the deal will presumably be concluded. (more…)

December

December Market Commentary

The beginning of November saw the World Trade Organisation authorise China to put $3.6bn (£2.8bn) of tariffs on US goods. The following week it was reported that a potential trade deal between the two countries could see tariffs ‘rolled back’. (more…)

November

November Market Commentary

The beginning of October brought us the Conservative Party conference and a plethora of promises and fiery speeches. Meanwhile world stock markets were tumbling on fears of a global sell-off and the US/Europe tariff war joining the US/China dispute. By the middle of the month President Trump declared himself ‘optimistic’ about trade talks with China. (more…)