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how best to help your grandchildren finacially

Grandchildren & financesBeing a grandparent is an exciting time of life. You get all the enjoyment of doing fun activities with your grandchildren but can hand them back at the end of the day. Part of that pleasure is knowing that you can help them financially. Often you’re at a stage of your life where you’re comfortably off and in a position where you want to give a helping hand to the next generation.

The plus side of this is that you get the opportunity to make a real difference to your grandchildren’s lives. The downside is that the regulations around inheritance tax (IHT) can be confusing and the red tape overwhelming at times. By taking steps to find out what the rules are though, you can make life easier for family members and still be confident that you have enough money for your own retirement dreams.

One important consideration is the timing of your gift. If there’s a new arrival in the family, the financial needs will be very different than if it is to help older children. For example, the priority may be to help the newborn’s family move to a more spacious home or to help with private school fees for a primary school-aged child. Later on, it may be to help with driving lessons, pay for school or university fees or enable them to get on the housing ladder. You may decide you want to leave your money to your grandchildren in your will, in which case it is vital to plan your giving in advance in a tax efficient way.

IHT will be levied on your estate at 40% when you die, so if you’re giving money away now that will have an impact later. The nil-rate band is a threshold of £325,000 for the value of your estate. Anything above that will be taxed. Making monetary gifts can take the money out of the ‘IHT net‘ but remember this only applies for the seven years after you made the gift. It’s worth exploring some extra allowances such as being able to give £3,000 of gifts per tax year (your annual exemption) as well as an allowance for small gifts and wedding/birthday gifts.

There are a number of alternatives to make your gift. If the money is needed before age 18, a trust structure is a tax-efficient way to give money, while still giving you some control on how it is used. A Junior ISA can also be a good option as it grows tax-free, building up a fund for driving lessons or university fees. You can’t open the JISA on your grandchild’s behalf but you can pay into it up to their annual limit, currently £4,260. If they’re older, you might want to consider a lifetime ISA for a housing deposit. Again, you can’t open it for them as a Lifetime ISA can only be opened by someone between the ages of 18-39 but if your grandchild opens one, it’s a way for them to save up to £4,000 a year and get a 25 per cent government bonus on top.

Whatever you opt for, you’ll have the feel-good factor of helping the next generation in a way that is right for both you and them.


Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/smart-life-saving-for-the-future/gifting-money-to-grandchildren/?utm_campaign=tmgspk_plr_2144_AqvY5NdHbz57&plr=1&utm_content=2144&utm_source=tmgspk&WT.mc_id=tmgspk_plr_2144_AqvY5NdHbz

don’t forget your digital legacy

digital servicesWhen we think about what we leave behind when we die, the majority of us take an approach that gives little regard to the vast amount of digital assets we hold.

We write wills, take out life insurance policies, plan our funerals and arrange to leave some money aside for those we care about. All of these steps make things easier for your family at an emotionally difficult time.

However, most of us neglect our digital legacy. Few of us have measures in place to take care of our digital assets, something that has the potential to cause great problems for our friends, family and colleagues.

It used to be that people’s estates could be settled in a standardised way: a search through the deceased’s filing cabinet would yield most of the information necessary to put their financial affairs in order. Their letters would still arrive through the door, allowing their family to take care of their communications after death and, where appropriate, advise their contacts of their passing.

Alas, nowadays much of our financial life takes place online – with traditional paper bank statements fading into oblivion, it can be difficult for an executor to know what accounts you hold and where to find them.

What’s more, unless you inform someone of your passwords, your email and social media accounts will become inaccessible and any information on them will be lost. Inaccessible social media accounts mean that the deceased’s family are unable to close the account or inform friends of their relative’s passing.

If we do not plan for our death we can cause our family a logistical nightmare which, on top of the emotional stress of bereavement, may be overwhelming.

That said, there are important steps you can take to help your family wind up your digital affairs smoothly.

Keep an inventory with a close friend or relative that includes the location of any digital devices you own, in addition to your USB drives and external hard drives. This should also contain a list of all your social, personal, financial and business account details, including usernames, passwords and security question answers.

Finally, some of your online accounts have features in place for the account holder’s death. Google, for instance, gives you the option to set up an “Inactive Account Manager”, a trusted contact with access to certain aspects of the account, such as Gmail or Google Drive. Features such as these give a trusted person a level of control over your digital afterlife and can lessen your loved ones’ distress at a crucial time.

Sources
http://www.hm1law.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Me-Mine_Magazine_Fall-2015-P6.pdf
https://lifehacker.com/you-need-to-deal-with-your-digital-legacy-right-now-1820407514

6 top tips on how not to lose money from your pension each year

Keeping track of your pension can be difficult at the best of times, and if you have multiple pots it can seem nigh on impossible. Fortunately, we have some top tips to help.

First introduced in 2012, auto-enrolment made it compulsory for UK employers to automatically enroll their staff into a pension scheme, unless they opt out.

However, according to financial services firm Hargreave Lansdown, £600 million is being lost from this scheme each year.

This is because every time you change employer, you receive a new pension pot. Each time you start a new pension pot, you are charged between £20 and £80 in administrative fees. With the average worker changing jobs 11 times, over the course of a lifetime that adds up to a substantial sum.

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid these extra charges and make sure that you are up to date with all your pension pots:

  1. Avoid having more pension pots than necessary. If you change employers, see if you can transfer your old pension across to the scheme in your new workplace. Sometimes employers will be happy to make contributions to your existing pension pot. If so, you can keep that one going and avoid any extra charges.
  2. Be mindful of where your money is. Never take for granted that the default fund your employer provides is the best one for you. It is important to see if your hard earned pension pot could be growing more elsewhere. There’s a chance you might be able to stake out a pension fund with fewer charges or a better investment return than your employer’s default pot.
  3. Remember to notify pension companies if you move house. If you have multiple pension pots, it is easier than you think to lose track of a pension fund, especially if the company can no longer contact you.
  4. Use the government’s pension pot finding service. Luckily, the government has an online service that allows you to find contact details for your own workplace or personal pension scheme. You can access this here.
  5. Check back through your paperwork. The majority of pension providers send an annual statement that includes the current balance of your pension, plus a projection of how much your pension will be worth when you reach retirement age. There’s a chance you might have held onto these and they may be lurking at the bottom of your filing cabinet. When you find the right document, you can contact the pension provider to update your details.
  6. Get in touch with your old employers. If you think you have lost a pension pot, get in touch with your old employers straight away. They should be able to help you find the details of any lost pension.

Keeping track of your pensions can, at times, feel overwhelming. We hope that our pension top tips help you manage your pensions and maybe even save you some money.

Sources

Brits lose £300 from their pension each year – here’s how to avoid it

is buying a state pension top-up worthwhile?

As part of your overall financial planning, one item that is worth considering is your state pension and whether you are on track to get the full amount. If not, it is possible to buy top-ups, which could boost your payout by £244 a year for life.

The 2017/18 voluntary payment, under the Class 3 National Insurance top-up scheme, costs £741 and will get you nearer to, or over, the threshold for the maximum state pension payout – currently £164.35 a week. Such an opportunity can be particularly relevant for those who have contracted out of part of the state pension at some point previously during their working life.

A word of caution though before proceeding – some people have paid the top-up only to discover that it made no difference to their state pension and subsequently struggled to get a refund from HM Revenue and Customs.

Some of the confusion arose because of the major shake-up in April 2016 when the single-tier pension system was introduced. Under the old system you had to have 30 years of NI contributions to get the full basic £122.30 a week pension, whereas under the new one you have to have 35 years. The top-up system was letting some people pay for extra contributions when to do so was futile.

Despite the problems encountered by some, Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister, says it is still worth investigating whether the additional payment would boost your future state pension. ‘Ironically, I think it would be really unfortunate if lots of people who could now top up for 17/18 at incredible value were put off doing so or didn’t do so because they were still unaware of the option, and where the decision to top-up or not is much more straightforward and less likely to go wrong,’ he said.

To know where you stand, the first thing to do is to get an official state pension forecast from the Government website. This will highlight whether you have any gaps in your National Insurance record of contributions. The top-up scheme can be particularly relevant for women who took time out to look after children.,

If you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, the old system will apply to you (that’s men who were born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953). However, if you reached state pension age after 6 April 2016 (men born after 6 April 1951 and women born after 6 April 1953), the new system will apply.

You also need to work out if 2017/18 was a qualifying year for you – when you were under state pension age for the whole year and in which you either paid or were credited with enough NICs to earn one year towards your state pension entitlement.


Sources
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-5770947/Should-buy-state-pension-up.html

are you keeping an eye on your pension pot?

Keeping track of your pension pots can feel like a full time job at times, particularly as we head towards a world where the average person will have eleven different jobs over the course of their career. It’s becoming increasingly uncommon for people to stay in the same job throughout their employment. In fact, we’re now seeing that 64% of people have multiple pension pots; that’s up 2% since October 2016. While that in itself is not a worry, what is more troublesome is that of that 64%, 22% have reportedly lost track of at least one of those pots.

Which means there are more than 7 million people who may not have access to the retirement funds they’ve worked hard to amass. To make sure you’re not one of them, it’s really important to keep on top of the bigger picture of what you’re owed.

Despite an increase in pension awareness, thanks to auto-enrolment, recent research has shown that 30% of people still do not know the value of their pension. Of course, if you’re not sure of the full value of your savings, it makes it hard to plan properly for retirement.

For some, the best way to get a clearer view of the situation is through pension consolidation. If you have a number of small, automatic enrolment pots, it could be worth bringing them together to make them more manageable. Consolidation isn’t necessarily the right choice in all circumstances, though. Certain pensions, particularly those of an older style, will come with great benefits that may be relinquished upon consolidation. Whether or not this is the right path for you will depend on your personal situation, so it’s always a good idea to consult an adviser to talk you through the process before making any decisions.

If you think you may have lost sight of a pension pot yourself, there is a pension tracker available through the Department for Work and Pensions that will help you locate it.

Sources
https://moneyfacts.co.uk/news/pensions/over-one-fifth-have-lost-pension-pot/

what makes seeing a financial adviser like having an MOT?

We’re all used to taking our cars for their MOT, aren’t we? Before we book it in for the test, we may well get a mechanic to check the vehicle over to make sure it will pass with flying colours. It’s a useful time to put in new brake pads, check the suspension and make sure the lights are all in working order.

This got us thinking that in some respects, our finances are no different to a car. They too could often benefit from a bit of fine-tuning from time to time to ensure they’re running at optimum performance and that our investments are working as hard as they might.

Of course, it’s a legal requirement to make sure our cars are roadworthy but there’s no such law for our money – it’s just up to to the individual to make sure your finances are maintaining a high level of performance. This is why it can be worth asking a financial adviser for a financial MOT or healthcheck. It’s an opportunity to not only check what you already have in place but to also consider ‘new parts’ you may want to install.

It’s all too easy, for example, to think your pension will just grow at its own speed and not pay it much attention. By enlisting the help of a financial adviser, though, you can check your pension fund is invested in a way that is getting the best return for you. Investment group, Bestinvest, has stated that twenty six of the top funds in the UK, containing £6.4 billion, are badly underperforming, and have been doing so for three years. In fact, at times, they have failed to meet their targets by over 5 per cent. An adviser will be able to monitor the situation and, if necessary, transfer your savings into better performing funds.

Another ‘new part’ you may decide to investigate may be insurance. You could already have life assurance in place but realise you don’t have any critical illness cover and are leaving you and your family exposed if you experienced a serious health setback. Or you could review your savings and realise you’re not making the most of your potential tax-free returns through the various ISA products available.

Whatever your particular situation, maybe it’s worth booking yourself in for a financial MOT to make sure your finances are fit for your current circumstances.
Sources
http://www.irishnews.com/business/2018/05/28/news/have-you-ever-thought-of-having-a-financial-mot–1337946/

can I use equity release to pay for care?

It’s one of the scary things about growing old, isn’t it? We’re all living longer, thanks to medical science but does that mean more of us are going to end up in a care home, struggling to find the means to pay for it?

A year in a care home can cost more than £50,000. This means some families are accumulating huge bills. If you have assets of more than £23,250 (slightly more in Scotland and Wales), the law states that you must fund all your care costs yourself, without any help from the Local Authority. This figure includes property, so if you have your own home, you won’t be eligible for any support.

As a result, many families are finding themselves facing a significant gap when it comes to funding care for their loved ones. This added financial burden comes at what can often be a sad and stressful time anyway.

One way some families are funding the cost of care is through the value of their home; equity release or a lifetime mortgage, as it is sometimes known. This allows anyone over 55 to borrow against the value of their home. You can draw money to about 50% of your property’s value and there are no monthly repayments. The interest rolls up at a compound rate until the person borrowing the amount dies. To protect you, the total debt can never exceed the value of your home and will be cleared from the eventual sale of the property.

It’s worth noting that interest rates tend to be higher than standard mortgages but there are no affordability checks or repayment plans. You can decide whether you take the money as a lump sum or in stages.

There are different ways of using equity release. Most people would prefer to stay in their own home for as long as possible rather than move into a home, so one option can be to use the money to make home improvements and adapt the property to their needs as they grow older. Installing a wet room or a moving a bathroom downstairs, for example, can often be practical solutions.

It is more difficult to use equity release to fund care home costs. In fact, according to a Daily Telegraph survey in 2017, only 1% of respondents gave that as a reason, compared with debt repayment, inheritance gifts, home improvements or to boost disposable income. The complexity stems from the fact that the repayment of the loan is often triggered by the very act of someone moving into long-term care. If one half of a couple, however, needed to go into a care home, it does mean that the property would not need to be sold to repay the debt until their partner died or moved into the home with them.

It’s obviously difficult to predict the length of someone’s stay in a care home so equity release may not always be a straightforward decision but, in some cases, it can be a useful option for quick, upfront funding.

over 60s are jumping off the property ladder. Here’s why….

In 2007, there were 254,000 older people living in private rented accomodation. According to research by the Centre for Ageing Better, over the last decade that figure has skyrocketed to 414,000. If things continue the way they’re going, they estimate that over a third of those over 60 will be privately renting by 2040.

So why the shift? Renting comes with some clear benefits. Having to pay stamp duty becomes a thing of the past, as does worrying about managing property maintenance. A certain sense of freedom comes with renting too, particularly in terms of location. It’s a great opportunity to finally live on the coastline or in the city centre that you’ve always wanted to, but have not been able to afford to.

For example, one couple had previously owned a retirement flat in Torquay which they subsequently sold for £55,000. They dreamed of moving to Bournemouth, where a modest one bed apartment would have set them back closer to £150,000 and so was out of their reach. They found a home to let on an assured tenancy, allowing them to remain in the property for life for a fee of £775 a month including service charges. Selling to rent has allowed them to liquidate their biggest asset, and free up their capital to spend on travel.

Renting needn’t be forever, and for some people it’s a great opportunity to stop and think about your next move. It can give you time to really look at the options out there if you intend to get back on the housing ladder. Your requirements will change as you grow older and downsizing can be a great idea for some. Before you find the perfect property which will suit your needs going forward, renting gives you the chance to release some capital and decide what to do with it.

It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that by selling up and moving into private rented accommodation, your estate could receive a higher IHT bill. The inheritance tax exemption introduced in 2017 allows parents and grandparents an additional IHT allowance when their children or grandchildren inherit their main home, and so selling your home could remove your eligibility for the exemption.https://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/retirement/renting-retirement-over-60s-jumping-property-ladder/
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/financial-services/retirement-solutions/equity-release-service/should-you-sell-up-and-rent-in-retirement/

3 top tips to prepare your kids for independent travel

It’s one thing to travel with your children or grandchildren and help them realise an appreciation for seeing the world. To prepare them to navigate that world on their own and to take control of their own adventures, is another thing entirely, but it’s not impossible.

Let them take the reins when you plan your next trip – With your years of experience and being a parent or guardian, it’s easy to assume that you’re better off taking care of all the planning yourself. You know what you like, you know where to look and you know how to make it cost effective – you’re the one footing the bill, after all. The chances are, though, that the only reason you are adept at the process is because you’ve done it before, so give them some first-hand experience and the opportunity to learn for themselves.

– Give them a helping hand, of course, show them where to find airfares and different accommodation options. Let them browse Airbnb for holiday rentals and experiences.
– Above all, keep an open mind; they’ll likely have different search criteria and priorities to you, so you never know what little gems they’ll unearth

Give them responsibilities once you arrive – Getting the trip booked is just the beginning. You can write as detailed an itinerary as you like but the map is not the territory and the real experience is found on the ground. You’ll instinctively want to take control of organisation and logistics but getting the kids involved can be an extremely valuable experience. Let them choose the route you take and suggest that they ask for directions from a local if you get a bit lost. Get them to buy the train tickets – if you’re feeling really brave maybe even let them look after your room key! The sense of responsibility will make them feel like they’re contributing and if something doesn’t go quite to plan, that can be a learning experience too…

When things go wrong, stay calm – If everything has gone smoothly on a trip then you probably haven’t left your hotel room. More often than not you’re going to run into awkward situations at least once. Something as simple as missing a bus, particularly in warmer climes where the bus stop might be lacking in shade, can lead to frustration.

– You may feel inclined to panic or shield your children from it entirely, pretending that everything is going along as expected. Your best bet really is to be honest and stay calm. Learning to ‘go with the flow’ and accepting that sometimes plans need to change is essential to successful and happy travelling.
– Sometimes a spanner in the works can be a great thing; you may have missed the last bus to the museum but if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have found that local tavern with the paella you’ll
never forget. Those statues have been there for hundreds of years – we’re sure they’ll wait until tomorrow.

   Sources:  https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/content/how-to-teach-your-child-to-travel-independently/