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it’s not about how much you have , but what you do with it…..

The old cliché goes that ‘money can’t buy you happiness,’ but how true is that statement?

According to a recent survey by Ameriprise Financial, only 13 per cent of American millionaires classified themselves as wealthy. Even those who had over $5 million (£3.8 million) spread across their accounts, investments and funds said that they didn’t feel like they were rich. 

Elizabeth Dunn, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, said that this could be due to ‘social comparison’, meaning that a person only feels rich if he is richer than the people he is comparing himself with. A 2005 case study in Germany compared people who were similar in terms of age, education and region of residence, finding that “individuals are happier the larger their income is in comparison with the income of the reference group.”

Another more recent study in America found that those with middle-incomes were less satisfied financially if they lived in a place with higher levels of income inequality. Interestingly, research in Canada found that neighbours of lottery winners were likely to run up debts and to go bankrupt.   

But what should you make of all this? 

Elizabeth Dunn commented that people tend to overrate the importance of earnings when it comes to feeling financially satisfied. “All of this talk about ‘income, income, income’ overlooks the fact that it matters a lot what you do with your money.” Spending money in certain ways, for example on memorable experiences rather than possessions, can make people feel better.    

Maggie Germano, a financial coach in the States, notes that “people who feel the best about their financial situation […] are people who are fully aware of what their financial situation is.” She explains how she has clients who get a surprise when they realise how much they are spending on online shopping and Uber rides. “I do think it is less about how much is actually coming in and more about how they’re consciously using the money,” she emphasises.

Another financial coach, Michelle Tascoe, mentioned how setting specific goals can help to give you financial peace of mind and cause you to have a more positive outlook on your finances. Rather than just saying, ‘I want to retire early,’  a more focused goal, such as, ‘I want to retire by the time I’m 55’ will help you plan more effectively.  

From the experiences outlined, it’s been shown that taking the time to work out what you want your money to achieve will give you a greater sense of clarity. You can measure your progress against a defined plan and improve your emotional and financial wellbeing for the future.

Sources
https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/07/who-feels-rich/594439/

https://www.nber.org/papers/w24667

What has survived from the original Pension Schemes Bill?

 You may have read various headlines about the Pensions Bill which was first announced in the Queen’s Speech in October. Its progress was subsequently halted with the calling of the General Election but it has now been confirmed by the Queen and is on its way to becoming law. 

Given all the to-ing and fro-ing, you could be forgiven for being unclear as to what it actually includes. It has, in fact, remained largely unchanged and has met with widespread cross-party support.  

The main initiatives include:

  • The introduction of the framework for pensions dashboards
  • Legislation to establish collective defined contribution (CDC) schemes
  • Greater powers for The Pensions Regulator 

The government said the purpose of the bill was to “support pension saving in the 21st century, putting the protection of people’s pensions at its heart.”

Pensions dashboards 

The long-awaited pensions dashboards are designed to allow savers to view all their lifetime savings in one place through a digital interface. Data will be retrieved directly from pension providers and updated in real time. The Pensions Bill has introduced new rules that will provide a framework so that providers will be compelled to provide accurate information. State pension data should also be visible.       

Experts warn, however, that primary legislation will take most of 2020 to reach the statute book and it could be several years before much of the older data from company and private pensions is accessible. Research has shown that 65.8% of respondents would like to use a dashboard to see how much their pension is worth and what type of income that would translate to in retirement. 54% of those surveyed, though, said they would be unlikely to use the system if it only contained partial information.

It’s clear that dashboards have the potential to revolutionise retirement planning but the industry wants to ensure early users are not put off by incomplete versions.The Bill is really only the beginning.          

Collective Defined Contribution schemes 

The Bill also announced its commitment to the creation of a ‘framework for the establishment, operation and regulation of Collective Defined Contribution (CDC) schemes.’ Currently, employers can offer either a Defined Benefit (DB) scheme or a Defined Contribution (DC) scheme but both have their disadvantages. DB schemes can present significant risks to the employer while DC schemes may give a less predictable income for scheme members. As a result, the Government has decided to offer this new type of scheme, the CDC, also known as a Collective Money Purchase scheme.

As the name suggests, both the employer and the employee would contribute to a collective fund from which the retirement funds would be drawn. The scheme does not produce individual pension pots and the funding risk would be shared collectively by the individual investors.       

Unlike DB schemes, CDC schemes do not guarantee a certain amount in retirement. Instead, they have a target amount they will pay out, based on a long-term mixed risk investment plan. 

Greater powers for The Pensions Regulator  

The other key part of the proposed Bill is that The Pensions Regulator (TPR) will be given stronger powers to obtain the correct information about a pension scheme and its sponsoring employer in a timely manner. This will ensure it can gain redress for members when something goes wrong. Any company boss found to have committed ‘wilful or grossly reckless behaviour’ in relation to a pension scheme will be guilty of a criminal offence, which will carry a prison sentence of up to seven years.

Sources
https://www.pensionsage.com/pa/Pension-Schemes-Bill-reintroduced-in-Queens-Speech.php

https://www.pensionsage.com/pa/Over-half-of-savers-unlikely-to-use-incomplete-dashboard.php

https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2020/01/08/govt-s-revolutionary-pensions-bill-re-enters-parliament/

https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8674

What does the governor of the Bank of England do?

With the 121st governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, set to take over on 16th March this year, we wanted to take a look at one of the UK’s oldest institutions and its figurehead. 

What is the Bank of England? 

The Bank of England is the UK’s central bank. It produces all the banknotes used in the UK and houses the UK’s gold reserves (a total of 400,000 bars worth over £200bn).

Founded in 1694 to act as banker to the government, the first ever governor was John Houblon – you may have seen his face on a £50 note between 1994 and 2014. The Bank was owned privately until the end of the Second World War, when it was nationalised by the government. 

How long can you be governor for? 

Officially, a governor has a term time of eight years. However, the 120th governor, Mark Carney, agreed to a five-year term with the option of an additional three years. He then agreed to extend his term twice, staying on longer due to delays caused by Brexit. 

What does the governor do?

The governor will represent the UK in meetings with international bodies such as the G7 or the International Monetary Fund, while also chairing important internal committees such as the Monetary Policy Committee and the Prudential Monetary Fund. In addition to this, he is tasked with overseeing the Bank of England’s three main responsibilities:

  • The Financial system: This is the system that connects people who want to save, invest or borrow money. The Bank of England monitors any risks within the system and tries to mitigate them – such as loaning to banks when necessary. It shares this responsibility with the Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority.  
  • Individual banks: The Bank of England ensures that individual banks, insurers and building societies are of a suitable standard and are being run well.  
  • Inflation: The Bank of England tries to keep the cost of living as stable as possible by setting monthly interest rates and making sure that prices rise within the current target of 2% per year.

Have you got what it takes? 

When Philip Hammond first put up the job advertisement for the role of governor in 2019, the description said that the successful candidate should have experience of being at the helm of a large financial organisation, good communication skills and “acute political sensitivity and awareness”.  If that sounds like you, in eight years time there may be a £495,000 a year job opportunity for you.

Sources
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50837114

Ready for the end of the tax year?

The tax year will end on April 5th. Are you confident that you have made appropriate preparations and maximised your tax allowances?

Here are some of the allowances that you should consider: 

The Marriage Allowance

You can transfer £1,250 of your Personal Allowance to your spouse or civil partner if they earn more than you and pay tax at the basic rate. This could yield a potential tax saving of £250. You need to make sure that you have income within your Personal Allowance of £12,500. An application to HMRC needs to be made for this allowance. It’s also worth noting that you can backdate your claim to include any tax year since April 5th 2015. 

Enterprise Investment Scheme, SEIS and VCT

Investments made with the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) during the current tax year can be carried back for relief for the 2018/2019 tax year, potentially providing both income tax relief and capital gains tax deferral relief. However, rules differ between the two so be sure to check with each provider. 

For the EIS, you can obtain 30% income tax relief on the amount allocated for shares in EIS qualifying companies, from a minimum of £500 up to a maximum of £2,000,000. For Venture Capital Trusts (VCT), you receive 30% of tax relief on investments up to £200,000. For SEIS qualifying companies, you can receive 50% income tax relief on up to £100,000 per year.  

The Tapered Annual Allowance

For higher income earners, the tapered annual allowance will apply. For every £2 of adjusted income, including employer pension contributions, as well as income over £150,000, your annual allowance is reduced by £1. The Government has a comprehensive guide for working out whether your income will have the allowance applied. You may only be able to assess this accurately as you get closer to April 5th. If you can assess the figures accurately in time to make a pension contribution, then ensure you do so. If not, as soon as the most accurate figures become available, you can take steps to make up any shortfall by carrying it forward to the next year.

The Money Purchase Annual Allowance

You can get tax relief on pension contributions of up to £40,000 per year or 100% of your taxable salary. However, if you have already started drawing income from a defined contribution pension scheme, the amount you can pay into a pension without suffering a tax charge reduces. 

The allowance for the 2019/2020 tax year remains unchanged from last year at £4,000 and applies if you have taken any taxed income from a money purchase or defined contribution pension. This extends to personal pensions, SIPPs and workplace pensions.

Expenses

If you’re an employee, you may be able to claim for expenses not reimbursed by your employer, such as travel mileage (not including home to work), the cost of buying small essential items or equipment needed to do your job, such as tools or professional subscriptions. 

If your employer reimburses you at a rate lower than the current standard mileage rate of 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile thereafter, you can claim the difference back in your tax return. 

Taking the time now to make sure you’re maximising your allowances can yield notable tax savings at the end of the tax year on April 5th.

Sources
https://www.pruadviser.co.uk/knowledge-literature/knowledge-library/eis-vct-seis/#

https://www.saffery.com/news-and-events/articles/2019/utilising-tax-reliefs-and-allowances-for-this-tax-year-december-2019

https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/money-purchase-annual-allowance

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pension-schemes-work-out-your-tapered-annual-allowance

Do you need an accountant?

If you have set up a limited company, must you have an accountant? By law, no, you don’t require one. It’s not a statutory obligation. But you must prepare an annual set of accounts which need to be filed with Companies House and you must have a full set of corporate tax accounts to show HMRC.

For financial years beginning on or after 1 January 2016, companies are also exempt from being audited, if they have at least two of the following:

  • an annual turnover of no more than £10.2 million
  • assets worth no more than £5.1 million
  • 50 or fewer employees on average

The only exception is if one of the shareholders who owns at least 10% of the shares demands an audit. 

What will an accountant do for you?  

It’s often thought that accountants just compile your accounts at year-end and submit your VAT  returns. A good accountant, however, will help with a wide range of other duties, such as:

  • Registering the company with the relevant tax departments – VAT, Corporation Tax, PAYE 
  • Setting up and running the company payroll, in line with the Real Time Information (RTI)  rules    
  • Monthly bookkeeping (with online accounting – you may prefer to do this yourself and save extra fees)
  • Dealing with the authorities on an ongoing basis (HMRC, Companies House)
  • Providing tax planning advice
  • Offering dividend advice
  • Providing professional references for mortgages, lettings, other services

Services will differ from accountant to accountant so make sure you know what is included. 

An accountant’s role is to provide you with advice. You may have a query about what expenses you can offset against Corporation Tax or be unsure as to whether you have enough retained profit to declare a dividend legally. Whatever the issue, it’s good to have an experienced professional on hand.  

One major advantage is that a professional accountant will be experienced in dealing with the tax authorities should an enquiry arise. They will know the correct format to submit any information and will understand the various subtleties of different regulations.   

If someone does decide to look after their own affairs, they need to be aware that they must maintain their accounts in line with the Generally Accepted Accounting Practice in the UK. It’s their responsibility to submit their information in a timely and accurate manner so as to meet statutory legislation.

On balance, most people decide that once they’ve calculated how long it takes to prepare the accounts, do the bookkeeping and liaise with HMRC, a small business accountant would save them both time and money, while enabling them to get on with running their business.

Sources
https://www.companybug.com/do-i-have-to-use-an-accountant-for-my-company/

https://www.gov.uk/audit-exemptions-for-private-limited-companies

How to get the best deals on a cruise

If you’re dreaming of getting away from the cold, dark days of winter, the idea of a last minute luxury cruise might have crossed your mind.

Unfortunately, however, gone are the days when you could just turn up on the quayside with your luggage and negotiate a deal. By law, cruise lines must submit their passenger manifests within 24 to 48 hours of departure. Nonetheless, there are some great offers to be found. 

‘Last minute’ is normally used in the industry to refer to a cruise due to sail anytime between several days and three months in the future. So keep your eyes peeled for travel agencies trying to fill ships for cruise lines as departure dates draw near. 

But as with any bargain, there are likely to be pros and cons, so bear the following points in mind:

Get your timing right 

The best time to find a bargain is about 60 to 90 days before the ship sails as this is the point by which travellers must have cancelled if they are not to incur a penalty. For some cruise lines, it can even be 120 days. Once the cruise line knows how many empty cabins are left, they will start to discount heavily.

Travel out of season

Not surprisingly, it won’t be the bestselling cruises that have last minute availability so be prepared to compromise on your dates. The most popular times for cruises are Christmas and New Year, Easter week or the August Bank Holiday so you’re unlikely to find any bargains on these dates but this still leaves several months throughout the year where you could be lucky. There’s usually lots of potential in the Mediterranen between October through to April.                  

Investigate ‘repositioning’ cruises

Unusual routes that don’t sell out also provide an opportunity for a good deal. Look out for ‘repositioning cruises’. These are when a vessel is changing region and needs to get back to its original port so it may take a different route than usual. Voyages can take 2 weeks or so rather than the usual 7 days and will include more sea days than normal with a variety of ports. Repositioning cruises can offer you an interesting itinerary at a reasonable price but be aware that because they will start in one port and end in another you could end up paying an expensive one-way air fare. The significant savings on the cruise though can still make it worthwhile.              

Shop around

Look around for the best deals. The cruise lines are bound by tight restrictions on travel agency discounting but agencies can have access to good deals depending on their booking bonuses.  Check the agencies’ web pages on a regular basis and sometimes it’s worth phoning up too as some admit they have low prices they can only tell customers about over the phone. 

Take careful note of what’s included – service fees, government taxes and port charges may not be part of the quoted price. Booking late inevitably means you’re getting what’s left over so you’re unlikely to get a balcony cabin or a prime dinner table but if you go with a flexible attitude, you could end up having the trip of a lifetime. Happy Sailing!

Sources
https://www.cruisecritic.co.uk/articles.cfm?ID=68

Ensuring harmony after death

With an estimated 60 per cent of people dying without having made a will, it’s troubling to think that their life savings and property may not be passed on according to their wishes.

One way of guaranteeing that those closest to you are taken care of is simply by making a will.

A will ensures that your assets are shared in the way that you would like. If you’re an unmarried couple, you can make sure your partner is provided for and if divorced, you can decide whether to leave anything to your former partner.

You are never too young to make a will. An online YouGov poll undertaken by children’s charity Barnardos found that of those people who have made a will, a surprisingly savvy 61 per cent did so before the age of 41.

More than one in five (22 per cent) cited having a child as a key driver whilst almost a quarter (23 per cent) stated financial planning as the reason for writing a will.

Although it is possible to write a will yourself there are various legal formalities you need to follow to make sure that your will is valid. Importantly, employing the services of a Solicitor can ensure the process is smooth and that you don’t pay more inheritance tax than necessary.

Begin by taking some time to think about what you want to include in your will, look at how much money and what property and possessions you have. Crucially, think about whom you want to benefit from your will and who is best placed to look after your children if under the age of 18.

Also consider who you would like to sort out your estate and carry out your wishes after your death. You can appoint an executor at any time by naming them in your will.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, two witnesses are required to be present when a will is signed and they must have no beneficial interest as this could make it invalid.

Remember once you’ve made your will it’s important to keep it in a safe place and tell your executor, close friend or relative where it is. You should also consider reviewing it every five years and after any major change in your life – such as separation, marriage, divorce, having a child or moving house.

Sole trader vs limited company?

When people are setting up a business, one of the first questions they have to grapple with is what legal structure they are going to trade under – sole trader, limited company or partnership.

If you’re one of our clients, you will already have made this decision but we thought it would be useful to give a quick outline of the differences.  

Sole trader

Being a sole trader is the most popular legal structure. Approximately 3.4 million sole proprietorships were created in 2017 and they accounted for 60% of small businesses in the UK. 

On the plus side, there are no set up costs and it’s very simple to get up and running. The only requirement is to inform HMRC by 5th Oct of your business’ second tax year. There is very little paperwork and you don’t have to have any dealings with Companies House. None of your information is held on the public record.    

As a sole trader, however, you are completely responsible for your business and its finances. You need to be aware that if your business goes bust or you have any business debts, your personal finances and assets could be in danger. Legally, your liability is unlimited.

It’s advisable, therefore, to take out small business insurance policies. This way you can avoid getting sued personally should there be any legal disputes. Remember, the buck stops with you! 

You and your business are treated as a single entity, which is also significant for tax purposes. You will have to pay tax on the profits that are above your personal tax allowance (£12,500 for the 2019/20 tax year). This is calculated through the self-assessment system and you will also pay Class 2 and Class 4 NICs.

Being a sole trader is thought to be less tax efficient than being a limited company as there is less opportunity for tax planning via the self-assessment system. 

Limited company

The second most popular legal structure is a limited company of which there were 1.9 million in 2017. There is a certain amount of paperwork required and you need to deal with Companies House but it is relatively straightforward. Note that your company details will be on public record.   

The main advantage of having a limited company is that you have limited personal liability should something go wrong. The business is treated as a separate entity from its owners so your own assets are protected.    

Despite the higher dividend taxes that were introduced in 2016, a limited company is still  considered to be more tax efficient. The company will pay corporation tax and dividend tax and employer’s Class 1 NICs on salaries, while staff pay employees’ Class 1 NICs on salaries. Under the limited company structure, there are more possibilities for tax planning by delaying dividends, for example, until a future tax year to minimise the tax liability. 

One of the disadvantages, though, is that you are obliged to prepare annual accounts which need to be filed with Companies House. You also need to file a full set of corporate tax accounts for HMRC. As a limited company, it’s advisable to use an accountant to make sure the accounts are done thoroughly.

Sources
https://www.companybug.com/limited-company-better-than-sole-trader/
https://www.companybug.com/do-i-hav-to-use-an-accountant-for-my-company/

Can I afford to retire?

Retirement has often been described as “the longest holiday of your life.” But attractive as that sounds, can you afford to pay for the holiday?

Research by one leading insurance company shows that 69% of people over the age of 50 are concerned about their income in retirement.

Many people underestimate how much income they will need when they retire. If you’ve been used to having two cars, going on foreign holidays and eating out then it is unlikely that you’ll want to give those up simply because you’ve stopped work. In fact, many people find that their need for income actually increases when they retire. After all, if you’re behind a desk all day, the only money you’ll spend will probably be on a sandwich at lunchtime. Contrast this with how much you spend on a day off.

As worries about income in retirement increase, so do people opting to keep working after their normal retirement date.

Many people who have their own business argue that “my business is my pension.” Again, that works well in theory – but it assumes that you can sell the business for the price you want at exactly the time you want. With technology changing ever more quickly and more and more businesses losing market share to the internet, relying on your business to fund your retirement can be a high risk strategy.

More than any other aspect of financial planning, your retirement demands careful consideration. From checking on your likely state pension to tracking down any previous pensions you might have to making sure you’re contributing sufficient to your current pension – retirement planning needs to be done thoroughly and reviewed regularly.