Category: Financial Planning

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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.

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.

How the gender gap even affects children’s pensions

We’re familiar with the gender gap in pensions for adults but there is evidence that this actually starts much earlier on. According to data from HMRC, parents and grandparents are more likely to save into a boy’s pension than a girl’s.

A Freedom of Information request by Hargreaves Lansdown revealed that 13,000 girls aged 15 or under had money paid into a pension for them in 2016/17 compared with 20,000 boys. The disparity means the pension gap can actually start from birth onwards.

This only exacerbates the situation as women are likely to have less in their pension due to the gender pay gap. Nest found men are twice as likely to be in the highest income bracket and women are three times as likely to be earning less than £10,000 per year, which is the auto enrolment threshold for a single job.

Women are also more likely to take career breaks or work part-time to bring up a family. Added to which, they are more likely to live longer and spend longer in retirement so, in reality, will need more in their pension pot than men.

Research in 2017/18 by the union Prospect found that the pensions gender gap equated to 39.9 per cent or a £7,000 gap in retirement income between women and men.

Hargreaves Lansdown has calculated that paying £100 per month into a child’s pension until the child reaches 18 can increase their savings by as much as £130,000 by retirement. Yet the cost is only £21,600 plus tax relief of £5,400. Forward planning pays off!

Someone without any earnings can pay up to £2,880 each year into a pension and receive 20 per cent tax relief (up to £720) so it’s possible for parents and grandparents to make a significant difference to a young person’s financial future by starting a plan early. An added advantage is that once the money is in a pension, it can grow without attracting capital gains tax.

It’s unclear why the anomaly between paying into boys’ and girls’ pensions has existed in the past. Some feel it may be because gifting has traditionally come from the baby boomer’s generation where men were more likely to have had the greater share of pension in retirement.

Whatever the reason historically, the current message is to use children’s pensions to give the younger generation a helping hand but to do it equally.

Sources
https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2019/10/04/gender-pension-gap-seen-among-kids/

https://citywire.co.uk/new-model-adviser/news/gender-pensions-gap-begins-at-birth/a1277113

Financial lessons for parents of students

If you’ve got a son or daughter at college or university, you could have some stark financial lessons ahead. Getting the grades may have dominated the household up to now but budgeting for their life as a student can require just as much focus.      

Tuition fees and student loans are usually top of the agenda. Most universities charge £9,250 for tuition fees but the financial help available to students for their living costs will differ. Maintenance loans are calculated according to where the student is going to study, where they plan to live and how much their parents earn.

As an example, the maximum maintenance loan is £11,672 if the student is an undergraduate,  studying in London and not living at home, but this would only apply if the gross household income was below £25,000 (after pension contributions). If the household income is greater than £67,000, the maximum a student can borrow for their living costs is £5,812. You would be expected to provide a parental contribution of £6,000 to make up the shortfall.              

A recent survey revealed that parents of students could be found to be contributing an average of £360 a month. Half of them said they had not anticipated that they would have to give as much financial help. Luxury items such as new cars and exotic holidays were sacrificed while six per cent of respondents said they had taken a second job.

Despite this, students faced an average monthly shortfall of £267, according to the 2019  National Student Money Survey. Although some had taken part time jobs, 49 per cent relied on  overdrafts and 14 per cent on credit cards.

Not surprisingly, the main expense is accommodation.This has soared in recent years due to the increasing amount of university accommodation being provided by commercial operators, which costs significantly more than traditional halls of residence. Students can find themselves paying up to £9,000 a year on rent in London and £6,366 elsewhere.

Students also get tied into lengthy commercial tenancies of up to 46 weeks. Some landlords may even charge for 51 weeks. To make things even more difficult, the rent may be due before the maintenance loan arrives.         

Despite the high costs, demand is high so students may be expected to start a tenancy in June for the forthcoming academic year. That can mean deposits of three months’ rent need to be paid in advance before the Easter term.

Parents are often called in to meet these costs and act as a rental guarantor. One advantage is that large providers like the Unite Group will allow you to pay by credit card so you can stack up lots of loyalty points. 

It’s an exciting new chapter of life and with a bit of careful ongoing planning and budgeting, you can make sure you minimise any surprises.

You have a financial plan, but do you have a financial plan b?

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, gang aft agley”. So said Robert Burns in his poem ‘To a Mouse’, lyrically summing up the idea that no matter how well we prepare, there are always factors beyond our control that can cause our ‘best laid’ plans to unravel.

Whilst the same can be said for financial planning, there are a great deal of factors that are under our control, one of which is preparing for the eventuality that our plan ‘A’ might not come to pass. Making a plan ‘B’ is not admitting defeat, but pragmatically working on the assumption that nothing about preparing for the future is guaranteed.

When it comes to retirement planning, too many people give themselves a single plan without having an alternative they can turn to. This is most common amongst those who have made plans themselves without consulting an independent adviser. One of the most frequent mistakes made is planning for too short a retirement. It’s always better to be optimistic about how long your pension will need to last. That way, if you overestimate, your money won’t run out and can become part of your legacy.

An increasing number of retirees are planning to continue working in some capacity after they retire, either taking on a part time job or extending their previous career through taking on a consultancy role. Financial advisers, however, are increasingly recommending that any income from working in retirement should be factored in as additional income rather than something you rely on to ensure you have enough money each month. That way you have the freedom to reduce your hours or stop working altogether whenever you want.

Plan ‘B’ is not always about the worst case scenario, however. It could be that your main plan assumes a certain amount of savings in your pension, whilst your backup plan is more optimistic but less likely. If you find that you do reach retirement age with more money available than you expected, plan ‘B’ could be your way of ensuring you make the most of life after work. If you planned to move abroad, look at more expensive destinations that might offer you even greater benefits than your initial choice.

If you’re nearing retirement and would like help putting together your plans, please get in touch.

Sources
http://money.usnews.com/investing/articles/2016-08-03/whats-your-plan-b-for-retirement

Own a second property? Here’s some changes you need to be aware of

There have been several changes relating to Capital Gains Tax (CGT) over the past few years. The coming years are set to bring more. Here’s our summary of some of the more important changes coming that might be coming into effect from April 2020. 

If you are thinking about selling a residential property in the next year or two, you need to know about proposed changes to the capital gains tax rules for disposals from April 6th 2020. 

If you only own one property and have always lived there, you should not be affected. However, if you own more than one property or you moved out of your only property for a period of time, you might face a capital gains tax bill. 

The two main changes you should be aware of are: 

Final period exemption 

The last period of ownership counting towards private residence relief will be reduced from 18 months to just nine. Currently, the final period exemption allows individuals a period of grace to sell their home after they have moved out. However, the government feels that individuals with multiple residences have been taking advantage, hence the reduction.   

Lettings relief

Lettings relief is set to be removed, unless you live in the property with the tenant. For UK property, HMRC must be notified and tax paid 30 days after completion rather than the January following the end of the tax year in which the disposal took place. Failure to pay on time will result in HMRC imposing interest and potential penalties. 

With no transitional measures in place, this means that higher-rate taxpayers previously expecting to benefit from the maximum potential relief of £40,000 could be lumped with £11,200 extra tax overnight. 

Here’s an example of how the new taxes could influence a sale:

Steve, a higher rate taxpayer, bought a flat in April 2009 for £100,000. He lived there for 6 years until April 2015 before moving out to live with his partner. He let the flat until 2020 when he sold it for £300,000. The sale was completed on 4th June 2020. 

If the contracts were to be exchanged before the April 2020 changes, a CGT of £6,618 would be due. However, after the deadline a CGT of £21,636 would be due, payable seven months earlier – this is due to there being a lower period of private residence relief and a lack of lettings relief. 

The next steps

The two above changes are set to be enacted as part of the 2020 Finance Act and at the moment are not definite. The consultation to these steps closed on 5th September 2019. Assuming that draft provisions reach the Finance Bill 2019-20, we will have to see if any changes are made to either after it is debated in Parliament. 

Sources

https://www.accountancyage.com/2019/09/16/prr-how-will-your-clients-be-affected/https://www.bdo.co.uk/en-gb/insights/tax/private-client/further-tax-changes-for-non-residents-holding-uk-propertyhttps://www.killik.com/the-edit/how-capital-gains-tax-on-property-will-change-from-april-2020/

Marshmallows and financial planning

The Stanford marshmallow experiment is one of the most famous pieces of social science research out there. It has arguably influenced the way that many people live their lives, in addition to providing plenty of fun and interest for those with young children who are in the ‘I’ll try this at home’ camp.

So what is the marshmallow test? 

A marshmallow is placed in front of a child, they are told that they can have a second one if they can go 15 minutes without eating the first one – then they are left alone with the marshmallow.

As you can imagine, many children ate the marshmallow as soon as the door closed, others fidgeted and wiggled as they tried to restrain themselves, eventually giving in. A handful of children managed to wait the entire time. 

Following the experiment, the children were monitored as they grew up and it was found that those who waited for the second marshmallow performed better in exams, had a lower likelihood of obesity, lower levels of substance abuse and their parents reported that they had more impressive social skills. 

In other words, it could be said that the ability to delay gratification is a trait that leads to valuable rewards in the future. 

So how does this relate to financial planning?

The results from the experiment can easily be applied to the way you save and invest money. Simply put, if you save rather than spend now, you’ll gain greater rewards in the future. 

How do you delay gratification?

Cutting out frivolous and impulsive purchases are a good start. Think to yourself: ‘do I really need this?’ Do you have to buy a coffee from the coffee shop near work? Do you have to eat out twice a week? Small acts of restraint can lead to a big pay off in the future. 

When it comes to building a financial plan, it’s important to identify the levels of savings required for achieving goals in the future. Are you aiming for an early retirement or buying a holiday home? Setting out these goals early and developing a plan will help you to streamline your saving strategies so that you remain on track. Just remember, one marshmallow now or many marshmallows later.   

Whatever you want to purchase: a boat, a house or a car, delayed gratification is an extremely valuable skill to learn when it comes to achieving your financial milestones. The more you see your savings grow, the more motivated you will be to keep going. It’s good to see your hard work pay off and over the span of a few years, you could see dramatic increases in your wealth and financial security.

Sources
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/40-years-of-stanford-rese_b_7707444 guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAJdHRHqhlsVcLeV6Yi_w61XPEFBayOqdTK89gxGCEdCpDt8CZVAn9Nrzg_branVU7Z0eWhyD4CjX0ii8uQzgVRE2OrG17sknh-B4t_HwD35qNwzcMVc6QLH9ijLjmwCnjIQmyUvHDPtR5bme9Zu4p977cA_h2r1GWY6VIKl6hnAx&guccounter=2
https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/06/marshmallow-test/561779/
https://www.businessinsider.com/delayed-gratification-helped-me-save-money-2019-3?r=US&IR=T

The generation gap in savings might be wider than you think…….

A new report by Scottish Widows (SW) has found that savings habits among younger people are rather lacking when compared with older generations. 

14% of people aged 20-29 are not saving any money, whereas 20% are saving between 0-6% of their wages and 26% are saving between 6-12%. That leaves only 40% of people between the ages of 20 and 29 making what SW deems to be ‘adequate’ savings (12% and upwards). 

The figures differ for those over 30 where 59% of savers are saving adequately. 

Scottish Widows outlines that the central problem with savings in the UK is that people simply aren’t saving enough. This could be attributed to the decline in defined benefit pension schemes and wider economic challenges. Though progress has been made, with record highs in the adequate savings category, according to SW, this is still not enough. 

The lower level of savings among younger people is likely to be a reflection of differences in priorities. SW’s study found that 45% of younger savers (under 30s), the highest of any age group, are saving towards medium-term goals such as buying a house. 27% were found to be saving for the long term and 28% were saving for rainy days. 

SW notes that the savings gap for young people “is perhaps unsurprising but nonetheless worrying.” Those under 30 are at a time where long-term saving can be hardest, yet investment growth can be advantageous. SW outlines how younger people are missing out on “the power of compound growth.“ 

They later go on to present four interlocking issues that have led to this general lack of savings made by younger generations:

  • Most people remain disengaged with long-term savings – 38% of people are not aware how much they are saving 
  • Financial pressures – 28% of individuals earning between £10,000 – £20,000 say they’re not saving at all
  • Self-employed individuals are being left behind – 41% of the self-employed aren’t saving at all
  • Home ownership is a struggle for young people – 56% of 20-29 year olds say they have not saved for a deposit

Scottish Widows then set out a number of reforms that would benefit savers: 

  1. Raise pension contribution rates – a new level of 15% to give people a chance to maintain their quality of life during retirement
  2. More flexibility between pensions and property – including the ability to use some retirement savings to help with the purchase of their first property
  3. Create better education and guidance – which includes information on the role of property and pensions in retirement
  4. Provide a hardship facility – allowing some savings to be used to avoid problem debt
  5. Ensure the self-employed have access to similar benefits as those in employment

Though there are marked improvements from last year’s report, it seems there is still a long way to go in terms of saving habits in younger individuals. As suggested above, there may even be a requirement for governmental reform in order to achieve the goals that Scottish Widows have set out.

Sources
https://adviser.scottishwidows.co.uk/assets/literature/docs/56868.pdf?utm_source=1034930&utm_medium=paid+social&utm_campaign=22953005&utm_content=250845013&utm_creative=118592721

How to find the right investment for you

In the wake of the Woodford debacle, there’s a lot of buzz around investments and the rationale for choosing them. So we thought it would be useful to outline what you should be thinking about when it comes to choosing an investment to enable you to get the best outcomes for your money.

Review your goals

It sounds obvious, but taking the time to think about what you want from your investments is key to selecting the correct fund for you. Writing down your needs, your goals and how much risk you may be prepared to take is a good starting point. 

Consider your investment’s lifespan

How soon will you need your money back? Timeframes will vary between goals and will affect the level of risk you are prepared to take. For example:

  • If you’re saving for a pension to be accessed in 30 years’ time, you can ignore short-term falls in the value of your investments and focus on the long term. Over longer periods, investments other than cash savings accounts tend to deliver a better chance of beating inflation.
  • If your goals are shorter term, i.e saving for a big trip in a couple of years, investments such as shares and funds might not be suitable as their value can fluctuate, so it may be best to stick to cash savings accounts. 

Make a plan

Once you’ve identified your needs, goals and risk levels, developing an investment plan can help you to find the sort of product that’s best for you. Low risk investments such as Cash ISAs are a good place to start. After that, it’s worth adding some medium-risk investments such as unit trusts if you’re comfortable with higher volatility. 

Adding higher risk investments is something you’ll only really want to approach once you’ve built up a few low to medium-risk products. However you should only do so if you’re willing to accept the risk of losing some or all of the money you put into them. 

Diversify, diversify, diversify

You’ve probably heard it before, but diversifying is a key part of investment planning. It’s a basic rule that to improve your chances of better returns, you have to accept more risk.  Diversification is an excellent method that improves the balance between risk and return by spreading your money across different investment types and sectors. 

Avoid high risks 

As mentioned above, it’s best to avoid high-risk investments unless you’re willing to accept the chance that you might not see any returns or even lose your investment. Adverts that proclaim to offer high levels of return will rarely come without risk and we’d urge caution before investing in anything that you’re not 100% certain about. If you do decide to pursue a high-risk product, it’s vital to make sure you fully understand the specific risks involved. 

With all investments comes a degree of risk, and returns can never be wholly guaranteed. Of course, we would always advise talking to an independent financial adviser. 

Sources
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48510235
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/making-an-investment-plan
https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/portfolio-clinic/2018/08/30/think-carefully-about-swapping-cash-for-bonds/
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/top-tips-for-choosing-investments
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/103015/cash-vs-bonds-what-pick-times-uncertainty.asp

Ethical investments:what shade of green are you?

Light green, dark green – there’s a whole range of shades when it comes to ethical investment opportunities. If you want to invest your money in line with your moral compass, then ethical investment funds or ‘green funds’ are suited to you. There are a few types to choose from; let’s check them out…

Dark green

Dark green funds refer to funds that hold international ethical values at the heart of their investment strategy. Funds such as Kames Ethical Equity excludes certain areas completely. Tobacco and alcohol, oil & gas, munitions manufacturers and companies that utilise animal testing will not be found in such a portfolio. Another fund by Kames is their Ethical Cautious Managed fund which excludes energy stocks, tobacco and banks with investment banking operations. It also excludes government gilts on the bond side. 

Focused green

This is how we refer to ethical funds that only focus on a couple of particular areas for investment. Investing Ethically’s WHEB Sustainability fund has three focuses: health and population, climate change and resource efficiency. Legal & General’s Gender in Leadership fund is about investing purposefully without compromising returns – they believe that responsibly run, diverse companies will benefit both society and the investor. 

Light green

Funds within the lighter shade of green have ethical focus; they may invest in companies that are responsible in their practices, but might still be part of an industry deemed to be less than ethical. Such a fund would invest in an oil company aiming to move over to greener sources of energy. One such fund is Vanguard’s SRI Global Stock Fund which only invests in companies that meet the UN’s Global Compact Standards on environmental protection, labour standards, human rights and controversial weapons (it also excludes tobacco companies). 

Ethical investing offers the possibility of growing your wealth whilst benefiting society and is becoming more popular with investors of all ages. The ethical value of a particular fund, however, lies solely with the individual’s own personal values, as what is seen as ethical to one person may be deemed not so by another. That’s why it’s best to make sure each fund’s investment portfolio is consistent with your personal views before you invest. 

With all investment opportunities, there can be no guarantee of returns regardless of the fund’s ethical objectives. There will always be a degree of risk involved. It’s clear that investing ethically is becoming an increasingly important consideration for investors. Reflecting this, the sector has developed to offer a much wider range of funds and opportunities to meet a broad range of investor needs. The growth of the sector can only be seen as a positive step for investors and the broader society. 

Sources
https://www.lovemoney.com/news/77612/8-ethical-investment-funds-kames-jupiter-stewart-wheb-vanguard
https://www.hl.co.uk/funds/research-and-news/fund-sectors/ethical
https://www.ft.com/content/e75917a0-86ef-11e9-a028-86cea8523dc2
https://www.theguardian.com/money/2008/feb/11/investmentfunds.moneyinvestments