Category: Financial Planning

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Drawdown tax and flexible retirement income. What does it all mean?

Once you reach 55, a whole spread of opportunities will open themselves up to you. One such bonus is the fact that you can finally access that hard-saved pension fund. Up to 25% of your savings can be taken tax-free, with the remaining 75% being subject to income tax. The payable amount depends on your total income for the year and your tax rate. This is known as drawdown tax. 

You’ll only have to pay tax if you decide to draw over the 25% threshold. In this case, any income you take will be added to the rest of your taxable income for that year, and will be taxed at 20% after you pass the personal threshold. Therefore, if you were to take out a large withdrawal pushing you into the £40,000 to £150,000 bracket, you could be taxed at 40%. 

Your pension provider is required to deduct any tax before a withdrawal is paid and it’s likely that when you take a taxable payment for the first time, you’ll be taxed using an emergency tax code (it may be worth speaking to your pension provider about how you will be taxed). 

How do you manage your pot? 

If you choose to stay within the 25% lump sum, more often than not you’ll move the rest into one or more funds that allow you to take a taxable income at times to suit you. It’s wise to choose funds that match your income objectives and your attitude to risk, as the income you receive might be adjusted periodically depending on how well your investments are doing. 

You can also move your pension pot gradually into income drawdown. The 25% bracket still applies to each amount you move across, so you can take a quarter of the amount tax-free and place the rest into drawdown. 

A way to make your retirement income more flexible is to invest in an annuity or another type of income product, such as a gilt or corporate bond, which usually offer guarantees about growth and income. 

However, it’s paramount that you carefully plan how much income you can afford to take under pension drawdown as you don’t want to run out of money. Factors such as living longer than expected, taking too much out too early and poor investment performance can potentially hinder your drawdown plans. 

That’s why it’s important to regularly review your investments.

Sources
https://www.pensionbee.com/pensions-explained/pension-withdrawal/how-does-pension-drawdown-tax-work
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/flexi-access-drawdown
https://blog.standardlife.co.uk/combiningyourpensions-2/

Generation X is failing to save for their pensions

With rising costs of living affecting the way we live our lives, it seems that pensions have taken a back seat for some. Workers in their forties and fifties from generation X have left the organisation of their pension to the last minute, with many savers now pouring money into their pots, trying to make up for lost time.

According to a study carried out by Salisbury House Wealth (SHW), Gen X accounted for 43% of all UK pensions savings in 2018. This marks a dramatic surge in savings, increasing by 14% from the previous year, making up £3.7bn of the £8.5bn saved during the course of the year.

Tim Holmes, managing director of SHW, said: ‘Many individuals in generation X are finding their incomes squeezed by having to pay for both younger and older dependents. As a result, pensions will likely only become a priority at the last minute.’ Tim later goes on to point out that although it may seem wise to leave saving to a later date, your investments may not have enough time to grow.

This seems to link with the white paper produced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) earlier in May on intergenerational differences. The paper noted that between 2014 and 2016, people aged 40 to 50 had less total wealth when compared with people of the same age 10 years earlier. The FCA has suggested that an open debate is required in order to understand the specific challenges that these particular age groups face.

Older people are living longer as life expectancy increases. Baby boomers are having to develop new financial strategies to maintain living standards in later life whereas younger people are struggling to build wealth due to rising house prices, insecure employment and student debt.

The FCA points out that Gen X are likely to be financially stretched, as they are torn between the responsibility of helping older generations in later life whilst also providing financial support for younger generations, leaving less money that can be set aside for their pensions.

Christoper Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, says that from ‘baby-boomers to generation X to millenials – everyone’s financial needs and circumstances are evolving. It is clear that each generation will have its own challenges.’ He goes on to say that now is the time to ‘step back, consider and understand how these needs are evolving and challenge assumptions about customer needs in the context of intergenerational factors.’

How can you make the most out of diversification?

Diversification is a word that seems to get tossed around a lot in conversations around savings and investment. We hear it often, but what does it mean?

Put simply, diversification is a risk management strategy that mixes a variety of investments within a portfolio. Through having different kinds of assets in a portfolio, the goal is to obtain higher long-term returns and lower the risk of any sole holding. Essentially, you are hedging your bets.

By smoothing out the risk of each investment within your portfolio, you’re aiming to neutralise the negative performance of some investments with the positive performance of others. Though your investments will only benefit when the different investments are not perfectly correlated, you want them to respond differently, often in opposition to one another, to market influences.

One drawback to be aware of, though, is that by limiting portfolio risk through diversification, you could potentially be mitigating performance in the short term.

Types of investment

Most fund managers and advisers diversify investments across asset classes and determine what percentage of the portfolio to allocate to each. Such asset classes include:

  • Stocks – shares or equity in a publicly traded company.
  • Fixed-interest securities – also known as bonds, fixed-interest securities represent a loan made by an investor or a borrower and are often used by companies, states and sovereign governments to finance various projects.
  • Real estate – buildings, land, natural resources, agriculture, livestock and water or mineral deposits.
  • Commodities – basic goods necessary for the production of other products or services.
  • Cash and short-term cash equivalents – savings, cash ISAs, savings bonds and premium bonds.

How do you make the most of it?

The unfortunate nature of investment is that all winning streaks end. It’s human nature to be drawn to winners and avoid losers. But investing is much more fluid, with no particular investment reigning as champion for long. By investing only in what’s doing well currently, you might miss out on any rising stars beginning their ascent to success. You may want to jump from top performer to top performer, however more often than not, the best gains will have been and gone by the time you invest. You may even be investing prior to the asset reducing in return.

In an ideal world, you’d get high returns from your savings and investments with no risk. However, reality dictates that there must be a trade-off – high risk often leads to higher returns.

Though it is sensible to hold part of your assets in low-risk investments, such as Cash ISAs, some see value in investigating more high risk investments in order to acquire those lucrative higher returns. However, you need to make sure that you’d be happy with running the risk of making a loss.

A general rule of thumb is that the older you are, the less you’ll want to expose your investments to market risk – meaning that diversifying into more low risk investments may be the ideal approach for you in order to keep your investments secure.

There are also many ways to diversify within a single kind of investment. For example, with shares, you can spread your investments between large and small companies, UK and overseas markets and within different sectors like technology, financials or raw materials.

Finally, remember that the value of investments, and the income from them, may fall or rise and you might get back less than you invested. Always proceed with caution – diversification helps mitigate the risks but won’t remove them entirely.

Gifting rules and inheritance tax, what you might not know

Following an in depth study conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), it has been discovered that only one in four people making financial gifts are aware of the risks of inheritance tax. Further to this, they found that only 45% of gifters reported being aware of inheritance tax rules and exemptions when they gave their largest gift.

A staggeringly low 8% of respondents considered tax rules before making a financial gift and most did not associate gifting with inheritance tax. When compared with the fact that over half of respondents said that they planned to leave inheritance, it’s obvious that there seems to be a gap in gifter’s knowledge.

For those who were aware of the rules surrounding inheritance tax, 54% said this influenced the value of their largest gift. This was most prevalent amongst affluent taxpayers who had assets of £500,000 or more. Respondents below this threshold had more limited knowledge of the long-term effects of inheritance tax, the seven-year rule or the annual limit on gifts.

So, where does the money go?

80% of gifters gave to individuals, with charities coming in second at around 10%. The most common beneficiaries were adult children, followed by 15% giving to parents or other family members and 14% making gifts to friends. The most popular reasons were presents for birthdays and weddings.

The data also suggested that even when individuals considered inheritance tax rulings, it did not deter them from giving the gift.

The rules

You can give away £3,000 worth of gifts each tax year (6 April to 5 April) without them being added to the value of your estate. This is known as your ‘annual exemption’. You can carry any unused annual exemption forward to the next year – but only for one year.

For smaller gifts, you can give as many gifts of up to £250 per person as you want during the tax year as long as you have not used another exemption on the same person.

The current starting threshold for inheritance tax for a single person is set at £325,000. This amount is then doubled for married couples and civil partners, who also have the additional benefit of the residential nil-rate band, which allows for a further £150,000 of tax-free, property-based inheritance per person. This particular allowance is set to rise to £175,000 as of the 6th of April 2020.

An unsuccessful PET is taxed depending on how long the gifter has lived following the giving of the gift and is referred to as ‘taper relief.’ If a gift is given less than three years before death, the full rate of 40% is applied to the gift, tapering off to 8% if the gift was given between six to seven years before death.

However, this is not the case when it comes to transactions with a reservation of benefit. For example, if you give away your home to your children and continue to occupy it rent-free, the property is still considered as forming part of your estate immediately if the worst were to happen. An individual cannot retain possession of a chattel or property whilst making a PET.

Though it may be difficult to plan for the worst, knowing how to best mitigate the tax surrounding gifts and inheritance can help you make key financial decisions at the most opportune moments, and prevent any avoidable losses when it comes to sharing your assets with the people and organisations that matter most to you.

What does it take to retire early?

The idea of retiring in your 50s or even your 40s sounds like a pipe-dream to most, what with the increased cost of living, inflation and other economic factors slowly eating away at your predicted earnings. This hasn’t stopped the rise of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement, though, a new method of frugal living that aims for early retirement, escaping long working lives and living off the stock market or other supplementary income for good.

One of the most infamous experiments carried out by Stanford University is the marshmallow experiment, where a pair of psychologists gave children a choice: one reward now, or two rewards if they waited around 15 minutes. Some of the children took the early reward of a marshmallow. Others struggled, but managed to wait longer, occupying themselves until it was time to receive a double reward.

Saving for retirement can be very similar to the lesson in delayed gratification, only more difficult. The children knew what reward awaited them should they be patient – most adults don’t have a clue if their savings will be enough for the future. When the reward is intangible or complicated, it’s even more difficult to set limits now in the hope of future benefits.

So, how do you do it?

Keep your spending in-house

From small seeds of saving do sturdy trees of retirement grow. Simply put, it’s good to aim small when beginning your savings journey. That £2.65 coffee from your local coffee shop is now going to be an instant in the office. No more eating out for lunch, it’s time for homemade meals to be brought into work with you. Cutting out the small daily expenses can really help boost your long term savings and help usher in that desired early retirement. Let’s take our £2.65 coffee for example, the average UK citizen works around 260 days a year – that’s £689 a year!

Utilise technology

There are a number of apps available, such as Moneybox, that make some basic assumptions about stock market returns and inflation rates which then inform you as to how much you’ll need to save. Having a handy app on your phone can help you make decisions on the fly and allow you to check what a potentially impulsive purchase may cost you in the future.

Shop around

Saving money where you can on bills, transport and other outgoings can help to grow your retirement pot quickly and without too much skin off your nose. Ask yourself whether you really need that magazine subscription or streaming service. Can you find a better deal on your phone or energy contract? The answer is often yes.

Take advantage of saving opportunities

The government has recently introduced a new Lifetime ISA open to those aged between 18 and 40. LISA account holders can save up to £4,000 a year, with the government adding an annual 25% bonus up to a maximum of £1,000. There is a limit, however. You won’t be able to contribute to a LISA or receive the bonus when you turn 50, but the account will stay open and your savings will continue accruing interest or investment returns. For more information on the terms of withdrawal and eligibility, check out this government’s guide.

Decide what your goals are

Ready for some serious saving? Pretirement is an app developed for the financially-inclined who want to put away small savings over the long term in order to save for a holiday or a new car. Their headline claim, using their clever algorithm, is that by saving £800 a month towards your retirement, you shave years off your working life, depending on what your retirement goals are.

And there’s the big question. What are your retirement goals? Do you want to live a life of luxury, enjoying all the potential freedoms that your new found free time will have to offer? Or would you rather have a comfortable yet frugal retirement. There’s a whole range of options available to you, and your retirement goals will help to inform you of how much you need to save and invest. A financial adviser can be a great help in determining this factor as they can give you direction on what the ideal savings plan is for you.

At the end of it all, the message is to save when and where you can. It’s about growing your savings and securing your finances.

Why easy access savings accounts are a bad idea

We’ve all been there, the boiler breaks, the car decides that today is not its day or a bill appears out of nowhere. For these sudden expenses, you need to have access to your money.  The UK has favoured instant access savings accounts for a good while now, with a staggering 77% of cash savings now being held in these easy access savings accounts.

Convenience is a wonderful thing, however there are a number of drawbacks to keeping your cash at your fingertips. The very best of these easy access accounts currently pay up to 1.5% interest AER (Annual Equivalent Rate). If you’re one of the millions of people who are trying to save with bigger high street banks, you’ll be receiving a whole lot less. In some cases, saving rates with big banks can be as low as 0.15% (29/05/19), which we can all agree is monumentally low.  

What should you do?

Easy access savings accounts might seem like the most uncomplicated way to keep your cash. The truth is, though, few of us really need to keep our cash instantly accessible.

A healthy blend of instant access and fixed-term savings could significantly boost your returns, whilst keeping that rainy day fund safe, in case of emergencies. That’s why it’s worth splitting your savings in two:

Emergency cash – money to be put to one side in case of loss of employment, home repairs or other unforeseen expenses. For most of you, this will be within the region of three to six months worth of income held in an instant access or current account.

Long term savings – you may have your eyes on a big expense in the future. You might be getting married, buying a new house or planning a trip around the world. Whatever it may be, putting your cash into a fixed term savings account is one of the best ways to grow your savings. You can keep your cash in a fixed term account from between 3 months and five years.

The general rule is that the longer you keep your cash in a fixed term account, the higher your rate. You may even be able to reach the dizzying heights of 2.5%!

With the national inflation rate currently set at 1.9%, saving has become more important than ever if you want to secure your future finances. For more information on what style of saving would suit you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The UK is struggling to save; what are the implications?

study found in 2018 that one in four adults have no savings. Many residents in the UK wish that they had cash to save, however high monthly outgoings and debt clearance seem to take priority. Saving for the little curveballs that life throws your way is a good way to maintain a sound mind, but poor money management and large monthly payments can get in the way. So is this issue localised to the UK, or is the struggle to save an international issue?

Across the pond

Households in the US are currently able to save 6.5% of their disposable income, down from the previous figure of 7.3% after estimates were made by Trading Economics. However, earlier in 2018 a report was made, finding that 40% of US adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 (est £307) emergency.

The current UK savings figure sits at 4.8%, one of the lowest since records began in 1963. The Office for National Statistics has come up with an even lower figure of 3.9%, which actually is the lowest recorded. Further to this, a report was also made by the Financial Conduct Authority in 2017 that millions of UK residents would find it difficult to pay an unexpected bill of £50 at the end of the month, and little has changed since then.

Closer to home

In France and Germany, the savings ratio sits at 15.25% and 10.9% respectively, that’s triple the UK’s value for France and over double for Germany! The Managing Director of Sparkasse bank points to cultural ideals as the main influencers for the high German saving rate, saying that: “Saving is seen as the morally right thing to do. It is more than simple financial strategy.” This stance seems typical for the country that’s home to the first ever savings bank, opening in Hamburg in 1778.

Why do we not save as much as we used to?

The idea of saving for a rainy day in the UK may not be totally lost but for many, the rainy days are happening as we speak. Another reason relates to the tendency of UK households to borrow more money in order to maintain lifestyle choices. For all quarters in 2018, households were net borrowers, drawing on loans and savings to fund spending and investment decisions.

Comments have been made referring to current Brexit uncertainty as a reason for the change, alongside rising rental prices and increased costs of living. Whether this new change in spending and saving is wholly due to current cultural or economic factors is yet to be confirmed. Another case has been made for poor interest rates making it a less lucrative option for savers to save.

Be it cultural or economic, it is undeniable that the country has lost faith in the ethos of saving their pennies. In the end, as more and more studies come to light, it seems that only time will tell.

Sources
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/expenditure/bulletins/familyspendingintheuk/financialyearending2018
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-adults-savings-none-quarter-debt-cost-living-emergencies-survey-results-a8265111.html
https://eu.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/budget-and-spending/2018/09/26/how-much-average-household-has-savings/37917401/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46986579
https://www.ft.com/content/c8772236-2b93-11e8-a34a-7e7563b0b0f4

6 bad habits to avoid during retirement

Planning for retirement can be complicated, as anyone approaching the end of their working life will tell you. However, navigating the myriad of choices, both financially and socially, doesn’t have to be such an enigma. Here are a few tips to help you avoid common bad habits that retirees often fall into:

1. Spending your pension fund money

Yes, that’s right. If you delay spending your pension and spend other available cash and investments first, you could keep your money safe from the taxman. Not spending your pension fund money until you have to may also help the beneficiaries of your estate avoid a large inheritance tax bill.

2. Taking the full brunt of inheritance tax

Inheritance tax can cost your loved ones vast sums if you were to pass away. There are plenty of ways to protect them from losing a large portion of your estate. Strategies such as making gifts or leaving assets to your spouse are an effective way to avoid the tax, among other valuable strategies.

3. Failing to have a plan

Many retirees have multiple avenues of income to provide for them during retirement. Making the most out of those streams of revenue is key to a stress free retirement, as unwise investment or poor planning can lead to unnecessary worries. We recommend contacting a financial adviser in order to set out a plan that’ll let you focus less on worrying about income and more on enjoying your well-earned retirement.

4. Not taking advantage of the discounts

There is an absolute boatload of price slashes available to retirees over a certain age. This ranges from discounts on train fares to reduced prices of cinema tickets. We recommend that all pensioners takes full advantage of these discounts as every penny saved provides more financial security for yourself and your loved ones.

5. Thinking property is the only asset worth having

Property can be a valuable source of retirement revenue, but it’s not the only way to create more income. Property can often incur maintenance expenses for landlords and take up time to resolve that could be spent making the most out of your retirement (though there are many pros and cons to the pension vs property discussion).

6. Buying into scams

When you retire, it seems that all kinds of people come crawling out of the woodwork to give you a “great” investment opportunity or insurance policy. Tactics can include contact out of the blue with promises of high / guaranteed returns and pressure to act quickly. The pensions regulator has a comprehensive pensions scam guide that’s definitely worth a read.

Building your financial future

Sources
https://moneytothemasses.com/saving-for-your-future/pensions/buying-property-with-your-pension-everything-you-need-to-know
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/15-things-not-retirement-090000553.html
https://miafinancialadvice.co.uk/14-retirement-planning-mistakes-that-you-dont-know-that-you-are-making/
https://miafinancialadvice.co.uk/spend-your-pension-last/
https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/managing-your-money/2018/10/04/want-an-easy-retirement-avoid-this-common-mistake/

The popularity of Equity release is growing, but is it a good move?

Equity release is no longer the niche lending area it once was. More and more homeowners over 55 are choosing to release cash tied up in their homes and there are few signs of this trend subsiding.

Lending in 2018 increased by 27% compared to the previous year and is now nearly double what it was in 2016. It’s likely that the UK’s growing elderly population, where many don’t have the pension security of generations past, is partly behind this expansion. The growing variety of equity release products on the market could also be a factor. Newer products mean that homeowners are able to gradually release money from their property, rather than taking it as a lump sum.

Is it a risky option?

Equity release doesn’t exactly have a squeaky clean reputation. There have been past accusations of mis-selling and there are occasions where relatives find themselves receiving less inheritance than they might have expected.

Because of the way interest accumulates over the years, people can end up owing a large amount of money that is paid back from the value of the property when a person dies or goes into care.

Whether equity release is a suitable solution really depends on a person’s individual financial and personal circumstances.

As well as getting sound financial advice beforehand, it’s always best to be open with loved ones about releasing equity from your property. Two in three complaints to the Financial Ombudsman about equity release come from relatives of people who have died or gone into care. It can save a lot of upset later on to be open about releasing cash from a property when you do it, rather than further down the line.

The bottom line is that equity release can play a crucial role in supporting a full retirement, alongside pensions, savings and other assets, for the right homeowner. Since homes are most people’s largest asset, it makes sense to at least consider how this asset can be used to fund retirement. Downsizing in later life is another way of releasing money from your home.

Sources
https://www.mortgagestrategy.co.uk/feature-the-rise-and-rise-of-equity-release

Expert Advice: Diversify your ‘life Portfolio’ for a happy retirement

It goes without saying that being in a strong financial position in later life is important for a happy retirement. After all, it’s hard to be truly happy if you’re constantly worrying about money and having to devise new ways to make ends meet.

However, money isn’t everything. Even if you have your finances under control and adequate resources, a happy retirement isn’t a given. This means when retirement planning it might be worth coming up with a strong ‘Life Portfolio’, as well as a financial one. Looking at your ‘Life Portfolio’ can help guide you through the important decisions you must take in the run up to retirement, as you’ll have made a record of the key things you want from later life.

What makes a ‘Life Portfolio’?

For the purpose of the Life Portfolio, it makes sense to break down your lifestyle planning into four areas:

Health

This refers to activities that help you remain in good health. Health here shouldn’t be limited to just physical health. It’s also important to think about activities that keep you happy and mentally active.

People

Existing family and friends aren’t the only things that make up the ‘People’ category. You should also think about community organisations you could get involved in to make new friends.

Places

Where do you see yourself living in retirement? Do you have any travel plans or dream holidays? Will you be close enough to see your loved ones?

Pursuits

What will you do in your retirement? What hobbies or interests do you have which you’d like to pursue in retirement? Does volunteering appeal to you? This also relates to whether you’d like to retire fully or stay professionally active in some capacity.

In the run up to retirement, it’s important you think about the meaningful activities that will keep the zest in your post-retirement life. Retirement is a big change, and despite the prospect of much more free time, it’s not always a seamless transition. Many experience a feeling of lacking the direction they once had through their careers.

If you develop a ‘Life Portfolio’ with a partner, you need to think about what goals you share and what goals are individual. Coming up with a set of shared goals for retirement while meeting your individual needs is important to ensure a happy retirement together. Whether you choose to write a formal ‘Life Portfolio’ or not, devising and working towards goals outside of work is key to being happy after you leave full time work.

Sources
https://www.kitces.com/blog/anna-rappaport-phased-retirement-life-portfolio-health-people-pursuits-places/