Category: Financial Planning

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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

Cash versus bonds, which is safer?

Protecting and growing wealth is often one of the main objectives clients have. There are many investment opportunities out there that are described as ‘safe,’ but many individuals feel that cash is the safest option for them. Keeping your money in your account is an appealing option, as you know exactly where it is and can access it at any time. However, it may be worth looking into the other investment options available to you. 

Here’s some more detail of the cash versus bonds debate.

The benefits of cash

The main benefit, of course, is that you maintain complete control over your money. You simply deposit it into your bank account and there it remains. You can then review your balance and transaction history easily, knowing that no one else has access to those funds. 

Cash is available for those rainy days or times when emergency funds are required – it gives you flexibility. 

The risks of cash

Inflation is one of the biggest risks to cash. According to the ONS, the 12 month inflation figure as at June 2019 was 1.9%. This is the rate your savings require just to maintain their buying power, anything less than this and you are, in effect, losing money. 

The second risk surrounds what are referred to as ‘opportunity costs’. These are the potential profits that could have been acquired if your money had been used differently. Since holding cash generates relatively little profit, the opportunity cost could be quite high. 

It is generally prudent financial planning to always hold some cash for quick access and ‘emergencies’. Understanding just how much will be dependent on personal circumstances. Like all investments, there can be a risk of holding either too much or too little cash.

The benefits of bonds 

Unlike cash, investing in bonds offers the benefit of consistent investment income. Investing in a bond is similar to making a loan in the amount of the bond to the issuing entity – a company or government. In exchange for the loan, the issuing entity pays the bondholder periodically. The income generated by bonds is generally stable and quite predictable, allowing for robust financial planning. Once a bond matures, the issuing entity pays the bondholder the par value of its original purchase price. 

The risks of bonds 

The main risk of bond investing comes when the investment loses value. If the issuing entity defaults, you may lose some or all of the investment. It’s important to note, however, that bonds are rated to measure the credit quality of any individual bond. The higher the rating, the lower the risk. Government bonds tend to receive the highest ratings.

A bond might also lose value if interest rates rise. However, this is only a concern if a bondholder is looking to trade it in before the bond reaches maturity.

Sources
https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/portfolio-clinic/2018/08/30/think-carefully-about-swapping-cash-for-bonds/
https://www.fool.com/how-to-invest/a-quick-guide-to-asset-allocation-stocks-vs-bonds.aspx
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/103015/cash-vs-bonds-what-pick-times-uncertainty.asp

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.