Category: Financial Planning

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one in seven widows are missing out on valuable tax breaks

New data reveals that thousands of widows are missing out on valuable tax breaks on money inherited from their late husbands or wives.

In 2015, the government introduced a new rule that allows spouses to claim an extra ISA allowance. This allowance, known as an Additional Permitted Subscription allowance (APS allowance), is available to the surviving spouse or civil partner of a deceased ISA investor, where the investor died on or after 3 December 2014.

According to the Tax Incentivised Savings Association (an ISA trade body), around 150,000 married ISA savers die each year. However, just 21,000 eligible spouses used their APS allowance in the 2017-18 tax year, meaning they may be paying more tax than they need to pay.

Many bereaved spouses are unaware of the extra protections they can claim on, while others find the process difficult and confusing.

It is thought that many of those who lose out are widows whose husbands pass away without informing them of the exact nature of their financial affairs. In some cases, widows only discover large sums of money long after their husband’s death.

Situations like this have led to many to call for greater transparency between spouses around their financial affairs. A culture of privacy around financial matters is rife among the ‘baby boomer’ generation, where the higher earner often manages the money and investments. This can leave the bereaved in a precarious position, especially if they don’t know what bank accounts, investments and companies their spouse may have managed.

If your partner has left funds held in an ISA to someone else, you’re still entitled to APS. For instance, if your partner left an ISA of £45,000 to their friends and family, you can use your APS allowance to put an extra £45,000 into an ISA of your own.

Think you might be able to claim? You can apply through your late partner’s ISA provider. You will need to fill in a form, similar to when you open an ISA.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/savings/one-seven-widows-missing-valuable-tax-breaks/

Saving for retirement: what’s the magic number

The fact is, most of us are simply not saving enough to enjoy a similar lifestyle to our working days in retirement. A ‘retirement reality’ report from insurer Aviva shows that nearly 1 in 4 employees believe that retirement will be a financial struggle.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons why we don’t save enough – more immediate financial concerns will naturally take priority. You can’t save for tomorrow, for example, if it means forgoing your mortgage payments today. A lack of financial education also plays a big role. 85% of young adults, when surveyed, revealed that they wish they had been taught more about finance management through their school and university careers.

The Government’s auto-enrolment workers’ pension initiative has helped and there are around 1 million people saving for their retirement for the first time ever, as a result, but how do the numbers add up? The minimum auto-enrolment contribution rate is 5% of annual income, and despite more than half of workers believing this is the recommended rate of saving, it’s far from it. The generally accepted figure among experts, if you wish to maintain a similar lifestyle in retirement, is a contribution equal to 13% of your annual income. Some of this deficit will be made up by employer’s pension contributions, however, we’re still looking at a wide gulf between actual savings and those that are required.

Investment house, Fidelity, has devised a system it calls the ‘Power of Seven’, consisting of a number of savings goals. Ultimately, it suggests that to comfortably retire at 68, you should have saved the equivalent of 7 times your annual household income. So if you were to retire with a household income of £50,000, you’d want a pension pot saved of £350,000. The exact figures will differ from case to case, so it’s recommended to use an online pension calculator to understand your personal situation and check it regularly to keep yourself updated.

There are steps you can take to bolster your pension pot. It’s down to you to take responsibility for your finances, and even small steps like being a member of the works pension scheme and using tax friendly Savings Accounts can be helpful. If you receive a pay increase, perhaps allocate half of it to your savings or investments and enjoy the other half now. As tempting as it can be, it’s important to foster self control to turn down opportunities for frivolous spending – think about tomorrow and give yourself more options in your golden years.

Sources
https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-6449851/How-need-squirrel-away-golden-retirement.html

Inheritance Tax – Could there be a better alternative?

Inheritance tax is enormously unpopular to say the least. A YouGov poll found that 59% of the public deemed it unfair, making it the least popular of Britain’s 11 major taxes. What’s more, the tax has a limited revenue raising ability, with the ‘well advised’ often using gifts, trusts, business property relief and agricultural relief to avoid paying so much.

As it stands, the tax affects just 4% of British estates and contributes only 77p of every £100 of total taxation. This puts the tax in the awkward position of being both highly unpopular and raising very little revenue. At the moment, the inheritance tax threshold stands at £325,000 per person. If you own your own home and are leaving it to a direct descendant in your will, this lifts the threshold by an additional £125,000 in the 2018-19 tax year (the nil-rate band), to £450,000. Anything above this is subject to a 40% tax.

Inheritance tax is seen as unfair because it is a tax on giving (while normal taxes apply to earnings) and it is a ‘double tax’ on people who have already earned – and been taxed on – their wealth.

However, the Resolution Foundation, a prominent independent think tank, has suggested an alternative.

They propose abolishing inheritance tax and replacing it with a lifetime receipts tax.

This would see individuals given a lump sum they could inherit tax free through their lifetime and would then have to pay tax on any inheritance they receive that exceeds this threshold. The thinktank suggests that by setting a lifetime limit of £125,000 and then applying inheritance tax at 20% up to £500,000 and 30% after that would be both fairer and harder to avoid.

They predict that a lifetime receipts tax would raise an extra £5 billion by 2021, bringing in £11 billion rather than the £6 billion inheritance tax currently raises. In a time of mounting pressure on public services like the NHS, this additional revenue would be welcomed by many.

Moving away from inheritance tax would reduce many of the current ways to manage the amount of assets an individual is taxed on upon death. For instance, people would not be able to reduce the size of their taxable estate by giving away liquid assets seven years prior to their death.

The Resolution Foundation also suggests restricting business property and agricultural relief to small family businesses.

The lifetime receipts tax is, at the moment, just a think tank recommendation and is not being considered by the government.

However, the government are trying to introduce changes to probate fees that would see estates worth £2 million or more pay £6,000 in probate fees, up from the current rate of £215. This proposal has seen little support in the House of Lords and the government may consider scrapping the tax.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tax/inheritance/government-could-back-disguised-death-tax-following-lords-pressure/
https://www.accountancyage.com/2018/05/03/inheritance-tax-is-unfit-for-modern-society-and-should-be-abolished-says-think-tank/

New year, new you for your finances

With the new year comes new possibilities, and most of us like to put a resolution in place. While you might not stick to your January gym membership or finally get that novel written, committing yourself to a financial resolution is an excellent way to start 2019.

Improving a financial situation has proven to be a high priority for the British public as we turn the first page on a new calendar. In fact, the average adult will commit £4,600 on financial resolutions; this includes goals like paying off a debt or moving house. For those under the age of 25, 11% of people aim to clear their debts in the new year, and for the over 55s that figure increases to 15%.

Even with the best intentions, however, it can be tough to see resolutions bear fruit. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself the best chance.

1. Look before you leap!

It can be tempting to jump into the new year with big plans for the future, but if you’re not looking at where you’re coming from, you may not be giving those plans the preparation they need to flourish. Review your spending for 2018, collect your bank statements, bills and receipts and look out for areas of excessive or unnecessary expenditure. Once you’ve identified any pitfalls, they’ll be much easier to avoid in the year ahead.

2. Find your feet

Once you’ve got a good grasp of how the past year has been for your finances, you’ll have an understanding of where you are currently. There may be actions you can take immediately to better your situation. For example, review any subscriptions or direct debits that you now deem unnecessary. Sell any unnecessary items to create an income without any serious lifestyle changes. Consolidate debts with balance transfer cards, to make payments more manageable and to potentially lower your interest rate. Simplifying and strengthening your financial situation at the start of the year will give you greater control over the coming months.

3. Set goals and be reasonable!

There’s no point in setting a goal that is unachievable, only to disappoint yourself when you inevitably fail to meet it. With a solid understanding of your recent financial habits and your current position, set yourself an achievable plan for the year ahead. Be specific and make it measurable! Rather than pledging to eradicate all of your debt, identify a portion that you’re confident you can clear, and set yourself benchmarks to help track your progress.

4. Draw up a budget

It’s all well and good having a plan but you’ve got to stick to it. A well constructed budget can be just the thing to keep you on the straight and narrow. Gather information about your income and outgoings and regulate your spending. For example, it can be very tempting to treat yourself when you receive some unexpected income but don’t ignore the opportunity to bump up your savings. Perhaps consider splitting that extra money between debt repayments and future savings, and if there’s any left over then go for that posh meal. The key is to keep up to date, and revise your savings goals and budget plans as you go so that you’re prepared for whatever the year may bring!

With the right preparation and planning, 2019 can be a great step forward for your finances – take on the challenge and have a happy new year!

Sources
https://www.equifax.co.uk/resources/money_management/new-year-new-start-to-your-finances.html

How can millennials get on the property ladder?

There’s been a lot of talk in the press recently about generational inequality, which has mostly been with good reason. Those currently in their twenties and thirties are earning far less than people the same age did 10 to 15 years ago.

The 2008 recession has put the millennial cohort far behind in terms of earnings and wages. Wages have never fully recovered since the recession and are still behind their pre-financial crisis peak. Many may be unable to ever afford to get on the property ladder, meaning they will have a lifetime of rent payments to fund.

Also, rising house prices have meant that the average deposit has risen from around £10,000 in the Eighties and Nineties to between £50,000-60,000 today, according to analysis by accounting firm PwC. Even when adjusted for inflation, the rise is dramatic.

Auto-enrolment in pension schemes has begun to address some of the long term issues around retirement funding but even still, these do not compare to the security offered by ‘gold-plated’ direct contribution schemes.

The younger generation are already aware that they will have to work far longer. Early retirement will likely be the premise of the rich, lucky or extremely frugal. Fortunately, millennials look set to be able to cope with the demands of a longer working life. The younger generation are fitter and healthier compared to previous generations with far fewer smokers and better diets.

Although a longer working life might be a path towards an eventual retirement, it does little to help young people get on the housing ladder. The fact of the matter is that many young people will need some kind of ‘leg up’ if they are to achieve the financial stability that many of the ‘baby-boomer’ generation managed.

The income gap between older and younger generations means that many young workers will have to rely on the wealth accumulated by their parents and grandparents if they are to sustain the same quality of life.

Family loans have become increasingly important for the financial wellbeing of young people. Many are giving younger generations so-called ‘early inheritances’ in the hope that such loans will enable them to get a foot on the property ladder. This is already so widespread that nearly eight out of 10 first-time buyers in London are receiving some sort of financial help from their parents.

Parents and grandparents are funding help through a variety of means. Almost three quarters of parents used their life savings to help out with the cash, while a third downsized or released equity from their homes. Another third accessed pensions cash; either cashing in lump sums through income drawdown or annual annuities. 7% remortgaged and 6% took out a loan themselves.

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Sources
Sunniva Kolostyak “Fireworks for millennials” in Pensions Age, November 2018
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/mortgages/baby-boomer-vs-gen-y-homebuying-in-1982-compared-to-2016/

Pension drawdown in an era of long life expectancies

Pension drawdown in an era of long life expectancies

Retirement planning means taking into account a whole host of factors. You have to navigate tough questions like, ‘What will the impact of inflation be?’ or ‘When will interest rates start to creep up?’

As well as these, there is another question that must be considered: ‘How long will you live?’

This question is unanswerable but figures suggest that some pensioners might be getting this figure very wrong when it comes to drawdown. Many are running the risk that their retirement pot kicks the bucket before they do.

Research by AJ Bell indicates that 50% of people aged 55-59 who’ve entered income drawdown say they have only enough savings to tide them over for 20 years. This might sound like a long time but when you consider that average life expectancy for this cohort of savers is 82 for men and 85 for women, many risk running out of money.

The reality is that none of us know how long we will live. When you factor in that there’s a fair chance that a few of AJ Bell’s respondents might live to 90 or even 100, it’s clear that many pensioners could be drawing from their savings at an unsustainable rate.

Withdrawal rates

AJ Bell also asked their respondents about their withdrawal rates. They discovered that 57% of people in the 55 to 59 age bracket are withdrawing more than 10% of their fund each year. This reduces to 43% of people in the 60 to 64 age bracket and 34% of people in the 65 to 69 age bracket.

While many use their early retirement to travel and embark on their larger plans, over-withdrawing early on could mean that they end up without the money to cover costs that arise in later life, such as care costs.

The average size of the fund in AJ Bell’s questionnaire was £118,000. Based on this, a 10% annual withdrawal of £11,800 would result in the income lasting just 12 years. However, if the withdrawal is reduced to 6% of starting value, the same fund might last for 29 years. These estimations don’t take into account the detrimental impact of inflation, which currently runs at 2.7%.

Working out a sustainable drawdown rate is difficult and depends on a whole range of factors. Your regulated financial adviser or planner should be able to give you your best chance of a good retirement outcome.

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Sources
https://www.retirement-planner.co.uk/232530/tom-selby-life-expectancy-guessing-game

3 pension changes you may have missed in the Budget

There was scarcely a mention of the ‘P’ word in October’s Budget speech (believe us, we were listening closely for it!). Instead, Hammond used the Budget speech as an opportunity to unveil his ‘rabbit in the hat’ changes to income tax thresholds, an increase in NHS mental health funding and a ban on future PFI contracts.

However, we had a good read of the accompanying ‘Red Book’ for any mention of pensions. At 106 pages, this was no mean feat. Fortunately, though, it was time well spent as we found some changes to pensions you may otherwise have missed:

The pension dashboard

HM Treasury confirmed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would look at designing a pension dashboard which would include your state pension. The pensions dashboard will be an online platform that will let you see all of your pension schemes in a single view. The average worker is nowadays expected to work eleven jobs during their career and keeping track of so many pension pots could prove confusing to say the least.

There was an extra £5 million of funding for the DWP to help make the pension dashboard a reality. Commentators see the dashboard as a welcome sign that the government is committed to helping savers keep track of their funds.

Patient capital funding

The government announced a pensions investment package which should make it easier for direct contribution pension schemes to invest in patient capital. Patient capital refers to investments that forgo immediate returns in anticipation of more substantial returns further down the line.

The government may review the 0.75% charge cap and there is widespread speculation that it will be increased to allow more investment in high growth companies.

Cold calling ban

The government has promised to ban pensions cold calling as part of a drive against pension scammers. Almost two years since the government’s initial proposals to combat pension scams were announced, pensions cold calling will finally be made illegal.

Research by Prudential indicates that one in 10 over 55s fear they have been targetted by pensions scammers since the introduction of pension freedoms in 2015. Cold calls, with offers to unlock or transfer funds, are a frequently used tactic to defraud people of their retirement savings.

As much as these measures go a long way to making people’s pensions more secure, the government will be powerless to enforce cold calls made from abroad and not on behalf of a UK company. It is unclear how and if the government will work with international regulators to mitigate the dangers of such calls.

Sources
https://www.moneyobserver.com/news/budget-2018-three-pensions-changes-you-may-have-missed

4 ways to save at Christmas without being a Scrooge

With your Christmas preparations, starting early is the key to saving money. If you leave your shopping to the last minute, not only do you have to face the 23rd December high street chaos, you’ll miss out on the excellent deals that many retailers offer early in the festive shopping season.

It’s incredibly easy to overspend at Christmas – doing your utmost to make savings where you can is the best way to avoid a festive hangover that lasts until that January paycheck finally arrives.

Here are our top four festive money saving tips:

Join a no-present pact

Do you ever find that your friends and relatives buy you Christmas gifts you don’t want? The sort that are used once on Christmas Day before being relegated to a dusty top shelf for a few years and then eventually given away to a charity shop?

We’re sure that most of us have been in this scenario at some point.

Joining a present pact is a great way of avoiding giving and receiving more than you need.

Not only will this save you money, it will also go a long way to reducing your environmental impact at a time where we buy and receive plenty that just ends up going to landfill. It can be a liberating revelation to admit to ourselves that others don’t really need ‘gimmicky’ Christmas gifts and neither do we.

Keep a Christmas present list

For people who don’t enter into your no-present pact, writing a list will give you a clear idea of what you need to buy. As well as avoiding traipsing through various shops by giving you a precise idea about exactly what you need, it means you won’t overspend by ‘panic-buying’ gifts at the last minute.

Keep an eye out for sales and bargains

Even when Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, there will still be opportunities to grab an amazing deal. Although starting your shopping early has its distinct advantages, keep an eye out for retailers who may bring forward their January sales into December in an attempt to beat any pre-Christmas slump. Sale signs usually start to go up as they get worried about shifting stock. It’s also worth getting savvy about which days stores (on the high street and online) change their Offer of the Week – Monday and Thursdays are often favourites.

Send your cards second class

Even small savings add up to make a difference. As the saying goes, ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.

A standard first-class stamp now costs 67p, whereas a second class stamp costs 9p less at 58p. If you send 50 cards out at Christmas, this will add up to a £4.50 saving. This might not sound much, but trimming your Christmas spendings down in plenty of places will add up to a substantial amount.

Whatever you’re buying this Christmas, being thrifty never hurts. Thinking carefully about your choices and starting early are the easiest ways to make savings.

Sources
https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/guides/article-6283455/Save-fortune-Christmas-without-Scrooge.html

 

what do ESG and impact investing mean for investors?

Sustainable investing has grown rapidly over the last couple of decades. Investors are increasingly committed to the social and environmental impact of where they put their hard- earned money. Getting good financial returns and having a positive impact on the world are not mutually exclusive. Impact investing and ESG investments allow investors to ‘kill two birds with one stone’, as they say

American financial association SIFMA estimates the market size of sustainable investments to be $8.72 trillion. That figure was calculated in 2016, so it’s likely to be substantially larger than this now.

ESG and impact investing are two terms frequently confused in the world of sustainable investing. They’re often used interchangeably, which is a shame because it risks obscuring what the different terms actually mean; they are quite different. ESG is a framework for determining the impact of an investment whereas impact investing is an approach.


ESG
ESG stands for environmental, social and governmental. It’s a framework that can be integrated in the risk-return analysis of different investment opportunities. By drawing from a variety of data, some gathered from company and government disclosures among other sources, it allows investors to examine how companies manage risk and opportunities in three key areas:

Environmental

This refers to a company’s impact on the environment. It looks at certain aspects of a company’s operations, such as how they dispose of their hazardous waste or how they manage carbon emissions.

Social

Does the company take measures to have a good social impact? This can include philanthropic and community focused activities or any measures the leadership takes to promote diversity in the workplace.

Governance

This deals with the leadership and strategy of a company. It addresses aspects such as staff pay and communication with shareholders.

An ESG framework is a valuable tool that may be used to evaluate how certain behaviours can affect a company’s performance. However, it’s not an investment strategy in and of itself. With ESG, the wider impacts of investments are considered but financial performance still takes precedence.


Impact Investing
Impact investing means using investments to cause positive social or environmental change. Examples include supporting access to clean energy or working to improve social mobility by investing in companies operating in underprivileged areas. In contrast to ESGs, in impact investing financial performance is secondary to the overall social or environmental impact.

The financial return of impact investments varies between cases. Some investors intentionally invest for below market rate returns in line with their strategic objectives. Others pursue competitive, market-rate returns. According to GIIN’s 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey, these account for the majority, with 66% of impact investors aiming for market rate returns.

Because maximum returns are sacrificed in favour of investing for a particular social or environmental agenda, there’s the possibility that certain opportunities may underperform relative to other widely available options. When maximum profit isn’t the goal, sometimes the financial returns can suffer.

This said, impact investing shouldn’t be confused with charity. The objectives of impact investing are financial as well as social and environmental. There are many companies whose operations have a positive impact on the world and investing in these is an effective way of contributing towards long term social and environmental progress.

The shift towards impact investing and ESG highlights a growing desire among investors to do well by doing good. They are increasingly a core offering, rather than something that is ‘nice to have’. However, as with any investment decision, it’s a good idea to do plenty of your own research and seek financial advice to see how ESG and impact investing could fit with the rest of your portfolio.


Sources
https://www.investmentnews.com/article/20180220/BLOG09/180229985/esg-and-impact-investing-do-you-know-the-difference

the longevity challenge and how to tackle it

In the UK, we are faced with the challenge of an ageing population. Many of us will live longer than we might have expected. Already, 2.4% of the population is aged over 85. Because of improvements in healthcare and nutrition, this figure only looks set to rise.

The Office of National Statistics currently estimates that 10.1% of men and 14.8% of women born in 1981 will live to 100. A demographic shift to an older population brings unprecedented change to the way the country would operate, from the healthcare system to the world of work.

In addition, a long life and subsequently a long retirement, bring challenges of their own from a personal financial planning perspective.

Firstly, it means you have to sustain yourself from your retirement ‘nest egg’ of cash savings, investments and pensions. You need to ensure that you draw from this at a sustainable rate so you don’t run the risk of outliving your money.

Secondly, there’s the question of funding long term care. If we live longer, the chance that we will one day need to fund some sort of care increases. Alzheimer’s Research UK report that the risk of developing dementia rises from one in 14 over the age of 65 to one in six over the age of 80.

Of course, there are many different types of care, ranging from full time care to occasional care at home, with a variety of cost levels. All require some level of personal funding.

The amount you pay depends on the level of need and the amount of assets you have, with your local council funding the rest. This means that it’s definitely something that you need to take into account in your financial planning.

Having the income in later life to sustain long term care really does require detailed planning. Because of the widespread shift from annuities to drawdown, working out a sustainable rate at which to withdraw from your ‘nest egg’ is essential.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ sustainable rate at which to draw from your pensions and savings. Every person has their own requirements, savings, liabilities and views on what risks are acceptable.

There are some things which you will be able to more accurately plan when working out the sustainable rate to draw from your pension. These include your portfolio asset allocation, the impact of fees and charges and the risk level of your investments. Speaking with your financial adviser will help you on your way to working out the right withdrawal rate for you.

There are, however, some unknowns. These include the chance of developing a health condition later in life and exactly how long you’ll live. It is best to withdraw leaving plenty of room for these to change unexpectedly, improving your chances of having a financial cushion to cope with what life throws at you.

Sources

Prevalence by age in the UK


https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/july2017

Defining and evidencing Sustainable Withdrawal rates