Category: General Interest


Unemployment brings new career challenges for the over 50s

Whilst the furlough scheme continues to be extended, there are reportedly around 377,000 older workers who are at risk of losing their employment, according to the Centre for Ageing Better and the Learning and Work Institute. That constitutes one in ten male, and eight in ten female workers in their 50s and 60s who will likely have to find alternative employment or make their income elsewhere.

Rising unemployment

This is not the first indicator of people in that age bracket being economically affected by the pandemic. In March there were around 304,000 over 50s claiming unemployment-related benefits. This number almost doubled to 588,000 in June, meaning that there are more over 50s claiming universal credit than there are under 25s. This may, in part, be linked to the UK’s ageing population, as within 20 years we can expect one in four people to be over 65. 

While 35% of those over 50 who lose their job are recorded to return to work “quickly”, according to an analysis of data from the Department for Work and Pensions by the Centre for Ageing Better, this places the over 50s as the least likely of all age groups to find fast employment after being made redundant, with 29% finding themselves unemployed for over 12 months. These figures paint a particularly stark view of events as the current labour market problems come on the back of a trend of extremely high employment rates for older workers. 

What can be done

There is, thankfully, something that those over 50 have to their advantage. Experience within the workplace is an invaluable asset, and while the job market is particularly strained at the moment, there are roles available and opportunities for starting new businesses exist. Despite the broader circumstances, there are sectors that are still hiring, specifically retail, farming, financial services, care and tutoring. Your experience can be used in your favour by positioning yourself as a mentor and teacher.

Now may be the time for those with decades of working experience to take their employment into their own hands and consider the path of entrepreneurship. In fact, businesses started by those aged over 45 have proven to be more likely to achieve success than those started by those in the 18-25 age range. 

The opportunity to embark upon a second career of your choosing can be daunting, but also liberating. For those in this position, focussing on their acquired talents and skills and pinpointing a specialisation is a good place to start.


Stay on top of your mental health whilst working from home

For many, the coronavirus pandemic has brought with it the necessity of remote working. Globally, those who have been able to do their work from the confines of their own home have been encouraged to do so and, as a result, were thrown into the deep end of remote work.

As the months have passed, the consensus on these new working arrangements has been developing and looking forward from the tail end of 2020, it appears that this new way of working is here to stay. Adaptation to new technologies and working habits has been broadly successful and relatively fast, and remote working has no doubt come hand in hand with certain freedoms. Excessively long commutes are a thing of the past for many, flexible hours have become more widespread and the savings are adding up for those who can now brew their own coffee and make their own sandwiches in their lunch break. 

Naturally, however, the change has brought with it new challenges to which none of us are immune.

Challenges of working from home

The office didn’t function purely as a place of work. For a large portion of workers, it’s a place to socialise too. The feeling of isolation is a real concern for people whose social interactions have reduced, and these can be amplified depending on an individual’s living situation.

Without a clearly designated boundary between work and home life, it’s very easy for us to fall into an unhealthy work life balance while working from home. Thankfully, there are things we can do to mitigate the worst of the downsides of remote working.

Get into a routine

Without a sturdy routine we can easily lose the distinction between work and home life. Try and maintain healthy sleep patterns, and when you clock out for the day, stop working! If you’re saving time where you would normally be commuting, try spending that commuting time exercising or reading, or whatever it is you want to do.

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries with your colleagues and those who you live with is extremely important. If you can, designate a private workspace so that your household knows not to disturb you while you’re there. With your colleagues, it can feel like you’re obligated to answer the email that comes in after you finish for the day, but you’re not. Once you finish working, enjoy your own time as much as you are able to.

Stay Social

Human interaction is important – if and when it’s possible to pick up the phone instead of sending an email then consider doing that. Having a video call allows us to pick up on nonverbal cues, which is integral to communicating and for picking up on each other’s wellbeing. Find time to socialise virtually, when doing so in person just isn’t an option.

Be kind to yourself

The situation we’re in is unusual – it’s totally normal and okay for you to feel the strain. Don’t be so hard on yourself, and if you find yourself struggling then recognise that it’s good for you to speak up about it. Asking for help is a positive action, and support is available should you need it.


Three industries which could be set for a strong 2021

Alongside the obvious contenders of online retail giants and pharmaceutical companies, there are plenty of industries who can expect to see opportunities for growth as the world adapts to the challenges of 2020. 

With digital transformation at the forefront of much of the conversation of growing industries, it can be expected that the industries and companies which are best positioned to adapt to a digital environment will also be expected to thrive.


With the pandemic leading to a surge in companies of all ilks developing their presence in online spaces, businesses who provide services in this arena have lots to look forward to. The haste in action required for companies to accelerate their digitisation plans means that some safety and best practice measures have been at risk of being overlooked. Precautions surrounding customer details and user data are particularly vulnerable and considered profitable assets by would-be cyber criminals.

Cybersecurity budgets have seen steady growth year on year for some time now, and with businesses and individuals alike developing a higher dependence on digital tools, that can be expected to continue. More data to protect means more business for the CyberSecurity sector.

Online Learning

While most nations have prioritised the education of their youth rather than choosing to keep schools closed, there has still been an enormous impact on the world of education. With parents and siblings forced into the role of teacher at a moment’s notice and social distancing high on the agenda, it was only natural for the tools which facilitated these priorities to experience growth. 

Online learning tools are by no means a new invention, but educational institutions have traditionally been slow to adopt new technology. The necessity of their use throughout the pandemic has forced the normalisation of home-schooling and online classrooms, and it will be unlikely for this trend to disappear in a post-Covid world. Online learning doesn’t end at schools, however, a combination of rising unemployment and an increase in time spent at home means that people across generations and circumstances are looking to develop new skills and hobbies. In the US during March 2020 alone, Duolingo, the language-learning app, saw a 148% increase in sign-ups. 

Eco-Friendly Technologies

An increasing awareness of the environmental impact of diesel and petrol cars, along with an urgency to act in the face of climate change, has been looming over the traditional car manufacturing industry for some time. As the pandemic developed and non-essential travel was severely reduced, the travel industry more or less ground to a halt. Oil prices were greatly affected, and satellite imagery released by the European Space Agency showed that air pollution across the world had seen a dramatic reduction compared to the same time of the previous year. 

In November, Boris Johnson announced a new green plan for the UK which included the pledge that from 2030 there would be no new cars or vans sold which are powered wholly by petrol or diesel. The plan also includes investment into off-shore wind, nuclear and hydrogen power as well as aiming for net-zero emission planes and maritime vehicles. 

This spells the opportunity for growth for businesses with a focus on developing eco-friendly technologies. Tesla, the electric car producer, saw its stocks skyrocket by 492% in 2020, with the first quarter of the year being their best performing ever. Audi too are committed to pivoting, with their new ‘Artemis’ department which is focussing on bringing electric cars to market faster than they had originally anticipated. 


How long term home working will affect your finances

There’s a chance that many workplaces may never return to the office. Several prominent tech firms have already said that their staff can continue to work from home even after the pandemic and the evidence suggests that a large number of other employers are thinking the same thing.

Essentially, the pandemic accelerated an already established shift in the way we work, so that a few years worth of changes happened overnight.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently conducted a survey and found that the proportion of people working regularly from home has risen to 37%, more than double the number from before the pandemic.

What’s more, employers think that the proportion of staff who work permanently from home full time will rise to 22% post-pandemic. In those pre-pandemic, halcyon days, this figure was 9%.

This shift will have financial implications for those home-working. And, as usual, the good comes with the bad. Here are some things you should consider:

It might affect your insurance costs

Back in March, the sudden change to home working will have been unexpected and you might have overlooked the impact it could have on your insurance. However, now the dust is settling, you should mention it to your home insurer. 

Chances are your home will have an extra printer, laptop and tablet, valuables that should be covered by your home insurance policy. Remember that if this kit belongs to your employer, their insurance should protect it. It’s worth double checking before you add anything to your policy.

Lastly, if you’re working from home permanently and no longer using your car to commute, tell your insurer. You may be able to pay less on your premiums.

You can claim tax relief on expenses

On 6 April, Rishi Sunak raised the claim allowance to £6 a week to cover extra household bills caused by working at home. 

When there is a home working arrangement in place, an employer can pay a weekly amount to its employees tax free. If you think that your costs exceed this amount, you should check with your employer to see if they will make higher contributions.

This benefit will only be available if your employer specifically asked you to work from home. If you’re working from home voluntarily, you cannot claim this tax relief on your bills.

It might be harder to secure a pay rise

By now, it’s widely established that working from home needn’t have an adverse effect on the quality of your work. However, there’s still quite a lot of uncertainty around the effects of homeworking on employees’ ability to secure promotions and pay increases.

When working remotely, it can be hard to keep relationships with people in your firm. There’s also a chance that employees who work from home permanently in a company where some staff still work from the office could get sidelined when promotions come up.

Showing the value of your efforts can be more difficult. It seems like good communication is important to avoid being overlooked. Try to communicate any new skills you have learnt and consistently show how your personal development is supporting you to do your job effectively at home.


Britain’s stunning National parks you might not have visited

Considering how small and densely populated the UK is, we are blessed with some amazing natural beauty.

There are 15 national parks in total: 10 in England, three in Wales and two in Scotland. Each national park has its own distinct beauty and character, drawing visitors from around the globe. 

From the Cairngorms’ rugged mountains to the quaint South Downs, Britain’s parks differ enormously in terms of scenery, climate and culture. 

The country’s most visited national park is the Lake District, which sees 16.5 million visitors a year. However, others see far fewer. Here are some of the least visited:


Despite being located in the more populous South of England, Exmoor is actually Britain’s least visited national park. It receives just 1.4 million visitors a year.

Nestled on the border between Somerset and Devon, visitors can take in a spectacular mixture of dramatic coastal landscapes, rolling hills and lush woodland.

Sparsely populated, Exmoor is home to some of the darkest skies in the country and is a designated International Dark Sky Reserve. On a clear night, the Exmoor skies are simply stunning. Many astronomical wonders can be seen with the naked eye alone. 

Northumberland National Park

This diverse national park is the most northerly in England and the least populated in the UK. Covering an area of 1,048 kilometres, this park encompasses Kielder Forest and the Cheviot Hills and receives just 1.5 million visitors a year.

The park is an excellent place to see Hadrian’s Wall, a colossal triumph of Roman engineering and a designated World Heritage Site. You can also still find red squirrels hiding in the park’s woodlands, a rare sight in England these days because of invasive grey squirrels which have nearly wiped out their red cousins due to a fatal virus they transmit.

Pembrokeshire Coast

The Pembrokeshire Coast is Britain’s only coastal national park, and its beauty hasn’t gone unnoticed. The American National Geographic Traveler magazine recently rated the Pembrokeshire Coast one of the top two coastal destinations in the world.

This section of the welsh coast is notable for its rugged cliffs, dazzling beaches and hidden coves. A mecca for adventure sports, walkers, surfers, kayakers and sailors are in their element.

The national park also features some amazing wildlife. Visitors can find puffins and Manx shearwaters on the islands of Caldey, Grassholm, Skokholm, Skomer and Ramsey. On a sunny day, you might even see a seal snoozing in the sun.


Located in North East Scotland, the Cairngorms is by far the country’s largest national park, stretching for 4,528 square kilometres. Despite its large size, the park sees just 1.5 million visitors each year. 

If it’s remoteness you’re after, this is the place to come. The park is home to some of the UK’s most spectacular scenery and the country’s second highest mountain, Ben Macdui. 

You can also find Scotland’s best established ski areas. Cairngorm Mountain near Aviemore can provide some excellent skiing or snowboarding if you get the conditions right. And if you’re blessed with a crisp, clear day, the views across the Cairngorms are truly a sight to behold.


Alternative ways to celebrate

Each year we celebrate Christmas and each year the novelty of the event grows fainter. It can sometimes feel like the whole holiday experience has become rather repetitive. If you feel like you’re stuck in a bit of a Christmas rut, don’t despair! We’ve got you covered with some ways you can do Christmas a little differently this year. You might be surprised as to what’s in store…

Get cultural 

One of the most exciting things about Christmas is the fact that it’s celebrated all over the world in so many different ways. Why not celebrate Christmas in the style of another country? Decorate your home according to their style, imitate their traditions and cook their national dishes. You could even mix and match for a truly international festive celebration!

Skip presents

A controversial choice to be sure, but hear us out. Foregoing gift giving is not only a great way to save money, it also opens up other options. You and your loved ones could have a whip round for your favourite charity or all chip in for an experience you can share together rather than buying individual presents. Why not go to a play or a concert or organise a get-together at a restaurant? 

There’s even a growing trend surrounding self-gifting. Instead of spending an arm and a leg on a plethora of presents, you could spend a smaller sum, but on yourself and the things you need. Just make sure to consult your family first or there might be a lot of coal in your stocking this year. 

Get crafty

Some say that time is one of the most valuable things we have to give. So putting a little bit of your time into creating something with your hands can make a present that will be treasured for years to come. Make a decoration for the tree, cook up your own pasta sauce or write a story. The only limit with a gift you create yourself is your imagination – and a created gift will last longer in the memories of your loved ones than any Playstation or coffee machine that you purchase. 

They’re also cheaper to boot… 

Change the main course

As we mentioned above, jumping head first into another culture style of Christmas is a great way to change things up. However, for those of you who don’t have the time to organise an entirely culturally-themed Christmas, why not focus on one of the most popular parts of Christmas – the food? 

Many countries have a whole host of different traditional Christmas dishes – you’ll see what we mean when you begin your research. There are fish dishes, spicy dishes, sweet dishes, exotic dishes – the list goes on and on. This is another Christmas tip where the limit is your imagination. 

And maybe your culinary skills… 

Start your new year early

Making new year resolutions only to promptly forget them in the first week of January seems to be an unwritten tradition all over the world. So why not start your new resolutions a week or two before the 1st of January? This way, you can give your new habits a test run before you jump straight into the new year.

Think about what financial resolutions you want to make. Are you spending too much on a certain aspect of your life? Is there a particular habit that prevents you from hitting your savings milestones? Get ahead of the game by starting early – that way you can hit the ground running on 1st January. 

Christmas represents the beginning of new things and it’s the perfect time to try something different as the year comes to a close. Why not give it a go? You never know what new and exciting traditions will become a part of your festive calendar. All it takes is that first step… 


Could over-40s pay more tax to solve the social care crisis?

The question of who should pay for social care is a pressing one; successive governments have grappled with the issue and none have found a concrete solution. At the moment, some people who don’t qualify for local council funded care have to sell their homes to cover the costs, which can exceed £1,500 a week. 

Last year, in his first speech as Prime Minister, Johnson outlined the need for a reform of the current system and back in March, the government launched a parliamentary inquiry into the shortage of care available on the NHS. Since then, the large number of coronavirus deaths in care homes across the country has kept the issue firmly in the spotlight.

Ministers in Boris Jonhnson’s health and social care taskforce are currently studying a scheme where everyone over 40 would start contributing towards the cost of care in later life. Over 40s would have to pay more in tax or national insurance, or be obliged to insure themselves against hefty care bills.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is a keen advocate of the plan and is committed to coming up with a solution.

The system that ministers are considering draws on pre-existing models for funding social care in Japan and Germany. Both systems have drawn admiration as sustainable ways of solving the challenges that an ageing population brings.

Under the German system, everyone starts contributing to the scheme when they start working, and employers match their contributions, similar to workplace pension schemes in the UK. At the moment, 1.5% of each person’s salary, plus a 1.5% employer contribution, are ring fenced for social care in later life.

Elderly Germans can use this money to pay carers to help them at home or use them for care home fees. They can even give them to relatives and friends for helping to look after them. 

The Japanese scheme is similar, but people only start contributing when they are 40.

At the moment, nothing has been confirmed. Officials are still looking into the exact mechanism by which over 40s would pay. However, social care experts have cautioned that an insurance model would have to be compulsory to ensure people paid.

The scheme under consideration has found favour with campaigners. Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, said the scheme “may be rather a good deal, since that system offers a level of provision and reassurance that we can only dream of here at the moment.” She added that the scheme would “arguably [be] an appropriate act of national atonement after the catastrophic loss of life we’ve seen in care homes during the pandemic”.

It will be interesting to see how the government eventually decides to finance its scheme. Watch this space.


Three of the best autumn holiday destinations in the UK

After quarantine measures were imposed during August for returnees from several European countries including France and Spain, many will be looking to stay closer to home for their autumn breaks. 

While the UK doesn’t offer the 30 degree October sunshine that you can find in the Algarve or Costa Blanca, there are plenty of stunning locations from which you can make the most of the crisp autumn weather and red and gold landscapes.

Here are some destinations that we recommend:

The Jurassic Coast, Dorset

Running from Swanage to Lyme Regis, the Jurassic Coast features some of England’s most stunning coastal landscape. 

The eastern part of the coast encompasses the dramatic cliffs and headlands of the Isle of Purbeck. It is incredibly thrilling to watch the large autumn swells crash against the cliffs below.

To the west, you can find Lyme Regis, a beautiful town that is prone to overcrowding during the peak summer months. By visiting in autumn you can experience the ‘Pearl of Dorset’ without having to navigate the busy summer crowds. While the weather might be too chilly for a swim, the beaches surrounding Lyme Regis are teaming with fossils. You can spot all sorts of prehistoric wonders by just looking carefully at the area’s dark grey cliffs.

The Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland

Just an hour’s drive from Belfast, this beautiful coastline is home to many outstanding natural features, including the world famous Giant’s Causeway. On a clear day, you can look over the Irish Sea and see the Scottish hills.

Those of you who have a head for heights can brave the hair-raising Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that wobbles nearly 30m above the raging Atlantic below.

The area also features the ‘Dark Hedges’, a road lined with intricate trees which has gained popularity as a tourist destination after featuring in the TV series Game of Thrones. Expect warm hospitality and unreliable weather on this part of the Northern Irish coast in autumn.

South Cornwall

While North Cornwall might be the destination of choice for hardy surfers who want to brave the heavy autumn swells, South Cornwall perhaps offers something of a more leisurely holiday at this time of year. 

Here, bad weather doesn’t mean you can’t marvel at nature’s triumphs; the area is home to the famous Eden Project. Two large climate controlled biodomes host the world’s largest indoor rainforest and a Mediterranean paradise.

If you prefer your nature outdoors, you can venture further west to Trelissick Gardens, a beautiful country estate with parklands that fall down to the estuary. In the autumn, the estate’s trees turn a wondrous array of colours, with red and gold contrasting the green blue water of the Carrick Road estuary.

Autumn visitors will find South Cornwall’s stunning villages and coves remarkably quiet and peaceful in the absence of the summer crowds.


What does the stamp duty holiday mean for me?

In his 8 July summer statement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the stamp duty threshold will be immediately raised to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland, in what some have dubbed the ‘stamp duty holiday’. The rise in threshold lasts until 31 March 2021 and will apply to both first-time buyers and previous owners.

Sunak said that the change will affect around 90% of buyers, saving each one an average of £4,500.

Stamp duty is a tax you have to pay if you buy a property or a piece of land in England or Northern Ireland. Buyers in Scotland pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) and in Wales Land Transaction Tax (LTT) instead of stamp duty. 

The property website Rightmove said traffic to its listings increased by 22% immediately after Sunak’s announcement, an indication that this could be the stimulus for many to come to a decision about moving home.

The move comes in response to the current economic crisis. Many are worried that the housing market will stagnate in the current economic climate. Lockdown measures put sales on hold and prevented work on construction sites. The number of transactions was down by 50% in May. 

Stamp duty will be collected at a rate of 5% on transactions over £500,000. For instance, if you bought a house for £575,000, you would pay 0% on the first £500,000 and 5% on the final £75,000. Overall, you would pay £3,750 in stamp duty.

What about buy-to-let and second homes?

The stamp duty cut will also apply to those buying second homes and buy-to-let properties, allowing investors to make savings. However, the 3% surcharge for buying additional properties will apply to the new stamp duty rates.

So, property investors spending less than £500,000 would only need to pay 3% on top of the purchase, as opposed to the previous 5%.  

The housing market has responded well to the rise in threshold. It frees up larger properties for families, which they previously may not have been able to afford, and it could help first-time buyers onto the property ladder.

It’s widely expected that the stamp duty holiday will have an immediate impact on the volume of sales agreed in the coming weeks. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more about how the ‘stamp duty holiday’ will affect you.


How do you pivot your business?

Pivot’s one of those words that we’re hearing a lot at the moment; a word usually associated with a ballet dancer, being able to turn nimbly on their ‘pointe’ shoes. But a word that‘s proving equally relevant to businesses as they seek to trade in the new world since COVID-19.                 

No doubt you had clear goals set in place for your business at the start of the year. You’d have pored over figures, spreadsheets and graphs. You‘d have done detailed analyses, made forecasts and drawn up plans. 

Yet when the context for those spreadsheets and plans is pulled right from under you by a global pandemic, those goals have to change. So how do you shift direction? What questions do you need to ask as you try to pivot your business?  

Assessing the situation

First of all, it’s important to step back and take stock. Consider what the purpose of your business is in a post-lockdown world.

Many business owners have found that being forced to take a step back has given them time to reflect and go in directions they would never have thought possible before. It’s allowed them to think creatively and consider new opportunities. 

The next step is to scan the business horizon: 

  • What does the new environment look like?
  • Where are your usual customers in this new world? 
  • What are they looking for that’s different? 
  • How have their behaviours changed?

Think about how the pandemic has affected your long-term performance and strategy. 

  • Are your products and services still relevant for your customers? 
  • How could you adapt them? 
  • Where might new customers be found?
  • What are the new risks to the business – from a health and safety point of view, of course, but also to cash flow and supply chain? 
  • How can you use technology to help you deliver your offering to customers?

Looking to the future

One thing is for sure – there won’t be any business as usual. But the secret about pivoting is that you stay fixed to your centre. You stay true to your core values but turn towards the new opportunities. So think about your product or service, what your clients value about it and adapt it as necessary to the new circumstances.   

That may mean offering something entirely different. It may mean being more flexible in your opening times or means of delivery. It may mean increasing your online presence. Figures by Statista showed that the use of social media increased globally by 21% during lockdown so consider how you can capitalise on using these channels.     

Think about those businesses that have successfully pivoted to meet demand. Pubs and restaurants quickly diversified to offer takeaways and deliveries. Brewing companies and gin distilleries started making hand sanitiser. Other companies used their machines to make visors and PPE. Gyms adapted their classes to go online. Live events companies pivoted to offer successful online experiences.         

Brands that have survived during lockdown are the ones that have been innovative and quick to  respond. It will be those that continue to be future-focused that will survive. 

So while pivoting may involve a re-thinking of your business model, it is possible with careful analysis of the various scenarios and will hopefully be a direction your customers will embrace.    

Sources -help-your-business-thrive-in-the-new-normal/