Category: Investment Management

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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/

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

explaining fund charges and investment fees

If you hold any investments or already work with a financial adviser then it’s likely that you are familiar with the fees you pay to invest or receive advice.

But what are these fees and why are they so important to keep a handle on?  This video gives you information on what fees you might be charged and why  you should keep track of them.

is buying a state pension top-up worthwhile?

As part of your overall financial planning, one item that is worth considering is your state pension and whether you are on track to get the full amount. If not, it is possible to buy top-ups, which could boost your payout by £244 a year for life.

The 2017/18 voluntary payment, under the Class 3 National Insurance top-up scheme, costs £741 and will get you nearer to, or over, the threshold for the maximum state pension payout – currently £164.35 a week. Such an opportunity can be particularly relevant for those who have contracted out of part of the state pension at some point previously during their working life.

A word of caution though before proceeding – some people have paid the top-up only to discover that it made no difference to their state pension and subsequently struggled to get a refund from HM Revenue and Customs.

Some of the confusion arose because of the major shake-up in April 2016 when the single-tier pension system was introduced. Under the old system you had to have 30 years of NI contributions to get the full basic £122.30 a week pension, whereas under the new one you have to have 35 years. The top-up system was letting some people pay for extra contributions when to do so was futile.

Despite the problems encountered by some, Steve Webb, former Pensions Minister, says it is still worth investigating whether the additional payment would boost your future state pension. ‘Ironically, I think it would be really unfortunate if lots of people who could now top up for 17/18 at incredible value were put off doing so or didn’t do so because they were still unaware of the option, and where the decision to top-up or not is much more straightforward and less likely to go wrong,’ he said.

To know where you stand, the first thing to do is to get an official state pension forecast from the Government website. This will highlight whether you have any gaps in your National Insurance record of contributions. The top-up scheme can be particularly relevant for women who took time out to look after children.,

If you reached state pension age before 6 April 2016, the old system will apply to you (that’s men who were born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953). However, if you reached state pension age after 6 April 2016 (men born after 6 April 1951 and women born after 6 April 1953), the new system will apply.

You also need to work out if 2017/18 was a qualifying year for you – when you were under state pension age for the whole year and in which you either paid or were credited with enough NICs to earn one year towards your state pension entitlement.


Sources
http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-5770947/Should-buy-state-pension-up.html

what are asset classes

An asset class is a broad group of investments that have similar financial characteristics.  Traditionally, there are four main asset classes:
Cash
Shares
Property
Fixed-interest securities (also called bonds)

At its simplest, an asset class can be defined as a broad type of investment. The video below should help to explain it in visual terms.

Sources:
ClientsFirst
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/asset-classes-explained

what financial wellbeing means for your health

The latest Financial Wellness Index has revealed that people with very little savings and those who are struggling to pay their bills are also those who are suffering from poor health. Conversely, those enjoying good health are more likely to experience a higher level of financial wellness. The findings raise the question of whether working to improve your financial situation could have a positive impact on your health, or indeed whether a healthier lifestyle might also lead to healthier finances.

The Financial Wellness Index from Momentum UK is put together by the Personal Finance Research Centre at the University of Bristol. It examines a number of fundamental elements of subjects’ financial lives, as well as the macroeconomic state of the UK, to generate the country’s overall Financial Wellness score out of 100.

The latest report has revealed that 17% of people who consider their health as being ‘poor’ have also missed at least one bill payment over the course of the last year, considerably more than the 5% of those who class their health as being ‘excellent’. Similarly, only 5% of those who have a healthy diet have missed a bill payment, compared to 11% of those who eat unhealthily.

The trend can also be seen in the amount of savings held by healthy and unhealthy people. 15% of people in poor health have no savings, compared to just 8% of those in excellent health. There are also considerably more unhealthy (29%) than healthy people (19%) with less than £100 put away. This in turn has an impact on standard of living, with 42% of people in poor health having to reduce their lifestyle expenses such as socialising and holidays, compared to just 23% of people in excellent health.

“The link between financial and physical health is strong in this year’s index, which is not wholly surprising when you start to analyse the similarities in behaviour needed to achieve both”, says Momentum UK’s managing director Samantha Seaton. “Whether you’re improving your fitness or trying to improve your financial picture, success will be found by taking small steps to achieving your longer-term goals”.

Sources
http://www.mindfulmoney.co.uk/mindful-news/new-research-finds-clear-link-between-healthy-living-and-financial-wellness/