Category: Uncategorised

Categories

UK cultural events that you might not know about

Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood Forest

During the first week of August each year, in celebration of Nottinghamshire’s legendary outlaw, Sherwood Forest is transported back in time all the way to the thirteenth century. The festival has grown from small and humble beginnings into a sprawling pop-up village, with stalls and attractions covering almost a square mile of woodland.

Whether you want to develop your archery skills or watch a high-octane joust between medieval knights, there’s something for everyone with an interest in history. The Robin Hood Festival is a paradise for little boys and girls who have the opportunity to join in theatrical reenactments of the Robin Hood story, providing great entertainment for parents!

Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll 

The infamous Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll has been taking place in May since the 1800s. Competitors hurl themselves down a steep hill in pursuit of a wheel of prime Gloucestershire cheese; the hill is so steep that few competitors manage to stay on their feet, resulting in many a spectacular cartwheel as racers fly down the hill. The rules are simple, whoever crosses the line at the bottom of the hill wins, as the cheese is never actually caught due to its superior speed.

The Isle of Wight Walking Festival 

Heading into calmer, less dangerous territory, from the 4th of May until the 19th every year, 100s of walks are organised all across the Isle of Wight, with many local experts guiding groups through the lesser-known walking routes that span the island. The Isle of Wight is often referred to as ‘England in miniature’ as the vistas span from thatched villages to sprawling sandy beaches. The festival is a unique opportunity to see some of the most stunning scenery in the UK all compacted into one or two days.

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge 

The Neolithic monument of Stonehenge is one of the most ancient structures in all the UK. Every year, in June, the stones are opened up to the public, something that is rarely allowed by English Heritage, the stone’s overseers. It’s a great opportunity for friends and family to come together to mark the longest day of the year, as people have been doing so for thousands of years. The site holds special significance for members of the UK’s Druid and Pagan community, who perform rituals and celebrations during each solstice.

5 key takeaways from the new chancellor’s Budget

As Europe faces its greatest public health challenge in recent history, Chancellor Rishi Sunak released his first Budget.

As you would expect, much of the Budget focused on mitigating the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. However, there were several important measures released alongside the headline grabbing coronavirus controls. Of £30 billion in extra spending, £12 billion will be specifically targeted at the outbreak. 

Coronavirus and public services

All those advised to self-isolate are to receive statutory sick pay if eligible. This will be paid from the first day off work, not the fourth. This sick pay is paid by the employer but businesses with fewer than 250 employees can reclaim the cost of paying sick pay for the isolation period.

Self-employed workers who do not get sick pay will be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance from day one of a period taken off work rather than day eight. 

The Chancellor also set aside £500 million as a hardship fund to help local councils support vulnerable people during the outbreak.

Cuts to entrepreneurs’ relief

Tax breaks available to those selling their businesses have been capped to £1 million over a lifetime. This relief, which formerly stood at £10 million, allows business owners of two years or more to pay less capital gains tax when they sell – 10% rather than 20%. The move is expected to save the Treasury £6 billion over the next five years. 

The Chancellor said that these extra earnings will be channelled into raising the R&D expenditure credit from 12% to 13% and a rise of employment allowance by a third to £4,000.

A freeze in income tax thresholds

The Budget confirmed that, from April, the amount earned before paying 20% tax will be frozen at £12,500, and £50,000 will remain the threshold at which people start to pay the higher 40% rate of tax. This means that anyone who gets a pay rise in the coming year is likely to pay more tax as extra wages push them over these thresholds. 

Of course, if you are a Scottish taxpayer, you have different rates to the rest of the UK. These were announced in the recent Scottish Budget.

Increase in tax-free savings for children

The Chancellor announced an increase in the allowances for Junior ISAs and Child Trust Funds. Both will rise from £4,368 to £9,000 in April. Money locked away in these tax-free savings accounts is kept until a child’s 18th birthday when it is converted into a standard ISA which the child can spend as they want.

Changes to pension taxes for higher earners

The notoriously complicated system for higher earners’ pension taxes is set to change.

Two key thresholds at which tax thresholds kick in for higher earners are set to change. The level at which a saver’s annual allowance starts ‘tapering’ down from £40,000 to £10,000 will rise from £110,000 to £200,000. However, under the new rules, the minimum annual allowance (formerly £10,000) will continue to fall for those who earn more than £300,000. In short, the new rules are less favourable to extremely high earners but more favourable for those who earn between £110,000 and £200,000.

Sources
https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2020/03/budget-2020–junior-isa-allowance-to-rise-to-p9-000-from-april/

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-51820978

https://www.ftadviser.com/your-industry/2020/03/11/budget-2020-chancellor-slashes-entrepreneurs-relief/?utm_campaign=FTAdviser%20news&utm_source=emailCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-8100535/Budget-2020-High-earners-pension-tax-relief-boost-help-doctors.html

Love yourself,love your finances

We’ll be the first to admit that your personal finances aren’t the easiest thing to fall in love with. It can be easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to both your regular expenditure and investments.

There are several reasons for this. First of all, money can be a source of stress. We’re sure you’re well aware of how crunching big numbers in your head can keep you awake into the small hours of the morning. Or how not knowing whether you can afford something you really want can fill your life with uncertainty.

Secondly, some aspects of finance can seem rather boring. To the untrained eye, the daily performance of the FTSE, foreign currency exchange and bond markets can look intimidating. We actually find them incredibly exciting, but we understand that this isn’t for everyone.

We think the best way to fall in love with your finances is to get a bit creative. It helps to really understand the relationship you already have with money so you know what you’re dealing with. As with a partner, you have to really get to know them before you fall in love. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to ‘break the ice’ with your finances:

What’s the most fun, frivolous thing you’ve ever bought?

Answering this should help you get a handle on whether you’re someone who likes to splash out from time to time, or if you prefer to sacrifice a bit of enjoyment for personal security. If you have made any such purchases, do you consider them to have been worth it, or do you find yourself regretting that you hadn’t spent the money a little more practically? The answer to this could provide some guidance if you have the opportunity to make similar purchases in the future.

Do you take pride in knowing your net worth?

If you take pride in your net worth, it suggests that a large part of your happiness hinges on the money you have accumulated over your life. You’re likely to be someone for whom a high salary forms a large part of what they enjoy about their career, rather than someone who’d be content working in a job with lower pay.

What’s your dream retirement scenario?

Looking at what you want in retirement will let you know how much you need to prioritise saving for retirement. If you plan on living adventurously you’ll need to save considerably more than if you think you’ll be happy having a quiet retirement. Trips of a lifetime don’t come cheap, so the sooner you start saving and investing, the more you’ll be able to do.

Like all long-term relationships, your relationship with your finances won’t always be easy. Good relationships take work, but the rewards are more

Sources
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2015/02/13/to-fall-in-love-with-your-finances-do-this

Planning a ski trip? Try somewhere a little unusual

With so many different resorts out there, it’s easy to be so spoilt for choice that you just can’t decide where to go. But what if you want to try somewhere a little off the beaten track? Many skiers and snowboarders often opt for the most popular resorts, leading to inflated prices driven by demand. If you’re looking for a more unusual experience, keep reading… 

Mauna Kea: Hawaii 

With the snow season taking place between December and February each year, Mauna Kea offers a unique chance to glide along the slopes of Hawaii. The area is devoid of ski lifts, marked runs or ski-carved moguls. It’s an area for experts, as you’ll have to take an off-road vehicle on the roads between observatories on the 4,270 metre tall mountain. Although lacking in resort facilities, it’s a great example of how such comforts aren’t a necessity when it comes to alpine enjoyment! 

Ski Dubai: Dubai 

Moving on from a tropical island to the desert, Ski Dubai offers an all year round skiing experience at one of the world’s largest indoor ski areas. Ski Dubai houses five full ski runs, including the world’s first indoor black run and a freestyle zone. It’s the perfect opportunity for those who like to experience both climates while taking a holiday. 

Ben Lomond: Tasmania 

Ben Lomond allows skiers to experience snow in an area better known for its surfing and sandy beaches. Being located in the Southern Hemisphere, it means that it has a ski season between July and September, making it a great opportunity for those of you who want to head to cooler climates during the summer. 

Mount Etna: Italy

If the black diamond runs of Europe don’t quite scratch that itch, why not try carving some tracks along an active volcano? Mount Etna, based in Sicily, houses two ski areas in Provenzana and Nicolosi, both with accessible ski lifts. It has a longer snow season than most, running from November until April. The views from the summit of this mighty mountain are incredible, although skiing can occasionally be hindered by the odd bit of volcanic activity here and there. 

Monte Kaolino: Germany 

With our final entry, we’re doing away with snow entirely. Although it is still seasonal (April – October), Monte Kaolino gives skiers the unique opportunity to ski on beautiful, Quartz sand. There’s one lift to take you to the top of its flagship 200 metre run and it’s sure to provide a dazzling experience. You can even leave your thermal gear at home!

We hope you have enjoyed this break from our regular financial articles and that we’ve inspired you to try something a little more unusual for your next or first ski trip.

Sources
https://www.mountainwarehouse.com/community/unusual-places-to-ski/

Auto-Enrolement changes put pressure on small businesses

April 2019 saw the increase of minimum contributions to auto-enrolment pensions from 5 per cent of wages to 8 per cent. With employers now required to contribute 3 per cent, rather than their previous 1 per cent, the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) has warned that this could put “substantial” pressure on small businesses.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has reported an increase of workplace pension participation amongst small business employees of around 45% as a result of auto-enrolment. That means that businesses who employ between 2 and 29 workers will be seeing a significant extra cost towards pension schemes. These costs aren’t necessarily as daunting for larger businesses, but in the words of Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, “The costs involved for smaller employers are substantial, in terms of both expenditure and indeed their time, as they have grappled with finding a good provider and setting up whole new systems. Now that the 3 per cent rate has hit, the burden will be greater still.”

But with 70 per cent of UK workers employed by small businesses now on workplace pensions as a direct result of auto-enrolment (first introduced in 2012), employees seem to consider it as an attractive prospect. They too have seen an increase in their minimum contributions, from 3 per cent to 5, and so sacrificing a higher portion of their monthly wages has been accepted as a move that does come with its own benefits. Predictions from investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown state that in real terms, the average employer will see £30 of their monthly wages go towards their pension pot which, on average, results in total pension savings increasing by around £55,000.

Employers, on average, are predicted to now contribute £55 a month to the average employee’s pension pot, an increase from the pre-April figure of £37. These increases aren’t all bad news for employers however; Guy Opperman, Minister of Pensions, sees them as the opposite. “Automatic enrolment has been an extraordinary success, transforming pension saving and improving the retirement prospects of more than 10 million workers already. The increased cost on employers has been phased in over time so firms have had the opportunity to adapt. Pension contributions are a valuable employee benefit which firms use to attract and retain good people. This is true of small and large firms alike.”

Sources
https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/increased-auto-enrolment-controbutions-could-have-substantial-impact-smaller-employers
https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14012

A guide to self-employed pensions

Running your own business can give you the opportunity to follow your passion and enjoy the ultimate flexible lifestyle. However, it does also mean taking on additional responsibilities. One of these is your pension.

Revealed – the top 5 destinations for British pensions

Many British pensioners choose to move abroad, often in search of warmer climes and a more comfortable retirement.

The stereotypical idea of retiring abroad often involves moving to a mediterranean country. However, only one mediterranean country featured among the top 5 countries from which British expat pensioners claimed their state pension. This indicates that things might be changing…

Here are the top 5, in descending order:

5) Spain – 106,420 retirees

The Iberian nation has long been a retirement favourite for Brits, so we were surprised when it only came in fifth. The amount of British pensioners who spend much of the year in Spain is likely to be much higher, with many owning second homes whilst drawing their pension from the UK. Overall 16.7% of registered Spanish property belongs to UK citizens.

Spain is the only non-English speaking nation among the top 5. However, English is widely spoken in major cities and areas with a large number of tourists and expats, like the Costa Brava and Costa Del Sol.

4) Republic of Ireland – 132,650 retirees

Lush rolling scenery and cheap house prices outside of Dublin make the ‘Emerald Isle’ an attractive destination for British retirees. Although the weather may be a little on the damp side, its scenic countryside, dotted with stone castles and slower way of life have encouraged many to retire across the Irish sea.

The large quantity of Irish people living in the UK is also likely to be a factor, with many moving closer to their family after retiring.

3) Canada – 133,310 retirees

Great scenery, kind people and a low crime rate make Canada an ideal retirement destination. Canadians are famously welcoming, meaning settling in is very easy for retirees.

What’s more, Canada has excellent healthcare. There are no fees for medical treatment, doctors’ appointments and dental visits. Even eye tests come free of charge. It’s unsurprising that it’s just a hair behind it’s much more populous neighbour when it comes to the number British retirees settled here.

2) USA – 134,130 retirees

Despite coming in at second on our list, retiring in the US for non-citizens is tough. If you don’t have a job Stateside or a family member to sponsor you, your only option is the Green Card lottery. This is a lengthy and costly process.

All this said, the USA offers some great retirement options. Warm climates in southern areas, wild scenery and the allure of the American lifestyle can prompt Brits to retire across the pond.

1) Australia – 234,880 retirees

Warm weather, barbies on the beach and a high standard of living. It’s easy to see why Australia is the number one destination for British retirees.

However, retiring here does mean having a sizeable pension pot. Australia is a relatively expensive country, reflecting the much higher salaries people generally earn Down Under. House prices are expensive and food bills can leave you reeling.

Sources
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/brits-are-behind-one-fifth-of-properties-sold-to-foreigners-in-spain-as-sky-high-uk-prices-push-a6681296.html
https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/expat/article-6606883/Australia-number-one-destination-retired-British-expats.html
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/031115/how-retire-us-visas-process.asp

Why moving abroad can affect your state pension



Retiring overseas is a dream for many Brits. After all, who wouldn’t be tempted by the better climate and the amazing travel opportunities found abroad. Where you choose to spend your retirement, however, will affect how much state pension you get.

State pensions are frozen if you decide to move abroad to certain countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada or India. Whilst normal state pensions rise according to the triple lock, in these countries your pension would be frozen. The triple lock means that pensions currently rise by the highest of inflation, average earnings or 2.5% Whether or not your state pension is frozen depends on whether the Government has struck individual deals with the country you move to. As it stands, the Government has only made deals with the EU, the US, Switzerland, Norway, Jamaica, Israel and the Philippines. It has been decades since any new deals have been made.

To illustrate what this freeze means, an expat who retired when the basic rate was £67.50 a week in 2000 would still get that, rather than the £125.95 received by those whose pensions have not been frozen. Likewise, if you qualify for the full state pension of £164.35 and already live in or move to one of the ‘frozen’ countries, the amount you receive will not increase while you stay abroad.

This freeze currently reduces the pensions of approximately 550,000 British pensioners.

However, upon returning to the UK, pensioners are eligible to get their state pension uprated back to the full amount by applying directly to the Department for Work and Pensions service centre.

What about Brexit?

As it stands, nothing is certain until we get a final deal (or no deal!). However, it’s likely that state pensions in the EU will not be frozen. An update on Brexit talks published jointly by the EU and UK indicated they had ‘convergence’ of their positions on state pension increases.

If you’re planning on moving to a ‘frozen’ country like Australia, it’s best to consider the implications of a frozen state pension on your finances sooner rather than later. It will be easier to mitigate the effects when you’re younger and still have greater financial ties to the UK.

Sources
https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/expat/article-6278449/Will-state-pension-retire-abroad.html

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

The long-awaited ban on pensions cold-calling has finally come into force

From January 9 2019, the cold-calling of savers about anything to do with their pensions became illegal. The new law doesn’t just cover phone calls. Any unsolicited emails or text messages about your pension will also be illegal.

As it stands, not every cold-call you receive about your pension is a scam, though many scammers use it as a tactic to get their hands on your retirement savings.

When the ban comes into force, you can be sure that any out-of-the-blue call about your retirement savings is definitely a scam.

The introduction of pensions freedoms in 2015 is widely cited as the reason for the alarming increase in pension fraud over the last few years. Scammers have seized upon these rules, which give savers much more flexible access to their retirement savings, to get unsuspecting individuals to transfer their cash.

Key warning signs of pensions scams include offers of free pension reviews and promises of incredibly high rates of return, among others. Citizens Advice report that as many as 10.9 million people were cold-called about their pensions in 2016 alone.

In the wake of this rise in scamming, savers have been turning to financial watchdogs in huge numbers for help. Between August and October last year more than 173,000 people visited the FCA’s ScamSmart website for more information.

Pension fraud victims lost £23 million in the last year alone, up £9.2 million from the year before. The real amount could be even higher as only a minority of victims report being scammed.

From 9th January, when you put the phone down on would-be pension scammers, you can tell them that they have broken the law just by contacting you.

If you suspect you have been victim to a pension scam, you should report the scam or fraud to Action Fraud as soon as you can. They will pass the information to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau who will analyse the case to find viable lines of enquiry. If they find any, they will send the report to the police for investigation.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/pensions-retirement/financial-planning/scourge-pension-cold-calling-finally-banned-january/