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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

the top 4 places to buy a home abroad in 2018

It’s not difficult to see why Briton’s find buying a property abroad so attractive. High house prices, a temperamental climate and long working hours in the UK can make buying a property abroad seem like a highly desirable option.

Whether for a holiday property or somewhere to live long term, here are our top places to buy a home abroad in 2018.

Spain
Although buyers have fallen over the last few years, Spain remains Britain’s favourite place to buy property abroad. Spain has a well-established expat community and a warmer, drier climate than the UK (although central Spain is surprisingly cold in the winter), making it an attractive destination.

Affordability is a big driver for Britons going to Spain. In 2008, Spain’s property market crashed and the market only began to recover in 2014. Even though the pound is down on its pre Brexit referendum highs, Spain is still remarkably cheap.

What’s more, prices in Spain are on the rise. Spanish bank BBVA forecasts house prices to rise by 5% in 2018.

Buying in Spain is relatively simple. There is no requirement to be a Spanish resident to buy property – the only requirement is a Spanish NIE tax identification number.

One thing to be cautious of is that, in recent years, many homes have been built across the country without proper planning permission. Using a reputable property agency familiar with the area gives you your best chance of avoiding these.

Portugal
Our next country, lying on the Western edge of the Iberian peninsula, is a similarly ‘hot’ option for foreign buyers. Since 11%, on average, was wiped off the value of Portuguese property between 2011 and 2012, prices have recovered well.

From the Algarve and the Costa Da Prata to Porto and Lisbon, the country has a wide range of attractive options for foreign buyers. Lisbon and the Algarve are substantially more expensive than the rest of the country – bear this in mind when looking for options in Portugal.

France
Although more expensive than Spain and Portugal, France is an incredible place to buy a property. If you look in the right place, the country is still temptingly affordable. And, as the largest country in Western Europe, France has no shortage of variety.

Sunny Mediterranean beaches, chic cities, rolling hills, thick forest, dramatic mountains… you name it, France has got it. The Dordogne, the Charente and the Haute-Vienne in the south-west remain the most popular places for Brits.

However, north France is incredibly accessible. If you live in the south of England, it’s just a short ferry across the Channel. This means you can experience that alluring Gallic lifestyle, without straying too far from your life in the UK.

Croatia
Spain, Portugal and France are old favourites for Brits looking for a home abroad. Now it’s time for something a little less predictable.

This former Yugoslavian country is on the rise as a popular place for Brits to buy abroad. Its Dalmatian coast is among the most stunning in the world and the country is home to many quaint towns, as well as its lively capital Zagreb and beautiful Dubrovnik. The Dalmatian coast is a well-established centre for yachting.

The best time to look for properties is at the end of the main tourist season in the Autumn, when prices are lower than they are at peak times.

However, there are some restrictions for foreigners buying property in Croatia. If you hold only Swiss or Italian citizenship you are prohibited from buying a house in the country unless you intend to live there permanently. In addition, foreign buyers are required to seek approval from the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to attain the necessary documentation to buy a house.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/transferwise/buying-property-in-spain-guide/
https://transferwise.com/au/blog/buy-property-in-portugal
https://www.aplaceinthesun.com/articles/2018/08/top-10-best-places-to-buy-a-home-abroad-in-2018

Buying Property in Croatia

Kids off to Uni? Congratulations – but have you been saving enough?

The Institute of Fiscal Studies suggests that the average total debt incurred by today’s university students over the duration of their studies will amount to £51,000. This figure comes as those in higher education saw the interest rate on student loans rise to 6.3% in September. Total student debt in the UK has now risen to £105 billion as of March 2018, a figure £30 billion higher than the nation’s total credit card debt.

The rising cost of higher education perhaps makes it unsurprising that 40% of parents are now beginning to save towards future university costs before their children have even been born, with one in five hoping to have saved £2,000 by the time the baby arrives. Frustratingly, however, around two thirds of those who are saving are doing so by simply placing the funds in an ordinary savings account, meaning their money is earning them very little in interest.

An alternative option to consider is a Junior ISA (JISA) in the child’s name, which they can then access when they turn 18. The account currently allows £4,128 to be saved every year, and the best rate market rate for a cash JISA offers 3.25%. Saving the maximum amount at that rate for ten years would result in a nest egg of £49,427 tax free to cover university fees with plenty left over for other expenses.

Whilst a cash JISA offers dependability, a stocks and shares JISA is also worth considering as the potential reward on your investment can be higher. Both types of JISA can be opened at the same time with the allowance shared between them, so spreading your savings between the two can pay off in the long run.

Using your pension to save towards your child’s university education is also an option, thanks to the pension freedoms of recent years. With the ability to take a lump sum to put towards fees and other costs when you turn 55, pensions offer a tax-efficient way of putting away for both your child’s future and your own. This is an option which needs careful planning, however, as you’ll need to make sure you have enough for your retirement before paying for your child’s education.

For those able to do so, it may also be worth speaking to your own parents about helping towards their grandchildren’s university costs. Rather than leaving money to a grandchild in their will, a grandparent might consider gifting towards fees and other expenses or placing the money in a trust, reducing their inheritance tax liability and allowing their grandchild to benefit from their legacy when they really need it.

http://www.independent.co.uk/money/spend-save/parents-university-fees-saving-children-born-student-loans-college-fund-tuition-51000-a7895951.htmlhttps://www.moneysavingexpert.com/news/2018/04/student-loan-interest-rates-expected-to-rise-in-september—but-dont-panic/researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN01079/SN01079.pdfhttps://www.moneyexpert.com/debt/uk-personal-debt-levels-continue-rise/

 

what might be in the autumn budget?

In normal years, the Autumn Budget (formerly the Autumn Statement) is announced in November. However, with less than 6 months left on the countdown to Brexit, this year is far from a normal year.

At the end of September, Chancellor Philip Hammond revealed that the Autumn Budget would be released on 29 October which is also, unusually, a Monday – traditionally budgets are announced on a Wednesday. Since the Wednesday would’ve been Halloween, perhaps the Chancellor moved the budget forward by two days to avoid a potential Budget horror show.

Hammond’s Twitter feed indicates that we can expect the Chancellor to balance the books. Aside from this there has been little concrete information about what the Budget might contain. However, Hammond has given us a few hints:

The end of the freeze on fuel duty
It’s likely that the eight year freeze on fuel duty will come to an end this year. Last month, Hammond said that the freeze on fuel duty has meant the Government has “foregone” £46 billion in revenue and, if the freeze continues, will miss out on £38 billion more.

NHS spending
One of the Chancellor’s main concerns will be finding the money to fulfil Theresa May’s pledge to pump an extra £20 billion into the NHS by 2023. The prime minister herself admitted that this would require tax hikes, but was unclear as to which taxes would be raised.

Digital tax
At the recent Tory conference, Hammond said that Britain will impose a new “digital service tax”, even if other countries fail to follow suit. However, what this tax might look like is currently unclear.

He called for a reform of the international tax system for an era where digital companies account for much of global business, with Britain leading the way. Business leaders have mentioned that such a tax could compromise the UK’s reputation as a good place for digital companies to do business.

Of course, what will have the largest bearing on the eventual success of any changes to the budget is any Brexit deal. A good Brexit deal will boost growth and balance public finances without the need for major tax hikes.

We eagerly await the Chancellor’s Budget at the end of the month.

Sources
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/philip-hammond-tax-cut-self-employed-scrap-conservatives-national-insurance-contributions-nic-class-a8526236.html
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2018/09/11/chancellor-hints-fuel-duty-rise-fund-nhs-campaigners-warn-struggling/

are children’s pensions as good as they seem?

Pensions for children? Surely that’s taking planning ahead to a whole new level?

Nonetheless, if you can afford it, putting money aside in to a pension for your children or grandchildren can be a sensible option.

Under the current rules, you can put £2,880 a year into a junior self-invested personal pension (SIPP) or stakeholder pension, on their behalf. Even though the child won’t be a taxpayer, 20% is added to the amount in tax relief, up to £3,600 per annum. If you think about it, that can result in quite a significant amount over the years, taking compound growth into consideration.

The idea of contributing to a pension may tie in well with your sense of responsibility towards the next generation. You may feel sorry for the youngsters of today with their university fees to pay back and a seemingly impossible property ladder to climb.

However, on the downside a children’s pension can be quite frustrating for the recipient. The money is tied up until their mid fifties. This means that although the amount is steadily growing with no temptation to dip into it, it may not be much consolation for a twenty-five year old desperately trying to find the deposit for a house. Instead of making their financial future easier, you may have, in fact, impeded it.

There are other alternatives which will also give you the benefit of compound growth and help you to maximise tax relief, such as using our own ISA allowances and then gifting the money later. These may have more direct impact if the money is to help pay for a wedding, repay a student loan or enable them to buy a house or start a business.

Pension contributions are often referred to as ‘free money’ because of the the tax relief. In addition, 25% of the lump sum when the recipient comes to take their pension is tax free but it is equally important to remember that 75% of any withdrawals will be taxable. Another consideration is that children’s pensions have the lowest rate of tax relief but once in employment, your children may be higher rate taxpayers so would have benefited from higher rate relief.

One thing is for sure and that is that the rules around pensions and withdrawal rates are frequently changing. Given the extended timeframe involved, it’s likely that the regulations around accessing a pension pot will have altered considerably by the time a child of today reaches pension age. Their fund will have had time to grow handsomely, though. As with most things, it all comes down to a question of personal preference for you and your family.

Sources
https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2018/05/09/danger-of-children-s-pensions-laid-bare/
https://www.bestinvest.co.uk/news/are-pensions-for-children-bonkers-or-brilliant
https://www.moneywise.co.uk/pensions/managing-your-pension/start-pension-your-child

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.

don’t forget your digital legacy

digital servicesWhen we think about what we leave behind when we die, the majority of us take an approach that gives little regard to the vast amount of digital assets we hold.

We write wills, take out life insurance policies, plan our funerals and arrange to leave some money aside for those we care about. All of these steps make things easier for your family at an emotionally difficult time.

However, most of us neglect our digital legacy. Few of us have measures in place to take care of our digital assets, something that has the potential to cause great problems for our friends, family and colleagues.

It used to be that people’s estates could be settled in a standardised way: a search through the deceased’s filing cabinet would yield most of the information necessary to put their financial affairs in order. Their letters would still arrive through the door, allowing their family to take care of their communications after death and, where appropriate, advise their contacts of their passing.

Alas, nowadays much of our financial life takes place online – with traditional paper bank statements fading into oblivion, it can be difficult for an executor to know what accounts you hold and where to find them.

What’s more, unless you inform someone of your passwords, your email and social media accounts will become inaccessible and any information on them will be lost. Inaccessible social media accounts mean that the deceased’s family are unable to close the account or inform friends of their relative’s passing.

If we do not plan for our death we can cause our family a logistical nightmare which, on top of the emotional stress of bereavement, may be overwhelming.

That said, there are important steps you can take to help your family wind up your digital affairs smoothly.

Keep an inventory with a close friend or relative that includes the location of any digital devices you own, in addition to your USB drives and external hard drives. This should also contain a list of all your social, personal, financial and business account details, including usernames, passwords and security question answers.

Finally, some of your online accounts have features in place for the account holder’s death. Google, for instance, gives you the option to set up an “Inactive Account Manager”, a trusted contact with access to certain aspects of the account, such as Gmail or Google Drive. Features such as these give a trusted person a level of control over your digital afterlife and can lessen your loved ones’ distress at a crucial time.

Sources
http://www.hm1law.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Me-Mine_Magazine_Fall-2015-P6.pdf
https://lifehacker.com/you-need-to-deal-with-your-digital-legacy-right-now-1820407514

6 top tips on how not to lose money from your pension each year

Keeping track of your pension can be difficult at the best of times, and if you have multiple pots it can seem nigh on impossible. Fortunately, we have some top tips to help.

First introduced in 2012, auto-enrolment made it compulsory for UK employers to automatically enroll their staff into a pension scheme, unless they opt out.

However, according to financial services firm Hargreave Lansdown, £600 million is being lost from this scheme each year.

This is because every time you change employer, you receive a new pension pot. Each time you start a new pension pot, you are charged between £20 and £80 in administrative fees. With the average worker changing jobs 11 times, over the course of a lifetime that adds up to a substantial sum.

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid these extra charges and make sure that you are up to date with all your pension pots:

  1. Avoid having more pension pots than necessary. If you change employers, see if you can transfer your old pension across to the scheme in your new workplace. Sometimes employers will be happy to make contributions to your existing pension pot. If so, you can keep that one going and avoid any extra charges.
  2. Be mindful of where your money is. Never take for granted that the default fund your employer provides is the best one for you. It is important to see if your hard earned pension pot could be growing more elsewhere. There’s a chance you might be able to stake out a pension fund with fewer charges or a better investment return than your employer’s default pot.
  3. Remember to notify pension companies if you move house. If you have multiple pension pots, it is easier than you think to lose track of a pension fund, especially if the company can no longer contact you.
  4. Use the government’s pension pot finding service. Luckily, the government has an online service that allows you to find contact details for your own workplace or personal pension scheme. You can access this here.
  5. Check back through your paperwork. The majority of pension providers send an annual statement that includes the current balance of your pension, plus a projection of how much your pension will be worth when you reach retirement age. There’s a chance you might have held onto these and they may be lurking at the bottom of your filing cabinet. When you find the right document, you can contact the pension provider to update your details.
  6. Get in touch with your old employers. If you think you have lost a pension pot, get in touch with your old employers straight away. They should be able to help you find the details of any lost pension.

Keeping track of your pensions can, at times, feel overwhelming. We hope that our pension top tips help you manage your pensions and maybe even save you some money.

Sources

Brits lose £300 from their pension each year – here’s how to avoid it