Category: Financial Advice

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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/

4 cruises around the British Isles

When you think of a cruise, the first things to come to mind are usually European cities of culture, blue Caribbean oceans or Balearic islands.

What many people don’t realise is that there are some incredible options available much closer to home.

The British Isles boast a staggering number of beautiful and unusual destinations, particularly along the coast. Many of these are off-limits to the enormous passenger ships which are normally associated with cruises. ‘Boutique’ cruises are a fantastic holiday option for those wanting to avoid the crowds and experience what our home isles have to offer; here are four exciting examples.

  • London to London

Departing from Tower Bridge, London, there is a cruise by Silversea, which will take you all the way around Britain and Ireland before returning you to where you started. A 12 day cruise enables you to enjoy an array of experiences, from a traditional Cornish pub lunch in Falmouth to Balmoral Castle in Aberdeen or a trip from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway.

  • Birds and Blooms of Britain

If you’re somebody with an appreciation for nature, you could take a springtime voyage with Noble Caledonia from Plymouth to the Isles of Scilly, Lundy, Skomer, Llandudno, Peel, Holy Loch and Fairlie. With excursions into the Abbey Gardens of the Island of Tresco and the Botanical Gardens of the Cowal Peninsula, any green-fingered passengers will be happy. Not to mention the puffins, guillemots and razorbills around Lundy and Skomer for the birdwatchers on board.

  • The Scenic Route

If you’re heading to Dublin but don’t fancy taking a flight, Le Boreal is a 264 passenger mega-yacht which boasts interiors designed by Jean-Philippe Nuel, as well as serving the finest French cuisine. Departing from London and stopping off in Dover, it takes in the glorious views of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and the historic coves of the Scilly Isles. Before it arrives in Dublin, you’ll have the opportunity to visit Glengarriff and Kinsale over the course of a seven night journey.

  • A Royal Voyage

If opulence and exclusivity appeal, you could get on board the Hebridean Princess.The ship holds only 50 passengers, and the Queen herself chartered the vessel in 2006 for a holiday to celebrate her 80th birthday. Departing from Oban, the cruise explores the Outer Isles and visits lochs, islands and remote mainland sites and allows you to be surrounded by luxury.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/articles/small-ship-cruises-to-explore-the-british-isles-and-beyond/

are you keeping an eye on your pension pot?

Keeping track of your pension pots can feel like a full time job at times, particularly as we head towards a world where the average person will have eleven different jobs over the course of their career. It’s becoming increasingly uncommon for people to stay in the same job throughout their employment. In fact, we’re now seeing that 64% of people have multiple pension pots; that’s up 2% since October 2016. While that in itself is not a worry, what is more troublesome is that of that 64%, 22% have reportedly lost track of at least one of those pots.

Which means there are more than 7 million people who may not have access to the retirement funds they’ve worked hard to amass. To make sure you’re not one of them, it’s really important to keep on top of the bigger picture of what you’re owed.

Despite an increase in pension awareness, thanks to auto-enrolment, recent research has shown that 30% of people still do not know the value of their pension. Of course, if you’re not sure of the full value of your savings, it makes it hard to plan properly for retirement.

For some, the best way to get a clearer view of the situation is through pension consolidation. If you have a number of small, automatic enrolment pots, it could be worth bringing them together to make them more manageable. Consolidation isn’t necessarily the right choice in all circumstances, though. Certain pensions, particularly those of an older style, will come with great benefits that may be relinquished upon consolidation. Whether or not this is the right path for you will depend on your personal situation, so it’s always a good idea to consult an adviser to talk you through the process before making any decisions.

If you think you may have lost sight of a pension pot yourself, there is a pension tracker available through the Department for Work and Pensions that will help you locate it.

Sources
https://moneyfacts.co.uk/news/pensions/over-one-fifth-have-lost-pension-pot/

what makes seeing a financial adviser like having an MOT?

We’re all used to taking our cars for their MOT, aren’t we? Before we book it in for the test, we may well get a mechanic to check the vehicle over to make sure it will pass with flying colours. It’s a useful time to put in new brake pads, check the suspension and make sure the lights are all in working order.

This got us thinking that in some respects, our finances are no different to a car. They too could often benefit from a bit of fine-tuning from time to time to ensure they’re running at optimum performance and that our investments are working as hard as they might.

Of course, it’s a legal requirement to make sure our cars are roadworthy but there’s no such law for our money – it’s just up to to the individual to make sure your finances are maintaining a high level of performance. This is why it can be worth asking a financial adviser for a financial MOT or healthcheck. It’s an opportunity to not only check what you already have in place but to also consider ‘new parts’ you may want to install.

It’s all too easy, for example, to think your pension will just grow at its own speed and not pay it much attention. By enlisting the help of a financial adviser, though, you can check your pension fund is invested in a way that is getting the best return for you. Investment group, Bestinvest, has stated that twenty six of the top funds in the UK, containing £6.4 billion, are badly underperforming, and have been doing so for three years. In fact, at times, they have failed to meet their targets by over 5 per cent. An adviser will be able to monitor the situation and, if necessary, transfer your savings into better performing funds.

Another ‘new part’ you may decide to investigate may be insurance. You could already have life assurance in place but realise you don’t have any critical illness cover and are leaving you and your family exposed if you experienced a serious health setback. Or you could review your savings and realise you’re not making the most of your potential tax-free returns through the various ISA products available.

Whatever your particular situation, maybe it’s worth booking yourself in for a financial MOT to make sure your finances are fit for your current circumstances.
Sources
http://www.irishnews.com/business/2018/05/28/news/have-you-ever-thought-of-having-a-financial-mot–1337946/

3 top tips to prepare your kids for independent travel

It’s one thing to travel with your children or grandchildren and help them realise an appreciation for seeing the world. To prepare them to navigate that world on their own and to take control of their own adventures, is another thing entirely, but it’s not impossible.

Let them take the reins when you plan your next trip – With your years of experience and being a parent or guardian, it’s easy to assume that you’re better off taking care of all the planning yourself. You know what you like, you know where to look and you know how to make it cost effective – you’re the one footing the bill, after all. The chances are, though, that the only reason you are adept at the process is because you’ve done it before, so give them some first-hand experience and the opportunity to learn for themselves.

– Give them a helping hand, of course, show them where to find airfares and different accommodation options. Let them browse Airbnb for holiday rentals and experiences.
– Above all, keep an open mind; they’ll likely have different search criteria and priorities to you, so you never know what little gems they’ll unearth

Give them responsibilities once you arrive – Getting the trip booked is just the beginning. You can write as detailed an itinerary as you like but the map is not the territory and the real experience is found on the ground. You’ll instinctively want to take control of organisation and logistics but getting the kids involved can be an extremely valuable experience. Let them choose the route you take and suggest that they ask for directions from a local if you get a bit lost. Get them to buy the train tickets – if you’re feeling really brave maybe even let them look after your room key! The sense of responsibility will make them feel like they’re contributing and if something doesn’t go quite to plan, that can be a learning experience too…

When things go wrong, stay calm – If everything has gone smoothly on a trip then you probably haven’t left your hotel room. More often than not you’re going to run into awkward situations at least once. Something as simple as missing a bus, particularly in warmer climes where the bus stop might be lacking in shade, can lead to frustration.

– You may feel inclined to panic or shield your children from it entirely, pretending that everything is going along as expected. Your best bet really is to be honest and stay calm. Learning to ‘go with the flow’ and accepting that sometimes plans need to change is essential to successful and happy travelling.
– Sometimes a spanner in the works can be a great thing; you may have missed the last bus to the museum but if you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have found that local tavern with the paella you’ll
never forget. Those statues have been there for hundreds of years – we’re sure they’ll wait until tomorrow.

 Sources:  https://www.wanderlust.co.uk/content/how-to-teach-your-child-to-travel-independently/

5 top travel tips to make your holiday easier

Holidays can be expensive, that’s for sure. Getting everything organised for your trip can be quite a challenge, too. So we’ve compiled these simple tips to save you money and allow you to enjoy your time away to the full.

Scanning travel docs
It’s a good idea to scan your travel details, passports and insurance information then email them to yourself. That way, if the worst happens and they get lost or are stolen, it will make it much easier to get your documents replaced by embassies or travel companies if you can produced your scanned copies.

Paying with your card, not currency
Gone are the days when you had to get your currency before you travelled. So why not avoid the stress of queuing at the bureau de change and make the decision to pay mainly by card while abroad. It will take one thing off your To Do list and paying with a card is usually cheaper than changing money at the airport anyway. You can always use the ATMs abroad for some extra cash and paying by card is safer and more convenient.

Avoid ‘squanderlust’ at the airport
The shops and cafes in departure lounges know they’ve got a captive audience but do try and resist the temptation to go on a spending frenzy as you while away the time before your flight. Research shows that a third of Britons admit to blowing any leftover cash at the airport once a holiday ends. So take time to consider whether you really need a pair of overpriced gold flip flops. Is that bottle of bizarrely coloured liqueur truly an amazing offer or is it going to languish at the back of your drinks cabinet once you get home?

Book in advance
Pre-book as much as you can before you go to save time and money. Not only can you get excited at planning all your excursions in advance, it is much cheaper and you can enjoy a sense of satisfaction as you bypass all the queues. Hiring a car is usually cheaper if you do it in advance, so take advantage of all the comparison websites online to find the best deal.

Pay it forward
You’ll have seen the charity collections at the airports for unwanted currency. With 86% of Britons admitting to having leftover change, it’s a nice gesture to donate any change that’s just going to gather dust at home, before leaving the country. Figures show people have an average £36 of leftover currency. Of course, you could save it for your next trip, provided of course you’ll remember where you put it, but if you’ve enjoyed your well-earned break, why not pay it forward?
Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/family-holidays/visa-family-travel-tips/travel-hacks-to-make-your-holidays-easier

one for the kids? – if they’re saving for a home,check they’re making the most of the lifetime ISA

If you’re saving for a home through a Help To Buy ISA or know someone who is, it’s worth being aware of a planning opportunity which could boost your savings by an additional £1,100. But anyone hoping to take advantage of this opportunity needs to be quick, as it will only be available for just under four months more.

Any savings in a Help To Buy ISA which are transferred to the new Lifetime ISA before 5th April 2018 will benefit from a top up of 25% from the government. The opportunity has arisen thanks to the Help To Buy ISA small print relating to the transfer of money saved before the launch of the Lifetime ISA on 6th April 2017.

Lifetime ISAs have an annual limit of £4,000, which includes money transferred from another savings account. However, money transferred from a Help To Buy ISA within the first twelve months of Lifetime ISAs becoming available does not count towards the contribution limit for the 2017-2018 tax year. As such, any money transferred into the Lifetime ISA from the Help To Buy ISA will be boosted by the government top-up, potentially resulting in hundreds of pounds being added to your savings.

For example, someone who had saved the £4,400 maximum amount into a Help To Buy ISA before April 2017 could transfer this into a Lifetime ISA before 5th April 2018. As this wouldn’t contribute to their limit, they could then save a further £4,000 into the Lifetime ISA for a total of £8,400. The 25% bonus would then be added to the entire £8,400 in April next year, giving an additional £2,100. In any other year, the maximum top-up which could be earned from the Lifetime ISA would be £1,000.

So If you know anyone using a Help To Buy ISA to save towards a first home, transferring money to a Lifetime ISA to enjoy an additional top-up of up to £1,100 in April next year could make collecting the keys to their own place happen a little bit sooner.

Sources
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/savings/use-isa-loophole-now-1100-savings-boost/

Is working part of your retirement plan?

A recent study analysing the income statistics for pensioners has found that more people aged over 65 are continuing to work after they officially retire. Figures suggest that the amount of pensioners doing so is around 13%, an increase from just 8% over the past ten years. That figure might sound small, but it equates to 1.1 million people boosting their monthly income during retirement. The median amount earned per week is £296, which adds up to £15,400 per year.

Choosing to remain in employment can be down to a need for extra income, but staying employed has also been shown to provide many physical and mental benefits, as well as helping to keep up social activity and giving a sense of purpose, which some feel they lose after giving up work.

For some, the decision to remain in employment of some kind is simply down to a love of working. If you’ve had a long and fulfilling career doing something you enjoy, retirement can come as a shock to the system. Continuing in some capacity by reducing your hours or passing on responsibilities can alleviate this feeling, allowing you to ease into a new way of life at a pace you are happy with. There may also be the chance to try something new that wasn’t possible before reaching retirement age. Carrying on working in a different role or a new industry altogether can give the opportunity to pursue an interest you’ve harboured throughout your working life with the added bonus of being paid to do so.

If you are nearing retirement or are already retired and you’re thinking of continuing work in some way, it’s worth knowing how it can affect your pension, depending on how you go about it. All state pensions and most private pensions can be deferred, the benefit of this being that your pension will be able to continue growing which, in turn, will give you more money to enjoy when you do stop working completely.

You can also choose to begin drawing your pension whilst continuing to work, but anything you draw will count as income, so any income from both earnings and your pension over your personal allowance will be taxed. You won’t make National Insurance contributions once you’re over state pension age, however, which puts a little more money back into your pocket

building your financial future

Sources

http://www.onrec.com/news/news-archive/nearly-one-in-seven-over-65s-boost-pensions-by-working
http://www.moneycrashers.com/reasons-working-after-retirement/
https://www.saga.co.uk/magazine/money/work/careers/the-rules-around-working-part-time-in-retirement#

Help To Buy vs Lifetime: Which ISA is best?

 

Set to be introduced in April 2017, the Lifetime ISA essentially offers an alternative to the Help To Buy ISA. With two competing options on the table, it’s important to know which is best for you and your needs, as whilst they have some similarities, there are also key differences between the two.

The Help To Buy ISA allows you to save up to £200 each month to save for a deposit on your first home. The government then boosts your savings further to the tune of 25% up to a total limit of £3,000, as long as you’re a first time buyer purchasing a property priced up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 everywhere else in the UK. There is no minimum deposit each month, and you’re also able to pay in £1,000 when the account is opened that doesn’t count towards your monthly savings.

Available up to Autumn 2019, anyone aged sixteen or over is entitled to open a Help To Buy ISA. The accounts are limited to one per person, which means both people in a couple can have an account and benefit from the bonus.

The new Lifetime ISA is based on similar principles but has several important differences, with the most important being that it can be used either to save for purchasing your first home or as money put away as a pension for later in life. There’s no limit on how much you can save each month as long as you don’t go over the yearly cap of £4,000.

Again, the government offers a 25% bonus, but this is paid whether you use the money to purchase your first home up to a price of £450,000 anywhere in the country, or keep it for later in your life. Any money that’s taken out before your 60th birthday and not used for purchasing your first home will forfeit the government bonus plus any growth or interest earned from it, as well as incurring a 5% charge. If you wait until after you’re 60, you can take out everything tax-free.

As you will be allowed to have both a Lifetime ISA and a Help To Buy ISA, you can choose to do this, but you will only be able to use the bonus from one of the two accounts to buy a home. As the Lifetime ISA is essentially replacing the Help To Buy ISA, it makes sense to opt for the newer style of account after they are introduced next April. If you want to set up an ISA for your child, however, you could consider opening a Help To Buy ISA on their 16th birthday then transferring the savings to a Lifetime ISA two years later which will allow you to take full advantage of the government bonuses

As always, seeking professional advice to establish what is right for you and your objectives has to be paramount.  This article is intended to give information only and not advice.

building your financial future

Sources: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/508117/Lifetime_ISA_explained.pdf, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/414027/FTB_factographic_final.pdf

Second 2015 Budget Announced for 8th July

Chancellor George Osborne has surprised voters, political and business leaders alike by announcing that he will take the unusual step of delivering a second 2015 Budget on 8th July, just one hundred and twelve days after the Budget of 18th March. With an Autumn Statement also due later in the year, the second Budget will mean the Chancellor will deliver three important economic summaries and policy plans in the space of just nine months.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Osborne described this second Budget as a ‘stability Budget’, explaining that his aim was to clarify policies announced in the Conservative’s pre-election manifesto and to announce further measures to keep Britain’s economy on the right track.

Mr Osborne said:

“I don’t want to wait to deliver on the commitments we have made to working people. [The July 8th Budget] will continue with the balanced plan we have to deal with our debts, invest in our health service and reform welfare to make work pay. But there will also be a laser-like focus on making our economy more productive so we raise living standards across our country.”

Individual details on what the July 8th budget is likely to include are currently fairly sparse, but the Chancellor has already announced that specific details will be provided on the £12 billion of welfare cuts already proposed. Business productivity has also been mentioned several times, with Mr Osborne pointing out that the UK still produces a quarter less for every working hour than America and Germany.

More funding for apprenticeship schemes are likely to be announced, with the Chancellor intimating that he would like to see three million more individuals find places. Details on funding for the NHS and a further crackdown on tax avoidance are also expected. The second Budget may come too soon for details on the already-announced ‘second hand’ annuity market, but there is still a possibility that Mr Osborne will release further plans, when he stands again in the House of Commons on 8th July.


Sources: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32761566

 

building your financial future