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Drawdown tax and flexible retirement income. What does it all mean?

Once you reach 55, a whole spread of opportunities will open themselves up to you. One such bonus is the fact that you can finally access that hard-saved pension fund. Up to 25% of your savings can be taken tax-free, with the remaining 75% being subject to income tax. The payable amount depends on your total income for the year and your tax rate. This is known as drawdown tax. 

You’ll only have to pay tax if you decide to draw over the 25% threshold. In this case, any income you take will be added to the rest of your taxable income for that year, and will be taxed at 20% after you pass the personal threshold. Therefore, if you were to take out a large withdrawal pushing you into the £40,000 to £150,000 bracket, you could be taxed at 40%. 

Your pension provider is required to deduct any tax before a withdrawal is paid and it’s likely that when you take a taxable payment for the first time, you’ll be taxed using an emergency tax code (it may be worth speaking to your pension provider about how you will be taxed). 

How do you manage your pot? 

If you choose to stay within the 25% lump sum, more often than not you’ll move the rest into one or more funds that allow you to take a taxable income at times to suit you. It’s wise to choose funds that match your income objectives and your attitude to risk, as the income you receive might be adjusted periodically depending on how well your investments are doing. 

You can also move your pension pot gradually into income drawdown. The 25% bracket still applies to each amount you move across, so you can take a quarter of the amount tax-free and place the rest into drawdown. 

A way to make your retirement income more flexible is to invest in an annuity or another type of income product, such as a gilt or corporate bond, which usually offer guarantees about growth and income. 

However, it’s paramount that you carefully plan how much income you can afford to take under pension drawdown as you don’t want to run out of money. Factors such as living longer than expected, taking too much out too early and poor investment performance can potentially hinder your drawdown plans. 

That’s why it’s important to regularly review your investments.

Sources
https://www.pensionbee.com/pensions-explained/pension-withdrawal/how-does-pension-drawdown-tax-work
https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/flexi-access-drawdown
https://blog.standardlife.co.uk/combiningyourpensions-2/

20 years after the ISA was launched, what does the future hold?

A study by the Yorkshire Building Society found that savers deposited £4.3bn into ISAs in the final week of the 2017/18 tax year, and the tax year just gone (2018/19) was set to see a similar final week deposit of up to £4bn. This was despite the number of ISA holders falling from 11.1m in 2016/17 to 10.8m in 2017/18.

ISAs, therefore, are continuing to be attractive.

They were launched two decades ago as a tax-free alternative to traditional savings accounts which failed to offer an interest rate that competed with the rate of inflation. At its advent, the total tax-free allowance was £7,000, but at least £4,000 had to be invested in funds, meaning the maximum you could save in a cash ISA was £3,000. Since then, the ISA portfolio has grown to include Help to Buy ISAs, Innovative ISAs and Lifetime ISAs. In addition to this, the tax-free saving allowance has increased, and today, savers are allowed to deposit up to £20,000 into their ISAs each tax year, tax-free.

That means no interest tax, no income tax and no capital gains tax. Cash ISAs also offer access to funds as easily as regular savings accounts and are an excellent choice when it comes to choosing a default savings account.

Take-up appears to be declining amongst younger generations, though, as the total number of adults saving into an ISA fell from 11.1m in 2016/17 to 10.8m last year. With so many opportunities available to young people these days, perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising that saving into an ISA is losing its appeal?

How can ISAs evolve to maintain appeal?

Clues may lie within the rise of Open Banking, as digital money apps have empowered many people to manage their money more actively.

These apps play a huge role, although it could be suggested that financial education should begin at a very young age. Encouraging young people to invest for the long term requires knowledge of the difference between investment and saving.

Einstein famously said that: “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple,” and it would be unwise to underestimate the importance of simplifying language. The financial sector is awash with acronyms and savings jargon, creating potentially confusing barriers to entry for savers.

Some financial advisers have called for a more holistic approach and to examine how other industries are driving long-term behaviour change. Think of how the music industry changed the way we purchase and listen to music with digital distribution and online streaming platforms such as Spotify.

Ross Duncton, head of Direct at BMO Global Asset Management, says that a ‘revolution is due for the savings and investment industry – with ISAs centre stage.’ After all, if savings options were to remain the same for the next twenty years, the steady decline of ISA uptake will only continue.

Sources
What Investment – Issue 434 May 2019
https://moneyfacts.co.uk/news/savings/billions-of-isa-savings-expected/

Generation X is failing to save for their pensions

With rising costs of living affecting the way we live our lives, it seems that pensions have taken a back seat for some. Workers in their forties and fifties from generation X have left the organisation of their pension to the last minute, with many savers now pouring money into their pots, trying to make up for lost time.

According to a study carried out by Salisbury House Wealth (SHW), Gen X accounted for 43% of all UK pensions savings in 2018. This marks a dramatic surge in savings, increasing by 14% from the previous year, making up £3.7bn of the £8.5bn saved during the course of the year.

Tim Holmes, managing director of SHW, said: ‘Many individuals in generation X are finding their incomes squeezed by having to pay for both younger and older dependents. As a result, pensions will likely only become a priority at the last minute.’ Tim later goes on to point out that although it may seem wise to leave saving to a later date, your investments may not have enough time to grow.

This seems to link with the white paper produced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) earlier in May on intergenerational differences. The paper noted that between 2014 and 2016, people aged 40 to 50 had less total wealth when compared with people of the same age 10 years earlier. The FCA has suggested that an open debate is required in order to understand the specific challenges that these particular age groups face.

Older people are living longer as life expectancy increases. Baby boomers are having to develop new financial strategies to maintain living standards in later life whereas younger people are struggling to build wealth due to rising house prices, insecure employment and student debt.

The FCA points out that Gen X are likely to be financially stretched, as they are torn between the responsibility of helping older generations in later life whilst also providing financial support for younger generations, leaving less money that can be set aside for their pensions.

Christoper Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA, says that from ‘baby-boomers to generation X to millenials – everyone’s financial needs and circumstances are evolving. It is clear that each generation will have its own challenges.’ He goes on to say that now is the time to ‘step back, consider and understand how these needs are evolving and challenge assumptions about customer needs in the context of intergenerational factors.’

How can you make the most out of diversification?

Diversification is a word that seems to get tossed around a lot in conversations around savings and investment. We hear it often, but what does it mean?

Put simply, diversification is a risk management strategy that mixes a variety of investments within a portfolio. Through having different kinds of assets in a portfolio, the goal is to obtain higher long-term returns and lower the risk of any sole holding. Essentially, you are hedging your bets.

By smoothing out the risk of each investment within your portfolio, you’re aiming to neutralise the negative performance of some investments with the positive performance of others. Though your investments will only benefit when the different investments are not perfectly correlated, you want them to respond differently, often in opposition to one another, to market influences.

One drawback to be aware of, though, is that by limiting portfolio risk through diversification, you could potentially be mitigating performance in the short term.

Types of investment

Most fund managers and advisers diversify investments across asset classes and determine what percentage of the portfolio to allocate to each. Such asset classes include:

  • Stocks – shares or equity in a publicly traded company.
  • Fixed-interest securities – also known as bonds, fixed-interest securities represent a loan made by an investor or a borrower and are often used by companies, states and sovereign governments to finance various projects.
  • Real estate – buildings, land, natural resources, agriculture, livestock and water or mineral deposits.
  • Commodities – basic goods necessary for the production of other products or services.
  • Cash and short-term cash equivalents – savings, cash ISAs, savings bonds and premium bonds.

How do you make the most of it?

The unfortunate nature of investment is that all winning streaks end. It’s human nature to be drawn to winners and avoid losers. But investing is much more fluid, with no particular investment reigning as champion for long. By investing only in what’s doing well currently, you might miss out on any rising stars beginning their ascent to success. You may want to jump from top performer to top performer, however more often than not, the best gains will have been and gone by the time you invest. You may even be investing prior to the asset reducing in return.

In an ideal world, you’d get high returns from your savings and investments with no risk. However, reality dictates that there must be a trade-off – high risk often leads to higher returns.

Though it is sensible to hold part of your assets in low-risk investments, such as Cash ISAs, some see value in investigating more high risk investments in order to acquire those lucrative higher returns. However, you need to make sure that you’d be happy with running the risk of making a loss.

A general rule of thumb is that the older you are, the less you’ll want to expose your investments to market risk – meaning that diversifying into more low risk investments may be the ideal approach for you in order to keep your investments secure.

There are also many ways to diversify within a single kind of investment. For example, with shares, you can spread your investments between large and small companies, UK and overseas markets and within different sectors like technology, financials or raw materials.

Finally, remember that the value of investments, and the income from them, may fall or rise and you might get back less than you invested. Always proceed with caution – diversification helps mitigate the risks but won’t remove them entirely.

Gifting rules and inheritance tax, what you might not know

Following an in depth study conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR) and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), it has been discovered that only one in four people making financial gifts are aware of the risks of inheritance tax. Further to this, they found that only 45% of gifters reported being aware of inheritance tax rules and exemptions when they gave their largest gift.

A staggeringly low 8% of respondents considered tax rules before making a financial gift and most did not associate gifting with inheritance tax. When compared with the fact that over half of respondents said that they planned to leave inheritance, it’s obvious that there seems to be a gap in gifter’s knowledge.

For those who were aware of the rules surrounding inheritance tax, 54% said this influenced the value of their largest gift. This was most prevalent amongst affluent taxpayers who had assets of £500,000 or more. Respondents below this threshold had more limited knowledge of the long-term effects of inheritance tax, the seven-year rule or the annual limit on gifts.

So, where does the money go?

80% of gifters gave to individuals, with charities coming in second at around 10%. The most common beneficiaries were adult children, followed by 15% giving to parents or other family members and 14% making gifts to friends. The most popular reasons were presents for birthdays and weddings.

The data also suggested that even when individuals considered inheritance tax rulings, it did not deter them from giving the gift.

The rules

You can give away £3,000 worth of gifts each tax year (6 April to 5 April) without them being added to the value of your estate. This is known as your ‘annual exemption’. You can carry any unused annual exemption forward to the next year – but only for one year.

For smaller gifts, you can give as many gifts of up to £250 per person as you want during the tax year as long as you have not used another exemption on the same person.

The current starting threshold for inheritance tax for a single person is set at £325,000. This amount is then doubled for married couples and civil partners, who also have the additional benefit of the residential nil-rate band, which allows for a further £150,000 of tax-free, property-based inheritance per person. This particular allowance is set to rise to £175,000 as of the 6th of April 2020.

An unsuccessful PET is taxed depending on how long the gifter has lived following the giving of the gift and is referred to as ‘taper relief.’ If a gift is given less than three years before death, the full rate of 40% is applied to the gift, tapering off to 8% if the gift was given between six to seven years before death.

However, this is not the case when it comes to transactions with a reservation of benefit. For example, if you give away your home to your children and continue to occupy it rent-free, the property is still considered as forming part of your estate immediately if the worst were to happen. An individual cannot retain possession of a chattel or property whilst making a PET.

Though it may be difficult to plan for the worst, knowing how to best mitigate the tax surrounding gifts and inheritance can help you make key financial decisions at the most opportune moments, and prevent any avoidable losses when it comes to sharing your assets with the people and organisations that matter most to you.

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

Why easy access savings accounts are a bad idea

We’ve all been there, the boiler breaks, the car decides that today is not its day or a bill appears out of nowhere. For these sudden expenses, you need to have access to your money.  The UK has favoured instant access savings accounts for a good while now, with a staggering 77% of cash savings now being held in these easy access savings accounts.

Convenience is a wonderful thing, however there are a number of drawbacks to keeping your cash at your fingertips. The very best of these easy access accounts currently pay up to 1.5% interest AER (Annual Equivalent Rate). If you’re one of the millions of people who are trying to save with bigger high street banks, you’ll be receiving a whole lot less. In some cases, saving rates with big banks can be as low as 0.15% (29/05/19), which we can all agree is monumentally low.  

What should you do?

Easy access savings accounts might seem like the most uncomplicated way to keep your cash. The truth is, though, few of us really need to keep our cash instantly accessible.

A healthy blend of instant access and fixed-term savings could significantly boost your returns, whilst keeping that rainy day fund safe, in case of emergencies. That’s why it’s worth splitting your savings in two:

Emergency cash – money to be put to one side in case of loss of employment, home repairs or other unforeseen expenses. For most of you, this will be within the region of three to six months worth of income held in an instant access or current account.

Long term savings – you may have your eyes on a big expense in the future. You might be getting married, buying a new house or planning a trip around the world. Whatever it may be, putting your cash into a fixed term savings account is one of the best ways to grow your savings. You can keep your cash in a fixed term account from between 3 months and five years.

The general rule is that the longer you keep your cash in a fixed term account, the higher your rate. You may even be able to reach the dizzying heights of 2.5%!

With the national inflation rate currently set at 1.9%, saving has become more important than ever if you want to secure your future finances. For more information on what style of saving would suit you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Defined Contribution vs Defined Benefit – what’s the difference and what’s the trend?

As defined contribution pension plans overtake defined benefit (in terms of money paid into schemes) for the first time ever, more and more people are taking an interest in how the two differ and the relationship between them. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has reported that in 2018, employee contributions for defined contribution pension pots reached £4.1bn, compared to the £3.2bn that employees contributed to DB schemes.

With April 2019’s increase to minimum contributions for DC schemes seeing employer contribution hitting 3% and employees contributing 5% towards their pension, the trend of DC contribution increases in relation to DB isn’t set to slow any time soon.

So before DB Pensions become a distant memory, let’s take a look at exactly what they are. A defined benefit pension, which is sometimes referred to as a final salary pension scheme, promises to pay a guaranteed income to the scheme holder, for life, once they reach the age of retirement set by the scheme. Generally, the payout is based on an accrual rate; a fraction of the member’s terminal earnings (or final salary), which is then multiplied by the number of years the employee has been a scheme member.

A DB scheme is different from a DC scheme in that your payout is calculated by the contributions made to it by both yourself and your employer, and is dependent on how those contributions perform as an investment and the decisions you make upon retirement. The fund, made of contributions that the scheme member and their employer make, is usually invested in stocks and shares while the scheme member works. There is a level of risk, as with any investments, but the goal is to see the fund grow.

Upon retirement, the scheme member has a decision to make with how they access their pension. They can take their whole pension as a lump sum, with 25% being free from tax. They can take lump sums from their pension as and when they wish. They can take 25% of their pension tax free, receiving the remainder as regular taxable income for as long as it lasts, or they can take the 25% and convert the rest into an annuity.

One of the reasons for DB schemes becoming more scarce is that higher life expectancies mean employers face higher unpredictability and thus riskier, more expensive pensions. This is a trend that looks likely to continue. If you’re unsure of how to make the most of your pension plan, it’s recommended to consult with a professional.

Sources
https://businessnewswales.com/defined-contribution-pensions-overtake-defined-benefit-for-the-first-time-ever/ https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/defined-contribution-pension-schemes https://www.pensionsauthority.ie/en/LifeCycle/Private_pensions/Final_salary_defined_benefit_schemes/
https://www.moneywise.co.uk/pensions/managing-your-pension/your-guide-to-final-salary-pensions

The UK is struggling to save; what are the implications?

study found in 2018 that one in four adults have no savings. Many residents in the UK wish that they had cash to save, however high monthly outgoings and debt clearance seem to take priority. Saving for the little curveballs that life throws your way is a good way to maintain a sound mind, but poor money management and large monthly payments can get in the way. So is this issue localised to the UK, or is the struggle to save an international issue?

Across the pond

Households in the US are currently able to save 6.5% of their disposable income, down from the previous figure of 7.3% after estimates were made by Trading Economics. However, earlier in 2018 a report was made, finding that 40% of US adults don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 (est £307) emergency.

The current UK savings figure sits at 4.8%, one of the lowest since records began in 1963. The Office for National Statistics has come up with an even lower figure of 3.9%, which actually is the lowest recorded. Further to this, a report was also made by the Financial Conduct Authority in 2017 that millions of UK residents would find it difficult to pay an unexpected bill of £50 at the end of the month, and little has changed since then.

Closer to home

In France and Germany, the savings ratio sits at 15.25% and 10.9% respectively, that’s triple the UK’s value for France and over double for Germany! The Managing Director of Sparkasse bank points to cultural ideals as the main influencers for the high German saving rate, saying that: “Saving is seen as the morally right thing to do. It is more than simple financial strategy.” This stance seems typical for the country that’s home to the first ever savings bank, opening in Hamburg in 1778.

Why do we not save as much as we used to?

The idea of saving for a rainy day in the UK may not be totally lost but for many, the rainy days are happening as we speak. Another reason relates to the tendency of UK households to borrow more money in order to maintain lifestyle choices. For all quarters in 2018, households were net borrowers, drawing on loans and savings to fund spending and investment decisions.

Comments have been made referring to current Brexit uncertainty as a reason for the change, alongside rising rental prices and increased costs of living. Whether this new change in spending and saving is wholly due to current cultural or economic factors is yet to be confirmed. Another case has been made for poor interest rates making it a less lucrative option for savers to save.

Be it cultural or economic, it is undeniable that the country has lost faith in the ethos of saving their pennies. In the end, as more and more studies come to light, it seems that only time will tell.

Sources
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/expenditure/bulletins/familyspendingintheuk/financialyearending2018
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-adults-savings-none-quarter-debt-cost-living-emergencies-survey-results-a8265111.html
https://eu.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/budget-and-spending/2018/09/26/how-much-average-household-has-savings/37917401/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46986579
https://www.ft.com/content/c8772236-2b93-11e8-a34a-7e7563b0b0f4

6 bad habits to avoid during retirement

Planning for retirement can be complicated, as anyone approaching the end of their working life will tell you. However, navigating the myriad of choices, both financially and socially, doesn’t have to be such an enigma. Here are a few tips to help you avoid common bad habits that retirees often fall into:

1. Spending your pension fund money

Yes, that’s right. If you delay spending your pension and spend other available cash and investments first, you could keep your money safe from the taxman. Not spending your pension fund money until you have to may also help the beneficiaries of your estate avoid a large inheritance tax bill.

2. Taking the full brunt of inheritance tax

Inheritance tax can cost your loved ones vast sums if you were to pass away. There are plenty of ways to protect them from losing a large portion of your estate. Strategies such as making gifts or leaving assets to your spouse are an effective way to avoid the tax, among other valuable strategies.

3. Failing to have a plan

Many retirees have multiple avenues of income to provide for them during retirement. Making the most out of those streams of revenue is key to a stress free retirement, as unwise investment or poor planning can lead to unnecessary worries. We recommend contacting a financial adviser in order to set out a plan that’ll let you focus less on worrying about income and more on enjoying your well-earned retirement.

4. Not taking advantage of the discounts

There is an absolute boatload of price slashes available to retirees over a certain age. This ranges from discounts on train fares to reduced prices of cinema tickets. We recommend that all pensioners takes full advantage of these discounts as every penny saved provides more financial security for yourself and your loved ones.

5. Thinking property is the only asset worth having

Property can be a valuable source of retirement revenue, but it’s not the only way to create more income. Property can often incur maintenance expenses for landlords and take up time to resolve that could be spent making the most out of your retirement (though there are many pros and cons to the pension vs property discussion).

6. Buying into scams

When you retire, it seems that all kinds of people come crawling out of the woodwork to give you a “great” investment opportunity or insurance policy. Tactics can include contact out of the blue with promises of high / guaranteed returns and pressure to act quickly. The pensions regulator has a comprehensive pensions scam guide that’s definitely worth a read.

Building your financial future

Sources
https://moneytothemasses.com/saving-for-your-future/pensions/buying-property-with-your-pension-everything-you-need-to-know
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/15-things-not-retirement-090000553.html
https://miafinancialadvice.co.uk/14-retirement-planning-mistakes-that-you-dont-know-that-you-are-making/
https://miafinancialadvice.co.uk/spend-your-pension-last/
https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/managing-your-money/2018/10/04/want-an-easy-retirement-avoid-this-common-mistake/