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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

Mary Poppins returns: Can a tuppence really save the day?

Since the release of the film Mary Poppins Returns in December, it’s taken over $250m, making it a financial success. The story of the film itself however seems to recommend a few ways of making your own personal finances successful too. With the original set in 1910, the sequel takes us to 1935 where Michael, just a boy in the first film, is now a man with children of his own. Unfortunately, due to him being unable to repay a loan, he finds himself face to face with the frightening possibility of having his home repossessed.

Thankfully for Michael, in the original film his father gives him shrewd advice to invest his pocket money of a tuppence, rather than giving it to the women selling bird food. Quick reality check; even over the course of 25 years, the compound interest on a mere tuppence is extremely unlikely to have been enough to help Michael out of his rut in the real world. Realistically, with an average interest rate of 6%, saving two pennies wouldn’t even bring you in a single pound. Perhaps his father invested it particularly wisely, finding the unicorn company of his day, perhaps putting it into oil stocks, but even then it would require a huge return. It’s a film, after all, and the overriding message of being responsible with your finances is a noble one, so we can allow them a bit of creative licence.

Beyond taking the advice of investing two pence too literally, there are some positive messages and useful takeaways from Mary Poppins Returns. Ultimately, the tone is optimistic; the suggestion being that even if you’re in a particularly difficult financial position, there’s always a solution. It also suggests that these solutions are easier to come by with a bit of forward planning.

Sound investments are as beneficial now as they were in 1910, so seeking and listening to advice about how and where to put your money can be as helpful for you as it was for young Michael. Keeping on top of your financial situation and making conscious efforts to plan for the future will put you on steady ground and allow you to plan for a future that, in the words of Mary Poppins herself, is “practically perfect, in every way!”

Sources
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46741343

Inheritance Tax – Could there be a better alternative?

Inheritance tax is enormously unpopular to say the least. A YouGov poll found that 59% of the public deemed it unfair, making it the least popular of Britain’s 11 major taxes. What’s more, the tax has a limited revenue raising ability, with the ‘well advised’ often using gifts, trusts, business property relief and agricultural relief to avoid paying so much.

As it stands, the tax affects just 4% of British estates and contributes only 77p of every £100 of total taxation. This puts the tax in the awkward position of being both highly unpopular and raising very little revenue. At the moment, the inheritance tax threshold stands at £325,000 per person. If you own your own home and are leaving it to a direct descendant in your will, this lifts the threshold by an additional £125,000 in the 2018-19 tax year (the nil-rate band), to £450,000. Anything above this is subject to a 40% tax.

Inheritance tax is seen as unfair because it is a tax on giving (while normal taxes apply to earnings) and it is a ‘double tax’ on people who have already earned – and been taxed on – their wealth.

However, the Resolution Foundation, a prominent independent think tank, has suggested an alternative.

They propose abolishing inheritance tax and replacing it with a lifetime receipts tax.

This would see individuals given a lump sum they could inherit tax free through their lifetime and would then have to pay tax on any inheritance they receive that exceeds this threshold. The thinktank suggests that by setting a lifetime limit of £125,000 and then applying inheritance tax at 20% up to £500,000 and 30% after that would be both fairer and harder to avoid.

They predict that a lifetime receipts tax would raise an extra £5 billion by 2021, bringing in £11 billion rather than the £6 billion inheritance tax currently raises. In a time of mounting pressure on public services like the NHS, this additional revenue would be welcomed by many.

Moving away from inheritance tax would reduce many of the current ways to manage the amount of assets an individual is taxed on upon death. For instance, people would not be able to reduce the size of their taxable estate by giving away liquid assets seven years prior to their death.

The Resolution Foundation also suggests restricting business property and agricultural relief to small family businesses.

The lifetime receipts tax is, at the moment, just a think tank recommendation and is not being considered by the government.

However, the government are trying to introduce changes to probate fees that would see estates worth £2 million or more pay £6,000 in probate fees, up from the current rate of £215. This proposal has seen little support in the House of Lords and the government may consider scrapping the tax.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tax/inheritance/government-could-back-disguised-death-tax-following-lords-pressure/
https://www.accountancyage.com/2018/05/03/inheritance-tax-is-unfit-for-modern-society-and-should-be-abolished-says-think-tank/

New year, new you for your finances

With the new year comes new possibilities, and most of us like to put a resolution in place. While you might not stick to your January gym membership or finally get that novel written, committing yourself to a financial resolution is an excellent way to start 2019.

Improving a financial situation has proven to be a high priority for the British public as we turn the first page on a new calendar. In fact, the average adult will commit £4,600 on financial resolutions; this includes goals like paying off a debt or moving house. For those under the age of 25, 11% of people aim to clear their debts in the new year, and for the over 55s that figure increases to 15%.

Even with the best intentions, however, it can be tough to see resolutions bear fruit. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself the best chance.

1. Look before you leap!

It can be tempting to jump into the new year with big plans for the future, but if you’re not looking at where you’re coming from, you may not be giving those plans the preparation they need to flourish. Review your spending for 2018, collect your bank statements, bills and receipts and look out for areas of excessive or unnecessary expenditure. Once you’ve identified any pitfalls, they’ll be much easier to avoid in the year ahead.

2. Find your feet

Once you’ve got a good grasp of how the past year has been for your finances, you’ll have an understanding of where you are currently. There may be actions you can take immediately to better your situation. For example, review any subscriptions or direct debits that you now deem unnecessary. Sell any unnecessary items to create an income without any serious lifestyle changes. Consolidate debts with balance transfer cards, to make payments more manageable and to potentially lower your interest rate. Simplifying and strengthening your financial situation at the start of the year will give you greater control over the coming months.

3. Set goals and be reasonable!

There’s no point in setting a goal that is unachievable, only to disappoint yourself when you inevitably fail to meet it. With a solid understanding of your recent financial habits and your current position, set yourself an achievable plan for the year ahead. Be specific and make it measurable! Rather than pledging to eradicate all of your debt, identify a portion that you’re confident you can clear, and set yourself benchmarks to help track your progress.

4. Draw up a budget

It’s all well and good having a plan but you’ve got to stick to it. A well constructed budget can be just the thing to keep you on the straight and narrow. Gather information about your income and outgoings and regulate your spending. For example, it can be very tempting to treat yourself when you receive some unexpected income but don’t ignore the opportunity to bump up your savings. Perhaps consider splitting that extra money between debt repayments and future savings, and if there’s any left over then go for that posh meal. The key is to keep up to date, and revise your savings goals and budget plans as you go so that you’re prepared for whatever the year may bring!

With the right preparation and planning, 2019 can be a great step forward for your finances – take on the challenge and have a happy new year!

Sources
https://www.equifax.co.uk/resources/money_management/new-year-new-start-to-your-finances.html

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/

 

financial planning in your forties

It’s well known life begins at forty. Doesn’t it?

It should be an exciting decade, full of plans and aspirations. It’s also likely to be a time of optimum earning potential.

What’s more, it’s a crucial decade to take a step back and make sure your finances are on track to meet your goals.

There’ll be some decisions you’ll already have taken in your twenties or thirties, which will have had an impact. You may have bought your own home, for example, or put some savings away in cash, investments or pensions.

If things don’t look quite as rosy as you’d hoped, though, your forties are a good time to take stock, as there’s still time to make adjustments and give your investments time to grow.

Don’t forget, whatever savings you can make now will enable you to pursue your dreams later on.

Here are four key tips for shrewd financial planning at this important time of life.

Budget ruthlessly

Just because life may feel comfortable with regular pay rises and bonuses don’t fall into the temptation of spending more than you need. Do you really need that Costa coffee or M&S lunch every day?

Apps like Money Dashboard or Moneyhub can be helpful in showing you where your money’s going. Simple steps like cancelling subscriptions or switching bill providers can make a significant difference.

Historic studies show that investments usually outperform cash savings so any disposable income you can invest will be beneficial. If you can put money aside in a pension you’ll also be taking advantage of the tax relief available. Make sure you use your ISA allowance too for more accessible funds.

Carry out a protection audit

Think about what if the unexpected happened. Your forties are a time of life where you may find yourself part of what’s known as ‘the sandwich generation’ i.e. caring for elderly parents at the same time as looking after young children. This can put extra pressure on you. Make sure you’re protected should the worst happen by ensuring you have a good emergency fund in place. Also think about critical illness cover and life insurance.

Property plans

Your home will be a fundamental part of your financial planning at this time of life. If you feel you need a larger property, these are likely to be your peak earning years so now is the time to secure the best mortgage you can and find your dream home. On the other hand, if you’re quite happy where you are, it may be a good time to remortgage to get a better deal.

Family spending

Everyone’s situation is different. You may have children at university or you may still be having to pay for nursery fees. Whatever your position, make sure you budget accordingly and allow for inflation, especially if you’re paying private school fees. Work out the priorities for your family – the best education now or a house deposit in the future. It’s important not to derail your own life savings for the sake of your children as no one will benefit in the long run.

By doing some sound financial planning now, you’ll have more hope of continuing in the style you want to live, well beyond your forties.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/smart-life-saving-for-the-future/financial-advice-in-your-forties/?utm_campaign=tmgspk_plr_2144_AqvZbbk8gXHK&plr=1&utm_content=2144&utm_source=tmgspk&WT.mc_id=tmgspk_plr_2144_AqvZbbk8gXHK&utm_medi

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/

can I use equity release to pay for care?

It’s one of the scary things about growing old, isn’t it? We’re all living longer, thanks to medical science but does that mean more of us are going to end up in a care home, struggling to find the means to pay for it?

A year in a care home can cost more than £50,000. This means some families are accumulating huge bills. If you have assets of more than £23,250 (slightly more in Scotland and Wales), the law states that you must fund all your care costs yourself, without any help from the Local Authority. This figure includes property, so if you have your own home, you won’t be eligible for any support.

As a result, many families are finding themselves facing a significant gap when it comes to funding care for their loved ones. This added financial burden comes at what can often be a sad and stressful time anyway.

One way some families are funding the cost of care is through the value of their home; equity release or a lifetime mortgage, as it is sometimes known. This allows anyone over 55 to borrow against the value of their home. You can draw money to about 50% of your property’s value and there are no monthly repayments. The interest rolls up at a compound rate until the person borrowing the amount dies. To protect you, the total debt can never exceed the value of your home and will be cleared from the eventual sale of the property.

It’s worth noting that interest rates tend to be higher than standard mortgages but there are no affordability checks or repayment plans. You can decide whether you take the money as a lump sum or in stages.

There are different ways of using equity release. Most people would prefer to stay in their own home for as long as possible rather than move into a home, so one option can be to use the money to make home improvements and adapt the property to their needs as they grow older. Installing a wet room or a moving a bathroom downstairs, for example, can often be practical solutions.

It is more difficult to use equity release to fund care home costs. In fact, according to a Daily Telegraph survey in 2017, only 1% of respondents gave that as a reason, compared with debt repayment, inheritance gifts, home improvements or to boost disposable income. The complexity stems from the fact that the repayment of the loan is often triggered by the very act of someone moving into long-term care. If one half of a couple, however, needed to go into a care home, it does mean that the property would not need to be sold to repay the debt until their partner died or moved into the home with them.

It’s obviously difficult to predict the length of someone’s stay in a care home so equity release may not always be a straightforward decision but, in some cases, it can be a useful option for quick, upfront funding.

over 60s are jumping off the property ladder. Here’s why….

In 2007, there were 254,000 older people living in private rented accomodation. According to research by the Centre for Ageing Better, over the last decade that figure has skyrocketed to 414,000. If things continue the way they’re going, they estimate that over a third of those over 60 will be privately renting by 2040.

So why the shift? Renting comes with some clear benefits. Having to pay stamp duty becomes a thing of the past, as does worrying about managing property maintenance. A certain sense of freedom comes with renting too, particularly in terms of location. It’s a great opportunity to finally live on the coastline or in the city centre that you’ve always wanted to, but have not been able to afford to.

For example, one couple had previously owned a retirement flat in Torquay which they subsequently sold for £55,000. They dreamed of moving to Bournemouth, where a modest one bed apartment would have set them back closer to £150,000 and so was out of their reach. They found a home to let on an assured tenancy, allowing them to remain in the property for life for a fee of £775 a month including service charges. Selling to rent has allowed them to liquidate their biggest asset, and free up their capital to spend on travel.

Renting needn’t be forever, and for some people it’s a great opportunity to stop and think about your next move. It can give you time to really look at the options out there if you intend to get back on the housing ladder. Your requirements will change as you grow older and downsizing can be a great idea for some. Before you find the perfect property which will suit your needs going forward, renting gives you the chance to release some capital and decide what to do with it.

It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that by selling up and moving into private rented accommodation, your estate could receive a higher IHT bill. The inheritance tax exemption introduced in 2017 allows parents and grandparents an additional IHT allowance when their children or grandchildren inherit their main home, and so selling your home could remove your eligibility for the exemption.https://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/retirement/renting-retirement-over-60s-jumping-property-ladder/
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/financial-services/retirement-solutions/equity-release-service/should-you-sell-up-and-rent-in-retirement/