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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/

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

why it pays to retire early

Sound financial planning is not only good for your bank account – it could actually improve your life expectancy. If you’re reading this then you probably don’t need to be convinced of the benefits of looking after your money, but here’s another reason to add to the list.

The idea of retiring early can be most appealing. For some, it will already be a reality, while wise saving and investment may mean it’s perfectly achievable for those at the consideration stage. Research now suggests that an early retirement can actually also lengthen your life. Economists from the University of Amsterdam published a 2017 study in the Journal of Health and Economics which confirmed that male Dutch civil servants over the age of 54 who retired early were 42% less likely to die over the subsequent five years, compared to those who continued working.

Researchers put this life-extending phenomenon down to two main factors. First, when you retire you have more time to invest in your health. Whether that means you find more time to sleep, more time to exercise or simply more time to visit a doctor when an issue arises, you’ll see the benefit.

Secondly, work can be a great contributor to stress, creating hypertension which is in turn a huge risk factor for potentially fatal conditions. In the study, retirees were shown to be significantly less likely to fall victim to cardiovascular diseases or strokes.

Of course, there can be benefits to staying in work too. Participating in a work environment is a good way of keeping your mind and body active. On top of that, being part of a team helps develop and maintain a sense of purpose and belonging that is essential to cognitive health and development.

That’s not to say that all these benefits can’t be achieved outside of work; the key is to find a hobby, interest or cause to involve yourself in. As is so often the case, there’s no single solution. It’s important to find the best path for you, whether that’s staying in work, retiring early or going part-time. Whatever you choose, spend your time wisely as it could have a major impact on how long your retirement turns out to be.

Sources
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/27/how-research-shows-you-can-live-longer-if-you-retire-early.html

 

what is the tapered annual allowance and how could it affect you?

One of the key advantages of saving for your retirement through a pension scheme is the tax relief you receive on the money you contribute, usually available at your usual rate of tax. The ‘Annual Allowance’ limits the amount of contributions both you and your employer can make to your pension in a year which benefit from tax relief, and is currently set at £40,000.

However, in April 2016, the government also introduced the ‘Tapered Annual Allowance’, which reduced the annual limit for those whose total income exceeds £150,000. This amount includes your salary, bonuses, dividends, savings interest and employer pension contributions. For every £2 of income above £150,000, your Annual Allowance will be reduced by £1, up to a maximum reduction of £30,000. So that those who receive a one-off increase in pension contributions from their employer are not unfairly caught out, the government also ensured that the Tapered Annual Allowance only applies to those whose taxable income before employer pension contributions is above £110,000.

Looking at some examples shows how the Tapered Annual Allowance works. Andy receives a salary of £160,000 in the 2017/18 tax year, with a further £16,000 of pension contributions from his employer. This gives a total income of £176,000, which is £26,000 over the £150,000 limit. Andy’s Annual Allowance is therefore reduced by £13,000 (half of that amount), meaning the amount of his pension contributions which can benefit from tax relief during 2017/18 is lowered from £40,000 to £27,000.

Bethany, meanwhile, earns a salary of £195,000 in the same year, with her employer making £15,000 of pension contributions. Her income from rental properties, savings and a share portfolio amounts to £20,000, giving Bethany a total income of £230,000, exceeding the £150,000 limit by £80,000. As half of this amount is £40,000, Bethany will receive the maximum reduction of £30,000. She will therefore only receive tax relief on up to £10,000 of her pension contributions in 2017/18.

If the Tapered Annual Allowance affects you and you’re wondering whether there are any legal workarounds which can be implemented to avoid being hit by it, the short answer is that there aren’t. Of course, if your total income decreases then your Annual Allowance will increase again. But apart from either earning less or reducing the amount you and your employer contribute to your pension (neither of which is a good idea), as long as your total income is over £150,000 you will be subject to the current rules,

Sources
http://scottishwidows.co.uk/knowledge-centre/retirement/annual-allowance.html
https://www.rsmuk.com/ideas-and-insights/tax-facts-2018-2019#Pension%20contributions

 

4 tips for keeping your books in order in 2018

Whether you’re someone who prides themselves on having their accounts in order every year, or you’ve just had yet another last-minute scramble to submit your tax return before the deadline at the end of January, the start of a new calendar year is a great time to review your books and ensure they’re all in order for the twelve months ahead. Here are our top four tips for 2018 in terms of your accounts, ensuring your bottom line is secure and most likely giving it a bit of a boost too.

  1. Get the tax man on your side – okay, maybe you’re unlikely to be inviting ‘the tax man’ to the pub on a Friday night, but it’s a good idea to keep HMRC on side for your business. The HMRC website is the best way to get up to speed with everything you need to know and all the latest accountancy developments for your business. And, if you’re in doubt about anything, get in touch with the tax authorities sooner rather than later and find out the answer. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.
  2. Make your accountant’s life as easy as possible – your accountant’s job shouldn’t be to make sense of your business’s incomplete and poorly kept books. Not only does keeping your records in a reasonable order for them keep your costs low and reduce the likelihood of any unexpected fines coming back to haunt you, but it also frees up the time you’re paying your accountant for – to offer advice and save your business money over time. So, with that in mind…
  3. … When it comes to finances, keep everything – all your receipts and invoices need to be logged and traceable. Digital technology makes this easier now than ever, as paperwork can often be provided electronically and anything that can’t, can be scanned and linked to your records. As long as you keep your records up to date, you shouldn’t find yourself turning your business upside down for that one vital receipt you can’t find come the next tax deadline.
  4. Simplicity is key – Keeping financial records doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, the simpler you can make your system, the better. That way you’re not having to decipher your own labyrinthine puzzle to understand your own business accounts. This will also make it far less likely that you’ll miss any unpaid invoices and have to chase them several months down the line. If your records have got out of control, the new year is a great time to start afresh with a modern system that works for you and your accountant.

    Sources
    https://www.pandle.co.uk/top-tips-getting-books-order-2018