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What does it take to retire early?

The idea of retiring in your 50s or even your 40s sounds like a pipe-dream to most, what with the increased cost of living, inflation and other economic factors slowly eating away at your predicted earnings. This hasn’t stopped the rise of the FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement, though, a new method of frugal living that aims for early retirement, escaping long working lives and living off the stock market or other supplementary income for good.

One of the most infamous experiments carried out by Stanford University is the marshmallow experiment, where a pair of psychologists gave children a choice: one reward now, or two rewards if they waited around 15 minutes. Some of the children took the early reward of a marshmallow. Others struggled, but managed to wait longer, occupying themselves until it was time to receive a double reward.

Saving for retirement can be very similar to the lesson in delayed gratification, only more difficult. The children knew what reward awaited them should they be patient – most adults don’t have a clue if their savings will be enough for the future. When the reward is intangible or complicated, it’s even more difficult to set limits now in the hope of future benefits.

So, how do you do it?

Keep your spending in-house

From small seeds of saving do sturdy trees of retirement grow. Simply put, it’s good to aim small when beginning your savings journey. That £2.65 coffee from your local coffee shop is now going to be an instant in the office. No more eating out for lunch, it’s time for homemade meals to be brought into work with you. Cutting out the small daily expenses can really help boost your long term savings and help usher in that desired early retirement. Let’s take our £2.65 coffee for example, the average UK citizen works around 260 days a year – that’s £689 a year!

Utilise technology

There are a number of apps available, such as Moneybox, that make some basic assumptions about stock market returns and inflation rates which then inform you as to how much you’ll need to save. Having a handy app on your phone can help you make decisions on the fly and allow you to check what a potentially impulsive purchase may cost you in the future.

Shop around

Saving money where you can on bills, transport and other outgoings can help to grow your retirement pot quickly and without too much skin off your nose. Ask yourself whether you really need that magazine subscription or streaming service. Can you find a better deal on your phone or energy contract? The answer is often yes.

Take advantage of saving opportunities

The government has recently introduced a new Lifetime ISA open to those aged between 18 and 40. LISA account holders can save up to £4,000 a year, with the government adding an annual 25% bonus up to a maximum of £1,000. There is a limit, however. You won’t be able to contribute to a LISA or receive the bonus when you turn 50, but the account will stay open and your savings will continue accruing interest or investment returns. For more information on the terms of withdrawal and eligibility, check out this government’s guide.

Decide what your goals are

Ready for some serious saving? Pretirement is an app developed for the financially-inclined who want to put away small savings over the long term in order to save for a holiday or a new car. Their headline claim, using their clever algorithm, is that by saving £800 a month towards your retirement, you shave years off your working life, depending on what your retirement goals are.

And there’s the big question. What are your retirement goals? Do you want to live a life of luxury, enjoying all the potential freedoms that your new found free time will have to offer? Or would you rather have a comfortable yet frugal retirement. There’s a whole range of options available to you, and your retirement goals will help to inform you of how much you need to save and invest. A financial adviser can be a great help in determining this factor as they can give you direction on what the ideal savings plan is for you.

At the end of it all, the message is to save when and where you can. It’s about growing your savings and securing your finances.

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/

Going Dutch: Could this new type of pension be the answer to the pension problem

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd has given the go-ahead for Dutch-style pension schemes to be offered to UK employees. These schemes, known as CDC, are a ‘halfway house’ between defined contribution and ‘gold-plated’ defined benefit schemes.

CDC stands for collective defined contribution schemes. They are similar to defined contribution pensions in that employer and employee make a regular contribution to a savings pot. Unlike defined contribution schemes, however, savers pool their money into a collective fund, rather than having their individual accounts. The idea behind this being that risks are shared evenly by all.

What’s more, CDC pensions give their members a ‘target’ income for life. Instead of a guaranteed income, CDC pensions say they’ll pay out a ‘target’ amount, based on a long-term mixed-risk investment strategy. This amount can change – it can fall in the event of circumstances like adverse economic conditions – or rise if the assets are particularly well invested.

Risk is shared by employers making changes to the amount they put in. When markets are down, pension payments can be reduced and contributions may be increased. Also, CDC funds can take a more balanced approach to investment risk rather than moving an individual pot into low-risk bonds as the retirement date approaches, as can happen with ordinary defined contribution pensions.

Critics argue that CDC pensions will be too hard to marry with the high level of control we have after the introduction of pensions freedoms in the UK. You wouldn’t be able to transfer out and buy an enhanced annuity if you had a low life-expectancy, as you would in a defined contribution scheme.

This scheme will be offered to Royal Mail workers first. They have strong support from the Communications Workers Union to go ahead with the scheme for its 140,000 members, though getting the scheme up and running might take a long time.

Sources
https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/cdc-pensions-collective-defined-contribution-pensions-cdc-dutch-style-defined-ambition-pensions/
https://moneyweek.com/498182/cdc-pensions-a-third-way/

What to know about ISAs in 2019/2020

The rules around ISAs (or individual savings accounts) change relatively often and different types of ISA rise and fall in popularity depending on where savers consider the most competitive place to put their hard earned money.

ISAs are a great way to save because of their tax efficiency. You don’t pay income tax or capital gains tax on the returns and you can withdraw the amount any time as a tax free lump sum. Because of their tax efficiency, there are set limits on how much you can save using ISA accounts.

The 2019-20 tax year is an interesting year for ISAs because the main annual allowance isn’t increasing. The yearly total you can invest in an ISA remains at £20,000. This means that the ISA limit remains unchanged since April 2017.

Remember that all ISAs don’t have the same allowance. For Help to Buy ISAs, you can only save a maximum of £200 a month, on top of an initial deposit of £1,200. Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) have a maximum yearly allowance of £4,000, on top of which you benefit from a government top-up of 25% of your contributions.

One ISA allowance that is rising (slightly!) is the Junior ISA, increasing from £4,260 to £4,368. This means that relatives can contribute slightly more to a child’s future, in a savings account that can only be accessed when they reach 18. Junior ISA accounts are rapidly gaining in popularity, with around 907,000 such accounts subscribed to in the tax year 2017/2018. Great news for the youngest generation!

Stocks and Shares ISAs are also gaining more popularity, with an increase of nearly 250,000 in the last tax year. On the whole, though, the number of Adult ISA accounts subscribed to in the last year fell from 11.1 million in 2016/17 to 10.8 million in 2017/18.

For investors with Stocks and Shares ISAs, Brexit uncertainty has understandably created cause for concern. In this scenario, your best course of action is to make sure that your investments are properly diversified around the globe. Speak to us if you are unsure about what you can do to reduce risk during any post-Brexit turbulence. We’ll be more than happy to help.

Sources
https://blog.moneyfarm.com/en/isas/annual-2019-isa-allowance

The perks of saving into a junior ISA

There are so many factors for a parent to consider in doing their best to make sure their children are prepared for the world when they reach adulthood. A lot of those things will be out of your control, but one thing you can consider that could make a real difference is investing into a Junior ISA. If you start early you could accumulate a pot of over £40,000; that’s a birthday present that no 18 year old would be disappointed with.

Entering adulthood with that level of finances comes with life changing opportunities and great freedom of choice. Depending on their priorities, your child could put down a deposit on a property, start a business, pay for training or tuition fees, or even travel the world to their heart’s content.

On April 6th 2019, the amount that can be saved annually into a Junior ISA or Child Trust Fund account will increase from £4,260 to £4,368. Just like an adult ISA, your contributions are free from both income and capital gains tax and often come with relatively high interest rates. For example, Coventry Building Society offer an adult ISA with an interest rate of 2.3% per annum, whereas their equivalent Junior Cash ISA comes with a 3.6% per annum interest rate. Junior ISAs are easy to set up and easy to manage: as long as the child lives in the UK and is under the age of 18, their parent or legal guardian can open the ISA on their behalf. On their 18th birthday, the account will become an adult ISA and the child will gain access to the funds.

Both Junior Cash ISAs and Junior Stocks and Shares ISAs are available, and you can even opt for both, but your annual limit will remain the same across both ISAs. When making that decision there are a few considerations to make; cash investments over a long period of time are unlikely to overtake the cost of inflation but come at a lower risk than their stocks and shares equivalent. With a Junior ISA, however, you can benefit from a long term investment horizon. Although the stock market comes with a level of volatility, you can ride out some of the dips and peaks over a long period. Combined with good diversification, it’s possible to mitigate a fair amount of risk.

Taking a look at potential gains, had you invested £100 a month into the stock market for the last 18 years, figures from investment platform Charles Stanley suggests that a basic UK tracker fund would have built you a pot worth £39,313. In comparison, had you saved the same amount into cash accounts, you’d be closer to £24,000, a considerable difference of nearly £16,000.

With this latest hike in the saving allowance, it’s time to make the most of Junior ISAs and prepare to swap bedtime reading from Peter Rabbit and Hungry Caterpillar to stories of how a stocks and shares portfolio can secure your child’s future.

Sources
http://www.cityam.com/273196/saving-into-junior-isa-great-way-new-parents-invest-their

Why cruise holidays are booming for retirees

The cruise market offering has changed enormously in recent years, where once it was purely the domain of cabaret cheese and bad karaoke, now there’s something on offer for everyone (don’t worry, though, if you love cabaret and karaoke, that’s still an option). Whatever your tastes and priorities, you won’t be hard pressed to find a cruise to suit your needs.

Cruises have always been a popular choice for retirees but with the new potential for personalisation, they’re more popular than ever, with over 26 million passengers carried worldwide in 2018 alone. So what is it that makes taking to the seas such an attractive prospect?

1) Flexibility

Cruises have the potential to be a catch-all for whatever kind of holiday you’re looking for. Whether you’re after a romantic getaway, a family break over the school holidays, or a round-the-world trip that ticks off everything that’s left on your bucket list; it’s all possible when you’re on a cruise liner.

2) Activities

There really is a cruise out there for everyone. Some people want to lay on the deck and bathe in the sun, some people want to hone their rock-climbing skills, while others want to kayak alongside breaching whales. The possibilities are endless: if your priority is trying the food of critically acclaimed chefs, or even having a go at cooking the dishes yourself, fine dining can now be found onboard in some of the most remote corners of the world’s oceans.

3) Modern life can be stressful

Taking a cruise is not just about the food and entertainment available on board and the chance to see some fantastic locations. It’s also about taking the hassle of too much planning away from the holiday goer. Being able to relax and take a breather while you’re travelling the world is becoming a bigger priority for people and this has been reflected in the incredible attention and investment given to spa and wellness facilities on cruise ships. Plus it’s a great chance to unplug and really experience the world around you.

4) Value

Despite historically being a pursuit of the highest luxury with the pricetag to match, there are plenty of choices available for more budget conscious passengers. All-inclusive cruise holidays are a smart way to enjoy all the bells and whistles whilst remaining price savvy. Pick the right vessel and you can experience entertainment of broadway quality included in your price.

If you want to enjoy your retirement to its fullest but can’t decide on the best way to do that, considering a cruise trip is a great place to start.

Sources
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/amp/travel-tips-and-articles/getting-on-board-10-reasons-to-consider-a-cruise-trip/40625c8c-8a11-5710-a052-1479d27561cd?_t_witter_impression=true
https://cruisemarketwatch.com/growth/