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The long-awaited ban on pensions cold-calling has finally come into force

From January 9 2019, the cold-calling of savers about anything to do with their pensions became illegal. The new law doesn’t just cover phone calls. Any unsolicited emails or text messages about your pension will also be illegal.

As it stands, not every cold-call you receive about your pension is a scam, though many scammers use it as a tactic to get their hands on your retirement savings.

When the ban comes into force, you can be sure that any out-of-the-blue call about your retirement savings is definitely a scam.

The introduction of pensions freedoms in 2015 is widely cited as the reason for the alarming increase in pension fraud over the last few years. Scammers have seized upon these rules, which give savers much more flexible access to their retirement savings, to get unsuspecting individuals to transfer their cash.

Key warning signs of pensions scams include offers of free pension reviews and promises of incredibly high rates of return, among others. Citizens Advice report that as many as 10.9 million people were cold-called about their pensions in 2016 alone.

In the wake of this rise in scamming, savers have been turning to financial watchdogs in huge numbers for help. Between August and October last year more than 173,000 people visited the FCA’s ScamSmart website for more information.

Pension fraud victims lost £23 million in the last year alone, up £9.2 million from the year before. The real amount could be even higher as only a minority of victims report being scammed.

From 9th January, when you put the phone down on would-be pension scammers, you can tell them that they have broken the law just by contacting you.

If you suspect you have been victim to a pension scam, you should report the scam or fraud to Action Fraud as soon as you can. They will pass the information to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau who will analyse the case to find viable lines of enquiry. If they find any, they will send the report to the police for investigation.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/pensions-retirement/financial-planning/scourge-pension-cold-calling-finally-banned-january/

are children’s pensions as good as they seem?

Pensions for children? Surely that’s taking planning ahead to a whole new level?

Nonetheless, if you can afford it, putting money aside in to a pension for your children or grandchildren can be a sensible option.

Under the current rules, you can put £2,880 a year into a junior self-invested personal pension (SIPP) or stakeholder pension, on their behalf. Even though the child won’t be a taxpayer, 20% is added to the amount in tax relief, up to £3,600 per annum. If you think about it, that can result in quite a significant amount over the years, taking compound growth into consideration.

The idea of contributing to a pension may tie in well with your sense of responsibility towards the next generation. You may feel sorry for the youngsters of today with their university fees to pay back and a seemingly impossible property ladder to climb.

However, on the downside a children’s pension can be quite frustrating for the recipient. The money is tied up until their mid fifties. This means that although the amount is steadily growing with no temptation to dip into it, it may not be much consolation for a twenty-five year old desperately trying to find the deposit for a house. Instead of making their financial future easier, you may have, in fact, impeded it.

There are other alternatives which will also give you the benefit of compound growth and help you to maximise tax relief, such as using our own ISA allowances and then gifting the money later. These may have more direct impact if the money is to help pay for a wedding, repay a student loan or enable them to buy a house or start a business.

Pension contributions are often referred to as ‘free money’ because of the the tax relief. In addition, 25% of the lump sum when the recipient comes to take their pension is tax free but it is equally important to remember that 75% of any withdrawals will be taxable. Another consideration is that children’s pensions have the lowest rate of tax relief but once in employment, your children may be higher rate taxpayers so would have benefited from higher rate relief.

One thing is for sure and that is that the rules around pensions and withdrawal rates are frequently changing. Given the extended timeframe involved, it’s likely that the regulations around accessing a pension pot will have altered considerably by the time a child of today reaches pension age. Their fund will have had time to grow handsomely, though. As with most things, it all comes down to a question of personal preference for you and your family.

Sources
https://www.ftadviser.com/pensions/2018/05/09/danger-of-children-s-pensions-laid-bare/
https://www.bestinvest.co.uk/news/are-pensions-for-children-bonkers-or-brilliant
https://www.moneywise.co.uk/pensions/managing-your-pension/start-pension-your-child

6 top tips on how not to lose money from your pension each year

Keeping track of your pension can be difficult at the best of times, and if you have multiple pots it can seem nigh on impossible. Fortunately, we have some top tips to help.

First introduced in 2012, auto-enrolment made it compulsory for UK employers to automatically enroll their staff into a pension scheme, unless they opt out.

However, according to financial services firm Hargreave Lansdown, £600 million is being lost from this scheme each year.

This is because every time you change employer, you receive a new pension pot. Each time you start a new pension pot, you are charged between £20 and £80 in administrative fees. With the average worker changing jobs 11 times, over the course of a lifetime that adds up to a substantial sum.

Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid these extra charges and make sure that you are up to date with all your pension pots:

  1. Avoid having more pension pots than necessary. If you change employers, see if you can transfer your old pension across to the scheme in your new workplace. Sometimes employers will be happy to make contributions to your existing pension pot. If so, you can keep that one going and avoid any extra charges.
  2. Be mindful of where your money is. Never take for granted that the default fund your employer provides is the best one for you. It is important to see if your hard earned pension pot could be growing more elsewhere. There’s a chance you might be able to stake out a pension fund with fewer charges or a better investment return than your employer’s default pot.
  3. Remember to notify pension companies if you move house. If you have multiple pension pots, it is easier than you think to lose track of a pension fund, especially if the company can no longer contact you.
  4. Use the government’s pension pot finding service. Luckily, the government has an online service that allows you to find contact details for your own workplace or personal pension scheme. You can access this here.
  5. Check back through your paperwork. The majority of pension providers send an annual statement that includes the current balance of your pension, plus a projection of how much your pension will be worth when you reach retirement age. There’s a chance you might have held onto these and they may be lurking at the bottom of your filing cabinet. When you find the right document, you can contact the pension provider to update your details.
  6. Get in touch with your old employers. If you think you have lost a pension pot, get in touch with your old employers straight away. They should be able to help you find the details of any lost pension.

Keeping track of your pensions can, at times, feel overwhelming. We hope that our pension top tips help you manage your pensions and maybe even save you some money.

Sources

Brits lose £300 from their pension each year – here’s how to avoid it

too late to start saving?

Not beginning to save towards your retirement until you reach your fifties would not so long ago have been considered leaving matters far too late to put anything meaningful away for your life after work. Previous generations saw building a pension as something to do over an entire career, with contributions throughout your working life coupled with investment growth being the only way to ensure your retirement pot was substantial enough to provide for you throughout your retirement.

However, whilst compound interest still means that anything put away at the start of your career will see some serious growth by the time you need it much later in your life, the reality today for many young people is that they simply have very little to invest when they first begin work. Many may find that they won’t be able to begin saving seriously until they reach middle age.

The reasons for this are several. First of all, your wages are statistically likely to reach their peak for women during their forties and for men in their fifties. Secondly, as the average mortgage term is twenty-five years, most people who bought their home in their twenties are likely to have finished paying it off by the time they reach their fifties. A third key reason is the declining cost of raising children. Whilst it’s unlikely that you’ll stop giving them financial support completely, if you’ve had kids in your twenties or thirties it’s probable that the cost of providing for them will have gone down a great deal by the time you’re heading towards 50.

With considerable tax relief on both ISA investments and pensions, it’s now possible to build a healthy retirement fund even if you only start saving in your fifties. For example, someone with no existing savings, earning £70,000 annually, who started saving the maximum permitted yearly amount of £40,000 at age 50 could amass a pension pot of £985,800 by the time they turn 67, assuming a 4% annual return after charges.

£40,000 a year might sound like a huge amount to save every year, but this amount includes the generous tax relief enjoyed by pension savings. Our £70,000 earner would only need to put away £27,000 of their own money in order to reach the £40,000 contribution, whilst a basic rate taxpayer would need to contribute £32,000 to achieve the same.

So, whilst it’s sensible to begin saving as early as you can, it is possible to begin putting money away when you reach middle age and ensure you have enough to provide for yourself later in life. The last ten years of your working life can reasonably be seen as some of the most important in terms of preparing for your retirement.

Sources
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/pensions-retirement/financial-planning/start-investing-50-get-1m-pension-pot-67/

what impact will the election period have on my pension and ISAs?

The market reaction to Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election to take place on 8th June was, thankfully, relatively minor. After reaching a record high in March 2017, the FTSE 100 dropped by 3% following the Prime Minister’s surprise announcement last month. Compared to the negative reactions experienced following both the 2012 eurozone crisis and the Chinese economy concerns at the start of 2016, this was reasonably slight.

Whilst the election period brings uncertainty, almost every general election in the last two decades has not caused the FTSE 100 to become more volatile in the weeks either side of election day. It’s therefore more than likely that the markets will continue without any major disruption, even if a new government comes into power. It’s usually only genuinely unexpected results which cause markets to rise or fall considerably, with the most recent example being the referendum vote for Brexit last year.

There are, however, still things you can do to minimise any impact of the election on your pension pot or savings accounts.

A well-diversified investment portfolio – a mixture of bonds, shares, property and cash across different sectors and countries – means you’ll be spreading risk and making it more likely that a rise in one sector will soften the blow of a fall in another. It’s likely that you’ll have a particular outcome in mind for your investments, whether that’s securing your retirement in the future or reaching a particular financial goal by a certain time, so sticking to this is the right thing to do rather than becoming distracted by any short-term ups and downs in the markets.

Look out for any investment perks that are brought in soon after the election result as in order to raise revenue, most new governments will introduce policies to help you grow your finances. Don’t forget about the benefits already available to you either, such as ISA and pension allowances, as these can also be a good way to protect your savings from any market volatility. Lastly, drip feeding your investments month by month can be a good way to combat uncertain markets – you might not capitalise fully on a market high, but you’ll avoid losing out during any sudden lows.

Sources:
http://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/04/how-will-the-general-election-affect-my-pensions-and-isa/

women face gender gap in pension contributions as well as pay gap

Whilst the pay gap experienced by women in comparison to men is most likely a problem you’ve heard about, another gender gap has emerged which is just as concerning. Recent figures suggest that, on average, women are receiving smaller pension contributions from their employers than men. Between 2013 and 2016, women benefited from pension contributions at a rate of 7% of their yearly salary, considerably less than the 7.8% received by men.

The gap between men’s and women’s average annual pension contributions also widens as the age bracket increases. Men under 35 received £217 more towards their pension than women of the same age, a figure that increases to £594 for those aged 35 to 44. This then increases again to £1,287 between men and women aged 45 to 54, and again to £1,680 for those between 55 and 64.

Over the four year period examined, the average woman therefore received £2,489 from their employer towards their pension, over £1,000 less than men who received an average of £3,495. Worryingly, if these figures remained constant throughout a typical woman’s working life, this could result in a shortfall of £46,689 compared to the pension typically earned by a man. This figure becomes even more worrying when factoring in the statistic that women on average are still living longer than men, meaning that most women will be faced with making a smaller pension stretch over a longer period of time than many men.

The study, one of the largest ever conducted into workplace savings and taking in over 250,000 pension plans, has revealed three key factors in the significant difference between men’s and women’s pension pots. The first is that women are still more likely than men to opt for a break in their career to raise a family. Secondly, men still typically work in sectors where pension schemes are either more generous or better established. The third is linked back to the issue of the gender pay gap: as women are still earning less than men on average, this leads to employer contributions as a percentage of salary being lower.

The fact that there were significantly more men (154,999) than women (95,262) in the UK-wide study also suggests that a larger number of men are receiving pension contributions at all than women. The Department for Work and Pensions has responded to this figure stating that auto-enrolment will help to redress the balance; but has also conceded that, in light of the study’s findings, more needs to be done to bring pension contributions for women in line with those enjoyed by men.

Sources
http://www.mindfulmoney.co.uk/mindful-news/women-facing-pension-contributions-gap-as-well-as-pay-gap/
http://www.moneywise.co.uk/news/2017-02-22/mind-the-gender-gap-women-
facing-47000-pension-shortfall

4 steps to keep track of your pension

A recent study has revealed the worrying statistic that over a fifth of all people with multiple pensions have lost track of at least one, with some admitting to have forgotten the details of all of them. With around two thirds of UK residents having more than one pension, this amounts to approximately 6.6 million people with no idea how much they’ve put away for their retirement. Double the amount of people admit to not knowing how much their pensions are worth.

It’s an undesirable side effect of the modern working world. Whereas in previous generations someone might stay at a single employer for their entire working life, the typical worker today will hold eleven different jobs throughout their career, which could potentially mean opting into the same number of pensions through as many different providers. The new legal requirement for all employers to offer a pension scheme through auto-enrolment is likely to add further complexities.

As a result, the Pensions Dashboard is set to launch in 2019 in the hope that it will make it easier for savers to keep track of their pensions in one place. Until then, however, there are four relatively simple steps to help you track down information on any pensions you’ve forgotten about:

  1. Find your pension using the DWP Pensions tracing service at www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details. Start by entering the name of your former employer to discover the current contact address for them. You’ll then need to write to them providing your name (plus any previous names), your current and previous addresses and your National Insurance number.
  2. In the case of a pension scheme which hasn’t been updated for a while, you’ll be required to fill out an online form to receive contact details. You’ll be required to give your name, email address and any relevant information to help track down your pension details. This could include your National Insurance number and the dates you worked for the company.
  3. You can also receive a forecast of your State pension either online or in paper format by going to www.gov.uk/check-state-pension. After entering a few details to confirm your identity, you’ll be told the date you can access your State pension and how much you’ll receive.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, once you’ve managed to track down all of your pension information, get some advice. Consolidating your pensions might be tempting to make managing your savings easier, but you also want to make sure you don’t lose out on any benefits by doing so. Before you make any decisions regarding your pensions, seek professional independent advice on what to do next.

Sources
http://www.independent.co.uk/money/modern-careers-risk-billions-in-lost-retirement-savings-a7545091.html

60 is the new 40!

Good news for all of us who have accepted that we are getting older: Saga reports that new European research shows that 60 is the new 40! The research reveals that people are now reaching middle age at the tender age of 60, instead of the previously expected figure of 40 years old.

Saga’s Head of Communications, Lisa Harris, commented:

“Middle age is most certainly a state of mind. In today’s society we are living longer, healthier lives and the face of later life is changing beyond all recognition. Retirement is no longer a cliff edge decision where we stop working purely because we’ve celebrated a birthday. Instead we change the way we work – often with the goal of achieving a more rewarding work life balance that allows us to feel both valued in the workforce for the skills and experience we have to offer and also gives us the opportunity to travel, take part in hobbies, volunteer and generally have a bit of fun too. It’s not just about living longer – it’s about ageing well!”

One is tempted to ask, what now happens at 40 then? If no longer the threshold of ‘middle-age’, what significance does passing one’s birthday at 40 now have? It used to be an important marker of ageing – passing into middle-age with a feeling of old age creeping up on us, just around the corner. It used to feel like the beginning of the end – time to stop playing sport, stop thinking we are young and let ‘middle-age spread’ take over. Perhaps today’s perception of our life at 40, and for those that will follow us into this new idea of age, will now be marked by similar previously unrecognisable thoughts. Will 40 become the age we finally manage to buy our first house, or see us looking sceptically forward at another thirty years of employment, before we can afford to retire?

To balance this, at 60 we are now constantly reminded to develop a healthy lifestyle and exercise to keep fit – we have a new lifetime ahead of us – time to start playing sport again. So old-age is off the agenda, until we are at least 85, when we might have to finally consider giving up running marathons!


Sources: www.saga.co.uk (Published article: 2015/04 16)

 

building your financial future

The Future of Annuities

What role are annuities likely to play in retirement planning in the light of pension freedoms coming into effect from 6 April 2015? There has been much debate about annuities, particularly since Chancellor George Osborne announced a number of changes to pensions from April 2015, welcomed by Standard Life in a recent bulletin.

Those changes mean pensions are becoming more flexible, with savers being given the freedom to control the pension funds they’ve worked hard to save – it is their money after all! They can take those funds as and when they choose to from the age of 55. This means people will have more options than simply buying an annuity at retirement, as was the case for many previously.

According to Standard Life, that doesn’t mean we have seen the last of annuities – far from it. True, you can’t change your mind when you buy one, but they do have the advantage of giving the security and certainty of a guaranteed income for life, or for a period of time of your choosing. In addition, as annuities work like insurance, if you have serious health issues you’ll benefit from enhanced rates. There’s also the added attraction that some annuities guarantee an income for your spouse too, in the event of your death.

On the other hand, they don’t offer much in the way of flexibility. What if you needed a lump sum to cover an unexpected event, a new car, or wanted to help pay for one of your grandchildren to go to university? For that reason, and with the pension changes now giving savers many more options, we’re likely to see annuities becoming part of a more varied pensions mix, alongside lump sum withdrawals and flexible income, or what is known as drawdown.

So using some, not all, of your pension funds to buy an annuity would give you a guaranteed level of income and peace of mind that life’s essentials were covered. The remaining funds could be kept invested in a pension to provide a flexible income and lump sum withdrawals when you need them.

Another trend we could see emerging is savers keeping their options open for longer by choosing flexible income and buying an annuity in their later years when they’ll get a better annuity rate – and the reassurance of a guaranteed income. One thing is certain – the way we look at our retirement planning is likely to never be quite the same and taking into account individual circumstances and requirements has never been more important!

 

building your financial future

Quick tips on financial planning for thirty-something professionals

After age 30 it is probable that financial planning will be upped one or two gears and become a far more intense matter.

It is worth reflecting how things have changed over the past few generations; more and more people are going to universities, families are having children later, are buying property (and by definition therefore taking on mortgages) at later ages and everyone is facing up to a longer life and a (much) later retirement. All at the same time as an explosion in the number of people working for themselves and a rapid disintegration in occupational pensions.

Overall, this leads to one conclusion; having a structured financial planning approach to navigating through these “mid-years” (roughly defined as from 30 to 50) is more important than ever before, arguably even critical.

What are the main aspects?

One: have a plan. It may seem obvious, but many people don’t!

Two: assume that the future will be different to today and plan accordingly. There is no guarantee that interest rates will remain so low, that property will always go up, that the government lifeboat (for example universal healthcare and pensions) will always be there, to name but a few. It is only one generation since interest rates of around 13% were commonplace. O.5% seemed inconceivable. Any decent financial plan will cater for different future scenarios.

Three: revert to the tried and tested; save first, borrow second. Only borrow what can be afforded. Any financial plan will have saving as its centre point.

Four: maximise everything. Ensure (as much as one can) that there is the right provision in place to protect the family in the event of the unforeseen (death, serious illness, loss of income); that any investments (including, and maybe especially, pensions) are invested to get the best growth. Again, it may sound obvious but many people leave their invested monies in under-performing areas for decades at a time; structure plans and investments to minimise tax, particularly into the long term (for example, is there a better ‘tax haven’ than ISAs?) and then with borrowing make sure that the costs of the borrowing are low and that they can be afforded even if these costs unexpectedly rise.

Finally, spend time financial planning. Find a plan which works and write it down; work with the best professionals to execute this plan and then constantly keep it under review, adjusting where required to cater for individual circumstantial changes as well as wider economic changes. Most people, historically, have spent more time planning their annual holiday than planning their finances. Spend time on planning the holiday by all means, but more time on the longer term financial plan.

 

building your financial future