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The State Pension is an essential part of retirement planning and provides a foundation to build on. Whilst the basics are simple, it can be far more complex to understand what you’re entitled to and when than you’d think at first glance.

Our Complete Guide to the State Pension is designed to help you figure out how the State Pension will support your retirement goals alongside other income. From how the State Pension age is changing and when you’ll receive it to what the triple lock means for your future income, we look at the crucial things you need to know.

If your retirement date is approaching, taking some time to read our guide and understand the State Pension can help ensure your finances are in order. Click here to download your copy of the guide.

We are here to help answer your questions. Call one of the Galleon Wealth Management team on 01473 636688 or email ray.pettitt@galleonwealth.co.uk to start planning your retirement.


Restrictions on travel and concerns about the coronavirus pandemic may have affected your holiday plans for the summer months. There’s been a lot of contradictory information about what you’re entitled to and if you must cancel. So, we take a look at what your rights are and what your next steps should be if you’re affected.

Most people with travel plans in the next few months have had to abandon them. The Foreign Office currently advises against all non-essential travel, whether you’d been planning to visit a destination in the UK or abroad. On top of this, several countries have also, in effect, closed their borders and have stringent restrictions in place.

Even if the borders are open at your chosen destination, it’s likely restrictions and social distancing measures are still in place. It may mean that whilst you’d be able to get there, the activities you’d been looking forward to are no longer possible.

If you’ve yet to book a summer holiday but had hoped to, it’s strongly advised that you delay for a few months whilst the uncertainty remains.

So, if you already have a holiday booked, are you entitled to a refund? This will depend on how you’ve booked your holiday, where you’d planned to go and the travel insurance you’ve taken out.

Package holidays

If you booked a package holiday, you are entitled to a refund under current rules if it’s cancelled due to coronavirus. However, the Travel Association ABTA is calling on the government to make temporary changes as it argues the protection wasn’t designed to cope with current demands.

Whilst you should be issued a refund if your package holiday has been cancelled due to coronavirus, some consumers are finding they’re being refused. This is because, in the wake of thousands of holidaymakers asking for refunds, many companies are going to struggle. They may offer you a voucher or credit note instead. You don’t have to accept this; you’re legally entitled to a refund if you want it.

Keep in mind that some firms aren’t cancelling holidays far in advance. If your holiday isn’t for a few months, you’ll likely have to wait to see how the situation develops before a travel company will issue a refund. Some firms are cancelling holidays just three weeks in advance.

Flights

Flights are a little more complicated and will depend on the airline.

The good news is that all flights, on any airline from an EU country, as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and the UK, and any flights on any EU carrier from any airport are liable for a refund. If this applies to you, contact the carrier directly, to start a claim. Some firms are dealing with this better than others, but delays in responses and getting through to a customer service team should be anticipated.

As with package holidays, some airlines that should be offering refunds under the EU rules are refusing to give them or insisting customers accept vouchers. Again, you are entitled to a refund by law.

Outside of the EU, refunds will likely depend on the individual airline and travel agent’s, so check their terms and conditions and get in touch.

Accommodation

If your hotel has closed and is unable to deliver the service promised, you’ll be entitled to a refund.

However, if you need to cancel accommodation due to not being able to reach the destination or for other reasons, a refund will be reliant on the goodwill of the hotel or website you have booked with. Many major hotel chains and booking platforms, such as Booking.com and Airbnb, have waivered their cancellation fees but there’s no obligation to do so.

Travel insurance

Finally, if you already had travel insurance in place before the coronavirus pandemic, you should be protected if you’re acting in line with advice given by the Foreign Office. Be sure to check what your individual policy covers and seek a refund from providers first. However, as a last port of call, travel insurance may cover the costs that can’t be refunded, this may also include the costs of transfers and excursions. If your travel operator tells you to claim on insurance, ask for this in writing.

If you don’t have travel insurance, it’s too late to get a policy that will cover you for coronavirus-related claims as providers have updated their terms and conditions.

Your next steps

If your holiday is being cancelled or you’d like to cancel it, your first step should be to get in touch with the providers. Many travel companies are offering the opportunity to postpone trips and are not taking bookings until later in the year or until 2021 in some cases. Speaking to them directly can help you understand what your options are.

However, this may be easier said than done. Unsurprisingly, customer service teams are dealing with large numbers of enquiries, whilst also managing with fewer staff due to social distancing measures. So, expect to be waiting a while for a response, whether you call or email. Many companies are working through the bookings in date order, so those with holidays in a few months may be forced to wait several weeks whilst the situation is assessed.

If you don’t have much luck with the provider, then contact your travel insurance company. Again, expect long delays before your query is resolved.

Chargeback also offers an alternative solution if you paid for parts of your holiday by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added legal protection if the company you’re buying from doesn’t deliver what’s promised, in this case, a holiday. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers goods or a holiday costing over £100 and up to £30,000. You don’t need to pay the full price by credit card, paying the deposit is enough to get your legal protection.

To receive a chargeback, you should try to contact the travel company first. If they don’t respond or refuse a refund, write to your credit card company, stating what you bought, along with proof of purchase, and that you’d like to refund the purchase price into your credit card account.

For students planning to head to university, it’s already been an emotional time. With college suspended due to Covid-19 and exams cancelled, there has been some uncertainty around how grades will be awarded, which could affect where they head to study for the next few years.

As a parent or grandparent, you may be wondering if university is the right decision for them too. The good news is that research shows most students benefit financially from attending university. It’s a step that can pay off in the long run, but it’s still a significant financial undertaking for young adults.

According to research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, around 80% of students gain financially from attending university. Over their working lives, men that have attended university will be £130,000 better off on average after taxes, student loan repayments and foregone earnings are taken into account. For women, the figure is £100,000. For both men and women, these figures represent a gain in average net lifetime earnings of around 20%.

Whilst one in five students are estimated not to benefit financially, at the other end of the spectrum, 10% of those who graduated with the highest returns will, on average, gain more than half a million pounds. Unsurprisingly the subject studied is important for future earnings, with law, economics and medicine delivering the highest returns.

Of course, money isn’t the only reason to go to university, but future job prospects and long-term financial security should be a key consideration. However, the good news is that most students will benefit from studying throughout their career.

The cost of university

University tuition fees were introduced in 1998 and have steadily increased since then. The maximum tuition fee for the 2020/21 academic year is £9,250, which is charged by the majority of universities. With most courses lasting three years, students can expect to graduate with a student loan of over £27,000 to pay for tuition alone.

For many attending university, it’s a chance to live alone and become independent for the first time. Whilst an opportunity to find their feet, it means paying for rent, bills and other expenses whilst studying. Most students will be eligible to apply for a Maintenance Loan to cover these costs. How much will be received through a Maintenance Loan will depend on a variety of factors, including household income and where the student will be living when studying. The average Maintenance Loan is £6,480 a year.

Add three years of the average Maintenance Loan to the tuition fees and the average student can expect to graduate with debt nearing £50,000.

At first glance, the sum can seem alarming and you may be worried about whether further education is right for your child or grandchild with this figure in mind. However, how student loans are repaid differs from typical debt.

First, graduates won’t repay any student loan if they don’t earn above a certain threshold. In the current tax year, new graduates would need earnings of £26,575 before they start making repayments. When earnings exceed this, 9% goes towards repaying the student loan. So, if a graduate earned £27,000 in 2020/21, they’d pay back just £38.25. For those earning £35,000, annual repayments would total £758.25.

As these repayments are typically taken directly out of pay packets, they can be viewed more as a ‘graduate tax or contribution’ rather than a loan.

In addition to this, 30 years after graduation all remaining debt is wiped.

Providing financial support to children and grandchildren

The Maintenance Loan can help cover the basic cost of living. But many students find they need to take a part-time job or rely on financial support from loved ones too. As a result, it’s not uncommon for parents or grandparents to lend a hand.

Whilst parents and grandparents may be tempted to reduce the amount of debt graduates will have by offering to cover these areas, often additional money that students can use for study material and day-to-day costs can have a greater impact. This can allow students to focus on their grades and gaining work experience within their chosen field.

One of the biggest challenges some students face is getting to grips with a budget, sometimes for the first time. As well as providing financial support, now is a great time to pass on your knowledge and tips for managing money too.

In addition to the best way to offer support, you should also consider the impact on your lifestyle. Among the questions to consider are:

  • Would taking a lump sum or regular smaller sums out of your estate affect your long-term security?
  • If you decide to lend support, where should you take withdrawals from?
  • Could gifts to children or grandchildren be liable for Inheritance Tax?

We’re here to help you answer questions like these and address any concerns you may have. If you’d like to discuss how you can financially support loved ones through further education, please get in touch.


When it comes to investing, it’s often best to create a tailored financial plan and leave investments for the long term without tinkering. However, it can be tempting to make adjustments. Whilst this may be the right decision in some cases, it’s important to weigh up if it’s right for you.

Given the recent market volatility, you certainly wouldn’t be alone in wondering if you should withdraw or change investments. But it’s important to look at your motivations for doing so to understand if it’s right for you.

1. Why do you want to make changes now?

The first thing to think about is why you want to make changes. Is it due to current market conditions? It’s normal to be nervous when investment values fall, or markets experience a period of volatility.

However, you need to keep in mind that short-term volatility is normal, this is why you should only invest with long-term goals in mind. Looking at the bigger picture if you’ve been invested for several years, it’s likely that you’ve benefited from gains too. Keeping this in mind can help put the recent market activity into perspective.

When you first begin investing, the peaks and troughs that will likely be experienced in the short term should be considered. Your portfolio will be stress-tested with these in mind.

2. Have your long-term financial goals changed?

What you want to achieve when investing should be central to the decisions you make. When setting up an investment portfolio, you should have considered what your end goal was. Did you hope to supplement your pension by creating an additional income in retirement in 30 years? Or perhaps you wanted to build a nest egg for your children that they’ll have access to in 10 years?

If your goals have changed, it’s wise to review your investments and wider plans. There may be cases where adjustments are necessary to align investments with goals. But if your goals have remained the same, it’s likely that your portfolio, which was built with these in mind, remains appropriate for you.

3. What is your investment time frame?

Even seasoned investors can worry after experiencing volatility. Keeping your time frame in mind is important throughout the investment process.

As short-term volatility is normal, it’s usually not advised if you have a time frame of fewer than five years because there’s less opportunity to recover from periods of downturn. When you look at investment performance over the long term, you should see an overall increase with the peaks and troughs balancing out. Generally speaking, the longer the investment time frame, the more risk you can afford to take, although the time frame isn’t the only area to consider when building a risk profile.

4. Is your situation different now?

It’s not just goals that affect financial decisions but your situation too. When you made your financial plan areas such as income, savings and existing protection policies would have been considered. In addition to these financial areas, lifestyle ones are factored in too, such as whether you have any dependents.

Whilst it’s often advised to stick to a financial plan that’s set out, there needs to be some flexibility too. If your situation has changed, it’s wise to review the steps you’ve taken to see if they still suit you. This could be after welcoming children, receiving a promotion or receiving additional employee benefits, for example. Some of these areas may affect the investment proposition that is right for you.

5. Has your risk profile changed?

Numerous factors affect your risk profile, and some of these will change throughout the investment period. If this is the case, you may want to review your investments. However, this shouldn’t be done just because values have fallen. It’s important to keep in mind that all investments involve some level of risk, but by choosing an appropriate risk profile, you can match this to your circumstances and goals.

Before you consider changing your investments, please get in touch. We’ll be happy to review your current portfolio in line with your long-term goals to highlight where change may be necessary or advise you to stay the course with your current investment plan.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Global stock markets have suffered due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and you may have heard suggestions that now is the ‘perfect time to buy’. After all, in an ideal world, you want to buy when stock prices are low and sell at a high. However, it’s not as straightforward as that and there’s no ‘perfect’ time that suits everyone.

No one knows what is around the corner. Even professional investors are unlikely to have considered the impact a pandemic would have when making decisions in 2019. So, it’s impossible to know what’s coming in the coming weeks and months. Whilst some commentators argue an economic crash is coming, others state the UK economy will begin to pick up once the lockdown measures are lifted.

Whilst it can be tempting to act on these comments when it comes to investing, market dips shouldn’t be at the centre of your decisions. The volatility and numerous factors that have an influence mean it can lead to decisions that may not be best for you.

So, when is the right time to invest? That depends on your personal circumstances and goals. These should always be at the centre of your investment plans and influence when to increase your portfolio.

5 factors influencing the ‘right’ time to invest for you

1. Investment goals

What do you hope to achieve when investing? We all want returns when we invest money but it’s important to think about what you intend to use those gains for. Your aspirations should be at the heart of all financial decisions, including investment ones. Investment goals will influence the risk profile and time frame of investments too.

2. Time frame

How long money will remain invested is crucial to set out investment plans. You may be certain that stock markets have hit a low and will rise over the coming months, but if your investment time frame is just a couple of years, you probably shouldn’t invest. This is because investment markets experience volatility and investing with a short-term perspective may not give you enough time for the peaks and troughs to smooth out. As a result, the time frame should dictate whether investing at all is right for your plans and how much risk to take if you do. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t invest with a time frame of fewer than five years in mind.

3. Existing assets

What other investment products and assets do you hold? If a large portion of your assets is already held in stocks and shares, it may not be prudent to invest further. An investment portfolio should be well-balanced and diversified across a wide range of products, this can help reduce short-term volatility experienced and manage risk. Your asset allocation needs to be carefully considered when asking if now is the right time to invest, pouring more money into the stock markets can significantly change your exposure to risk and volatility.

4. Risk profile

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to investing. One of the areas that should be tailored to you is the amount of risk you take. All investments involve some level of risk, but this varies significantly between investment options. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a risk profile that matches you, from the investment time frame and overall financial situation to your attitude to risk. Investing in stocks simply because some sources claim it’s the ‘perfect’ time could mean making decisions that don’t consider your risk profile. 

5. Wider financial plans

Investing isn’t something that should be looked at alone either, your overall plans and aspirations need to be factored in too. Would it make more sense for you to pay off your mortgage or invest? Do you need to build up a financial safety net before increasing investments? Or would it make sense to contribute further to your pension if investment goals are tied to retirement? Looking at the bigger picture can help you create a financial plan that provides a blueprint for your aspirations.

Amid the market uncertainty, it’s natural to have questions about your investments. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to discuss any aspect of your investment portfolio and plans.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Are you planning to retire this year? If so, congratulations! Retirement is a milestone you may have been looking forward to for years, but it’s not one you should just dive into. There are steps you should take to ensure your retirement lives up to expectations.

1. Think about the retirement lifestyle you want

You might have spent a lot of time looking forward to retirement, but have you really thought about the lifestyle you want? Often, we focus on giving up work and getting more free time for ourselves. Yet, how we’ll fill that time can end up being forgotten about or we focus on the big events we have planned.

Thinking about the day-to-day lifestyle you hope to achieve not only gives you some direction, but is important for planning your finances too. Are you looking forward to pottering in the garden or do you hope to indulge in new hobbies? Are you planning to travel more or spend more time with loved ones? Without a blueprint, retirement can end up falling short of expectations.

2. Make a budget

With an idea of the lifestyle you want to achieve in mind, it’s time to start putting together a budget. This should cover two areas. The first should look at what your day-to-day outgoings need to be to meet your goals, from covering essential bills to disposable income to spend on luxuries. This can give you an idea of the regular income your pension needs to generate throughout retirement.

Second, you should list one-off expenses that you plan to make in retirement. Typically, retirement spending is at its highest during the first three years as we make big-ticket purchases. This could be renovating your home or travelling more. Remember to factor these in when assessing your pension and how to access it.

3. Assess how long your pension will need to last for

An annual budget isn’t much use if you don’t think about how long you’ll need to draw this income for. As a result, life expectancy is an important part of retirement planning.

Whilst retirement age is rising, we’re living far longer than previous generations. Those looking forward to retiring in 2020 may expect to live for several more decades. Therefore, your pension needs to stretch further too. Understanding how your wealth and pension will deplete over the next 30 years or more can provide confidence that you’ll remain financially secure throughout your lifetime.

At this point, you should also consider the impact of inflation. Inflation means the cost of living rises and whilst this makes relatively little difference year-to-year, over the long term the impact can be significant.

4. Find out what State Pension you’re entitled to

The State Pension can provide a base to build your retirement income on. It’s a reliable source of income that will last throughout retirement. How much you receive will depend on your National Insurance record. Those receiving the full State Pension in 2020/21 will receive £175.20 per week. If you haven’t already checked when you’ll receive the State Pension and how much you could receive, you should do so here.

5. Review your pension pots

Over your working life, you’ve been paying into a pension, but understanding how this translates into an income can be difficult. This is why reviewing your pension pots to create a plan that’s tailored to you is important.

If you have a Defined Benefit pension, also known as a Final Salary pension, this will provide a regular income for the rest of your life.

If you have a Defined Contribution pension, you will need to decide how and when to access your pension. The options include purchasing an Annuity, which will provide an income for life, and entering Drawdown, which allows you to take flexible payments whilst your savings usually remain invested.

Reviewing your pensions before retirement means you can see how they align with your lifestyle goals and help make the right choices for you.

6. Evaluate your other assets

Whilst pensions are often the focus of retirement planning, other assets play a role too. Even if you don’t intend to use other assets to fund retirement, it’s worth understanding what your options are. Other assets to consider include savings, investments and property.

7. Seek financial advice

Effective retirement planning involves pulling together numerous different strands to create the lifestyle you want. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to retirement so it can be difficult to know what is right for you. This is where financial planning and advice can be invaluable. We’ll combine your lifestyle goals with the financial means to help you create a retirement blueprint that provides confidence as you start the next chapter of your life.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.


Being able to take a tax-free lump sum out of your pension when you reach pension age certainly sounds appealing. It can help you kick-start retirement plans and fully enjoy the milestone, but is it always the right decision to make?

Currently, you’re able to take a 25% lump sum from your private pension at retirement age without incurring Income Tax liability. This option is usually available once you’ve passed the age of 55 but is set to increase to 57 in 2028. Once you take your ‘pension commencement lump sum’, your scheme is ‘crystallised’, and you should decide what you want to do with the rest of the fund.

Whilst taking a lump sum is a popular option and right for some people, you don’t have to take it.

If you’re thinking about taking advantage of the tax-free lump sum, there are two questions to ask yourself first:

  • What do I intend to do with the lump sum?
  • How will it affect my long-term finances?

Setting out plans for the withdrawn lump sum

The first thing to consider is why you want to take a lump sum out of your pension. You should have a clear plan about what you want to achieve with the money before you proceed.

In some cases, taking a lump sum out of your pension can make the first years of retirement more enjoyable and improve financial security. Perhaps you’d like to use it to pay off your mortgage before giving up work full-time or maybe you have plans to celebrate retirement with a once in a lifetime experience. There are plenty of reasons why a lump sum may be appealing.

However, there are plans where taking out a lump sum may not make sense financially.

Recent research asked retirees taking taxed lump sums from their pension in the last year about their plans, revealing an insight into why people make withdrawals from their pension. The top two priorities were to add the money to a savings account or simply put it in the bank. It’s prudent to have an emergency fund you can fall back on if needed but having too much held in cash can be a bad thing too. Interest rates are low and it’s likely pension lump sums withdrawn to sit in the bank will be losing value in real terms.

One in ten people also took pension cash with the plan to reinvest the money back in stocks and shares. If you’ve chosen to access your pension flexibly, it will usually remain invested until withdrawn. As a result, it’s important to look at the balance of your investments and why you’re withdrawing pension investments, where returns aren’t taxed, to other products that could face Capital Gains Tax.

Before making any pension lump sum withdrawal decide how you’ll use the money and weigh up if it’s the best course of action with your goals in mind.

Understanding the long-term impact

It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. After all, you saved into a pension for decades in order to create an income that will last you the rest of your life. Taking a lump sum out of your pension during the early years of retirement can have a long-lasting impact.

Before you take action, assessing what a lump sum withdrawal means over the long term is important. With modern retirement spanning several decades, it can be difficult to know if using a lump sum at the start of retirement will have an impact 20 or 30 years’ down the line. This is where financial planning can help.

By understanding the lifestyle you want to achieve throughout retirement, we’ll be able to help you see if that’s achievable under different scenarios, including after you’ve taken a lump sum. The good news is that we often find retirees are in a position to meet their short and long-term retirement goals. Careful financial planning and considering the long term gives you the peace of mind to fully enjoy your retirement years both now and in the future.

At the point of retirement, there are numerous decisions to be made, from when and how you actually want to retire to how to access your retirement savings. We’re here to make your transition into retirement as smooth as possible, please contact us to discuss your aspirations for the future and how your saving can help you achieve them.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.

The current coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK and global economy. If you’re self-employed, you may find that contracts have been paused or that new work has dried up, affecting your finances in the short and long term. However, steps have been taken to provide support to the self-employed that you may be able to take advantage of.

In recent years, self-employment has steadily increased thanks to more opportunities and improved technology. In 2017, official figures suggest over 15% of the UK’s labour force was self-employed, accounting for 4.8 million people. As the pandemic has meant many businesses have been forced to shut or limit operations, as well as individuals tightening their belts, Covid-19 has had an impact on the income of millions of self-employed individuals.

Following calls to provide support, the government unveiled a package of measures designed to support those who own their own business at the end of March. Understanding these measures can help you access financial support if you need it and provide confidence that you can get through the pandemic. 

1. Self-employed tax deferral

If you’re due to make an Income Tax payment under the Self-Assessment system in July, this can be deferred. This measure applies to those that were due to make a ‘payment on account’ by 31st July 2020. These payments now won’t be due until 31st January 2021. This measure will be applied automatically and if you decide to defer payment you won’t face any penalties or interest for late payment.

It’s a step that can provide you with additional savings to use during the pandemic. However, keep in mind that the Income Tax payment will still need to be made early next year and plan for this. You don’t have to wait until January 2021 to make a payment, you can do so in line with the original deadline or later this year if you have the finances to do so.

2. Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

The Chancellor previously announced that employed workers that have been furloughed would receive 80% of their average monthly salary up to £2,500. The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme provides similar help for those running their own business.

This scheme will pay a taxable grant to self-employed people equivalent to 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years up to £2,500. The scheme will be open for three months, with the possibility that it will be extended depending on how the pandemic situation develops.

The three months’ income will be paid as a lump sum in June at the earliest. Therefore, if your income has been immediately affected by the pandemic you will also need to look at other ways to meet financial commitments in the short term. 

To qualify for the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, you must:

  • Have trading profits of up to £50,000
  • Make the majority of your income from self-employment
  • Filed a tax return and already be self-employed

If you have been employed for less than three years, the Chancellor said that HM Revenue and Customs will look at ‘what you have’ on a case-by-case basis.

The Self-Employed Income Support Scheme doesn’t mean you’re excluded from measures previously announced. It has been confirmed that self-employed workers can also access the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans. This measure can help you access loans, overdrafts, invoice finances and asset finances of up to £5 million for up to six years, with the government covering the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees. Keep in mind though, the loan will have to be paid back and you will be liable for the interest after the initial 12-month period. 

3. Universal Credit

Claiming Universal Credit if you have faced a significant reduction in earnings is an option, the usual eligibility criteria remain in place. How much you’d receive depends on your financial situation. The benefits calculator provided by national charity Turn2us can help you understand how much you’d receive through Universal Credit. Benefits usually start within five to six weeks, if you need financial support immediately, you may be able to claim an interest-free loan within the first month.

To provide support for those following guidance on self-isolation and social distancing, the requirement of the Minimum Income Floor have been temporarily relaxed. This previously limited payouts to those earning below the minimum wage through self-employment.

4. HMRC Time to Pay service

Those with outstanding tax liabilities that are now struggling to pay may be eligible to receive support through the HMRC’s Time to Pay service. If you have missed a tax payment or may miss the next payment due to the impact of coronavirus, this service may extend the deadline. These arrangements are made on a case-by-case basis and will depend on your circumstances and liabilities. If you’re concerned about missing tax payments, you should contact HMRC through its dedicated helpline 0800 0159 559.

5. Payment holidays on mortgages and loans

If you’re a borrower, repayment holidays are an option.

The government announced that mortgage payment holidays of up to three months are available to all homeowners who are up to date with their mortgage payments. This can provide you with some short-term financial security and relieve some of the pressure if your income has fallen. However, you will still owe the same amount as you do now and interest will continue to accrue on this. This means if you take a mortgage holiday paying it off will take longer and cost more.

This measure has also been extended to Buy to Let landlords whose tenants have been financially impacted by the coronavirus. Landlords that take advantage of this are expected to pass this relief on to their tenants.

If you’d like to discuss a mortgage repayment holiday, you should contact your lender to understand their process.

In addition to mortgages, many lenders are offering holidays on payments for other forms of borrowing, such as credit cards and loans. This is at the discretion of your lender. If you’re worried about making repayments and want to know what your options are, you should contact your provider directly.

If you’re struggling financially, don’t bury your head in the sand. The above five measures can help you meet financial commitments during these uncertain times. Being proactive is key, don’t wait until you’re struggling or missing payments before addressing the issue.

One of the more unwanted consequences of the recent coronavirus pandemic has been a reported rise in the number of scams. Fraudsters are taking advantage of the panic currently surrounding the virus, with Action Fraud reporting that there were 105 reports of fraud relating to Covid-19 since the beginning of February, with total losses reaching £970,000.

The organisation reported a spike in fraud reports after March 13th, with the majority of reports relating to online shopping, ticket fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud, as well as coronavirus-themed phishing emails.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, which coordinates the police response to fraud, has also reported a spike in scams. The Bureau says that, since the beginning of February, it had received reports of 104 cases where fraudsters had taken advantage of the outbreak, with losses totalling almost £1 million.

The common coronavirus scams

Action Fraud say that roughly half of their coronavirus scams related to fake face masks, while Tony Neate of anti-fraud group Get Safe Online said he had even seen cases of fake coronavirus cures and treatments.

In one incident reported to police, a member of the public spent £15,000 on face masks which never arrived. The City of London Police have reminded the public to research online sellers if they do not already know and trust them, perhaps by asking a friend or family member for advice. Most shoppers who use a credit card should be protected by the existing laws.

Another example of fraud has seen scammers offering cheap flights to capitalise on the confusion around current international travel arrangements.

While many scams relate to products, there has also been a rise in email scams concerning investment schemes, pensions and trading advice. These include:

  • Investment schemes encouraging people to take advantage of the downturn in stock markets caused by the coronavirus pandemic
  • Emails purporting to be from HM Revenue and Customers offering a tax refund
  • Emails from the government, saying that a tax refund has been made available in partnership with the NHS to help deal with the outbreak.

According to Action Fraud, one known tactic is that emails claim to come from official organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and offer fake health advice or claim to be able to provide a list of infected people in your area. If you click on a link you are taken to a malicious website or asked to make a payment in Bitcoin.

Detective Superintendent Estelle Mathieson, of Greater Manchester Police, says: “There is currently a lot of publicity surrounding coronavirus and it has come to our attention that fraudsters are using what is a time of uncertainty for many and exploiting innocent people out of their hard-earned money.

“It is likely that nationally, scams of this type will rise as the virus situation continues.”

How to avoid pension scams

In recent weeks, consumers have been warned that scammers could turn their sights to consumer’s pensions, particularly as clients approaching retirement have been seeking professional advice following the short-term pension losses caused by stock market falls.

Between 24 February and 23 March 2020, the FTSE 100 index fell by around 30%. Even though clients are typically invested in a balanced portfolio, many have seen the value of their pension pot fall significantly over the past couple of months.

Analyst Tom Selby said: “While the country hunkers down in the hope of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the economic fallout will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of vulnerable or potentially vulnerable people in the UK.

“In such an environment, unscrupulous scammers will already be plotting ways to take advantage during what for many will be a time of serious financial strain.”

Email scams often claim that they can allow savers early access to their retirement savings – and this may be particularly enticing if household incomes fall due to uncertainty and unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Any consumer taking advantage of such an offer could see them hit with a 55% unauthorised payment charge from HM Revenue and Customs, as well as fees charged by the scammers.

Mr Selby added: “Scammers’ tactics are evolving all the time and increasingly we see complex schemes promoted online through social media.  This virtual wild west is a natural home for fraudsters, with governments around the world struggling to create meaningful protections for consumers.”

Common signs of pensions scams include:

  • Claims that a provider can generate higher returns on pension savings, often using the term ‘guarantee’
  • Phrases including ‘free pension review, ‘savings advance’ and ‘loophole’
  • Time-limited offers
  • Unusual and high-risk investments which are often overseas and therefore unregulated with no protection.

4 steps to keeping yourself safe from pension and investment scams

  1. Ignore any unsolicited offers, either by email or ‘cold calling’
  2. Check the Financial Services Register to establish anyone you are thinking of dealing with is FCA registered and that they can provide the services they say.
  3. Take your time to consider an offer. Don’t be rushed into making a decision.
  4. Seek impartial and professional advice. A financial adviser will help you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances. If you do decide to speak to an adviser, make sure they are regulated by the FCA and never take investment advice from the company that contacted you, as this may be part of the scam.

If you are considering a pension or investment offer you have seen, speak to us first. Get in touch to find out more.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate world headlines, here’s what it might mean for your pension and retirement plans.

The pandemic has created uncertainty in economies around the globe. As a result, stock markets have experienced shocks and over the last few weeks have seen significant falls. Fears of a recession following the pandemic have sparked even more concern. It’s natural to be worried about what the impact on financial markets means for your future. Understanding what the change means, and where adjustments may need to be made, can help you plan for retirement with confidence.

What impact has coronavirus had on pensions?

For most people, pensions will be invested. This gives your pension an opportunity to grow over the several decades you’re likely to be paying into a pension. However, it does mean your retirement savings are exposed to market volatility. In the last few weeks, this will mean pension values are likely to have fallen.

The full impact will depend on where your pension is invested. It’s important to keep in mind that a pension doesn’t just hold stocks and shares, other assets are used to create balanced portfolios. So, whilst news updates may say the stock market has fallen 20%, it’s unlikely your pension will have suffered a fall on the same scale.

If you’re worried about your pension, it’s worth checking the value. However, keep in mind that short-term volatility is to be expected at the best of times. Keep the bigger picture in mind and look at the value of your pension with your retirement plans in mind.

The impact coronavirus will have on retirement plans will depend on what stage you’re at.

1. Your retirement is still several years away

If retirement is still some way off, the current market activity shouldn’t affect your retirement plans.

You should always invest with a long-term goal in mind, this provides an opportunity for peaks and troughs to smooth out to deliver gradual investment gains when you look at the bigger picture. Whilst past performance isn’t a reliable indicator of the future, previous market corrections and crashes have always been followed by a period of recovery.

So, whilst it’s natural to worry if your pension value has fallen, stick with your long-term plan.

2. You hope to retire soon

If retirement is nearing, it’s natural to worry about your pension in any circumstances. It’s a life milestone that means we often have to change the way we view income and finances. As a result, a stock market crash just before the date can be worrisome.

The first thing to do here is to put the stock market falls into perspective. You’ve likely been saving into a pension for many decades. No one likes investment values to fall, but when you look at it in comparison to the gains made, you’ve probably done well financially.

You also need to look at your pension value in the context of your retirement plans: Will the current value of your pension provide you with the income needed throughout retirement? If not, what is the shortfall?

This can be difficult to weigh up, as there are numerous factors to take into consideration. Working with a financial planner can help you understand how the pension figure translates to a retirement lifestyle. If there is a shortfall, there are often steps you can take to bridge the gap, from delaying retirement to using other assets.

It’s also worth noting that, depending on your goals and desired retirement lifestyle, your adviser may have ‘lifestyled’ your pension already. This is where your savings are switched to a lower risk profile that aims to preserve the savings you already have as you near retirement. If this is the case, it’s likely the impact on your pension is lower as you’ll be less exposed.  

3. You’re already retired

If you’re already retired and choose to access your pension flexibly using Flexi-Access Drawdown, the current activity may have an impact. This is because your pension savings remain invested with the goal of delivering returns whilst you’re retired. However, the flip side of this is that you’re exposed to market volatility.

The important thing to recognise here is how your withdrawals will have an impact in the long term. Making withdrawals whilst the market is low means you must sell more units to secure the same income. This can deplete your retirement savings quicker than expected. As a result, it’s worth reviewing how much you’re withdrawing.

If you’re able to reduce withdrawals or temporarily pause them, this can help to minimise the impact on your pension savings in the long term. You may have other assets, such as cash savings, that can be used to tide you over until the markets begin to recover. If you find yourself in this situation, please contact us. There are often solutions that will enable you to maintain your lifestyle and future.

Having confidence in your retirement aspirations

Whether you’re already retired or you’re still working towards that goal, it’s important to have confidence in your plans. This includes understanding the lifestyle your pension will provide and how market shocks would have an impact over the short and long term. This is where financial planning can help. If the recent volatility means you have concerns about pension investments, we’re here to help you. In some cases, it may simply be understanding how pensions will grow over the next ten years, in others, adjustments may be necessary, such as reassessing your risk profile or increasing contributions. Please contact us to discuss your pension and retirement goals.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.