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We’ve been debating a cashless society and the challenges for years in the UK. But as card payments overtake notes and coins, could it be something that becomes a reality in our lifetime?

For many of us, not having access to cash seems alien, even if we rarely handle money. While there aren’t any societies that are truly cashless yet, some are moving towards it at a faster pace. In Sweden, for example, only around 2% of transactions consist of cash. Many shops and restaurants in Sweden will only accept card or mobile payments and, in some places, banks have stopped handling cash too.

It can be difficult to imagine never having notes in your wallet or a pocketful of change, yet it could be closer than you think.

Cash payments have declined 59% in a decade

It wasn’t too long ago that cash was king in the UK, with plastic reserved for larger purchases.

Today though, you’re far more likely to use your card or mobile to make a payment than you are to use money. Many trends have influenced this shift, including online shopping and contactless payment options.

According to a report from the National Audit Office, there has been a 59% decline in the volume of cash payments between 2008 and 2019. Between 2018 and 2028, it’s expected that there will be a further 65% reduction in the use of cash. By the end of the decade, using cash for payment could be rare.

The fact that The Royal Mint is set to go a decade without making any 2p or £2 coins due to demand slumping highlights this.

In recent months, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact too, with many shops, restaurants and bars protecting staff by only taking card payments. Statistics show there was a 71% decline in the market demand for notes and coins between early March and mid-April 2020. This coincided with the limit for contactless card payments rising from £30 to £45 in April.

Figures from UK Finance show card payments are overtaking cash. Some 51% of the £40 billion payments made in 2019 were made via credit, debit or charge card. The use of cash fell 15% and made up less than a quarter of all payments.

So, while a cashless society may seem like it’s some way off, it is something we could be moving towards.

Cashless society could leave vulnerable and rural communities behind

The Access to Cash Review warned at the beginning of the year that the cash system is reaching a ‘tipping point.’ It added that moving towards a digital future could leave millions of people behind, with the elderly and those in rural communities particularly affected.

In 2018, Access to Cash published its final report and the review assessed the recent steps and where gaps remain. The review noted some initiatives have started but questions whether they have gone far enough, stating that the situation for consumers is deteriorating. One example used is that 25% of ATMs now charge customers to withdraw their money, up from just 7% a year earlier. Collectively, this cost consumers £29 million.

Natalie Ceeney, Independent Chair of the Access to Cash Review, said: “The UK is fast becoming a cashless society – without knowing what this really means for consumers or the UK economy. Many people may want a completely digital future, but we need to make sure that this shift doesn’t leave millions behind or put the economy at risk.”

It won’t just affect those highlighted in the report either. Using cash for transactions is often recommended as a way to help those struggling to get a grip on their finance. Physically handing money over can make sticking to budgets easier. Even if budgeting isn’t a challenge for you, you may prefer using notes and coins to keep better track of where your money is going.

Bank of England: Cash is still important

Despite innovations and statistics pointing towards a cashless society in the future, the Bank of England has maintained that cash still plays an important role.

There is over £70 billion worth of notes in circulation. Despite the rise of cards, this is roughly twice as much as there was a decade ago.

Reinforcing the bank’s view that physical money remains important is the recent investment in switching to polymer notes that are more durable than the traditional paper ones. The first plastic £5 entered circulation in 2016, with £10 and £20 plastic notes following in 2017 and 2020 respectively. A polymer £50 will follow.

The Bank of England adds: “While the future demand for cash is uncertain, it is unlikely that cash will die out any time soon.”

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The season for giving is here and there’s more than one way you can help communities and tackle wider issues. The 5th December marks International Volunteer Day. It mobilises thousands of volunteers lending their support to charities and other organisations every year.

This year supporting charities is more important than ever. Lockdown restrictions mean some charities have seen demand for their services rise, particularly those offering support to unemployed or low income workers. In May, 36% of charities told the Charities Aid Foundation that they’d seen an increase in demand due to the pandemic.

Rising demand has come at a time when donations are falling. One in five charities have concerns that there will be a shortfall in donations due to a lack of footfall and people carrying less cash.

Despite the challenges they face, charities are still delivering valuable support and there are things you can do to back them too.

1. Donate your time

Supporting a charity doesn’t have to mean donating money. And, in the spirit of International Volunteer Day, donating your time can be just as valuable. Many charities rely on volunteers to get things done, from admin to delivering services. From organising donations in retail outlets to getting in touch with vulnerable people to alleviate loneliness, your time can have a real impact on the work charities do.

Think about the skills and experience you can offer a charity to have the biggest impact. If you have an existing DBS check, for instance, they may be able to use your skills to directly support people and communities that need help.

2. Donate through payroll

If your employers offer the option to give through your salary, this can benefit both you and good causes. Donations are taken before your Income Tax is calculated, but after National Insurance contributions have been deducted. It’s tax-efficient for you and means your donation goes further.

This is a good option for setting up regular financial donations to your chosen charity. However, your employer must be part of a payroll giving scheme, it’s not something you can set up individually.

3. Make use of Gift Aid

Gift Aid doesn’t cost you anything but can help make your financial donations go further. Gift Aid allows a charity to reclaim the basic rate Income Tax you have already paid. So, for every £1 you give, the charity can claim an extra 25p. All you need to do is sign a Gift Aid declaration when donating.

4. Donate items

Sometimes having a clear out of your own home can lead to a pile of unwanted items that are still in good condition. Rather than throwing them away or selling them, handing them over to a charity can help them raise funds. Be sure to check which items a charity is seeking beforehand.

Some charities are also using online shops or auctions as a way to raise funds. You may be able to donate suitable items or hold your own online sale, with proceeds going to your chosen charity.

5. Plan a fundraising event

Fundraising events play a big part in securing money for charities. But it’s an area that’s badly affected by social distancing measures. The London Marathon, for example, raised over £66 million for a range of charities in 2019. Due to the limited number of runners this year, it fell to just £16.1 million.

Organising a fundraising event can get your family, friends and colleagues involved in raising money for a good cause. You may have to be a bit more creative than usual, but online events or undertaking a physical challenge could prove popular. Take inspiration from centenarian, Captain Tom Moore who raised an incredible £32 million for the NHS by walking laps around his garden.

6. Gift shares

When we think of financial donations to charity, we usually think of putting our hand in our pocket or a bank transfer. But you can donate shares too. This type of gift can be just as valuable to charities.

It’s an option that can also have tax benefits. You don’t have to pay Capital Gains Tax on any growth of the shares gifted. You can also claim Income Tax relief on their value. As a result, you can reduce your tax bill through donating to charity.

7. Set up a charitable legacy

While charities face challenges today, they need to think long term too. You may want to leave a charitable legacy by naming a charity in your will. You can choose to leave a lump sum, a portion of your estate or even certain items to charities that are close to your heart.

If you’re concerned about Inheritance Tax, a charitable donation in your will can also reduce liability. It may mean you’re able to leave more to loved ones while still benefitting a good cause.

If you’d like to discuss how you could support a charity close to your heart through financial donations, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning.

It should come as no surprise that we believe financial advice adds real value to the lives of our clients. While the financial benefits of advice are often discussed, the value it can add in terms of wellbeing is sometimes overlooked but is just as valuable.

The improvements to wellbeing that financial advice can offer can be difficult to assess. After all, every client will have differing goals, priorities and challenges. New research from Royal London has measured how professional financial advice can support emotional wellbeing.

Financial advice helps people feel in control and confident

The research found that the vast majority of the 17 million people who seek financial advice in the UK benefit from a positive experience. Overall, it helps people to feel confident, in control of their finances and gain peace of mind. Clients rated three key areas that highlight the positive impact of a relationship with a financial adviser:

  • Quality of advice and expertise (82%)
  • Communication style (81%)
  • Trustworthiness (81%)

One of the important ways the report found advice adds value is through understanding financial matters.

When searching for financial products or information, you’re often confronted with jargon and complex terms. Even when you have a good handle on your financial situation this can be daunting, making it difficult to know what’s right for you. Besides, products, legislation and regulation frequently change and keeping up to date can be challenging if it’s not part of your day-to-day role.

Those receiving advice feel up to three times more confident in their understanding of products and their finances than those who haven’t worked with an adviser. Some 23% of non-advised individuals said they would not know where to start when asked about life insurance, compared to just 7% of those taking financial advice.

The financial decisions you make have a long-lasting impact and it’s important to understand products and your options. We’re here to explain to clients how different products work, as well as outlining the pros and cons with their situation in mind. It means clients can have confidence in not only their plans but also their financial knowledge.  

The benefits of preparing for the unexpected

When people first approach a financial adviser it’s often to seek advice on something they know is going to happen or would like to happen. For example, planning for retirement or setting up an investment portfolio to create an income.

However, an important part of creating a financial plan is to look beyond this to plan for the long-term, including the unexpected. As a result, financial planning can improve financial resilience and ensure you’re better prepared for an unexpected shock, such as redundancy or illness.

It’s a step that boosts emotional wellbeing. Some 63% of clients said they felt secure and stable, as opposed to 48% who did not receive advice. The report highlighted how it can have an impact on emotions too. Four in ten (41%) of those that do not take financial advice said they feel anxious about their household finances, compared to three in ten (32%) who receive advice.

Protection products in particular improved financial and emotional wellbeing. These insurance products pay out under certain circumstances and should align with your priorities and concerns. For instance, life insurance can provide peace of mind that your family will be financially secure should you pass away, while income protection can provide an income if you’re unable to work due to illness. Clients who received advice on protection said it helped them feel more prepared and less worried about the future.

Unsurprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforce how planning for the unexpected can be valuable. With millions of employees seeing their income fall and facing redundancy, 35% said they felt anxious about their financial situation. This has led to 65% saying they’ve come to appreciate the value of being more prepared for life-shocks that may be outside of their control.

On average, financial advice clients are £47,000 better off

While the emotional benefits of advice are important, the financial benefits are too. After all, financial freedom can help you to achieve goals and feel more confident about your future.

The report also covers previous research conducted by the International Longevity Centre UK.  It found that customers who took financial advice were on average £47,000 better off. Those who fostered a long-term relationship with their adviser were up to 50% better off than those who received one-off financial advice.

Tom Dunbar, Intermediary Distributions Director at Royal London, said: “We have long suspected that the benefits of advice go far beyond financial gains alone and our research confirms that individuals who have received advice are more likely to feel confident about the future, and less likely to feel anxious or worried.

“It’s easy to see why clients turned to financial advisers when the pandemic struck. But advice is most powerful – and most rewarding – when it goes beyond a one-off meeting. An ongoing relationship with an adviser amplifies the emotional, as well as the financial, benefits.”

Please contact us if you’d like to arrange a meeting to discuss how financial advice can help you and improve your wellbeing.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Each November, Talk Money Week takes place. It aims to get the nation talking about managing money, from discussing pocket money with children to chatting about pensions.

Money can be a taboo subject, even among families. But talking openly about money, financial goals and aspirations can help different generations make better decisions. Making talking about money part of your normal family routine beyond the awareness week can have far-reaching benefits.

When you created your financial plan, you may have involved a partner but most people don’t include their wider family. Yet, for many reasons, financial planning as a family can make sense.

1. Your goals may include your family and legacy

For many people, goals involve family in some way.

You may want to help pay for your grandchildren’s school fees now, or ensure you leave an inheritance that financially secures their future. With this in mind, involving loved ones in the financial planning process can make sense. Openly discussing what you intend to leave as a legacy, for instance, can help all of the family to plan more effectively.

Firstly, take some time to think about your personal goals. This can help you create a list of priorities when talking about a financial plan. You may intend to offer monetary support, but securing your own future is just as important.

2. Find out what their goals are

Do you know what your family hopes to achieve or what their concerns are?

You may have an idea about the aspirations and worries of loved ones, but sometimes you need a frank discussion to really understand each other. You may find there are more effective ways you can lend support if that’s your goal.

Many younger generations, for instance, are struggling to purchase a property or manage day-to-day finances due to stagnating wage growth. If you had planned to leave an inheritance, passing on wealth now may be more effective. A house deposit or a lump sum to pay off a mortgage could help reduce the outgoings of children or grandchildren. It’s a step that can improve their financial security and wellbeing both now and in the long term.

It’s also an opportunity to discuss your concerns with them. For example, are you worried about the cost and support you’d receive if you needed care? Having a chat with family can help you create a solution and put your mind at ease. It may be something they’ve already thought about. By involving loved ones in a financial planning discussion about care. you can create a plan that suits all of you.

3. Reduce costs

Working together can help reduce costs and get the most out of your money.

Understanding the potential impact of Inheritance Tax is just one way you can make your money go further. If your estate could be liable for Inheritance Tax, there are things you can do now to reduce or eliminate the cost but this requires a proactive approach. Strategies to mitigate Inheritance Tax include giving away some of your wealth during your lifetime and setting up a trust for family. If you’re worried about Inheritance Tax, please contact us.

There are ways you could save money now by pooling resources too. Take investing for example, if several family members are paying for investment fees and advice, bringing this together can save money and lead to better returns.

Personal goals and challenges must be considered in these scenarios, as well as understanding who has ownership of assets. Please contact us if this is something you’d like to discuss.

Making family financial planning suit you

If you want to involve family in your financial plan, there are numerous ways you can do so. You should think about what you want to achieve and how involved you’d like your family to be.

On one hand, making time to have a simple conversation about money and long-term goals may be enough. This can help you see how goals may align and where you may want to offer support. On the other hand, you can work together with a financial planner as a family if you’d like to create a more comprehensive plan that includes several adults and generations.

Striking the right balance is important when involving family members in your financial plans. If you’d like to discuss how you could consider wider family goals, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax or estate planning.

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.

For many, retiring abroad is a dream. Enjoying your golden years in a sunnier country and experiencing a new culture certainly has an appeal. But with many retirement hotspots in Europe, Brexit could derail some plans and make moving to a new country far more difficult.

Almost half are reconsidering retiring abroad due to Brexit

The UK voted to leave the EU back in 2016, but it’s been a slow process and there’s still a lot of uncertainty about what it means. The UK left the EU at the beginning of this year, but 2020 has been a transition period to allow negotiations to take place. However, there is much still to be decided despite the UK leaving the single market on 1st January 2020.

For retirees hoping to move to an EU country, it means uncertainty. So much so that according to research from Canada Life 46% of over-50s who planned to retire abroad are now reconsidering where they will retire. With lifestyle goals often driving plans to move abroad, Brexit could have a larger impact than simply where you spend retirement. The top reasons for retiring abroad are:

  • Better weather (68%)
  • More desirable lifestyle (63%)
  • Cheaper living costs (45%)

If you’d hoped to move to somewhere in the EU to spend retirement, it’s important that you understand the implications Brexit could have.

5 things to check if you hope to retire in the EU

If you still hope to retire in the EU, there are many things you need to consider and check, including these five things.

1. Visas and right to live in the EU

It’s been many years since Brits needed a visa to visit other EU countries thanks to freedom of movement. However, it’s unlikely to be as easy to settle in an EU country post-Brexit.

As a result, you’ll likely need to obtain a visa. To secure one, you’ll probably need to demonstrate your income and assets to show you are self-sufficient. As a result, getting your finances in order before you apply is advisable. Visas may also give you the right to live in a country but without the right to work, for some hoping to work in some way in retirement, this could affect plans.

2. Reciprocal agreements

A reciprocal agreement is an arrangement between states about certain benefits, including National Insurance, benefit entitlement and healthcare. Where an agreement is in place, a UK national may be able to claim certain benefits whilst living in the reciprocal agreement country from that country’s government. It’s an agreement that can provide security in retirement even if you move abroad.

Despite the importance of reciprocal agreements, just a quarter of those planning to retire abroad know which countries have these in place.

3. Income requirements

It’s important to carefully assess where your income will be coming from and what your requirements are. In some cases, you may be able to change your income so it’s received in Euros or another currency, which can help you manage finances. You should take advice before doing this. Changing your pension, for instance, could mean losing other benefits and it’s important that you choose the right product for your circumstances.

4. Currency exchange rate

When living abroad, how the value of the pound changes can affect you and your income. During your retirement, fluctuations are to be expected. You need to consider how the exchange rate will affect your income and the steps you can take to provide some security. Again, this is an area we can help with.

5. State Pension increases

When claiming your State Pension in the UK, it will rise each year. This helps your income keep pace with inflation and maintain your spending power.

However, if you’re living abroad, this isn’t automatically the case. At the moment, retirees in the European Economic Area benefit from State Pension rises, but we don’t know if this will continue to be the case as negotiations are still ongoing. If these arrangements aren’t maintained, it could have a significant impact on your income over the long term.

Retiring abroad at any time comes with complexities and challenges but Brexit adds a new layer. Taking advice before you move plans forward is essential.

Canada Life’s Technical Director, Andrew Tully said: “To help navigate the complexities around retiring abroad, it’s important to seek professional advice. This could make all the difference between living the retirement people have worked long and hard for, or falling victim to the potential retirement risks.”

More changes expected as Brexit negotiations continue

As Brexit negotiations are ongoing, further changes and agreements are likely. If you plan to move to the EU, keeping abreast with these announcements is crucial, they could affect your income, security and lifestyle.

Working with a financial planner can help ensure your retirement plan considers the latest information available and that your retirement is secure. For instance, it was recently revealed that UK banks would shut thousands of British ex-pats’ accounts. Ex-pats now need to open new accounts and if they’re not aware of this, it could affect their income and access to assets in the coming months. A financial planner can help ensure you’re aware of the changes that may affect you.

Can you afford to retire abroad?

Brexit isn’t the only thing you need to consider when moving abroad in retirement. It’s also important to assess if it’s feasible with your finances in mind.

To start with, you should assess the initial costs of moving. From shipping your items to purchasing a property, there are a many aspects to consider. These costs can take a sizeable chunk out of your savings.

You also need to look at the day-to-day costs. The cost of living may be very different from the UK. In some cases, you may get more for your money, but in others, everyday costs will be higher. On top of this, you may want to factor in flying home to visit loved ones regularly. It’s also important to plan for the unexpected. Would you have to pay for healthcare if you fall ill, for example?

If you’re hoping to spend your retirement outside of the UK, we’re here to help. It’s a big decision that requires careful financial planning, but taking the time to understand your finances means you can start the next chapter of your life with confidence. Please contact us to discuss your retirement plans.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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.

If you’re choosing to access your pension flexibly, one of the risks is that you could take too much from your pension too soon. Your pension is likely needed to provide an income for several decades and evidence suggests that many retirees could find their pensions will run out during their lifetime.

Since 2015, retirees have been able to access their pension flexibly through drawdown. This means you withdraw an income when it suits you, with the rest usually remaining invested. It’s proved popular and allows you to create an income that suits your retirement lifestyle. However, it also means you need to consider things like what a sustainable income is.

Why the 4% rule may no longer be suitable

In the past, a common rule of thumb was that you should take no more than 4% of your pension each year to ensure that it lasts throughout retirement. However, sticking to this rule today could mean you’re more likely to run out of money. Many factors play a role in why this ‘rule’ may no longer apply, including the following three examples.

  1. Market conditions have changed. Over the last decade, interest rates have been low, falling even further in response to the economic challenges of Covid-19 this year. Coupled with market volatility, it means your pension investments may no longer be delivering the performance previously expected. As a result, a lower ‘rule’ of 3% or even less is more likely to be sustainable given current market conditions.
  2. People are spending more time in retirement. While the age we can access our pension and State Pension is gradually rising, longevity has increased at a faster pace. Those retiring today are likely to enjoy a longer retirement than previous generations. Pension savings now need to stretch further to ensure long-term financial security.
  3. Retirement spending often isn’t linear. How we retire and our income throughout retirement is changing too. In the past, retirees gave up work on a set date and income needs would remain consistent throughout retirement. Now, you may decide that a phased retirement is for you, go back to work in some way later in life or have plans that mean income needs fluctuate. This is good news for creating a lifestyle that suits you, but it makes it far more difficult to set out a ‘rule’ that applies to the majority of retirees.

42% of pensions accessed at ‘unsustainable’ levels

It’s difficult to state when pension withdrawals would be unsustainable without knowing the individual circumstances of each person. However, the latest data on retirement income from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), covering 2019/20, suggests more than four in ten people could face financial challenges in their later years.

Some 42% are taking more than 8% from their pension each year, an increase of 40% from the previous period. Withdrawals at this level lead to a high risk that pension savings will run out during your lifetime.

The figures show high withdrawal levels are more likely to occur when accessing smaller pension pots. Some 67% of those using an 8% withdrawal rate had a pension worth between £10,000 and £99,000. This compares to 24% with a pension worth more than £100,000. Those with pensions worth more than £250,000 tended to be more cautious and take smaller withdrawals.

Of course, the figures alone fail to show the full picture. Those taking larger levels from smaller pensions may also hold several other pensions and are using a strategy to use each pot in turn. However, the figures do indicate that many retirees could be at risk of running out of money sooner than expected.

The importance of understanding your retirement and income

Decisions made in early retirement can have a long-lasting impact. Taking too much from your pension in the early years of retirement can mean investment returns fall significantly and fail to provide an adequate income later in life, for instance.

As you approach retirement, assessing the assets you have to create an income, including pensions, and your plans are crucial. While ‘rules’ can give you a general idea, taking the time to understand your desired lifestyle and assets can mean you’re in a position to create a plan that works for you. What works for one person can be very different from another, even if their circumstances appear similar on the surface.

Working with a financial planner allows you to get the most out of your retirement, safe in the knowledge that your latter years have been considered.

Talk to us to understand your pension and retirement income

At the point of retirement, you need to make many decisions, including how and when you’ll access your pension. Longevity and sustainable withdrawals are just one aspect you need to consider. If you’re already retired or nearing retirement, we’re here to help you. We’ll work with you to understand your retirement goals and how your pension and other assets can be used to achieve them with your whole retirement in mind. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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.

Taking ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors into consideration is a growing trend among investors. But what does it mean and why would you look at these areas when making investment decisions?

Our latest guide explains the basics of ESG investing. According to the Investment Association, 26% of all UK assets use ESG factors in some way, though the depth varies. As a result, it’s gradually being incorporated into more investment strategies. Our guide explains:

  1. What ESG factors cover
  2. How ESG factors may be used when making investment decisions
  3. Why investors may want to consider ESG influences
  4. What the challenges of ESG investing are

Click here to download your copy of the guide.

If you’d like to talk about your investments, long-term goals and ESG factors, please contact us on 01473 636688. We’re here to help you understand your investment options and how they can help you achieve your aspirations.

We all know the nursery rhyme: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. I see no reason why gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot.

And 415 years later, the gunpowder plot and Guy Fawkes are still remembered every year on Bonfire Night. As the nights draw in, it won’t be too long before fireworks fill the skies, bonfires are lit, sparklers are waved, and toffee apples are tucked into.

As we remember the foiled plot to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament, with Guy Fawkes found in a cellar guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder, there are a few lessons we can learn about investments too.

1. Don’t follow the group

Guy Fawkes might not have been caught up in simply following the group, he was, after all, a Catholic that had fought for Catholic Spain in the Eighty Years’ War against Protestant Dutch reformers. So, the plan to assassinate Protestant King James I would have had an appeal.

But the mastermind behind the plot was Robert Catesby, and it was Guy Fawkes that was discovered armed with a slow match in the cellar surrounded by gunpowder.

In investments, it can be tempting to follow what others are doing. If everyone seems to be investing in a certain sector, they can’t all be wrong, right? But this forgets that investment goals and your circumstances should be central to your plans. An investment that is ‘right’ for one person can be ‘wrong’ for another.

2. Sometimes sensational isn’t best

If it had been successful, the gunpowder plot would have been remarkable. With enough gunpowder to reduce the House of Lords to rubble, killing the King, as well as other Protestants and Catholics, the plot would have been a decisive moment in history. Indeed, despite failing, it’s still taught in every school and still important. If the conspirators had opted for a subtler approach, would they have been successful? We’ll never know but understated is sometimes better.

In investing there are always star fund managers, top funds, and investments that investors are urged to back. But sometimes these headline-grabbing options aren’t what is best for you. A relatively stable option may better suit your plans. Steer away from investments you’re tempted by, simply because they’re claiming to deliver sensational returns, focus on your long-term plans instead.

3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

When investing, diversifying is something we talk about a lot. Spreading investments across a range of assets, locations and sectors can help spread risk. If one group of investments is affected by volatility, there’s an opportunity for this to be balanced out by gains in another area of your portfolio.

When the gunpowder plot unravelled, the conspirator fled London. There was no plan B or gunpowder stored in other parts of London. If they hadn’t put all their eggs in one basket, the plotter may have had a second chance to achieve their aims – it could have led to a very different country than the one we recognise today.

4. Know the risks you’re taking

So, Guy Fawkes was certainly aware of the risk he was taking. After all, he was committing treason in a spectacular fashion at a time when monarchs weren’t known for their leniency. He’d have known that being captured would mean capital punishment.

Fortunately, investors don’t run the risk of being hanged, drawn, and quartered.

But there are risks involved in any investment and it’s important to be aware of them. Potentially high returns will usually mean you need to take a higher level of risk. Though the stakes aren’t as high as they were in 1605, are you comfortable with the thought your investments could fall in value?

You need to understand what an appropriate level of risk for you is, considering numerous factors, from your investment goals to the other assets you hold, as well as your general attitude towards investing. It can be complex, but we’re here to help you make investment decisions that reflect your wider circumstances and take on an appropriate amount of risk.

5. Speak to someone you trust

The gunpowder plot began to unravel when a few days before the explosives were due to be lit a letter was shown to the king which stated: “I say they shall receive a terrible blow this Parliament; and yet they shall not see who hurts them.” The phrase ‘blow’ immediately led to suspicions that an explosion had been planned.

It’s not known for certain who wrote the anonymous letter, but it’s thought to have come from conspirator Francis Tresham, though he never mentioned the letter in his confession. Speaking about plans is important and can help you see where the risks lie, but you need to be able to trust the people you speak to.

When it comes to your financial plan, a professional financial planner can help you see both opportunities and risks you may have overlooked. Please get in touch to discuss your plans and concerns.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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.

This month marked financial planning week, which aims to showcase the benefits of financial planning, from the financial gains to improved wellbeing. To celebrate this, we’ve got a checklist of steps you should take before 2020 ends to ensure you’re on track.

1. Think about your lifestyle goals

The financial steps you make should be linked to your lifestyle goals. As a result, this is one of the first things you should do. Since setting out your current financial plan, have your aims changed? Take some time to think about what you want to achieve in the short, medium, and long term.

2. Review your financial safety nets

No one knows what will happen, but you can prepare for the unexpected. Having financial safety nets in place can provide peace of mind that should something happen, such as becoming too ill to work for an extended time or an unexpected bill comes up, you still have security.

Ideally, you should have an emergency fund that will cover three to six months of expenses. If you’ve dipped into savings, look at how you can replenish this fund. You should also review the financial protection you have in place and ensure they’re still relevant for your circumstances and priorities. In some cases, policies will no longer be needed, while in others it may be useful to take out additional cover.

3. Assess your debts

If you have debts, it’s worth spending some time reviewing them too. What interest rate are you paying and are you on track to pay them off? Prioritising paying off debts with higher interest rates makes financial sense, as can making overpayments where possible. You may be able to reduce the interest rate by transferring the debt too. Switching to a 0% interest credit card can help you reduce the debt quicker.

4. Check the interest rate on your savings

Interest rates for savings accounts are at an all-time low. It means it’s more important than ever to shop around for a good deal to make your savings work as hard as possible. If you’re in a position to, locking your savings away for a set period or choosing an account with restrictions can help you access higher interest rates.

Keep in mind, though, interest rates are unlikely to match inflation. In real terms, this means your savings are reducing in value. If you’re saving for long-term goals, investing may be appropriate.

5. Take a look at your investments

While looking at your savings, you should review investments too. It can be tempting to base your review on simply how investments have performed recently. But keep in mind investments should be made with a long-term goal in mind and there has been significant short-term volatility this year. Rather than focusing on recent performance, look at the bigger picture and ensure your investments are still appropriate for you.

6. Check your pension

If you’re not yet retired, a pension can be abstract. After all, it can be decades before you’ll actually use the money you’re saving for retirement. But it’s important to regularly review what’s going into your pension and what this means once you start using it to create an income.

If you are retired, review your pension savings with your financial plan in mind. Are your withdrawals sustainable? Do you have the level of security you want? And is your current income allowing you to live the lifestyle you want?

Pension savings can be complex and it’s essential you have a long-term outlook. You can get in touch with us if you need help understanding your pension savings.

7. Consider your retirement plan

While looking at how your pension is growing, don’t forget to think about what you want out of retirement too. How do you want to spend your time when retired? We often focus on the big areas when looking at retirement lifestyle, but your day-to-day plans and goals are just as important. Setting out what you want can help ensure your savings are on track and ensure your retirement lives up to expectations.

8. See if you’re making the most of allowances

How have you used your allowances so far? From the ISA subscription limit to the pension annual allowance, making the most of these can help your money to go further. Thinking about how you’ve used allowances now can help you avoid the end of tax year scramble in April 2021.

9. Review your estate plan

While reviewing your finances, you should consider your estate plan too. Changes to your wealth and circumstances may mean you need to adjust your estate plan to reflect these. If you don’t have them already, putting a will and Power of Attorney in place should be a priority. If you do have these, give them a quick review to make sure they still accurately reflect your wishes.

10. Check when your next review is

Finally, regular reviews are an important part of your financial plan. They provide an opportunity to check your plan still aligns with your goals and reflect any legislative changes that may have been brought in. Check when your next review is scheduled for, but remember, you can contact us at any time if you have any questions or concerns you’d like to discuss.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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.

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.

The nights are drawing in and Halloween is around the corner. But while you might get spooked watching a horror film this season, pension mistakes can be just as scary (and cost you far more). With that in mind, here are seven pension mistakes to avoid to keep your retirement on track.

1. Not claiming all the tax relief you can

You receive tax relief on your pension contributions. It means your savings grow faster. However, are you getting everything you’re entitled to?

Pension tax relief is at the highest rate of Income Tax you pay. If you’re a basic-rate taxpayer, a tax relief of 20% will be added to your pension at the source. So, you don’t need to do anything about it.

If you’re a higher (40%) or additional (45%) rate taxpayer, you’ll need to apply for the extra relief by completing a self-assessment tax return. Failing to do this means you could be missing out on significant sums over time that could help you achieve retirement goals.

2. Failing to take advantage of additional employer contributions

All employers must now offer the majority of employees a pension, which they contribute to. An employer’s contribution is a minimum of 3% of your pensionable earnings. This is a useful boost to your savings but it’s worth checking if your employer will increase this.

Some employers, for instance, will match your own contributions up to a certain level. If this is the case, it’s often worth increasing your own pension contributions as you’ll receive extra ‘free money’ to put towards retirement. Other firms may also offer a salary sacrifice on pension contributions, allowing you to reduce Income Tax and National Insurance, with your pension benefiting.

3. Exceeding the Annual and Lifetime Allowance

Exceeding pension limits can mean a larger tax bill than expected – scarier than the traditional haunted house!

It’s important you understand what your Annual and Lifetime Allowance is.

The Annual Allowance is the amount you can tax-efficiently save into a pension each tax year. You can carry forward unused allowance from the three previous tax years. The Annual Allowance is linked to your earnings and can range from £4,000 to £40,000. If you’d like to discuss your Annual Allowance and how to make the most of unused allowances, please get in touch.

The Lifetime Allowance is the total amount you can save tax-efficiently into a pension. For the tax year 2020/21, the Lifetime Allowance is £1,073,100 and it’s expected to increase in line with inflation. The sum sounds like a lot but you need to consider that it will include decades’ worth of your contributions, employer contributions, tax relief and investment growth.

4. Triggering the MPAA without realising

It’s not just your earnings that can affect your Annual Allowance either. If you start to take money from your pension, the amount you can pay in and still receive tax relief on reduces to £4,000. This is called the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA).

If you access your pension at the point of retirement, the MPAA is unlikely to affect you. However, if you make withdrawals before retiring and then plan to continue contributing, it can limit how much you’re able to save. It doesn’t mean your pension savings have to remain inaccessible, but being aware and having a plan is crucial.

5. Withdrawing from your pension when you don’t need it

Recent research from PensionBee found that just 3% of those considering accessing their pension was planning to retire soon. A further 26% planned to make a withdrawal to increase day-to-day income or purchase something special. However, the remaining respondents didn’t need their pension savings yet but were still thinking about making a withdrawal.

It can mean you need to compromise when you retire as your savings will be lower. If you’re thinking of accessing your pension before retirement consider:

  • What will you use the withdrawals for?
  • Will it affect your retirement lifestyle in the future?

If you don’t need your pension savings yet, for most people, leaving savings invested through a pension is the most appropriate option.

6. Not shopping around for the best Annuity deal

If you have a Defined Contribution pension, purchasing an Annuity is the only way to create a guaranteed income for life.

But it’s not as simple as choosing a provider and moving forward. There are many different options on the market and providers will offer varying rates. You should take the time to shop around and find the best deal for you. It could mean your retirement is more comfortable.

It’s also important to look at the extra features on an Annuity that are important to you. For instance, some will provide an income linked to inflation, maintaining your spending power, or provide an income to your spouse or civil partner if you pass away.

7. Not taking financial advice at the point of retirement

Retirement comes with a lot of decisions to be made. And they could affect the rest of your life. Financial advice can build confidence and offer guidance at the point of retirement and beyond.

Seeking financial advice at the point of retirement can help you understand your assets and how they can be used with your goals in mind. Since 2015, pension savers have far more choice in accessing their pension, but it comes with more responsibility too.

Getting to grips with your pension now and avoiding common mistakes means that pension savings and retirement doesn’t have to be scary at all, but something you look forward to. Please get in touch to discuss your pension.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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 can 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.