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Monthly Archives :

May 2019

Critical Illness Cover

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Minimising the financial impact on you and your loved ones

What would life be like if you were diagnosed with a serious illness? Things could change very suddenly. You’d get your family together and tell them what was going on. Before long, you’d start spending time in hospital for treatment. You may also need to take some time off. It’s hard to know what the financial impact of all this would be for you and the people who depend on you. Any of us can become ill at any age – and with appropriate critical illness cover in place, it could help to give some financial security at a difficult time. Critical illness cover can help to minimise the financial impact on you and your loved ones. For example, if you needed to give up work to recover, or if you passed away during the length of the policy, the money could be used to help fund the mortgage or rent, everyday bills, or even simple things like the weekly food shop – giving you and/or your family some peace of mind when you need it most.

Surviving a serious illness

After surviving a critical illness, sufferers may not be able to return to work straight away (or ever), or may need home modifications or private therapeutic care. It is sad to contemplate a situation where someone survives a serious illness but fails to survive the ensuing financial hardship. Preparing for the worst is not something we want to think about when feeling fit and healthy, but you never know what life is going to throw at you next.

Tax-free lump sum

Critical illness cover, either on its own or as part of a life insurance policy, is designed to pay you a tax-free lump sum on the diagnosis of certain specified life-threatening or debilitating (but not necessarily fatal) conditions, such as a heart attack, stroke, certain types/stages of cancer and multiple sclerosis. A more comprehensive policy will cover many more serious conditions, including loss of sight, permanent loss of hearing, and a total and permanent disability that stops you from working. Some policies also provide cover against the loss of limbs. But not all conditions are necessarily covered, which is why you should always obtain professional financial advice.

Much-needed financial support

If you are single with no dependants, critical illness cover can be used to pay off your mortgage, which means that you would have fewer bills or a lump sum to use if you became very unwell. And if you are part of a couple, it can provide much-needed financial support at a time of emotional stress.

Exclusions and limitations

The illnesses covered are specified in the policy along with any exclusions and limitations, which may differ between insurers. Critical illness policies usually only pay out once, so they are not a replacement for income. Some policies offer combined life and critical illness cover. These pay out if you are diagnosed with a critical illness, or you die – whichever happens first.

Pre-existing conditions If you already have an existing critical illness policy, you might find that by replacing a policy, you would lose some of the benefits if you have developed any illnesses since you took out the first policy. It is important to seek professional advice before considering replacing or switching your policy, as preexisting conditions may not be covered under a new policy.

Lifestyle changes

Some policies allow you to increase your cover, particularly after lifestyle changes such as marriage, moving home or having children. If you cannot increase the cover under your existing policy, you could consider taking out a new policy just to ‘top up’ your existing cover.

Defined conditions

A policy will provide cover only for conditions defined in the policy document. For a condition to be covered, your condition must meet the policy definition exactly. This can mean that some conditions, such as some forms of cancer, won’t be covered if deemed insufficiently severe. Similarly, some conditions may not be covered if you suffer from them after reaching a certain age – for example, many policies will not cover Alzheimer’s disease if diagnosed after the age of 60.

Survival period

Very few policies will pay out as soon as you receive diagnosis of any of the conditions listed in the policy, and most pay out only after a ‘survival period.’ This means that if you die within this period (even if you meet the definition of the critical illness given in the policy), the cover would not pay out.

Range of factors

How much you pay for critical illness cover will depend on a range of factors, including what sort of policy you have chosen, your age, the amount you want the policy to pay out, and whether or not you smoke. Permanent total disability is usually included in the policy. Some insurers define ‘permanent total disability’ as being unable to work as you normally would as a result of sickness, while others see it as being unable to independently perform three or more ‘Activities of Daily Living’ as a result of sickness or accident.

Activities of daily living include:    

  • Bathing
  • Dressing and undressing
  • Eating
  • Transferring from bed to chair and back again

Make sure you’re fully covered

The good news is that medical advances mean more people than ever are surviving conditions that might have killed earlier generations. Critical illness cover can provide cash to allow you to pursue a less stressful lifestyle while you recover from illness, or you can use it for any other purpose. Don’t leave it to chance – contact us to make sure you’re fully covered.

If the policy has no investment element then it will have no cash in value at any time and will cease at the end of the term. If premiums are not maintained, then cover will lapse. Critical illness plans may not cover all the definitions of a critical illness. The definitions vary between product providers and will be described in the key features and policy document if you go ahead with a plan. 

The Final Retirement Countdown

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Time to review your financial plans with a financial check-up?

If you are aiming to retire within the next five years, it’s time to get into the mindset of considering the practicalities of fulfilling your desired lifestyle and making plans during your retirement countdown. While you should think about retirement planning as early as possible, the five years leading up to retirement are critical.

Retirement may be looming with terrifying urgency, and the reality is that you have just 60 pay packets left until you retire. This is a time when you’ll need to obtain up-to-date pension forecasts and obtain professional financial advice to make sure your retirement plans are on track. So if you believe you are five years or less away from retirement, now is the time to seriously review your financial plans with a financial check-up.

What are the key things to concentrate on?

The first step is to ask yourself if you are actually ready to retire. There are many factors to consider. Your financial affairs are the big factor to begin with. Your ability to afford retirement depends on your lifestyle, your family situation and home ownership. If you have dependent children, or have 15 years left on your mortgage, the time might not be quite right. You have to ensure retirement is the right move for you. Work can be stressful, but it can be rewarding and give you a sense of achievement. People may miss the routine of working life and the day-to-day interaction with people.

Taking a different path

What you need might not be retirement, it could be change. A chance to get out from behind your desk to do something meaningful. Perhaps retirement is your ticket to achieving this – taking a different path where money is no longer the prime motivation. If you are afraid about having time on your hands after retirement, explore options for filling it well before you take the leap.

Major change in lifestyle

Retirement means a major change in lifestyle. You need a clear mind as to what you want your life to look like and how to spend your time. Then you can work on arranging your finances to suit. Decide on your priorities for retired life. Do you want to travel, or split your time between home and somewhere hot and exotic? Is there a particular hobby you want to immerse yourself in? What kind of leisure and social activities matter to you?

Later years in your retirement

Try not to get caught up in what happens right after you end work – also consider the later years in your retirement. Will long-term travel continue to be feasible as you get older? Will you need such a large house, or will it become a burden? And what about in the latter stages of life? Would you need to fund care? You must also have a clear picture of what kind of life you would like to lead in retirement and what it will cost. Then you can start to dig a little deeper into what you might be able to afford. This means getting to grips with your sources of income once your earnings stop.

Request up-to-date forecasts

Your first port of call is your pension – or pensions. Contact previous pension trustees to request up to-date forecasts. If you’ve lost details of a pension scheme and need help, the Pension Tracing Service (0800 731 0193) may be able to assist you.

You should also find out what your likely State Pension entitlement would be – you can do this by completing a BR19 form or by visiting www.direct.gov.uk.

Consolidate existing pensions

If you have personal pensions, you need to find out where they are invested and how they have performed. Also check if there are any valuable guarantees built into the contracts. It may make sense to consolidate existing pensions, making it easier for you to keep track of everything and reduce the amount of correspondence you receive. With investments in general, it is important to review your strategy before you take the leap into retirement. You don’t need to suddenly become an ultra-conservative investor – you still want your portfolio to grow over the next few decades. Should the investment markets make a correction, you may want to limit your downside. Don’t forget, there may be another 30 years ahead.

Don’t put off confronting the truth

If your investments don’t look on course to give you the income you’d hoped for in retirement, don’t put off confronting the truth. You may need to revise your projected living costs. Alternatively, there’s still time to change your investments, and you could also cut back on spending while you are still earning to generate more savings. Your income can be used in other ways besides topping up your savings as you prepare for retirement. Clearing debts, including your mortgage, should be a priority before you retire. Whatever you owe on credit cards and loans, focus on paying off the debt that charges the most interest first. Debt will be the biggest burden once you do not have a regular working income.

Consider re-adjusting your finances

Having no mortgage to pay is a major step towards re-adjusting your finances for a post salary life. You might also decide you want to sell up, whether to downsize, to give you a lump sum of cash to live off, or to fund your dreams of moving abroad. Either way, use your working income while you can to improve your home, maximising potential revenue when you come to sell it. Finally, retirement is a huge change, both personally and financially – so big it might be too much to take in all at once. It makes good sense to practice at being retired before it becomes a reality, especially if you will have to make certain adjustments and sacrifices to compensate for a reduced income. You might even consider a phased retirement, cutting back on your hours gradually. This will not only soften the financial effect, but it will also get you used to having more spare time to fill.

Taking The Right Steps Today To Ensure You Have The Retirement You Want Tomorrow?

Retiring is a huge life event and can sometimes leave us feeling as though we’ve lost our identity. After decades of working and saving, you can finally see retirement on the horizon. But now isn’t the time to coast. If you plan to retire within the next five years, we can ensure you take the right steps today to help ensure that you have what you need to enjoy a comfortable retirement lifestyle. To arrange a meeting, please contact us.

Ellis Bates Sponsored Abseil

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Ellis Bates are proud to be holding a charity fundraising event in aid of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Held at Ellis Bates (Adam House, Ripon Way, Harrogate) Saturday 6th July 2019 from 12 pm until 4pm, daring staff members will be taking on a sponsored abseil down the side of the building.

Alongside watching some of the staff conquer their fears, there’ll be a hog roast and a number of stands and entertainment throughout the day, including; ice cream van, tombola, bottle pull, sweet pull, sponsored leg wax, raffle and cake stall. Dogs welcome too!

Yorkshire Air Ambulance is an independent rapid response air emergency service, serving approximately 5 million people over 4 million acres of Yorkshire land. Two helicopters, one based at RAF Topcliffe and another at The Nostell Priory Estate, serve the entire Yorkshire landscape.

From remote rural land to densely populated regions, including major motorways, the crew administer state-of-the-art medical care and save lives daily. And to keep these in the air, the charity requires £12,000 to be raised daily.

All proceeds raised from the day will be donated to Yorkshire Air Ambulance, so come along and help raise funds for a worthy cause.

For more information please call 01423 520052.

ellis bates sponsored abseil

Guide To Tax Matters

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2019/20 Key Changes You Need To Know

In this guide we set out the main tax changes that apply to the 2019/20 tax year, which commenced on 6 April 2019. Reviewing your tax affairs to ensure that available reliefs and exemptions have been utilised, together with future planning, can help to reduce your tax bill. Personal circumstances differ, so if you have any questions or if there is a particular area you are interested in, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Increases to the tax-free personal allowance announced in last year’s Budget have now also come into effect, alongside a number of other proposals. We’ve provided our summary of the key changes.

Income Tax

The tax-free personal allowance increased from £11,850 to £12,500, after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the 2018 Budget that he was bringing the rise forward by a year. The higher-rate tax band increased from £46,350 to £50,000 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But in Scotland, where Income Tax rates are devolved, the higher-rate tax band remains at £43,430 – £6,570 lower than the rest of the UK.

National Insurance contributions across the UK have also increased to 12% on earnings between £46,350 and £50,000. In line with the rest of the UK, someone in Scotland pays National Insurance at a rate of 12% on earnings up to £50,000, before this reduces to 2% on earnings above this level.

Inheritance

The threshold at which the 40% Inheritance Tax rate applies on an estate remains at £325,000. However, the Residence Nil-Rate Band increased to £150,000. This is an allowance that can be added to the basic tax-free £325,000 to allow people to leave property to direct descendants such as children and grandchildren, taking the combined tax-free allowance to £475,000 in the current tax year. However, the allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 that the value of the estate exceeds £2 million.

When you pass on assets to your spouse, they are Inheritance Tax-free, and your spouse can then make use of both allowances. This means the amount that can be passed on by a married couple is currently £950,000.

Pensions

The State Pension increased by 2.6%, with the old basic State Pension rising to £129.20 a week, and the new State Pension rising to £168.60 a week.

The amount employees now pay into their pensions has increased to a minimum total of 8% under the Government’s auto-enrolment scheme. The increase means employers now pay in a minimum 3% of a saver’s salary, while the individual pays in a minimum 5%.

The level of the State Pension rises every year by the highest of 2.5%, growth in earnings or Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation. This is due to the ‘triple lock’ guarantee, which was first introduced in 2010.

The pension lifetime allowance increased to £1,055,000 on pension contributions, in line with CPI inflation. This is the limit on the amount retirees can amass in a pension without incurring additional taxes. Anything above this level can be taxed at a rate of 55% upon withdrawal.

The overall annual allowance has remained the same at £40,000, along with the annual allowance taper which reduces pension relief for those with a yearly income above £150,000.

Student Loans

The earnings threshold before you start to repay a student loan for:

  • Plan 1 loans has increased to £18,935 (from £18,330)
  • Plan 2 loans has increased to £25,725 (from £25,000)

If you’re a director being paid salary and dividends from your company, and you’re paying back a student loan, you must remember the threshold for repayment is based on your total income. This will apply to all current and future student loans where employers make student loan deductions. So if you run a payroll for any employees who have student loan deductions, you need to ensure you have a record of what type of loan they have, so that the correct deductions are made.

Investors

The Junior Individual Savings Account (ISA) limit increased to £4,368. All other ISA limits remain the same. The annual amount that can be sheltered across adult ISAs stays at £20,000 for the 2019/20 tax year.

The Capital Gains Tax annual exemption, that everyone has, increased to £12,000. Above this amount, lower-rate taxpayers pay 10% on capital gains, while higher and additional- rate taxpayers pay 20%. However, people selling second properties, including buy-to-let landlords, pay Capital Gains Tax at 18% if they are a basic-rate taxpayer, or 28% if a higher or additional-rate taxpayer.

Capital Gains Tax for non-UK residents has been extended to include all disposals of UK property.

Entrepreneurs’ Relief gives a Capital Gains Tax break to those who sell shares in an unlisted company, provided they own at least 5% of the shares and up to a lifetime value of £10 million. The holding period to qualify for the relief is 24 months.

This is also the first tax year where claims can be made for Investors’ Relief which, in a similar way, gives Capital Gains Tax breaks to those who sell shares in unlisted firms. While the former is aimed at company directors, the latter is geared to encourage outside investment in firms.

There is no minimum shareholding to be eligible, but investors must have held the shares for at least three years. As the relief was introduced in 2016, this is the first tax year when it can be used.

Buy-to-let Landlords

On 6 April, the next stage of the phased removal of mortgage interest relief came into effect. Buy-to-let landlords used to be able to claim the interest paid on their mortgages as a business expense to reduce their tax bill. Now, they will only be able to claim a quarter of this amount as tax deductible ahead of the complete removal of the relief in the 2020/21 tax year.

Corporation Tax

Corporation Tax is payable on business profits and remains at 19%. The Government is planning to reduce this to 17% for the 2020/21 tax year (on 6 April 2020).

Would you like help with tax planning?

The UK tax system is very complex, but the benefits of structuring your finances tax- efficiently can be significant. Ellis Bates are here to ensure that you have made the best use of the reliefs and allowances available for your particular situation. There are a variety of planning ideas available for individuals, entrepreneurs and business owners. Should you need to discuss or require advice on tax planning ideas, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Information is based on our current understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. Any levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are subject to change. The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested.

Income Boosting Investments

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Structuring your investment portfolio throughout life

If low interest rates continue to remain, it really matters where you invest your money. Investing for income means choosing assets that are able to provide you with a regular income. This is in contrast to investing for growth, which focuses on how much your assets could gain in value.

People are living longer. Simple demographics mean that supplementary income is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. With historic ultra-low interest rates on savings, many investors over the past decade have turned to income-paying funds as an alternative to cash-based savings.

Varying income

Changing life plans and priorities mean we now encounter varying income needs and goals throughout our life – and when investing, certain innate behavioural traits will influence our decision-making. Increasingly, some income seekers are looking beyond cash and government bonds to capitalise on the more attractive income opportunities that exist across global markets. Investing in higher yielding assets – such as dividend-paying stocks, corporate bonds and emerging market debt – can provide attractive income, even with interest rates so low.

Investment strategy

Our reasons for seeking income tend to shift through life. Shorter-term goals like supporting a business start- up or funding children’s education may be a priority in earlier years, before making way for a longer-term focus on boosting retirement income and providing an adequate cushion for later life. The key is working out how much income you need at each stage, and then finding an appropriate investment strategy to help you meet your goals.

It’s essential to work out what you need to achieve and set clear objectives. The most obvious option to generate a monthly income is to buy funds that do just that. Some funds explicitly set out to provide investors with a monthly income, while others – such as many property funds – pay out dividends monthly, too.

Balanced portfolio

With time on your side, there are steps you can take to reduce risk, particularly in the final years before you need the money as your focus shifts from capital growth to capital protection. In order to achieve your financial goals, you can build a balanced portfolio incorporating a variety of different investment types (including cash and funds that invest in everything from corporate bonds to FTSE 100 companies, smaller companies, and companies based in numerous countries across the world) or you can simply pick one fund that is itself a balanced portfolio and offers you access to a broad spread of investments through one single plan.

However, if you are seeking income from your investment straight away, you may need to ensure your investments immediately generate the sum you need, so it’s worth factoring this into any decision-making. It may well be that your decision does not involve whether or not you should invest in the stock market, but which particular stock market investment will help you generate the income you need.

Money talks

There are various ways in which capital can be used to generate income. Each has its pros and cons, and for most people the ideal solution, where possible, is to spread money among several different types of investments, providing a balance and diversifying risk.

Here, we look at some potentially income-boosting investments. Always remember to ensure you have a suitably diversified portfolio. You should never just rely on one asset class or investment, as if this investment suddenly falls in value, you stand to lose more than if you had put your money into a range of different investments.

Banks and building societies

Savings accounts have traditionally been a clear favourite for many people who rely on the interest payments as a supplementary income. Deposits are seen as a secure option because the monetary value of savings does not go down, and there is protection under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme for deposits up to £85,000 in any one institution should they not be able to meet their commitments.

However, interest rates fluctuate, so the income from savings accounts cannot be relied upon to remain stable. Not only do the returns depend upon the general level of interest rates (which has only fallen over the last decade), but banks and building societies are also able to apply their own discretion to the interest they pay on their accounts. Rates are often inflated by introductory bonuses which then fall away, typically after a year. Inflation can also erode the value of cash on deposit.

Fixed income securities/bonds

A bond is a loan that the bond purchaser, or bondholder, makes to the bond issuer. Governments and corporations issue bonds when they need to raise money. An investor who buys a bond is lending money to the government or corporation.

Like a loan, a bond pays interest periodically and repays the principal at a stated time, known as the ‘maturity date’. Certain government securities are regarded as the most secure, though corporate bonds can pay higher rates of interest depending on the deemed creditworthiness of the issuing companies. Over the long term, shares have tended to provide a greater total return, but bonds are generally regarded as less risky. In the event of bankruptcy, a bondholder will get paid before a shareholder.

Equities

By investing in equities, savers can back companies which have potential to pay out significant dividends – a share in the profits – to shareholders. There are many such companies which have historically provided not only reasonable dividends, but a track record of growing profits and consequently improving those dividend payments over time.

It is also possible to grow your original capital if the share price increases in value over the time you are invested, although it may go down as well as up along the way. Investments in equities can be volatile. Their values may fluctuate quite dramatically in response to the results of individual companies, as well as general market conditions.

Property

In recent years, there has been a growing demand for rented property, as the cost of housing has risen. Many investors have profited from the buy- to-let market, buying residential property that they then let out in order to generate a rental income. However, property is not as liquid an investment as some others. There is also the risk of periods without income between lets and the ongoing costs of maintaining the properties.

More significantly, the taxation burden on UK buy-to-let investors and the properties themselves increased in 2016 following a government clamp down. There was a sharp increase in stamp duty payable by homeowners purchasing a second home, as well as an increase in the level of taxation faced by landlords buying to let.

People are living longer. Simple demographics mean that supplementary income is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. For more information on investing for income, please get in touch.