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Benefits of Financial Planning Page

Top Financial Tips

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In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to make sure your finances are in order. We have 10 practical steps to ensure your money is working hard for you.

Recession-proof your Finances

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10 practical steps to ensure your money is working hard for you

In these uncertain times, it’s more important than ever to make sure your finances are in order. The Bank of England believes that a painful squeeze on our living standards, driven primarily by soaring energy prices, is set to intensify and will push the UK economy into recession later this year.[1]

Making your finances recession-proof is all about taking practical steps to ensure your money is working hard for you. It is vital to be completely honest with yourself about your financial situation.

By conducting a thorough audit of your finances and gaining a comprehensive understanding of all your incomes and outgoings, this will show you exactly where your cash is going and, most importantly, help you identify problematic spending behaviour.

Here are 10 tops to help you recession proof your finances:

1. Make a budget and stick to it

This will help you keep track of your spending and ensure that you’re not overspending.

2. Save, save, save!

Try to put away as much money as you can into a savings account so that you have a cushion in case of tough times.

3. Invest in yourself

Take the time to learn new skills or improve upon existing ones. This will make you more valuable in the job market if you need to make a job or career change.

4. Remove any unnecessary payments

Look at your bank account and remove any pain-free direct debits. Consider if you’re currently paying for things you don’t really need, for example, subscriptions.

5. Time to switch

Look at energy tariffs, home insurance, car insurance, broadband, TV package, mobile tariff – now might be a good time to switch.

6. Stay disciplined with your debt

Make sure you’re making all of your payments on time and in full. This will help you avoid costly late fees and keep your credit in good shape.

7. Pay off high interest

Prioritise any high-interest debt, such as credit card debt, freeing up more money in your budget to cover other expenses if your income decreases.

8. Have an emergency fund

This is a must in case you lose your job or have any unexpected expenses. Try to save up at least between three to six months’ worth of living expenses so that your expenditure is covered.

9. Diversify your income

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Having multiple streams of income can really help. If one income source starts to dwindle – or gets eliminated completely – this will provide other sources to fall back on.

10. Diversify your investments

In addition to diversifying your income, it’s also important to diversify your investments. Review your investment portfolio and make sure your investments are spread across different industries and even different types of asset classes.

Secure your financial future

Following these tips will help you secure your financial future and protect yourself from the effects of rising inflation and the cost of living crisis. If you would like to find out more or to discuss your situation, please contact us.

Source data: [1] https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetarypolicy-report/2022/may-2022

Millions of married couples have no idea about their spouse’s pensions & retirement plans

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Millions of married couples have no idea about their spouse’s pensions and retirement plans, according to new research

78% of non-retired married people do not know what their spouse’s pensions are worth.

47% of non-retired married people have not spoken to their spouse about their retirement plans

85% of non-retired married people are not aware of the tax-efficiencies of planning retirement together

Pensions & Retirement Still Remain a Taboo

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When it comes to marriage and money, it’s good to talk!

Millions of married couples have no idea about their spouse’s pensions and retirement plans, according to new research[1]. More than threequarters (78%) of non-retired married[2] people do not know what their spouse’s pensions are worth.

Nearly half (47%) of non-retired married people have not spoken to their spouse about their retirement plans and 85% of non-retired married people are not aware of the tax-efficiencies of planning retirement together.

Retirement finances

Wealthy people aren’t doing much better. Mass affluent people (those with assets of between £100,000 and £500,000 excluding property) are more likely than average to be aware of the value of their spouse’s pension, but the majority (60%) aren’t going to plan their retirement finances with their spouse and 78% aren’t aware of the benefits of planning retirement together.

The research indicates that millions of married people are not talking to their partners about their pensions and retirement plans. That’s a mistake because couples who jointly plan their retirement can be much better off when they stop working.

Lifetime of saving

Most people have a good idea of what their house is worth, and the same attitude should apply to their retirement funds. After a lifetime of saving, the value of a retirement fund can be worth as much as a property so it’s important that people know how much their retirement savings are worth and the potential death benefits they offer.

The best way for people to ensure they have the retirement they want, their pension income lasts throughout their retirement and that they avoid unnecessary tax bills is to obtain professional financial advice. This is especially true for people who plan to retire within the next five years.

Pension tips for couples

  • Pay into your partner’s pension: A higher-earning partner approaching the Lifetime Allowance or Annual Allowance could pay additional contributions into their partner’s pension. The contributions will attract tax relief.
  • Don’t forget the death benefits and Inheritance Tax benefits of pensions: Pensions won’t normally form part of the estate for Inheritance Tax purposes and, on death before age 75, they can usually be paid out tax free (on death after 75, they are taxed as the beneficiary’s income). It can make sense to discuss when and how to access a pension and if it would be better to spend any other savings first.
  • Avoid unnecessary large withdrawals from a pension fund: Couples should consider how much money they need to withdraw from their pension funds. Drawing too much too quickly can lead to large tax bills.
  • Make sure your partner knows who to contact about your pensions if you die: You may have carefully arranged all your finances so that they can be passed to your loved ones in the most tax-efficient way possible. However, if your partner hasn’t been part of the conversation they may make uninformed decisions. It’s worth remembering that any adviser/client relationship you have ends on death. Data protection rules mean your financial adviser won’t necessarily know what is happening. This can lead to irreversible and costly mistakes being made.

On retirement, many people’s first instinct is to request their full tax-free cash entitlement. However, unless a large lump sum is needed
for a specific purpose, this is not always the wisest course of action. If flexibly accessing a pension, it can often make sense for couples to retain most of the tax-free cash entitlement until a later date, looking to utilise the personal allowance (and potentially the basic rate tax band) to draw tax-efficient income instead.

Successfully managing finances in marriage

When you and your spouse married, you agreed to share a financial future. It’s an important issue for most married couples. Although successfully managing finances in marriage is essential to your happiness together, talking about money may not come naturally. To discuss how we could help you plan your finances, please contact us for more information.

Source data: [1] LV= surveyed 4,000+ nationally representative UK adults via an online omnibus conducted by Opinium in June 2021. [2] Includes couples in civil partnerships. UK population stats from ONS. Total UK adult population is 52.7m UK adults (aged 18+).

Improving your financial health

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Staying on track to achieving specific financial goals

All of your financial decisions and activities have an effect on your financial health. To help improve your financial health during this period of rising inflation rates and household costs, we look at three areas that could help keep you on track to achieving your specific financial goals.

Beat the national insurance rise

The National Insurance rise from April this year has gone ahead for workers and employers despite pressure to reverse the decision to increase this by 1.25%, which is aimed at raising £39 billion for the Treasury. From April 2023, it is set to revert back to its current rate, and a 1.25% health and social care levy will be applied to raise funds for further improvements to care services.

One way to beat the National Insurance increase is by taking advantage of salary sacrifice, which means you and your employer pay less National Insurance contributions. Some employers may decide to maximise the amount of pension contributions by adding the savings they make in lower employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) to the total pension contribution amount they pay. This is also a way to make your pension savings more tax-efficient. If you choose to take up a salary sacrifice scheme option, you and your employer will agree to reduce your salary, and your employer will then pay the difference into your pension, along with their contributions to the scheme. As you are effectively earning a lower salary, both you and your employer pay lower NICs, which could mean your take-home pay will be higher. Better still, your employer might pay part or all of their NICs saving into your pension too (although they don’t have to do this).

Review your savings

Accounts and rates

Money held in savings accounts hasn’t grown much in recent years due to historically low interest rates. But with inflation running higher, your savings are now at risk of losing value in ‘real’ terms as you will be able to buy less with your money.

In some respects, inflation can be seen as a positive. It’s a sign of strong economic recovery post-COVID, increasing salaries and higher consumer spending. But it’s bad news for your cash savings. Relying solely or overly on cash might prevent you from achieving your long-term financial goals, which may only be possible if you accept some level of investment risk.

In an environment where the cost of living is rising faster than the interest rates received on cash, there is a danger that your savings will slowly become worth less and less, leaving you in a worse position later on. If you have money in savings, it is important to keep an eye on interest rates and where your money is saved. Rates are low and you will lose money in real terms if inflation is higher than the interest rate offered on your savings account or Cash ISA.

Shift longer term savings into equities

During times of high inflation, it’s important to keep your goals in mind. For example, if your investment goals are short term, you may not need to worry much about how inflation is impacting your money. But if you’re investing for the long term, inflation can have a larger impact on your portfolio if it’s sustained – although high inflation that only lasts for a short period may end up just being a blip on your investment journey.

If you have large amounts of money sitting in cash accounts one way to beat inflation is to invest some of your money in a long-term asset that will appreciate with time, thus increasing your buying power over time. There are many ways to invest your money, but most strategies revolve around one of two categories: growth investments and income investments.

Historically, equities have offered an effective way to outperform inflation. Cyclical stocks – like financials, energy and resources companies – are especially well-suited to benefit from rising prices. These sectors typically perform better when the economy is doing well, or recovering from a crisis. Depositing funds into your investment portfolio on a regular basis (such as monthly from salary) can help you invest at different prices, averaging out the overall price at which you get into the market. Known as pound-cost averaging, this can help you smooth out any fluctuations caused by market volatility over the long term. While volatility will always exist, it can be managed and reduced by taking this approach.

Would you like advice on how to improve your financial health? Speak to us to find out how we can help.

An older lady on her iPad planning for her retirement

The Power of a Plan

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An older lady on her iPad planning for her retirementHow to create a personal financial plan in 8 steps

When thinking about your future financial wellbeing, it can be helpful to consider a plan. It is a good idea to have a clear sense of what you want from life and use this as a guide for making important decisions.

A comprehensive financial plan helps you achieve your goals by analysing your current situation, planning for the future and providing continuous monitoring of progress towards those goals. A well-thought out plan can help you protect yourself from unexpected events that could affect your ability to meet long-term financial commitments. What do you want to do in life? Who are the people who matter most to you? What do you worry about at night?

Step 1: Set your goals

Without them, it’s hard to know what direction you’re headed and even harder to remember where you came from. Critical goals come before needs and wants.

When life changes – and it always does – your goals help guide your financial decisions and focus on what’s important.

Step 2: Make a budget

So you’ve decided to start keeping track of your income and expenditure, but how do you know where to begin? Creating a budget can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are not familiar with the process.

Not only is it important to know how much money is coming in and going out of your household each month, it’s also vital that you understand where that money is being spent. With a budget, you can align what you make with what you spend. With goals set, you can now organise your money.

In fact, when creating your budget, it’s important to remember that there will be some things that don’t fit into your monthly spending plan, and emergency savings make a great way to cover these unexpected costs.

Step 4: Protect your income

Falling ill or having an accident doesn’t have to become a financial burden on you or your family. What if you or your partner got too sick or hurt to work? Or passed away unexpectedly? Could those who depend on you still pay the bills – and save for the future? Planning your financial future isn’t only about savings and investments.

Of equal importance is putting protection in place for you and your family for when you die or if you become ill. Most people have heard of life insurance, but may not know about the different types or about the options for people affected by ill health. No one likes to think of these things. But life can change in an instant. It’s good to hope for the best, but be ready for the unexpected. Insurance helps you do that.

Step 5: Pay down debt

The importance of paying down personal debt cannot be understated. But it can be difficult to prioritise paying down debt while still paying for essential day-to-day living expenses. However, ignoring the significance of personal debt could lead you to major financial trouble in the long run.

Paying off your debts will not only free up cash flow to allow you to save, it will also go towards improving your credit score. The lower your debt-to-income ratio is, the better your credit rating. Your credit rating affects the interest rates that lenders charge you for mortgages, car loans and other types of financing.

Step 6: Save and plan for retirement

Everyone needs to save and plan for retirement. No matter how much you make or whether you have a job, you should always start saving as early as possible. It is important for you to take control of your retirement planning and make decisions regarding your pension. It is often not appreciated that contributing to a pension arrangement can help you build up an extremely valuable asset.

People are living longer and leading more active lives in retirement. As a result, it is more important than ever for you to think about where your income will come from when you retire. Pension saving is one of the few areas where you can still get tax relief.

Step 7: Invest some of your savings

Saving and investing are important parts of a sound financial plan. Whereas saving provides a safety net for unexpected expenses, investing is a strategy for building wealth. Once you have an emergency savings fund of three to six months’ worth of living expenses, you can develop a strategy to grow your wealth through investing.

Investing gives your money the potential to grow faster than it could in a savings account. If you have a long time until you need to meet your goal, your returns will compound. Basically, this means in addition to a higher rate of return on investments, your investment earnings will also earn money over time.

Step 8: Make your final plans

The importance of estate planning is necessary for all individuals, not just the wealthy. Without proper estate planning in place to protect your assets, you could end up leaving large amounts of money to be fought over by your loved ones and a large Inheritance Tax bill.

Your estate planning should sit alongside making your Will, both key parts of putting your affairs in order later in life. Working out the best ways to leave money in a Will before you pass away can help to make the lives of your loved ones easier when you’re no longer around.

I am ready to start a conversation

Financial planning may be complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. We’re committed to ensuring you feel comfortable, informed and supported at each stage of your financial planning journey. To find out more, or to discuss how we could help you and your family, please contact us.

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Steps towards a better financial future

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Younger couple on a boat thinking about their financial futureSteps towards a better financial future – grow, protect and transfer your wealth

Financial planning is a step-by-step approach to ensure you meet your life goals and achieve a better financial future. Your financial plan should act as a guide as you move through life’s journey. Essentially, it should help you remain in control of your income, expenses and investments so you can manage your money and achieve your goals.

Life rarely stands still. Priorities shift, circumstances change, opportunities come and go and plans need to adapt. But regular discussion and reviews are the key to keeping on top of things. This means adapting your plans when things change, to keep you on course.

1. What are my financial goals?

Generally, people’s financial goals change as they progress through different life stages. Here are some themes which might help you  consider your own goals:

  • In your twenties, you may want to focus on saving for large purchases, such as a car, wedding or your first home
  • In your thirties, you may be planning for your family, perhaps school fees or your children’s future
  • In your forties, your focus may move to retirement planning and growing your wealth
  • In your fifties, paying off your mortgage and feeling financially free is likely to be a priority
  • In your sixties, it is usually about making sure you have enough money to retire successfully
  • In your seventies, your attention may turn to inheritance planning and later-life care

Other plans may also include starting your own business, buying a second home or travelling the world. Of course, everyone is different, so you might have a goal in mind we haven’t mentioned.

2. Are my goals short, medium or long term?

You are likely to have a mixture of short-term (less than three years), medium-term (three to ten years) and long-term (more than ten years) goals. Moving to a larger property might be a short-term goal, while saving for your children’s university fees might be a medium-term goal and retirement planning a long-term goal (depending on your life stage).

You’ll need different strategies, and different saving and investment risk levels, for each of these goals.

3. How hard is my money currently working?

If your cash is currently in a savings deposit account, the interest rate you’ll likely be receiving is probably not going to be sufficient to keep your money growing as quickly as inflation is rising over the longer term. So your savings could eventually lose buying power in real terms over the years ahead.

If you want your money to grow faster, you might want to consider allocating a portion of your savings towards  investments. This may involve more risk than a savings account, but the amount of risk involved will be dependent on you and what you are looking to achieve, so you decide. Obtaining professional advice will ensure you choose investments at a risk level that suits your preferences.

4. Have I paid off my debts?

It’s not always wise to start investing if you have debts that you need to pay off (excluding longterm debts like student loans and mortgages).
That’s because overdrafts, credit cards and other short-term debts can charge you more in interest than you could expect to gain in  investment returns. In most instances, it will benefit you more in the future to become debt-free before you start to grow your wealth.

5. Am I making the most of my tax-efficient allowances?

All UK taxpayers receive certain allowances to help with saving and investing. For example, you may already have an Individual Savings Account (ISA) and be taking advantage of your annual allowance. You also have a capital gains allowance, a dividends allowance and a pension annual allowance. All of these will help you to grow your wealth faster, if you know how to use them.

Tax allowances can be complex though, and they can change without much notice, so if you’re not careful you risk an unexpected tax charge. If in doubt, talk us to review your options.

6. What are my retirement plans?

A key factor in any financial plan is the date you plan to retire, as that typically marks a turning point from accumulation of wealth built up throughout your working life, to the reduction of wealth as you start to spend your savings and pass your assets on to loved ones. Ensuring that those two elements of your life are well balanced is an important part of the financial planning process.

Are you planning with a purpose?

Once you’ve answered these six questions for yourself, your financial plan will start to take shape. But you might still have more questions about how to reach a particular goal, how to reduce a potential tax bill, how to invest without taking on too much risk, how to pay off your debts or how much money you’ll need to retire successfully, in which case we can help. Please speak to us – we look forward to hearing from you.

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. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.