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Economic Insights

October 2020 Economic Update

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All views expressed in this article are those of the author Roger Martin-Fagg and do not necessarily represent the views of Ellis Bates Financial Advisers.

In this update I will continue to give evidence for my optimistic outlook. I do understand that many of you will consider my assessment as unrealistic. I see my purpose as giving you the facts insofar as we know them and then it is up to you to decide on the future progress of our economy and your role and response within it.

As far as I am able to discern currently the infection rate in the EU and the UK is rising. The much vaunted R is above 1 but not yet 2. The predicted second wave is upon us. There is increasing evidence that if an individual is reasonably fit, not overweight, exercises in the fresh air and sunlight they will not die from CoVid 19. They will feel ill, and like flu it is unpleasant but not life threatening. However if they are significantly overweight and have underlying health issues then the risk of becoming very ill and possibly dying rises with age. 90% of deaths have been those who are old and unhealthy.

The issue for the Government is how far to go with lockdown and isolation for the majority to protect the most vulnerable. It is a very difficult judgment to make. There is growing evidence that if there are sufficient hospital ICU beds available, care homes have the necessary support and there is an effective track and trace system then the balance should be in favour of letting the nation get on with normal life.

I believe public opinion is skewed by the mawkish media who seem to revel in portraying the suffering of the unfortunate few. And most people will have a story of a friend who has suffered. But equally they will know of friends who only suffered mild symptoms. If we look at the experience of our European neighbours, Italy stands out as the least affected by the second wave. And it would seem this is because of an effective test and trace system.

My guess is that we will not have a national lockdown but there are and there will continue to be local restrictions applied. The 10pm curfew is clearly an error and I suspect it will be dropped. A well-run pub or restaurant will be a much safer space than a large household with plenty of alcoholic refreshment. And why is anyone surprised that there are spikes in infection when schools and universities reopen?

All that follows assumes no national lockdowns in the UK and the EU.

Basically the economy is all about how much money is created by banks and how quickly that money changes hands as individuals buy stuff and pay debts. If we begin with how much money is being created the numbers are staggering in their magnitude.

The money supply in the USA is expanding at nearly 4x the normal rate.
In the EU it’s 2x normal.
In the UK it’s 3x normal.

Globally the monetary stimulus is 17% of Global GDP. This is a massive increase in potential purchasing power. If this had happened last year, the scribblers would be headlining “hyperinflation is on its way”. However, all this new money is not flowing through the system at normal rates. Anyone in the hospitality, travel, aerospace, public entertainment, sports and events industries will be suffering significant falls in customer spend and income. This is what lockdown, social distancing and the need to self-isolate causes. In addition the number of hours worked has reduced by around 15%. However thanks to furlough schemes incomes have fallen by less. So there is what is called an inflationary gap.

Graphic Illustration of an Inflationary gap

It is generally accepted that individual prices are determined by supply and demand at a point in time (think of eBay bids). The same can be said of aggregate demand and supply. If in the economy as a whole there is more spending power than immediately available goods and services, average prices rise, albeit with a time lag. The time lag exists because most prices of goods and services are not determined as they would be at an auction but are administered by companies who tend to mark up on unit cost after annual price reviews. The market which responds quickest (apart from commodities) is real estate. Over this next year thanks to Covid we will see central city commercial property prices falling and rural house prices rising. It is difficult to be accurate but I guess central city offices and shopping centres prices will fall 10-20%. And rural house prices rise 5-8%.

To reiterate: since March actual earnings have been higher than the volume of goods and services produced. The inflationary gap is because people have been paid whilst not producing.

In the UK an inflationary gap opens up whenever the money supply begins to grow consistently above 6% per annum. Its currently growing at 12% pa. The new job support measures are quite different; there is effectively no money without output. One would think the gap was closed, but it isn’t, the new money is in the system somewhere and it will get spent sooner or later. The Baltic Exchange freight rate for containers is a very good indicator of global trade volumes. The chart suggests strong demand from Northern European consumers for Asian goods. It is of course possible that container ship capacity has been reduced since March, but I imagine such vessels are probably the safest places to be assuming all the crew are tested a few days before embarkation. Global output is now only 5% below Jan 2020 levels.

Exports from China are rising at 10% year-on-year, the fastest rate for nearly two years. The reasons for all this are of course that since lockdowns were relaxed there has been a surge in consumer demand.
As I write this there is a high level of uncertainty for individuals and families and much discussion on the arrangements for Christmas!

If you are running a business you will have higher levels of cash than normal. You will be trying to guess demand, decide on how many employees you will need over the next years or so, and probably preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. The following data supports this view. The chart reflects the GDP performance of each country. Germany had the smallest contraction in Q2, the UK the largest at 20%. The question is what will happen to unemployment? Overall the average rate will rise to around 8% of the workforce. This means that 92% of the available labour supply will be gainfully employed. And it does not mean our economy and in particular the housing market will shrink. Although the media seem convinced otherwise.

From 1980-1989 the average unemployment rate was 8%, there were recessions at the beginning and the end of the decade, but the average GDP growth rate was 2.5%. It was a decade of blue collar unemployment as UK Manufacturing raised its productivity and either did well or ceased to exist. In the early Eighties the pound was overvalued by about 20% due to North Sea oil, so thin margin exporters failed. The deep-mined coal industry disappeared as low cost open cast Columbian and Australian coal was imported. Most of the unemployment was structural. This means the job was gone for good, and regardless of total spend in the economy would never return.

The unemployment we will experience over the next ten years will also be structural. This time it will be white collar jobs disappearing from the back offices of service companies. Smart systems are replacing legal clerks, HR personnel are being replaced by clever recruitment software; orders, dispatch and invoicing all automated. This has been around for at least 10 years but now it will be become generalised. The good news is many white collar workers have transferable skills, so an HR manager, with a bit of training, could design employment systems and processes. Covid is accelerating this change, along with how and where people work.

It is clear home working will be the norm for perhaps 40% of employees. And on the evidence to date is it is more productive. The central office will be reconfigured for more meeting/social interaction space and less rows of screens. New build housing will have to include studies, even if they are small. And for the professional couple, two study rooms or another in the garden will be seen as essential. In short we are entering a period of rapid change with reconfiguration of workplaces. This will create many new income streams for entrepreneurs who spot niches and act quickly to supply.

The example I particularly like is the massive increase in demand for domestic garden pizza ovens! I do not have one nor do I plan to but round here pizza parties for six are popular. The key point is these structural changes will increase GDP per capita so long as companies and employees embrace the opportunities.

The Housing Market

I read on a daily basis commentary which forecasts a collapse in house prices next year. Figures abound but the range is between minus 10% and 20% (the same forecasters predicted house prices would fall 7% this year, when so far they have risen by three percent!). The reason given is banks will be unwilling to lend and individuals unwilling and or unable to borrow because of actual or fear of job loss.

The banks know that their mortgage business is a Walmart operation: pile it high and sell it cheap. The margins are small so the volume has to be large and almost all the process can be automated. The losses on mortgage books currently are under one percent. Next year they may rise a bit but they will always be less than losses on lending to SMEs, which are likely to escalate. But with unemployment doubling the housing market will surely weaken, it’s obvious!

Well, no it isn’t.

Take a look at history:
House prices from 1980-1990 rose at an average annual rate of 13%. In the nineties unemployment steadily fell but house prices remained subdued on average growing at 3% per annum. The reasons are found in the behaviour of banks. In the eighties Barclays and NatWest were both determined to be the UK’s biggest banks, measured by total assets. Mortgages are nearly 60% of banks’ assets. So they slugged it out, and then Building Societies were allowed to become banks which meant they could start manufacturing money. Thus regardless of employment levels the wall of money was created.

In the early nineties Barclays and NatWest were close to insolvent due to reckless lending and the fall in interest rates reducing profit margins. Also Basle1 came into force which required them to be more prudent. I conclude that unemployment has little or no impact on prices but a recession does reduce the number of transactions. Assuming no national lockdown the UK economy will grow 10% next year despite job losses. Today’s money supply determines next year’s average house price. Money is virtually free and will remain so for the next two years. This means house prices next year will rise between 5 and 8%. For a change London will suffer but relatively depressed rural areas will boom. I accept that airport-dependent places such as Crawley and Luton will suffer.

Covid will do more to ‘level up’ between the regions than Government policy.

But you will say, this is all well and good, but it’s the deposit requirement which prevents youngsters from buying. Thanks to Covid many of the 25-34 year olds have been forced to save because of lockdowns. And many have had no commuting expense. And the bank of mum and dad has higher cash levels than normal. Why hold cash earning 0.1% when you can help a sibling get a house? If inflation doubles next year to 4%, the desire to buy property will increase. An inflating capital asset which is tax free. I rest my case.

Rising house prices increases consumer confidence via the wealth effect. Evidence suggests that households hold very little precautionary saving if their main asset is growing in value. Given the structural changes taking place, its likely half retail spend will be online by the end of 2021. The outlook for commercial property is a different ball game. Large sheds for online retail will still be in demand but city centre retail and office space will not. So we can expect both rent and capital values to fall on the latter. Some suggest by 20%.

Creative Destruction

An Austrian economist, E.F. Schumaker, was fascinated by innovation as a cause and effect in economic growth. He concluded that whereas inventions are random, innovations (which is an invention put to use) seem to cluster at particular points in time. We have known since 1922 that there are long waves in economic life which are around 50 years in duration. There are 30 years of above trend growth followed by 20 years of below trend. Its during below trend periods that clustering takes place and it is this which creates the next above trend wave of growth.

Since 2008 Western Economies have been below trend growth and Covid is accelerating technological change. There are many examples but the one I would like to mention is Quantum Computing. It is going to be the next big thing over the next 10 years. Google has already demonstrated a machine which within a few minutes made a calculation which would take thousands of years on current classical hardware. The ability to crunch masses of data at speed will transform everything in particular the application of AI and the Internet of Things.

BUT for success a large number of related and supporting activities have to be combined. This is why science parks next to Universities are so important and why silicon valleys exist. It is the combining of discrete activities which creates the wave. And destroys the old way of working. The resulting productivity gains simultaneously increase GDP per capita and structural unemployment.

The next 18 months:

Take a look at the chart. Normally the red line moves in line with the black line because when a bank lends it creates the money. When banks stop lending, as in 2011-2014, the central bank has to take over by creating new money which it uses to buy mostly Government debt. Covid has required more money than the commercial banks are willing to create so the Bank of England is creating it. We know so far Covid has cost £3k per person. None of this is funded from taxes, all of it has come from the Bank, in total just under £200Bn.

The crucial point is this is the equivalent of giving every citizen £3k to spend. Over the next 18 months I am convinced there will be another £1.5k per person spent by the Government and financed by the Bank. Remember debt = money. This is the largest economic stimulus we have seen since WW2.

Only when the new money is flowing freely through our economy will the Government claw some of it back through higher taxes. Next year Boris has to show the nation and the EU that the UK performs better outside the club than within it. Hence the stimulus will be maintained until higher growth is a reality.

There has been talk of negative interest rates, which is a system where you pay the bank to deposit money and they pay you to borrow. It is designed to stimulate bank lending and money creation. The chart above is clear: we do not need further monetary stimulus. So negative interest rates will not happen in the UK.

If inflation rises next year, will interest rates follow? No, because it is likely that the B of E will look at average inflation over a number of years before changing rates. The Fed has just adopted this approach in the USA. So money will be virtually free for the next 18 months.

The exchange rate illustrates how much political risk plays a role when the financial variables are similar. There will be a deal with the EU, so Sterling strengthens, then Boris says he will walk away and it weakens. Similarly with Trump’s utterances for the dollar.

I guess at a range of $1.30-1.38 and Euro 1.10-1.15 And as you can see I still expect strong growth next year. The IMF forecast is for global growth to be back at pre-Covid levels by the end of this year. Currently we are at 95% of pre-Covid output.

The performance of our economy over the next 18 months will depend on attitude. I am fortunate enough to be in touch with a range of SME owners in the UK. Their resilience, adaptability, and care for their employees is remarkable. And they are already trialling new business models with considerable success. As SMEs produce 60% of our national income their performance is critical. My optimism is the result of the attitude of these leaders: they do not whinge, moan, or give up.

They think, act, and create sustainable businesses. Some work in the hospitality sector and they are succeeding.  I do not believe in Boris’s bluster, but if the media would publish more good news stories I believe it would have a more positive effect on attitude in general. Finally, there will be a bare bones trade deal with the EU, neither side can afford not to, but the detail will take years to settle. And yes there will effectively be a border in the Irish Sea.

The Bottom Line: Why Shrewd Customers Use An Adviser | Independent Financial Adviser

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By Grant Ellis, Director Ellis Bates Group

Let’s face it – Financial Advisers have a bit of an image problem. In the public’s mind they probably rank alongside bankers, second-hand car dealers and estate agents in the trustworthiness stakes, and every investment fraud and mis-selling scandal that’s gleefully reported by the press does nothing to improve this. Then there’s the thorny issue of fees, and the anecdotal view that Adviser fees are unjustifiably high, and that they’re all simply out to line their own pockets at the customer’s expense.

So, is this image and reputation deserved? Should Financial Advisers be viewed with suspicion or is this all a myth? Let’s take a look at a few facts.

In 2017 the ILC-UK published its report The Value of Financial Advice, which quantified, for the first time, the real value of taking financial advice. The results strongly demonstrate the positive value of financial advice for consumers – both amongst those who are wealthy and those less well-off too.

The report concluded that those who were wealthy and took financial advice accumulated 17% more in liquid financial assets and 16% more in pension wealth than those who hadn’t consulted an Adviser. For those ‘just getting by’ the figures were even more dramatic – 39% more liquid assets and 21% more pension wealth for those who took advice; all more than enough to justify the fees charged by the Adviser.

Alongside demonstrating real value for their customers, evidence from this report also reveals that the experience of taking advice is highly satisfactory – 9 in 10 people were satisfied with the advice received with the vast majority deciding to go with their Adviser’s recommendation.

In December last year ILC-UK issued an updated analysis which not only reinforced their 2017 findings but in addition demonstrated that fostering an ongoing relationship with a Financial Adviser leads to even better financial outcomes. For example, those who reported receiving advice at both time points in ILC’s analysis had nearly 50% higher average pension wealth than those only advised at the start.

So, given this independent assessment, it begs the question why Advisers have such a poor image, and since advice has clear benefits for customers, why more people don’t seek it? The ILC-UK report sheds some light on this too.

The two most powerful driving forces of whether people sought advice were whether the individual trusts the Adviser providing the advice and that individual’s level of financial capability. Clearly therefore the more Advisers can demonstrate trustworthiness, the more likely they are to attract customers.

There are a number of ways you can assess an Adviser’s credentials – checking they are actually on the FCA register and how long they have been in business is a good starting point. The most effective check however is to ask their customers. Get the prospective Adviser to give you testimonials from satisfied customers along with the number and scoring of verified reviews they’ve had from clients.  At Ellis Bates Financial Advisers we encourage all our customers to leave a review of the service they have received with an independent review company. Check out the following link for more information https://www.ellisbates.com/about/reviews/

The International Longevity Centre UK (ILC) is the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society. The ILC was established in 1997, as one of the founder members of the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance, an international network on longevity.

Ellis Bates Financial Advisers are independent financial advisers with offices across the United Kingdom.  They specialise in active investment management of over £1 billion of assets on behalf of clients, who have given them a 4.9/5.00 score with Trustist. https://www.ellisbates.com/about/reviews/

For more information please visit their website www.ellisbates.com

Market Commentary – July 2020

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Navigating Change (Again)

“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” – Elizabeth Edwards

2020 has been interesting. To the end of June, year to date our Growth, SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) and Passive portfolios are effectively flat and ahead of benchmarks (and significantly also over 1 / 3 / 5 year timescales) although the journey has clearly been anything but steady. The Income portfolios have been more adversely affected as companies have reduced / cancelled dividends, while withdrawing forward guidance on earnings and income forecasts – effectively leaving a void where previously there was generally boring certainty and stability. Interest rates are verging on negative, oil futures in the US briefly went negative, the Federal Reserve is buying junk bonds, and in the UK, the government is offering £10 discounts on your meals out (Mon-Wed throughout August at all participating restaurants). I do not recall any of this being covered in my Economics A-Level back in the early 1990s. Some updated textbooks (digital of course) and theories will be needed for the current crop of home-schooled students.

Change is always fascinating and that is exactly what we have got. What the digital age ensures is that change is at a much-accelerated pace, and adoption of new technologies is often far quicker than anticipated, while necessity is still the mother of invention. This is demonstrated in the data from the Office of National Statistics (below) showing the sharp rise in “Non-Store retailing” (i.e. online) as the Covid-19 economic shutdown forced shoppers to opt for delivered goods and abandon reliance on traditional physical stores.

Figure 1: A sharp uplift to already increasing sales for non-store retailing during the coronovirus pandemic, while non-food stores and fuel show growth in May 2020 from the lowest levels on record in April

This change in purchasing behaviour is likely to be a continuing trend although the non-food and fuel sales will probably rise to a more normalised level while still falling ever further behind online activity. The adoption of all things digital and the move to a cashless society is likely to accelerate further which will present clear challenges and opportunities depending on the relevant business sector. This helps explain the drastic variation of fortunes in the outlook and share prices of various businesses over recent months, with exuberance and despair seemingly the two overriding moods of the markets.

The punishment for being in unfavoured sectors of the market has been brutal, and the UK stock indices have suffered more than most. In our own portfolios the bottom performing fund this year has been a UK focused income fund concentrating on smaller companies, while the top a global technology holding – with a 70% disparity of returns between the two over the first 6 months of 2020.  The economic data, as expected, has been appalling with the UK registering its biggest ever monthly drop in GDP in April (-20.4%) and the rise in unemployment levels globally seem set to escalate. The unprecedented steps taken by the Chancellor in the UK to support jobs highlights the concerns the government has about the inevitable impending increase in unemployment, particularly when the furlough support ceases and if further lockdown periods are deemed necessary.

However, there is some optimism that the recession may have already hit its worst, and while the return to previous levels of economic activity and employment may take considerable time, signs are that we are on an upward trajectory. Of the largest 12 global economies, 6 now have readings in excess of 50 on the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index – readings over 50 signal expansion. This supports some views that this will be a savage, but brief recession and while economic activity may recover quickly, the labour market globally may be more severely affected.

The continued role of central bankers and their “blank cheque” mentality is providing much needed liquidity in the markets and, potentially, supporting sentiment as the fastest correction in the S&P 500 in history was followed by its biggest ever 50 day rally. Jerome Powell, Chair of the US Federal Reserve, gave this unequivocal statement at his Congressional Testimony in June:

“The Federal Reserve is strongly committed to using our tools to do whatever we can for as long as it takes to provide some relief and stability to ensure that the recovery will be as strong as possible and to limit lasting damage to the economy. The Fed will continue to use these powers forcefully, proactively, and aggressively until we’re confident that the nation is solidly on the road to recovery.”

The mantra of “don’t fight the Fed” may be in play for now, but relying entirely on emergency measures from central banks and governments would be careless when perennial issues such as Brexit, the China vs US trade dispute and the small matter of a US election in November will add further uncertainty to the current situation. There is also the question of who is going to foot the bill for furlough benefits, SDLT holidays, and the endless monetary expansion that will create unprecedented levels of debt? Longer term there are implications, with the most material impact likely to revolve around whether prolonged low growth and deflation or inflation will be more prevalent. There are legitimate arguments for either outcome, but clearly the ramifications will be significant.

We are in a period of substantial change, and the mistake is to think that change is not normal – a simple glance through history shows it is ever present. While on an individual basis we grow accustomed to our own ways and preferences, humanity invariably collectively advances through forces of supply, demand and genetic desires that are impossible to rationalise into a simple formula. The combination of data-driven statistical theory aligned with the gloriously idiosyncratic behaviour of individuals is what makes the investment markets so fascinating and unpredictable.

One of the joys of investing is that occasionally when the wind blows a different way you can adjust your position if needed. The next 12 months will be intriguing as we adapt to different economic realities – but we will adapt and much of the change is merely accelerating the trends that were already in place. Given the increased uncertainties and extremes in valuations of various assets we believe adopting a well-diversified approach and incorporating the skills of some excellent fund managers will continue to protect and enhance our client’s financial wellbeing.

This is something we have done since we were established in 1980, and it is reasonable to assume our 40th year has given us, and our clients, a new challenge or two. We have addressed these in the same manner as all the others in the previous four decades by acting in the best interests of our clients, thinking of the long term, and dealing with reality. We are in a privileged position to have been trusted with safeguarding the futures of our clients and multiple generations of their families for 40 years – we look forward to many more in an ever-evolving world.

Please note any past performance mentioned is not a guide to future performance and may not be repeated. Any sectors, securities, regions and countries shown are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be considered advice, nor a recommendation to buy or sell.

Alan Cram – Investment Director
Ellis Bates Financial Advisers

The Ugly Truth About Investment Loyalty | Independent Financial Adviser

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By Grant Ellis, Director Ellis Bates Group

I’ve been a Manchester City fan since 1970.  I chose to support them as all my friends were either Leeds United or Manchester United fans, and Manchester City were an attractive footballing alternative who were having a bit of success at the time, winning the league and the FA Cup in consecutive years.  However, just as I formed my allegiance to them their success dried up and apart from a couple of cup runs they remained relatively unsuccessful until 2011.  You know what it’s like though – once you’ve made your choice of team it’s incumbent upon you to stick with them through thick and thin.  After all that’s what supporting a football team is all about; you make your choice, and for better or worse you remain loyal to them whatever happens.

Just imagine though if I’d been prepared to switch my support between different teams over the years based on their performance, rather than simply sticking with Manchester City?  Had I for example, switched to a blend of Liverpool and Leeds Utd in the 70’s, Liverpool and Everton or Arsenal in the 80’s and Manchester Utd and Arsenal in the 90’s and noughties before reverting to Manchester City, I would have enjoyed way more success as a result.  Between them they were either first or second in the league every year throughout that period, winning numerous cups long the way too.

And it would have been quite possible to chose those clubs based on their results, coupled with a bit of football nouse.  Indeed, the pundits have only failed to predict all the top teams in a couple of the last 40 plus years, most recently when Leicester surprised everyone by winning the league in 2016.  In virtually all other seasons the top three or four teams have been easily identifiable by those with the experience and expertise to pick them out.

Now, being a football supporter is an entirely emotive decision, which is why we tend to stay loyal to one particular club.  So why do many of us behave like football fans when it comes to choosing Fund Managers to look after our investments?  That shouldn’t be an emotive decision at all, yet far too often we hold off moving our money when results are not going the way they should and there are better alternatives available.

Now, I do understand that everyone can go through a bit of a lean period, and sometimes it is better to give your incumbent the benefit of the doubt for a time.  Clearly that is not always the case, as the recent fall from grace of the one time darling of the investment world, Neil Woodford, is a timely reminder.

So when it comes to your money surely the key is to make evidence backed, emotion free informed decisions about switching, and on a regular basis?  Of course, not all of us have the time or the expertise to do this which is why many of us chose an Adviser to do it for us.

Choosing an Adviser wisely is clearly important, as they will of course charge for this service, but it is not all about the cost; it’s about value for money.  Look for an Adviser with a dedicated investment department, with full time, daily focus on the investment performance of their panel funds.  Get them to give you testimonials from satisfied customers along with the number and scoring of verified reviews they’ve had from clients, and ask them about their recent investment performance. They should also be prepared to back up their claims about investment success with hard facts which clearly demonstrate they are indeed followers of the latest winners and not blindly loyal, or just plain lazy.

And choosing winners works whether you’re a fan of active or passive funds, so this sort of support can work whatever your investment philosophy.  Check out the following link for more information https://www.ellisbates.com/individuals/investments/

Of course, being a Manchester City fan is now much more enjoyable than it was 30 years ago, but one thing I have learnt in the past 50 years is that I can’t and won’t take their recent success for granted and I know it won’t last for ever.  I am enjoying it whilst it does though!

Ellis Bates Financial Advisers are Independent Financial Advisers with offices across the United Kingdom.  They specialise in active investment management of over £1 billion of assets on behalf of clients, who have given them a 4.9/5.00 score with Trustist.  https://www.ellisbates.com/about/reviews/

For more information please visit their website www.ellisbates.com

The Big ‘Lies’ About Our Economic Prospects

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By Grant Ellis, Director Ellis Bates Group

In the spring of 2007 I hosted a conference for a group of insurance professionals. One of the most popular speakers was my old friend the economist Roger Martin-Fagg. He was his usual entertaining self, but took everyone by surprise by suggesting that the world economy was on the brink of a meltdown the like of which we had never seen before, and it was going to happen soon – probably within 12 months. Yes, he predicted the financial crash of 2008 a year before it actually happened.

Now in Spring 2007 the world economy was doing very nicely thank you. Following three consecutive years of good growth, averaging 3.8% it was expected to fall only slightly in 2007 to 3.6%. Meanwhile the UK was doing pretty well too. House prices had risen from an average of £150,633 in January 2005 to £184,330 in May 2007 – a rise of 22.4%, whilst wages grew by an average of over 5% per annum between 2004 and 2007. Inflation on the other hand was under control and only rose by an average of 3.25% in the same period. Furthermore, between 2003 and 2007 the FTSE All Share Index grew by 49%, so overall everyone was feeling pretty optimistic about the prospects for the future. No one, other than Roger was saying anything about a recession, never mind a full blown crash!

So, when Roger issued his dire warning, the overwhelming response was to laugh it off – in the same way that we would laugh at a soothsayer predicting the end of the world. Eccentric yes, and likely to happen eventually, just not anytime soon.

You can imagine that those of us who were there in 2007 are far less likely to write off Roger’s opinions now than we would have done previously.

I was therefore pleasantly surprised, and heartened to receive his latest Economic update, penned on 16 June. Once again he is at odds with the mainstream view, and indeed is critical of others talking world economic prospects down. He opens his piece by saying that the press is being irresponsible in the way it is reporting our economic outlook. His opening paragraph reads:

“Last weekend the Daily Telegraph had a banner headline: ‘Britain’s biggest ever collapse in GDP wipes out 18 years of growth’. This statement is completely wrong. I am concerned that individuals who are trying to make the right judgement call are being fed this nonsense. To be clear: 18 years ago our GDP was £1 trillion. It is now £2.2 trillion. The reduction in spending in April was 20% on the previous April. The monthly flow of spending averages £200bn. 20% of that is £40bn. The media, as we know, impact emotion and decision taking. That Telegraph article is therefore both economically illiterate and irresponsible.”

Wow! Hard hitting stuff. And the perpetuation of such comments is still evident a week later. In the Sunday Times on 21 June Sajid Javid is quoted as saying:

“We’ve seen a 25% fall in GDP in two months. To put that in some perspective, that is 18 years of growth wiped out in two months.”

And that’s from our erstwhile Chancellor of the Exchequer, who should be anything but economically illiterate!

In his update Roger goes on to suggest that, despite what the world and his wife are saying, we are not going to have a recession. Indeed, whilst he acknowledges that quarter 2 of 2020 will be significantly negative, he expects quarter 3 to be significantly positive, and predicts that the UK economy could grow by 8.5% in 2021, with the World economy back to 2.5% growth next year too.

His argument is that the fundamentals for a recession don’t exist in the same way as they did for previous recessions; rising prices and interest rates squeezing individuals and companies alike in 1979 and 1989, and banks stopping lending in 2008.  The common factor is a shortage of money available, and that’s not the case this time around. Households have seen a reduction in income, but a larger fall in what they’ve spent, and the UK Government is spending an extra £40bn a month pumping new money into the system, so no shortage here. Roger predicts a mini boom to take off in the next few months as a result of this excess cash in the system, with the only thing that could dampen it being the media reporting company closures, an increase in the R well above 1, and stories of mass redundancies.

I don’t propose to reproduce all Roger’s arguments here – you can read the whole article at https://www.ellisbates.com/news/june-2020-economic-update/ to get the complete picture, but I would say his reasoning and logic are very persuasive. And I for one would not bet against him. I also fully endorse his condemnation of sensationalist reporting in the media. They have to take more responsibility for the message they send out as, rightly or wrongly, people do listen to them. A more evenhanded and less melodramatic approach to reporting would benefit us all. After all, we all know the power of ‘fake news’ by now, don’t we?

Ellis Bates Financial Advisers are Independent Financial Advisers with offices across the United Kingdom. They manage over £1 billion of assets on behalf of clients, who have given them a 4.9/5.00 score with Trustist. https://www.ellisbates.com/about/reviews/

For more information please visit their website www.ellisbates.com

World Economic Situation and Prospects 2007 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.07.II.C.2), released in January 2007 accessed on 21 June 2020

Office of National Statistics UK House Price Index, accessed on 21 June 2020
Office of National Statistics Wages and Salaries average growth rate percentage, accessed on 21 June 2020
Office of National Statistics RPI All Items: Percentage change over 12 months, accessed on 21 June 2020
Swanlowpark.co.uk FTSE 100 and FTSE All-Share since 1985, accessed, on 21 June 2020

June 2020 Economic Update

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All views expressed in this article are those of the author Roger Martin-Fagg and do not necessarily represent the views of Ellis Bates Financial Advisers.

Last weekend the Daily Telegraph had a banner headline: ‘Britain’s biggest ever collapse in GDP wipes out 18 years of growth’. This statement is completely wrong. I am concerned that individuals
who are trying to make the right judgement call on the future of their business are being fed this nonsense. To be clear: 18 years ago our GDP was £1 trillion. It is now £2.2 trillion. The reduction
in spending in April was 20% on the previous April. The monthly flow of spending averages £200bn. 20% of that is £40bn. The media, as we know, impact emotion and decision taking. That
Telegraph article is therefore both economically illiterate and irresponsible.

Over the past few months the BBC has occupied its 10 o’clock news slot with images of people who have died, are seriously ill, or extremely upset because they have lost loved ones to Covid19. There is little or no coverage of how SMEs are adapting their business model and successfully serving customers.

That lack of coverage could persuade people that things are going badly wrong in the British economy and that recovery will be a long and difficult process. That is not my view. And it is not the case.

In this update I want to convince you that we will see a rapid recovery in the third quarter of this year and the global system itself will be back at 2.5% growth by this time next year.

If we consider previous recessions they exhibited similar characteristics. In 1979 the price of oil doubled, which caused inflation in the west to rise quickly – and interest rates soon followed. The
recession was caused by households and companies trying to balance their cash position. In 1989 the price of oil doubled and inflation rose to 10%; the response was an increase in interest
rates. Households cut their spending to balance their cash position and in the UK two banks, Barclays and NatWest, had overlent to the housing market which took them close to insolvency.
They called in loans and caused a short but dramatic shortage of credit. In 2008 the recession was caused by the western banking system which had over-leveraged its balance sheets. There
was a liquidity crisis as insolvent banks refused to lend to other insolvent banks and all of them stopped lending to businesses. In short, the last three recessions had similar causes and effects.

At the time of writing there is no recession. The definition of recession is two successive quarters of negative growth, which I do not think will happen.

So far it is clear that Q2 will be significantly negative. However, I expect Q3 to be significantly positive.

We all know that Q2 spending collapse was because people were unable to spend their income.

It is the 16th June as I write this. Shops opened yesterday. Footfall outside London was up 50%, in London up 30%. I would expect a steady increase over the next few weeks. Until cafes and or
public lavatories are opened we will not see many over 60 out shopping (except in garden centres because they have lavatories!).

My expectation is based on a simple piece of behavioural economics.

I believe that the majority of consumers and the majority of business owners like to see a particular number in their current account at the end of each month. this number could be positive or negative. Each of us likes to be in monetary equilibrium. There are two types of disequilibrium. The first type is insufficient money – we look at our current account balance and we see that it is
less than we are comfortable with. To restore the balance we immediately cut non-essential spending. It is this behaviour which caused the 1979 recession and the 1989 recession. In both
instances the increase in interest rates plus the increase in energy costs caused many to have insufficient money balances.

The second type of disequilibrium is excess money – we look at our current account balance and there is more there then we are comfortable with, so we spend it. However it doesn’t disappear
from the economy as a whole. It becomes an increase in sales and hence incomes for other players who in turn find they have excess money and they spend it. In this way excess money drives
an economic boom which may or may not result in rising inflation.

The big question is, where are consumers and businesses placed today? It is my judgement that the majority of consumers have excess money which they will get rid of as soon as they are able.
Consumers have excess money because even though their income has fallen in recent weeks their expenditure has fallen by more. Turning to businesses, the picture is less clear. Businesses
which have been able to borrow under the terms of the government sponsored schemes are likely to be cash neutral. Other larger businesses are probably enjoying excess money balances. Finance
directors are trained to ensure the business is both liquid and solvent. The data I will share with you suggests many businesses have excess liquidity which will be spent as soon as confidence
returns to the boardroom. Sales well ahead of forecast is a significant driver of confidence. Taken together I expect consumer spending to be stronger than forecast and, with a time lag, I
would expect business to splash the cash. In short I, unlike the majority, expect an inflationary boom to take off in the next few months. The only things which will dampen this could be the media
reporting company closures, an increase in the R well above 1 (even if it a small pocket), and stories of mass redundancies.

The latest employment data shows how well the employment support packages are working. Headline rate is unchanged at 3.9%. I would remind you that in a modern economy which is undergoing significant technological change and thus requires people to change jobs and careers – the definition of full employment is 5%. The data for March-May shows that hours worked for full time workers fell from 36.5 to 33.9 per week. The media have emphasised the increase in benefit claimants at 600,000. However it is possible to be employed and claim benefits simultaneously. For example there are 500,000 self-employed musicians in the UK. I would expect the majority to be getting only intermittent work if at all. Many will be claiming benefits.

The employment support packages reduce and then end by October. Many commentators are suggesting that unemployment will surge beyond that date. It will if spending fails to recover from
now. I am assuming the Government will bring the 2m rule down to 1m and drop the two week quarantine rule for visitors by July 4. This will be just in time to save the hospitality sector. If Government delays beyond this date then I would expect a significant increase in redundancies beginning in August. There are 3.2 million employed in the hospitality sector and of course more dependent on it for custom such as food service, the drinks industry and musicians. The industry employs people under 30 many of whom receive the minimum wage. I now want to give you the reasons for my optimism (I realise this is uncharacteristic).

The rate of growth in money supply has more than doubled.

The Government is spending an extra £40Bn a month. All this is new money created by the Bank of England. In addition the banks are growing their loan books.

This chart needs some explaining. Assume business A buys and pays for something from business B. The amount in the grey block doesn’t change. Assume a household buys two new bikes –
the amount in the blue box goes down, the amount in the grey block goes up. So new money in the system changes hands and accounts when it is spent but it remains in the system unless it is
spent abroad.

This data shows that overall the system is flush with ‘cash’. It is not equally spread. One of the consequences of lockdown is the increase in inequality it causes. For example a well-run small
business may make some employees redundant to conserve cash. All we need is lockdown to end and the cash will begin to change hands, when it does GDP indicators will soar.

The data is replicated throughout the World. By the end of 2020 global personal and business accounts will have circa £14 trillion more than at the start of the year. There will be not be an L
shaped recovery. It will be a short V. When £14 trillion begins to be spent, that is seriously strong demand for goods and services. Just to be clear. The £14 trillion has been spent once by governments, we now need business and consumers to spend it. This is what economists call the multiplier or velocity of money.

Euro Area Money Supply

They do it bigger in the USA: look at the graph: money is growing 3x faster than normal.

The steady state growth in money supply for the USA is circa 5% per annum. It is now growing at nearly 18%. No wonder the stock market is defying gravity! Why is this happening you may ask?

New Monetary Theory

In essence NMT challenges mainstream economic thinking. This mainstream view is as follows: at any point in time there is a finite supply of money for investment by Government and business. If Government borrows more then it leaves less for business to borrow. So if Governments increase their borrowing it crowds out the private sector. And it has political consequences: mainstream
thinking supports Conservative/Republican mindsets. NMT is seen as the excuse for lefties to increase the size of the state which will crush the private sector.

Mainstream economics has never fully understood money, very few economists actually understand how money works in a modern society.

In 2008 when the Western banking system failed because it had created too much money lending to dodgy property companies and households who were unable to afford the interest bill. Governments bailed them out using new money created by the central bank. Then Governments introduced austerity measures to pay for it.

BUT austerity killed productivity growth due to underinvestment in training, infrastructure, health services, and R&D. And lower productivity meant slower growth in wages and taxable incomes.

NMT shows that if the government borrows newly created money from its own bank and spends it on productivity raising activities then the tax base expands (with a time lag), and the interest
payable on the new debt is easily financed. The outstanding debt remains as an increase in the national debt. Anyone with a mortgage knows that providing one can pay the interest and the value
of the asset rises then it works. NMT applies exactly the same thinking to the country as a whole.

It must be emphasised that Government should not use the new money to finance transfers such as pensions, welfare payments and social support. And given historical experience it is best that
the new money is allocated to private sector companies to deliver the products and services.

NMT has been quietly adopted in the UK, Germany, Japan and the USA. France has always applied it with its state sponsored Indicative Planning. Brits should note that the French produce the same output as we do but with 17% fewer hours of work. Italy would adopt it if the EU would let it.

I find the politics of NMT theory fascinating. Because of anchoring and confirmation bias people see NMT as socialism by the back door. And yet Rishi Sunak is clearly a convert, and Boris (who
doesn’t understand money) buys it if it keeps northern voters on side. It will allow a levelling up. Trump buys it if it means he remains President. The surprise is Germany. I have no doubt that when inflation takes off next year there will be siren voices claiming it is a mistake, unless of course the value of their property portfolio and SIPP grows faster than inflation, which it will!

Dear reader, I hope you are still awake!

We are in the final stages of the analysis, hang in there.

There are four composite sectors in an economy.

Households, Businesses, Government and the Overseas sector (measured by the balance of

There are massive flows between each sector. One sector’s surplus is another’s deficit. All four sectors summed must equal zero.

I have adapted the chart below from the Office of Budget Responsibility. The OBR forecast the budget deficit will rise to 15% of GDP (£330bn in today’s money) by the end of 2021. This deficit
will mostly be financed by new money from the Bank of England, so no crowding out of the private sector and no increase in interest rates. The rest of the World has a 4% surplus with us because we have a deficit on our current account balance of payments of 4%. We can assume this will not change much.

Households were forecast to be in balance but thanks to the March budget plus Covid support, increases in public sector pay, the 3.9% increase in the state pension, and the upcoming infrastructure spend households will enjoy a surplus of 6%. NB this is £132bn in today’s money.

Corporates will enjoy a surplus of 4%, or £88bn in today’s money. If the labour market tightens considerably then households will get more and corporates less.

The implication of this is straightforward. The economy will grow strongly as soon as lockdown is over and households return to their old consumption habits: enjoying meals out with friends, going to concerts, buying new cars and televisions, shopping online and down the high street, painting their house and buying new furniture, new lawnmowers, a patio, a garden office, an expensive holiday, skiing. Upgrading their PC, going to the pub, splashing out on significant birthday celebrations, etc. And for some a bigger house, or a second home, or a boat, or paying for the
grandchildren’s education.

It is up to you whether you agree with this analysis. If you do you will be getting your business fit for the imminent expansion and ignoring the doom laden scribblers. If you don’t you will be hanging on to cash, cutting capex, making people redundant, and agreeing with those who say the new normal will be much less consumption, an L shape economic profile, and a country going
nowhere fast.

In my next update I will forecast the usual numbers but as I write this our PM has some critical choices to make: 1m distancing, ending travel quarantine, building more permanent ICU capacity,
opening up all hospitality, ensuring there is trade deal by the 1st Jan t and most important of all telling the nation that Covid in its various forms is likely to be a regular occurrence. As a nation we
must learn to live with it instead of locking down society.

Roger Martin-Fagg
June 16 2020

About the author

Roger Martin-Fagg is an economist who combines insight into the financial and policy worlds with management strategy. He specialises in making economic activity, trends and indicators understandable and delivers both an economic outlook, and what organisations should do to prepare.

7 Great Reasons Why You should Plan For Death!

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By Grant Ellis, Director Ellis Bates Group

In 1789 Benjamin Franklin said there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. We all seem happy to talk about taxes, but less keen on discussing, or planning for our ultimate demise. It’s as if by talking about it we are somehow tempting fate. But it can bring tremendous peace of mind not only to the planner, but also to their loved ones to know that a well thought out programme is in place for their eventual departure. Here are 7 good reasons why you shouldn’t put off planning for it – old or young.

Dying without leaving a Will is not a good idea

If you haven’t made a Will, then when you die, everything you own will be shared out according to the law instead of in accordance with your wishes. This could mean your estate passes to someone you hadn’t intended – or that someone you want to pass things on to ends up with nothing. For example, if you’re not married and not in a civil partnership, your partner is not legally entitled to anything when you die. If you’re married, your husband or wife might inherit most or all of your estate and your children might not get anything (except in Scotland). This is true even if you’re separated. If you have children or grandchildren, how much they are legally entitled to, will depend on where you live in the UK. All of this can be avoided if you make a Will, setting out your wishes.

Oh, and if you needed any more persuading, if you do die without having left a Will, all your assets are likely to be frozen until the estate is sorted out, which can mean hardship for your loved ones in the meantime. And it’s much more expensive to use the courts to reconcile an estate, so there’ll be less left over for your family too. It really is a ‘no brainer.’

For more information visit https://www.ellisbates.com/individuals/inheritance/

Make provision for if you are no longer capable

A good number of us can expect to lose our mental capacity as we get older and this can be just as difficult for the family to deal with as death, if not more so. It’s therefore prudent to not only leave a Will but also Lasting Powers of Attorney for our finances and our health and welfare. These will give our family or trusted loved ones the capacity to make decisions on our behalf when we’re no longer able to, ensuring that bills get paid, and that any decisions about our health can be made by those who are closest to us.

Document your health preferences up front

You should also consider leaving a ‘Living Will’ which is a statement of your wishes intended to guide your family (when you are not able to make the decision yourself) about what treatment you might want in various scenarios. This will give them the confidence that they are acting in accordance with your actual wishes rather than trying to second guess you.

Don’t leave your young family in the lurch

All of this is especially important if you have dependants, but it’s not the only thing that needs to be addressed. Too many of us assume that if anything happens to us, the state will step in and look after our family. That may be the case up to a point, but it won’t be easy on those you leave behind. Much better to take out some low cost life assurance when you’re young, to pay out if anything happens to you. This will give your family a cushion to tide them over should your income be lost to them, or alternatively you have to pay for childcare if your partner is no longer around. It’s only really necessary whilst you have financial responsibilities to others, so can lapse once the mortgage is paid off and the kids have finished education. It is surprisingly inexpensive too.

For more information visit https://www.ellisbates.com/individuals/financial-protection/

Talk to each other about what you want to achieve with what you leave behind

We’ve all seen the TV dramas, where the family solicitor reads out the deceased’s Will, and everyone is shocked by what it contains. Unless you’ve a vindictive streak, that is not really how it should be. It’s much better to talk to your loved ones openly and candidly about your assets, and what you’d like to do with them when you pass on. Often there are 3 generations to consider, and an open and frank discussion, perhaps aided and abetted by your financial adviser will help to make sure everyone understands what your plans are. It may be for example that you initially expect to leave your assets to your children, but they may prefer it if you left them to their children instead. Discussing such things up front helps set everyone’s expectations, and avoids any conflict and disappointment later on.

Plan early to leave more to your family and less to the taxman

Inheritance tax is a tax on the estate, and is potentially payable at a rate of 40% once the estate has a value of over £325,000. So if you are leaving behind a substantial estate, you could be leaving your loved ones with a large tax bill too. However, with some simple planning you can significantly reduce the amount of tax payable. It’s a complicated area so you should seek some specialist advice from a financial adviser, preferably one who is affiliated to the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners.

Make a plan for your funeral

The last thing your family will want to do in the days following your demise is argue about what they think you may have wanted for your funeral, so leave them some instructions. Things like burial or cremation, whether you want a religious service or not, what songs or music you’d like to have played, and whether or not you want it to be a celebration of your life or a more sombre affair. All these decisions can be taken up front and take away any pressure on the family at what will be a difficult time.

Hopefully I’ve persuaded you that there are at least seven really good reasons why you should plan for your death now rather than put it off into the future. So, what are you waiting for?

Ellis Bates Financial Advisers are independent financial advisers with offices across the United Kingdom. They specialise in Estate Planning and manage over £1 billion of assets on behalf of clients, who have given them a 4.9/5.00 score with Trustist https://www.ellisbates.com/about/reviews/

For more information please visit their website www.ellisbates.com

Boost Your COVID-19 Retirement Planning with these Tips | Independent Financial Adviser

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By Grant Ellis, Director Ellis Bates Group

Bear in mind that retirement savings are for the long run. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a widespread impact across all elements of financial life, including retirement plans. The current global stock exchange turbulence, as a result of COVID-19, will undoubtedly be concerning for people whose retirement savings are spent partly or entirely during these volatile marketplace conditions. However, making decisions based on what is happening in the short term may be a risky thing to do. It may be tempting, for instance, to consider transferring all your investments into cash or other lower-risk investments – but in doing so, you not only lock in the loss as a result of recent falls, but you may also miss out as the value goes back up, so you’d lose out in the long term also.

Here are our tips on how to navigate these difficult times.

Allow time for markets to recover

It is really important to remember that retirement savings are for the long term. If you are young and paying towards a workplace pension, then there’s time for your pension pot to achieve growth over the long run and regain the losses caused by the volatility now being experienced in the stock markets. You shouldn’t be overly concerned, as you have many working years to come, and this will provide time for markets to recover before you’re ready to take your retirement income.

If you are older and closer to retirement, you may have seen your funds ‘lifestyled’. This means that your pension will have been transferred into generally less risky funds and invested in ‘safer’ areas like cash, gilts or bonds, which are lower risk and in the main provide a fixed rate of return. The older you get, the more pension schemes tend to invest in these assets to limit investment risk. But, not all pension schemes provide automatic lifestyling.

The reality of purchasing an annuity now

An annuity is a retirement income product that you purchase with some or all your pension pot. It pays a regular retirement income for life or for a set interval.  If you are intending to retire soon, and were preparing to buy an annuity, in March, the Bank of England cut the base rate twice in just over a week as a further emergency response to the Coronavirus pandemic, reducing it from 0.25% to 0.1%. This has meant annuity rates have also fallen.

If you’re still thinking of securing an income by buying an annuity, the current volatility indicates the importance of gradually reducing the risk in your portfolio as you approach your anticipated annuity purchase date. Doing so provides greater certainty over the lump sum you will have available to buy your annuity, which in turn will give you clarity over exactly how much secured income you can expect to make from the fund.


Drawdown is a way of taking money from your pension to live on during retirement. You need to be aged 55 or over and have a defined contribution pension to get your money this way. You keep your retirement savings invested when you retire and take money from (or ‘drawdown’) out of your pension pot. If the last few months have taught us anything, it is the stock markets can be quite volatile, so because your money remains invested — and it is usually in the stock market – should you select drawdown you will need to be comfortable that the markets and the value of your pension could fall as well as rise. The upside is that investment growth can provide higher returns and see your pension pot continue to increase in value even though you are taking an income from it.

If we continue to see a protracted period of negative investment returns, and you are already using drawdown or intend to move into drawdown shortly, you may also wish to avoid taking out more than you will need to while stock market values remain depressed. The more you are able to leave in, the more you’ll profit over time once there’s a recovery.

Keep making contributions

If you’re still in the process of saving for your retirement now might be a great time to think about increasing your pension contributions. Despite the fact that there is short term volatility in markets, increases in contributions over the long term can make a major difference to your eventual retirement fund’s value, especially if it coincides with a recovery in the market.

Stagger your retirement

A new study [1] has shown how many pensioners are choosing to stagger their retirement, moving part-time prior to giving up work entirely to make sure their pensions will last for as long as possible after they fully retire. With people living longer, and with the extra prospect of long term care costs in later life, retirees increasingly know the advantages of having a bigger pension pot.

Of those who have not touched their pension pot, half (51 percent ) say it’s because they’re still in work, while over a quarter (25 percent ) of those in their 60s say it’s because they need their pensions to hold out as long as possible.

Naturally, retirees who have not yet touched their pension pot must have alternative sources of revenue. When asked about their income, almost half (47 percent) said they take an income from savings, others rely on their partner or spouse’s income (35 percent) or the State Pension (22 percent), while 12% rely on income from property.

Professional financial advice counts

If you are about to retire, the amount of exposure you have will reflect both your attitude to investment risk and the time you have until retirement. Most of all, before making any significant decisions concerning your pension, take professional financial advice.

And there’s no need to fear – at this stage, we don’t know what the long-term consequences of Coronavirus will be. An adviser can help you focus on what’s important, weigh all your options, and take a balanced assessment of your risks.

Ellis Bates Financial Advisers are independent financial advisers with offices across the United Kingdom.  They manage over £1 billion of assets on behalf of clients, who have given them a 4.9/5.00 score with Trustist.  https://www.ellisbates.com/about/reviews/

For more information please visit their website www.ellisbates.com


Source information: [1] LV= poll of over 1,000 adults aged over 50 with defined contributions — 25 February 2020

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the amount of pensions benefits available. Pensions aren’t normally available until age 55. Your retirement income could also be affected by interest rates at the time you take your gains. The tax consequences of pension withdrawals will be dependent on your personal circumstances, tax legislation and regulations, which are subject to change. The value of Investments and income from them can go down. You might not get back the amount invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Taking withdrawals may erode the capital value of the fund, especially if investment returns are poor and a high level of income is being taken. This could result in a lower income if and when an annuity is purchased.

Setting Financial Goals

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How to create financial goals you can actually achieve.

Taking control of our financial life requires planning, and that starts with setting financial goals. Setting short-term, mid-term and long-term financial goals is an important step towards becoming financially secure and independent.

We all have different financial goals and aspirations in life. Yet often, these goals can seem out of reach. In today’s complex financial environment, achieving our financial goals may not be that straightforward. This is where financial planning is essential to help secure your financial future.

A financial plan seeks to identify your financial goals, prioritise them, and then outline the exact steps that you need to take to achieve your goals. Figuring out your objectives and matching them with timelines are the keys to setting financial goals. Your financial goals are specific and unique to a number of factors related to you, like your age, your interests, current financial situation and your aspirations. Based on these, you need to develop your goals and establish a plan to achieve them.

If your New Year’s resolutions include giving your financial plans an overhaul, here are our financial planning tips to help you create a robust financial plan for 2020 and beyond.

Be specific about your objectives

Any goal (let alone financial) without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true when setting financial goals.

It is often said that saving and investing is nothing more than deferred consumption. Therefore, you need to be crystal clear about why you are doing what you’re doing. This could be planning for your children’s education, your retirement, that dream holiday, or a property purchase.

Once the objective is clear, it’s important to put a monetary value to that goal and the time frame you want to achieve it by. The important point is to list all of your goal objectives, however small they may be, that you foresee in the future and put a value to them.

Keep them realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person, but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, being overly unrealistic can definitely impact on your chances of achieving them.

It’s important to keep your goals realistic as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout your journey until you get to your destination.

Short, medium and long-term

Now you need to plan for where you want to get to, which will likely involve looking at how much you need to save and invest to achieve your goals. The approach towards achieving every financial goal will not be the same, which is why you need to divide your goals into short, medium and long-term time horizons.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal which is due within a five-year period should be considered short-term. Medium-term goals are typically based on a five-year to ten-year time horizon, and over ten years, these goals are classed as long-term.

This division of goals into short, medium and long-term will help in choosing the right savings and investments approach to help you achieve them, and it will also make them crystal clear. This will involve looking at what large purchases you expect to make such as purchasing property or renovating your home, as well as considering the later stages of your life and when you’ll eventually retire.

Always account for inflation

It’s often said that inflation is taxation without legislation. Therefore, you need to account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial goal that is far away in the future. It’s important to know the inflation rate when you’re thinking about saving and investing, since it will make a big difference to whether or not you make a profit in real terms (after inflation).

In both 2008 and 2011, inflation climbed to over 5% – not good news for savers – so always account for inflation. You could use the ‘Rule of 72’ to determine, at a given inflation rate, how long it will take for your money to buy half of what it can by today. The rule of 72 is a method used in finance to quickly estimate the doubling or halving time through compound interest or inflation respectively. Simply divide 72 by the number of years to get the approximate interest rate you’d need to earn for your money to double during that time.

Risk protection plays a vital role

Its best to discuss your goals with those you’re closest to and make plans together so that you are well aligned. An evaluation of your assets, liabilities, incomings and outgoings will provide you with a starting point. You’ll be able to see clearly how you’re doing and may find areas you can improve on.

Risk protection plays a vital role in any financial plan as it helps protect you and your family from unexpected events. Make sure you have put in place a Will to protect your family, and think about how your family would manage without your income should you fall ill or die prematurely.

Check you’re using all of your tax allowances

With tax rules subject to constant change, it’s essential that you regularly review your own and your family’s tax affairs and plan accordingly. Tax planning affects all facets of your financial affairs. You may be worried about the impact that rises in property values are having on gifts or Inheritance Tax, how best to dispose of shares in a business, or the most efficient way to pass on your estate.

Utilising your tax allowances and reliefs is an effective way of reducing your tax liability and making considerable savings over a lifetime. When it comes to taxes, there’s one certainty – you’ll pay more tax than you need to unless you plan. The UK tax system is complex, and its legislation often changes. So it’s more important than ever to be tax-efficient, particularly if you are in the top tax bracket – making sure you don’t pay any more tax than necessary.

Creating your comprehensive financial plan

Creating and implementing a comprehensive financial plan will help you develop a clear picture of your current financial situation by reviewing your income, assets and liabilities. Other elements to consider will typically include putting in place a Will to protect your family, thinking about how your family will manage without your income should you fall ill or die prematurely, or creating a more efficient tax strategy.

Identifying your retirement freedom options

Retirement is a time that many look forward to, where your hard-earned money should support you as you transition to the next stage of life. The number of options available at retirement has increased with changes to legislation, which has brought about pension freedoms over the years. The decisions you make regarding how you take your benefits may include tax-free cash, buying an annuity, drawing an income from your savings rather than pension fund, or a combination.

Beginning your retirement planning early gives you the best chance of making sure you have adequate funds to support your lifestyle. You may have several pension pots with different employers, as well as your own savings to withdraw from.

Monitoring and reviewing your financial plan

There is little point in setting goals and never returning to them. You should expect to make iterations as life changes. Set a formal yearly review at the very least to check you are on track to meeting your goals.

We will help you to monitor your plan, making adjustments as your goals, time frames or circumstances change. Discussing your goals with us will be highly beneficial as we can provide an objective third-party view, as well as the expertise to help advise you with financial planning issues.

Finally, make sure your financial goals are SMART

This is a great way to set a variety of goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Related.

Advice every step of the way

Setting financial goals marks the beginning of the financial planning process to help you achieve the objectives at various life stages. Goal-setting gives meaning and direction to the various financial decisions you will take during your lifetime. The start of a new year is the perfect time to review your financial strength, assess your budget and make plans for the future. To arrange a meeting, or for further information, please contact us.

Inheritance Tax

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How do you leave a legacy which serves your family’s best interests?

Will you be one of the thousands of households in Britain that will have to pay Inheritance Tax? What’s the best way to avoid it? If you’re administering an estate because someone has died, how do you obtain probate? Is it ever possible to retrospectively minimise an estate’s tax liabilities?

Inheritance Tax receipts reached a record high of £5.2 billion in the 2017/18 tax year according to figures published by HM Revenue & Customs[1], despite the introduction of a new residence nil-rate band (RNRB).

Families are becoming increasingly complex entities, often shaped by divorces, remarriages and children from previous relationships. This can make estate and trust planning a challenge to navigate if an individual has strong feelings about those they would like to inherit their assets and those they wouldn’t.

If applicable to your situation, effective estate and trust planning could save your family a potential Inheritance Tax bill amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Inheritance Tax planning has become more important
than ever following the Government’s decision to freeze the £325,000 lifetime exemption, with inflation eroding its value every year and subjecting more families to Inheritance Tax.

Reducing the amount of money beneficiaries have to pay

Inheritance Tax is usually payable on death. When a person dies, their assets form their estate. Any part of an estate that is left to a spouse or registered civil partner will be exempt from Inheritance Tax. The exception is if a spouse or registered civil partner is domiciled outside the UK. The maximum a person can give them before Inheritance Tax may need to be paid is £325,000. Unmarried partners, no matter how long-standing, have no automatic rights under the Inheritance Tax rules.

However, there are steps people can take to reduce the amount of money their beneficiaries have to pay if Inheritance Tax affects them. Where a person’s estate is left to someone other than a spouse or registered civil partner (i.e. to a non-exempt beneficiary), Inheritance Tax will be payable on the amount that exceeds the £325,000 nil-rate threshold. The threshold is currently frozen at £325,000 until the tax year 2020/21.

IHT is payable at 40% on the amount exceeding the threshold

Every individual is entitled to a nil-rate band (NRB) – that is, every individual is entitled to leave an amount of their estate up to the value of the nil-rate threshold to a non-exempt beneficiary without incurring Inheritance Tax. If a widow or widower of the deceased spouse has not used their entire NRB, the NRB applicable at the time of death can be increased by the percentage of the NRB unused on the death of the deceased spouse, provided the executors make the necessary elections within two years of your death.

To calculate the total amount of Inheritance Tax payable on a person’s death, gifts made during their lifetime that are not exempt transfers must also be taken into account. Where the total amount of non-exempt gifts made
within seven years of death – plus the value of the element of the estate left to non-exempt beneficiaries – exceeds the nil-rate threshold, Inheritance Tax is payable at 40% on the amount exceeding the threshold.

Certain gifts made could qualify for taper relief

This percentage reduces to 36% if the estate qualifies for a reduced rate as a result of a charity bequest. In some circumstances, Inheritance Tax can also become payable on the lifetime gifts themselves – although gifts made between three and seven years before death could qualify for taper relief, which reduces the amount of Inheritance Tax payable.

From 6 April 2017, an Inheritance Tax RNRB was introduced in addition to the standard NRB. It’s worth up to £150,000 for the 2019/20 tax year and increases to £175,000 for 2020/21. In order to qualify, you must own a property or a share in a property, which you have lived in at some stage and which you leave to your direct descendants (including children, grandchildren or stepchildren). For estates over £2 million, the RNRB is reduced at the rate of £1 for every £2 over £2 million. In addition, it only applies on death and not on gifts or any other lifetime transfers.

Property, land or certain types of shares where IHT is due

It might also apply if the person sold their home or downsized from 8 July 2015 onwards. If spouses or registered civil partners don’t use the RNRB on first death – even if this was before 6 April 2017 – there are transferability
options on the second death. Executors or legal personal representatives typically have six months from the end of the month of death to pay any Inheritance Tax due. The estate can’t pay out to the beneficiaries until this is done. The exception is any property, land or certain types of shares where the Inheritance Tax can be paid in instalments. Beneficiaries then have up to ten years to pay the tax owing, plus interest.

Source data: [1] https://assets.publishing.service.gov. uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/ attachment_data/file/730110/Table_12_1.pdf

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