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How to retain your lifestyle in retirement

Archive for October, 2019

How to retain your lifestyle in retirement

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

Do you feel like you just go to work day in, day out, with the weeks quickly turning to months and the months to years?    

If that’s the case, you may be going through life with a vague notion that your pension contributions will be enough to give you a comfortable retirement without having done any precise calculations of late.      

Unfortunately, this means you could be on track for a significant shortfall. 

The pension and investment provider, Aegon, warns that members of Defined Contribution (DC) schemes will find that their retirement income will fall short of their expectations if they simply rely on the minimum automatic enrolment contributions and the state pension (currently £8,767). 

According to the insurer’s findings, most DC savers will need to increase their contributions to ensure they enjoy a similar lifestyle in retirement to their current one. It’s, therefore, worth taking stock as early as possible to find out how much more money you need to save.     

The figures Aegon used came from the government’s 2017 auto-enrolment review and highlighted broad target replacement rates (the percentage of an employee’s pre-retirement monthly income that they receive each month after retiring).          

Someone earning an average salary of £27,000 would need a 67 per cent replacement rate to maintain their lifestyle from pension savings of £303,900. They would require an income of approx £18,000 per annum in today’s money to continue to live in the way they were accustomed.    

On top of the state pension of £168.60 a week, a 22-year old earning £27,000 would need to contribute an additional 4 per cent to the current 8 per cent minimum combined contribution to reach their required monthly income. Failure to do so could result in a shortfall of £106,500. The extra contribution required would increase with age to:  

  • 13 per cent more for a 35-year old 
  • 29 per cent more for a 45-year old 

These figures are based on individuals just being in auto-enrolment schemes and having no existing pension pot. The additional percentages may sound steep but, with tax relief from your own employee contributions, it could cost as little as 1.6 per cent from your take home pay to reach the 4 per cent specified.

The key message is to take stock now. Think realistically about how much you will need to get close to maintaining your lifestyle once you retire. If a shortfall looks likely, explore the option of  paying more than the automatic minimum as early as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to catch up.

Can you still trust your Fund Manager?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

October has not been a good month for fund managers (the people who make the investment decisions that dictate how well your savings and investments perform).

There have been two very high profile resignations – one as a result of a Sunday Times investigation, the other from a Panorama exposé. Unsurprisingly, clients have been asking us questions, so we decided to write this short article outlining what has happened and, more importantly, dealing with any worries clients may have.

The Downfall of Neil Woodford

There cannot be anyone in the financial services industry who has not heard of Neil Woodford. He began his career with Reed Pension Fund and TSB and then, aged just 27, became a fund manager with Eagle Star. In 1988, he moved to Invesco Perpetual where he really made his name. Woodford ran their Income and High Income funds, with combined assets approaching £25bn.

He gained a reputation as one of the UK’s leading – if not the leading – fund managers, famously avoiding the worst of the dot com bubble in the 90s and the 2008 financial crisis.

In 2014, he left Invesco Perpetual to form Woodford Investment Management, operating both a listed investment trust and an equity income fund. But in March 2019, the Sunday Times launched an investigation following two years of poor performance that had seen fund assets contract by more than £5bn.

The investigation found that Woodford’s flagship fund held less than 20% of its assets in FTSE 100 companies, compared to more than 50% when it was formed. More than 20% of the assets were in much riskier Alternative Investment Market companies. The Equity Income fund was suspended in early June, following the inevitable withdrawals by investors subsequent to the Times’ investigation.

St James’s Place terminated Woodford’s contract to run three of its funds – with assets of £3.5bn – and the Financial Conduct Authority launched a formal investigation. On October 15th the company announced that the Equity Income fund would close, and on the following day Neil Woodford announced that he would resign from his remaining investment funds and ‘close the company in an orderly fashion.’

Meanwhile, at Capital Group…

This time it was an investigation by the BBC Panorama programme rather than a newspaper, but the end result was the same.

Mark Denning was one of Capital Group’s leading fund managers: he’d been with the company for 36 years and helped to manage some £229bn of assets. The allegations from the BBC programme – screened on October 21st – were simple: Denning had used a fund based in Liechtenstein to buy shares in companies his funds had backed.

Despite denying any wrongdoing, he swiftly resigned, with Capital Group equally quick to release a statement: We have a Code of Ethics and personal disclosure requirements that hold our associates to the highest standards of conduct. When we learned of this matter we took immediate action.

Patently, investment fund managers are not supposed to invest in the same companies as their funds, as they could potentially profit at the expense of investors. Given the Panorama investigation, neither Capital Group nor Mark Denning had any choice as to what to do.

Our Thoughts

It has been said that Neil Woodford’s spectacular downfall was caused by a lack of scrutiny. At Invesco Perpetual, wrote the BBC, ‘he was challenged on his investment decisions.’ The inference was clear – when it was his own name over the door, there was not the same degree of scrutiny.

Rest assured that scrutiny is exactly what we provide on your behalf. It is a fundamental part of advising you on your savings and investments that we match any advice we give you to your investment risk profile. That means your investments are spread geographically, by sector and – yes – by fund manager.

We also speak to fund managers regularly, and meet them at industry events. Almost without exception, they are hard-working, diligent and have nothing but the best interests of their investors at heart. Two such high-profile cases coming close together has inevitably focused attention on fund managers – but it does not mean that the two cases we’ve outlined are representative of the wider profession.

Rest assured that we will continue to monitor the performance of your savings and investments as diligently as we have always done – and that we will continue to meet with and scrutinise the fund managers we trust to look after our clients’ money.

Hopefully these brief notes will have set minds at rest and answered any questions you may have had. But, as always, if you would like to discuss matters with us in more detail, we are never more than a phone call or an email away.

Why the humble 50p could be worth investigating

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

The 50p has been in circulation for over fifty years. It was the world’s first seven-sided coin and was introduced to replace the ten shilling note. The humble 50p was no stranger to controversy upon its entry into the pockets of the population, with one headline, back in the 60s, referring to it as ‘a monstrous piece of metal’. 

Olympic sports, Beatrix Potter characters and even Paddington Bear have graced the tails side of the coin, leading to a whole host of different coins for collectors to get excited about. As with many collectible items, the rarer the item, the more value it holds. This then begs the question, which coins are the most valuable? 

Kew Gardens 2009

The rarity of the original 2009 coin has only increased since the coin’s re-release this year as part of the Royal Mint’s celebration of 50 years of the 50p. Many collectors have sought to get their hands on this rare find as they can now fetch around £100 when sold to the right buyer. A mere 210,000 of these coins were produced in 2009 to mark the botanical garden’s 250th anniversary. Just be sure to check the date if you happen upon one. 

Sports coins

There are many different sports-themed coins out there, with a large number produced for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The rarest and most sought after of all the sports coins depicts an explanation of the offside rule. Other sports coins have been valued by the Scarcity Index as follows:

  • Triathlon – around £10
  • Wrestling – £7
  • Judo – £7
  • Tennis – £4
  • Goalball – £3

Character coins

The Royal Mint released another large collection of commemorative coins on what would have been author Beatrix Potter’s 150th birthday. The title of the rarest in the collection belongs to the Jemima Puddle Duck coin, which can fetch around £15 online. 

The other coins, however, hold little resale value, as there are a large amount of them in circulation. The next rarest in the collection is based on the character Squirrel Nutkin, which can sell for between £1 and £3, depending on the buyer. 

The rarest of them all

Although the Kew Gardens 2009 50p is considered one of the most sought after coins, it is by no means the rarest. While political relationships with Europe are currently frosty, back in 1992, a new 50p was released celebrating Britain’s entry into the Single European Market – which would later become the European Union. 109,000 of these coins were released into circulation before the decision was made to replace the larger 50 pence piece with the smaller, lighter design we know and love today.  

And there you have it… 

Of course, as with many collections, the value of a particular item is based purely on the value attributed to the item by the buyer. For some, the sentimental worth of a particular collectible may vastly outweigh the numerical value attached to it. But still, it may be worth checking behind the sofa or in a few lesser worn jackets, as you never know what hidden treasures you may find. 

Financial lessons for parents of students

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

If you’ve got a son or daughter at college or university, you could have some stark financial lessons ahead. Getting the grades may have dominated the household up to now but budgeting for their life as a student can require just as much focus.      

Tuition fees and student loans are usually top of the agenda. Most universities charge £9,250 for tuition fees but the financial help available to students for their living costs will differ. Maintenance loans are calculated according to where the student is going to study, where they plan to live and how much their parents earn.

As an example, the maximum maintenance loan is £11,672 if the student is an undergraduate,  studying in London and not living at home, but this would only apply if the gross household income was below £25,000 (after pension contributions). If the household income is greater than £67,000, the maximum a student can borrow for their living costs is £5,812. You would be expected to provide a parental contribution of £6,000 to make up the shortfall.              

A recent survey revealed that parents of students could be found to be contributing an average of £360 a month. Half of them said they had not anticipated that they would have to give as much financial help. Luxury items such as new cars and exotic holidays were sacrificed while six per cent of respondents said they had taken a second job.

Despite this, students faced an average monthly shortfall of £267, according to the 2019  National Student Money Survey. Although some had taken part time jobs, 49 per cent relied on  overdrafts and 14 per cent on credit cards.

Not surprisingly, the main expense is accommodation.This has soared in recent years due to the increasing amount of university accommodation being provided by commercial operators, which costs significantly more than traditional halls of residence. Students can find themselves paying up to £9,000 a year on rent in London and £6,366 elsewhere.

Students also get tied into lengthy commercial tenancies of up to 46 weeks. Some landlords may even charge for 51 weeks. To make things even more difficult, the rent may be due before the maintenance loan arrives.         

Despite the high costs, demand is high so students may be expected to start a tenancy in June for the forthcoming academic year. That can mean deposits of three months’ rent need to be paid in advance before the Easter term.

Parents are often called in to meet these costs and act as a rental guarantor. One advantage is that large providers like the Unite Group will allow you to pay by credit card so you can stack up lots of loyalty points. 

It’s an exciting new chapter of life and with a bit of careful ongoing planning and budgeting, you can make sure you minimise any surprises. 

How to keep track of your pensions

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

A recent study has revealed the worrying statistic that over a fifth of all people with multiple pensions have lost track of at least one, with some admitting to have forgotten the details of all of them. With around two thirds of UK residents having more than one pension, this amounts to approximately 6.6 million people with no idea how much they’ve put away for their retirement. Double the amount of people admit to not knowing how much their pensions are worth.

It’s an undesirable side effect of the modern working world. Whereas in previous generations someone might stay at a single employer for their entire working life, the typical worker today will hold eleven different jobs throughout their career, which could potentially mean opting into the same number of pensions through as many different providers. The new legal requirement for all employers to offer a pension scheme through auto-enrolment is likely to add further complexities.

As a result, the Pensions Dashboard is set to launch in 2019 in the hope that it will make it easier for savers to keep track of their pensions in one place. Until then, however, there are four relatively simple steps to help you track down information on any pensions you’ve forgotten about:

  1. Find your pension using the DWP Pensions tracing service at Start by entering the name of your former employer to discover the current contact address for them. You’ll then need to write to them providing your name (plus any previous names), your current and previous addresses and your National Insurance number.
  2. In the case of a pension scheme which hasn’t been updated for a while, you’ll be required to fill out an online form to receive contact details. You’ll be required to give your name, email address and any relevant information to help track down your pension details. This could include your National Insurance number and the dates you worked for the company.
  3. You can also receive a forecast of your State pension either online or in paper format by going to After entering a few details to confirm your identity, you’ll be told the date you can access your State pension and how much you’ll receive.
  4. Finally, and most importantly, once you’ve managed to track down all of your pension information, get some advice. Consolidating your pensions might be tempting to make managing your savings easier, but you also want to make sure you don’t lose out on any benefits by doing so. Before you make any decisions regarding your pensions, seek professional independent advice on what to do next.

Retire a little later?

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

This may seem a surprising suggestion. Surely most people are eagerly looking forward to early retirement, not thinking about postponing it? More time to travel the world, spend on the golf course or help out with the grandchildren sounds an enticing prospect rather than more years at work.

But times have changed significantly since the state old age pension was first introduced in 1909. In those days, it was paid to those aged 70 or more and people weren’t expected to live many years beyond that.           

Nowadays, the state pension can be taken at 65 (66 next year), although this does depend on gender and date of birth. Yet, at the same time, life expectancy has increased. People live on average at least another fifteen years beyond their three score years and ten. 

Back in 1948, a 65-year-old would expect to take their pension for about 13.5 years, equating to 23% of their adult life. This has risen steadily. Figures in 2017 showed that a 65-year-old would expect to live for another 22.8 years, or 33.6% of their adult life.

A significant number of people even live to 100 these days. So much so that the Queen has had to expand her centenarian letter writing team to cope with the number of people requiring a 100th birthday message from the Palace.       

According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of centenarians in the UK has increased by 85% over the last 15 years.This trend is set to continue so that by 2080 it is anticipated there will be over 21,000.

In recognition of the fact that people are living longer and spending a larger proportion of their adult life in retirement, a government review will consider increasing the state pension age to 68 between 2037 and 2039.  

Currently, if someone retires at 65 and lives to 100 it makes for a long retirement. Not only is it  expensive for the state to maintain, the individual is worried about outliving their finances rather than being able to get on and enjoy their retirement. The state pension was not designed to support a long period of limbo. 

Against such a backdrop, it makes sense for some individuals, if they are fit, healthy and capable, to consider working beyond their pension age. There is no longer any default retirement age at 65, so it is perfectly possible to do this.  

The older generation also have a great deal to contribute to an employer in terms of experience and commitment. In addition, it’s well known that going to work each day gives some people a reason to get up in the morning and also to keep young. There are many unfortunate cases where someone has worked all their life, looking forward to their retirement, only to fall seriously ill or die the moment they stop work.    

The number of 70 year olds in full or part-time employment has been steadily increasing year on year for the past decade, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This hit a peak of 497,946 in the first quarter of 2019, an increase of 135% since 2009. 

So rather than just worry about whether you will have enough for your retirement, maybe it makes sense to keep working a little bit longer.  

Help to Buy ISA deadline is looming

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

After 30th November 2019, potential first-time buyers will no longer be able to apply for a new Help to Buy ISA.   

Savers who already have an account will be able to keep saving into it until 30th November 2029, regardless of when the ISA was opened, but accounts will close to additional contributions after that date. 

What is the Help to Buy ISA?   

The Help to Buy ISA was introduced to help first-time buyers over the age of 16. Individuals receive a bonus of 25% of their savings when it comes to purchasing a property, up to a value of £3,000. They can put £1,200 into the ISA in the first month, while subsequent payments are limited to £200 a month. The final criteria is that the property purchase cannot exceed £250,000 (£450,000 for London) if the buyer wants to receive the 25% boost. 

How does the Lifetime ISA differ?

The Help to Buy ISA is not the only option available. The Lifetime ISA is designed to help people aged between 18 and 40 to save towards their first home or for later life. The Government will again give a bonus worth 25% of what is paid in, up to a maximum of £4,000 per year. Savers can then receive a maximum of £1,000 per year as a government bonus. This can be used to buy a home worth up to £450,000 anywhere in the country. 

Both ISAs can be helpful when it comes to saving for a first-time property purchase, although there are some marked differences between the two. 

The Lifetime ISA rules mean that savers have to wait at least a year before they can use it to buy a home. With the Help to Buy ISA, individuals have to have saved £1,600 before they can claim the minimum government bonus of £400 but this can be done over a period of three months: £1,200 in the first month followed by two subsequent deposits of £200 in the next two months. 

It is possible to spread deposits across multiple ISAs. However, the maximum that can currently be saved in ISAs is £20,000 for the 2019-2020 tax year. 

Helping your children get their first house 

Given the struggles the younger generation face to get on the property ladder today, you may be wondering the best way to give financial support. If you’re considering giving your child enough money for a deposit, there are no immediate tax implications. You can give as much money as you like to your children tax free, but if you were to pass away within seven years of the gift, they could be faced with an inheritance tax bill if your estate was worth more than £325,000. You can gift up to £3,000 a year without paying inheritance tax.            

If your children or grandchildren are interested in taking out a Help to Buy ISA, encourage them to do so as soon as possible before time runs out. If you would like to know more about the options around gifting money to your children to help with a deposit on a house, don’t hesitate to get in touch.