General Election Comment

Over the past few weeks, one of the Investment Houses we use, have written that currency markets appear to be anticipating a softer, or perhaps more pragmatic route for Brexit after the General Election. It looks like Mister Market got it right once again.

They go on to say that the result of last night is decisive and produces a government which is capable of making and implementing decisions. This will significantly reduce the levels of uncertainty that UK businesses have faced and those who trade with them abroad, which had subdued activity levels over the past three years and led to a slowing in business investment.

That’s good news for investors, both inside and outside the UK.

UK stocks, across the board, have already risen this morning by 2% in early trade, partly aided by President Trump indicating that a US-China phase-1 trade deal would be signed imminently.

£-Sterling has rallied by about 2% against both the US-$ and the €-Euro. This is also good news, for overseas purchases, in that the buying power of £1 has increased. Holidays, and imports will cost less in Sterling terms. On the other hand, it does mean that the rise of foreign stock markets overnight looks less impressive when translated back to sterling. Still, even in £-Sterling terms they are up. Our return from a UK underweight position in our investment portfolios last year to being invested to target level ensures a positive performance contribution from the election outcome bounce in the UK’s stock market.

The outlook for portfolios also looks more positive this morning. The UK domestic picture now has less risk for investors and business leaders which should help stabilise business revenues and their appetite to resurrect mothballed capital investment projects. That is also helped by the improving global outlook, which took a big leap forward last night with the US and China finally agreeing a trade deal ‘in principle’. This news will have has mostly been buried in the UK by the election news flow but will be extremely important to the large number of UK businesses exporting goods and services. Incidentally, it also explains the bounce in Asian stock markets overnight than the UK’s election outcome.

The Investment House comments above confirm what we, ourselves have always said, that Markets don’t like uncertainty. Whether you agree or disagree with the Election outcome, the Markets know that decisions will be made and can price the outcome accordingly

Powers of Attorney and Dementia – Don’t leave it to late

A diagnosis of dementia is extremely difficult to come to terms with, both for the person who is diagnosed and for their families.

Sadly, as the population in the UK is ageing and the dementia risk is understood to increase with age, these diagnoses are likely to become more common.

In Scotland alone, over 90,000 people are living with dementia, which is a term used to a variety of illnesses and conditions causing an impairment and a decline in intellectual functioning.

Those suffering from dementia often leave it too late to sign over a Power of Attorney to family members. It is essential to deal with legal matters while still in reasonable health and of sound mind.

If anyone would like to have a chat about any concerns they may have about giving the Power of Attorney to someone else, please feel free to give us a call. We will be happy to listen and help where possible.

Investing in your child’s future

For clients wanting to invest for their children’s future in something more adventurous than a child savings account, there are three main options: a Junior Isa, a Junior pension or a Bare Trust investment account.

The purpose of these accounts varies significantly, and there are considerable differences in how they can be accessed, tax treatment, limits on investments and how the accounts are managed.

Children, Win, Success, Video Game, Play

Jisa

Jisas are often the first option that springs to mind when we talk about investing for children. Like all Isas, Jisas benefit from tax-free growth, with no income or capital gains tax to be paid.

This includes when the account is funded by parents, and, unlike some other accounts, even when the income for the year exceeds £100.

Children can have a cash Jisa and a stocks and shares Jisa. It is possible to hold one of each type, and transfers can be made freely from one to the other.

However, unlike adult Isas it is not possible to open a new account of the same type each year and leave the old one open.

If a stocks and shares Jisa is held and you want to pay into one with a different provider then the existing Jisa must be transferred to them first.

Accounts can be opened by the parent or legal guardian of any child resident in the UK aged under 18.

Remember that children born in the UK between September 1 2002 and January 2 2011 were eligible for child trust funds and although these accounts can no longer be opened they can continue to be held until the child reaches age 18.

It is not permitted for a CTF and a Jisa to be held for the same child, however since April 2015 it has been possible to transfer a CTF to a Jisa if the transfer is made as part of the Jisa account opening process.

Subscription limits for both Jisas and CTFs are £4,368 for the 2019-20 tax year.

Junior pensions

Turning to pensions now and the option of setting up a scheme for a child.

This is definitely one for the long game, and primarily used by wealthy clients who have exhausted the Jisa allowance for their offspring.

It is possible to pay in £2,880 a year, which will be topped up to £3,600 under relief at source, even when there are no earnings.

As a registered pension scheme, the investments can grow tax-free and the benefits of compounding will be substantial, given the funds cannot be accessed for a time frame of potentially 50 year or more.

It would usually be the parent or legal guardian who would set up the pension and make the investment decisions, but some providers may allow grandparents or other adult family members to do so.  

Another use for junior pensions is where a child is a beneficiary after a family member’s death and has funds designated to flexi-access drawdown in their name.

Bare trust investment accounts

A child cannot legally own shares, so the easiest way to open an investment account for them is to have a bare trust account.

A bare trust document can be very simple, setting out the initial donor, trustees and who the beneficiary is.

Unlike the other type of accounts we have looked at, a bare trust does not have to be managed by the child’s parents.

They are therefore a popular option for grandparents setting up accounts for the benefit of their grandchildren that they can invest and manage.

Bare trusts also allow withdrawals at any age, as long as it is for the beneficiary’s benefit, so grandparents could invest and make withdrawals to pay school fees as appropriate.

On turning age 16 (18 in the rest of the UK) the child-turned-adult has absolute entitlement to all the capital and income, but it is not an automatic handover to take over managing the assets.

The trustees can continue looking after the fund indefinitely,  but what changes is the now-adult beneficiary can demand the capital and/or income at any time. If they are comfortable looking after their own affairs then the trust effectively ends and it becomes an adult investment account.

As it is not a tax wrapper like a pension or Isa, there is no limit on the amount that can be invested in a bare trust account.

Income and capital gains within the account are chargeable to tax, but are treated as belonging to the beneficiary.

A child has the same personal allowances as an adult, that is personal allowance, personal savings allowance and a starting rate for savings of 0 per cent, meaning up to £18,500 of income a year could be tax free plus a capital gains allowance of £12,000.

One crucial point to be aware of though is that if a parent puts money into the bare trust account and the income exceeds £100 a year (or £200 if both parents pay in), then the income is taxed on the parents.

This is why bare trust dealing accounts are most commonly used for grandparents to make gifts, rather than parents.

If you would like more information on any of the above options, please give us a call.

Over 60s miss out on thousands of pounds of pension savings

Savers over the age of 60 are throwing away up to £1.75bn in pension contributions by opting out of their workplace schemes, according to Royal London.

The mutual insurer analysed its own figures, which indicated a 23 per cent opt-out rate among the over 60s compared with 10 per cent across all other age groups.

According to calculations from Royal London, an individual in their 60s on the average wage paying the minimum pension contribution of 8 per cent would have a retirement pot of just under £14,000 by the time they reach age 65.

Given that pension contributions are made up of contributions from workers and their employer, to which tax relief from the government is added, individuals would only need to contribute about £6,600 of their own money to achieve this outcome.

This means by opting out of their pension each member could be missing out on £7,000 each, the mutual insurer stated.

According to data from the Labour Force Survey, there are approximately 1.1m people aged 60 or over who are in full-time employment, which means more than 250,000 people could be affected.

If each saver stands to lose up to £7,000, then collectively this group could be missing out on as much as £1.75bn in retirement savings by opting out, Royal London added.

According to a pension specialist at Royal London, it is understandable that someone at the age of 60 might think it is too late to save enough to make a difference to their retirement income, but she stressed “they are wrong”.

She said: “Our figures show older workers are throwing away thousands of pounds on retirement income by opting out of their scheme. We would urge anyone thinking of opting out of their auto-enrolment scheme to think twice before doing so.”

If the decision to opt out is solely down to budgetary pressure – not being able to afford pension contributions – then it might be understandable, even if misguided.

But it is more concerning that people opt out because ‘it’s not worth doing’. The problem with that is they will lose both the employer contributions and tax relief.

Royal London maintained, “There is a significant, number of people saying “no” to what is effectively free money. More thought and effort should be put into educating the over 60s as to the very real benefits they’re giving up.”

Retirement Confidence Is On The Rise

I read this little nugget, in an article in one of the technical papers namely Financial Reporter. Good news I thought, but the sting in the tail is that 10% of those polled don’t have any pension savings, just over a third have given no thought to how much they might need in retirement and a quarter don’t know how much money they have set aside.

And that’s where we come in. I was visiting a client last week who 6 years ago fitted that profile exactly. Today, his pension fund stands at over £55,000. As he said to me last week, if it hadn’t been for you, Arthur, I would still have had nothing for my retirement.

The full article in the paper read as follows:

The Retirement Confidence Survey, conducted by Aegon to mark the start of Pension Awareness Week, reveals that people in the UK are feeling slightly more confident about their ability to retire comfortably, than they did two years ago.

Latest figures show just over half now feel confident about their ability to retire comfortably, compared to just under a half in 2017.

However, while retirement confidence appears to be improving, many remain in the dark when it comes to their pension savings and arrangements for funding their retirement.

One in ten (10%) of those polled admit that they don’t have any pension savings.

36% have never estimated their income needs for retirement, putting themselves at significant risk of being unable to maintain their existing lifestyle. While it’s encouraging that this has reduced since 2017 from 43% to 36%, the pace of change needs to accelerate to make a real difference.

A quarter (25%) of those with pension savings said that they don’t know how much they hold in pensions. This is highest among those aged 35 – 54 (30%). And while only 19% of 55-64 year olds don’t know how much they have in pensions at the moment, it’s still significant considering how close they are to retirement.

Steven Cameron, Pensions Director at Aegon, comments:

“It’s encouraging to see an indication of growing confidence over the last two years when it comes to being able to retire comfortably.

“Pensions have frequently hit the news headlines in the last few years. While at times this has been for less good reasons, there have been lots of positive stories such as the success of automatic enrolment and the new retirement flexibilities under pension freedoms which have been built on by initiatives such as the Pensions Awareness campaign from Pension Geeks. All of this has contributed to raising the profile of retirement planning, leading to people taking more interest and action, improving the confidence people have when it comes to being able to retire comfortably.

“But we must remain realistic. Overconfidence carries risks and people mustn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. While auto-enrolment means millions of employees are saving more for retirement, that doesn’t mean they’re on target for the retirement they aspire to or to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. Furthermore, the growing population of self-employed are excluded from auto-enrolment and can’t rely on an employer to support their retirement funding. Realistically, there’s a lot more required to make sure you’ve saved enough for the retirement you would like.

“It’s also worrying that a significant minority of people don’t know how much they have in their pension. Those in the 30 to 54 age band are in the best position to take action now to make a big difference to their retirement income. Whatever your age or circumstances, finding out more about your pension funds and prospects can only be a good thing.”

Don’t forget that Client I met last week. Maybe I can do the same for you. If you would like a chat, give me a ring. My number is 0141-956 5525.

Have a great week.

Vulnerability – A challenge for us all.

Do you think you are Vulnerable Client? Probably not if you’re a young fit and healthy individual who makes astute business decisions every day of the week or someone who is responsible for others.

But wait a minute. Identifying where a client may exhibit vulnerability is a challenge, and one that the regulator has become more and more concerned about in the last few years.

There is a stereotype that clients are vulnerable through a reason of age, illness or infirmity, or due to a recent traumatic event. What about someone who is young, inexperienced, and may have no knowledge of financial matters.

And what about other not so obvious circumstances. For example, what about those seeking advice to transfer from a defined benefit pension. Would they be considered as being vulnerable?

In 2015, the FCA published an excellent insight into consumer vulnerability which focused on reasons for an individual’s vulnerability and identified good practice in dealing with these clients.

What about someone who is selling their business. These individuals – or families – are typically financially astute, used to taking risks, invariably they have made significant and impactful decisions. Should these individuals should be treated as vulnerable.

Selling a business, for most people, is something they will have little experience in, be of significant impact, and often be tied up with emotion. They need time to think, low pressure, and understanding that inaction can be less damaging than an action that is later regretted

Take Attitude to Investment Risk. The way people respond to information can differ from person to person and most advisers will, when explaining investment risk to their client, use numbers, graphics, verbal explanations as well as written descriptions. Is the same true for other areas of financial advice?

Some will respond best to meetings, but there are those who may not be able to provide their full attention for the period we, as advisers, often command. Some may favour an office meeting where they are free from distractions, others the comfort of their own home. Not everyone may share our command of technology.

Vulnerability changes with time – over the longer term individuals can become more or less able to deal with their financial affairs.

Some advisers have advocated an approach where all clients are treated as vulnerable. After all, giving clients more time to think and having trusted individuals in meetings are things that must be in those individuals’ best interests. But on the other hand, others may find this approach patronising.

And maybe what we are saying here is that, surprise, surprise, everyone is different and that we as advisers have to be acutely aware of this.

Of course, we also have to be aware that we as advisers can be vulnerable as well!