Women overtake men in workplace pensions

A higher proportion of women are now in workplace pensions than men according to Office for National Statistics figures published today.

New data on workplace pension scheme membership drawn from the latest Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for 2018 shows where workplace pensions saving is heading.

It shows that among full-time and part-time workers, a higher proportion of women than men, are now members of workplace pension schemes.

This is partly driven by the fact that pension membership rates are much higher in the public sector where women make up a larger proportion of the workforce.

But this does not mean that women are anywhere near achieving pension equality according Royal London director of policy Steve Webb.

He says: “While it is great news that far more women are now members of workplace pensions than in the past, there remains a pension gulf between men and women.

“Being a member of a pension is a great start, but the size of your pension will depend on how much you earn and how much you and your employer contribute.

“On both of these fronts, inequalities in the jobs market mean that women are still lagging far behind men when it comes to building up decent pensions.  On current trends, women’s pension equality could still be decades away.”

The statistics also show how auto-enrolment has boosted workplace saving as 76 per cent of UK employees were members of a workplace pension scheme in 2018, up from 73 per cent in 2017.

This is a 29 percentage points increase compared with 2012, when auto-enrolment was introduced.

Markets Now Bored

Markets shrugged off news of a six-month delay to the UK’s deadline to depart from the European Union, with markets now “bored of the constant drama” associated with Brexit, although asset managers warn the country’s economy will continue to suffer as the process is dragged out.

The UK has been set a 31 October deadline for its departure from the EU, after talks in Brussels on 10 April left the country on course to take part in May’s European elections or risk leaving with no deal on 1 June.

Brexit can happen earlier than either date if Parliament is able to ratify the withdrawal agreement, which has already been heavily defeated three times.

The FTSE 100 was down by just over 0.1% and the FTSE 250 was up by 0.5% at the end of the day following the agreement (11 April). Meanwhile sterling was flat against the dollar and the euro, as it moved up 0.4% against the Japanese yen.

Head of flexible bonds at Vontobel Asset Management Ludovic Colin said the limp reaction reflected the fact that “markets are bored of the constant drama and the fact that Brexit keeps getting pushed back via successive extensions”.

He added: “The price of insurance against a bad scenario has collapsed, meaning markets do not feel the need to protect themselves against an impending storm.

“The market has worried a lot on a hard Brexit, and now that solution has been removed in the short term, the sector may now focus its attention on other immediate risks.

However, Colin also warned that “the cost to the UK economy will continue [and] for businesses, this added period of uncertainty is very negative”, while “the direct impact on the UK economy and the fact the global environment is deteriorating will probably make investors very cautious about investing in UK assets over the coming months”.

Colin added that while predicting which assets are set to be most impacted over the coming months was “too hard”, an “even more aggressive political game in Westminster” will weigh on sterling and UK assets compared to the rest of the world”.

Schroders senior European economist and strategist Azad Zangana said the impact of the “ongoing uncertainty” could result in the Bank of England (BoE) keeping interest rates on hold until “November or beyond”.

Zangana explained: “The BoE has been keen to raise interest rates to more normal levels, only to be held back by Brexit-related downside risks to the economy. 

“There is now a possibility that, with a longer delay, the BoE decides to hike in May, but it is more likely to wait until after Brexit has been settled.

“This suggests that our forecast of a rise in August will now need to be pushed back further, potentially to November, or even later given our view of the possibility of yet another extension beyond October.”

UK economist at UBS Global Wealth Management Dean Turner said “sluggish economic growth is likely to continue until the [political] impasse is broken”, adding that removing the initial 12 April Brexit deadline “will be welcomed by the markets but any excitement is likely to be short-lived”.

A Word of Warning

Just a word of warning to all my readers. The Financial Conduct Authority has warned about high-risk innovative finance Isas (Ifisas) being advertised alongside cash ISAs. 

In a statement published on its website the regulator confirmed it had seen evidence the two products were being promoted together, and it warned  investments held in Ifisas were “high-risk”, with the money ultimately being invested in products such as mini-bonds or peer-to-peer investments.

The City watchdog warned these types of investments might not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and investors might therefore struggle to reclaim any money lost. 

The FCA warned: “Anyone considering investing in an Ifisa should carefully consider where their money is being invested before purchasing an Ifisa.” 

Innovative finance Isas were introduced by former chancellor George Osborne in his 2015 Summer Budget to help investment in small businesses and to allow investors to hold P2P assets in a tax-free wrapper.

But they have not taken off in the same way as the lifetime Isa, which Mr Osborne announced in 2016 to help younger savers put money aside for a house deposit and retirement.

During 2017/18 only 31,000 Ifisas were subscribed to, compared to 166,000 Lisas, 2.8m stocks and shares Isas and 7.8m cash Isas.

Earlier this year mini-bond provider London Capital & Finance collapsed putting the funds of more than 14,000 bondholders at risk.

Because mini-bonds are unregulated investments the FSCS confirmed it would not accept any claims from LCF investors, with the company’s administrators instead hoping to recover funds on behalf of those affected. 

In the most recent update from administrators Smith & Williamson, they estimated bondholders would see as little as 20% of their investments returned to them. An investigation into LCF by the Serious Fraud Office remains ongoing. 

If you have any doubts or concerns, give us a ring and we’ll be pleased to have a chat with you.

Are You Really Listening?

Andy Bounds, the motivational speaker, comes up with these little gems from time to time. Here’s one I say recently.

Quick quiz: What’s wrong with this conversation?

Person #1: I had a bad day at work today. I argued with Sarah
Person #2: I hate it when I argue with people. I fell out with a friend last month
Person #1: I know. She didn’t like how I described her job in a meeting
Person #2: Exactly the same happened with me.  And the friendship hasn’t been the same since
Person #1 I don’t know what to do
Person #2: I don’t either. I used to really like him

So what’s wrong with this conversation?

The answer: It isn’t a conversation. 

Neither of them is listening to the other one. This is a good example of what Dr. Stephen Covey meant when he said ‘most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to reply’

In my experience, everyone thinks they’re good at listening to other people. 

But conversations like this happen all-too-often.

So, next time someone says something to you, rather than saying “The same thing happened to me”, ask more about their situation:

  • “That sounds hard – what happened?”
  • “Really? Tell me more”

It’s an easy fix.

But it makes all the difference – to your chat, to the outcomes following it, and to how much you both enjoy it. 

So the Action Point is:

In your very next conversation, do your best to say “tell me more”. And guess what?  They’ll probably tell you more!

“4 Straightforward Steps to Success” by Jim Rohn

I enjoy reading Jim Rohn’s motivational comments and views on business and thought you might be interested in the following article. The following words are his.

I’ve said it before, that success is the study of the obvious—but sometimes we need someone to remind us and show us the simplest way to get there.

Here are four simple steps to find your way to more success than you could ever imagine:

1. Collect good ideas.

My mentor taught me to keep a journal when I was 25 years old. It’s the best collecting place for all of the ideas and information that comes your way. And that inspiration will be passed on to my children and my grandchildren.

If you hear a good health idea, capture it, write it down. Then on a cold wintry evening or a balmy summer night, go back through your journal. Dive back into the ideas that changed your life, the ideas that saved your marriage, the ideas that bailed you out of hard times, the ideas that helped you become successful. That’s valuable, going back over the pages of ideas you gathered over the years, reminiscing, reminding yourself. So be a collector of good ideas, of experiences, for your business, for your relationships, for your future.

It is challenging to be a student of your own life, your own future, your own destiny. Don’t trust your memory. When you listen to something valuable, write it down. When you come across something important, write it down. Take the time to keep notes and to keep a journal.

2. Have good plans.

Building a life, building anything, is like building a house; you need to have a plan. What if you just started laying bricks and somebody asks, “What are you building?” You put down the brick you’re holding and say, “I have no idea.”

So, here’s the question: When should you start building the house? Answer: As soon as you have it finished. It’s simple time management.

Don’t start the day until it is pretty well finished—at least the outline of it. Leave some room to improvise, leave some room for extra strategies, but finish it before you start it. Don’t start the week until you have it finished. Lay it out, structure it, put it to work. The same goes for the month ahead—don’t start it until you have a plan in place.

And, the big one, don’t start the year until it is finished on paper. It’s not a bad idea, toward the end of the year, to sit down with your family for the personal plans, to sit down in your business for the professional plans, to sit down with your financial advisor to map out money plans. Plan out your calendar, your game plan, for all of life’s moving parts.

The reason why most people face the future with apprehension instead of anticipation is because they don’t have it well designed.

3. Give yourself time.

It takes time to build a career. It takes time to make changes. It takes time to learn, grow, change, develop and produce. It takes time to refine philosophy and activity. So give yourself time to learn, time to start some momentum, time to finally achieve.

I remember when Mama was teaching me a little bit about the piano. “Here is the left hand scale,” she said. I got that; it was easy. “Here is the right hand scale.” I got that, too. Then she said, “Now we are going to play both hands at the same time.” “Well, how can you do that?” I asked. Because one at a time was easy… but two the same time? But I got to where I could play the scales with both hands. “Now we are going to read the music and play with both hands,” she said. You can’t do all that, I thought. But you know, sure enough I looked at the music, looked at each hand, a little confused at first, but finally I grasped it. Then I remember the day when Mama said, “Now we are going to watch the audience, read the music and play with both hands. Now that is going too far! I thought. How could one person possibly do all that? By giving myself time to master one skill before we went to the next, I got to where I could watch the audience, read the music and play with both hands.

Life is not just the passing of time. Life is the collection of experiences and their intensity.

4. Change yourself.

Learn to solve problems—business problems, family problems, financial problems, emotional problems. The best way to treat a challenge? As an opportunity to grow. Change if you have to, modify if you must, discard an old philosophy that wasn’t working well for a new one.

The best phrase my mentor ever gave me: “Mr. Rohn, if you will change, everything will change for you.” I took that to heart, and sure enough, the more I improved, the more everything improved for me.

You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.

Do you Network – Need help -Some ideas for you.

Ah, networking – the joys of talking to loads of strangers…

I thought this week that those of you who are new to Networking or who are considering starting, it might benefit from a few ideas.

It is daunting.  But here are four things to say, to make it easier:

#1 – “Mind if I join you?” This is the easiest way to start a conversation  Approach someone, and ask it – they’ll welcome you in. Trust me nobody will say “I do mind – go away!”

#2 – “What are you responsible for?” When you ask this question, their reply tells you their main focus – “To generate sales”, “To keep our clients happy” etc. Once you know this, it’s easier to say things you know they’ll find interesting and useful. 

#3 – “That sounds hard!” This one’s a belter. You’ll meet people who do things that you’ve no idea about. And when you say “that sounds hard”, they (1) feel flattered and (2) talk more about what they do.  Two great outcomes!

#4 – “Tell me more?” The more they speak, the easier it is. So, when they tell you something, ask this – and they’ll tell you more!

Action Point
To get more from your next networking event and to reduce your nerves – use some of these phrases. 

Obviously, the more you prepare before you go in, the more you’ll get out after it.