Topic: Uncategorised

10 Things That are Good for Us

I read various blogs and articles over the weekend and one grabbed my attention, so I thought I would share some of the content with you … and add a little of my own.

Most days (and particularly at this time of year) the media can confuse us with information about activities, foods, drinks, supplements and other things that are supposedly good or bad for us.  The article I read focused on the following things that are good for us – 

  1. Breakfast. Many people skip breakfast (I am not one of them as Nicky, my partner, will testify). A good breakfast gives you energy and keeps you away from the mid-morning biscuit(s). Eating breakfast is associated with maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and better concentration and memory. 
  1. Saunas and hot tubs. I have often toyed with the idea of having a sauna installed at home as they can make you feel good and apparently there are health benefits as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, they can improve cardiovascular function and lower blood pressure and relieve symptoms of arthritis, headache and flu.
  1. Organic foods. I know that many of us are sceptical about the benefits of organic food, (especially me as a short-armed Yorkshireman) and particularly because they are more expensive. Science says that organic food, despite the price, are better for you as have more nutrients, less toxins and fewer pesticides.
  1. A sceptical attitude. Now I thought I would score high here, but I maybe verging on being more cynical than sceptical. However, as part of the ‘me’ going forwards I will look at the facts and evidence before believing in something. Sceptics are less likely to fall for the next best thing be it a fad diet, trendy quick fix or cure all. They are also less likely to believe that everything will work out fine and so they take measures to improve their outlook for the future by exercising, eating properly, driving safely and avoiding health risks.
  1. Physical contact. Being physically close, holding hands and giving backrubs all tend to reduce physical pain and this is not something the ladies have simply dreamt up. It was in fact the conclusion from research undertaken by the University of Colorado Boulder whereby 22 couples took part. The women were subjected to mild pain (I guess this would have been equivalent to extreme pain for a man), first when they were holding hands and then when they were sitting together but not touching. The women reported significantly less pain when they were holding hands but not when they were sitting together.  Maybe we could give that a try at the Manchester United matches ….
  1. Herbs and spices. This is definitely something I firmly agree with – any excuse to eat a good curry. Herbs and spices are full of healthy compounds that reduce inflammation and additional flavours that lead us to use less sugar salt and fat in our foods. There is a long list of benefits but here are a few of my favourites (note the curry theme again). Chilli’s boost metabolism and keep blood vessels healthy. Cumin can help weight loss, Cinnamon can help reduce inflammation. Garlic reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. Turmeric may improve memory and help ease pain.
  1. Move. I heard a doctor use the phrase “motion is the best lotion”. It is important to exercise and I’m sure we all know the benefits, so no need for to expand on this one.
  1. Passion and purpose. It is hugely beneficial to have an interest and a passion for things such as a pastime, voluntary work or even continuing to work. We have found that those who fill their time with their passions tend to lead a more fulfilling and healthy life.
  1. Coffee… and tea. Coffee perks you up and tea helps you relax according to WebMD. Coffee may help stave off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, diabetes and liver disease and the recurrence of colon cancer and tea boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
  1. Sleep. According to a study from Northwestern University, people who are night owls are at risk of developing health problems, including diabetes and neurological disorders. But it seems the crux of the issue is sleep deprivation, which affects not just your physical well-being, but cognitive performance as well. But don’t be complacent if you sleep a lot; sleeping too much is associated with the same health risks as sleeping too little. So how much is the right amount? Apparently somewhere between 7 – 9 hours is about right.

So, if you agree with the experts on things that are good for us, here we have an ‘ideal’ healthy day: –

Wake up with a sceptical attitude, have a healthy organic breakfast with a coffee then off to work or to follow your passion.  Return home, enjoy a cuddle or go for a walk holding hands, followed by a sauna or sit in a hot tub with a cup of tea. Then feast on an organic curry, spend time doing something you enjoy before retiring to bed at a reasonable time.

 

 

Merry Christmas

We would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and also thank you for your support over the last 12 months.

The office will close at 5pm on  Friday 21st December 2018 and will re-open at 9am on Wednesday 3rd January 2019.

As in previous years, in lieu of sending Christmas cards, this year we have donated to Shelter UK and Alzheimer’s Society

 

The Return of the Rise in Probate Fees

Back in 2017 we covered the proposed rise in probate fees which was subsequently abandoned when the general election was called.  The current probate fee is a flat fee of £215 or £155 if the probate application is made via a solicitor.

In November 2018, the Government brought before Parliament proposed legislation which if approved, will introduce a new banded structure of fees, tiered according to the size of the deceased’s estate as set out below: –

·         Up to £50,000:                        no charge

·         £50,000- £300,000:                  £250

·         £300,000- £500,000:               £750

·         £500,000 to £1m:                    £2,500

·         £1m to £1.6m:                         £4,000

·         £1.6m- £2m:                             £5,000

·         Above £2m:                              £6,000.

Whilst there are significant increases for the larger estates, (although not up to as much as the £20,000 previously proposed), it is estimated that 80% of estates will not pay more than £750 and fewer estates will be liable because the probate fee threshold will rise from £5,000 to £50,000 which should exempt about 25,000 estates every year. The additional income raised, estimated to be £145m, is to be invested in the Courts and Tribunal Service and will be used to fund improvements to the Probate Service. This includes the ability to apply for a grant of probate online. Interestingly, a separate statutory instrument has been issued to introduce this online application process and will lead to an administrative cost per application of only £9.30.

However, as the probate process is broadly similar regardless of the size of the estate, it could be argued that the new fees represent a stealth tax on property as property is normally the main constituent of the estate. Indeed, a House of Lords committee has reiterated this and is concerned that the proposals will lead to a move away from ‘the principle that fees for a public service should recover the cost of providing it and no more’. Executors may find themselves having to find the required fees themselves where estates are relatively illiquid, while professional executors may raise their fees to cover this.

Charities will also be adversely affected as they are not exempt from probate fees. It is estimated that they could lose about £10m a year of legacy income and so there will be lobbying for a relevant exemption to be introduced.

The Government are hoping to have the legislation through Parliament by April next year and if it is agreed, it will clearly be important to ensure that funds are available to your executors to pay the fees.  This can be easier said than done and particularly as these have to be paid before any of the assets can be distributed.  This is something that we can discuss during our meetings and incorporate into your financial plan.

 

 

 

 

If You’re Retired; Do You Have to Travel?

A lot of people I meet say that they want to travel when they retire, so I was quite interested to read a blog I came across recently covering this point. The article touched on the fact that it almost seems as if travel is a prerequisite for a fulfilling retirement, like it’s part of the package of the successful middle-class retirement lifestyle. Individuals say, I’ve been to China and India, or walked the El Camino de Santiago, and chartered a river boat down the Rhine.

But for some people, travel is not a priority and they don’t really want to travel all that much. And when they do travel, they stay close to home. Does that make them a failure at retirement? Do people feel sorry for them, because they don’t have the imagination or the curiosity to want to visit strange, foreign lands or can’t afford to travel?

Some people do not like to fly; there’s getting to the airport, then the crowds and the process of being herded through security and corralled into a narrow aluminium tube flown by a stranger.

Many may have travelled around Europe in their younger days or maybe even the Far East, but that was when they didn’t mind sharing a bathroom with random strangers. It didn’t faze them to arrive in a city and not know where they would be sleeping that night and didn’t mind struggling to communicate with people in a different language.

To retirees who like to travel, their sense of adventure must be admired. But those that don’t shouldn’t feel that they are missing something by not liking to travel, or that they are somehow cheating themselves in their retirement years. Travel is one thing to do in retirement; but it’s not the only thing, and it’s not something we should feel required to “check off” in order to fulfil our retirement dreams.

Besides, there’s plenty to see, even if you never travel more than a couple of hundred miles from home and to some people, sharing great experiences with family and friends or pastimes within their community are just as rewarding.

So, No, you don’t have to travel in retirement. For some, retirement can indeed be fun without it.

Autumn Budget 2018

Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, delivered his third Budget to Parliament on 29 October 2018 and what should be the last one before Brexit in March next year. What should you take away from this year’s Chancellor’s Autumn Budget 2018?

Mr Hammond opened the Budget by declaring it was aimed at hard-working families, ‘the strivers, the grafters and the carers’, and would pave the way for a ‘brighter future’. He set out the Government’s plan to build a stronger, more prosperous economy, building on the Spring Statement and last year’s Budget.

A number of measures and consultations were announced which perhaps demonstrate a loosening of the fiscal purse strings. However, the Chancellor concluded that although austerity is coming to an end, discipline will remain.  As well as the tax cuts and increased departmental spending, the Chancellor announced one-off bonuses for defence, schools and local authorities.

There were no widespread announcements around pensions tax relief. There had been rumours that the Chancellor may look to introduce a flat-rate of tax relief, but in the end there were only more minor changes to the pensions landscape.

From a tax perspective, there is a short-term tax giveaway for the next couple of years to encourage consumer and business spending whilst the process of a Brexit deal is worked through.

Individual taxpayers will benefit from the increase in the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher-rate threshold to £50,000 from April 2019. However, the self-employed will continue to pay Class 2 NICs.

Businesses will also benefit from a two-year increase in the annual investment allowance to £1m, which allows an upfront tax deduction for capital expenditure on plant and machinery.

The Chancellor left us with a warning that if the financial forecast was adversely impacted by the Brexit negotiations, then next year’s Spring Statement could be upgraded to a full Budget.

Click here to read our full Autumn Budget 2018 Guide.

As pensions, savings and estate planning were largely untouched, now is an opportune time to make the most of valuable tax allowances, reliefs and exemptions that already exist – especially as this could be a short-term window of opportunity, with only months to go to Brexit.

To review what action you may need to take to keep your personal and business plans on track, or if you have any further questions, please contact us.

4 Ways to Feel More “At Home” in Your Home

Do you feel “at home” in your home?

Your home is often the biggest financial purchase you’ll ever make. But is it also giving you the emotional payoffs you hope for?

Your home is an important part of your financial plan because we have to consider your rent or mortgage, utility bills, maintenance, and taxes as part of your monthly and long-term financial picture. But to get the best life possible with the money you have, your home should also be a safe place that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed.

Here are four things to consider when trying to make your residence feel more like home.

Your personal touches.

In this age of social media and free two-day delivery, it’s never been more tempting to get sucked into “Keeping up with the Joneses.” But if you’re always trying to surpass you neighbour’s latest big splurge, you won’t be creating a space that’s truly yours. You’ll just be buying a copy of someone else’s idea of home.

Forget about the celebrity Instagram boards, and instead think about how to make your house reflect your family’s passions and stories. Turn an unused bedroom into a workshop or personal study. Bring those old family photo boxes down to a framer and breathe new life into your walls. Brighten up shelves with mementos from favorite trips.

If you’re considering additions or garden amenities, try thinking about these changes in terms of the experiences they can create for you and your loved ones. Sure, a hot tub sounds nice. But a new patio and some green space might be a more versatile and welcoming environment for family gettogethers. Upgrading your kitchen might allow your inner master chef to blossom into a truly talented cook.

Your personal comfort.

Sometimes less flashy upgrades to your living space have the biggest impact. A brand-new mattress isn’t as exciting as a garden hot tub, but you’re certainly not going to spend 8 hours every day soaking!

If you’ve been sleeping in the same bed and siting on the same settee for close to a decade, do some furniture shopping. Get some new pillows and sheets, or an ergonomic computer chair. These improvements aren’t just cosmetic – they’ll help you rest better and feel better.

Many of us also live with little quirks that have a negative impact on how we feel about our homes: that room that doesn’t get warm enough in the winter, a leaky sink, a living room with enough lighting for TV but not enough to read by, that cupboard under the stairs that’s going to explode someday. Minor household repairs and good old-fashioned spring cleaning can bring some welcome calm to the clutter we all accumulate.

Your personal geography.

Real estate pros like to say the three most important qualities in a home are: location, location, location. But the perfect spot for your first home might not be the perfect place to get married, raise a family, and start your own business. Once your kids move out of the house and have families of their own, your feelings about where you live might change yet again.

Your home city might become more or less appealing to you over time as well. Beloved businesses and restaurants close. New establishments take their place. Friends come and go. The cost of living can fluctuate.

If your community no longer provides you the same comfort, activities, social circle, and engagement that it once did, it might be time to consider a move. This could be another reason to explore buying a second home for extended weekends closer to your family or vacations that allow you to explore your passions.

Your personal journey.

As your life changes, your experience of home will change along with it, especially as retirement nears. The big family home might become a difficult empty nest for you and your spouse to maintain as you age. The familiar comforts of home might start to create a restless sort of discomfort. You might feel drawn to new places, new people, and new experiences to keep your golden years fresh and stimulating.

Or, like more and more retirees, you might decide that your current home truly is where your heart is. You might “retire in place” and give your current home some TLC that will prepare it for the next phase of your life.

So what does “home” mean to you? We are happy for you talk to us about creating a financial plan that will provide you with as much comfort as your favourite reading chair.

 

 

 

Giving: How to Do The Most Good Without Disrupting Your Financial Plan

Many studies have shown that charitable giving provides greater happiness than buying more stuff. Eventually, you get used to your fancy new car, and the level of  enjoyment it provides goes down. But giving forges feelings of connectedness and community that don’t fade away.

Incorporating charitable giving into your financial plan is a great way to make sure that your generosity is aligned with the things that are most important to you. Some forethought about these key issues will also make sure that your good intentions don’t throw off the rest of your own long-term planning:

  1. Have a purpose.

The most effective charitable giving is thoughtful and intentional. It may be helpful for you and your spouse to ask yourselves some questions that will narrow your focus, such as:

  • Do we want to give to a national or local cause?
  • Are there pressing issues in our community that we feel we can help impact?
  • Do we have any personal connections to causes, such as medical research or support for the arts?
  • Do we want to support friends or family by contributing to causes that impact their lives or fulfill their passions?
  • Do we want to support a religious organisation, such as our church?
  • Are our charitable impulses motivated by on-going problems, such as education or homelessness, or would we rather position ourselves to react to events such as natural disasters?
  1. Do your homework.

Once you’ve settled on a cause, do some research on potential recipients. Visit the local charity you’d like to support and meet with its leadership team. Is the organisation running itself responsibly? Are there good, competent people in charge? Will these people get the job done? Don’t sink your money into a well-intentioned black hole.

If you’re looking to give to a national organisation, keep in mind that even some of the biggest names have come under fire lately from watchdog groups for misusing donations. Make sure you’re giving to an organisation that’s doing what it says it’s going to do with your money.

Also, remember that big organisations – even charities – must manage things like overheads, salaries, and insurance. Are you happy supporting the organisation itself? If you want to see your money in action more visibly, you might be happier giving locally.

  1. Beware the internet.

Whenever something bad happens in the world, our inboxes and social media are flooded with donation links. Read before you click. Be especially wary of crowd-funded campaigns on sites like GoFundMe. The cause may sound worthy, but these sites do not provide meaningful oversight on every campaign. Your money could be going to a cause, or it could be going straight into a scam artist’s pocket. You’ll never know

Landscape – Why Delay? You Can Start Improving Your Health Right Now!

A busy 40- to 50-hour work week, kids that need shuttling to and from school and extra-curriculars … and a gradually decreasing metabolism.

Sound familiar?

Young, working couples with no kids may have more time to be active and healthy. Long morning walks, three trips to the gym every week playing sport with friends cooking their way through gourmet recipes.

Then life happens. Children, promotions at work that lead to more responsibility and longer hours.

A couple’s free time together begins to dry up. Five-a- side night turns into crashing on the couch for a few hours before bed. Weekend bike trips or trivia nights turn into weekend rushes to and from kids’ parties or sporting activities and gourmet cookbooks are replaced by fast food menus.

Then there’s the money crunch. Even couples with a financial plan in place tend to worry more about money once a mortgage, car payments, and children enter the picture. Many couples start pinching pennies at the expense of their creature comforts and well-being. New clothes and a replacement for that worn-out mattress aren’t as important as saving for college tuition or eventual retirement. Frozen meals and take-aways are quick fixes when there’s so little time to cook a good meal before your daughter’s dance lessons.

The Result

The risks involved when we start neglecting our health are real, and harder to correct as we continue to age. But there are emotional consequences as well, especially if one spouse slips out of shape faster than the other. Innocuous suggestions like, “Let’s take a trip to the farmer’s market” or “How about we re-start our gym membership?” can feel laced with criticism. A loss of confidence, feelings of depression, and inattentiveness to basic hygiene and appearance can follow. Money – already the most common source of marital friction – will continue to be a barrier to self-improvement. Unhealthy people don’t like being told they’re unhealthy, and will often put off preventative care, like annual checkups.

If you or your spouse are struggling with a similar scenario, take a moment to work through the following questions and suggestions together:

Questions to Ask

Are you and your spouse able to maintain your health without any financial stress?

Do you and your spouse regularly confirm your health and overall well-being with your doctors?

Is your level of physical activity higher or lower now than it used to be? If you’re about to retire, do you anticipate a more or less active lifestyle?

What are some physical recreational activities that you enjoy?

What is a recreational activity you’ve never tried, but deep down always wanted to try?

How old is your furniture, especially your bed and mattress?

How many fresh meals do you and your spouse cook and eat at home every week?

Steps to Take

Landscape – How Will You Practice Your “ART” in Retirement?

A hammock on the beach. Your favourite chair in the living room. Waking up when you feel like it. A blank diary. Doing what you want when you want. Doing nothing if that’s how you feel that day.

After a lifetime of working 35 hours or more every week, this scenario sure sounds appealing to many soon-to-be retirees. But the surprising reality is that a life of unstructured leisure can create stress, strain spousal relationships, and lead to feelings of uselessness and depression.

When today’s successful retirees stop working, they learn the “ART” of retirement. It’s about Activity, Relationships, and Time. They experiment. They try new things. They make new connections. And eventually, they create a new daily routine focused on the people and passions that make their lives fulfilling.

Activity

Jack just retired. He has no idea how to spend his time anymore. So, he potters around the house, fixing stuff that isn’t broken, rearranging things that don’t need to be rearranged, watching a lot of TV … and driving his wife, Jill, crazy.

We chuckle when we see a scenario like this play out in a film or TV show. But Retired Hubby or Wife Syndrome is a very real problem. Many senior couples have spent eight hours or more apart from each other every single day for decades. Then, suddenly, they’re together all the time!

Often, this is the moment when spouses realise they each have very different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. One spouse might have visions of a spending their time in the garden whereas the other might have plans to see the world. Somewhere in between those expectations are the activities that are going to make retirement worthwhile for both people.

The things you do in retirement should be meaningful, stimulating, and energising. Your passions should be your guide to a new routine – both with your spouse, and apart from him or her. Take professional lessons to turn a hobby like golf or painting into a real skill. Volunteer at a charity that’s close to your heart. You and your spouse can indulge your inner foodies with weekly date nights to try out all the new hot spots in town.

Relationships

Your spouse isn’t the only person you’ll be seeing more often in retirement. Your relationships with the rest of your friends and family are also going to change now that you’re no longer working. This too can be difficult, as many of the people you spent your workdays with recede from your day-to-day routine.

But this can also be a wonderful opportunity to connect with the people who matter the most to you. Once you and your spouse make it through the initial adjustment period, in my mother and fathers case this took at least 12 months I have to warn you, you’ll be able to spend time doing the things that brought you together in the first place. Planning trips and extended vacations around your children and grandchildren will create meaningful experiences that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

Your social diary also gets a whole lot bigger. Fill it up! Organize your friends for a weekly round of golf. Plan date nights with other retired couples. If there are people you lost touch with due to the grind of working and raising a family, reconnect.

Time

Time without the structure that work provides can be challenging for retirees. The very notion of time can take on new meaning. Without meetings and project deadlines to worry about, time can seem so limitless that it’s overwhelming. It’s like an artist staring at a blank canvas—where do you begin?

So how will you fill your day? Will you start taking an hour to do things that used to take 10 minutes when you were working? Will you sleep later? What new routines will you start?

The good news is, many of today’s retirees are more active, more connected to their communities, more adventurous, more ALIVE than they’ve ever been! And they organise their time in retirement around the activities and relationships that make them feel happy and fulfilled.

Perfecting your ART

Retirement is an ART you have to work to perfect. You’ll make mistakes, and you’ll learn from them and adjust. You might load up your days with activities, only to find that having a bit less structure allows you to explore your options. You might find the initial lack of structure maddening, and work on a new routine. You might try a part-time job. You might like it. You might not.

There’s no one way to have a successful retirement. But the sooner you start working to refine your ART, the more beautiful your retirement picture will be.

Spring Statement 2018

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, delivered his first Spring Statement to Parliament on 13 March 2018. In a break with recent tradition, the chancellor did not use the financial statement midway between Budgets to present a ‘mini-Budget’ or pre-Budget report.

The chancellor’s Spring Statement 2018 is a response to the Office for Budget Responsibilities’ (OBR’s) latest economic and fiscal forecasts and provides an opportunity to set out government priorities and consultations ahead of the Autumn Budget later this year.

Projections for growth

Mr Hammond upgraded projections for growth and predicted falling inflation, debt and borrowing in his 26-minute statement. He claimed the UK economy had reached a turning point and there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.

The UK economy will grow faster this year than previously forecast and the deficit will be some £5 billion lower, with the overall economic and fiscal picture ‘broadly the same’ according to the OBR.

Future spending rises

He ruled out an immediate end to austerity but hinted at possible spending rises in the future, announcing to the House of Commons that growth was forecast to be 1.4% this year, 0.1% higher than forecast by the OBR in November, with the forecast for 2019 and 2020 unchanged at 1.3%.

Mr Hammond said debt would fall as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the main measure of UK economic growth based on the value of goods and services produced during a given period – from 2018/19, which would be the start of ‘the first sustained fall in debt for 17 years, a turning point in the nation’s recovery from the financial crisis of a decade ago’.

Public sector borrowing

Mr Hammond revealed that public sector net borrowing in 2017/18 would be £45.2 billion, down from the £49.9 billion forecast in November and as a share of GDP that would be 2.2%, lower than the 2.4% previously expected.

He also hinted at possible spending increases to come in his Autumn Budget when he will ‘set an overall path for public spending for 2020 and beyond’ with a detailed spending review in 2019.

Click here to read our guide to the Spring Statement 2018.

What does the Spring Statement mean for you, your family and your business?

If you would like to review your personal or business plans to ensure they still remain on track, or if you have any further questions, please contact us.