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  • 03 Aug 2010 6:41 AM | Andy Jervis

    Many financial advisers describe themselves as 'wealth managers.' This isn't a term that we like to use in our practice.

     

    We are financial planners. The definition of a plan is 'a series of actions designed to achieve a stated result.' Without a Plan in place, any work that we do with you to 'manage your wealth' is likely to be meaningless.

     

    Think about it. What's the purpose of money? Is it to simply accumulate, to achieve ever greater levels of wealth? Or does money have an intrinsic purpose that needs to be clearly expressed if it is to work effectively for you?

    Maria Nemeth, a leading clinical psychologist and creator of the 'You and Money' course, calls money 'congealed energy.' In itself, money has no purpose. It is neutral. It only acquires the purpose that we, as individuals, ascribe to it. That purpose will be different for different people.

     

    But the purpose that you choose - and it is very much your choice - is crucial to the way that you relate to money, and your success in acquiring, gathering and managing it. It also determines to a large extent the peace of mind that you gain from your money decisions.

     

    That's why we always begin our conversations with discussion of your values and goals. Understanding the link between what's truly important to you and your money decisions is the first and easily most important step towards your success. That's because the biggest factor in that success will be your own actions - not whether your financial adviser or some money manager can 'outperform' some random and irrelevant benchmark.

     

    Yet that's where almost all 'wealth managers' begin their conversations. They'll want to explain their investment process and the managers that they use. They'll probably be very keen to talk about esoteric concepts such as 'active' versus 'passive' investing strategies, and how they have 'unique' sources of insight and information that gives them the edge in investing your money.

     

    Above all, they'll talk about exactly that; investing your money. Of course, to the uninitiated, that's great! It's why you're there. You want to know this stuff.

     

    But a lifetime of helping people to achieve their goals has led us to the stark and simple realisation that none of this really matters. Or at least, it matters so little that it certainly shouldn't be the basis for your own investment strategy.

     

    What does matter is how you manage your own behaviour, because the evidence shows that’s what will determine whether you ultimately achieve your goals or not.

     

    It's whether you get sucked up in the latest 'bubble' just before it bursts. It's staying with your strategy when everything looks hopeless and the economy is shot to pieces. It's continuing to save in the down times, and to manage your spending in the good. And it's about having your eggs in different baskets so you won't get wiped out when the unexpected happens (a point investors in Equitable Life, RBS, Bear Stearns, Northern Rock, Woolworths etc., etc., wish they'd followed).

     

    It's these behaviours that investors practice daily on themselves that can destroy or multiply their wealth.

     

    You don't need a wealth manager. What you need is a Financial Planner who understands you, your values and your goals, and who recognises that their role is about more than just managing your money. One practitioner I know refers to his role as a 'Behavioural Investment Counsellor,' and that just about sums it up for me.

     

    Because he knows what all great Financial Planners know. He knows that what we all need is a money coach to tell us when we're being foolish. If you think that you're much too sophisticated to require this, then good luck to you. But my guess is that if I asked you about your money history and the decisions that got you to where you are today, you would prove to yourself that you need a money coach too.

     

    And here's the strangest thing. When you find that person, and you work with him or her over a long period of time, one day you'll look back and realise that you are on track. That you have achieved your goals. And that your investments have actually substantially outperformed those of the poor beleaguered clients of that 'wealth manager' you spoke to all those years ago.

     

    Or whatever he calls himself these days.

     

    Andy Jervis is a Certified Financial Planner and Director of Chesterton House Financial Planning Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Chesterton House work with clients  with assets of at least £250,000. Andy specialises in helping clients with at least £2m in investable assets. He can  be contacted on 01509 610472 or at www.chestertonhouse.co.uk.

  • 14 Jul 2010 6:59 AM | Dan Woodruff

    We recently reported that the Bank of England kept interest rates at 0.5% for another month.  Interest rates have been at this record low point for over a year, so we are concerned that people might get overly confident that these rates are here to stay.  However, this is unlikely as in recent years the average has been somewhere around the 5% mark. See here for more information.

    The only way for interest rates is up - so you should think about this if you have a variable rate mortgage or a tracker mortgage.  If you have a fixed rate mortgage, you will be fine during the fixed rate period, but you should also think about the consequences once the fixed rate comes to an end.  Since many households fix for short periods, such as 2 years, this could come around sooner than you realise.

    What does an interest rate rise mean for you?
    Let's take a mortgage of £150,000 with 20 years remaining.  If we assume that you are on a standard variable rate with a high street lender, you might be paying 3.5% (this is the Halifax rate based on today's website).

    The table below shows the effect of various interest rate rises, none of which take us up to the 5% rate which is the Bank of England's 'normal' rate.

    RateRepayment basisAdditional costInterest only basisAdditonal cost
    3.5%£870£0£438£0
    4.5%£949£79£563£125
    5.5%£1032£162£688£250
    6.5%£1119£249£813£375
    7.5%£1209£339£938£500

    This information was provided using the calculator at Money Made Clear - an initiative provided by the Consumer Financial Education body.  Click here to put in your own details and work out the effect of interest rate rises on your personal situation.

    The message here is clear - you should prepare for future interest rate rises on your mortgage and give some thought as to how you might pay the extra cost if you are on a standard variable rate mortgage.

  • 14 Jul 2010 6:57 AM | Dan Woodruff

    The Financial Services Authority (the body which currently regulates the Financial Services sector), has today launched a consultation paper on Responsible Mortgage Lending.  Their main theme seems to be that "the existing regulatory framework had been ineffective in constraining particularly risky lending and unaffordable borrowing."

    Assessing affordability for mortgages
    The FSA rightly says that lenders have been too keen to allow more risky lending in the past.  This has been evidenced with self certification products, as well as 'fast track'.

    Self certification mortgages were originally designed for those people who could not prove their income such as the newly self-employed.  Fast track is still used by many lenders where the loan to value is lower than 75% of the value of the home, and the risk to them is deemed to be low.  Income is still assessed, but documents are not checked.

    What ended up happening with these types of loans was that o they became so called "liar loans" - people used the system to inflate their income so that they could justify bigger loans.  Lenders were not concerned about this practice so long as house prices rose.  Of course, eventually this ground to a halt, and the practices were exposed.  Also, many mortgage brokers have been caught out supporting their clients through what is effectively mortgage fraud.

    The regulator is concerned that the banks should have more robust methods for establishing affordability for loans. Therefore, they have proposed that all new lending should be assessed for affordability.  This would effectively ban self certified and fast track mortgages.

    Interest only
    The regulator has been concerned for some time that interest only is becoming much more widespread - probably as a result of the increasing cost of housing.  People have set up loans with no mechanism in place to repay the original capital, and this could end up being a massive problem in the years to come, as they struggle to repay this debt.

    The proposal is to assess affordability as if a repayment mortgage is being taken out, even where interest only is the preferred vehicle.  We suspect that the FSA would like to outlaw pure interest only mortgages on main residences, where there is no savings vehicle in place to repay the capital.

    Our view
    Overall, we would broadly support more responsible lending since this would help to keep the housing market more stable, and encourage the public not to over-extend themselves financially.  We need to get out of the belief that your house is your biggest asset, since this holds back the finances of millions of people who struggle to afford bigger mortgages while ignoring other financial needs.  People need to realise that their home is not an asset in the traditional sense since it cannot be cashed in (you always need somewhere to live).

    We have been worried for some time that interest only is becoming the norm, especially in younger buyers.

    What all this means for the self employed is that they should seriously consider their lending needs before starting a new business, since in the future it may be very difficult to get funding for such people without full accounts, and enough income to justify the loan.

  • 11 Jul 2010 5:10 AM | Heather Dunne

    To enable you to offer advice on Pension Transfers, which are those from Occupational Schemes, you need to have access to a Pension Transfer Specialist.  This includes transfers from which include Final Salary, Deferred Annuity, Money Purchase, SSAS, EPP and S32

    There are basically three methods by which this is generally achieved:

    • 1.     Appointing a Full Time Pension Transfer Specialist or employing someone who has the appropriate qualifications to undertake this role as part of their work.
    • 2.     Referring cases to another firm which specialises in this type of business.
    • 3.     Obtaining the services of a Pension Transfer Specialist on a contract basis.

    There are of course merits and difficulties with all three options.  We must be clear at outset that our preferred route is the final option and it is on this basis which we have worked for the last seven or so years.  In the last couple of years, we have added the facility of offering the second option where suitable.

    • 1.    Appointing a Full Time Pension Transfer Specialist

    The first option requires you to locate an individual who has the necessary experience and qualifications to satisfy our regulator the Financial Services Authority.  Additionally it means ensuring they remain up to date and also supervising their work.

    That individual then has a disproportionate power over the company especially within a smaller firm, as they know that they must be replaced and can demand a higher remuneration package.  If such an individual is receiving work from other colleagues, they can have difficulty ensuring work is up to satisfactory standards as they do not have the power or position of the Compliance team.  This is especially difficult if they are being passed cases by a supervisor or manager.

    If the individual in question is also expected to produce their own business, they may struggle to work efficiently on pension transfer work which is less lucrative for them.  This may also mean they have insufficient cases to remain fully au fait with changes in the market place.  They will not have the time to create formal structures and systems and so may work in a more ad hoc manner.

    If this individual leaves, invariably the firm reviews the situation.  We have found over the years that new clients have turned to us when such a situation has arisen and rarely reverted to the in house alternative.

    • 2.    Referring cases to another firm which specialises in this type of business

    This requires the initiating firm to pass across client details and allow another firm to deal with this specific piece of work for them.  This may mean there is a lack of impetus to complete work, which appears to result in delays in many cases.  This does frequently seem to mean there is a need to chase through progress of cases.

    It also means that the commission is paid to that other firm which may then pay a proportion back to the introducing firm.  That does affect cash flow for the introducing firm.  Additionally, certain firms set the way the commission is to be generated and this may exclude renewal commission for the introducing firm.  The actual level of commission can be significant.

    Additionally the case has to be transferred back to the originating firm at the end of the transaction, which involves further paperwork and follow up with the client.

    We also understand that some of our competitors are less able to deal with variations in ceding scheme i.e. they can assist easily with Final Salary or Defined Benefit cases, but have significantly more difficulty with money purchase including SSAS, EPP etc.  Furthermore, the costs quoted for such situations appear to be extremely high.

    This option does have the benefit of removing any liability for the transfer advice, but that is at the expense of the control with regard to the advice.

    We have in recent years picked up several clients who have previously used these alternatives and come to the conclusion they prefer our methodology and working practices, which involve a clear and simple charging structure which depends on the number of plans involved as against the types of contract.

    We do now offer this referral basis via one of our long term clients, where our clients are unlikely to undertake sufficient cases to make our preferred method viable financially due to the FSA fees incurred.  This referral option incurs a higher the fee per case and requires additional paperwork completed by our adviser client and their client as well as ourselves. 

    We have based our systems for this firm (HDIFA) on those we use internally and so sub contract the actual pension transfer work to HDC Limited.  It means that whichever route our client uses they receive the same high standard of service and compliance with regulatory standards.

    • 3.    Obtaining the services of a Pension Transfer Specialist on a contract basis.

    This is our preferred system for working with our adviser clients.  This gives you the access you need to the technical support you require both in relation to actual transfers and also in respect of other more technical pension areas.

    You only pay for the work undertaken on your behalf by HDC Limited.  If at any time you are not satisfied you can walk away and appoint an alternative PTS or use one of the other routes.

    Many of our clients have been concerned about the costs:

    • *      The one charge we cannot assist with is the FSA adviser fee, which is imposed for adding Heather to the firm’s consultant list.  We understand that this is in the region of £1,500 to £2,500 and appears to vary depending on the type of firm and the permissions already granted.  This is the fixed cost, which means a certain number of cases need to be processed in a year, to make the appointment financially viable.
    • *      The other fear is the Professional Indemnity Insurance Premium.  Over the years, the majority of our clients have confirmed that once their PI Insurers have been provided with our detailed explanation of how we work and our PI Insurance Certificate they make little or no extra charge for extending the cover.
    • *      Our fees are generally set on a fixed basis, though we do negotiate hourly rate fees for certain more specialist work.

    The application process is another concern and over the years we have become very familiar with this.  A detailed explanation of this process and all the required documents are available on our website and we will assist you with any concerns or clarifications required.

    There are other competitors in the market place and we recommend you look at some alternatives before making a final decision.  That will enable you to consider who suits your firm’s systems and mentality best.  Our industry is based entirely on trust and as such you need to be certain the person you choose fits you and so is more likely to have a similar mentality and understand your clients’ needs and wishes as you express them.

    If you decide you do wish to use us, we look forward to working with you.

  • 11 Jul 2010 5:09 AM | Heather Dunne

    What is the Critical Yield?

    Note that the cash equivalent transfer value offered by the scheme is supposed to reflect the cost of providing the benefits due at retirement for that particular member. 

    The Critical yield is the growth required, if the transfer value is applied to the alternative personal pension to match the benefits due from the scheme at Normal Retirement Date. 

    The Transfer Analysis can supplement this with a similar calculation assessing the growth required to match the scheme benefits at the Early Retirement Age.

    All things being equal, as the transfer value assesses the cost of buying benefits and the Critical yield assesses the growth required on that cost to match the benefits, the investment return required by the actuary on the fund should match the Critical Yield calculated within the analysis. 

    Of course, it is not that simple: the Critical Yield is invariably higher than the discount rate the actuary used.  The differential is due to the various assumptions required in the two calculations.  We therefore need to be aware of and understand how those assumptions impinge on the Critical Yield to understand the validity and relevance thereof.

    To explain this we shall consider how a Transfer Value and a Critical Yield based on that value is actually arrived at.  We will then review the assumptions and explain why we feel the Critical Yield is only one of many aspects to consider and not a major one at that.

    Transfer Values

    The Transfer Value is intended to reflect the cost to the scheme of providing the benefits due at Normal Retirement Age.  In simple terms this means the transfer value is calculated as follows:

    1.     Assess the benefits due at date of leaving service i.e. the pension (assuming cash is created by commutation of that, which is the case in most private sector schemes)

    2.     Revalue that pension to the Scheme Normal Retirement Date.  The scheme will use the revaluation they apply, which is usually Statutory Orders i.e. RPI/5% per annum (reduced fro leavers after May 2009 to RPI/2.5% per annum).  The Actuary will therefore estimate a figure for the long term growth in RPI.

    3.     Capitalise that pension i.e. assess the fund required to purchase a pension.  In practice, few schemes buy annuities, they generally pay pensions out of incoming contributions or investment return.  Again the Actuary will set a capitalisation factor, which will allow for assumed proportions of married couples and death in deferment and the cost to them of providing the benefits.

    4.     Discount that capitalised value allowing for investment return likely to be achieved between now and the scheme Normal Retirement Date.  This factor takes into account the actual underlying investments and so will usually be a weighted average of the current proportions applicable to the scheme.  This is again an assumption fixed by the Actuary in consultation with the Scheme Trustees.

    5.     This results in the transfer value available, which may then be adjusted to allow for any scheme deficit.

    The benefits at date of leaving are fixed at that stage, unless of course the legislation changes allowing individuals to draw more as cash as against pension as occurred on 6th April 2006.  That is unusual and we will set that aside for the moment.

    The revaluation is usually based on actual RPI until the date of calculation and so is based on historical fact.  However if the scheme assumes future RPI of 2.5% the projected benefits will be lower than if they assume 2.6%.  This is magnified by compounding over longer terms.

    The Capitalisation Factor should really vary from scheme to scheme reflecting the actual membership, but may be biased by that particular Actuary’s views.

    The Discount rate will depend on what the actuary thinks the underlying assets will return.  The higher expected return the lower the subsequent transfer value and vice versa.  This is again even more significant over longer terms.

    Adjustments in the Transfer Value reflecting a deficit will reduce the sum available.  This reduction is again set by the Actuary and the Scheme Trustees and will be scheme specific.

    How is the Critical Yield calculated?

    There are again various steps to this:

    1.     Accurately assess the benefits being provided by the scheme.  This is subdivided into two parts; the Scheme Design and the Individual Member benefits.  Under our process:

    *        We issue an Information Request to the administrators in relation to Scheme Design, which runs to some thirteen questions each of which includes several sub questions.  We also request documents including the Scheme Accounts, Trustee Reports, Actuarial Reports and Scheme Booklets. 

    *        The same request asks a further seven questions in relation to the actual member under consideration.  Again these also include sub queries about the intricacies of various aspects.

    *        When we obtain a response we ensure that the details are not contradictory, which unfortunately they frequently are and double check those aspects, to ensure we have a clear understanding of how the scheme has interpreted the various requirements and altered the scheme over the years. 

    *        This then means we have as an accurate an assessment as we can obtain.

    2.     We then enter these into our Transfer Analysis System.

    *        In common with most firms including the majority of providers, we use the O&M Transfer software to undertake the analysis.  This system calculates the Critical Yield and prepares a report.  The accuracy of that report and the associated Critical Yield is determined by the accuracy of the information entered.

    *        Alongside the Transfer Analysis the system produces an exceptions report.  The first time the report is run, it will almost certainly include “problems” as well as “warnings”. 

    ·           Problems will prevent the software from producing a report.  Once the missing data has been obtained the report will work.  This is where inaccuracies can creep in, as the user can make assumptions, rather than request the missing data, which is quicker, but may of course be wrong. 

    ·           Warnings can be overlooked, but if there are several, they will affect the accuracy of the report.  We work very hard to ascertain all we can from the scheme, but where necessary i.e. when deadlines are short or the schemes are very unhelpful, our experience enables us to make informed judgement or interpretation of the information which has been provided.  Where this is necessary it is explained in the report, as there is a facility to add explanatory notes.

    *        A small change in the scheme benefits e.g. revaluation of the deferred benefits or the increases due on pensions in payment, will affect the Critical Yield.  This is why if you send scheme details to three differing providers they will produce reports using the same system, but frequently show differing results.

    3.     The alternative plan: We prepare our transfer analysis using a no charge plan as the alternative.  This ensures that all the Critical Yield is measuring is the cost of matching the scheme benefits and is not biased by the new plan charges.

    4.     Now all the fixed aspects have been defined, the system will undertake a similar calculation to that used to assess the Transfer Value available and provide the Critical Yield:

    *             Using the benefits due at the date of leaving (as detailed by the scheme) assess the benefits due at Retirement allowing for the revaluation applied by the scheme.  In this calculation, the assumptions for RPI are prescribed by the Financial Services Authority (FSA).  More on that later.

    *             Those benefits are capitalised, again using assumptions set by the FSA.

    *             The investment return required on the Transfer Value offered to match that cost is assessed and termed the Critical Yield.

    We therefore have a Critical Yield, which reflects the growth required to match the scheme benefits at Normal Retirement Age. 

    We then double check the Critical Yield:

    *     We will revisit the details entered in the software to check for errors omissions and verify data provided by the scheme. 

    *     When appropriate, we will then contact the scheme to ask them to double check their calculations.  This sometimes (but rarely) results in an increase in the Transfer Value.

    We have therefore confirmed that the Transfer Value being offered is reasonable and that the Critical Yield we have assessed is calculated correctly. 

    Why is the Critical Yield, usually higher than the parameters many firms set as acceptable to proceed with transfers?  Furthermore, why may we still feel the transfer is viable?

    To answer these questions, we need to explain how we assess the Critical Yield.

    Assessing the Critical Yield

    We are still frequently asked what Critical Yield is acceptable and some advisers are somewhat confused by the answer that is depends on the personal situation of the client.  This is because the Critical Yield, despite the fact it is a numerical assessment, is like all the other factors subjective.

    When assessing the Critical Yield we need to consider the differential in assumptions in the two calculations, which can be explained as follows:

    When undertaking a TVAS, the basis to be used is defined by legislation (i.e. the FSA) and is significantly different from that set by the Trustees for the purposes of paying transfers.

    So the Scheme Actuary uses their assumptions and we use those set by the FSA.  To complicate matters further, the new plan providers also use assumptions prescribed by the FSA, but they differ for those purposes.  So we are comparing chalk with cheese and then looking at it yet another way for the future investment.  This may explain why we feel the actual numbers are all subjective.

    The TVAS Assumptions prescribed by the FSA

    The FSA adopted a method of setting the various assumptions for RPI and associated revaluation and indexation, which relies on one underlying factor the Annuity Interest Rate.  The differential between the various assumptions does not alter; it is the underlying value of AIR which is adjusted.

    This underlying factor used to be reviewed on a regular basis, but for some time now has been fixed for each tax year.  The AIR for the current tax year (2009/10) is 4.1% at the mid rate of return.  This was also the same in the previous tax year (2008/9).  The lower rate and higher rate calculations also included in the analysis are therefore also based on a fixed differential from the standard AIR figure.

    In addition to AIR, the capitalisation factors are prescribed based on mortality.

    We shall now consider these two aspects in more detail.

    1.     Annuity Interest Rate

    The Annuity Interest Rate (AIR) is the rate of interest used as a basis for valuing future pension payments. The AIR reflects the yield to redemption on high yield coupon medium and long term gilt edged securities.

    The AIR calculation is based on the real yield on the FTSE Actuaries Government Securities Index-linked Real Yields over 5 years assuming 5% inflation and on the real yield on the FTSE Actuaries Government Securities Index-linked Real Yields over 5 years assuming 0% inflation.

    The Real Yields to be used in the calculation are the yields as published on 15th February each year, or, where necessary, the most recent day.  The rate of return must be updated on 6th April each year and used up to and including 5th April of the next year.

    A higher AIR would discount future pension payments at a higher rate; the capitalised value of the Scheme Pension and associated annuity rates at the date of Retirement would therefore be lower.  A higher AIR would therefore reduce the critical yield required to accumulate the transfer value to the capitalised value at retirement.  

    Thus a higher AIR will produce a lower Critical Yield and vice versa.  There has been no change in this to reflect the alteration in the Transfer Value calculations or the current base rates, which are very different from those in place when the actual figure was last altered. 

    In other words, the assumptions used within the TVAS are artificially high as compared with the current situation, meaning that the Critical Yields provided will over state the growth required to match the scheme benefits.

    2.     Capitalisation Factors

    The Financial Services Authority also prescribed assumptions with regard to the conversion of the fund at retirement into pension.  The description is as follows:

    The Mortality Basis which must be applied to all Pension Transfer Analysis reports is stipulated by the Financial Services Authority - Full Handbook [new Conduct of Business Sourcebook: Preparing product information (COBS 13 Annex 2) Projections]. The Mortality Tables are PMA92 and PFA92 (www.actuaries.org.uk), using the medium cohort projection on year of birth mortality rates.

    PMA92 and PFA92 are mortality tables for males and females respectively based on mortality of pensioners in 1992.  Pensioners statistically live longer than those with no pension, which is appropriate. 

    Again the differential between the TVAS and Scheme Actuary assessment of the CETV can be summed up by the following explanation:  The cost to provide £1 of pension under the TVAS basis is higher than under the Trustees’ basis.

    In other words whilst the FSA continue to use annuity rates which do not reflect those used by schemes or indeed those available in the market place, the Critical Yield calculated will be higher than the true cost of matching the scheme benefits.

    Our View

    Having considered all these factors, it is our view that the Critical Yield is purely an indicator and has to be viewed with an experienced eye.  It is on this basis that we place significantly more weight on the other factors such as potential death benefits and flexibility in retirement. 

    The important aspect with a Transfer is the same as with any other piece of advice – the suitability of that advice to the client.

  • 11 Jul 2010 5:07 AM | Heather Dunne

    Background

    Following Simplification Tax Free Cash acquired a new name, which many of us are still struggling to familiarise ourselves with.  Pension Commencement Lump Sum seems such a misnomer, because one no longer actually has to take pension to draw Tax Free Cash.

    There have been many articles and discussions about Protected Cash and this has tended to focus on the situation where an individual is worse off in relation to Tax Free Cash after A Day.  We have looked at a huge number of cases where the salary and service deficiencies have actually meant 25% of the fund is better either immediately or in the longer term.

    Part of this relates to the age old problem of drawing lower salaries and higher dividends, and thereby reducing NI costs to the smaller employer.  The new methodology for cash and pension removes that difficulty and so Controlling Directors can draw their remuneration in a tax efficient manner and not affect their pension rights.

    Some also relates to the ability to draw 25% of the Protected Rights fund as Tax Free Cash.  Many individuals had large Protected Rights funds relating to transfers from Defined Benefits Schemes accrued after April 1997 and some had actually accrued as much from contracting out as from other sources.  For them the new rules mainly improved their overall cash allowance.

    Defined Benefits

    There remains one area where the 25% rule is not quite that simple, which is in relation to Defined Benefits Schemes.  The cash is limited to 25% of the cost of providing the Defined Benefits. 

    As you will be aware, HMRC value all deferred defined benefits by multiplying the pension due by 20.  On that basis the cash allowance should simply be 20 x pension due x 25%. 

    Commutation Factors

    Very few schemes actually assess the value of their pensions using a factor of 20; they use the Commutation Factor, which depends on the age of the individual and the format of their scheme benefits.  This factor is set by the scheme actuary and is the conversion rate of pension to cash, and was traditionally used to assess the value of the pension foregone to provide cash. 

    The Commutation factors are now used in assessing the amount of cash a scheme will offer at retirement. These factors will usually differ for men and women and in relation to pension earned before or after April 1997, reflecting indexation payable on the pension.  Differing factors apply for various ages too.

    There are a set of HMRC standard factors, but each scheme has complete discretion in this respect and so could alter this now very significant variable at any time. 

    This ability to alter commutation factors means the scheme can alter the amount of cash they will offer members in return for pension.  This can be used to encourage members to draw cash and so reduce long term scheme liabilities.  Many schemes now adjust these factors annually, quarterly or even monthly.

    This also means that it is not always easy to assess what the cash allowance is to compare with that due from a personal pension at the time of a transfer.  The only comparison which can really be made is in the estimated figures, which is based on the assumption the factors will not change.

    Even schemes which traditionally provide cash separately e.g. Civil Service or NHS, now use commutation factors and allow members to commute additional pension to the new maximum cash. 

    In the majority of the cases we have seen the new rules allow the member to have more cash than under the old rules.  Furthermore the transfer and potential tax free cash available at retirement via a Personal Pension is higher again in many cases. 

    Assessment of Cash

    As the cash relates to the cost of providing the pension due, the cash assessment results in various equations, which are manipulated to result in the following formula:

    Tax Free Cash =   Pension x Commutation Factor

    1 + (0.15 x Commutation Factor)

    Pension is the Full pension available at intended retirement age (i.e. before commutation)

    The Commutation Factor is set by the scheme and used for calculating the reduction in pension for each £ of Tax Free Cash

    This means that when assessing the value of the scheme benefits an individual has it is important to ascertain the commutation factors alongside all the other data required to evaluate their potential benefits. 

    A rough rule of thumb is that the higher the commutation factor, the higher the cash so a commutation factor of 15 will be better than one of 12.  The higher commutation factor will also cost the client less in terms of initial pension foregone to draw cash. 

    Retirement Age

    The pension due at Normal Retirement Age will normally be subject to Early Retirement Factors, these reflect the fact the scheme will have to pay benefits earlier and probably for longer, meaning the cost of those benefits will be higher.  This is just like a Money Purchase scheme which will also produce a lower income at an earlier age.  The commutation factor will usually also be higher at the early retirement age reflecting the higher value of the pension being foregone.

    The reduced pension and increased commutation factor counteract one another and generally, the effect of the reduced pension is more significant than the increased commutation factor.  The lower pension due at the earlier retirement age will still mean that the cash available will generally remain much lower in monetary terms than that available at Normal Retirement Age. 

    Schemes may offer higher commutation factors and so better cash to encourage members to draw cash as against pension and reduce the scheme’s long term liabilities.  With scheme funding generally in deficit this is the current trend.  However, this could be reversed if funding improves or the short term costs of providing cash at retirement become more of a concern to the scheme. 

    Summary

    The aspects you need to be aware of:

    *     The cash available from a defined benefits scheme is 25% of the cost of providing benefits,

    *     This usually exceeds the Protected Cash, especially as that increases from A Day in line with the Lifetime Allowance, which has is frozen from next tax year for the following five years

    *     On most occasions 25% of the fund, based on the transfer value is higher again

    *     The commutation factors used to make this calculation can be reviewed at the discretion of the actuary/scheme trustees.

    *     The comparison on Early Retirement will also be affected by the Early Retirement Factors, which reduce the pension available.

    *     The scheme cash on this new basis will increase in line with the revaluation based on the pension.

    *     The Personal Pension alternative depends on investment performance

    *     Over the longer term, investment performance will usually outstrip inflation

    Have you reviewed the position for your clients and are they aware that despite the “guarantees” in their existing scheme the trustees may adjust this one variable and significantly alter the structure of their benefits at any time.

  • 11 Jul 2010 5:06 AM | Heather Dunne

    One of the main reason advisers worry about recommending transfers from Defined benefits or final salary schemes is the concern about guarantees.  This article considers the value of those guarantees in practice.

    Deficits

    The first point of call is the actual scheme fund.  The majority of final salary schemes are now in deficit which simply means there is not enough money to cover the expected liabilities.  This is of course all based on various assumptions including those relating to the investment return, Retail Prices Index, salary rises and annuity rates.  As we all know each and every one of these factors impinges on the final cost of the benefits due and the value of the fund available to meet those benefits. 

    In October 2008 schemes changed back to a scheme basis as against the artificial Minimum Funding Requirement Basis for calculating Cash Equivalent Transfer Values.  In other words the Scheme Actuary now sets the assumptions, not the government via legislation.  This resulted in a marked increase in transfer values, which was good news for those members who were revisiting figures supplied before that deadline.  Conversely this means that schemes which have undertaken valuations since then have generally shown larger deficits, which have been exacerbated by the very unusual market conditions.

    If the Actuarial Report shows a deficit the Scheme Trustees have to agree a Recovery Plan with the company, in other words, setting out the additional contributions which will be made and when, to reduce the deficit.  These plans have a ten year maximum term.  This means the next review will fall due long before that timescale has ended and the Recovery Plan is renegotiated and restarts.  In other words the ten year period will never actually finish. 

    The guaranteed benefits are therefore subject to the scheme having sufficient monies to provide those benefits.

    Dealing with Deficits - Wind up or Reduce Benefits

    One question which is frequently raised is why schemes do not actually wind up.  The simple answer is that when the scheme winds up the actual deficit is crystallised and becomes a debt on the employer.  Due to the comparative size of such deficits as against the value of the employer, this could create a major problem for the employer.  So Scheme Trustees defer wind up and take other action to reduce the deficit. 

    During the period of the Recovery Plan period, the Scheme Trustees will also be obliged to consider other options there are two main alternatives increase investment performance and reduce benefits.  All the other factors are outside the Trustees’ control.  Increasing investment return is a very risky alternative and requires Trustees accepting the potential liability created by any losses.  This is therefore the least likely route and reducing benefits has to be considered.

    All schemes have been undertaking these reviews and this has resulted in significant changes.  Some schemes and employers have had more difficulties British Airways has suffered strikes and that is likely to have affected the underlying business.  The BBC has announced changes and it appears likely some form of disruptive action will follow.  We are all aware the Civil Servants are being warned cuts will occur to their benefits, which is marginally different in that the shortfall in current requirements is made up by us the tax payer, as there is no fund, but follows the same principles.

    The simplest and most effective is closing the scheme to new members.  That simply means no further liabilities will be incurred.  However it does also mean that the membership is maturing and the average age is getting closer to retirement when the liabilities have to be met.  This can therefore increase the need to resolve the issues in a shorter timeframe which can increase the deficit.

    The next options involve reducing future benefit accrual for existing scheme members.  One option is to reduce the scheme accrual rate e.g. from 1/60th to 1/80th.  Additionally the associated benefits such as spouse’s death in deferment and retirement may be reduced.  Other benefits which can reasonably easily be reduced and create savings are those relating to increases in payment of the pension.  It may be that this is also associated to an increase in member contributions.  The most misunderstood is the conversion to CARE or career average.  This is simply adjusting the definition of pensionable salary from final salary to an average of salary throughout employment.  For someone who is a member of CARE (Career Average Revalued Earnings) for a long time and has significant increases in salary during that period this will reduce their benefits.  For those staff that tend to be in the same employment e.g. factory staff this will probably make little difference, but for sales and senior employees this can make a huge reduction in possible benefits.

    The second more drastic version of this is to close the scheme.  This means no-one accrues any further benefits, which of course stops liabilities increasing.  This also indirectly reduces the benefits actually already promised to members.  Whilst a member is in pensionable service i.e. in the scheme, the benefits accrued in previous years increase in line with salary.  Once the member is converted from active to deferred, which is what happens when the scheme is closed, benefits are subject to revaluation.  All revaluation is required to do is ensure the benefits do not reduce in comparison to Retail Prices Index.  In the past, the minimum revaluation was the lower of RPI and 5% per annum.  With effect from 6th April 2009 this requirement was reduced to the lower of 2.5% and RPI.  At present an individual who leaves service after April 2009 has two portions of benefit – pre and post 2009 and the two sets of revaluation are applied.  This is not therefore a significant saving at this time, but as time passes will become more relevant to schemes and indeed members.  Either way, it is generally accepted that salaries usually increase faster than prices and so the member of a closed scheme will earn lower eventual benefits than one in an open scheme.  This of course reduces the scheme liabilities which is the intention.

    The actual benefits promised are therefore subject to change, depending on the Company and Trustee decisions with regard to the scheme.

    Dealing with Deficits - Reducing Administrative Costs

    The Scheme Trustees will be paying a consultancy firm or there will be a department dealing with the pension administration and of course reducing those costs will release funds to reduce the deficit.  One of the main administrative costs is related to supplying annual membership statements and dealing with queries from members.  Thus reducing the membership can reduce these costs.    The member they wish to remove are those in deferment i.e. who have benefits due at some stage but are not contributing to the scheme.

    The simplest way of removing members is to undertake a “partial wind up”.  This basically means organising a Trustees Bulk Buy Out under which each member will be granted a transfer to a Section 32 organised by the Trustees.  When the Trustees do this they are obliged to give members the alternative to transferring to a plan of their choice and three months in which to consider that option.  This therefore frequently results in members approaching advisers with a transfer package and asking what they should do.  The transfer values may be the standard CETV due to each member, or one reduced in line with the deficit or indeed an enhanced one to persuade them to transfer.  This final enhanced transfer value may be in the form of a cash incentive of an increased transfer value.

    The transfer value offered will generally indicate whether the Trustees want members to take the funds away or move to the new plan they are arranging with the provider they have chosen.

    The same process generally applies in the event of a full scheme wind up.

    In this case the benefits will be converted from guaranteed defined benefits to money purchase benefits t the behest of the Trustees even if the member does not transfer.  In this way the Trustees will have removed the guarantees applicable to those member’s benefits.

    Company Solvency

    We have already alluded to the fact that the scheme deficit is guaranteed by the company which is required to make up the shortfall by paying additional contributions.  Obviously, the payment of additional contributions will require extra funds to be available within the company which are not required for running the business.  Clearly large additional contributions may impinge on the company’s ability to continue trading.  Other factors may also affect the company’s profitability.

    Pension Protection Fund

    In simple terms if the company is unable to continue trading it may pass into liquidation at which stage the scheme will usually pass to the Pension Protection Fund.  The PPF will assess whether they are willing to take on the scheme and if they are, what level of benefits they will provide. 

    PPF-Level of benefits

    The PPF provides limited benefits, which are adjusted each tax year.  The actual level of benefits is capped based on a pension level set assuming a Normal Retirement Age of 65.  If the scheme NRA is earlier, this monetary figure is actuarially reduced.  Broadly speaking the Pension Protection Fund will provide two levels of compensation which are outlined below.

    1. For individuals that have reached their scheme’s normal pension age or, irrespective of age, are either already in receipt of survivors’ pension or a pension on the grounds of ill health, the Pension Protection Fund will generally pay 100% level of compensation.

    In broad terms and in normal circumstances, this means a starting level of compensation that equates to 100% of the pension in payment immediately before the assessment date (subject to a review of the rules of the scheme by the Pension Protection Fund).

    The part of this compensation that is derived from pensionable service on or after 6 April 1997 will be increased each year in line with the Retail Prices Index capped at 2.5%.  This could, potentially, result in a lower rate of increase than the scheme would have provided.


    2. For the majority of people below their scheme’s normal pension age the Pension Protection Fund will generally pay 90% level of compensation.

    In broad terms and in normal circumstances, this means 90% of the pension an individual had accrued (including revaluation) immediately before the assessment date (subject to a review of the rules of the scheme by the Pension Protection Fund) and revaluation in line with the increase in the Retail Prices Index between the assessment date and the commencement of compensation payments, this revaluation being subject to a cap of 5% in respect of service from April 1997 to April 2009, and 2.5% in respect of service thereafter. These caps apply in deferment.

    This compensation is subject to an overall annual cap, which, as at April 2010, equates to £29,748.68 at age 65 after the 90% has been applied. (The cap will be adjusted according to the age at which compensation comes into payment).

    Once compensation is in payment, the part that derives from pensionable service on or after 6 April 1997 will be increased each year in line with the Retail Prices Index, capped at 2.5%.  Again, this could result in a lower rate of increase than the scheme would have provided.

    In addition there will also be compensation for certain survivors.

    PPF – Funding

    The Pension Protection Fund is funded by

    • ·       Levies on the various existing defined benefits scheme and
    • ·       The investments acquired when schemes pass into the PPF. 

    The levies are in two parts: one which relates to the number of members (Scheme Levy) and one which depends on the current funding status of the scheme (Risk Based Levy). 

    The Scheme Levy will depend on the size of the scheme which is generally based on the number of each type of member; active, deferred or pensioner, because that affects the potential PPF Liability.

    The Risk Based Levy is dependent on the size of the deficit and will therefore increase if the scheme is in deficit.  This assessment is dependent on a differing actuarial report basis (S143) than that used to assess the deficit for other purposes.  This is also adjusted in relation to the assessment of the solvency of the employer, based on a report by Dun and Bradstreet commissioned by the PPF on an annual basis.

    The assets are held by the PPF and are invested to produce a return to assist in providing the benefits due under the PPF.  Obviously the actual return achieved depends on the investments and returns available and not guaranteed.

    The Pension Protection Fund has the ability to alter the levy to meet its liabilities. However, in extreme circumstances compensation could be reduced.

    ·        Revaluation and indexation could be reduced by the Pension Protection Fund if circumstances required it.

    ·        Levels of compensation could be reduced by the Secretary of State on the recommendation of the Pension Protection Fund.

    The PPF is not subject to any underpin or funding from the government.  It has already been announced that the fund is in deficit and so struggling to meet the liabilities which it has accepted from existing schemes.  In other words, it is unlikely that the PPF will be able to maintain the level of benefits currently promised to members.  It is unknown whether this will result in higher levies on the remaining schemes, which will affect the funding of the remaining schemes, or a reduction in the actual benefits being provided. 

    It is not possible to transfer from the PPF and so any individual who approaches you with concerns about the solvency of their employer should be advised to consider a transfer prior to the monies being passed to the PPF.  It also has to be noted that there are various administrative requirements which may delay payment of benefits to those reaching the scheme Normal Retirement Age at the time a scheme is passed to the PPF.

    Summary

    The defined benefits offered by a scheme are only as secure as, the underlying scheme funding, the company solvency and finally the PPF position. 

    The benefits provided by the alternative Personal Pension are underpinned by the underlying funds and the provider.  These are secured under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.  They are also subject to the advice regulation imposed by the Financial Services Authority and decisions made by the Financial Ombudsman Service.  We would generally suggest that these requirements provide a higher level of security for the underlying monies, than those under the defined benefits regime.  However the risk of investment return and annuity rates is passed to the member.

  • 06 Jul 2010 5:05 AM | Heather Dunne

    This case study is based on a real life situation and how we managed to retain the right to an employer contribution without incurring the Lifetime Allowance Charge.  The actual case occurred in late 2008, but remains relevant today.

    Fred Jones is a higher earner whose pension funds exceeded £1.1 million as at A Day.  Fred’s new employer offered to pay £7,500 per month to his pension.  The company were not willing to provide this or even a proportion (i.e. allowing for the NI Cost) as additional salary and actually Fred had no need of the extra income.  This meant Enhanced Protection would not be an option and his funds at A Day were not large enough to apply for Primary Protection. (Neither would be an option now, as the deadline for claiming them has passed)

    Simply, by refusing the pension contribution he received nothing.  By accepting it he would retain 45% of it even allowing for the full Lifetime Allowance Charge.  We undertook some projections and came to the conclusion that he could continue to contribute for approximately three years without a problem.  This was explained to Fred, who agreed and so the contributions were directed to his SIPP.

    Then the Chancellor announced he was freezing the Lifetime Allowance and we had to review the figures.  We now generally assume the figure will remain frozen and so if the Lifetime Allowance increases in future, we would need to review the case again.  However a subsequent review would generally mean a higher contribution could be made or the potential Lifetime Allowance Charge would be reduced.

    Fred indicated that he did not want to draw on his pension funds when he retired, as he wished to preserve the Inheritance Tax Free transfer of those funds to his children until age 75.  This meant that though he would probably stop working and contributing, he would not be taking benefits for significantly longer than we had initially anticipated and the Lifetime Allowance was not going to increase.  On reworking the figures this produced a strange anomaly indicating the contributions would need to cease this February to ensure no Lifetime Allowance Charge would be incurred when he took benefits at age 75. 

    We had already ascertained that the company were not willing to redirect the contributions in any way and that Fred was not keen to forego the £7,500 per month involved.  We estimated that by drawing some of the Tax Free Cash in around three years time, it was possible to arrange for the remaining additional funding to proceed and not exceed the Lifetime Allowance. 

    If this case were occurring now we would need to consider the Special Allowance, which would create an additional tax charge to Fred in relation to the contribution exceeding £20,000 per annum.  This would still be less tax than opting to draw it as extra income, if that had been possible in this particular case.

    Having struggled to avoid the Lifetime Allowance, because the rate of funding was to be so high, we considered the alternative ways to invest that tax free cash including ISAs, which would generate a further tax free lump sum when required and retain a similar tax efficient growth.  However, they are not as IHT friendly, which had been one of the concerns raised by Fred.

    We then looked at other tax efficient investments like Venture Capital Trusts and Enterprise Investment Schemes.  Both options gave a good tax incentive on investment, the VCT would grant 30% and the EIS 20%, which meant that the VCT looked the better option initially.  However, the EIS also has the advantage of benefitting from Business Property Relief and so not creating additional IHT. 

    So the Tax Free Cash could be drawn from the SIPP and invested in an EIS resolving the funding issues, whilst retaining the IHT friendly investment.  By using a spousal bypass trust for the remaining drawdown fund, we could also retain that IHT free facility, though we lost 35% tax on that, the 20% up front on the EIS reduced the effect.

    This reconstruction of his benefits allows Fred to accept the funding available from his employer and retain IHT exemption and avoid the Lifetime Allowance Charge.  This in itself evidences the need to be aware of the overall client position, not just the pension aspects.

    This is one of our firm’s key differentials from many Pension Transfer Specialists.  We work closely with our introducing firms to match the client needs, whilst providing fully compliant transfer reports.  In this way, we support the whole advice process, not just the pension aspect in isolation.

  • 08 Jun 2010 5:15 PM | Margaret George (Administrator)
    Why Consider Making a Financial Plan?
    By Dan Woodruff

    Achieving your goals

    Ultimately your financial plan should be about making the most of your life. We all know we are going to die one day, so why not aim to ensure that you have lived your life to its potential, and have done all the things you set out to do?

    A strong financial base will give you the freedom to make choices for you and your family.

    What happens to people without a plan?

    We all have good intentions, so here are some genuine statistics which might prompt you to some action. We probably all know people who fit into these categories...

    We are all living longer

    In 1901 the average life expectancy at birth for a man was

    45, in 2002 this was 76. For those who make it to 65, men can expect to live until 81, women to age 84. Source: UK Government statistics website.
    The state can't afford to provide for you

    People tend to believe, wrongly, that the state will provide for them. As the population ages, the ratio of working people to retired will only get worse, meaning there will be fewer people available to pay for retirement benefits.

    The basic state pension is currently £95.25 per week for a single person. This increases at a slower rate than average earnings, meaning it loses buying power over time.

    The question is whether you would like to live on this amount when you get to retirement. What would you have to give up?

    With an aging population, it is no surprise that the Government is forced to cut benefits and extend retirement ages. Current proposals aim to increase the state retirement age to 68.

    Savings, what savings?

    According to a study by the Yorkshire Building Society, the average person's savings would last only 52 days. Think about your own outgoings. How long would your lifestyle last if you lost your income? Would you have enough put by to cope with an emergency?
    I won't get sick

    Hopefully you won't, but you might. According to the Department for Work and Pensions in 2007, you had a 1 in 13 chance of claiming on life assurance; a 1 in 8 chance of claiming for critical illness, and a 1 in 5 chance of claiming on an income protection plan. Yet, according to Mori in 2008, the same amount of people insured their teeth as their incomes! That's 6% if you're interested!

    If you get sick the Government will give you £89.80 per week (ESA, long term benefit). If you do not pass the rigorous tests to get this benefit you are deemed to be able to look for work and therefore go on lower Jobseekers benefits.

    How many days just to pay your tax bill?

    The Adam Smith Institute calculates that you need to work until June 25th to pay your tax. That means, your money is not yours until you pass this point. Yet people talk about their income before tax. If you think of the expense of your tax bills, this puts your disposable income into perspective.

    A debt mountain

    The average household debt in the UK (excluding mortgages) is £9,180; if you take out those who have no personal loans this rises to £21,355. If you include mortgages this is £58,290. See creditaction.org.uk

    Many people use debt to fund their existing lifestyle, which only serves to feather the nests of those lending money.

    As well as this, there is a worrying trend to use interest only mortgages. This help people to save money and provides flexibility, but many people do nothing to work towards paying off the capital of their loans. This could lead to severe consequences later in life.

    How much money do I need to retire?

    Obviously this depends on your expectations in retirement. As a rule of thumb, you should be able to achieve an income of around 5% a year from your cash assets (pensions, ISAs etc). Thus, if you have £100,000 this would equate to roughly £5,000 per year. Of course, this all depends on the age you are, how much risk you want to take and so on.

    Want some help?

    We work closely with our clients to develop and maintain their financial plans. If you would like some help in preparing your plan, please contact us.

    What this means is that the traditional retirement no longer applies. We are more active, and live for longer; therefore we need more money and probably want more flexibility.

    Financial planning is about breaking your financial life into manageable chunks so you can make progress in all of these. Your plan will allow you to prioritise your needs, so that the most important are dealt with first.


  • 08 Jun 2010 5:11 PM | Margaret George (Administrator)
    Capital Gains Tax - Is an Increase on the Way?
    By Ray Prince

    One of the most frustrating things we encounter whilst helping clients secure their futures, is governments changing the rules.

    It's a bit like you when play a game of football, and at half time with a comfortable 2-0 lead, the referee explains that the goal size of your opponents will decrease, whilst yours will double.

    What?!

    Hey ref, that's not fair!

    Well, in the world of financial planning, and no doubt along with millions of taxpayers, we await the budget announcements with bated breath. Just as Gordon Brown (remember him?) hit pension funds with his smash and grab back in 1997, the new government are formulating the changes to the tax system to be announced next month.

    Now, let's be clear. Action needs to be taken to reduce the massive deficit. No argument here. Spending cuts are needed, and tax rises will have to come.

    However, what we hear from clients is that they are in many cases bitter that due to other peoples mistakes, Banks and Politicians et al, they are as usual picking up the bill.

    For those earning above £100k pa, and particularly £150k pa, income tax rises will be painful this year. We are likely to also see VAT rates rise, so if you fancy a plasma TV for the world cup you may want to get cracking.

    One of the other tax rises that could well have massive implications for many is Capital Gains Tax (CGT). This is where if you buy shares or a second property for example, you pay tax on the gain you make.

    The rules and rates have already been altered in recent years, and now most commentators predict large changes yet again, possibly in line with income tax rates.

    Hey ref, that's not fair!

    So what are the changes likely to be? We do not have a crystal ball, however some possible options are:

    • Increase the capital gains tax rate from a flat 18% to your individual rate of tax of 20/40% or even 50%
    • Reduce the annual allowance on which you pay no tax from £10,200 or abolish this allowance altogether
    • Bring in any changes retrospectively

    If rates are increased in line with income tax rates, then the situation will revert to how it was before it changed a few years ago.

    This was the stick, and the carrot was that the longer you held an investment the more 'discount' you received on these rates (indexation allowance). So a long term investor was rewarded, but a short term speculator was not.

    So if rates are increased and no 'discount' is brought in for the length of time you have held the investment, then this is likely to have huge ramifications.

    Imagine if Osborne stands up to make his budget speech next month and announces that CGT rates are to rise next April, and that there would be no indexation allowance. So if you sold your Buy To Let by then you would pay 18% tax on any gain, but after then you would be hit at a rate of 40% or even 50%.

    The amount of new property suddenly coming onto the market could be huge, depressing prices further with buyers also playing the game knowing the deadline date.

    Some have even called for CGT to be introduced on principal residences! So even if you sold your own home you would be heavily taxed! If you are planning to rely upon downsizing to fund your retirement this would be a massive blow.

    Clients with equity portfolios would also have their profits hit, and this could well have the effect of depressing the whole stock market with less incentive to save.

    Hey ref, that's not fair!

    We will have to await developments. Watch this space, and let's hope the ref plays hard - but fair.

    The Financial Tips Bottom Line

    If you have assets liable to CGT such as shares or property, then ensure you assess any changes to CGT as soon as you can.

    Planning is essential here, even if you are forced to make some difficult decisions.

    ACTION POINT

    Once the budget is announced, really think about your options and their pros & cons.

    The importance of your annual ISA allowance is paramount if you are investing in shares and/or unit trusts. You can shelter up to £10,200, or £20,400 as a couple, each year from the effects of CGT.

    Ask your adviser their views.

    Ray Prince is a fee based Certified Financial Planner with Rutherford Wilkinson ltd, and helps UK Resident Doctors and Dentists plan to achieve their financial objectives. Just visit http://www.medicaldentalfs.com where you can request your free retirement planning guide.

    Rutherford Wilkinson ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

    Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Ray_Prince

    Ray Prince - EzineArticles Expert Author

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