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Case study: Drawing funds from an occupational pension

The client

Our client approached us as she had received a pre-retirement pack from an old company occupational pension scheme, from a well known high street name.

This was for a relatively small plan value, and the pension offered was only £70 a year. Our client asked if we could arrange for her to draw the whole fund as cash. Alternatively she wondered if we could transfer the fund to add to her existing sizeable pension benefits that we manage.

Our solution: drawing funds from an occupational pension

We examined the data and advised that it was in her best interests to draw the fund. There was quite a sizeable penalty on making a transfer, but not on drawing the funds directly from the scheme. The latter option was clearly preferable. The transfer would only be a last resort.

The retirement paperwork gave options for drawing the fund as a one-off payment under the triviality rules. However our client did not qualify to use these as her overall pension savings were too high.

We therefore considered drawing the benefits under the small pot rules, where you can draw plans of up to £10,000 as one off payments. There are various versions of these rules depending on the type of scheme, but they are quite straightforward for occupational schemes.

The challenge: changing the rules

There was no option for this in the paperwork, so we contacted the scheme administrators to ask for this.

The administrators confirmed our understanding that we could use these rules, but they then advised that the scheme have chosen not to adopt the rules that actually allow this. They also advised that they thought the scheme had a lot of members in a similar situation, with small pots, who would probably prefer, or have preferred, to draw the funds as cash.

We thought this was worth challenging, as it would actually cost our client quite a sum of money if she transferred her benefits instead. We drafted a letter for her to send to the scheme trustees to ask them to change their stance.

The occupational pension administrators then advised us that they had reviewed our data. As a result they chose to adopt the rules which would benefit our client.

This decision meant our client was better off. But crucially it also opened up this option for other members of the scheme.

Please note though, drawing a cash payment rather than a pension is often not the right choice. Advice is important, as shown by this case, where we were able to provide an option our client would have not known was even available.

 

If you would like advice on your occupational pension please contact us on 01543 410 512 or email us on enquiries@acuityfinancial.co.uk

Financial resilience: how would you cope with a life changing event?

According to Scottish Widows, in the UK up to six million people each year suffer a life changing event that causes a sudden loss of income. Many more experience events that cause a sudden rise in outgoings. Examples include:

  • Loss of a job
  • Sickness leading to absence from work
  • Becoming a carer to a relative
  • The end of a relationship
  • Bereavement
  • Becoming a parent

Many of these events happen without warning, leaving individuals with little or no choice but to face them, but the impact can be substantial. The inability to pay essential bills and meet mortgage payments can lead to huge financial stress.

While many people have faced these challenges this year, the government support has enabled the majority to continue meeting their financial obligations. However, in more normal times, individuals need to find their own way through the new situation, coping with the stress of the event as well as the financial impact.

The ability to cope financially when faced with a sudden fall in income or unavoidable rise in costs is known as financial resilience. Not everyone has the financial resources to cope if they are unable to work. A poll of more than 2,000 adults by Zurich UK suggests as many as one in eight would have to sell their home to make ends meet if that ever happened. In the survey a third of respondents said they did not feel financially resilient.

How would you cope?

When asked how they would cope with a sudden significant loss of income:

  • 40% would rely on savings for the short term (i.e. less than 6 months)
  • 39% would find a second job that I could do with my illness/ injury
  • 26% would sell other possessions (e.g. any valuables, etc.)
  • 23% would rely on savings for the long term (i.e. 6 months or longer)
  • 18% said their partner would start work/ increase their hours
  • 17% would sell their car
  • 16% would move in with friends or relatives
  • 14% would find a cheaper place to rent
  • 13% would sell their home
  • 11% would get a lodger

These are all major decisions, and have a significant impact on you as well your partner and any family. Being financially resilient can and does help cushion the blow of these income shocks.

How can a financial adviser help?

Working with a financial adviser can help you look at alternate ways to cope with the impact of a life changing event or a major financial blow on your existing income. We take a long-term view with you, and take time to understand your financial situation, including the levels of savings or other financial support you have access to. We can then look at ways to protect your income that can help you in times of sudden change, to protect you and your family.

When you decide to insure your income, or your life, what you are really insuring is the financial stability of yourself and your loved ones. There are many options to explore depending on your circumstances and priorities, and it is our job as independent advisors to guide you through to achieve financial resilience for you and your family.

If you want to be more financially resilient and need professional advice to help you, please get in touch. Call us on: 01543 410512 or email enquiries@acuityfinancial.co.uk

3 financial steps to take to protect the important things in life

In the last few months have you stepped back to consider what is important? Have you been reviewing your future plans and finances? Have you realised the importance of ensuring your family and future are protected? After three months of lockdown, we are starting to see shops and businesses opening up. We are all getting used to a new way of working. Now is the perfect time to take some simple steps to ensure your finances are arranged in the best way to support your family. Here are our 3 steps to financial planning.

Step 1: Getting your finances in order

For most of us our mortgage payment is the biggest item of monthly household expenditure. You may have applied for a mortgage holiday in recent weeks. If you haven’t, the option is still available. However, if you can avoid this, we would suggest you do so. Some lenders are saying they think this should affect your ability to borrow in the future.

Aside from this, it can be a good idea to check if you are on the best mortgage deal. We may be able to find a better rate or a better option to help you reduce that monthly payment. There has been a change in the mortgage market, with lenders trying to keep their borrowers more actively, rather than borrowers having to change lender every time their mortgage product ends. However, your existing lender won’t do a thorough review of the market for you! We will review what they have to offer and advise you on the alternatives, for example whether a 2 year or a 5-year fixed rate might suit you best. When we find the right product – whether this is with your current lender or a different lender – we can arrange a transfer for you on your behalf, often at no charge to you.

Step 2: Planning for your future

Are your pension arrangements well planned? If you have been working for any length of time, it is likely you have a number of different company pension schemes and maybe a personal pension which needs reviewing. Now is a good time to ask, are you in the right plan, are you investing in the right funds and are you paying too much in fees?

We can help you identify what plans you have, and check that they are still suitable to support you in retirement. A quick check can also reveal who stands to gain any death in service benefits, which you can change.

For our small business owner clients, we can help you plan a personal pension scheme to support you in the future. Even if your business finances are under pressure right now, starting a pension is an essential step.

Step 3: Supporting your family

Whenever we see a client, we always check to see if they have made a will. So many financial arrangements are set up to benefit you in your lifetime. But did you know they can also be structured to support your family after your death? If you would like us to recommend a solicitor to help you with this, or if you need us to work with your solicitor, please let us know.

We can also ensure that you have arrangements in place to support your family after your death or if you can’t work because you are ill. If we have learnt anything in 2020 it is that life can take some very unexpected turns. We can find the right type of plan at the right monthly costs with cover levels that are right for your needs. We can check any existing plans you have to make sure they are still suitable for you.

Hopefully our 3 steps to financial planning were helpful. If you would like to speak to us about any aspects of your financial planning, get in touch. We are booking appointments either in the office in Lichfield or via video call. Call us to make an appointment 01543 410 512

Changes on pension tax relief for higher rate tax payers

What is pension tax relief?

When we are advising clients on their pension options, we often need to explain pension tax relief. Tax relief is the biggest advantage that pensions have over ordinary investments. This is an incentive set by the government to encourage you to pay into your pension pot. When you pay money into a pension, the government refunds the tax that you paid on this this part of your income meaning the amount is immediately boosted by tax relief. Usually you don’t need to worry about this. Your pension provider will claim it as tax relief on your behalf and add it to your pension pot. You get relief at source in all personal and stakeholder pensions, and some workplace pensions.

What are the current rates?

As it stands, when you pay into a pension, you receive tax relief at the highest rate you pay income tax. Basic rate taxpayers receive 20% pension tax relief and higher rate taxpayers 40%. So if you are a basic rate tax payer you only need to pay £80 to save £100. Higher rate tax payers only need to pay £60 to save £100.

What are the potential changes to pension tax relief?

However, many people within the financial services industry  are speculating that the budget on 11 March may see reforms in this area. There is a suggestion that we may see changes for higher rate tax payers, with a reduction in the tax relief rate from 40% to 20% tax relief. If this is the case, higher rate tax payers would do well to make any pension deposits before the budget. There is unlikely to be any change for basic rate tax payers.
Of course, this is likely to be a highly unpopular move. The Chancellor may decide not to make this change at this time. However, it is a significant change that has been discussed for several years. If it does not happen in this budget, it is still likely to happen in the foreseeable future.
If you are a higher rate tax payer and would like to talk to us about the most efficient way to save for your future, please get in touch and arrange a meeting with one of our independent financial advisers.

What other pension changes may be announced?

We might also see an announcement in the budget about pensions dashboards. This would help people keep track of their retirement savings by displaying all of their pension pots, including the state pension, in one place online. This has been promised in previous budgets, but the December Queen’s Speech announced the Pensions Schemes Bill which should include this change.

Your financial resolutions for 2020

Have you resolved that 2020 is the year you get your financial situation organised? You may have been thinking about looking at your pension or starting a savings plan for your children? Perhaps 2020 is the year you buy a bigger house for your growing family, or downsize as they leave the nest? Maybe 2020 is the year you will retire and make a start on all your big life goals. Whatever your financial resolutions for this new decade, we can help you achieve them.

1) I want to review my pension

If you are self-employed, you may have no pension provision at all, so this should be a priority. The sooner you start, the more you can save before you retire. Even a small amount saved regularly will mount up over a long period. We can review the market and find the right product for you.

If you have a personal pension that hasn’t been reviewed for a while, it would almost certainly benefit from changes to the investment funds.

And if 2020 is your planned retirement year (lucky you!) we can help you decide what to do with your pension pot. There is a huge range of annuity products available for you to invest in and we can advise on those. And of course the new pension freedoms mean you can withdraw it and spend it in any way you choose (sensibly of course!).

2) I want to change my mortgage

If your mortgage product is due for renewal this year, it is worth reviewing the market to see if there is a better deal for you. There has been a change in the mortgage market, with lenders trying to keep their borrowers more actively, rather than borrowers having to change lender every time their mortgage product ends. However, your existing lender won’t do a thorough review of the market for you – we will! And if we find a better product, we can arrange a transfer for you on your behalf, often at no charge to you.

If 2020 is the year for moving house, we can also help you. We start with understanding your current position, the amount you want to borrow and your employment circumstances. Once we know what you are looking for, we can do a thorough search, calling on our up to date knowledge of the market. Using industry recommendations and our specialist software we find the right product from the thousands of mortgages available. We can particularly advise if you have unusual financial circumstances, you need bridging finance or need to borrow large sums.

3) I want to ensure my family is provided for

This is an area where many of us bury our heads in the sand. But sadly many of us know someone who has died young, or who has had a serious illness. A lack of protection planning can have a massive impact on family finances. It is worth considering how your money might run out, if anything happened to you as a result of long-term sickness or injury. This tool from Legal & General is helpful to help you work out how many weeks’ breathing space you could have. A relatively small amount of money saved each month can give significant peace of mind.

4) I want to save for the future

Maybe 2019 was the year you became a parent, or a grandparent and want to start a fund to help them in the future. Maybe you have inherited a significant amount and are wondering how best to invest it. Perhaps you are just looking at your bank account and wondering how to make your money work a little harder. There is a staggering array of savings and investment products on the market. We can help tailor investments to your own needs.

Whatever your financial resolutions we are best placed to give you totally independent advice which focusses on you and your needs. Take a look at the comments of our clients and let us see if we can help you.

Get in touch

We can help you keep your 2020 financial resolutions. Book an appointment by calling us on 01543 410512.

We do not ask for a fee for an initial meeting, where we can meet to check whether we can offer what you need. Any business that we conduct on your behalf will be subject to a fee. We will always advise you of the fee up front before we start any work for you.

Financial planning when going through a divorce

Divorce is stressful. We can at least help in taking part of that stress away for you.

Sometimes our services are needed most when our clients are going through a stressful change in their lives. Recently Paula has been advising several clients who are going through the divorce process, working with them and their solicitor. Here she offers some key financial issues to think about when you are going through a divorce or separation. She also covers what information you may need to provide for us and your solicitor to advise you appropriately.

Mortgage planning for divorce

If your separation means you need to sell your home – what your solicitor will refer to as the matrimonial home – you will need to consider whether you need a mortgage in order to buy a new property. You will also need to have an idea how much you may need.

In order to help you with this, you will need an idea of what the matrimonial home is worth, the amount of any existing mortgage and an indication of how any equity may be split between you and your ex-partner. Proof of earnings will be needed to help you obtain a new mortgage. You will also need an idea of the value of any property you are looking to buy. We are happy to talk to you about getting a mortgage in principle so you can have that conversation with your solicitor.

Pensions considerations

The value of your pension and your ex partner’s pension will be taken into account with any financial settlement. You will need to supply your solicitor with the Cash Transfer Value of any occupational and private pension schemes. We can obtain that information for you if you wish, to help you to fill in form E.

If you are allocated a pension sharing order as part of the settlement, you will need some idea of where you are going to invest that money. If you have a private pension plan it may make sense to invest it here. We can look at the amounts involved, and consider how close you are to retirement age before we advise you.

You may need to access some capital in the short term for example when you are waiting for your matrimonial home to sell. If you are over 55, you may be able to release a tax free cash sum from your pension pot to help you.

 

We do understand that considering your financial affairs while going through a divorce is stressful. Our aim is to help you consider all the possibilities to help you make the right decisions. We want to ensure the financial aspects of the divorce go as smoothly as possible for you.

If you would like to book an appointment with Paula to discuss any of these issues, please call us on 01543 410512. We do not ask for a fee for an initial meeting, where we can meet to check whether we can offer what you need. Any business that we conduct on your behalf will be subject to a fee. We will always advise you of up front before we start any work for you.

How much should I save in my pension?

This is a question that our clients always ask us when we are discussing their private pension arrangements. Putting money away every month or year to benefit us at some point in the future is a major decision to make, and can feel very unreal, when you are more concerned about covering your day to day costs. Of course as advisers, we don’t actually tell you the answer! It is very much your decision. But we can tell you the things we discuss with clients when we are looking at their pension options.

How long until you retire?

The conversation about how much you should invest will very much depend on how long you have until you retire. Put simply, if you are in your thirties or forties your pension pot has longer to grow than if you have reached your mid fifties. You may also have a view about what age you want to be when you retire. Don’t forget you can currently claim the state pension on reaching 66, but this is set to increase, meaning many of us won’t be able to claim that until you are 68.

What other pension arrangements do you have in place?

Very often when we speak to clients they have had a number of previous jobs. This is likely to mean that they have a number of other pension pots in place, some of which they may have forgotten about. If you can find the details of those other pensions before you come and talk to us, this will help us advise you as to the best course of action. You may be able to transfer some of those pots into a new personal product which you then pay into regularly.

How much risk are you comfortable with?

This is a very personal decision and one we can support you with. Some of our clients want a very secure investment and others are happy to take a little more risk. Some pensions will include a combination of funds, so you can benefit from both approaches.

What are your retirement plans?

This can be the most enjoyable part of pension planning! Some people’s retirement plans include travelling the world and supporting their grandchildren. Others have ambitions simply to remain active and enjoy their garden. Whatever your plans are it is worth remembering that the basic state pension is just £129.20 a week in 2019/20. However modest your plans, we suspect you are going to want a little more than that to live on.

What pension contributions can you afford?

This is an essential question, and it would be worth considering before you come to talk to us. Ideally you would be able to put aside a sum every month to invest, so do think about a sum that is affordable for you.
Don’t forget that whatever you put into your pension, you automatically get 20% tax back from the Government as an additional deposit. So for example £200 a month from your bank account means £250 a month goes into your pension.

What if things change?

Don’t forget, we offer all of our pension clients an annual review, so if your circumstances change, you can adjust the amount you put into your pension.

If you would like to review your existing pension arrangements, contact us on 01543 410512 and make an appointment to see one of our advisers.

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