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The Hurdles We Face

Like most advisers, I regularly have enquiries as a result of the new pension freedoms. In essence, someone wants to move money out of a pension and the Pension company have told them that they cannot do so unless an adviser signs the forms, by which they really mean, takes responsibility for the advice if or when it all goes wrong. So after attempting to explain why I will not do this for the umpteenth time, I thought that perhaps a post about it would be easier… its lengthy, but provides context. If you are in this position and cannot find the time or energy to read 4 pages, then you really should not be messing around with your pension.

The Hurdles We Face

In the past, most people received a poor service from their financial adviser. As advisers were paid based on selling products, some of which were good, some of which were awful. The majority were unlikely to see “their” financial adviser (assuming s/he stuck around) unless the adviser believed that there was another chance to sell a product and thus earn some money.

Free Advice Illusion

The illusion of “free advice” was perpetuated by the product providers (the big life assurance and pension companies). They made it worse by having incredibly complex charging structures. They competed for business based on spurious data about past performance coupled with extra commission, above the agreed standard LAUTRO rate. Unhelpfully each product had a different rate of commission anyway so it was always likely that you would end up with a product that suited the adviser rather more than it suited the investor. In the late 1980s there was also the added problem of Independent Advisers being forced to disclose commission whereas Tied Agents didn’t (and couldn’t) Tied Agents were paid much more commission in any event. It was Tied Agents that were largely responsible for mis-selling of pensions. The collective advising legacy of Tied Agents is now shaped in the form of the largest financial advice company in Britain.

Suits you sir…

As an example, £200 into a pension typically paid commission to the adviser of around £2,300 and then about £5 a month after 4 years until payments stopped. The same amount invested into a PEP or ISA would pay typically £6 a month for as long as the payments were made (£72 a year). PEPs and ISAs did also include a fund based commission of 0.5% as well, so on a fund worth £2400 this would generate another £12 a year (plus growth) – £2,300 now or £84 over the year? (not hard maths).

This invariably resulted in bad selling practices and inappropriate advice. The result was marginally better regulation, improved qualification requirements for advisers and a ban on commission for investments from 2013. All advisers had to charge fees and agree these with their clients.

Unfortunately, this has not prevented criminals being criminals. The digital revolution which has helped on many levels is now under constant threat from fraud. Standards have had to be raised. What most people don’t appreciate is that the advice provided by financial advisers needs to be suitable, it sounds rather obvious but has implications. The most significant being that the adviser is liable for his or her advice not simply at the time, or their working career or indeed their lifetime, but for eternity. We are the only group on earth that can be sued posthumously (our estates).

Tongue-tied about risk

As a direct consequence of the historic mis-selling, any insurer providing professional indemnity insurance (a mandatory requirement to hold) takes a fairly negative view of bad practice and particularly “risky” products – which don’t necessarily mean investor risk, but those that invariably have been used to scam people. This has resulted in fewer insurers, higher premiums to the point that many advisers consider this a tax on good practice rather than an insurance against unlikely complaints.

Common Sense Revolution

A good adviser will always want to look after their clients well, forming a long-term relationship where a good service is provided and is financially rewarding to both the adviser and the client. Most advisers now look after their clients much better, adding significant value over time. There is much documented evidence for this (google adviser alpha).

The risk to the adviser is now more likely to be a bad relationship with a client, that results in a complaint, so service is vital and actually serves both client and adviser much better anyway. So very few advisers are now willing to take on a “one off” piece of work. The risk of things going wrong is too great.

Getting to know you

In a typical process an adviser must demonstrate that s/he knows their client before offering advice. This means sufficiently understanding the clients existing arrangements, circumstances and plans for the future, all within the context of the current real world. Here’s a brief list of the sort of things we require.

·         Evidence of your identity and residency (are you a potential fraudster?)

·         Family circumstances, context (who else is impacted?)

·         Income and tax information (to reduce but also to avoid fraud and evasion)

·         Assets (on a global basis)

·         Liabilities (on a global basis)

·         Existing arrangements (old employer pensions etc)

·         Giving (historic, present and planned)

·         Current spending levels (where does it go? How much does life cost you?)

·         Goals (why, when, who, what, how?)

·         Attitude to risk and capacity for loss

·         The content of your Will (where will all the above go?)

I could go on, but you probably get the point. Obtaining all of this isn’t as straight-forward as you may imagine either. Whilst you may loathe insurance companies, I can assure you that tracking down and obtaining the right information from them about you is enough to test the frustration boundaries of anyone.  Additionally, some people are simply not good at facing difficult truths – such as their own lack of financial control and an unwillingness to confront the basics of something that reveals where it all goes (like an expenses statement).

Trust me, I’m a…

So we’ve now gathered the above, we need to assess it and analyse it properly. Then in light of your aims, what’s realistic given your resources, appetite for risk and ability to cope with loss, we can put together solutions from everything that is “out there”…. Which to remind you is an ever evolving, changing, competitive marketplace, so what’s “best” last week may not be so today.

Committed to paper

We then provide a suitability report, which is meant to be read. Most are long because a lot needs to be said, but we also operate in a climate of complaint and many complaints are won based on what was not said by the adviser than what was done or even whether the adviser was “right”. The client is a human and wants to simply get on with life and not read a very long document about financial stuff.

Then there is the issue of fees and investment costs. We have evolved from the delusion that advice is free, but most people still believe that it is cheap. Even with very good technology (none of it joins up) completing the list earlier and creating a “file” takes about 2 days for the typical person, that assumes the information has arrived.

Fees

Anyway, fees – most charge to look after your money, so will take a percentage of this. The more you have the more you pay (as with most things in life). However in our unnecessarily complex tax system, the more you have invariably means the greater your options and the greater the complexity. Just for a benchmark, complexity probably starts at income of £80,000, but could be a lot lower depending on your age.

Fees come in all forms, but in essence I see six  

1.       The first is to implement or arrange something (i.e.. ISA). Some call this an initial charge. In essence, it is the result of a recommendation to use XYZ investing in a portfolio of funds with ABC, which is suitable because…. Charges are typically 1%-5%

2.       Ongoing management and looking after of the arrangement – the idea being that stuff changes, you need to make adjustments to keep within the parameters that were established. Perhaps switching funds within the portfolio, rebalancing or changing the “shell” of the investment to something now better. Charges are typically 1%

Both of these rely on you having money to invest and look after. Its not that different from commission, invariably taken from the investment rather than your bank account. It works but its not perfect. We know that it isn’t perfect as well, but its how most of us work.

3.       The service fee, this is often paid as a retainer and provides for the cost of meetings and keeping all your stuff (old style and new style) up to date and keeping you in the loop, charges are typically £50 – £500 a month

4.       Ad hoc fees – for specific, often complex pieces of work but of course nobody does this unless they are fully furnished with all the facts about you (as per my list). Charges typically a minimum of £300

5.       The financial planning fee – this is really where the best advisers are heading. In theory you don’t need any money to be invested with your adviser, they design a financial plan, which will take account of all you have and reveal a version of the future so that you can actually know how much is enough, what you need to do and so on, irrespective of who ends up investing the money. A financial plan can be a mammoth document covering the reasons for each assumption made, or it can be reduced to the headline charts, showing you the what and why with a list of action points. A financial plan will cost at least £1500, some ten times this (remember complexity and options). Some advisers recognise that this is often “new” for their clients and discount it heavily to £500-£750 be warned that this also indicates their lack of confidence in the value that they are offering. Financial planning is a real skill, not simply a new label.

6.       The no strings fee. This is the latest attempt to separate financial planning and perhaps behavioural coaching from your money. You pay all fees directly from your bank account, irrespective of how much you have. Naturally there will be some expectation of a correlation between how much value is added or work done, but payment is separate. As a result, there will be no adviser charge shown on any illustrations as the adviser is paid separately. This of course, makes the illustrative projections look much better. The adviser will be paid what was agreed irrespective of results. To be blunt most of us would prefer to work this way, but don’t have clients wealthy enough to do so. Those that do, successfully tend to charge £5,000 – £30,000 a year for their services.  Note that the fee is not necessarily related to time, but more likely value. Consider a tax planning saving of £800,000 what is that worth?

Show me the money

In the attempt to protect and help consumers the regulator has ensured that fees and costs are reflected in all illustrations (evolving since 1995 with “commission disclosure requirements”). Illustrations now show the impact of investment charges and adviser charges. These are significant and appear to cannibalise your investments. When coupled with low rates of growth used for illustrations and a well-intended “remember the impact of inflation” the resulting illustration far from helps consumers, but puts them off ever bothering to move money out of their bank account, (which if run by the same illustrative rules, would have you spitting blood).

Full circle…. Back to affordability and making it appear cheap

The truth, as uncomfortable as it may be, is that financial planning and good financial advice are now largely out of reach (price wise) to most people, due to our operational costs and the need to make a profit so that we can come back next year and do this all again so that our clients are looked after properly within the context of accurate information. It is an exhausting process. Most advisers I know (and I know a lot) would all want everyone to have better financial advice and are actively seeking ways to help through new media (podcasts, blogs, Vlogs, books, seminars, free downloads etc). Naturally, we hope to attract some new good clients, but we are also keen to help educate and improve financial literacy. We call it the savings gap. It’s in all our interests to help Britain become a nation of financially independent adults….the alternative is really rather frightening.

In conclusion (finally!) I cannot do a one-off piece of work for you. It isn’t in my long-term interests to do so (and probably not yours) without doing a proper job. Any adviser that offers to do so is at best deluded and perhaps desperate for money; at worst somewhat economical with the truth and likely running the risk of taking cash for forms, aiding scammers, knowingly or foolishly. This will result in further complaint, the inevitable failing of his or her business, and a compensation bill that the remaining good firms have to split between them (known as FSCS levies). Such a system has numbered days and is currently being reviewed in a fairly timid fashion. This really infuriates most advisers, many of whom vent in online sector forums and can easily be found on topics like Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes (UCIS) or Defined Benefit Pension Transfers or any recent receipt of a regulatory invoice from the FCA or FSCS, despite this there has been little appetite for opposition to a regulator that appears powerful yet out of touch.

When all is said and done, nobody can guarantee anything in financial services. Trust needs to be earned, I believe that this is done by being transparent and keeping promises. Quite how or even how much advisers are paid becomes largely irrelevant under such conditions. Any good financial planner or adviser wants a good long-term relationship with clients.

I genuinely wish you good luck in your endeavour to find a trustworthy, ethical adviser that has possesses business acumen. At one point there were over 250,000 people selling pensions and insurance products, there are now about 25,000 registered individuals who are licensed to do so across 5,720 firms, the vast majority of which are not yet financial planners. You could search my social media account to find some, but in general those are the elite advisers. Beware that search engines or directories are also paid-for marketing tools.

Think I’m wrong? today a report about pension transfers from final salary (“gold-plated pensions”) continues to press the point that advisers cannot be trusted. Nobody appears to have any notion of the cost or risk involved, everything is assessed in terms of a price for filling out forms. See Professional Adviser item by Hannah Godfrey.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
The Hurdles We Face 2017-11-03T13:05:43+00:00

The Base Rate

The Base Rate

After much media speculation, we can now expect the world to end as today the Bank of England has announced an increase to base rates (voting 7-2 to do so). The rate is now 0.50% instead of 0.25%. This is the first rate rise since July 2007. Seriously – over 10 years ago! One would hope that this would benefit everyone with some cash in a savings account at the bank, but we all know better than that don’t we? What is far more likely to happen is that lending rates for mortgages will gradually begin to increase. The nations largest Building Society currently has a standard variable rate of 3.99% and their base rate tracker rate is 2.50%, both considerably above the actual base rate at the time. Banks are generally a bit worse. So lenders may be inclined to sit on their hands and do nothing (for fear of being berated by minnows like me) though I suspect they are more likely to gradually increase their standard variable rate. But we now live in a world of image preservation, so perhaps they won’t all rush to increase rates.

People with Cash Savings

Frankly, I wouldn’t hold out too much hope of an immediate improvement to your savings rate. Inflation is currently 3% and nobody is offering anything near that on an instant access basis. You could shop around, but its a bit of a pain for the equivalent of a round of drinks for the year – and don’t forget the “safety” of the FSCS limits. Alternatively if you have £100,000 or more we can put you in touch with a service that will do this for you (and likely improve your FSCS cover).

Borrowers

There has been much talk about the impact of rate increases on borrowers, who are generally people that are working and repaying debt (hopefully). It is certainly the case that the low interest rate environment may well have lulled some into believing it was always this way, anyone older than about 25 frankly should know otherwise.

There is a tendency to chastise people for “borrowing too much” when this subject is reported in the media. However consider for a moment a couple of facts. Wages have not increased very much over recent years, house prices have largely continued to rise, unchallenged, except perhaps to apply some nervous brakes due to Brexit. However as Kirsty and Phil would suggest, prices are reflective of location, location, location. People have had to borrow significantly to buy homes. Those without mortgages looking to move or simply sell are stuck in the same “market” one that is dominated by sentiment. Anyone that has bought property in the last few years will be aware of the pain created by a huge tax bill – Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). This was used to attempt to control property prices from spiralling ever upwards, has it worked where you live?

The increase, if passed on, will create additional outgoings, just when inflation numbers appear to reflect what we all know – prices are rising. The stockmarket tends to do well whilst there is ample inflation, not always, but often. Inflation helps reduce the “real” value of debt, so Government may say they don’t like it, but it kind of does their job for them without even trying. Some will find life a bit harder, as of today or indeed most of the last 10 years, few people expect rates to increase dramatically and nobody is predicting interest rates that are high.

As I have said previously, clearing debt, however good the maths works for having some, has an emotional value that cannot be overstated. Ask anyone without a mortgage.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
The Base Rate 2017-11-02T13:08:34+00:00

Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross

The 1984 play by David Mamet opened in London last week. I had seen the 1992 film but had not the play. They are certainly different. To my mind the characters in the film generated more sympathy than those in the play. Whatever your view, the performances are strong, but perhaps not as strong as the language which is about as “locker room” as you can get, as clashing egos and dysfunctional ideas about masculinity are spat across the space between characters.

These are “men” that have a fluid understanding of truth, it seems that they believe that it serves their purpose to be economical with the truth. Selling whatever they can for as much as they can to whomever they can. We are all probably familiar with the hard sell and yet despite it being largely frowned upon here in Britain, we are all still regularly blitzed by people trying to grab our attention. This week I’ve had the customary junk emails, a few text messages and a call or two about an accident that wasn’t my fault and never happened. Selling, sadly, is a regular bedfellow of scamming.

Always Closing

Anyone in business will recognise the constant problem of attracting and obtaining new customers. Those that provide a particular product may only ever sell it once, as opposed to those that sell a service. It is telling that in the play, none of the characters really possess much by way of a sense of ethics. Sadly this is nothing new and of course the notion of hypocrisy (at best) lying (at worst) is familiar in almost any sector of society and unique to none. To the salesman (person) the enquiry or “lead” is their opportunity to close a sale. However bad or unethical selling can only lead to a failed business and one that closes.

A Brood of Vipers

I have never really understood those that knowingly and deliberately lie in order to make a sale. Financial services (my sector) is of course one where many sharks and charlatans have resided. Life may be harder for them now, but invariably they exist and find a way to part people from their money with apparent ease. Some “advisers” often refer to the “good old days” of financial services, by which they mean earning a commission for selling products. It may interest you to know that back in those good old days there were about 250,000 people selling financial products, primarily in person, often at your doorstep. Today there are around 25,000 authorised individuals who are able to provide advice and arrange “stuff”. Of those probably no more than 5,000 are financial planners, who, like me, don’t need to arrange “stuff” to get paid and provide a valuable service to clients, but of course most of us will arrange investments and the like as required.

Money Interest

Money is invariably the barrier to an honest conversation. In 2013 after much mucking around the regulator of the day banned most forms of commission (note I started the firm in 1999 completely removing commission). In January 2018 the rules will be taken to a higher level due to a European agreement (MIFID2). This will mean advisers and product providers need to be crystal clear about their charges and agree terms for their service. This is coming from a sensible, laudable intention of protecting investors, unfortunately I can see very few benefits at this stage, at least for those that are already provided with a costed and agreed service, as our clients are. If anything, people are more likely to make more bad decisions, focussed on cost rather than value. One of the new rules is quarterly valuations and prompt/immediate notification if a portfolio falls by 10%. These sort of actions tend to panic investors and shift their focus to the short-term rather than the long-term benefits of disciplined investing and having a proper financial plan.

Unintended Consequences… again

Your in-boxes will become fuller of correspondence, which will in turn lead to either inertia or anxiety, perhaps both. This is likely to be followed by the current serpent de jour, dressed as a helpful paramedic, but actually seeking to suck a pint of blood or two for themselves – the ambulance chasers will find some way to bombard you and convince some, many perhaps that their portfolio will only ever rise and if it doesn’t or didn’t, please take a ticket and join the queue for those seeking remedy or the fantasy of one. To my mind the equivalent of worrying that an egg was broken when the intention is to make an omelette. If I’m sounding fed up or perhaps “aggressive” this is because, well I am certainly tired of pointless changes, but equally aware that we will need to do more work, for no benefit, which will result in higher costs and fees, which will inevitably be passed on to clients. It won’t really deter the liars or crooks, perhaps it will make like marginally harder, but those are people that never play by the rules and would never offer you anything of value.

As for the play, well it’s on in London near Embankment tube. It has not been updated (if it has I cannot see where). It has contains some very uncomfortable language – racism and sexism which jar and are not helpful to the underlying message of the play. Of course it deals with bigger topics such as the dog-eat-dog world that forms of capitalism create, where collaboration isn’t in evidence, but rather ruining your peers helps your own cause. Starring Christian Slater, Kris Marshall, Oliver Ryan and Don Warrington to name a few. Get your tickets here – (warning – very sweary!)

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
Glengarry Glen Ross 2017-10-31T18:57:10+00:00

Downsizing

Downsizing

Imagine a world where your wealth is sufficient for the rest of your life to fully support your lifestyle. Throw in the benefit of massive improvements to the environment and waste reduction and you have the plot summary of Alexander Payne’s new movie “Downsizing”.

This is a movie that is tipped for the OSCARS, given that it will be released in December in the US and January 2018 over here in the UK. Whilst having potential for perhaps both comedy and a sense of hope, this is a film that gets loses itself in a story that is both too big and too small. It’s a pity as the premise is pretty good and the trailer is typically engaging

As a financial planner, my job is to help clients figure out how much is enough to support their lifestyle (as they determine it) for the remainder of their lives. Most people do not appear to have a financial plan, very few have a clear idea about how much would be enough.

Side Effects

Downsizing begins with the scientific discovery that means it is possible to shrink cells without harm or side effect to about 3% of their original size. The one problem being that it is an irreversible process and not available to anyone that has a body with additions (implants, prosthetics, pace-maker etc) as these will not shrink.

Living the Dream

Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) is your average American, he was once on the path to a career in medicine, but his dreams were thwarted by an ill mother who needed his care. Now a somewhat frustrated physiotherapist, he is living in his late mother’s home, with wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and struggling to get by. At the perfectly imperfect setting of a school reunion, he is persuaded to consider Downsizing, the solution to his financial struggles.

Paul and Audrey head off to Leisure Land and receive a masterful sales pitch that extols merely the benefits of Downsizing, ignoring all of the drawbacks. The Safranek’s have assets of $52,000 but in the Downsized world this translates to $12.5million, to live on for life! The numbers do all the talking. Packing a delightful red keepsake box with their family treasures (wedding rings etc) the same box is delivered to the house in Leisure Land, but of course gold wedding rings now appear the size of buoyancy rings. I have to admit, that if I could arrange such a return for our clients I’d be winning every award under the sun. However, as with all things, there are no guarantees.

The Bigger Picture

The plan to save the world is to gradually miniaturise everyone over the course of 200 years. Despite a safe procedure (assuming removal of fillings etc) there are very real side effects in the larger world – economic, political and social. Its all very well that a mansion may now only require the space of a dining table, but property in the larger world still needs to be sold and therefore bought. Taxes need to be paid, production needs to continue and there is a debate about whether the Lilliputians should have a full-sized vote.

The film attempts a stab at all these issues as well as a rather fruitless assessment of a life of pleasure, the poverty divide, immigration and those that remain outside the system, where standards are never the same. Add a touch of impending environmental disaster and the naive, blancmange-like character of Paul Safranek who seems to lack either any sense of self-determination or self-awareness, chasing every ball thrown by anyone willing to bother. Ironically, all of the issues are far too big for the film which becomes as microscopic as its characters, lost in a world of complexity. It’s a pity. Much like Safranek, it appears nobody asked what it was that Alexander Payne wanted from this. Instead it’s a journey of happenstance, rather than any course being plotted. I suppose that this is the reality for most people, who live from day to day, month to month, year to year without any deeper sense of direction, like Safranek, frustrated through not identifying purpose. Nobody asks the right questions and so the thinking is as shrunken as the inhabitants of Leisure Land.

Here’s the trailer, the film is released in the UK in January (following its showing at the London Film Festival this month). Oh yes, the trailer is the best bit.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
Downsizing 2017-10-26T17:44:40+00:00

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

I have been enjoying several films at the BFI London Film Festival. One that stood out for me was “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” which is adapted from the book by Peter Turner. It tells of the unusual relationship between a young Peter Turner and former film noir femme fatale, who most are likely to have seen but perhaps not remember – Gloria Grahame.

Grahame’s career in film began with a small part in “It’s A Wonderful Life” you may recall how George Bailey gives Violet Bick funds to escape the small town and make a name for herself elsewhere. She won an OSCAR for her role on The Bad and the Beautiful and performed with some of the leading lights of the 1950s.

In A Lonely Place

The film is based on her encounter and 2-year relationship with Turner, who she initially meets in London whilst back treading the boards. Then in her mid-fifties, divorced 4 times and surrounded in scandal she begins a relationship with Turner, who at 27 wasn’t even born when Grahame had completed work on The Bad and the Beautiful. We are shown brief insights into her chaotic world and the scandals that inevitably ended her career in film. Her last husband, Anthony Ray, was her stepson (from her second husband) and the marriage lasted from 1960 until 1974 resulting in two children.

A Woman’s Secret

The film implies that Grahame was pretty much financially ruined, appearing to possess a mobile home / caravan on the Californian coastline. Perhaps because of 4 divorces or a career that was cut short, or even because of illness, but clearly the glamour and glitter of her star had burned out. (Spoiler) Ultimately her life is cut short due to a recurrence of cancer, though this is fairly evident as the likely outcome from the start of the film, so I’m not really spoiling it for you.

Odds Against Tomorrow

There are some broad financial lessons here. The audience laughter at a scene where two pints of beer are ordered for 90 pence, was probably the loudest in a film that clearly isn’t designed to be funny; but the long-term impact of inflation is not really the most obvious lesson here. Fame that brings financial success can be very short-lived. Life as an actor can be very harsh. Divorce is financially expensive, but of course the toll on emotional reserves may also be overwhelming. Love and tenderness are often found in unexpected places and whilst care costs, it may not have a monetary price. In a world of appearances many are in danger of making similar “mistakes” or having similar experiences.

The Cobweb

Financial protection is a modern-day (or should that be post-modern?) wonder for those without capital – providing financial stability in the event of life presenting “challenges”. Running out of money isn’t as bad as running out of time, but it’s probably a pretty close race. A proper financial plan will help reveal where your resources are and what you can do to sure them up. It enables you to take a look at the future and make some adjustments in advance if you don’t like the prospects.

Here’s the trailer for the movie, which reunites Jamie Bell and Julie Walters, this time as mother and son, whilst Annette Bening gives a great performance as Gloria Grahame.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Email me to get in touch
Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool 2017-10-13T11:22:47+00:00

Conference Season

Conference Season

It is conference season and I my diary is suitably full of my selection of those that I believe merit attention. I’m not attending any of the political conferences and have recently returned from what might be best described as the Premier League of Financial Planners Conference – the annual CISI conference at Celtic Manor.

Yes Minister

Whilst being a non-political conference, clearly insight from the occasional politician or a former one can be valuable. Step forward Steve Webb, who was a LibDem MP and the Minister for Pensions in the Coalition Government, back in the day when politics offered some semblance of common sense.

The Autumn Budget – 22 November 2017

Whilst understandably providing various caveats to his talk, Mr Webb made clear that given the Queen’s Speech, the current Government have essentially given themselves a 2-year timeframe.

 

Not Enough Hours in the Day

He explained that due to the workings of Parliament, this means about 40 weeks in the year that is given over to Parliamentary work. However, 1 day a week is set aside for the Opposition to make their case and another is for MPs to actually work with their own constituents. Given the amount of time that Brexit will consume, there is precious little likelihood that anything significant will change, unless it is populist, garnering all-party support within the available 120 days a year.

Why Tax Rules Are Daft

Aas tax legislation does not have to go via the House of Lords, unlike other acts (for approval or sense check) much can be altered quickly, even with a tiny majority. He made the point that it is precisely because tax legislation bypasses the House of Lords, that so much of it is so complex and poorly thought through. So that in mind, what could the Government possibly muck around with?

What you can pay in

The Annual Allowance – could be reduced further from the current £40,000, despite acknowledging the complexity of the Tapered Annual Allowance, he thought it more likely that this would be extended rather than abolished, perhaps bringing it in for those earning £100,000 rather than £150,000.

What you can get out

Whilst the Lifetime Allowance has already been thrashed to £1m and is meant to now be linked to inflationary increases, he said that cutting it further is an option as “it passes the Daily Mail test – where people think a £1m pension fund is a lot”. He made the point that the Treasury appears to hate pensions (see all recent changes over the last 15 years) but love ISAs, for which they attempt to invent a new one almost each year now.

Employer’s beware

Whilst he thought it unlikely, he also proposed that the Government could apply employers National Insurance contributions to their pension contributions, which would effectively end salary sacrifice arrangements. He also felt it improbable that the tax-free cash lump sum from pensions would end or be reduced, due to the complexity it would create for those that have had, are having or due to have it and rules are difficult to apply retrospectively.

No F-Bombs

Without a single interruption from anyone handing in a P45 or the stage falling apart, the room of delegates was impressed with his delivery and rationale, but sanguine about the prospect of further pension meddling. Everyone I spoke with conceded that ISAs certainly seem to be the favoured investment vehicle for the Treasury as they only give up future tax revenue, rather than current tax revenues. However, reliance on any future Government to maintain promises about ISAs seems probably unwise.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Conference Season 2017-10-05T15:52:58+00:00

The Trouble With…

The Trouble With…

It seems impossible not to feel a sense of despair sometimes when you see, read or hear the news. When there are atrocities on our own streets or we see yet further mindless violence in countries with whom we have deep and long connections, the sense of despair is palpable. However bad or inept the reporting, I remain thankful that I live here in the UK.

I’m not alone in thinking that the man currently elected as President of the United States is simply not fit for the task. He is out of his depth and displays his evident lack on a daily basis. We have come, (well…I have) to expect very little from him.

Viva Espana?

Spain on the other hand, is a country that most of us know almost as well and the US. Our language barrier is possibly helpful as we tend not to make too many assumptions about each other. Yet I am struggling to understand what goes through the mind of a policeman in the Spanish Civil Guard who appears to enjoy stamping, beating and fighting anyone he deems to be “opposition”. The images that have crossed a multitude of screens are truly horrifying. Whilst the vote for independence may be “illegal” it is clear that a very significant proportion of those living in Catalonia do not wish to remain part of Spain.

Splitting Heirs

As an Englishman and a British citizen, I’m aware of the calls for devolution of power and potential independence of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and perhaps Cornwall. This is unsettling to my sense of what is “normal” but of course the history of our own union is relatively recent and things were different before, much as they were in Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Prussia and so on… borders change. We do not keep the peace by pretending that all is well. We do so by listening to the perspective of the other. As in a marriage that reaches the point of irreconcilable differences, we need to acknowledge that sadly (perhaps) the best course of action is to separate and ultimately to agree to the new legal state of all parties concerned. This will have some genuine difficulties, just like a divorce, the division of resources and accounting for what belongs to who is painful. Those of you that have been through a divorce will understand this more pertinently than those that have not.

Head of State or State of Mind?

The suggestion that “the law” is to be upheld as though it is never altered based upon real experience is nonsense. The law is formed from experience and always evolves to reflect the changing nature of society. When a Monarch, President or Prime Minister fails to grasp the sense of unfairness felt by “their own people” preferring to support aggressive legitimised bullies, it seems to me only right to call them to account.

Ceteris Paribus

What has this to do with financial planning? We make assumptions about the future all the time. The biggest ones are those we don’t even verbalise – such as a relationship lasting. At my annual Institute’s Conference, last week, I expressed this view and to be honest, it didn’t seem to “land” with the small group that I was with. We talk of risk – typically investment risk, but also political and economic risk, occasionally the risk of health or redundancy, but rarely the risk of relationships ending. It is the elephant in the room with all couples, do we talk about the risk of irreconcilable differences?

I’m reminded of the saying “the pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, the realist adjusts the sails“.

Feedback welcome, but not for a debate on the issues of Scottish Independence or devolution, or even what’s going on “abroad”. We can only control a very small number of things, but our ability to face up to our assumptions is one of them. For the record, I “love” Britain, Spain, the US but I prefer human dignity over any flag.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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The Trouble With… 2017-10-05T14:37:39+00:00

Cold Feet

Cold Feet

Perhaps you have been watching the new series of Cold Feet. The original series began in 1997 – some 20 years ago and ran until 2003. It was revived last year. Originally a series about three thirtysomething couples living in Manchester, we have seen the usual plethora of “dramatic” storylines. Any significant exploration of characters or plot reveals a number of gaping holes and sadly even in the decade or so of a break, the writers have continued to fail to redeem themselves.

The Hapless David

David Marsden, the character played by Robert Bathurst has had to contend with a fair amount of turmoil in his life. Now, two marriages, various affairs and of no fixed abode later, his already somewhat questionable career (from anything believable) has now developed into that of Independent Financial Adviser.

Financial Planning for the Filthy Rich

In the latest series (7) we have seen Mr Marsden provide a presentation to a collection Manchester’s wealthy women, held in the plush executive home of Nikki Kirkbright, with Champagne freely flowing and perhaps more like an Anne Summers party, he proceeds to rename his “talk” financial planning for the filthy rich.  David meets with Nikki who clearly wishes to keep the matter from her husband who returns home and results in David being asked to leave quickly to avoid meeting him. The latest episode had David meeting discreetly with Nikki, a meeting which he claims he has all the forms for the Unit Trusts. Her husband finds out and has David collected for a “meeting”.

David wouldn’t be an “Approved Person”

I don’t really know where to begin with this, save that David would not be a financial adviser having been arrested, charged and imprisoned for fraud – for his arrangement of what can only be unregulated investments whilst working for a firm that clearly are equally as inept at understanding financial regulation. His firm leaves him to “hang out to dry” and of course David attempts to pass the buck and record his boss admitting liability. His only obvious punishment is that at the start of series 7 he is to be found visiting very elderly ladies and encouraging them to sign application forms to release equity from their home or buy life assurance.

David Marsden is without shame, without qualification and frankly without any credibility. Someone in the writing team must have had a rather bad experience, but has clearly allowed that experience to dictate terms that no further understanding of finance shall be permitted. David is utterly incompetent, totally untrustworthy and completely delusional.

Trust Me, I’m A….

Of course, misrepresentation on television is nothing new, (ask Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses, Teachers, Ministers, Police and anyone in the Armed forces) and yes, it’s just light-weight comedy-drama, designed to amuse, not inform. Fair enough. I’m more concerned at the continued lack of understanding of finance and whilst yes, these characters aren’t real, they really don’t help anyone improve their own understanding of financial services, but merely compound the problems with misinformation. Dont get me wrong, I quite enjoy the series, I simply wish that there was rather more credibility in the characters…. you can watch it here:

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Cold Feet 2017-09-19T15:23:02+00:00

Not So Keystone Cops

Not so Keystone Cops

The danger of watching videos on social media or indeed many films or TV shows is that you can easily form the impression that the Police are fumbling in the dark without much of a clue. Whilst errors or judgement and malpractice are often correctly brought to light, it is rather foolish to assume that this is indicative of the majority.

It would appear that Abid Hussain was under the illusion that the Police were simply not up to the task of catching him for the crimes he committed – namely money laundering and fraud (at the least). Mr Hussain contacted the police in May 2016 claiming that a property that he owned in Acton had been sold without his knowledge or permission for £480,000. The case quickly landed on the desk of officers from the Complex Fraud Squad (FALCON).

The Backfire

The Police soon established the truth, that in fact Mr Hussain had sold the property through a legitimate, albeit complex process.  Perhaps hoping to create a web of intrigue, Mr Hussain then told the Police that he had received £770,000 into a bank account, which bore his name, but of which he had no knowledge. However, this was money from a re-mortgage on another property that he owned – that he had initiated (which he had denied in an attempt to further deceive the lender). CCTV evidence of Mr Hussain meeting a solicitor to sign the paperwork was used to disprove his version of events.

Money Bags

It also transpired that CCTV was also used to confirm that he used some of the money that he took from the sale and mortgage to buy a reasonably heavy 15kg of gold bullion, (20kg is the typical airline hold baggage allowance) which it is alleged he took with him to Pakistan shortly thereafter. Having been arrested in the summer of 2016 he was found guilty and finally sentenced on Friday to 5 years and 9 months in prison. The investigation into what happened to the gold bullion continues.

In essence, Mr Hussain has provided a false witness statement to the Police (who presumably he believed to be inept) and then reported transactions as fraudulent (when they weren’t) in order to make them void and leave the property company and lender at a loss. Long story short – he blew the whistle on himself, assuming that the UK police were more Keystone Cops than Sherlock Holmes. So congratulations to DC Richard Kirk who led the investigation of the £1.25m fraud… probably rather elementary.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Not So Keystone Cops 2017-08-22T11:56:17+00:00

Another Concerning Survey

Another Concerning Survey

If you have followed me for any reasonable time, you will have gathered that I am fairly suspicious about surveys and opinion polls, primarily due to the very small sample sizes and the eagerness to extrapolate data from, well, frankly not very much.

That said, yet another survey has revealed more of the problems that, if correct, are concerning for the country. Paymentsense (a card payment service) clearly have an insight into how people spend money. They surveyed 1000 people last month (July 2017) of all ages, whether this is a truly representative sample… well, it won’t be. However, the findings are certainly of concern.

30% of UK Have No Savings

Firstly 30% have no savings at all for a “rainy day”. Of those that had savings 21% used them for a holiday and only 17% put savings towards their retirement. Here is where I also have an issue with the line of questioning (which is unclear from what I have seen) but this could have been interpreted as using cash deposits to add to a pension (into which they may already be saving). Some people may of course be already retired and have no purpose in “saving for retirement”. In any event, a pension would be what springs to mind when asked about saving for retirement, but of course there are a huge number of ways to invest into something which will ultimately provide an income and/or capital.

Nothing in reserve?

However, the headline grabbing figure is really the extrapolation of the data. This leads to the conclusion that some 45.5m people have less than one month’s salary set aside in “savings”. The population is now an estimated 65.6m, which obviously includes children, pensioners and anyone simply unable to work and “earn” income. The current “unemployment” rate is 4.4% (for 16-64 year-olds). In short, a significant economic blip would be likely to cause significant hardship for a lot of people if they lost their income for whatever reason.

Signs of uncertainty shown in house sales

As Government continue with plans to leave the EU and a growing awareness of the likely implications for UK jobs, it would appear logical to be concerned. Hence the property market isn’t exactly booming, but property prices do continue to rise (4.9% over 12 months to June 2017) according to the Land Registry, however the number of sales continues to fall from 98,152 in August 2016 to 69,545 in April 2017. As a matter of note, the lowest number of house sales was in 32,752 in January 2009. The highest was June 2006 with 153,465 (for all the UK). If it is of interest, over the last 20 years, the average property in the UK was £65,092 in August 1997 and now stands at £223,257 (June 2017).

If you like short animated films, then Borrowed Time is a delightful one and a powerful message. Here is the trailer (almost as long as the film).

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

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Another Concerning Survey 2017-08-16T10:40:54+00:00