To my mind we have always lived in a world of false information. Stories and myths, urban legend all exist to serve someone’s perspective. Since the days of modern ‘propaganda’, we have been warned of careless talk and the enemy around the corner. In the last few years, largely though not exclusively due to the arrival of the internet, facts and mis- or rather disinformation coexist. We have to decipher and frankly that is not as easy as it should be. Most conspiracy theories contain an atom of something that seems to be plausible, but is then expanded and extracted.
This week we have witnessed more political folly as Government attempts to reign in some of its own that have crossed the line of reason. When we see extremity we tend to regard things as ‘obvious’.
I present Richard Rufus, former Premier League defender for Charlton Athletic, indeed in 2005 he was voted “Charlton’s greatest ever defender”. Like many a sports celebrity and Premier League player, he was well remunerated. High profiles and substantial income in our current culture, come hand in hand with an expensive lifestyle and costly habits.
After a career in football, many players struggle to adapt to life outside of the spotlight and without the same financial rewards. Few are able to continue to earn anything like their player wages. Whatever the reasons, like many players, celebrities and frankly most people, Mr Rufus appears to have spent most, if not all of his income. Whatever savings he had were clearly not sufficient to support his lavish lifestyle, which he was unwilling to relinquish.
A lavish lifestyle provides the appearance of financial success, but what is visible is largely immaterial. I’m often struck by how many people have a car that costs north of £60,000 yet have very little savings; who spend on cars and holidays more than they save for their future … but I digress!
Mr Rufus turned his hand to financial scamming. Not the sort of arms-length, call centre scamming, but the up close, personal relationship, scam your family and friends type of scam. The detail of which can all be found online following the Court’s decision to find him guilty of a £15m fraud which has resulted in a seven year prison sentence. Defender turned offender.
I don’t know Mr Rufus, I have no axe to grind. He wasn’t a financial adviser and reports indicate that the process of the scam was much like the advice you might seek from a friend at the pub … or more likely gastro pub or bistro. The mechanics of the scam involved foreign currency (often the case), no legitimate regulation (also often the case) and persuasion with what the eyes see and what the ears wish to hear. “It clearly works for him, look at his lifestyle”.
The fact is that at the heart of this there are problems that are universal. Firstly, few if any of us wish to reduce our lifestyle, however you define it. Most people are not good at holding onto the money that they earn, inherit or win. Most of us are not good at discerning the cost of a lifestyle either now or in the future. It’s far easier for us to account for how we would spend an imaginary lottery win than how much it will cost us to live as we are for two, three or four decades once we are retired, or frankly what we spend each month now. We are all tempted by the illusion of get rich quick solutions, starting your own business, writing a best- selling book, setting up a social media account where the ‘likes’ are followed by pounds, or of course the next big one, cryptocurrency or whatever you fancy.
The truth is much harsher. It’s a long, slow process, full of setbacks as well as successes. As for advice from friends and family … well I don’t know them, actually scratch that, I do know some of them, you refer them to us … but suffice to say that qualified, regulated, impartial, non-judging, prudent, long-term, evidence-based, evidential advice is likely to be of greater value with no vested interest in whether you holiday in Bournemouth or the Bahamas; Charlton or Cuba.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to get into my opinions about politics and the upcoming general election. I am merely going to draw your attention to some data that makes the point that taxation probably determines your politics.
579 TOWNS RANKED IN THE UK
A new study by UHY Hacker Young Accountants found did some sums on average incomes and average amounts of income tax paid across 579 towns of the UK. I might take issue with the idea of an average income; I would much prefer “median” which is the actual mid-point of income. I’m sure you know this, but let’s just make the point.
THE THING ABOUT AVERAGES
10 people, 9 have an income of £10,000 and one has an income of £100,000. The average income is £19,000 (total income divided by 10). The median income (the mid-point in the total range is £10,000). The average is distorted by incomes at either end of the scale.
ESHER AND WALTON
Given the above, it would therefore probably not surprise you that the stockbroker belt has a much higher average income tax. The most expensive area being Esher and Walton, where the average income per person is £68,600 and the average income tax paid is £18,900. London has an average income of £46,900 with income tax of £10,400. Compare this to Nottingham North which came 579th (last) with an average income of £21,700 and tax paid of £2,080. By way of note the national average income tax paid is £4,617 with an average income of £30,780.
WHAT ABOUT HOUSE PRICES?
So just doing a quick check of house prices in Bulwell, NG6 – the average value of property is £139,792 whilst in Esher it is £1,039,615 (according to Zoopla). Again, be warned about averages! Let’s pretend that to buy a property in either you can do so with a multiple of your income. In Bulwell you would still need 6.44x the average income for the area, in Esher you would need 15.15x the average income for Esher. House prices and incomes are related. High incomes are needed to buy higher priced homes.
LIFE IN ESHER COSTS IN TRIPLICATE
The average person in Esher pays income tax of triple the national average. I regularly drive through Esher, it is a pretty little “town” with a flourishing high street, which includes a stockbroker and lots of kitchen companies. Its the home of many celebrities and football stars (its is very close to the Chelsea FC training ground). It has one of my favourite cinemas – the Everyman, (which isn’t obviously more expensive than most others). The give away is the large houses with equally large gates, in fact there are communities of them.
Despite what some might say, the higher earners have had many tax rises. The personal allowance tapered from £100,000 (abolished by £125,000). Inheritances tax nil rate band frozen at £325,000 for a decade. Yes this might be increased to possiblly £500,000 with the additional Main Residence Nil Rate Band, but in practice, if the estate is worth more than £2m, it is lost. Child benefit withdrawn for those earning £50,000. Annual pension allowance cut hugely to an annual allowance of £40,000 but probably £10,000 for anyone with income or relevant earnings of £210,000.
You can draw your own conclusions from why people with more money might vote for tax cuts and why those with less want more tax from those that seem to have more. The regional bias for work and pay does not help with solutions. There are some suggestions here from the ONS.
For the record, according to the ONS, the average pay for employees in September this year (2019) was £26,416.
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