ARE YOU BEING SCAMMED?

TODAY’S BLOG

ARE YOU BEING SCAMMED?

OK I admit that I am often sceptical about surveys, the sample sizes are often too small to infer anything of significance. However, in this instance, even if the survey is bogus it is certainly worth reminding you about scams – and something that you can and ought to pass on to your friends.

A survey for Liverpool Victoria (LV) found that about 14% of the adult population (about 7.6m adults) have been hit by a pension scam. Double this number were concerned that they might fall prey to a scam (a pension scam to be precise). Half admitted that scams were hard to spot and around 41% wanted help knowing how to do so and how to prevent being scammed.

WHY TARGET A PENSION?

Aside from your home, your pension is probably your largest or most valuable asset. Scammers know this, they also know that the majority of people don’t know much about pensions, find them very dull and full of jargon. They often don’t realise how much they are worth and rarely treat them as though they are the family heirlooms that they are.

As your adviser (if not yet, then get in touch) I have been explaining the importance and value of your pension for many years. You know that we focus on using the most modern pensions to take advantage of pension freedoms and evidence based low-cost investment strategies. It is your future source of income (or a current one) and may well be something you leave to your beneficiaries.

ARE YOU BEING SCAMMED?

BEWARE THE FREE LUNCH (REVIEW)

However, for those that do not want an ongoing relationship with their adviser, minimising costs is a significant appeal, having a “free” pension review – well music to their ears rather than any recognition of alarm bells. For most of my working life financial advice has been generally touted as free. It isn’t, it never has been and that is frankly the biggest source of all the problems.

COLD CALLING

A friend of mine, Darren Cooke started a lobby in 2016 to end cold calling. Most advisers joined the movement which resulted in the banning of cold-calling about pensions from 2019. Yet it still happens. It is banned, but there you are.

PENSION LIBERATION

There is no such thing, unless you consider liberating your pension from you a form of liberation – I call it theft. You cannot access your pension before age 55 except for a very, very rare number of instances. Safer to assume you cannot.

Moving your pension to a SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension) is absolutely fine BUT only if you are using properly regulated funds within it. Not offshore weird stuff like teak farms or storage boxes, car parks or some other daft “asset” that I can actually set on fire.

NEW FREEDOMS, NEW TEMPTATIONS

Taking your pension is much easier than it used to be. There are new (2015) pension freedoms which have made pensions much better than they were. However, with greater freedom has come greater choice and increased responsibility – yours (and mine). A crook will exploit some basic knowledge (rules have changed) pander to misinformed opinions about stock markets “they are risky and lose you money” and will offer something that sounds altogether better – guarantees, no stock market involvement, high returns -much better than your cash and sometimes money now…. All for free.

Sadly, many do not remember the adage “if its too good to be true, it probably isn’t”, fewer still seek out a financial adviser and if they do, may well be befuddled by what restricted or independent means (invariably a restricted adviser will not mention it, even though they are meant to do so clearly). When a regulated adviser provides advice, he or she is liable for it. I can assure you that we take this very seriously as the liability rather unreasonably, extends beyond the grave.

HANG UP

If you have a friend that you think is being scammed or you are approached yourself, hang up the phone and get in touch with me. I have seen too many people get scammed for one lifetime. A good site to check out is the FCA SCAM SMART site.

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

GET IN TOUCH

Solomon’s Independent Financial Advisers
The Old Bakery, 2D Edna Road, Raynes Park, London, SW20 8BT

Email – info@solomonsifa.co.uk 
Call – 020 8542 8084

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

GET IN TOUCH

Solomon’s Independent Financial Advisers
The Old Bakery, 2D Edna Road, Raynes Park, London, SW20 8BT

Email – info@solomonsifa.co.uk    Call – 020 8542 8084

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

ARE YOU BEING SCAMMED?2023-12-01T12:13:05+00:00

Pension Scams – The Empty Box

Pension Scams – The Empty Box

Yesterday I outlined that 2015 has been a poor year for investors. I also pointed to not making a bad situation worse by making further mistakes. Invariably and sadly, many are tempted by high returns elsewhere in an effort to recoup losses and/or an unwillingness to accept the reality of life.

Unfortunately, there is always a willing con-man to part you from your money with promises that tempt some to make some dreadful decisions. The BBC radio 4 programme “You and Yours” which can be found on the iplayer which aired 2 weeks ago (3rd December) is worth listening to. It’s a 45 minute show, so put it on whilst you are wrapping gifts for Christmas. You can find it here. (click)

This story has been around for a while, the regulator warned about it some time ago. In a nutshell, this is the story of pension liberation, though I don’t think the term is used anywhere (it ought to be). The brief version is that investors were encouraged to move their pensions into a SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension) and once there, the money was invested into a “fund” which is unregulated. The fund was actually a “dead cert” of an investment, which was actually storage units or “storage pods” with Store First. One might hope that most people would think at least twice before making such an “off the page” investment, but it doesn’t help when a well-known person from the media appears in the commercial suggesting the implausible is possible… in fact guaranteed.

The Empty Box

Recap: the investment actually went buying a storage unit, then hoping that it will be rented and that the pod will appreciate in value. The price of the pod does not appear to be a market rate and attempting to sell the pod at anything like the purchase price is… well something about snowballs and hell freezing over. Note there are many similar “opportunities” arriving to your spam mailbox.

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with anyone renting or offering to rent or run a business that rents storage space. However as a direct investment, you are essentially becoming a business that rents storage space, so do you have all the facts to hand? and even if that is the case, of all the business opportunities “out there” do you really want to rent a box to others for profit? How much of such a business strategy is actually within your control?

There are lots of problems with what happened, for starters the advisers were not authorised (qualified, vetted, approved and regulated) advisers and they breached all sorts of regulatory standards. The processes involved were corrupted and frankly anyone doing even a modicum of research would probably conclude that this is not typical investing.

Unfortunately as the “fund” is unregulated, there is no compensation, despite appearing within a pension.

Tomorrow I will conclude by outlining some of the facts and part-truths from the Radio 4 programme, so that you don’t fall victim to something similar.

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

Pension Scams – The Empty Box2023-12-01T12:19:40+00:00

Dispatches: How to Blow Your Pension

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Dispatches: How to Blow Your Pension

Last night Channel 4 showed a 30 minute programme called “How to Blow Your Pension”. The premise being that the new pension rules might result in thousands of “pensioners” cashing in their pension pots, blowing the lot only to run out of money. You can see the show on the 4OD website should you wish to. The intention was good, but the execution rather miserable and once again missing the opportunity to educate people and whilst Michael Buerk had a good reputation as a BBC newsreader, clearly he doesn’t appreciate that a document from a pension provider is not actually advice – but information about options. Frankly it isn’t that much of a jungle out there, but you will need proper advice, this is not the time to become a DIY internet “expert” it has to work and last. Just because someone has teeth that they care for, doesn’t mean that they should do their own dentistry. Just because you earn, handle and spend money does not make you best placed to do a proper job of planning and generating income for the rest of your life… So I thought I’d have a go at explaining the issues.Dispatches Blow your pension

New Pension Rules – Simple

Pension rules are changing, from April 6th 2015 anyone aged 55 will be able to access their entire investment based pension pot should they wish to. There will be no compulsion to buy an annuity (an income for life). The principles have not changed – in that 25% of the pot is treated as tax free and the remainder is treated as income when you take it, however you take it – and so subject to income tax at your relevant rate of tax. You can still buy annuities should you want to. That’s it.

Running out of Money

The difficulty is that for most people their pension needs to last as long as they do…. ideally a bit longer if they have a spouse that outlives them too. So in practice you need to be careful about how much you take, its got to last and once its gone, its gone. So you have to guess how long you and your spouse might live (clue – actuaries do this for a living and designed annuities).

Make a Plan

So you will also need to reflect on how much income you need, what plans you have and it would be sensible to allow for some unexpected costs. You may need to pay for your own care or medical treatment – if you wish to choose how this is provided to you. You will also need to reflect on the impact of inflation, which at the moment is at record lows – but do the things you pay for really have such a low rate of inflation? and making a guess now for the next 20, 30 or perhpas 40 years of retirement needs some proper thought. If you don’t buy an annuity (which for many will be a very sensible option) the fund will need to grow (just to stand still and keep pace with inflation at the very least) – so how much investment risk is appropriate? what returns do you really need? what happens if these aren’t achieved? how will the portfolio be looked after? … and so on.

Review the Plan

As a result of these new “freedoms” (which some already enjoy anyway) you have a plethora of choices and the truth is that these need to be reviewed – in fact thats the beauty of it all, you get to alter your decisions (unlike simply buying an annuity and having to live with the consequences for the remainder of your life). The ability to access the money means that the crooks are on the scent… be it “pension liberation” or rubbishy investments that aren’t regulated and promise more than they could ever deliver. An independent financial adviser can sort the wheat from the chaff, but a financial planner, will do that and also help you plan your income requirements to suit your unique requirements.

Was that really so hard?

Dominic Thomas

Dispatches: How to Blow Your Pension2023-12-01T12:39:51+00:00

What is the best way to save for retirement? Part 2

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-top-bannerThis is the second in the series “What is the best way to save for retirement?”

The Alternatives to the Big Annuity Gamble

Thanks to some new(ish) rules, you don’t have to buy an annuity. In fact to be clear, just because your pension is set to mature at 60 or 65, does not mean that you have to take it then anyway. You can decide to take money out of your pension from the age of 55. Doing so beforehand will break the pension rules and get you into serious problems with HMRC. So don’t be tempted by firms promising “pension release” or “pension liberation” this is a load of rubbish and you are being lied to, it’s a scam to get money out of your pocket (or rather pension pot).

Delayed gratification

Ok, so you could defer taking the annuity. Why would you? Well because you reckon you don’t need the money now and annuity rates should rise the older you get (because you have left time to live). This is a truism. True in theory, but in practice over the last 20 years annuity rates have fallen from around 15% to around 5% for a variety of reasons which I won’t bore you with (you and I cannot do anything about it anyhow).

Have your cake and eat it..forrest gump

You could phase your retirement, taking a slice of the pot (much like cutting a cake). As before, 25% of the slice will be tax free, the remainder is used to buy an annuity. The balance (rest of the cake) remains invested and hopefully growing. You can take slices gradually, or just take the balance when you want, same principles applying. Why do this? Well you might be gradually stopping work and want to plan how you take your income and in particular how your income is taxed – so it can be a helpful tax planning tool.

Drawing what you want

Another option is to go into “DrawDown”. This is where you can take the tax free cash bit, and then income. The balance is left invested. Not much different from phased retirement, but meaning that you could take all of the tax free cash now. The amount of income you can take is restricted based upon, wait for it, quango speak coming “GAD rates” this is a rate set by the Government Actuarial Department, who figure out a rate for everyone. It changes, but its not far off the same as an annuity. Alternatively, if you are lucky enough to have guaranteed income of £20,000 from pension sources, then you can do whatever you like with the balance of the pot, take it all out at once, or over the rest of your life. You have to prove you have £20,000 a year mind you. Once its gone..well its gone. This is a really useful feature, but doesn’t apply to most people (who do not meet the £20,000 a year requirement).

Temporary annuities

A newer and evolving option is temporary annuities. These are really DrawDown pensions, but paying an income for a fixed period, typically 5 years. The remaining fund is invested and usually has a guaranteed level of growth (which means using derivatives) so that you can elect to buy a full annuity or do the same again at the end of the term. I have lots of reservations about anyone in the investment world guaranteeing anything, but it is an option.

Life is like a box of chocolates…

All of these options give you more choices. Invariably you have more control over how and when the income is paid to you. As a result you can do some tax planning to hopefully keep your taxable income within your control. You are also keeping your options open that should your health worsen you could then buy an enhanced annuity, or worse if you die, the balance of the fund is passed along to your spouse or possibly your estate, depending of tax charges being met and some other rather dull criteria that we don’t have time for here.

So these are all options. You aren’t being forced to buy an annuity, you can control the income. Tomorrow I will look at other options to pensions – other ways of investing to achieve the same result, income in retirement.

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

What is the best way to save for retirement? Part 22023-12-01T12:38:51+00:00

What’s your pension really worth? Dispatches on Channel 4 last night

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What’s your pension really worth?

Michael Buerk, still working at 67 fronted the Channel 4 Dispatches programme asks what pensions are really worth. The programme which was shown last night can be viewed online. Sadly it was fairly predictable, with headline statements and little helpful information.

The Lifestyle You WantAnchorman

The programme began asking what three people expect from their pensions – in terms of the income that they need to have the lifestyle that they want, speaking to an “expert” they come up with some rather all-too simplistic “numbers” in terms of how much they need to pay in. This is what I might generously describe as an impoverished discussion. The only message that was conveyed really was that you need to figure out how much you need and start saving early.

Options and Choices

The question was posed about annuities and the appalling number of people that do not shop around for the best deal. I have every sympathy, but also wonder what it takes for people to realise that that they always have a choice. There was a sorry tale of a man that had a small pension pot (£29,000) and he bought a single life annuity from Scottish life, he then died and the annuity stopped. The family were surprised. I have to say that Scottish Life were incredibly generous in offering to alter the annuity to a joint-life annuity retrospectively. Brownie points to them. However some couples really need to think a lot more carefully about decisions that effect them both and not simply leave it to the other to “sort it out”. Which is why I do not see couples separately.

What About Proper Planning?

Despite phoning around, Mr Buerk failed to really communicate the need for expert advice – from a financial planner who would engage with the income requirements into the future and all of the options. Simply phoning around for the best deal is not good enough, it is better, but still grossly inadequate. Ros Altmann’s appearance was all too short, someone that genuinely understood the issues was not given sufficient air-time. This was typical lip service to educational information and rather more to do with headline grabbers.

Pensions Liberation is a Scam

There were further partial truths thrown in for good measure, a brief bit about pensions liberation – which breaches HMRC rules, so I would describe as illegal and yes it is possible to find someone somewhere to arrange one for the right fee (as with anything else). Frankly in the time available it would have been better to have had a separate show for this topic. Pension liberation can lead to complete financial wipe-out. It is a scam.

Pensions v Property (yawn)

So the alternative to pensions? Well thankfully the report didn’t suggest property purchases were the solution (other than the property expert). Property prices are baseless and fuelled by unsustainable debt. There was no mention of taxes, running costs, insurance etc all of which need consideration for using property as an investment. Certainly there is a place for it for some clients, but as part of the solution not the entire solution. In an ideal world your income in retirement is derived from several sources.

Education, Thinking and Planning

The programme ends with the challenge for us all to think about what we need and to consider how we are going to get there. Sadly no mention of the real “experts” to help with this process – financial planners like me. Who are not paid to sell products but to build a financial plan around real lives and real values. I wonder if the Government, regulator and media will ever get it?

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

What’s your pension really worth? Dispatches on Channel 4 last night2023-12-01T12:38:36+00:00
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