Inflammatory budget?

Dominic Thomas
March 2023  •  10 min read

Inflammatory budget?

These are the days of being offended. It seems that, unsurprisingly, opposition parties and in particular the Labour party are having kittens about announcements around pensions in the Budget. The criticism is that this helps the rich and not the poor. There is some truth in this of course, but this goes to the political heart of wealth redistribution. In case you are concerned about my political bias, I don’t like any of them.

A million pounds seems like a lot, (it is!) but it’s not as much as it was. The sense we have of £1m is due to ‘anchoring’ as most of us grew up believing that £1m was a lot of money; a millionaire was a very rich person. Search for a home online in the south east and quickly you appreciate that perhaps a million doesn’t buy very much. The TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” with the prize of £1m was first aired in April 1998, almost 25 years ago. £1m then bought you rather more than the same prize fund does today. In fact in real terms, the prize should be adjusted to £1,776,802 … but that doesn’t really fit with the show’s title.

An adult approach is of course to recognise the impact of inflation. I’m going to speculate that politicians know this, but are always selective about the things that vex them. Your house is worth more perhaps because you have done some refurbishment, but also due to inflation. Anyone living in the South East (or indeed swathes of the country) knows that house prices are eye-watering and this is a problem for those trying to buy and for those paying inheritance tax. Inflation in house prices has been higher.


The main thrust of the pension reforms are aimed at NHS Consultants, because they have been leaving in droves, because simply by working a normal week they end up owing tax on income that they have not had, in a pension they dont get until 67 at best. Ask any doctor. If we assume health and the NHS is important, it would seem that Labour politicians suggesting that they will reverse pension changes announced in the Spring Budget 2023 have not understood very much at all. If Labour are serious about looking after the health of the nation, we need to rethink pension rules that basically punish them from working. Sadly, few politicians understand the true impact of pension rules.

An alternative would perhaps be to have a simplistic approach, cut doctors and those in similar schemes out of the annual allowance tax calculations entirely. I suspect this would make them happy, it would certainly make my life easier. However the NHS pension is a Defined Benefit or Final Salary scheme, what you do for one, legally you have to do for others. The only other group of people with excellent “old school” final salary pensions are people with long service in big companies or institutions and almost certainly on high incomes – precisely the sort of people that Labour seem to loathe along with their multinational employers. So such a “cut out the problem” isnt actually a solution.

Reality is always an irritation for an MP or political party of any persuasion. A few non-partisan (I hope) facts for you to consider. The last time Labour won an election was in 2005. David Cameron formed a Coalition Government following the election in May 2010 (tax year 2010/11).

  1. Under the new proposals, those earning £200,000 or more do not get an automatic allowance of £60,000 into pensions. This is the threshold at which a lot of calculations need to be done, some doctors will still have to do this. As a result, they may well suffer a reduced annual allowance (how much they can put into a pension).
  2. Those earning £260,000 or more will certainly have a reduced (tapered) annual allowance from £60,000 and will need to do some sums.
  3. Those earning £360,000 or more can only contribute £10,000 gross into pensions, which is less than they can pay into an ISA. So these three facts would suggest that Labour are not happy that people paying 45% tax and have no personal allowance are somehow able to load pensions like a kid in a sweet shop. Its not true.
  4. The tax-free cash from a pension is capped at 25% of today’s lifetime allowance (£268,275). That means those retiring in the future have an allowance that does not keep pace with inflation, meaning in real-terms lower tax-free cash sums will be available. Tax-free cash of 25% of £1.8m or Primary/Enhanced protection, was higher under the last Labour Government than at any point since. Pension income is taxable, it is a future revenue for HMRC. It is also a possible solution to care costs rather than the State paying, I digress.
  5. The last Labour Government had an annual allowance (how much can be paid into a pension) of £255,000, there was no Tapered or reduced Annual Allowance.
  6. The main gripe of Labour about salary austerity wage inflation would appear not to apply to pension benefits being inflation/austerity-repaired since 2010. In short, the LTA would be £1.8m+ inflation, the Annual Allowance would be £255,000+inflation. Tax-free cash from pensions would be higher at a minimum of £450,000+ inflation. Additionally, the £100,000 income threshold for loss of the personal allowance has reduced in real terms. In short they are using the same facts to argue for higher wages, but not higher allowances that benefit… well, taxpayers.
  7. A-Day was introduced by Labour and will turn adult (18) on 6/4/2023. Perhaps adults should be allowed to save for their own financial independence rather than penalised/restricted on both what you can pay in and what you can take out. The original intention of pension simplification and A-Day was to increase the Lifetime Allowance, it started at £1.5m and increased substantially each year until 2010.
  8. The current Government will, from 6/4/2023 take more tax, starting the 45% rate of tax at £125,140 rather than £150,000. There are more people are paying additional rate tax.
  9. The personal allowance is currently £12,570 (up substantially from 2010 but removed from those earning over £100,000. In tax year 2009/10 it was £6,475, the rule to gradually remove the personal allowance for those earning £100,000+ came into effect in 2010/11 set by Labour, in the likely event of a change of Government and in light of the credit crunch.
  10. According to the Bank of England’s own inflation calculator, £100 in 2010 would be £141.10 now. If this were applied the following might be observed.
  • The £6,475 personal allowance would be lower at £9,155.82 (its actually £12,570, so brownie points for Conservatives?)
  • £100,000 income before loss of personal allowance would be £141,402 (it’s still £100,000)
  • The Lifetime allowance of £1,800,000 would be £2,545,248 (its currently £1,073,100 and about to be abolished, this is what they are complaining about)
  • 25% tax free cash would be £636,312 but it is not even half that amount, capped at £268,275, reducing in real terms every year.
  • The annual allowance of £255,000 would have become £360,576, yet apparently it is act of serving the wealthy to increase it from 6/4/23 from £40,000 to £60,000. Note that those “rich people” earning over £360,000 will be able to put in £10,000 as opposed to £4,000 into their pension, which has been the case for several years now. Just for the record someone earning £360,000 pays a lot of income tax.
  • In Labour’s last tax year, the basic rate of income tax (20%) applied to £37,400 if this had been linked to inflation, it would now be £52,885, the higher rate extended up to £150,000, which would otherwise be £212,104. In short, Conservatives have evidently cut allowances and increased tax

Chancellors of all persuasions have a knack are implying positive changes are their own doing all whilst completely ignoring the impact of inflation. You think you have been paying more tax? Well, clearly you have. We all have paid for the mismanagement of the economy by our underqualified political masters. Despite what is said in the media, even by supposed pension experts, if you earn more than £360,000 you can only place £10,000 into a pension and get tax relief, for the record a minor (child) can place £9,000 into a tax free Junior ISA.

We will have to see if Labour really will win an election and then change the lifetime allowance again. It seems entirely unhelpful to keep messing around with people’s planning for retirement and financial independence, apparently this is democracy in action. It would seem that politicians from both parties do not really like you benefitting from earning more, particularly if you earn between £100,000 and £200,000 or have I missed something? As for the media, well they don’t like you either unless you own the newspaper you are reading.

Inflammatory budget?2023-12-01T12:12:35+00:00


Dominic Thomas
March 2023  •  10 min read

Pension reforms of sorts…

If you are under 75 and have a pension, today is a better day than yesterday. You may breathe a sigh of relief; the Chancellor has done something to directly benefit you. As with all Chancellors, there is of course some politics at play. Whatever your view of the rabble at the House of Commons, we finally have a Chancellor who seems to both understand maths and has an ability for some long-term thinking as well as valuing the concept of financial independence in his Spring Budget 2023.

As a reminder, it was the Blair Government who introduced the Finance Act 2004 which ushered in new pension rules from April 6th 2006 known as A-Day and termed “Pension Simplification”. The basic premise was to simplify pension funding, enabling anyone to make payments and get tax relief, restricted by a maximum annual contribution allowance and a lifetime allowance for the value of your pensions, be they final salary or investment based. It sounded so simple, something akin to the battery level on your mobile phone.

Next month, “pension simplification” turns 18 years old. Simple is certainly not a term that anyone would consider in the same breath as pension rules. A veritable smorgasbord of metrics are needed to monitor if you fall foul of the rules.


Today though, Mr Hunt has abolished the Lifetime Allowance, a welcome and grown up but unexpected move (it had been hinted that it would return to the level at which the Conservative Government inherited it at £1.8m. No, it’s abolished, completely! The Lifetime Allowance, which is something everyone had to assess pension benefits against will be gone from 6th April 2023. Do not retire before then – or more accurately do not crystallise any pension until then.


He has not however returned the Annual Allowance to the 2010 level of £255,000 but has increased it from £40,000 to £60,000. In addition, the Tapered Annual Allowance has not been scrapped, but increased from £240,000 to £260,000 from 6 April 2023. The threshold test at income of £200,000 has not been altered. In theory therefore the new standard annual allowance of £60,000 will still reduce by £0.50 for each £1 over £260,000 but stopped at £360,000 when you will get the minimum maximum annual allowance of £10,000.

By way of example, someone with income of £300,000 would be £40,000 over the £260,000 threshold and thus see the annual allowance reduce from £60,000 to £40,000.

Those of you that have taken income from a personal pension (not a defined benefit/final salary pension) will be able to continue towards a pension under the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) which is being increased from £4,000 back to £10,000. I understand this will double up as the minimum maximum (if you see what I mean) that anyone with income over £360,000 can also contribute (gross).


Medics (and a few others) that on occasion have a negative pension value for the year will now be able to offset this, something that was not possible previously.


There is a slight “fly in the ointment”. Under pension rules tax free cash is capped at 25% of the fund value, buried in page 100 of the Budget is the statement that advisers understand but most investors do not. “The maximum Pension Commencement Lump Sum for those without protections will be retained at its current level of £268,275 and will be frozen thereafter”. In other words, the tax free cash lump sum (PCLS) link is to be broken. 25% of the current lifetime allowance is £268,275 and this is therefore being retained, meaning that whether your pension fund is more than this, you cannot withdraw more than £268,275 as a tax free lump sum. In plain a pension fund of £2m does not produce tax free cash of £500,000 (25%) but £268,275.

One other “minor” point is that those with Primary, Enhanced, Fixed or even Individual Protection from 2006, 2012 (max £450,000), 2014 (max £375,000) and 2016 (max £312,500). Therefore some people will have a higher tax free cash entitlement than the new limit of £268,275).


All as previously.


As previously announced for 2023/24.

On occasion, Budget plans get revised (remember the glove puppet of a PM?) so there is a possibility that after a little more thought, pressure and checking, some of the points in the Budget might need a tweak, but in general this is a rarity.

If you have questions, that I have the realistic possibility of answering (not “where is Cloddach Bridge?” which gets a sum for refurbishment…. which I imagine is one of those times we may remark, “what, a million pounds?” (actually £1.5m) is either a lot or a little, that old price and value thing… much like the criticism that will inevitably be made of the abolition of the lifetime allowance, which is, from my perspective of working with you, a very good thing indeed.

THE SPRING BUDGET 20232023-12-01T12:12:35+00:00




News this week that the taxman is set to take a record amount of inheritance tax for 2018/19 is perhaps not too much of a surprise. Most years the amount of inheritance tax paid rises. Arguably the least popular tax – sometimes called death duties, this is the tax that applies once you die to your worldly wealth.

It is generally the case that if you are married, it is only paid once the both husband and wife have died. This final day of reckoning, tax-wise generated £4.5billion in the first 10 months of 2018/19. A new record high.

It is surprising that despite complaining about the tax, most people do little about it. IHT is one of the few taxes that is avoidable by arranging your affairs sensibly in advance.


1. Consider taking out an insurance policy to pay the bill. Admittedly this has a cost and does not remove the bill, but it does enable your real wealth to be passed on to those you want to receive it, rather than the Chancellor. A simple joint-life second death policy placed into Trust will suffice.

2. Have a Will and review it. This will ensure that your estate is passed to the right beneficiaries and you may also nominate charities. Gifts to charities are exempt from any inheritance tax.

3. Know your limit. Everyone has a limit known as the nil rate band. This is the first £325,000 of an estate – the net value (assets less liabilities). If you have a property this can be increased (complicated but it will increase). Couples double up on these. You can find more detail within out FREE app about this.

4. Consider using IHT exempt investments, this is really not for everyone, but is certainly a possibility. The most basic being business owners have certain exemptions – technically known as BPR, as does owning woodland or some aspects of farming. You can also hold some AIM listed shares which will be exempt – but be warned all these options have pro’s and con’s.

5. Spend money from the right places. Under pension reforms, it is possible to pass on the balance of a pension fund free of inheritance tax. So if you have the option, you may wish to use up other investments that will be subject to IHT first. Context is everything and thought needs to be given to this from an income tax angle and investment approach.

There are other options too, so if you would like to discuss how you can reduce inheritance tax please get in touch. However, if you are married and have a net estate worth less than about £1million you probably wont have any inheritance tax.

And finally a reminder about our app, which is loaded with all this information.

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


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

Email – 
Call – 020 8542 8084


Are we a good fit for you?


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

Email –    Call – 020 8542 8084


Are we a good fit for you?

IS INHERITANCE TAX AVOIDABLE?2023-12-01T12:17:33+00:00

2017 Budget

2017 Budget

The 2017 Budget from the Chancellor Philip Hammond will take place this Wednesday. In practice, few are expecting him to deliver anything significant. He has already publicly stated that there will be no “spending sprees” which is a rather unhelpful relative term, but would imply that there is unlikely to be a considerable amount of money for sectors that probably need it.

There are lots of things that I wish he would change, but I am sounding rather like a broken or at least well-worn record, that the rules around pensions are more than a little bit daft, but utterly insane – but hey, this is Government policy not common sense.

Pension Insanity

As a brief reminder of the pensions insanity. You are restricted to how much you can pay into a pension each tax year (called the annual allowance). This is currently £40,000 or 100% of your actual earned income, whichever is the lower figure.

The UK has a system where you are penalised if your pension pot exceeds a certain value (now £1million) this is called the Lifetime Allowance. You are also penalised if you earn more than £150,000 and begin to see the reduction of your annual allowance from £40,000 to £10,000. This is called pension taper relief, catchy sounding term isn’t it! Tax penalties are ready and waiting should you mess up, many will – through nothing deliberate, other than earning and income and being a member of a pension scheme, something that one would normally think were good things to do. Just for good measure your pension is valued at the point you “retire” (though in their infinite wisdom this is now called a crystallisation event) and then again at 75 with assessment against the Lifetime Allowance, which may well result in a significant tax payment – or rather it will if you exceed the Lifetime Allowance of the day.

Doctors, Teachers and Measure for Measure

Those that are members of final salary pensions like the NHS, Civil Service or Teachers Pension Schemes – basically anyone that works for a State service, which is likely to benefit us all. You possibly know someone who works within in the NHS or a Teacher, who has had increasingly pressurised workloads, with extended hours and utterly pointless assessments, form filling (for which read, Government department bureaucrats need to measure something, so let’s try this) all simply to justify their non-inflated salaries, which on occasion they have to reapply for…  all because a Government can. Anyway, as these people are clearly coping too well and not leaving in the numbers that Government hoped, they are asked to calculate their annual allowance rather differently and constantly guess if they will overpay for the year, which results in a tax fine that on money that they might not receive when then retire. I am not kidding – this is not fake news.

Hollow Words, Smoke and Mirrors

When Chancellors and Prime Ministers or indeed any politician talks about serving people, one is  always left suspicious as the words are invariably bereft of any action plan or follow through. There are few like the Duke, in Measure for Measure, who survey the detail of the way their citizens are governed. We all plod on regardless because the problems are apparently “just too big to fix” and “we must all have a grown-up debate”… hmm..

If Government was a business it would be in an even worse shape, for failing its customers so frequently and so outrageously. Yet whichever one is elected, they make the same empty promises and simply meddle along, tinkering at the edges hoping that everyone will quickly forget, which they will…

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

2017 Budget2023-12-01T12:18:40+00:00

Taxing Reforms for Pensions

Taxing reforms for pensions

There has been considerable “chatter” about the prospect of pensions being reformed even further. In particular, the tax of pensions is very much up for debate, making the prospect of tax reforms for pensions a genuine possibility.

In brief the Chancellor has already made huge changes to the pension system, enabling a pension to be taken as a lump sum or as income without any requirement to buy an annuity.  In addition, a pension can now be easily passed on to beneficiaries of your estate, rather than ceasing when you do.

Tax Overpayments

The new freedoms have already and will continue to mean that some people don’t do their sums properly and end up paying too much tax – unnecessarily, which of course is a good thing if you run HM Treasury… every little helps and all that.

In very simple terms, most people will currently find that whatever the size of their pension pot, they can take 25% of it as tax-free cash (these days “we” call it a pension commencement lump sum – or PCLS). The rest is taxed as income.

Reforming tax relief

At the moment, anyone that pays into a pension gets tax relief – either at 20%, 40% or even 45% depending on your rate of tax. Everyone gets 20% (from age 0 to 75). So an investment of £1000 actually costs £800 if you are a nil rate or basic rate taxpayer. If you pay more than 20% tax, you get to claim the balance back via your tax returns.

The Chancellor is reviewing this, because it costs the country a lot of money. The main problem being that employers make most of pension contributions each year and do so in part because it is treated as a deductible cost. If this were considerably altered, then most employers are likely to reduce or even stop (bar the minimum requirements of auto enrolment) their contributions. This would result in smaller pensions in retirement…

So he could simply reduce tax relief to a lower amount, in essence he has done this already for anyone earning over £150,00, who have their annual allowance restricted to just £10,000 (less than an ISA) if they earn over £250,000.

Tax relief provided in 2013/14 amounted to £34.3bn, whereas the tax on pensions generated £13.1bn a “cost” to the UK of £21.2bn. Most of which (2/3rds) is reclaimed by higher rate taxpayers… those paying 40% or more.

Shrinking the Pot

He has also reduced the amount that can be held in a pension (the Lifetime Allowance) which is set to reduce again from £1.25m to £1m next April. Anything above this will be subject to an excess tax charge of 55% as things stand at present. That’s what I call easy money for the Treasury and there isn’t that much that you can do about it, other than applying for protection where relevant.

Changing the Sweetener

Another option would be to make pensions tax-free in retirement instead of taxable. Whilst this sounds all well and good, the reality is that who would honestly trust any future Government not to change the rules later, when they realise that they need the income to be taxed.

Simplicity Seems Dead

I am of the opinion that pensions are going to change, how much and when, we simply do not know. However the Government wants to be seen not to help the “rich” which seems to include people paying 40% tax and everyone paying 45% tax. It would include anyone in the State Sector that has built up a long career – doctors, teachers, police, civil servants – all of whom seem to be the current “cat to kick”. It certainly includes anyone that has pension funds worth £1m or more. Though I would argue that £1m in a pension pot isn’t that huge (yes I know its relative)  but in practice that provides at £40,000 a year income… not enough to pay higher rate tax. The worst case to my mind would be to create a “before and after” system – which we have had before, which only makes life more complicated.

If I were Chancellor?

People need an incentive to save for the long-term. I would abolish the Lifetime Allowance making all current and previous protections irrelevant. I would restrict tax relief to a % of salary, perhaps providing it directly as a 5% tax cut, say 20% tax becoming 15% if payments are made to a pension. That way HM Treasury collect taxes, people are incentivized to save and earn. I would scrap rules that enable people to pay into pensions for children, which is essentially something that only the wealthy can do, so that pensions are only for those aged 18. However I would continue to tax pension income as income…

Sadly, for younger generations the prospects of good pensions looks fragile… of course there is the prospect of the solution as outlined in Logan’s Run….. there’s just one catch..

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

Taxing Reforms for Pensions2023-12-01T12:20:08+00:00

Pensions: Lifetime Allowance and Mad Max

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-bloggerPensions: Lifetime Allowance and Mad Max

You have probably heard of Mad Max – its latest incarnation is currently in UK cinemas. You may have heard about the Lifetime Allowance – which has been part of the pension vocabulary since 2006 or “A-Day”. Suffice to say that I believe that the Lifetime Allowance is rather mad.

In the event that you are a politician and reading this, may I ask why you think pensions are important? To my mind, pensions should be encouraged. The end result of a pension should be that people living in the UK are able to provide for themselves above the State Pension, so support their lifestyle. This has several obvious benefits – creating financially independent adults, not requiring State support. Having income means that income tax can be levied and collected to help pay for our society. Let’s also not forget that income is there for using (spending) which enables trade to occur and wealth to be created and so on.

A World of Plenty?

It would seem that politicians generally think not having a rising burden on the State is a good thing. Indeed encouraging pensions with tax relief is the “sweetener” or “bait”. Much like the film Mad Max, we probably don’t want to create a society reliant upon the occassional benevolence of the prevailing “Lord”. Surely we would like a society where all prosper? OK we know the UK has limited resources, so adjust the tax relief, but don’t make it hard or even pointless to save. Even the current regime isn’t tempting enough for millions of people that don’t or cannot save for their future.

Mad Max


At present pension contributions are restricted, which seems fair enough, but the amount that the pension pot grows to is also restricted by the Lifetime Allowance. This is currently £1.25million, which sounds like a reasonable sum, but in practice isn’t as much as you’d like to think, given that it has to last for the remainder of your life. The Lifetime Allowance has already reduced over the years from £1.8m and if the Chancellor does what he suggested he would in the last Budget, it is likely to shrink to £1.0m next April. In other words £250,000 of the Lifetime Allowance will be lost – or more accurately invoke a tax penalty of £137,500.

Mad Max and Excess Tax

If the Lifetime Allowance is exceeded, there is a tax charge of 55% on the excess. OK there are some ways that you can protect your higher pre-legislation allowance, but these are designed by bureacrats and “problematic” to say the least. Essentially this excess tax charge punishes those that save or get good investment results….  let’s not forget that the income from pensions is subject to income tax anyway. So I fail to understand why we don’t simply abolish the Lifetime Allowance and all the protections that have surrounded it. Your pension fund should be just that – a pot that you can actually use with confidence.

Mad Max – Fury Road is currently in UK cinemas, starring Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy and Nicholas Hoult. The Chancellor, George Osborne has his next Budget on 8th July 2015…

Dominic Thomas

Pensions: Lifetime Allowance and Mad Max2023-12-01T12:40:10+00:00

Pensions: Taking Your Pension? Beware of Tax

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-bloggerTaking Your Pension? Beware of Tax

When the Chancellor announced the abolition of the requirement for most people to buy an annuity with their pension fund, it was somewhat unexpected. Arguably it was one of the most radical shake ups to pensions in decades. However as time progresses, the wisdom of allowing people to do whatever they want with their own money is experiencing some problems. If you are taking your pension, you need to beware of tax.


The main advantage of pensions is tax relief. At the moment (who knows if things will change in the Chancellors budget next month). Currently most investors will receive tax releif of 20% higher rate taxpayers get 40% – though the difference has to be claimed via self-assessment tax returns, not granted automatically.

Money in a pension has tax advantages

Whilst invested as a pension, the funds are free from income tax and capital gains tax – which means that they grow faster (free from tax). If you take money from a pension, (possible from age 55) 25% of the fund is tax free and the balance when taken as income (regular, ad hoc or all at once) is taxed at your highest rate of income tax. On death the new rules mean the pension fund can pass to the estate without inheritance tax.

Taking money doesn’t have to be taxing


It would appear that due presumably to a belief that pensions are “bad” some people have been rushing to withdraw their pension in entirety, which of course results in a signficant income tax bill and the realisation that once its gone… well, it’s gone. The media initially joked about people buying a Lamborghini and the prospect of access to wealth attracting the wrong sort of attention.  For those that don’t spend the money all at once it means that they seek other ways to use the money to generate income to support a lifestyle…. which means investing it. See my earlier post about this.

Most alternatives are subject to tax

Investments are subject to income tax, inheritance tax and capital gains tax…. with a few exceptions such as ISAs – but with limits on the amount that can be invested each tax year. Other tax favourable investments tend to be much more “entrepreneurial” in flavour – EIS, SEIS, VCT for example, most of which carry significantly higher risk due to a small focus on shares in a single company or a very small number of companies.

So be careful – get advice, there is much to consider. Pensions aren’t “bad” in fact they can be really rather good if set up properly. The issue is really to ensure that your pension (which is just a term for income in retirement) suits your planned lifestyle….

Dominic Thomas

Pensions: Taking Your Pension? Beware of Tax2023-12-01T12:40:10+00:00

Pensions: New Freedoms


Pensions Freedom

Have you heard about pensions freedom? Are you approaching retirement and thinking that this is excellent news, you can have your entire pension? Well you are right, but as ever there is a catch. You are free to self-destruct, it is your right to do so (and I’m not being patronising).

On the one hand freedom is good right? but with it comes responsibility (why do I sound like a Spiderman scriptwriter). By responsibility I mean, once you spend it, whether thats taking it as a lump sum or buyng an annuity or leaving it as a Flexible Access Drawdown pension, once it has gone – that’s it. Nothing left… except any other pension income you may have such as the State pension.v_for_vendetta

So this is all about knowing what you have and what you need. Something that no British Government has ever managed to get right for themselves, yet here we are, with new freedoms. So you have to figure out how long you will live to work out how much you can afford to take out each year. Actually rather more than that, you have to predict future inflation rates, mortality rates, investment returns and tax rates…. to name a few “elements”. Of course you could get a financial planner like me to help by doing some cashflow modelling and explaining the options and reviewing progress regularly or you could do it yourself.

Today I learned about a term called the IKEA effect. This is when we place a disproportianately high value on something that has been partially made us. Go on look it up. This is precisely what happens to DIY investors… that portfolio I built, its not bad. Actually the truth is rather different. I mean no disprect to IKEA or DIY investors. This is about a price-point in the market – what you can afford. Arguably you will have to live with both (furniture and your DIY portfolio) but your portfolio has to last your lifetime. I’m all for consumer empowerment and the removal of elist jargon and ivory towers, but information is not the same as experience or indeed knowledge. I wonder if you remember the John West tinned fish TV adverts? its the fish that John West rejects that make them the best. In other words, selection, some might call it curation – is vital.

Building the right portfolio to last for life is a fairly daunting challenge, for a few this isn’t going to be much of a problem, but for the vast majority of people it will be. Most people do not pay attention to the holdings in their ISAs or pensions. Most are in the funds or more likely single fund, that the adviser put them in when they started their pension. Little attention has been paid to assessing the level of contributions needed, frankly its more like lucky dip… and who can blame them! the jargon is a huge barrier, statements are fairly unclear and the rules keep changing, little wonder people don’t spend much time looking after one of their largest assets. Yet suddenly at the point of retirement, they are expecting to become investment experts. Whilst the Government may say that people should be trusted with their own money, thats fine if it relates to the straight-forward stuff of running a budget and basic banking, but when it comes to understanding asset allocation, volatility, sequencing risk, safe withdrawal rates, reductions in yield… well frankly its taxing even for the experts. Your pension is not a shelving unit from IKEA, its more like fitting a pace-maker, one that has to keep you going.

My advice is to get advice – don’t get sucked into short-term thinking and getting some degree of satisfaction from raiding your pension to show your displeasure with the pension company.  Certainly there are better pensions, but you really need to get sensible advice to explore your options properly. You wouldn’t build a house without architectural plans (I hope)… the same is true when it comes to designing a portfolio for life.


Pensions: New Freedoms2023-12-01T12:40:08+00:00

Is Financial Services like gun crime?


Is Financial Services like gun crime?Gun_Crazy

Here in the UK we have some gun crime, its horrible, but it is still thankfully rare. In North America the obession with guns is perplexing, the rising death toll and increasing militarisation of police forces is alarming. We have seen further mishandling and stereotyping lead to deaths in police custody and now further riots in some American cities. I’m not anti-police, I am anti-stupidity and I don’t think I’m telling you anything you don’t already know. America has almost no gun control, you can wander into a gun store or general department store (heck, sometimes they even give them away for opening a bank account -see Bowling for Columbine) and buy a firearm and ammunition. No real checks. We tend to think this is insane.

Yet here in the UK we have an equally perplexing situation which has collectively blind-sided most people. Its in the form of pension advice. Yes that rather dull topic (believe me I know how dull). Anyway it seems that your neighbour – the one that’s tempted by all those offers of too good to be true (because it isn’t true) high investment returns is wreaking havoc with the rest of us, like a loaded gun.

Garbage in, garbage out..

Despite warnings from the regulator, or there being a regulator, believe it or not, there are some “advisers” out there peddling all sorts of… well…”junk”. These always promise high returns, but actually pay high commission (something that is meant to be banned). So I can only assume that the person that does this is greedy, gullable or vulnerable. If the latter, then they have my sympathy and support, but those that are gullable, well it may sound harsh, but at some point in life you have to take some responsibility for your actions. As for the greedy… why should the rest of us pay for your gambling habit? eh?

Back to the gun analogy. Say I am a shop keeper, I don’t sell guns, in fact I sell books, but the guy nextdoor does. Guess what? his customer went on a rampage in the mall and shot 60 people. Being a shopkeeper I am sent a bill for compensation because I am a shop keeper.

What do I mean? Well pensions are regulated products and in theory should be arranged by regulated advisers. However in some products (SIPPs – Self Invested Personal Pensions) you can hold “uncoventional” funds… or what I might call “stuff you shouldn’t ever touch”. The regulator (FCA) would call this “non-mainstream funds” and in fact categorise them as “unregulated” in other words not regulated and therefore not actually protected by compensation. However because they were bought through a SIPP (regulated) and arranged by an adviser (regulated) therefore when it predictably goes wrong (it will) anyone that is an adviser gets to pay for the compensation. Now I don’t know about you, but I thought being an adult involved taking responsibility for your actions, so being one, I don’t sue people every time decisions I take don’t work out right.

Yes inflation is 0% but fees increase 75%

I tell you this because on top of a £20million levy a few days ago in March, the new annual levy has been set, increased from last years £57million to £100million for those that arrange pensions (shop keepers). This levy always comes with 30 days to pay (thanks). This is only a fraction of the full regulatory fees that I and other adviser firms have to pay.

Nobody to blame… but the good guys can pay up right?

The pension companies that allowed these investments in their pensions claim “not guilty – the adviser did it”, the regulator claims “We can’t use our product intervention powers on unregulated investments”… so cannot stop the funds being sold (or bought).

Those that sold these things have scuttled off elsewhere, probably to re-emerge in a different guise, leaving the dwindling number of firms (now about 5,300) and advisers (now around 24,000 from about 250,000 20 years ago) to pay the bill. The bill is paid by the firm and is enough to wipeout some firms, meaning that next year….the numbers reduce, so the share of the bill increases. There is only so much “cost” that a small firm can manage before needing to pass this on to their clients. I therefore predict that as a consequence, many advisers will be “forced” to put up their fees… which means you are also coughing up for the greed of your neighbour, because they cannot be bothered to take any responsibility for believing in fairytales…

Sorry to moan, but seriously… this isn’t fair is it? Of course people that have been ripped off need compensating, but seriously, you didnt think investing in a timeshare via your pension was normal did you? Your comments would be very welcome…. perhaps I am missing something, perhaps my entire profession is… in which case I’d like to know so that I have a snowballs chance of improving it.

Dominic Thomas

Is Financial Services like gun crime?2023-12-01T12:40:08+00:00

Retiring Doctors and GPs?


Retiring Doctors and GPs?

Lately I have found myself between a rock and a hard place when advising my medical clients. Through no fault of their own, many long-serving Consultants are being punished due to poorly thought through rules about the Lifetime Allowance and Annual Allowance. Whilst on the one hand they are “lucky” to have large pension funds, that are by comparison “brilliant” the fault of successive Governments to fail to do their sums is hardly their fault. Indeed if ever there was an appropriate use of the term “moving the goalposts” it is surely fitting for what has happened to public sector pensions, particularly the NHS Pension Scheme, which was revised in 2008 and has now morphed into the 2015 Scheme (from the start of this month).

The changes have meant that members have to guess when they might best retire… in some specialities that is “a challenge”, most have to pay more, work longer and accrue less, whilst, (if reports are to be believed) having to cope with a greater workload, politically motivated “targets” and an under resourced organisation.

As a result of blown 2012 Fixed Protection and further reductions to the Lifetime Allowance, many of those that I work with are somewhat fed up with the powerlessness that they feel in relation to their pension rights. I cannot speak of widespread disatisfaction, but certainly those that I know within the medical community (quite a number) are “cheesed off”. The way benefits are calculated are ludicrously complicated and often mean that extra taxes are payable – through no fault of the doctor – simply by being in the scheme and having an increase in pay which is out of sync with the defined limits. I’m not talking small taxes here – but excess amounts that are deemed to have been paid as income, even though this is not the case in reality (it isn’t paid as income)…

According to the BMA, a poll of over 15,000 GP’s indicated that 34% of them expected to retire within the next 5 years. Statistics out of context can be used to support any argument, so a headline such as this one needs some unpicking.HSCIS report2015

According to the GMC, there are about 60,000 licensed doctors on the GP Register for the whole of the UK. The GP register has been around since 2006 and requires that all practicing GPs keep their license and records up to date. This figure is for the whole of the UK and does include some possible double-counting as some specialists are GPs and vice versa. In England there are 40,584 GPs and according to data published last month by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), for the first time there are now more practicing female GPs (20,435) than male GPs (19,801). In any event, a suvery of 15,000 is therefore a survey of about 37% of the entire workforce by headcount… which is a significant survey, one might say a very solid survey, certainly when considered as a percentage of the relevant population – unlike the current political polls or those TV adverts for women’s products that claim high rates of satisfaction (so small that it is questionable if the people conducting the survey actually left their office building)… so this survey, unlike some, is rather “worth it”. Of course, not all GPs work full-time, the figures are a headcount, not a precise allocation of full-time GPs, the full-time equivalent number of GPs is 36,920. If trainees and retainers are excluded, then the full-time equivalent is 32,628.

By way of “hard facts” here are some NHS statistics to consider, I have taken these from the HSCIC report, which frankly could make the statistics much clearer… anyway…

1,387,692 Total NHS workforce (1,187,606 FTE)

of which

701,872 are professionally qualified clinical staff (623,050 FTE)… 50.5%

42,733 Consultants (40,443 FTE)…. 3.0% of NHS staff

55,079 Hospital Doctors (53,786 FTE)…. 3.9% of NHS staff

37,078 Managers (35,164 FTE)….2.6%

36,920 General Practitioners (32,628 FTE)… 2.6%

377,191 Nurses, including GP nurses (328,577 FTE)….27.1%

The problems of staffing within GP surgeries looks set to continue and frankly, if politicians contrinue to play havoc with the pensions (Lifetime Allowance and Annual Allowance nonsense) of doctors and nurses, they may well also be considering earlier retirement. Future PM, you have been warned…

Dominic Thomas

Retiring Doctors and GPs?2023-12-01T12:40:04+00:00
Go to Top