NFT – NEW FAIRYTALE

TODAY’S BLOG

NFT – NEW FAIRYTALE

Perhaps you haven’t heard about NFTs, if not give yourself a pat on the back. However, it’s possible that you have seen something online or had a younger person mention it to you and perhaps it left you a little perplexed. I am not a fan. To me this is yet another of “The Emperors’ New Clothes”. I am concerned that a lot of people will say goodbye to their hard earned savings for fear of missing out and not understanding investing, in a culture that appears to tell us not to invest in the stock markets. Give me a moment and I will try to explain why.

One of the main reasons for people being scammed is due to a fear and lack of understanding about the stock markets. The market volatility is regularly reported by what passes as news, keeping you informed about the latest FTSE100 movement. “Billions were wiped off the markets today” is a phrase that regularly rolls off news presenters’ tongues, yet rare is the day (have I ever?) when we hear the “billions wiped on”. We are all kept in a state of anxiety about impending doom and it is quite deliberate. It gets your attention.

SO WHAT… HOW DOES THIS ENCOURAGE SCAMS?

Well, fearing the investment of your money in the most regulated, scrutinised exchange, where data is published and reviewed every day of the year and has been for decades, it seems that the volatility and the anecdotal “I lost money” or “my dad lost money” triggers the big red panic button that most of us have. So many turn to alternative forms of investing in the mistaken belief that they are less ‘risky’ (in fact some seem to be a ‘sure thing’). Oh, and for good measure, we humans are impatient, we love a happy ending and have a tendency to ignore the hard work that went into creating one (if it even is an ending). Or to put it another way, to approve of and want successful investments once they have happened.

NFTs The New Clothes

INVESTING IN REAL COMPANIES

When you invest money into the stock market or funds of equities (as is more likely) you buy shares in companies that trade internationally. They do so by making or providing goods and services that we want, need or require. As markets are generally competitive, they strive to improve what they do to ensure their own sustainability. Where companies often go wrong is cutting corners to reduce costs and increase profit rather than improving what they do and communicating this properly. On occasion, you may have an objection to the company, or its sector or the people that lead it. So you can (we can) screen out some of these based on ethical, environmental, social or governance standards. At the same time, you know that ‘cheap’ is unlikely to be high quality, but you also know that we don’t all need our weekly shopping from Harrods. There is a range; a spectrum. Sometimes we pay more for things because of the feelings that it evokes, sometimes we do so because we instinctively know it to be better.

Your investment appreciates in time as the company you invest in grows. You also receive a share of the profits made (dividends). Quite how much and how well these companies ‘perform’ is largely down to how well they run and… luck. By luck I mean – the right place at the right time, for example being a PPE manufacturer and a pandemic arrives.

You get your money back when you sell your investment. In the interim, you’ve hopefully had some dividends and an improvement in the value of the share. If you hold a handful of companies and one or two fail (such as the Kodaks of the world) then you have a proper loss. If you hold thousands, perhaps an entire market, then the impact of any failure is significantly reduced.

INVESTING IS NOT GAMBLING

Placing a sporting bet or a stake in a casino, you are hoping for a win, or something close to that to get your money back, plus the incentive to make the bet in the first instance. You may get back nothing – which is far more likely. That’s gambling – the risk of complete loss. For some people this is a small bit of fun (I can think of many better things, but I won’t judge), for others it becomes an addictive habit that can destroy families.

When you consider investment in proper companies (shares in them) over time, going back to the start of your lifetime, there is only one direction of travel for the combined value of your investments. Upwards. Yes there are bumps along the way (volatility) but you own real assets (companies) making and providing real products and services.

THE NEW CLOTHES

The digital world and our obsession with it, has given some people the idea that a digital image is worth something. These NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) are in my opinion the equivalent of the Emperor’s new clothes. The value is talked up by nefarious online forums and chatrooms and ‘traded’.  I would not touch them with the proverbial barge pole. If in the event I am wrong about this in say three decades time, that’s fine with me as I will be holding assets that provide regular income from actual profits from making real products and services. I can and will happily live with that and until proven otherwise, I will not aid anyone into deliberate folly.

HMRC’s NFT SEIZURE IS A WARNING TO ‘INVESTORS’ AND TAX CHEATS

The UK tax authorities have confirmed their first ever seizure of a non-fungible token (NFT) following a probe into an alleged £1.4million VAT fraud. Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) said it had confiscated three NFTs, along with £5,000 in other crypto-assets, and arrested three people as part of a fraud investigation concerning around 250 sham companies. It claims the three suspects, who have not been publicly named, used a variety of ‘sophisticated methods’ to try and conceal their identities, such as false invoices, pre-paid unregistered mobile phones and virtual private networks.

NFTs are tokens representing the ownership of a digital asset, which could be an artwork, an image, music, or even a tweet that have their own unique signature and cannot be exchanged for another asset of the same type. But there has been increasing worries that these digital tokens, as well as cryptocurrencies, are being used by criminals to hide their illicit financial gains. Nick Sharp, the Deputy Director of Economic Crime at the HMRC, said: “Our first seizure of a Non-Fungible Token serves as a warning to anyone who thinks they can use crypto-assets to hide money from HMRC.”

Understand the real risk and buy real assets. You have been warned.

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

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NFT – NEW FAIRYTALE2023-12-01T12:12:53+00:00

GOOD COP STORY

TODAY’S BLOG

GOOD COP STORY

Regulation is a good thing. There are a lot of crooks out there and when it comes to your money, there are loads of ways crooks seek to part you from it. I may get exasperated with the process, find the focus often in the wrong place, but I can assure you that regulation is not easy, there is legal due process. It could and should be easier.

Scams and financial crime, adviser firms ripping people off and going bust end up costing the remaining advisers a lot of money. We are the insurance, or a large part of it, stumping up funds in the form of regulatory fees and levies, which are now at such alarming levels, that there is genuine cause to pause and wonder if any financial adviser is actually sustainable.

So some good news of bad guys getting caught and the FCA able to now get on with their job. Long story short…

Lots of people were ripped off moving their pensions into a SIPP, (there is nothing wrong with a SIPP, but as ever, its about being in the wrong hands). Once the money was in the SIPP, it was invested into what I can only describe as joke/scam investments that promise high returns. They pander to those that don’t understand the stockmarket (or investing) as the “investments” are not listed on the stockmarket. Its junk, simple as that. The “adviser” charged multiple fees, all of which were almost certainly way above a typical adviser fee/charge. These sorts of “non-regulated” investment funds (I struggle to even call it a fund) tend to pay enormous commission (they are not regulated).

Cheers to the FCA

HANG ON DOMINIC, I HAVE A SIPP, SHOULD I WORRY?

Do we move pensions to SIPPs? Yes, often! Because they can be brilliant, cheap to run and offer a vast range of REGULATED retail funds for us to use to grow your money. Some are more expensive than others, but our job is to select one that is suitable for you (if it works, cost effective, value for money, provider financially robust etc). Our fee structure is easy to understand 1% a year.

What rip off advisers do is charge the SIPP all sorts of fees and pick “funds” (not regulated ones) that pay them additonal “fees” as well. The driving motivation is to fleece the investor, not to make good investment decisions, but to take as much money out of your pension for themselves. Let’s call a spade a spade.

TIME FOR A CELEBRATORY DRINK

I am delighted, with the news that these criminals have been caught! I may even pour myself a drink before noon to celebrate. Sadly, it will likely take years to attempt to get money back to investors, most of it won’t be returned, it will leave many in dire straits for their own retirement plans and all of them will understandably think all advisers are untrustworthy and so continue to perpetuate the story that investing is bad, advisers are bad, pensions are bad, the stockmarket is bad… yet it is precisely because they didnt use a proper adviser, or a proper investment that its ended up like this. Very sad, wont help encourage people to save, more likely to cause the reverse!

NOT SOPHISTICATED INVESTORS

Something like 2,000 investors were persuaded to move their pensions into a SIPP and then placed the money into “alternative assets” such as tree plantations, hot pods and property in Brazil. Something like £92m was moved into these “assets”. That’s actually a low average pension size of about £46,000 – so these 2,000 people hadn’t saved much either, it probably was their life savings in pensions. So, whilst I risk generalising, these are not sophisticated investors, they are precisely the opposite and less able to tell a investment duck from a swan.

There is more to it than this (see the links at the bottom) but suffice to say the FCA are now ready to deal with the company, its Directors and will attempt to get client money back. Here I have to admit to cynicism, as £92m will almost certainly never get returned, I imagine 10% of it is more likely.  The Directors of Avacade and Alexandra Associates have already been ordered to pay £10.7m in restitution to investors (averaging £5,300 to each investor). Somehow I suspect to hear “ we don’t have the money, its been spent on legal fees, defending the indefensible, and a Ferrari or two…. Oh and the company is now bust”.

So if you have a friend that has ever had any contact with Alexandra Associates (UK) Ltd, or Avacade Future Solutions (AA) or Craig and Lee Lummis, please urge them to get in touch with the FCA. In truth you probably don’t, because £46,000 in a pension fund is not likely to be the sort of friend you have unless they are quite young.

Well done FCA, very glad to see another one caught. I do however wish you would name and shame the SIPP providers that not simply allowed, but facilitated this to happen.

EVIDENCE & LINKS

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?

GOOD COP STORY2023-12-01T12:13:04+00:00

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT

TODAY’S BLOG

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT

This is an increasingly common tale. It is one about a scam, one that you really should be aware of. Scammers generally take two basic guises – a confidence trickster and an expert in a subject you do not understand enough about. This scam is the latter. It is about technology, something that you and I use, but probably have vague or general understanding of, because we do not really know how it works – simply that it does work.

The scam takes the form of a phone call from someone working at your broadband supplier. The truth is probably that you are with one of a handful of broadband companies, there is a high chance of mentioning any one of them that you are a customer. At this point the caller can either effectively politely end the call or has reassured you that you are dealing with an existing supplier.

BROADBAND SCAMS

HELPFUL HARMFUL AND HORRENDOUS

The caller informs you that your broadband is not working as well as it should, and they can help make it faster. Who of us does not want faster broadband? (irrespective of the inaccurate promise on the tin). Help is at hand if you download an app and place your phone near your router so that the performance can be monitored (how helpful right!). You comply and are informed that you are due a refund for poor performance (good news) so a code is provided to enable payment to your bank. You are kept on the phone, which whilst you think to yourself is a little frustrating and a little ironic in the age of high technology, you are of course getting something in exchange – a refund and faster broadband. You wait. At some point you are insulted as a muggle or something similar, and the caller hangs up. You have an immediate rush of realisation and call your bank to discover that it has been emptied. Emptied! Just hold that feeling a moment before reading further. Your bank account emptied….

You did not authorise a withdrawal, you were expecting a credit. Your bank may or may not be impressed and act accordingly. It is international fraud and not within the FCA jurisdiction.

NOT MERELY BASED ON A TRUE STORY, IT IS A TRUE STORY

The above is an abridged true story that another adviser shared with me, it happened very recently. Please do not accept the information that a caller provides you with. Anyone calling from one of your suppliers should know some rather basic information from you, be that your name, address and account number (for the service). Do not give them any of your time. Do not download anything that you have not understood sufficiently. Never reveal your bank information over the phone, guard it as though you would your prized possessions.

#*&^(:jh:d!!

There are many words for scammers, if you are ever victim of one, you will think of many of them. You are not a fool. You have been fooled and we all can be (look at how we vote!). However, you must act. Most scams offer the promise of more money or improved service. Rare is the day that these come without cost. They are never free.

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?

THE SKY’S THE LIMIT2023-12-01T12:13:13+00:00

WARNING ABOUT EMAIL & WEB SCAMS

TODAY’S BLOG

WARNING ABOUT EMAIL AND WEB SCAMS

I asked Steve Hayward to put together a piece for me about being safe on your computer. Here are his thoughts and top 10 tips to keep you safe at a time when more of us are working from home and criminals are ever industrious. Steve…

Let’s be honest – internet security is dull topic. We seldom hear about cybercrime and data theft anymore, largely because people are more tech aware and we have relaxed our vigilance because our email providers do such a good job of filtering out unwanted spam. Likewise, web protection is built into our browsers and so we seldom need to concern ourselves with malicious code, hidden redirects, and aggressive popups. However, we cannot afford be too complacent when using any internet service as people are still being scammed and defrauded in their thousands.

A sceptical awareness has never been more important now that we find millions of people either working from home or in isolation, with only our access to the internet to keep us feeling connected to others. Cybercriminals are creative and they are making every use of this new opportunity to identify our vulnerabilities. So, here are my top 10 simple rules and best-practices to live by when using the internet:

COMPUTER SCAMS

TOP TEN TIPS FOR GOOD PRACTICE

1)      Be suspicious. Have a general scepticism bubbling away in the background with everything you do on the internet.

2)      Always use strong passwords but don’t only rely on them. Never use the same password for every application and service you use. Keeping track of your passwords can be tough and so use a decent password manager. These applications generate strong passwords and store them for you in an encrypted vault. They will also manage other credentials and sensitive data, like financial card information. They will also sync across all your devices. Look for applications like LastPass, 1Password, Bitwarden, Dashlane, Keeper, or KeePassXC.

3)      Always use two-factor or three-factor authentication and/or biometric security when it’s available. A simple username and password is not enough – especially for important services like online banking and buying and selling. The first tier of authentication is your username and password for that service; the second tier is an additional authentication, such as an SMS text message to your phone with a login code or PIN. Also, try to use services that require a fingerprint or face/voice recognition.

4)      Phishing. This is the big one that still gets people because the emails seem genuine and may not be caught by a spam filter. A phishing email is used to get you to log on (or attempt to log on or perform a password reset or confirm your bank details) by pretending to be from a source you trust, such as your bank or a retailer. This is a good time to re-read best-practice #1. If you ever receive an unexpected email informing you of a security incident or one that’s asking you to reset your password or confirm a detail of any kind, ignore it and mark it as spam. Check the sender email address. Does it look genuine? You’ll often find that an email that pretends to be from Microsoft, will not be sent from the expected support@microsoft.com email address (for example), but rather from something bizarre like microsoft-reset@blamfeutter.ru. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of Blamfeutter from Russia – and neither have you. Delete it and mark it as spam. If ever in doubt, call the company that you believe may be trying to contact you.

5)      Never open attachments unless you completely trust the sender. Even then, glance at the type of file you’ve been sent before you just click on it. Is it a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, a JPG photo, or a PDF document? If so, then chances are it’s okay. Is it a document type you don’t recognise? If so, don’t open it. Check with the sender first.

6)      Anti-virus. If you are using a PC at home, make sure you have a security suite installed. There are plenty of good free versions like AVG, Avast, Avira, and Bitdefender.

7)      Public Wi-Fi is never secure. Be extremely sensitive about what you do from your laptop or phone via the Wi-Fi of your favourite coffee shop. NEVER do a financial transaction. NEVER log on to PayPal or any other internet banking system. Write documents and send emails, that is all.

8)      Stop clicking the Unsubscribe option at the bottom of an unwanted email. You cannot guarantee where that hyperlink will take you. Simply mark the email as spam instead.

9)      Facebook and other social-media. There are so many ‘interesting’ posts on Facebook that act as bait for your click. Your click will often be redirected and a hidden piece of code will be run that will cause you to ‘like’ a Facebook page without your consent or may lead you to survey sites that are profitable for the criminals involved. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter alone hold an enormous amount of your data. Criminals are very interested in getting hold of this data – especially when there is a good chance the email and password you use to log on will also be used by you for numerous other accounts elsewhere. They will also have access to your address, your family details, your mobile number, and (likely) your credit card, what you buy and when, your movements and whereabouts from moment to moment, and what you ate for supper last night.

10)  Keep your software up-to-date. Turn on automatic updates so that your browsers like Chrome and Firefox get regular automatic security updates.

At Solomons we have a securely encrypted portal,  this is the best way to communicate with us about anything that is data-sensitive. If you have not already done so, please register for our portal. We advise watching our short video first which is below.

Now head over to any page of our site, where it says CLIENT LOGIN (top right) or use this link:

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR OUR PORTAL

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?

WARNING ABOUT EMAIL & WEB SCAMS2023-12-01T12:13:19+00:00

SCAMS AND GOOD LIARS

TODAY’S BLOG

SCAMS AND GOOD LIARS

Sadly, there are lots of ways to part you from your money. Unfortunately, the criminals are getting ever more sophisticated and we are all accustomed to being so overwhelmed by choice, that we often skip the task of reading the detail or asking more questions.

The problem is that when it comes to your money, you can lose quite a lot of it very quickly. Crooks rely on several things.

  • JARGON
  • PRESENTATION
  • FRUSTRATION
  • “PROOF”

JARGON

The financial services sector is full of jargon. We also often have multiple names or terms for the same thing – for example stocks, equities and shares are all the same thing. As for Bonds – let’s not even go there

PRESENTATION

In a world of low interest rates, where your hard-earned cash is going backwards in value because of inflation. If prices rise 3% and you only get 1% interest, you are falling behind inflation and the £ in your bank account cannot buy as much as it did. So being offered something that looks and sounds like a decent return, (particularly if it’s on a nice-looking website or advert) well nobody would honestly say you are being greedy. You just want to make your money work harder. However, the adage if it sounds too good to be true…

THE GOOD LIAR MOVIE 2019

FRUSTRATION

You are fed up with jargon, bad interest rates and the news regularly reports that millions were wiped off the stock markets. Oddly they never report that millions were wiped on, at best the news may mention the FTSE100 is up by something every 15 minutes, which is utterly pointless. So something that offers “guarantees” or suggests that it has nothing to do with the stock market – perhaps investing in something that sounds green (and good) is likely to appeal to your sense of frustration.

“PROOF”

Having a celebrity promote the “investment” or business opportunity is designed to give it some credibility. After all, celebrities are nice people aren’t they? They have reputations to uphold. Well the truth is that actors are paid to speak words, sports professionals invariably are paid to have words written on them. However nice they may be, they are paid for their promotional work.

How about those reviews from previous customers? Those star ratings? Or industry awards? If you have been around long enough, you will know that whilst these can be true, they are often partially true and sometimes not true at all. As a business owner I am regularly offered awards or encouraged to do something to get them, such as join a trade body that gives the impression of some credibility, when all it really means is that it’s a marketing club

You are a target, nothing more

Scammers prey on those that have money but don’t have the time or perhaps knowledge to think through what it being proposed. They target anyone.

The Good Liar

The new film “The Good Liar” starring Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen, showcases a scammer, a pretty good one. I may have some issues with the speed and ease at which things purport to be done (establishing a Trust, combining the wealth of two people, and an oversized calculator keypad to confirm live payments for sums less than £100m) but the mechanics of a scam are all there.

You can attempt to keep up with scams on the FCA website here: Alternatively, please get in touch, if you have any doubt about what you are being told, it is worth getting us to have a look at it. How much are your life savings worth to you after all?

As for the film, I quite enjoyed it. I may think that popcorn and a drink borders on being a bit of a scam, but the movie is entertaining and just short of 2 hours. Longer than a sports match and more informative. Here is the trailer.

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?

SCAMS AND GOOD LIARS2023-12-01T12:17:06+00:00

SINGING LIKE A CANARY

TODAY’S BLOG

SINGING LIKE A CANARY

My twitter account got a little heated at the weekend. I, like many other financial planners am utterly fed up with financial scams. Most of us get scam emails – I have yet another only two minutes ago purporting to be HMRC with a refund… Anyway, what irritates me and many planners is the apparent ease and frequency at which scams occur.

We have a regulator and anyone that knows me will know that I believe that they play an important, arguably vital role within financial services (see Cops and Robbers in Spotlight March 2019). Yet the FCA twitter account seems unable and unwilling to accept information about suspected (or even obvious) scams.

Better but not great

An item by James Coney in The Sunday Times (12 May 2019) called “Here’s how the FCA could stop savings scams – use Google” sparked some mirth which evolved into a small, sometimes heated “debate”. Some comments suggested that regulation is much better than it was, that the scams are less costly. That the FCA is doing a good job. I am not denying that the FCA is trying, they have an enormous brief. However, there are many of us that think that too much time is wasted on the wrong things.

SING LIKE A CANARY

Climb a mountain, or use the tunnel ?

This week I will have to submit yet another 6-monthly online report to the FCA telling them lots of things about my business. It takes ages and frankly I don’t think it reveals much of any importance. In any event wouldn’t a crook would simply make up the data? At the coalface of advice regulation can also be over the top…you want to top up your ISA… well yes, that requires a report, really? To top one up? Yes. You want money out? Well a report telling you that taking too much may mean it runs out is required… Admittedly the length and depth of reports and research are not prescribed by the regulator, but very much enforced by compliance and professional indemnity insurers. Certainly there is a place for this, but often it looks and feels like “overkill”.

Scams to the left of me, scams to the right…

I cannot explain why people being ripped off is so upsetting to me. Its wired into my DNA or childhood experience I suspect. Many advisers are on the same side as the regulator, we both make a living from financial services. The flashpoint, was the suggestion that advisers will be forced to pay yet higher levies for the FSCS to make compensation payments to scammed investors. This relates to yet another “obvious to an adviser” scam of mini-Bonds of London Capital & Finance. Who made promises that they would never keep to the tune of £237m from 11,500 savers. This was not a regulated business. There was no FSCS compensation for the investors. At least that’s what should have been the case, but now it seems this is disputed and advisers will have to foot the bill… for a scam they had nothing to do with.

Virtual reality isn’t reality

James Coney, like many of my peers argues that a quick search of the web will reveal plenty of scams. Some are obvious, some less so. This is the occasion to use the word fake – there are fake websites, fake products and fake endorsements. Please don’t get taken in. Ask me or your adviser if you have one. Why take the risk for a couple of extra percentage points of interest?

Sadly, I am of the view that the system is in need of an overhaul. The regulator thought that forcing all other advisers to charge fees, and explain these each year would solve the mis-selling problem. I’m sure it has a small favourable result, but the bulk of crime is committed by criminals, who lie. No amount of legislation or disclosures will have any impact on them, what they require is the strong arm of the law and a custodial sentence.

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?

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SINGING LIKE A CANARY2023-12-01T12:17:25+00:00

The Future of Pensions

The Future of Pensions

I am currently at my annual conference in Wales – the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI) with whom the IFP – Institute of Financial Planning merged last year. Yesterday we covered a number of valuable topics, but the talk that resonated most with me was from former Pensions Minister MP Steve Webb, who talked about the future of pensions – amongst other things.

I had to admit that my BS radar is usually on hyperdrive when listening to any politician these days, which is probably a sad reflection on me, however I was very impressed by what he had to say, albeit he did not paint a terribly pleasant picture of the future. Of course, only time will tell if his predictions come about and in fairness, he was quick to remind us of the problems with predicting the future, particularly in a climate where since the last general election all of the major political parties have changed their leaders and the country has voted to leave the EU.

Book cover of Yes Minister - A Very Courageous Decision

Play it again Sam…(or Phil)

Webb was clear that changing pensions is pretty difficult and appears to be a low priority to either the Government of Civil Service. He gave an insight into the slow turning wheels of Whitehall, sounding much like an episode from Yes Minister. Given all the change that we have had (State Pension, Auto Enrolment, Pension Freedoms, Annual Allowance Taper, Lifetime Allowance…) he suspects and urges a period of quiet inaction from the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. This is particularly pertinent to those concerned about the loss or reductions of tax relief on pension contributions or changes to the tax free cash entitlement. He made the case that the public and financial planners could not plan ahead in confidence if the rules are changed every year, yet warned at Chancellors are easily tempted by ideas to collect more tax, however short-sighted.

Whilst on the subject of tax he made it clear that the Treasury are naturally inclined to taxing now rather than in the years ahead, so there is a very real pressure to take the view that tax relief reductions in the short-term outweigh the advantages of taxed incomes in the future, so by inference, a system of loss of tax relief and no taxation of pension income is a genuine prospect. He argued that this was evidenced by the Treasury’s love for ISAs and obvious contempt for pensions with the Lifetime Allowance reductions (and associated tax penalties) and the new tapered annual allowance. Personally he would scrap the LTA but retain a cap on annual pension contributions (which I certainly agree with). He did point out that of course putting trust in future Chancellors to honour a commitment not to tax pension income in the future required a high degree of faith, which  deliberately provoked some mirth from the audience.

Turning to Brexit, he simply outlined his view that interest rates are likely to be very low for a long time, which would place pressure on people to look for better returns than the puny sums they achieve from their savings. He argued that this would likely lead to yet more scams as people fall for yet more illusory promises of high returns. He also warned of the impact on final salary pension schemes which, because of the assets that they hold and the way calculations are performed, would have larger deficits in their pensions (due to low interest rates) probably leading to some, or perhaps a majority of companies trimming their dividend payments.. which in turn makes the task of achieving investment income harder still.

He seemed to have little regard for our regulator of whom he said was “not fit for purpose” and thought the new LISA was perhaps the most badly constructed investment idea for years. If you follow me on social media, you will know my thoughts on this already.

So, whilst Steve Webb found a receptive audience, I was left with the sinking feeling that there was little hope for common sense to return to the Treasury… but who knows… we all get to find out in a few weeks time for the Autumn Statement.

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

The Future of Pensions2023-12-01T12:19:06+00:00
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