BETTER NOT CALL SAUL

TODAY’S BLOG

SELLING TRUTH YOU WANT TO HEAR

One of the TV series I enjoy is a spin off from Breaking Bad – Better Call Saul, which you can find on Netflix. In simple terms it is the story of James “Jimmy” McGill who is the younger wayward sibling of two brothers. Regularly in trouble, Jimmy is nothing like his responsible, pedantic brother Charles who is a very successful lawyer. Despite their differences, Jimmy is close to his brother, tending to a peculiar illness which is debilitating.

Jimmy is a low-level conman, who has a talent for spotting a fool and parting him from his money as most confidence tricksters do. His observational skills and self-confidence combined with a malleable relationship with rules are the perfect combination for selling a different version of truth, a lie that people want to believe. It becomes apparent to him that perhaps being a lawyer requires a similar skill set. Most believe that lawyers are crooks with a Degree and Jimmy can smell opportunity.

The numerous series chart his misdemeanours, and these run parallel to the mirroring characters of the drug world. Instead of law firms and partners, read gangs and cartel all pushing the same freedom fix, but with grave penalties for error.

Better Call Saul - Netflix

TO WHAT PURPOSE?

The series raises lots of relevant questions – fundamentally what is our purpose? Who is Jimmy? Why is he endowed with the skills he has and how could these be put to more rewarding, purposeful use. We witness him genuinely attempt to do good, to remove or reduce harm, to expose corruption and to protect the vulnerable, yet his efforts are met with the resistance of indifference and judgement that prevents him from straying outside of his box. A societal box that others have placed him in. This is of course particularly timely as we all consider the challenges that face anyone that is genuinely interested in equality, justice and fairness.

It isn’t often that I would encourage you to pay attention to someone that is essentially a corrupt lawyer, but there are many valuable insights to be found. These are as basic as understanding the mechanics of a scam, hiding in plain sight and how to find hidden fees. However we also have to face the reality of understanding depth, capacity, risk and the difference between problems and trouble.

Many of the problems that Jimmy faces are problems that many of us may experience at some point – whether that’s the importance of a Will, care costs, business partnerships, deals and the value of what we provide to others. However at its heart of the story is the strength and weaknesses of relationships – whether that’s between siblings, employers, family or friends. Jimmy is largely making decisions in reaction to those relationships, as are others. Every character has a story but as ever, being able to see the solutions to your own problems is often aided by an impartial other.

One of the lessons I have been reminded of this week, today in fact, is that as a planner, I help provide objectivity and accountability – helping clients keep on track with their stated values and plans for a great life. Jimmy could have had a very different story if someone had shown him how his skills could be applied, if he had received the right support and encouragement. It may not have been as dramatic (and worthy of a TV series) but it would certainly have ensured prosperity in the fullest sense of the word.

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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

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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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

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BETTER NOT CALL SAUL2020-06-02T16:17:08+01:00

TAX YEAR END PLANNING PART 2

TODAY’S BLOG

TAX YEAR END PLANNING PART 2 – CAPITAL GAINS

2019 was a good year for nearly all investors in share or bond-based funds. Even the Brexit-buffeted UK stock market, something of laggard in global terms, grew by over 14%. If your portfolio does not show some decent capital gains for the year, it is probably in need of a serious review.

As a general rule, it makes sense to realise gains up to the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) annual exempt amount each tax year. The exemption, covering £12,000 of gains in 2019/20, cannot be carried forward: use it by 3 April (the tax year ends on Sunday 5 April), or you lose it. Systematically using the exemption can help avoid building up large gains over the years which attract tax. Currently, the maximum tax rate on gains is 20% for higher and additional rate taxpayers (28% for gains involving residential property and carried interest).

If you want to crystallise gains to use your exemption, but would prefer to retain the same investments, you cannot simply sell them one day and buy them back the next. Anti-avoidance rules prevent this from being effective, but there are alternatives that achieve a similar result, such as reinvesting in an ISA or self-invested personal pension.

CAPITAL GAIN

CAPITAL GAINS TAX IN PRACTICE

CGT applies to nearly all forms of investment, the notable exceptions being ISAs, Pensions and Investment Bonds. In simple terms, you want to trigger gains by selling an asset that has increased in value. Ideally you want to trigger as close to the allowance (£12,000) as possible. Thats a gain. So by way of example, if you invested £10,000 in 2010 and the investment is now worth £22,000 you would need to sell the entire investment to trigger a gain of £12,000.

The important issue is to know when you invested and how much. This is often more complicated than it appears because funds or holdings may well generate income which might have been paid to you, but may well have been re-invested. Over time the sums get very complicated.

We do a lot of work for clients that have a portfolio that we gradually convert into ISAs. Each year we trigger gains to move over into your ISA, ideally until the taxable investment has nothing left as it has all been moved into a tax-free ISA pot. This is a good way to gradually convert a portfolio into a tax-free portfolio.

A married couple have their own allowance each, but this is only relevant if the investment is jointly owned. Trusts also have a CGT allowance, but only at half the rate of the personal allowance (£6,000 in 2019/20).

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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

If you would like a no-nonsense one page document explaining what financial planning is all about please enter your email here.

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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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

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TAX YEAR END PLANNING PART 22020-02-18T19:01:25+00:00

YOUR ‘UMBLE SERVANT..

TODAY’S BLOG

YOUR ‘UMBLE SERVANT…

We are regularly looking for new clients that are looking for the services that we provide. I often forget just how daunting an experience this can be for people. Invariably they have had a poor service from someone else, or worse. Some, though relatively few, have never had financial advice of any form.

I was with a new potential client this week, it was a familiar scene. There were lots of statements from various investment companies, lots of bank accounts and a significant amount of confusion. This was no fault of theirs, keeping track of all of your arrangements is made rather difficult by the constant corporate name changes and jargon.

Revealing your story

Every good adviser needs to understand your financial situation and what you hope to achieve. Gathering information from people is painful, because it’s a really tedious task and for many it involves trawling through a mass of paperwork and a sinking feeling that things may not be as good as hoped and unclear about which investment and savings still exist. It is far easier to give the lot to us to sort out and check through, but this requires a high degree of trust. I would generally discourage anyone from sharing or handing over their financial information, but of course to us it is “bread and butter”. Generally, I believe that trust is increased by earning it, by which I mean keeping promises – not by ripping people off.

David Copperfield

Pariah Uriah

I was intrigued to see how one of literature’s financial fraudsters, Uriah Heep would fair under the retelling of “David Copperfield”. If you know the Dickens story, Uriah Heep is a man obsessed with class, attempting to ascend the slippery social pole through manipulation and deceit. He is a miserable creature, as legal clerk to Mr Wickfield he enables Wickfield’s struggle with alcoholism, encouraging ever more intoxication and thus more dependency on him. Gradually Heep’s ambitious plan forms into action, he forges signatures and loans and embezzles money from Wickfield and his clients. This leads both Wickfield and his clients to believe they are ruined through poor investments.

Working fiction

One would like to believe that this is a rather pertinent financial lesson – beware of the pressures on your adviser and his or her vices. Today it is both harder and easier to misrepresent the truth. Online portals that link up your arrangements (such as ours) show valuations, every day. These are from the providers themselves, so it would be very difficult for us to alter them. However, I have no doubt that with the advantages of a decent bit of editing software, things could be misrepresented by those that wish to do so. Whilst I might wish to believe our portal is your first port of call, it also acts as confirmation of other documentation sent directly from investment companies (further reassurance).

Who knows what Uriah Heep would have done with the available technology today. Thankfully character and processes and decent regulation all help limit the impact of such fraud.

A Story is not set in stone

As for the film, well I loved it. It isn’t the book. The timeline is a little different but it is a charming and very warm re-imagining of the story. Of course, the way we might discuss your future, we tend to jump around from present, past and future and re-imagine different versions of your future if you make different decisions. So messing around with a timeline if frankly very normal for a planner. I was surprised to learn that some feel it is very “unlike the book” and are particularly vexed by the multi-ethnic cast. It seems a more than a little silly to want historical accuracy about a fictional piece when it comes to skin tone. In any event, much of our understanding of multiculturalism is rather blinkered by the retelling of history from a particular perspective. I fail to see what the fuss is about and find many of the comments rather thoughtless. In any event, the essence of the story is about different types of people from the different classes. There are merits and flaws in each.

DIVERSE-I-FIC(A)TION

As for your portfolio, well its diverse – globally diverse. Its available to view within our secure portal and you ought to check it occasionally just to know that what I have told you is fair, accurate and true – that we have kept our promises.

That’s said, I would actively discourage too much focus on investments, there is no need to obsess over performance when the portfolio has been established to stand the test of time, apply disciplined, evidenced theory to seek appropriate returns for the degree of investment risk you wish to endure. The portfolio is low cost, globally diverse and set up to last a lifetime. You simply require patience and perseverance.

As for Uriah Heep, he is found in most bookshops and of course in the current film by Armando Iannucci and starring Dev Patel (who is excellent) leads the rather good good. Here is the trailer. I enjoyed the movie – pushing 9/10.

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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

If you would like a no-nonsense one page document explaining what financial planning is all about please enter your email here.

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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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

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YOUR ‘UMBLE SERVANT..2020-01-23T11:00:17+00:00

IS INHERITANCE TAX AVOIDABLE?

TODAY’S BLOG

IS INHERITANCE TAX AVOIDABLE?

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.

5 QUICK TIPS

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 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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

If you would like a no-nonsense one page document explaining what financial planning is all about please enter your email here.

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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

WHAT WE’RE ALL ABOUT

If you would like a no-nonsense one page document explaining what financial planning is all about please enter your email here.

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IS INHERITANCE TAX AVOIDABLE?2019-02-21T18:40:24+00:00

Julie – a matter of trust

Julie

I noted in social media last week that a fight broke out in the balcony of the Lyttleton Theatre between two male members of the audience at the end of a performance of Julie. I already had a ticket booked, but of course wondered, whether it was something about the play…

I can report that the acting was rather good, (Vanessa Kirby and Eric Kofi Abrefa to name two key performances) but to be blunt, this was a play that I simply did not care for. The dialogue was awful and reminded me of various unpleasant characters. It was meant to be reworking of August Strindberg’s play Miss Julie, but it felt dated and done before, many times before, but rather better.

The basic background premise is one of a sense of being trapped by circumstance. In this case rich it-girl with the traumatic experience of being the first to find her mother following her suicide. We can only guess why, but mine is that the mother also felt trapped in a life of luxury, lacking any meaning or any significant connection with her obviously wealthy, materially successful but invariably absent husband. The resulting wealth used as the justification for a lack of presence. The price of “success” and the excesses are its ongoing punishment.

Held in Trust

Julie, who has no money of her own, because it is held in Trust “because she is irresponsible with it”. She certainly is irresponsible, but whether this came before or after the Trust fund is one of the few talking points. I’m not a fan of Trusts (a bit odd for a financial planner to admit) but living from someone else’s money rarely has a good outcome and to put it bluntly, those that do best are the legal advisors, all (mainly) to avoid the clutches of a divorcing spouse, which from my point of view merely sets up the prospect of not living with the consequences of actions. A Trust might be a suitable metaphor for many elements of the play, the lack of trust between parent and adult child, the lack of trust between a self-serving man and a woman. The lack of real trust between a socialite and her maid… I could go on. Trust is quickly sacrificed for pleasure, or perhaps relief from the trappings of situation.

Do You Trust the Trustee Savings Bank?

So, who to trust? What is the price of trust and should you ever trust anyone? The truth is that we all must, being human we will be failed, but not trusting makes for miserable existence, albeit possibly right in a few instances.  Trusting any adviser is hard, trusting someone else with your money is one of the most difficult realities. Consider the recent muck up at TSB – Trustee Savings Bank, an utter fiasco. Advisers and the financial services industry must do an awful lot to shift the default setting of “mistrust”. Yet when it comes to your financial planning, this is what you need to remove. Any decent adviser will build trust over the years, by keeping promises, doing what they said they would do, looking after all your financial “stuff” and communicating in plain words.

A Problem of Wealth

One of the natural problems of having a significant amount of wealth, is that it tends to attract the wrong people, like bees to a honeypot. The opening scene of Julie reveals a birthday party composed of people that she neither knows nor likes, friends they are not. We can all probably think of people that have been parted from their money by their acquaintances.

Never underestimate the positive power of a proper financial fiduciary. Its not simply what we do, its also what we do not do, which includes not putting a hand in the till – or in this case the blender.

Here’s a promotional video from the National Theatre for Julie.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

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

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Julie – a matter of trust2018-06-14T17:48:20+01:00

An Act of Trust? My Cousin Rachel

An Act of Trust? My cousin Rachel

There’s a new reworking of Daphne Du Maurier’s 1951 story “My Cousin Rachel” that is currently in cinema’s. A romantic throw-back to a time when men wore britches and women had little to call their own, thank heaven we have moved on. This is perhaps a timely reworking of the story, visiting the issue of inherited wealth with a passing nod to the patronage of the landed gentry, whilst their labourers gather the proverbial scraps from under their table.

Philip Ashley (Sam Claflin) is an orphan, taken in by his Cornish, landowning bachelor cousin Ambrose. Sadly for Mr Ambrose, he becomes unwell and heads to Florence, where he is initially restored by the sun and charms of Rachel, who he elects to marry. His illness shortly returns, resulting in his mysterious death, leaving a widow and Philip to face the prospect of an early inheritance. Suspicious of foul play, due to letters from his dying cousin, Philip is determined to punish Rachel for what he believes she has done. “Whatever it cost my cousin in pain and suffering before he died I will return with full measure upon the woman that caused it.”

Under a Spell

As a somewhat naïve and hot-headed young man, he is mesmerized by his cousin’s widow when she arrives at the estate. All plans to punish are swiftly reversed and forgotten, because he “likes to look at Rachel”…. who is played rather brilliantly by Rachel Weisz.

I will not reveal any more of this thoroughly enjoyable tale, which will perhaps get you reflecting on whether women are viewed any differently today than they were then. In fact to say any more would not help your own reflections.

The thing about inheritance

However, I can say that the story is an example of why you need to have a Will and that it is reviewed regularly. Moreover (a word I use knowing the angst caused for my old French teacher, who swore it was redundant) it also displays some of the pitfalls of a Trust, or at least a Trust that reverts to a beneficiary who is only 25 and is unhelpfully naïve and besotted.

This is a common financial planning problem – at what age should someone inherit wealth? particularly a life-defining amount. For all the planning that can be done, this will inevitably boil down to how the Trust was established and who the Trustees are and to be blunt, how responsible the beneficiaries are.

In the story, Philip can rely on the steady hand of family friend and Trustee Nick Kendall, (Iain Glen) who whilst being a voice of reason, is also compromised by his hope that his daughter Louise, (Holliday Grainger) will marry Philip and thus be financially secure.  The Kendall’s suspicions are alert for conflicted reasons. Often selecting a Trustee can be a difficult task, the basics are that they must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind, and not held at her Majesty’s pleasure.

Selecting Your Trustees or Executors

Many clients will of course naturally wish to select family members or friends, there is nothing wrong with this, except that most families have at times, strained relations. Friends may change. The responsibility of being a Trustee or Executor is no small matter – just ask anyone that has been one (or is). This is why these important legal documents, which assure your beneficiaries of your provision, are reviewed regularly. In our post-modern society, people move around the world, not simply the county. Death at a distance (a fate that befell Ambrose) is rather more complex than that wedding you have been invited to abroad.  So when selecting Trustees, always use your head which may well conclude that those that share your surname are indeed the right people, but do think about this carefully.

Anyway, 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

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An Act of Trust? My Cousin Rachel2017-06-21T21:24:37+01:00

Anything to declare?

Anything to declare?

Having made your way through airport lounges, delays, immigration and luggage collection, the last airport encounter will be customs. Greeted by green signs asking if you have anything to declare. I tend to find myself wishing to say something funny, but am well aware that airports are not places for humour.

Customs generally operates on the basis of trust –  trusting you to tell the truth, failure to be truthful may be discovered, resulting in considerable discomfort, embarassment and possible shame, for those of us that still feel such things.

Declaration forms

Most people don’t like forms, fewer still like insurance forms. Some appear to take the view that full disclosure is optional, it isn’t. At best this is memory failure, more likely selective memory, at worst simple deception.

Full Disclosure

Admittedly insurance forms are tedious, but it is better to complete them fully – too fully, so that you disclose all of the information required. This is particularly important in relation to tax and health, as well as the more obvious identity and residency. I have not had the misfortune of any client misleading an insurer (or anyone else) however it is important to remind everyone that misleading information invariably comes back to haunt.

Lessons from Glasgow

I’m thinking of the very sad tale of the lorry driver in Glasgow, who had a blackout whilst at the wheel of a refuse lorry during a busy morning of Christmas shopping. It would appear that similar blackouts occurred before, yet were not disclosed in subsequent encounters with those charged with assessing the health and fitness of the workforce. Many may have taken a similar approach, thinking that the incidents were “in the past” and “no longer relevant”. Sadly this was a hugely costly misjudgment.

I imagine that the driver feels terrible about the accident and utterly devastated by the assertion that perhaps if he had recorded and presented information differently, his life and those lost and those families and friends effected by this terrible accident would now be rather different. In such situations, it is tempting to simply seek to blame someone, yet perhaps we could all benefit from being reminded that full disclosure is important, questions on forms are invariably posed for good reasons, (yes I know that many may not be) but honesty is there to protect us all.

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

Anything to declare?2017-01-06T14:39:25+00:00

Pension Exit Charges

Pension Exit Charges

I wonder if I can be honest with you about pension exit charges? I freely admit that I probably spend too much time concerning myself with what others within my industry think. I spend a lot of time improving my knowledge and this involves reading both technical papers and opinion. Yet I find myself increasingly perplexed by the comments on industry media outlets.

THIS IS A LONG ITEM, BUT PLEASE STICK WITH ME…

Like it or not, the financial services industry regularly gets berated for being nothing short of self-serving. Often different or indeed competing elements of the spectrum that make up the financial services get lumped together, frankly this is our collective fault for not clearly defining or explaining the differences, invariably made harder by really rather poor regulatory clarity.

However I was utterly exasperated with my peers on yet another comment section within the “trade press”. This concerned the issue of exit penalties on pensions. At the time Mr Cameron, the Prime Minister was expected to outline his frustration with pension companies that apply high exit fees… for the sake of simplicity, let’s call them what they really are – transfer penalties.

Old World not New Model Advisers

The comments appeared in a publication that I respect by Citywire – New Model Adviser, the article written by a very thorough journalist, Will Robbins. The publication aims to high-light good or best practice and aims to help improve the advice sector and thus help achieve better results for the investing public. So one would hope that the readers and their comments are towards the front forward-thinking end of the adviser population.

The King is dead, long live the King

On the topic of exit penalties it seemed to me that commentators reverted to their historic stances as salesmen, not advisers, preferring to defend high penalties rather than lead a revolution to have them scrapped or at least capped.

Investors are being ripped off

Yes it is true that pensions set up were contracts and that contract law is therefore under the microscope…. but there are times to simply admit that enough is enough.  I have seen some horrendous penalties (the difference between the actual value and the transfer value of a pension)… some taking well above 30% of the fund. That is simply not good enough. OK there was a contract, but neither “adviser” nor investor could have anticipated these penalties which have become increasingly pertinent as investors and advisers seek better, more efficient and cost-effective solutions. Something that I regularly do to great effect for our clients.

Analogies have flaws but…

However suggestions that imposing a cap were largely greeted with derision. I was under the impression that it is the advisers job to represent the client, not the pension company and if engaged by them, to seek the most suitable solutions. I would like to think that it is in the collective interest to allow someone to move their money elsewhere with minimal fuss and cost so that it can grow better (hopefully) – and yes it cannot be guaranteed…. at least it cannot be guaranteed in a way that your life is not guaranteed by the protection that the airbags in your 2015 car should deploy if you have an accident, as opposed to your 1986 car that doesn’t have any of the current safety features. Yes you may be maimed or even die in the accident, but which do you think is likely to provide a better journey?

Aren’t we meant to put you, the client first?

In an industry steeped in scandal and mistrust this ought to be an opportunity for pension companies and advisers to put clients interests first. I find this even more frustrating as in reality it is all to do with commission and the lie that advice is free. Old style policies are those that typically paid high levels of commission, which the pension company advanced to the adviser as payment for arranging the pension with them. Of course it didn’t help that some pension companies offered more commission for using them as opposed to others, thus bringing into question the independence of the advice and adviser. If you went to a Tied Agent or Bank, you didn’t even get any option to compare costs…. which was the job of the IFA at the time.

Thinking that is so last century…

This has been going on for years, yet alternative approaches have also been available for those willing to face some truths. In 1999, 16 years ago I formed Solomons, removing commission, charging 1% on any investment or pension product – no matter who… a level playing field. 16 years ago! The regulator eventually caught up and banned commission on investments from 2013 called RDR so since then all advisers have had to charge fees properly.

Vive la revolution

Why does this vex me so? well as someone still in their 40’s I expect and plan to remain advising clients for many years to come, so I’d like to see things improve. I would like to see the standard of advice improve and the number of scandals and complaints decrease… not least because invariably the way compensation works is that those left working within the sector pay the compensation levy, even if they had nothing to do with it. This summer I had yet another regulatory invoice for this levy, an increase of 64% on last year…there comes a point when I and many (thankfully) like me, simply cannot absorb all these costs without jeopardising our own sustainability.

If you are fed up with your pension or not even sure what its worth, please check out my free guide, which  will help you regain control of your pension planning. There ought to be a box below to download this, if not just email me.

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 Exit Charges2017-01-06T14:39:25+00:00

Representing Independence

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Representing Independence

So 2013 is drawing to a close and the Christmas cards are starting to arrive. Universities and schools are drawing the term to an end and we are all hoping that the winter break isn’t too cold and that our boilers don’t give up under the pressure of winter, just when there is a house full of guests. Sadly, one of the changes for 2014 is the representation of IFAs and investors by IFA Centre.  It is the only obvious advocate for independent financial adviindependence dayce, which has had to scale back due to a lack of support from IFAs in Britain. This is a real shame as Gill Cardy who in 2011 formed (the not-for-profit membership organisation) and runs it has worked hard to promote the importance of independent advice and championed causes to help investors receive fair treatment when they have been royally fleeced. This is the sort of change that the financial services industry has been crying out for and sadly it will not continue in the way it was hoped. The IFA Centre, of which I am a member isn’t closing completely, but will now focus on providing resources, events and other benefits to firms like ours. This will still be of benefit, but I greatly appreciated the work that Gill was doing in making representation for IFAs. Sadly, this does not seem to be of sufficient interest  to enough advisers. I’m hoping that this isn’t simply an appalling attitude of not being bothered by the majority of IFA firms, but rather a “not knowing what you’ve got until it’s gone” situation.

Gill said “After over 2 years of personal and financial commitment IFA Centre’s membership does not provide the financial resources for my full time commitment to protecting advisers’ interests, let alone the resources to provide research, policy development and a member events programme.  Worse, irrespective of our funding, with so few firms prepared to stand together to improve how our businesses are regulated, I simply do not have enough members to provide the decisive mandate needed to provide the representation that Independent advisers so badly need.”

She added : “IFA Centre was only launched because so many IFAs were unhappy with existing representation and told me how important trade bodies with knowledgeable, experienced and passionate leadership are.  However, many of these advisers have not joined and I am forced to review what services IFA Centre can continue to provide to IFAs”.

Public thank you to IFA Centre

Anyway I would like to thank Gill for all the hard work she has done to promote and further the benefits of impartial independent financial advice and attempts to restore some credibility and trust in a largely untrusted sector. Our clients benefit from independent advice and I wish everyone else’s did too… sadly they don’t.

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

Representing Independence2017-01-06T14:39:42+00:00

Irish Medical Organisation makes Fred Goodwin look cheap

When 1 + 1 = €!!!!…. now that is leverage!

There is something very “Orwellian” about a story that was brought to my attention. This is yet another story of poor management and a dreadful lack of attention to contractual detail. Doctors in Ireland are said to be “angry” by the severance package agreed with the former CEO of the Irish Medical Organisation. It would appear that the former CEO is retiring after 30 years of service, a little early. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no idea if Mr McNeice has done a good job or a fantastic job, but for a relatively small organisation his settlement does seem somewhat large. The 2011 annual accounts for the IMO report an income of €3.8m and around €6m of balance sheet assets. So it may come as a surprise that Mr McNeice has a package of €20m+, which has forced the IMO into negotiations with him. The IMO is meant to be a doctors union, to represent them.  This package dwarfs Fred Goodwin’s when you consider the money on the table.

That thing… risk and reward

I don’t have a problem with people earning large sums of money, (at least I think I don’t). We need entrepreneurs to create jobs and wealth. However this is invariably linked to risk – the prospect of losing all of an investment into a business venture. Good entrepreneurs can reduce risk through skill and knowledge and looking for the predictable that others cannot see. I’m not convinced that a union really falls into this category. Whilst the job may be difficult (I simply don’t know) I find it hard to understand why someone is remunerated in quite this way.

Are you being served?

The IMO had a 2011 membership of 5,339 (a 13% reduction on the previous year from 6,143) these members subscribe to be represented (see the latest fees here) which generates about 95% of all of the income for the IMO. There are only 24 employed staff. This is a small organisation. The 2011 staff bill was €2.1m which includes pension contributions. That’s an average of €87,500 per member of staff and of course I suspect that most of the 24 are paid considerably less than this. Little wonder that the parting €4.5m pension fund, €1.5m termination payment and further deferred payments taking his package to over €20m. One wonders what the staff feel about their former CEO now.

Play to your strengths

So Irish doctors are somewhat livid, as you might imagine. Indeed without a re-negotiation and increased fees, the organisation must surely make the remaining staff redundant and close its doors.  A very sorry tale indeed. However this is a clear reminder to all that paying attention to the numbers is vital, frankly those on the Board either lack the experience or knowledge to see the wood for the trees, which is understandable if they are trained doctors, why should they also be experts in finance? As has been repeated many times before – play to your strengths. If you spend all your life working on your weaknesses, all you end up with is a stronger set of weaknesses.This is why successful business people and professionals come to me for advice. Not because they can’t plan or don’t understand money, but because it really is not their strength – and frankly the vast majority are not interested in “money”. They delegate this stuff to me. Its my job to do the numbers, however this prompts a vital question about trust and control, which of course is a question that only my clients can really answer for themselves.

As for the IMO and its parting CEO to quote “Tough decisions need to be taken… ” and many other words that come back to bite.

Irish Medical Organisation makes Fred Goodwin look cheap2017-01-06T14:39:49+00:00
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