Guide to Financial Planning: Part One

Take advice

Financial Planning is often complex and the varied and ever-changing rules mean that it’s easy to make a mistake. If you take professional advice, in my opinion, you increase the chances of getting it right.

Now advice can come in many forms. Beware of false prophets, or should we say false profits!

Professional Advice does not include ANY of the following.

  • Dave at work
  • My friends Mum
  • Craig’s cousin or
  • A lady on the bus.

“I don’t know about these things, but……..”

Over the years we’ve heard lots of stories about why clients have followed a particular course of action with regards to Financial Planning. Often it can include a variation on the “Dave from work” approach.

Whoever is giving the advice needs to be qualified in that area and hopefully a specialist.

So, Part One Take Professional Advice.

 

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Farewell to Nicola

After nearly 6 years of service with Trafford & Houghton, Nicola is leaving today to embark on a new and different career path.

We would like to thank Nicola for all her hard work and dedication shown to our company over the past 6 years. We will miss you and I am sure a lot of our clients will be sad to see you leave as well.

We wish you good luck for your future success.

From all at Trafford & Houghton

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Unmarried woman wins automatic right to late partner’s pension in decision that could affect millions

Unmarried partners could be entitled to a “survivors pension” following a landmark Supreme Court ruling yesterday.

A case won by a woman who was denied access to her long-term partner’s pension after he died suddenly will improve the pension rights of millions of unmarried couples across the UK.

Denise Brewster, in her early 40s, argued she was discriminated against after being told she was not entitled to payments from her late partner’s occupational pension because he had failed to sign a form nominating her as a beneficiary.

Such forms are not required for married couples but until now public sector pension schemes and some private sector pensions have demanded them for couples who are not married.

Ms Brewster and Lenny McMullan had lived together for 10 years and owned their own home.

They got engaged on Christmas Eve 2009, but Mr McMullan died suddenly between Christmas night and the early hours of Boxing Day morning.

At the time of his death Mr McMullan had 15 years’ service with Translink, which delivers Northern Ireland’s public transport services. He was paying into Northern Ireland’s local government pension scheme.

Ms Brewster was denied access to her partner’s pension by Translink on the grounds that she and Lenny had been cohabiting and were not married.

She took her case to the High Court in 2012 and won.  But the Northern Ireland Local Government Superannuation Scheme appealed against the decision and in 2013 it was overturned by a two to one majority in Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal.

In order to take her case to the Supreme Court, Ms Brewster turned to crowd-funding to raise the initial £4,000 required, since there is no Legal Aid available for such cases.

Giving the Supreme Court’s ruling, Lord Kerr said: “To suggest that, in furtherance of that objective, a requirement that the surviving cohabitant must be nominated by the scheme member justified the limitation of the appellant’s Article 14 right, is, at least highly questionable.” He ordered the nomination form to be “disapplied”, arguing there was “no rational connection between the objective and the imposition of the nomination requirement”.

What will the ruling mean for cohabiting couples?

The myth of the ‘common-law marriage’ still pervades, but in reality cohabiting couples have few of the rights of their married counterparts.

For example, should one partner die, the other has no automatic right to inherit from them, even if they have been together for years.

Similarly, if one partner dies, the other is not eligible for any bereavement benefits as they would be if they were married.

This applies even if the unmarried couple have children together.

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision bestowed on Denise Brewster the same right to claim a ‘survivor’s pension’ as she would have done had she been married to her partner Lenny McMullan.

It’s seen as a landmark case because it could set precedent for future situations where a distinction is made between married and unmarried couples.

It remains to be seen how this will play out in reality, but the decision is bound to be used in future cases to strengthen the rights of unmarried couples, particularly in the case of pensions.

 

 

 

Here comes the money

Savers have accessed a total of £9.2 billion through pensions freedom since the reforms were announced, with around £1.6 billion taken from pension pots in the last three months.

Figures published by HMRC show a total of 516,000 payments were made from pension pots between April 2015 and March 2016 and over one million payments were made between April 2016 and the end of last year.

The number of individuals accessing their pension on a quarterly basis has almost doubled from 84,000 in the three months to June 2015 to 162,000 as at the end of 2016.

The data from HMRC covers “flexible payments” from pensions, which include full or partial withdrawals, flexible drawdown and buying a flexible annuity.

The Treasury says guidance service Pension Wise has had over 3.7 million visits to their website and carried out over 100,000 appointments since pension freedoms was introduced in April 2015.

*FundStrategy.co.uk

Whilst giving people freedom over what they do with their hard-earned savings is the right thing to do, you should always obtain advice before going ahead.

Despite the official figures, it is difficult to tell how many people are thinking about their long term financial security and how many are grabbing it to spend while they can. It is important that savers are using their pensions to provide a regular and sustainable income because they may run the risk of spending it too quickly and therefore they are likely to run out of money too quickly.

Christmas Opening Hours

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Our Christmas opening hours are as follows:

Friday 23rd December 2016: 8.30am – 14.30pm

Monday 26th December 2016: Closed

Tuesday 27th December 2016: Closed

Wednesday 28th December 2016: Closed

Thursday 29th December 2016: Closed

Friday 30th December 2016: Closed

Monday 2nd January 2017: Closed

Tuesday 3rd January 2017: 8.30am – 17:00pm (Normal office hours)

We would like to wish our clients a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Thank you for your continued support.

 

 

 

Pension Scam Cold Calling – Consultation

HM Treasury and the DWP have launched a joint consultation at options for preventing pension scams, which have long been the bane of the pensions industry.

The consultation which runs until 13th February 2017, proposes a multi-pronged approach to tackle the threat of pension scams, including:

  • An outright ban on ‘cold calling’ in respect of pensions, to be enshrined in primary legislation.
  • Restricting the circumstances in which an individual will have a statutory right to transfer their pension benefits.
  • Making it harder for fraudsters to set up small pension schemes likely to be used for pension scam purposes.

Cold-calling is the most common method used to instigate a pension scam. Indeed, I have received unsolicited calls from companies claiming that they have been “instructed by the Government to offer people a free pensions review”, or saying that there is a loophole in the pensions legislation that means people can access their pension funds from any age. I normally invite them for a meeting, they never want to meet once I explain who I am.

A blanket ban on pension cold-calls will provide a very clear message to the public – no legitimate organisation will ever cold-call you in respect of pensions. Any such call will be a scam.

Any UK based organisation that breaches this ban would be liable to sanctions imposed by the Information Commissioners Office, including a fine of up to £500,000.

Reasons to not be cheerful

Following on from our blog yesterday, the pound has hit its lowest level against the dollar since 1985, helping the FTSE 100 surge to near record highs.

Sterling fell to its weakest mark against the US dollar for 31 years, sinking to $1.27.46, following the Prime Minister’s confirmation of a timetable for triggering the Brexit process.

However, with a cheaper pound promising to boost earnings, the London share index soared.

Its highest ever intraday level, in April 2015, was 7,123. However, in dollar terms, the FTSE’s value remains well below its referendum result level.

The FTSE 100 consists largely of export-dominated multinationals which make the bulk of their sales in dollars.

A weaker pound is also good news for exporters, as their goods are more attractive to overseas buyers, but it will hurt holidaymakers picking up foreign currency.

Exporters on the mid-cap FTSE 250 helped it reach an all-time closing high of 18,342.

The nature of this week’s sterling movement has been largely attributed to announcements at the Tory conference in Birmingham.

Investors fear a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ with the UK losing access to the European single market as part of plans to clamp down on immigration.

One of the key things that’s weighing on the pound now is we’ve got low interest rates and the market expects interest rates to go even lower in the UK.