5 apps that can help you learn something new every day

5 apps that can help you learn something new every day

Want to learn something new but can’t seem to find the time to dedicate to it? Using an app on your phone is the perfect way to pick up small chunks of knowledge when it suits you. From listening during a commute to watching a quick video during lunch, it’s an excellent way to make learning something new every day easy.

Here are five of our favourite apps for learning something new to download and try.

1. Trivia Crack

Trivia Crack is packed with interesting facts and trivia. Just five minutes a day and you’ll learn interesting things and oddities from a whole range of areas. From biology to cultural norms, there’s always something to find on this app. It’s set up as a colourful and fun trivia game that you can play alone or challenge friends. If you’re a fan of general knowledge and pub quizzes, it could be just what you need to expand your horizons.

There are six different categories, from art to geography, and hundreds of thousands of questions that could come up. It’s similar to the classic Trivial Pursuit game, with the objective of collecting a character that represents each of the categories. If you know what the largest bone in the human body is or how many times we blink on average every minute, you could be on your way to the top spot while learning something new.

2. Duolingo

Have you been thinking about learning a language? Classes can be time-consuming and difficult to fit into your schedule. Luckily, you can use Duolingo. The well-known app has made learning a language simple and easy to do every day even if you have just a few minutes spare. It’s interactive, friendly and simple to use, in fact, many schools now use the app to support in-class learning too.

The app alone might not be enough to make you fluent in a language but it’s a great place to start and can help you converse with others. Whether you want to pick up the basics before visiting somewhere new or your goal is to be fluent, it’s an excellent app. Each lesson is quick to work through and it’ll keep track of where you are, perfect for slotting into your usual routine. Most of the features are free and there are more than 30 languages to choose from.

3. Dictionary.com

Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting that you spend ten minutes every day reading the dictionary. Though that’s an option if you want!

Dictionary.com can help you improve your vocabulary and boasts lots of other things besides a list of what words mean. The word of the day is a great way to improve communication and learn more about language. It’ll take just seconds to read, and you could pick up a new word that helps you sharpen communication and express ideas. Plus, you never know when it might come in useful – definition of butyraceous anyone?

The app lets you delve into the history of certain words, play word games to get your brain working and take part in quizzes.

4. TED

TED Talks have long been used and celebrated for delivering quality videos on a huge selection of topics. Download the app and you’ll have the whole database just a few taps away. There are thousands of different videos to explore and you’re bound to find something that captures your interest. It puts you just minutes away from interesting ideas to think about, whether you want to learn more about education or art.

If you’re not sure where to start, there is a playlist featuring the most popular 25 talks of all time which include: How great leaders inspire action, how to spot a liar and strange answers to the psychopath test. Videos vary in length, but most are under 20 minutes, ideal for watching when you’re having a break or commuting.

Once you create a playlist or start watching videos, the app will begin generating recommendations based on your interests.

5. Blinkist

Books can be a great source of knowledge but getting through them can be somewhat challenging. This is where Blinkist comes in. If you have a huge stack of non-fiction books on your ‘to read’ list this app is a must-download.

The app provides 15-minute bite-size insights into the key bits of more than 4,000 titles. You can choose to read or listen to the book snapshot to get a basic understanding of the ideas within the book. Books are split into a range of categories from philosophy to politics. Some of the most popular titles the app covers are: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, and The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham.

The app also offers original content to provide different perspectives through podcasts and offers recommendations based on what you’re interested in.

It’s a tool that can help you identify which books are worth investing your time in. The app is subscription-based but you can try it for free for seven days to see if it fits into your lifestyle and goals.

Millennials struggle with homeownership: 5 things that could help

Millennials struggle with homeownership: 5 things that could help

Getting on the property ladder has always been a struggle. But a combination of soaring rents, rapidly rising house prices and stagnant wages means many millennials are worrying they’ll never be able to purchase their own home.

For the millennial generation, the oldest of which are now approaching 40, never owning a home could become a reality. Research from OneFamily found seven in ten worry homeownership is something they will never be able to afford. Just 50% of those nearing 40 are paying off a mortgage, a percentage the previous generation achieved a whole decade earlier. As a result, it’s predicted 20% of millennials will be tenants at the age of 65, more than treble the current 6% of over 65s that pay rent today.

While, for some people, remaining a tenant suits their plans, such as offering flexibility to move for jobs, it can be far more costly. The research suggests the additional cost of renting would be around £300,000 throughout their lifetime. This is due to monthly rent typically being more than a mortgage repayment, especially in the current climate of low-interest rates, and continued payments after a mortgage term would have ended.

If renting throughout your life suits you, it’s important to consider the financial impact in your later years. Remaining a tenant could leave a hole in your retirement finances and mean less stability. Careful planning can help you ensure you have the financial means to continue paying rent once you’ve retired.

If you’d like to buy a home but are struggling to get on the property ladder, some things could help.

1. Use a Lifetime ISA to save

Saving a deposit for a home can seem like an enormous challenge, a Lifetime ISA (LISA) can boost the amount you save.

Each year, you can deposit up to £4,000 into a LISA. The government will then add a 25% bonus. So, put in the maximum annual contribution and you’ll have an extra £1,000 to use for your home. It can make homeownership that bit closer when you’re saving.

To open a LISA, you must be aged between 18 and 40. You can choose a Cash LISA, which will provide interest on your savings, or a Stocks and Shares LISA, where your savings will be invested with the aim of delivering returns. If you plan to buy a property within the next five years, a cash account usually makes sense as investments will be affected by short-term volatility.

One important thing to note with a LISA is that if you withdraw money before the age of 60 for a reason other than purchasing your first home, you’ll lose the bonus and a portion of your own contributions.

2. Take advantage of the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme

The Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme can help first-time buyers in two ways.

First, when using the scheme, you only need to provide a deposit of 5%. Second, the loan will reduce the amount you need to borrow through a mortgage, which can help if you’re struggling to access enough to buy a property.

The government will lend you up to 20% (40% in London) of the property’s value, which combined with your deposit, means you’ll only need to borrow 75% of the value through a mortgage. It can help you step onto the property ladder sooner.

There are some restrictions though. The property you buy must be a new build and have a purchase price of less than £600,000. In addition, you will need to pay the government loan back, so this needs to be factored into your long-term plans. For the first five years, the equity loan is interest-free but after this interest will be added.

3. Seek shared ownership properties

Shared ownership properties can cut the size of the deposit you need and the amount you need to borrow using a mortgage. You’ll purchase a portion of a property, paying rent on the rest. It’s a solution that can help you take that initial step on the property ladder. In most cases, you’ll be able to buy more equity until you eventually own 100% of your home, this is known as staircasing.

Shared ownership properties are usually owned by housing associations and there may be a criterion that you must meet. It’s also worth considering if there will be any restrictions and what happens when you want to sell before buying a shared ownership property.

4. Ask family if they would act as your guarantor

If you’re struggling to secure a mortgage, there are options available that may suit you. A guarantor mortgage allows a loved one takes on some of the risks of the mortgage. As a result, a bank may be more willing to lend or allow you to borrow more. Your guarantor will usually need to own their own home, as their savings or home will be used as security against the loan if you default on payments.

5. Speak to the Bank of Mum and Dad

It’s no secret that the Bank of Mum and Dad has become hugely important to first-time buyers. According to a Legal and General study, £6.3 billion was gifted or lent in 2019. On average, the Bank of Mum and Dad gave first-time buyers £24,100. If your family are in a position to do so, approaching them for help could mean you’re able to buy a home.

It’s important to talk about whether the money given by the Bank of Mum and Dad is a gift or loan. Would you be able to repay the money if it were needed for your parents’ retirement, for example? In other cases, a gift now may mean that you receive less from an inheritance later in life. If you approach your parents for financial help when buying a home, it’s important both of you understand what’s being agreed and it’s often vital financial and legal advice is taken.

If you’re struggling to get on the property ladder, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Why financial advice can be important following the loss of a loved one

Why financial advice can be important following the loss of a loved one

When you’re coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, financial planning will be one of the last things on your mind. Yet, in the months afterwards, it can provide security and help you plan for the rest of your life.

Bereavement can mean you may no longer take financial advice. After all, you’ll have a lot of other areas to deal with and loss can make it seem like a task that is insignificant in comparison to everything else. Research finds that the reason almost half of widows (49%) leave a financial adviser is that they no longer want to receive advice. While it’s understandable, there are reasons to continue taking financial advice following the loss of a partner.

1. Your priorities and financial situation may have changed

For many, bereavement can mean your priorities and goals change.

Previous plans are likely to have been influenced by both parties. Once you’ve come to terms with the loss, you may find that goals previously set out may no longer match what you want. It can be a difficult process to go through. Letting go of aspirations and experiences you believed you’d tick off together can be incredibly emotional. But after a period of grieving, it’s important for you to think about what your priorities are now.

In some cases, plans previously set out will still be important to you. In others, you may want to make changes. Both outcomes are fine, but you should take time to assess where goals now lie.

In addition to changing priorities, you may find that your financial situation has changed. For example, if you relied on your loved one’s salary or pension to create an income. Financial planning can help you understand how your income may change now and what steps you can take to provide security and live the lifestyle you want. Understanding how assets have been affected and how to make the most of allowances can be complex. We’re here to explain what changes in your financial situation may mean now and in the future.

2. Providing confidence in your financial security

Following a loss, it’s natural to worry about your future. For some people, this will include how secure they are financially and what it means for their life. This can be particularly true if your loved ones used to make the majority of financial decisions.

Long-term finances can be complicated, and you may not feel confident in making decisions. Financial planning can help you get to grips with what your options are and understand the pros and cons of each with your situation in mind. There’s no right or wrong answer but the decisions you make should relate to what your priorities and goals are.

Knowing a professional financial planner has worked with you to create a long-term financial plan can deliver confidence, enabling you to pursue goals.

3. Consider your legacy

The loss of a loved one often prompts us to think about our own mortality. With this mind, your attention may turn to your legacy and what you’ll leave behind for loved ones.

The first step to considering your legacy is to understand what assets you hold and how you’re likely to deplete or add to them over your lifetime. This can help you see how your estate and its value will change over time. From here, you’re in a position to think about how you’d like your estate to be distributed. There are many things to consider, from whether you’d like to leave a charitable legacy to whether there are certain items you’d like to leave to specific people. Financial planning can help you set out priorities when it comes to estate planning.

Once you have an estate plan, you should take steps to write your will, name a Power of Attorney and take steps to mitigate Inheritance Tax if necessary.

We understand how challenging it can be to think about the future and day-to-day finances when you’ve lost someone important to you. When you’re ready to, financial planning can help you understand your finances and goals over the coming years. If you’d like to discuss your situation with a financial planner, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing or estate planning.

How a will can help you reduce Inheritance Tax

How a will can help you reduce Inheritance Tax

October is Free Wills Month, an initiative solicitors can be part of that offers free will writing expertise to over 55s to support charities. The key reason to write a will is to ensure your wishes are carried out, but did you know it could help you mitigate how much Inheritance Tax your estate will be liable for too?

If you don’t already have a will in place, doing so should be a priority. Without a will, your assets may not be distributed to those you want to benefit from your estate. Even if you do have a will, you should make reviewing it regularly part of your financial plan. Your assets and wishes may change over time, meaning adjustments may be needed.

If you’re worried about the impact of Inheritance Tax on what you leave behind for loved ones, a will can help here too.

In 2019/20, HM Revenue & Customs received more than £5.2 billion in Inheritance Tax receipts, reports the Financial Times. While that was a fall of £223 million when compared to the previous tax year, it’s still a significant sum, especially when you consider only around 5% of estates are liable for the tax.

With a standard tax rate of 40% once certain thresholds are exceeded, Inheritance Tax can have a sizeable impact on what you leave behind for loved ones. So, how can a will help you reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax due?

1. Make use of the nil-rate bands

Your first step should be to make sure you’re making full use of nil-rate bands.

All estates can take advantage of the nil-rate band, currently £325,000. No Inheritance Tax is due if your entire estate is under this threshold.

The residence nil-rate band of £175,000 can be added to the above if you’re leaving your main home to children and grandchildren. As you can leave unused allowance to your spouse or civil partner, this means you can effectively leave £1 million as a couple without your estate being liable for Inheritance Tax if you make use of both allowances.

Children and grandchildren will be among the first to inherit if you don’t have a will in place, however, making it clear in a will can ensure your wishes are known as you minimise Inheritance Tax.

2. Establish a trust

Assets placed in some types of trusts are considered outside of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes.

You can create a trust during your lifetime, with this then being left to loved ones in your will. Alternatively, you can establish a trust within your will.

A trust can be used to reduce tax liabilities and can be a useful way to create provisions for children or those unable to manage their finances themselves. However, keep in mind that some assets may still be liable for Inheritance Tax and you may no longer be able to benefit from the asset or the income it delivers.

Another way to use a trust is to take out a Life Insurance policy and place it in a trust. This won’t reduce how much Inheritance Tax is due, but it can be used to cover the bill, leaving your estate intact to pass on to family. The policy must be placed in a trust, otherwise, the payout will count as part of your estate, increasing the amount of Inheritance Tax due.

There are many different types of trusts and some can be complex to set up with your plans in mind. Legal advice can help you understand what options suit your circumstances and ensure a trust is established properly. For instance, some trusts can continue to provide you with an income during your lifetime or be set up for children to inherit once they reach adulthood.

Make sure a trust is the right option for you before proceeding. Once in place, you may not be able to reverse the decision.

3. Leave a charitable legacy

You can do good and reduce your Inheritance Tax liability by leaving a charitable legacy in your will. There are two ways charitable giving can be tax-efficient.

  1. You can leave a sum to charity that will bring the value of your entire estate under the nil-rate band thresholds. This would mean that no Inheritance Tax is due.
  2. If you leave 10% or more of your estate to charities, the Inheritance Tax rate is reduced from 40% to 36%. For some estates, leaving this portion to charity will increase the amount that is left behind for loved ones.

This is a way of minimising Inheritance Tax while supporting causes that are close to your heart.

Reducing Inheritance Tax outside of a will

The three above ways to reduce Inheritance Tax aren’t your only options and they don’t all involve a will.

You could, for instance, make use of the gifting allowance to pass on wealth to loved ones during your lifetime or provide gifts out of your income. You may also be able to pass on your pension tax-efficiently to loved ones, so it’s important to look at your estate planning in the context of your wider financial situation.

If you’re concerned about Inheritance Tax or would like to discuss what you can leave behind for loved ones, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Will Writing. Estate Planning or Tax Planning.

7 scary pension mistakes to avoid this Halloween

7 scary pension mistakes to avoid this Halloween

The nights are drawing in and Halloween is around the corner. But while you might get spooked watching a horror film this season, pension mistakes can be just as scary (and cost you far more). With that in mind, here are seven pension mistakes to avoid to keep your retirement on track.

1. Not claiming all the tax relief you can

You receive tax relief on your pension contributions. It means your savings grow faster. However, are you getting everything you’re entitled to?

Pension tax relief is at the highest rate of Income Tax you pay. If you’re a basic-rate taxpayer, a tax relief of 20% will be added to your pension at the source. So, you don’t need to do anything about it.

If you’re a higher (40%) or additional (45%) rate taxpayer, you’ll need to apply for the extra relief by completing a self-assessment tax return. Failing to do this means you could be missing out on significant sums over time that could help you achieve retirement goals.

2. Failing to take advantage of additional employer contributions

All employers must now offer the majority of employees a pension, which they contribute to. An employer’s contribution is a minimum of 3% of your pensionable earnings. This is a useful boost to your savings but it’s worth checking if your employer will increase this.

Some employers, for instance, will match your own contributions up to a certain level. If this is the case, it’s often worth increasing your own pension contributions as you’ll receive extra ‘free money’ to put towards retirement. Other firms may also offer a salary sacrifice on pension contributions, allowing you to reduce Income Tax and National Insurance, with your pension benefiting.

3. Exceeding the Annual and Lifetime Allowance

Exceeding pension limits can mean a larger tax bill than expected – scarier than the traditional haunted house!

It’s important you understand what your Annual and Lifetime Allowance is.

The Annual Allowance is the amount you can tax-efficiently save into a pension each tax year. You can carry forward unused allowance from the three previous tax years. The Annual Allowance is linked to your earnings and can range from £4,000 to £40,000. If you’d like to discuss your Annual Allowance and how to make the most of unused allowances, please get in touch.

The Lifetime Allowance is the total amount you can save tax-efficiently into a pension. For the tax year 2020/21, the Lifetime Allowance is £1,073,100 and it’s expected to increase in line with inflation. The sum sounds like a lot but you need to consider that it will include decades’ worth of your contributions, employer contributions, tax relief and investment growth.

4. Triggering the MPAA without realising

It’s not just your earnings that can affect your Annual Allowance either. If you start to take money from your pension, the amount you can pay in and still receive tax relief on reduces to £4,000. This is called the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA).

If you access your pension at the point of retirement, the MPAA is unlikely to affect you. However, if you make withdrawals before retiring and then plan to continue contributing, it can limit how much you’re able to save. It doesn’t mean your pension savings have to remain inaccessible, but being aware and having a plan is crucial.

5. Withdrawing from your pension when you don’t need it

Recent research from PensionBee found that just 3% of those considering accessing their pension was planning to retire soon. A further 26% planned to make a withdrawal to increase day-to-day income or purchase something special. However, the remaining respondents didn’t need their pension savings yet but were still thinking about making a withdrawal.

It can mean you need to compromise when you retire as your savings will be lower. If you’re thinking of accessing your pension before retirement consider:

  • What will you use the withdrawals for?
  • Will it affect your retirement lifestyle in the future?

If you don’t need your pension savings yet, for most people, leaving savings invested through a pension is the most appropriate option.

6. Not shopping around for the best Annuity deal

If you have a Defined Contribution pension, purchasing an Annuity is the only way to create a guaranteed income for life.

But it’s not as simple as choosing a provider and moving forward. There are many different options on the market and providers will offer varying rates. You should take the time to shop around and find the best deal for you. It could mean your retirement is more comfortable.

It’s also important to look at the extra features on an Annuity that are important to you. For instance, some will provide an income linked to inflation, maintaining your spending power, or provide an income to your spouse or civil partner if you pass away.

7. Not taking financial advice at the point of retirement

Retirement comes with a lot of decisions to be made. And they could affect the rest of your life. Financial advice can build confidence and offer guidance at the point of retirement and beyond.

Seeking financial advice at the point of retirement can help you understand your assets and how they can be used with your goals in mind. Since 2015, pension savers have far more choice in accessing their pension, but it comes with more responsibility too.

Getting to grips with your pension now and avoiding common mistakes means that pension savings and retirement doesn’t have to be scary at all, but something you look forward to. Please get in touch to discuss your pension.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income can also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.