Guide: 10 ways to make the most of your garden in 2021

Guide: 10 ways to make the most of your garden in 2021

After a year of lockdown measures, our gardens and outdoor spaces have become far more important. In fact, more than half of people say they get a good deal of pleasure from their garden. With spring arriving, now is the perfect time to invest in yours.

Our latest guide aims to help you get the most out of your garden, whether you love entertaining outdoors, want a space to relax, or even grow your own vegetables. Did you know almost four in ten people already grow some of their own food?

Gardening doesn’t just provide you with a beautiful extension to your home, it can help you remain active and improve wellbeing too. Whether you’re a beginner, or a budding Alan Titchmarsh, you should find something in the guide to help get the most out of your garden this summer and beyond.

Download 10 ways to make the most of your garden in 2021 to read more.

We hope you find some useful tips and inspiration for your garden.

6 fun things to do with your family this Easter

6 fun things to do with your family this Easter

The Easter holidays are almost here and it’s the perfect time to plan fun activities with children. Covid-19 restrictions are easing but there are still measures in place. However, this doesn’t need to ruin your long weekend – with a bit of planning, there are still plenty of fun ways to spend time together.

Here are six ideas to try this Easter:

1. Set up an Easter egg hunt at home

A hunt for Easter eggs has become a tradition in many households. While large community hunts are off the cards this year, hiding away treats in your home and garden can be just as much fun for little ones. Pick up Easter-themed treats from your local shop – just remember where you’ve hidden them all!

If you have older children, cryptic clues that lead them to a pile of chocolatey treasure can get them thinking and keep them entertained for longer. If you need some inspiration, a Google search brings up lots of riddles to build a trail around your home.

2. Get creative with Easter arts and crafts

If you have a budding artist in your family, Easter crafts are a great way to spend a day. Think about the craft projects you used to do at school for some inspiration. How about an extravagant Easter bonnet competition or painting eggs with a colourful mix of paints?

Good Housekeeping has over 50 Easter craft ideas for you to explore, many of which you can do with everyday household items. Alternatively, many supermarkets and online stores sell craft activity packs that have everything you need for an Easter project.

3. Arrange a family picnic

The days are getting warmer and it’s expected that outdoor gatherings for up to six people or two households will be permitted by Easter. After months of social distancing, it’s a great opportunity to plan a picnic with friends or family you may not have been able to see.

Taking some outdoor play equipment, like bats and balls, can keep children entertained for hours. Your local playground may also be open, so it’s worth checking this too.

4. Visit your local National Trust property

National Trust houses remain closed, but most gardens are open and many of the Easter trails will also be going ahead this year from 29 March. The trails will take you around the beautiful gardens and natural areas of the properties as they start to come alive for spring. There is plenty of fun for young children along the way too, and, of course, the trail ends with a chocolate reward! You need to book in advance for many National Trust properties.

If there isn’t a National Trust property local to you, parks, reserves, and gardens are a great place to get outdoors over the bank holiday weekend. Make sure you check opening times and restrictions before making plans.

5. Plan a movie night

Easter movies may not be a staple like Christmas films, but there are still some good options to enjoy with children. The release of new family-friendly movies often marks the school holidays, but many are delayed until cinemas reopen in a few weeks. A movie night at home can be just as popular though.

Grab some popcorn, dim the lights, and get comfy on the sofa to enjoy an Easter-themed film. Peter Rabbit, Hop, and Rise of the Guardians are all excellent options for a family film night this Easter.

6. Take a (virtual) trip to the zoo

If your Easter usually involves a day trip out as a family, you don’t have to quite give up the tradition. While most venues are closed, the last year has seen virtual experiences soaring – you can even take a digital trip to the zoo.

Chester Zoo has been hosting live virtual zoo days that let you see everything from impressive elephants to adorable red pandas. The videos take you behind the scenes of the zoo, allowing your family to see it from another perspective – perfect for young animal lovers.

It’s not just Chester Zoo that’s offering a virtual experience either. Over the last year, many attractions, including museums, galleries, theatres, and more, have developed an online presence. If you have a family favourite destination, it’s worth checking their website to see if they’ll be hosting online events.

How to fund property renovations to create the stunning home you want

How to fund property renovations to create the stunning home you want

Following a year where we’ve spent more time in our homes, Brits are choosing to renovate their properties so that it suits their tastes and lifestyle. If you’re looking to take on a significant cost to refresh your home, there are several ways you can fund it.

According to Aviva, one in five UK adults have put home-buying plans on hold. While for many this is a short-term plan, nearly one in ten expect to postpone plans by at least three years. Combined with the shift towards working from home and social distancing restrictions, it’s not surprising that people are choosing to invest in their property.

The rise in spending on home improvements has helped offset some of the losses found in other sectors. The Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, increased by 0.7% in January. Discounts on clothing were more than offset by prices for home improvements, which are absorbing more of our cash in lockdown, according to Hargreaves Lansdown.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “A January home improvement frenzy drove prices higher, as lock downed shoppers decided that if they had to stay home and stare at the four walls, they may as well paint them.”

If you’ve been thinking about taking on a home improvement project, what are your options for funding it?

1. Use your savings or investments

If you have savings that will cover the cost, this is the obvious choice. This means you can take on a project without having to worry about paying for it at a later date. However, you still need to be aware of the long-term impact – would taking money out of an ISA mean you can’t reach other goals? Or would withdrawing from investments affect your income later in life? In most cases, you can balance spending now with long-term plans, but reviewing your finances first means you can move ahead with confidence.

You should also review where you’ll take the money from. You can contribute £20,000 a year to an ISA but may not be able to replace the savings you’ve withdrawn, for example. Or taking money out of a pension could mean you face an unexpected tax bill.

2. Put the spending on a credit card

Credit cards are a useful way to invest in your home now and spread out repayments. However, keep in mind that you could be paying interest which may be higher than the alternatives. High interest rates can make credit cards an expensive way to borrow. If you have a good credit rating, you may be able to get a 0% interest credit card, effectively allowing you to borrow money for free, assuming you pay off the full amount before the 0% period ends.

3. Choose “buy now, pay later” options

More businesses are offering shoppers the choice to buy items now and pay later, including the option to make monthly repayments. This can be tempting as it allows you to improve your home now and incorporate repayments into your regular outgoings. However, like credit cards, they can prove expensive and it’s important to review the interest rate. Again, some providers offer a 0% interest deal. You will also need to make sure you can keep up with repayments and be aware that it could affect your credit score.

4. Take out a home improvement loan

For larger projects, a loan may be more suitable. Home improvement loans will typically offer a competitive interest rate when compared to credit cards or other types of loan. You don’t necessarily have to choose the provider that your mortgage or bank account is with – shop around to find the best deal for you. Taking out a home improvement loan will usually involve a hard credit check and could affect your credit score. You should ensure you can keep up with repayments, as the loan could be secured against your home.

5. Remortgage your home to borrow more

Whether this is an option will depend on how much equity you hold within your home. Increasing the amount you borrow through a mortgage can mean you receive a lump sum that you can then use to complete home improvements. However, keep in mind that your monthly payments will rise or your mortgage term will be extended.

Before you make any decision, you should weigh up the long-term impact. Please get in touch if you have questions about how home renovations can fit into your wider financial plan, whether you’re thinking about taking money from a pension or searching for a new mortgage deal.

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

5 steps to take for successful business succession planning to prime your firm for growth

5 steps to take for successful business succession planning to prime your firm for growth

No matter the size of your business, some key people ensure its smooth running and growth. Without these people, even successful companies can face difficulties. Creating a business succession plan is an essential step for business owners.

A succession plan is a strategy for developing future leaders within a company. It can help identify the people that will step into key roles in the future. It can mean that should an employee leave, you have someone ready to take over that you can have confidence in. Business succession planning can also provide security in other instances too, for example, if a key employee becomes ill or the business needs to expand quickly. In many cases, as a business owner, you should also be part of the succession plan, paving the way for you to step aside when you’re ready.

With a succession plan, being proactive is essential. When someone is ready to leave, it’s too late to start the process. Being proactive means you can reduce the potential negative impact it could have on business operations.

If you’ve yet to put a succession plan in place, here are five steps you should take to get started.

1. Set out the business’s vision and growth plans

It’s impossible to create a succession plan that accurately reflects your business without first spending some time looking at what you want to achieve. What are your business’s core aims and goals? How do you see the company changing and growing in the next ten years?

With a business plan set out, you can ensure succession planning aligns with your business’s needs.

2. Take note of existing skillsets within the business

Once you have an overview of your business and how you want it to move forward, it’s time to assess how your business operates now. You should look at the employees currently in place and identify the skill sets they bring. Are there any gaps in your workforce? Which skills are essential to the running of your business? And are you positioned for the future?

While hard skills are often the focus when reviewing your workforce, don’t forget about the other insights team members can bring. Someone that has worked closely with clients for several years could have valuable experience and strong working relationships that are just as important as technical skills.

Don’t forget to include yourself either. While you may have no plans to leave the business yet, taking steps to ensure it could run without you can provide a safety net and offer you more options later.

3. Speak to your employees about their goals

Speaking to employees can offer a wealth of information and help you better understand what they want to achieve. As part of wider performance reviews, asking what their professional goals are and the skills they’d like to develop can identify those keen to move up in the company. Employees may surprise when you ask where they see themselves in the future.

While some firms opt not to tell employees they’re being fast-tracked to leadership roles, it can be beneficial. It can mean they’re more engaged with the business and the additional responsibilities you want them to take on. It can also help you retain the employees that are part of your succession plan, providing stability.

Just as important as nurturing talent within the business is recognising when you’d benefit from recruiting.

4. Set out a plan to develop skills and experience

Once you’ve selected potential candidates, a plan is essential. This should bring together the skills your identified were essential within the business and how you can support candidates to develop them. That may include in-house training, going on an external course or simply involving them in routine processes so they can learn while working.

Don’t just pass on the skills needed but give them a test run too. Whether you hand over the reins for certain projects or allow a leadership candidate to take charge while other employees are on holiday, it can give you confidence as well we motivating them.

5. Make evaluating your succession plan a regular task

Don’t put a succession plan in place and then forget about it.

For it to be successful, it needs to be regularly reviewed and evaluated. You should ensure leadership prospects have regular appraisals to identify where skills and experience are needed, as well as couniting to look for promising talent among other workers.

You should also consider if your succession plan could be beneficial as part of your hiring strategy. Promoting the opportunities and support given to leadership prospects can help you secure promising talent and increase candidate numbers when advertising roles.

When you’re planning the future of your business, it’s also important to consider your own future. When you step aside from your current role, what do you want to do? Whether you plan to set up a new business or retire, financial planning can help ensure you have the means to achieve your goals. Please contact us to discuss your financial situation and the steps you should be taking.

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


Pensions and divorce: What are your options?

Pensions and divorce: What are your options?

If you’re going through a divorce, your pension and retirement are likely the last things on your mind. And yet the decisions you make during the divorce process can have a lifelong impact.

Despite pensions often being one of the largest assets we have, you may overlook them when dividing assets. Just 12% of people getting divorced considered pensions, according to Legal and General research. That’s far below the 50% that consider their family home.

It’s easy to see why this is the case. Other assets may be tangible, like your home or material items, or readily accessible, like your savings account. In contrast, you may not be able to access your pension for many years.

In many cases, people aren’t sure what the value of their partner’s pension is either. This can lead to divorcees undervaluing retirement savings. According to a survey for interactive investor, 38% of Brits in a relationship do not know how much is in their partner’s pension. This compares to 14% that “definitely know” and 31% that “know roughly”.

Whether retirement is around the corner or decades away, you should consider pensions when divorcing. As well as the value of pensions, you also need to consider how they can be split. Usually, you have three options and it’s important to consider the long-term impact of each.

1. Pension earmarking

Pension earmarking, also known as a “pension attachment”, is falling in use as they keep your finances tied to your partner’s. However, it’s an option that’s worth considering and it can be useful in some circumstances, such as if one of you has a defined benefit pension.

Pension earmarking gives one partner a portion of the other’s pension. The pension benefits become available when the person holding the pension starts to draw from it, and the amount awarded can either be a set figure or a percentage.

If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the pension can provide a regular income or a lump sum. In Scotland, it must be given as a lump sum.

While this type of pension order can be useful, one drawback is that your finances remain linked. If you are awarded a portion of your ex’s pension, but they don’t access their pension when you expect, it could have a huge impact on your own plans and financial security.

2. Pension sharing

Pension Sharing Orders (PSO) were introduced in 2000. They are more commonly used than pension earmarking as they allow couples to make a clean financial break.

A PSO may award a portion of one party’s pension to the other if they have no pension or their pension has a lower value. This is known as a “pension credit”. Rather than having this money tied to an ex-spouse, you can transfer a pension credit into an existing or new pension.

When a PSO is used, both parties should carefully consider the impact.

If it means some of your pension has been given to a partner, you should assess whether you’re still on track to meet retirement goals. Taking a lump sum out of a pension can have a significant impact, especially when you consider potential investment growth. A review now means you can take steps to ensure you’re still able to meet your goals.

If you receive a part of your partner’s pension, you’ll need to decide where to transfer the pension credit to. This should be linked to your wider financial plan and retirement goals.

3. Pension offsetting

Finally, pension offsetting means both parties keep their pensions intact. Instead, other assets are divided to balance the difference between pension values. For instance, the person with a lower pension value may choose to take a larger share of property wealth.

One of the challenges with pension offsetting is assessing the value of the pension and how this relates to other assets.

With this option, the couple can make a clean financial break. However, you will still need to consider the long-term impact it will have on financial security in retirement.

You will also need to think about the short- and medium-term. If, for example, you’ve kept your pension intact but have taken less property wealth, will you need to take on a larger mortgage?

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how assets can be divided during a divorce and what the outcome could mean for you. We’re here to provide financial confidence as you start the next chapter of your life.

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 could 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.