Guide: 10 simple but effective ways to create a better you

Guide: 10 simple but effective ways to create a better you

Search the internet and you’ll find a myriad of self-help sites aimed at helping you to improve your life and get the most out of it. Our latest guide explores some practical steps you can take to improve your overall wellbeing now and in the future.

Among the steps that can help create a better you are:

  • Setting out your goals
  • Making your mental wellbeing a priority
  • Spending time on the things you enjoy
  • Getting outdoors
  • Creating a financial plan.

Download “10 simple but effective ways to create a better you” to discover some of the things you can do to improve your life in the short and long term.

Investment market update: May 2021

Investment market update: May 2021

As countries around the world began to tentatively reopen businesses and lift Covid-19 restrictions, there are strong signs of growth and recovery. However, this has been tempered with concerns around inflation and long-term growth prospects.


In May, the Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey increased the UK’s growth forecast to 7.25% for this year. While good news, he still noted that it means the UK has lost two years of output growth due to the pandemic. The Bank of England has also lowered its unemployment forecast. Thanks to the furlough scheme, it now expects unemployment to peak at below 5.5% in the third quarter of this year. This compares to its earlier forecast of 7.75%.

Economic thinktank NIESR has also increased GDP expectations, but warned of the long-term impact of Covid-19 on the economy. According to the organisation, the combined effects of Covid-19 and Brexit mean the UK will lose £700 billion in output over the next five years. Despite positive signs, it predicts GDP will be almost 4% lower in 2025 than it would have been without the pandemic.

The latest data suggests sectors across the UK are beginning to recover:

  • Markit’s PMI (Purchasing Manager’s Index) for manufacturing data increased to 60.9 in April, up from 58.9 in March. Any reading over 50 indicates growth and the latest figures show activity is accelerating. It’s the highest reading since 1994, but the rise is partly due to longer delivery times as factories struggle to get hold of raw materials and parts.
  • Within the construction sector, output reached a six-and-a-half-year peak, leading to the biggest boost in job creation since 2015.
  • The service sector also saw its growth reach its fastest pace since 2013, with a PMI reading of 51 in April.

As retail reopened in April following months of closures, retail sales jumped by 9.2%, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Retail sales were higher than pre-Covid levels, delivering a much-needed boost to the sector.

Another sector reopening and expecting a boost is hospitality. However, hotel technology provider Avvio has warned that last-minute cancellations could affect hotels and place further pressure on businesses. The firm said holidaymakers are hoarding bookings to ensure they can have a break, even if travel abroad is restricted again. Cancellation rates are running at about 4%, far below the usual 30%.

The property market continued to receive a boost from the Stamp Duty holiday. Data from the Bank of England shows mortgage lending has reached a record high. Net mortgage borrowing was £11.8 billion in March, the strongest reading since the series began in 1993.

ONS figures suggest UK-EU trade is beginning to recover. But the statistics office also cautioned that the Brexit transition period has caused higher levels of volatility than usual in the last two years. In March, exports and imports with the EU (excluding precious metals) increased by £1 billion (8.6%) and £800 million (4.5%), respectively. However, figures also show the UK’s total trade with the EU has fallen below trade with the rest of the world. Between January and March 2021, total trade in goods with the UK fell by 23% when compared to the same period in 2018. Over the same period, trade with non-EU countries declined by just 0.8%.


Last month, the eurozone entered a technical recession. However, growth forecasts suggest economies are recovering as lockdown restrictions ease. Eurozone companies grew at their fastest pace since last July and this could help to pull the bloc into growth territory.

The EU Commission has also raised growth forecasts following the ongoing progress of the vaccination programme across the continent. The EU is now expected to grow 4.2% this year and 4.4% next year.

One of the challenges now facing many businesses is issues within supply chains after some sectors were forced to close for months. The German DAX Stock Index has recently highlighted this. The index was affected by chipmaker Infineon saying that ongoing shortages and other supply chain problems were hitting car production.


There have also been positive signs in the US. Companies across the country created 742,000 new jobs in April. While slightly less than forecast, it’s still an indication that businesses are confident and investing. On top of this, the US service sector PMI surged from 60.4 to 64.7. The latest reading is the highest since the survey began in 2009.

American company Pfizer, which co-developed a Covid-19 vaccine with Germany’s BioNTech, has raised its sales forecast following successful vaccine programmes around the world. The company now expects vaccine sales of $26 billion in 2021. That’s a sharp increase from its previous forecast of $15 billion.

Despite figures pointing towards stability and growth, US consumer confidence has fallen. According to the University of Michigan’s Index of Consumer Sentiment, confidence fell from 88.3 in April to 82.8 in May. The fall has been linked to expectations that long-term inflation will reach 3.1%, well above the Federal Reserve’s target of 2%.


China was one of the first economies to post signs of recovery following the impact of the pandemic. However, there have been concerns that inflation will rise. The latest Producers Price Index (PPI), which measures the cost of goods sold by manufacturers, suggests inflation is increasing. Year-on-year, prices have increased by 6.8%.

Reports from Malaysia could also have an impact on global businesses. The country’s disgraced state investment fund 1MDB is reportedly suing Deutsche Bank, Coutts and JP Morgan in a bid to recover some of the billions lost in a huge corruption scandal.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.


How to stay safe when meeting with family and friends this summer

How to stay safe when meeting with family and friends this summer

As restrictions lift, you may be thinking about welcoming your family and friends back into your home. But while the risk of spreading Covid-19 is now less than it was last summer, it’s still important to take precautions, especially as new variants of the virus emerge. So, as you start meeting up again, what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?

Check who is vulnerable

While many vulnerable people have now received their vaccinations, it’s important to still take care. If you or someone you know is in the “vulnerable” category, you may want to take extra steps to ensure safety, especially if they are still waiting for both vaccinations.

Those aged over 80 are among the most at risk. In addition, some illnesses or treatments for medical conditions can mean some people have a higher risk, particularly if the immune system is affected.

In some cases, people may prefer to continue to self-isolate or meet outdoors only. Getting in touch with those you want to catch up with can make sure everyone feels comfortable with the plans made.

Keep the number restrictions in mind

There are still rules in place about how many people can meet up. At the moment, up to 30 people can gather outdoors, but only six people, or two households, can meet indoors. Children are included in these limits in England.

These rules may change and could depend on where you’re living in the UK. You should check the advice for your area before making plans and be prepared to make adjustments if necessary.

Maintain social distancing where possible

While some social distancing restrictions have eased, it’s best to continue following them where possible.

Advice across the UK is to maintain a 2-metre distance between you and anyone you don’t live with or is not part of your bubble if you can. In places where this isn’t possible, you can take extra precautions, like wearing a face mask. Simple steps, such as turning your face away when hugging someone, can also help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

You must still wear a face-covering in many public places, including public transport and shops. If you’re not exempt, you could be committing an offence by not covering your mouth and nose.

Let the fresh air in

While we can now meet indoors, fresh air can still help minimise the spread of Covid-19.

Where possible, planning events and meetups outdoors can help protect you. On sunny days, it’s a great excuse to spend more time in your garden, exploring natural attractions, or attending outdoor events.

If you plan to meet indoors, opening windows and external doors can help blow particles away to reduce the risk of infection. Think about where in your home makes the most sense to gather and the steps you can take to improve circulation. If you have French doors, for example, creating a seating area around these can help.

Keep your hand sanitiser topped up

Washing your hands when you get home and having sanitiser has become a habit most of us have picked up. Don’t let that habit fall to the wayside now. Having hand sanitiser means you can minimise the chance that family and friends will bring the virus, as well as other illnesses, into your home. It’s a simple step that can help make sure you stay healthy.

If you’re meeting loved ones out, whether you’re planning a trip to the pub or a walk in the local park, a small bottle of sanitiser can come in handy too.

Keep Covid-19 symptoms in mind

If you or someone you’ve been in contact with have any Covid-19 symptoms, it’s best to reschedule plans and self-isolate for 10 days. It can be frustrating after months of restrictions and cancelled plans, but it can ensure you play a role in reducing the spread of the virus.

The main Covid-19 symptoms to look out for are:

  • A high temperature
  • A new, continuous cough
  • A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste.

Remember, if you have symptoms, you can book a test to confirm if you have Covid-19. You can go to a centre to get this done or there are home testing kits available. If you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone that has tested positive, you should book a test as soon as possible. The most common test is a PCR test, which involves taking a swab of the inside of your nose and throat.

It’s been a challenging year for many people, but we hope you’re able to enjoy meeting up with family and friends in the coming weeks and months in a safe way.

House prices reach a record high, but will it continue and should first-time buyers wait?

House prices reach a record high, but will it continue and should first-time buyers wait?

Despite the challenges of the last year, house prices have continued to climb. Now at a record high, should first-time buyers wait with the expectation that prices will fall? Read on to find out what’s happening in the property market.

According to the Halifax House Price Index, house prices have increased by a staggering 8.2% in the last year. As of April 2021, the average price for a home is £258,204 after prices increased by £3,600 in the space of just a month. There are many reasons why house prices have risen in the last 12 months, including:

  • Pent-up demand: The pandemic meant that last summer the property market ground to a halt. As a result, there has been a surge in demand, leading to prices rising. According to Rightmove, almost one in four properties that had a sale agreed in March had been on the market for less than a week.
  • Stamp Duty holiday: In a bid to keep the property market going, the chancellor introduced a Stamp Duty holiday ensuring most homeowners wouldn’t need to pay the tax when moving. This not only encouraged homeowners to move, but means they may have more money to purchase their next home.
  • Government-backed mortgages: In March, the government announced it would back 5% mortgages. This aims to make it easier for aspiring homeowners to save a deposit and secure a mortgage. It’s meant homeownership dreams have become closer for first-time buyers.

On the other side of this, there are concerns that house prices will fall later this year. The Stamp Duty holiday will end in June, with a staggered return to previous Stamp Duty rates at the end of September. The furlough scheme, which has been paying an income to workers unable to work during the pandemic, will also end in September.

If you’re a first-time buyer, should you put off getting on the property ladder or start looking for your home now?

2 things to consider if you’re thinking about buying a home now

With house prices rising, you may consider putting off your home buying plans as a first-time buyer. But it doesn’t automatically mean you should. Here are two things to consider if you’re weighing up your options.

1. Demand could increase in the coming months

While rising demand has in part led to house prices rising, it’s not something that’s expected to disappear soon. In fact, as lockdown restrictions ease and economic optimism recovers, it’s expected that demand will increase further, which could push up prices.

Mike Scott, chief analyst at estate agent Yopa, said: “Delays in moving due to the recent situation are obviously going to exist. But the extent of the delay reported by potential first-time buyers suggests that there is still pent-up demand waiting for the restrictions to ease further.

“[We] do not expect an immediate national fall in prices once the Stamp Duty holiday ends. We believe that the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions – combined with people’s reassessed post-pandemic housing needs, the ‘accidental savings’ that many have made over the past year, and the desire for a post-pandemic fresh start – will keep house prices high for at least the rest of this year.”

2. Interest rates are low and there’s more choice for first-time buyers

Interest rates have been low for more than a decade, meaning it’s cheaper than ever to borrow to buy a home. While interest rates are unlikely to rise significantly in a small space of time, before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was expected they’d rise gradually as the economy strengthened.

On top of this, there are now more options for high loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages, including those with a 95% LTV, meaning you need a deposit of just 5%.

The combination of these factors means there are more options for mortgages for first-time buyers and the opportunity to lock in a low-interest mortgage that could save you money.

Finding the “right” time to move

There’s no “right” or “wrong” time to buy a house that applies to every first-time buyer. It’s more important to find the right home for you than whether economic conditions mean you should move. Rather than trying to guess what will happen in the market over the next few months, focus on your personal circumstances. Are you in a financial position to buy? And do you have the deposit needed to secure a mortgage?

No one wants to pay more than they have to, and for first-time buyers, negative equity, where you owe more than your home is worth, can be a concern. However, keep in mind that, historically, house prices have increased and bounced back from falls. The below graph highlights this.

Source: Land Registry

Between April 2001 and April 2021, the average house price has increased by more than £153,842, despite the impact of the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic. While house prices could dip in the coming months, over the long term, you’re likely to see the price of your home continue to rise.

If you’re a first-time buyer and would like to discuss if you’re in a position to buy now, 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.


What is shareholder protection and why is it important for business owners?

What is shareholder protection and why is it important for business owners?

If your business has multiple shareholders, what would happen if a shareholder became seriously ill or passed away? It could place the business in a challenging position and affect long-term plans, but as a business owner, it may be something you’ve overlooked.

Thinking about a shareholder becoming ill or passing away isn’t a scenario anyone wants to consider. However, it’s still important to put a plan in place. By considering the risk now, you can take the necessary steps to safeguard the business should something happen. In some cases, shareholder protection can provide a vital safety net.

What is shareholder protection?

Shareholder protection can provide other shareholders with the funds they need to buy shares if one shareholder were unable to work due to a serious accident or illness, or if they passed away. It would pay out a lump sum, usually based on the capital the remaining shareholders need to buy the shares the outgoing shareholder has.

The premiums for this type of policy will depend on several factors, including the amount of capital needed and the health of the shareholder.

But why does shareholder protection matter?

Many businesses rely on their owners for direction and long-term security. If one of your shareholders were unable to work, how would it affect your business? It may mean certain decisions cannot be made or are delayed, affecting profitability.

In the event of death, a shareholder could pass their shares on to others through their will. This may mean the shares go to someone who does not have an interest in the future of the company, whose wishes do not align with other shareholders, or that the shares are sold to a third party. All these scenarios can put a business in a challenging position and even affect whether it continues to operate.

Shareholder protection can provide certainty for businesses during difficult situations.

A shareholder agreement can set out what happens if a stakeholder passes away, while shareholder protection can deliver the funds to ensure this happens. It’s a step that can help a business run with minimal disruption, as well as ensuring the shareholder or their family are fairly compensated for their shares.

Despite this, research from Legal & General found many business owners have not thought about these circumstances. Almost four in ten (37%) of businesses would want to purchase an absent shareholder’s shares, but many don’t have a plan in place. Instead, they’d have to rely on personal wealth. Worryingly, 47% of shareholders also said they’d left no instructions in their will or set out special arrangements regarding their business, potentially leading to uncertainty during the probate process.

Choosing the right shareholder protection for you

If shareholder protection could provide your business with security, it’s important to choose the right policy for you. A policy that suits one business, may be inappropriate for another. These questions can help you understand your options.

Which type of shareholder protection is right for you?

There are three main different types of shareholder protection to consider:

  1. A “life of another policy” provides each shareholder with their own policy. If one dies, a payout is made from the policy to the surviving shareholders. This type of policy is often used when there are two business partners.
  2. If there are several shareholders, writing individual policies into a business trust means the shares can be divided equally among surviving shareholders when someone passes away.
  3. Finally, policies held in a business trust can pay out to the business, rather than remaining shareholders.

How much cover do you need?

You also need to calculate how much you’d need to buy the shares. Valuing your company can be difficult but it’s an important step to take to ensure the level of cover you have is adequate. You will need to review the company’s articles of association to understand the value of shareholder protection insurance needed. Your accountant will often be able to provide support and advice when valuing your business.

Do you want the policy to cover critical illness?

All shareholder protection policies will provide cover in the event of death, but serious illness can also pose a threat to the business. Some policies will also provide protection if a shareholder is diagnosed with a critical illness that means they can no longer work. In some cases, critical illness cover isn’t necessary. However, it can provide an extra layer of protection for the business and financial security for shareholders should something happen.

What are the policy premiums?

As mentioned above, several factors affect policy premiums, but there are many providers. You should shop around for the best deal for your business, as it can help you find a policy that delivers the protection you need at a competitive price.

If you’re a business owner and are assessing your succession plan, please get in touch. We can help you select the right shareholder protection for you, as well as offer advice on other policies that could safeguard your business.

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