5 museums and galleries you can visit from your sofa

5 museums and galleries you can visit from your sofa

Lockdown restrictions are gradually lifting, but it’s expected to be some time before life gets back to ‘normal’. If you’ve been missing the opportunity to visit museums and galleries over the last few months, there are some you can experience without having to leave your sofa.

Thanks to technology, organisations have been able to bring their collections direct to you. So, if you’re looking to add some culture to your routine, why not take a virtual tour of some of the most famous museums and galleries around the world?

1. British Museum, London

The British Museum first opened its doors in 1759 and has been delighting visitors with a vast array of artefacts and galleries since then. Documenting more than two million years of human history and culture, you’re sure to find something that will catch your eye here.

Among the most popular exhibitions to add to your list is the Rosetta Stone, which was essential for translating the Ancient Egyptian language, the classic Greek sculptures the Parthenon Marbles, and, of course, the Egyptian mummies.

The venue is the world’s largest indoor space on Google Street View, so you can wander through more than 60 galleries without having to set foot outside. On top of this, the museum also offers a podcast that takes you behind the scenes, a YouTube channel packed with interviews and much more. Start exploring the museum digitally here.

2. Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Located in beautiful Florence, the Uffizi Gallery is the most visited Italian museum and with good reason. The building itself is worth exploring with buildings on the complex dating back to the mid-1500s for the famous Medici family to accommodate the offices of the Florentine magistrates. It’s now famous for its huge collection of priceless artwork, much of which is from the Renaissance period.

During the summer season, tourists can wait as long as five hours to step into the gallery. The virtual tour lets you skip the queues and admire incredible works such as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci.

3. The National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

This museum is perfect for people that love to learn more about history. Built relatively recently, in 1964, 23 exhibit rooms are filled with artefacts waiting to be explored. It aims to preserve Mexico’s indigenous legacy and celebrate its pre-Columbian cultural heritage. As a result, there’s a fascinating amount of artefacts that date back centuries.

Among the artefacts that attract the most attention from tourists is the Piedra del Sol, the famous Aztec sunstone that weighs 24 tonnes, giant stone heads of the Olmec civilization and many treasures found at the archaeological site Chichen Itza.

In collaboration with Google Arts and Culture, you can now view over 140 of the museum’s most intriguing items online. Click here to view the collection and start learning about Mexico’s history.

4. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Established in 1939, the Solomon R, Guggenheim Museum features an expanding collection of impressionist, early modern and contemporary art. The cylindrical building, which the museum moved to in 1959 has become a landmark in its own right and was conceived as a ‘temple of the spirit’. Since then, several expansions have extended the space of the museum.

Jackson Pollock’s Alchemy, Magritte’s Empire of Light and Vasily Kandinsky’s Composition 8 are just some of the popular masterpieces available to view at the Guggenheim.

Using Google’s Street View feature here, you can take in some of the most famous sights from the Guggenheim Museum. The museum also offers online programs and resources, including interactive virtual tours and family-friendly options. Check the calendar of events here.

5. Pergamon Museum, Berlin

Pergamon is the most popular museum in Berlin, with over a million people visiting every year, and houses a huge range of art treasures. It features three distinct collections – Collection of Classical Antiquities, Museum of the Ancient Near East and Museum of Islamic Art – all with something to discover.

The museum houses monumental buildings that are breathtaking, even online. These include the Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon, the Market Gate of Miletus, which was rebuilt following an earthquake around 1,000 years ago, and the Mshatta Façade, part of one of the 8th century Desert Castles of Jordan.

You can now take in the Pergamon Museum from your home here. The museum’s website also offers a 3D model of the famous Pergamon Altar, one of the terraces of the acropolis of the ancient Greek city Pergamon dating back to the 2nd century BC.

In a bid to connect with audiences during coronavirus restrictions, hundreds of other museums, galleries and other tourist attractions are offering virtual tours and digital programs too. An excellent place to start if you’re looking for some culture is Google Arts & Culture – let us know about your great finds!

Covid-19 market volatility highlights differing investment attitudes of men and women

Covid-19 market volatility highlights differing investment attitudes of men and women

Men and women often take different approaches to financial issues, including investing. The market volatility experienced during the last few months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted some of these differences. But is one way ‘right’?

As governments around the world took action to stem the spread of coronavirus, stock markets reacted with increased volatility. Lockdowns and social distancing meant many businesses were forced to adjust how they operate and in some cases close altogether. As the virus was named a global pandemic, uncertainty for businesses and economies continued. As a result, it’s not surprising that stock markets experienced sharp falls.

Whilst some gains have since been made on stock markets, uncertainty and volatility continue to be a feature of investing.

The recent fluctuations have highlighted how men and women view investing and the risk it entails differently. Research from Aegon has tracked how some investors have responded, with the three key areas demonstrating different approaches to investing.

1. Keeping an eye on stock market movements

The stock markets have been making attention-grabbing headlines in recent months. However, the survey suggests that men are far more likely to closely follow the movements. Seven in ten men kept track of what was happening in the stock markets, compared to half of women.

Whilst it’s important to understand the wider economic and business picture when investing, stock market movements can be unpredictable. Short-term volatility can also cloud the bigger picture. When investing, you should have a long-term goal in mind. It can be difficult to ignore short-term movements and focus on a goal that’s years away. Historically, peaks and troughs in stock market performance smooth out when you look at the long term and this is what you should focus on.

When looking at your portfolio as a whole, it’s unlikely stock market movements give a full picture of performance either. As well as stocks and shares, you may also be invested in bonds and property, as well as holding cash. As a result, whilst the stock markets may have fallen sharply in recent months, the impact on your portfolio may not be as severe.

2. Tracking investment performance

It’s important to keep track of how investments are performing, after all, how else will you know if you’re on track to meet goals?

However, there is such a thing as checking too often. It can be tempting, especially during times of market volatility, to check your investments frequently. Linking to the above point, this can lead to you focusing on short-term movements rather than a long-term goal.

The research suggested men are more likely to check how their investments have performed. More than half of men (55%) said they had done so compared to only 33% of women.

Reviewing your investments is clearly important, there may be times due to your circumstances or wider economic situation when adjustments are necessary. However, these changes should consider your goals above short-term shocks. If you’ve felt worried or nervous after checking your investment performance recently, it’s important to keep this in mind.

For most investors, sticking to a carefully crafted long-term investment strategy, which has been stress-tested, is the best course of action.

3. Believing now is the right time to invest

Should you invest now? It’s a question investors often ask their financial advisers. When stock markets dip, you may be wondering if you should invest now in order to maximise the benefit of investing when the market is at a bottom.

It’s a process that’s more likely to appeal to men, the research found. Some 46% of men said they believe now is the right time to invest in their pension, compared to 33% of women. It suggests that women are more averse to taking investment risk at times of volatility. So, which gender is ‘right’?

The truth is there’s no universally right time to invest. It depends on your financial goals and means. If you’re already contributing regularly to a pension, it’s likely in your best interests to keep making the contributions over your working career, including during times of volatility. But should you increase pension contributions now? That will depend on when you plan to retire, what assets you hold and risk profile among other factors.

The ‘right’ time to invest should be about your circumstances rather than stock market movements.

We’re here for you if you’d like to discuss your investment portfolio, whether you’re concerned about risk or looking for opportunities. Contact us to set up a meeting and look at your long-term investment goals.

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.

The quick guide to bonds

The quick guide to bonds

When it comes to investing, it’s probably stock markets and shares that come to mind. Yet the average investment portfolio uses various asset classes to deliver returns and manage risk. One important part of your portfolio may be bonds.

Bonds can also be known as gilts, coupons and yields, which, along with other financial jargon, can make it difficult to understand how they fit into your financial plan. This quick guide can help get you up to speed.

What is a bond?

In simple terms, a bond can be thought of like an IOU that can be traded in the financial market.

Bonds are issued by governments and corporations when they want to raise money. When you purchase a bond you effectively become the issuer of a loan, receiving payments for the loan in the future. There are typically two ways that a bond pays out:

  • A lump sum when the bond reaches maturity
  • Smaller payments over the term, this is often a fixed percentage of the final maturity payment

If you’re viewing a bond as a loan, the lump sum at maturity would be like receiving your initial investment back whilst the small payments are equivalent to interest incurred. Bonds can be a useful asset to invest in if you’re focused on creating an income rather than growth.

Unlike stocks, you don’t have any ownership rights when you purchase a bond. As a result, you won’t benefit if a company performs well and you’ll be somewhat shielded from short-term stock market volatility too. Whilst all investments carry some risk, bonds are usually classed as a lower-risk asset than traditional stocks and shares.

That being said, it is possible to lose money when investing in bonds. This may occur if the issuer defaults on payments or you sell a bond for less than you paid. You should consider investment time frames, goals and risk before you decide to purchase government or corporate bonds.

Buying and selling bonds

Individual investors can purchase bonds, usually through a broker, as can professional investors, such as pension funds, banks and insurance companies. Initially, government bonds are often sold at auctions to financial institutions with bonds then being resold on the markets.

If you buy a bond, you have two options: hold or trade.

If you choose to hold a bond, you simply collect the regular repayments and wait until it reaches maturity, when you’ll receive a lump sum.

However, there is also a secondary market for selling bonds to other investors. If this is your plan, the fluctuations in price are important to consider as well as the value the bonds offer other investors. If you intend to sell, it’s important to understand the maturity and duration of the bond, as well as understanding the demand in the secondary market.

Whilst we’ve mentioned above that bonds can shield you from some of the stock market volatility, that doesn’t mean bond prices don’t change. Numerous factors can affect the value of bonds, from the interest rate and other governmental policy to the demand for bonds. These movements can affect the expected yield, which can end up negative meaning the repayments add up to less than what you paid.

How do bonds fit into your investment portfolio?

Bonds are just one of the assets that are used to create an investment portfolio that suits you.

If you’re investing for income, rather than growth, choosing bonds to make up a portion of your portfolio can deliver a relatively reliable income stream.

One of the key things to consider when investing is your risk profile. Typically, bonds are considered less risky and experience less volatility when compared to traditional stocks. As a result, they can be used effectively to help manage investment risk. The lower your risk profile, the more likely it is that your portfolio will include a higher portion of bonds. Of course, other assets can be used to adjust and manage your risk profile too and not all bonds have the same level of risk.

The most important factor when creating an investment portfolio is that it matches your risk profile and goals. If you’d like to chat to us about how bonds are used to balance your portfolio, please get in touch.

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.

Cashflow planning: Helping to answer ‘what if…’ questions

Cashflow planning: Helping to answer ‘what if…’ questions

When you begin making a financial plan, you could be looking several decades ahead, and we all know the unexpected can derail even the best-laid plans. So, as you’re setting out goals, it’s not uncommon to wonder if you’d still be able to meet them if things outside of your control have an impact.

When you start putting together a financial plan one of the valuable tools that can put your mind at ease is cashflow planning.

What is cashflow planning?

Cashflow planning is a tool that helps forecast how your wealth will change over time. We can use this to show how your assets will change in value in a range of circumstances, such as average investment performance or income withdrawn from a pension. It’s a step that can help you have confidence in the lifestyle and financial decisions you make.

However, the variables can be changed to highlight the impact of what would happen if things don’t quite go according to plan. Whether it’s down to a decision you make or something out of your control, cashflow planning can highlight the short, medium and long-term consequences on your finances and goals. As a result, it can be a useful way of answering ‘what if’ questions that may be causing concern.

Answering ‘what if’ questions

If you’re asking ‘what if’ questions relating to your financial plan, they can be split into two categories: the ones you have control over and those that you don’t.

Those that you do have control over often stem from wanting to take a certain action but being unsure if your finances match your plans. These types of questions could include:

  • What if I retire 10 years early?
  • What if I provide a financial gift to children or grandchildren?
  • What if I take a lump sum from investments to fund a once in a lifetime experience?

Often with these questions, there’s something you want to do, or at least thinking about, but you’re hesitant to do so because you’re worried about the long-term impact. You may need to consider the effects decades from now, which can be challenging. Cashflow planning can help provide a visual representation of the impact a decision would have.

We often find that clients’ finances are in better shape than they believe, allowing them to move forward with plans with confidence.

The second type of ‘what if’ questions, those you don’t have control over, often stem from worries about the future. These could include:

  • What if investments returns are lower than expected?
  • What if I passed away, would my partner be financially secure?
  • What if I needed care in my later years?

Cashflow modelling can help you understand how these scenarios would have an impact on your short, medium and long-term goals. It can highlight that you already have the necessary measures in place, allowing you to focus on meeting goals.

Alternatively, you may find there’s a ‘gap’ in your financial plan. However, by identifying this, you’re in a position to take steps to put a safety net in place. If you’re worried about the financial security of loved ones if you were to pass away, for example, this could include purchasing a joint Annuity, providing a partner with a guaranteed income for life, or taking out a life insurance policy.

Confronting concerns about your future can be difficult, but it’s a step that can lead to a more robust financial plan that you have complete confidence in.

The limitations of cashflow planning

Whilst cashflow planning can be incredibly useful, there are limitations to weigh up too.

First of all, how useful the forecasts are will be dependent on the data that’s input. This is why it’s important to consider assets and goals when gathering information, as well as keeping the data up to date.

Second, cashflow planning will have to make certain assumptions. This may include your income over an extended period or investment performance, which can’t be guaranteed. This is combatted by modelling different scenarios and stress testing plans, helping to give you an idea of how your financial plan would perform under different conditions.

Cashflow modelling is just one of the tools that can support your financial plans and it can be an incredibly useful way of giving you a potential snapshot of the future and easing concerns. If you’d like to discuss your aspirations and the steps you could take to ensure you’re on the right track, please get in touch.

What to do if you’ve ‘lost’ a pension

What to do if you’ve ‘lost’ a pension

When we move home, there’s a huge list of tasks to do and providers to contact. So, it’s not surprising that telling pension providers about a new address slips the mind of many, but it means billions of pension savings have been ‘lost’.

A typical pension will move house eight times in their life, making it easy to lose touch with pensions if you forget to notify a provider. Add this to the fact that employees are more likely to swap jobs than they were previously, potentially meaning multiple pensions, and pension savings can quickly become complicated meaning some savings will slip through the cracks.

Research by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) indicates that there are around 1.6 million of pension pots worth £19.4 billion unclaimed. It’s a staggering amount that could have a huge impact on retirement plans. The average ‘lost’ pension is worth nearly £13,000. Whilst this may not be a life-changing sum, it can certainly help you achieve retirement goals and could provide more flexibility.

One of the reasons people are losing touch with pension savings is not telling providers when they move home. During what can be a stressful and busy time, people focus on contacting the provider that they rely on day-to-day. Unsurprisingly, telling their bank or utility providers is high on the priority list of home movers. In contrast, just one in 25 think about telling their pension provider about their new address. Even when prompted, just half of people would move contacting their pension provider to their priority list.

Losing pensions is an issue that’s expected to get worse too. The government previously predicted that by 2050, there could be as many as 50 million lost pensions. This is due to the average number of jobs a person holds rising and auto-enrolment meaning the vast majority of employees will now benefit from a Workplace Pension.

Finding your ‘lost’ pension

If you’ve lost touch with a pension, your first step should be to look through your paperwork. Policy documents and statements will provide contact details, allowing you to update your personal details. If you know who your pension provider is, you can also head to their website or log in to your online account.

If you know you have a pension but aren’t sure of the provider or it’s been acquired by another provider, you can use the government’s Pension Tracing Service here. This won’t confirm if you have a pension or tell you what its value is, but offers contact details for workplace and personal pension schemes, allowing you to get in touch.

What are your options once you’ve contacted a pension provider?

Once you’ve contacted a pension provider, you still need to decide what to do with your savings. You essentially have three options:

Leave the pension savings as they are: You don’t have to decide to do anything with your pension. You can leave your savings as they are, waiting until you need them in retirement. If this is the case, make sure you note down the details of your pension provider, keep track of the value of your pension, and that you notify the provider of any future change of address.

Make additional contributions to the pension: Once you’ve found a ‘lost’ pension, you can add to it, whether through a one-off lump sum or ongoing contributions. It can be an effective way to boost retirement savings and you’ll still benefit from tax relief, assuming you stay within the limits of the Annual and Lifetime Allowance. However, if you have a pension with an existing employer, it’s worth checking if they’d increase their own contributions alongside yours, maximising savings.

Consolidate your pension pots: Consolidating pensions can make it easier to keep track of savings and minimise admin when changes do occur. However, it’s important to understand if pensions have additional benefits, how they’re performing, the costs associated with consolidation and note that there are sometimes benefits to taking smaller pots first. In some cases, keeping separate pensions makes more sense, depending on the providers and your goals.

Keeping track of pension savings is just a small part of retirement planning. Understanding how pensions, and other assets, can combine to create an income in retirement can be difficult. Please contact us to discuss your retirement plans.

Please note: 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.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Workplace Pensions.