Will house prices continue to rise rapidly?

Will house prices continue to rise rapidly?

Over the last year, house prices have continued to rise rapidly. Figures show that house prices have reached record highs, but is it a trend that will continue?

Even the challenges the pandemic presented to the housing market did not stop house prices from increasing. In fact, the pandemic may have contributed to their rise. After spending more time indoors and embracing working from home, many families have been seeking more floor space and a larger garden to enjoy.

A temporary Stamp Duty holiday was introduced when there were concerns that the pandemic would slow the housing market down. However, this came to an end in September 2021 and, so far, prices remain high.

According to the Halifax House Price Index, the average property in the UK was priced at £267,587 in September 2021. That’s after house prices experienced growth of 7.4% in just a year.

Forecast: House prices will slow but they won’t fall

While expert forecasts suggest that the pace of growth in the housing market will slow, house prices are still expected to rise.

According to Hamptons, as reported in the Guardian, between 2022 and 2024, house prices will increase by up to 3.5% a year. While that might be lower than the rise over the last year, it’s still a significant amount. On an average property, that’s a rise of just under £10,000 a year.

If you’re already a homeowner, rising house prices can help make the cost of your mortgage cheaper. As house prices rise, the more equity you’ll own in your home. As a result, you can often access more competitive interest rates. If you’re remortgaging, it’s worth checking how much your home is now worth to take advantage of prices rising, and keeping this in mind for the future too.

3 things that could affect the housing market

While house prices are expected to continue rising, the yearly increases are predicted to slow. A variety of reasons could play a role in this trend, including these three.

1. Interest rates are expected to rise

The UK has had low interest rates since the 2008 financial crisis. For borrowers, including those with a mortgage, this has meant the cost of servicing debt has been lower. When taking out large loans, for instance, to buy a home, even a small difference in the interest rate can add up.

Before the pandemic, it was suggested that the Bank of England would begin to raise interest rates. Now, interest rates could be used as means to slow the high levels of inflation the UK is experiencing. It means the cost of paying a mortgage will rise and could slow the market down.

2. Inflation is placing pressure on household budgets

As mentioned above, inflation in the UK is high. The Bank of England has a target of 2% inflation a year. For 2021, it’s expected inflation will be around double this goal.

Inflation means the cost of goods is rising, from household essentials to luxuries. As the cost of living increases, some households will find that their budgets are tighter, especially if salaries fail to keep pace. This could have a knock-on effect on the housing market if families decide to stay in their current homes to feel more secure.

For existing homeowners, it may mean families don’t want to take on larger mortgages and move up the property ladder. For aspiring first-time buyers, budget pressures could mean they find it much harder to save the deposit they need or access a mortgage.

3. First-time buyer support schemes are coming to an end

Finally, in the next few years, some of the support schemes put in place to help first-time buyers will be ending.

The Help-to-Buy Equity Loan Scheme, for instance, will close in 2023. This scheme has provided loans to thousands of first-time buyers in England to lower the deposit they need to save and the mortgage they need to be approved for. Similarly, the Help-to-Buy Scheme in Scotland will close in April 2022.

These schemes have played a vital role in the housing market by providing first-time buyers with much-needed support. If first-time buyers struggle in the coming years to take that first step onto the property ladder, it could affect the whole market.

Of course, these schemes could be extended or new schemes brought in to fill the gap, but for now, their future remains uncertain.

If you need help securing a mortgage, whether you’re buying a new home or remortgaging your existing home, 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.

Thinking about buying a new-build property? Here are the pros and cons to weigh up

Thinking about buying a new-build property? Here are the pros and cons to weigh up

When you’re looking to buy a new home, there’s often a huge selection to choose from. Setting out what kind of property you want can help narrow down the list. From how many bedrooms you need to the location, there are plenty of important factors to consider. One of the first you may want to think about is whether to opt for a new-build property or not.

Every year, there are thousands of new homes built across the UK and you could be the first person to move in. Even after the pandemic affected housebuilding in 2020, more than 120,000 homes were built, according to figures released by NHBC.

You may be tempted to buy a new build for a variety of reasons. Perhaps a new development happens to be in an area you’d like to live in. Or maybe you’re using the government’s Help-to-Buy Equity Loan Scheme and must choose a new build for your first home. Whatever your reasons, you should understand the pros and cons of a new-build before you put in an offer.

The benefits of buying a new-build property
  • There will often be little work for you to do

If you want to move straight into a property without having to take on projects, a new-build can be attractive. There will often be little maintenance work that you need to do, and you’ll have a blank canvas to put your own stamp on. It can make moving home less stressful. If you buy your property off-plan, before it’s built, you may be able to have a say in things like the tiles used in the kitchen or even the layout.

  • A new build is likely to be more energy-efficient

New-build properties must comply with energy efficiency regulations. As a result, they’re likely to be far more energy-efficient than older properties. This can make your home more attractive when you sell it, as well as reducing your energy bills.

  • A new-build won’t be part of a chain

Buying a new-build means you don’t have to wait for the seller to find a new home. It can speed up the process of buying and put you in an attractive position if you’re selling a property.

  • Most new-builds come with a warranty

While not every new-build property benefits from a warranty, most are guaranteed for 10 years. This can give you confidence and means you won’t have to worry about large maintenance costs in the short term. Be sure to check what a warranty will cover and any restrictions that may be in place.

  • You can buy a new-build while using the Help-to-Buy Scheme

If you’re a first-time buyer and hope to use the Help-to-Buy Equity Loan Scheme, you will have to purchase a new-build property.

The drawbacks of buying a new-build home
  • You’re likely to pay a premium for a new-build

If you compare a new-build property to a similar property that is older, the new-build will likely cost more. As a result, your mortgage outgoings will probably be higher. The new-build premium can mean the value of your house falls in the short term, so if you’re planning to move relatively quickly, this can be a problem.

  • New-build properties can be less spacious

Property developers trying to get the most out of land may squeeze in as many properties as they can. In some cases, this means new-build homes are less spacious than older properties, particularly when it comes to storage areas. When viewing a property, make sure you look at the measurements and how the space will suit your lifestyle.

  • The quality of new-builds can vary

New properties have received bad press for poor quality in recent years. It’s important to note that this isn’t always the case, but that quality varies. While it’s a new build, it’s still advisable to pay for a snagging survey. A snagging survey involves an expert highlighting the defects that the developers should fix, and they may liaise with the developers on your behalf. Even with a new property, things may not be perfect.

  • Developments can face delays

If the property isn’t yet complete, keep in mind that developments don’t always run smoothly. A delay in when you can move in can have a knock-on effect. For example, your mortgage offer may expire, it could affect the sale of your own property, or you may need to rent a home for longer than expected.

Are you ready to search for your new home?

Whether you decide a new-build is right for you or not, the home buying and mortgage processes can be complicated and stressful. We’re here to help you throughout the process and secure the right mortgage deal for you.

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

Do you have more than £10,000 in cash? You could be missing out on investment returns

Do you have more than £10,000 in cash? You could be missing out on investment returns

How much money do you hold in cash accounts, like a current account or savings account? Figures suggest that millions of people are in a position to invest but are missing out on potential returns because they’re choosing cash.

A new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) campaign is aiming to reduce “investment harm”. This includes helping investors spot potential scams and reducing the number of people invested in inappropriately high-risk investments. But one form of “investment harm” you may not have thought of is choosing not to invest.

The FCA estimates nearly 8.6 million people are holding more than £10,000 of investable assets in cash. So, if you’ve been holding cash over investing, you’re not alone. Reviewing your money can help you see if investing could make financial sense for you.

Why cash savings affect your long-term finances

On the surface, holding money in cash can seem like a sensible option. It’s in your account and you can withdraw it whenever it’s needed. This can make it seem like the “safe” choice when deciding what to do with your money.

Under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, your money, up to £85,000, held in a cash account is often protected, even if the bank fails.

So, why would cash mean you have less in the long term? Inflation means the money in your savings account will gradually buy less. The interest rate you receive on cash savings is likely to be below inflation. Over time, the value of your savings will start to fall. It’s not something you notice in the short term, but it does devalue your savings over the long term.

Even over just a decade of saving, inflation can have a marked impact. The Bank of England’s inflation calculator shows that if you had £10,000 in a savings account in 2010, you’d need £13,112,60 to achieve the same level of spending power in 2020.

Current interest rates are unlikely to have generated the £3,112.60 extra you’d need for your savings to have the same value. As a result, your savings are now worth less than they once were.

Investing can provide an opportunity to make your money work harder and offer a chance to keep pace with inflation. However, it’s not the right option for everyone.

2 questions to answer before you invest
  1. Do you have an emergency fund? A financial safety net is important for long-term financial security. Before you invest you should ensure you have an emergency fund you can dip into when you need it. How much you need in an emergency fund will depend on your commitments, but a rule of thumb is three to six months of expenses.
  2. What are you saving for? If you’re saving for a holiday next year, investing isn’t the right option for you. Investment values can experience short-term volatility and, for this reason, investing should be done with a long-term goal in mind. Ideally, you should invest for a minimum of five years.
The first steps to take when you’re investing

If you’re investing for the first time, it can seem daunting and complex. When you’re used to holding money in cash, investing can seem risky.

While all investments do carry some level of risk, this level varies. These three steps can help you choose the investments that are appropriate for you.

1. Set out your goals

You should always invest with a goal in mind. Perhaps you want to invest so you can retire early, or want to build up wealth that you can gift to children in the future. How you want to use the money will affect both your investment time frame and the level of risk you take.

2. Understand your investment time frame

How long you will be investing for is important. Your time frame will affect how much risk is appropriate for you.

In the short term, markets and portfolios experience volatility. It can be difficult not to focus on this volatility and can lead to some investors making knee-jerk decisions that aren’t right for them. Setting out when you want to access your investments can help you keep the bigger picture in mind.

3. Know what level of risk is appropriate for you

As mentioned above, all investments come with some level of risk. However, when creating an investment portfolio, you should take the time to understand how much risk is appropriate for you.

If you’ve put off investing because you don’t like the idea of taking a risk with your money, it can be difficult to understand what makes sense for you. Likewise, it can be easy to take more risk than is necessary for your goals. Having a clear risk profile can help you make informed decisions that reflect your wider financial circumstances.

If you’d like to discuss which investments could be right for you or whether you should move cash savings to investments, 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 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.

Why you need to understand your State Pension entitlement

Why you need to understand your State Pension entitlement

Your State Pension may only make up a relatively small portion of your retirement income, but it’s an important part of it, and so it’s crucial you understand your entitlement. The recent news of underpaid State Pensions shows that many people don’t know how much they should receive.

More than £1 billion unpaid to pensioners

While the State Pension can seem straightforward, in reality, it can sometimes be complex. Despite efforts to simplify the State Pension system, recent reports of pension underpayment to women have highlighted how many people still don’t understand what they’re entitled to.

Earlier this year, it was revealed that thousands of women had been underpaid by the government. It’s also estimated that around 134,000 pensioners haven’t been paid what they should. While the government is correcting the mistake, it could take years to distribute the £1 billion of underpayments. Those affected will receive an average payout of £8,900 each.

The error has mostly affected elderly, widowed or divorced women due to the complexities around married women claiming a basic State Pension based on their husband’s record of National Insurance contributions (NICs).

While the Department of Work and Pensions have said human error played a role in the mistakes made, the scandal does highlight how complicated it can be to calculate how much State Pension you should receive.

So, why do you need to know how much State Pension you’re entitled to?

  1. Mistakes happen. As the recent underpayment highlights, mistakes do happen. If you understand how the State Pension works, you’re far more likely to notice if errors do occur and ensure these are rectified sooner.
  2. You can spot gaps in your NICs record. How much State Pension you’re entitled to will depend on your NICs. In some cases, you may have an opportunity to fill in gaps on your record, which could increase the amount of State Pension you receive.
  3. The State Pension provides a retirement income foundation. The State Pension provides a reliable income throughout retirement. As a result, it can play a valuable role in your long-term financial plan by providing security if other income sources are affected by things like investment market volatility.

Understanding the State Pension means you’re in a better position to create a long-term financial plan that helps you reach your goals.

How does the State Pension work?

If you reached the State Pension Age before 6 April 2016, the old State Pension rules will apply. However, most people planning for retirement now will qualify for the “new State Pension”, which sought to make the State Pension simpler.

Under these rules, you need at least 10 qualifying years on your NI record. They do not have to be consecutive years. To receive the full State Pension, £179.60 each week (£9,339.20 annually) in 2021/22, you’ll need 35 qualifying years on your NI record. If you have between 10 and 35 qualifying years, you’ll receive a proportion of the State Pension.

If you have fewer than 35 years on your NI record, you can often buy additional years to increase how much you’ll receive from the State Pension.

In addition to the amount you’re eligible to receive, you need to know when you can claim it. The State Pension Age for men and women has now equalised and is gradually rising. In October 2020, the State Pension Age hit 66 and will reach 67 by 2028. It is being kept under review and could rise further in the future.

To understand what you’re entitled to under the State Pension, you need to know your State Pension Age and how many qualifying years you have on your NI record. The government’s State Pension forecast can help you understand what to expect.

How the State Pension can help you maintain your spending power

While other sources of income in retirement may fluctuate depending on your circumstances or investment performance, your State Pension is valuable because it’s reliable. It also rises each tax year, helping to maintain your spending power.

As the cost of living rises, an income that remains the same will gradually buy less. Over a retirement that could span decades, even small increases in inflation can have an impact on the lifestyle you can afford. So, an income that rises alongside this is important.

Usually, the State Pension annual rise is protected by the triple lock. This means that the State Pension will rise by the highest of:

  • Average earnings growth year-on-year for the May–July period
  • Inflation in the year to September, measured by the Consumer Price Index
  • 2.5%.

However, average earnings growth will not be included when measuring how the State Pension will increase for the 2022/23 tax year. In 2020 during the May–July period, the country was in lockdown due to Covid-19. Many people experienced reduced wages due to receiving 80% of their usual salary under the Job Retention Scheme when they were unable to work. As the economy began to reopen, this inflated earnings figures, and the triple lock meant that pensioners would have received a record 8.8% boost.

The government has argued the earnings growth for this period don’t reflect reality and will not use this measure when calculating the State Pension increase for the 2022/23 tax year. As a result, the new State Pension will increase by 3.1% for the 2022/23 tax year and pensioners will receive £185.15 a week (£9,627.80 annually).

If you need help understanding how your State Pension fits into your wider retirement plans, we’re here to help. Please get in touch to arrange a meeting.

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

Generation X is looking forward to life’s small pleasures in retirement, but are in the dark about the cost

Generation X is looking forward to life’s small pleasures in retirement, but are in the dark about the cost

How much do you need to save for retirement? It’s an important question, but research suggests that while Generation X is looking forward to the life they’ll have after work, many haven’t thought about the cost.

Generation X, defined as those being born between the mid-1960s and the early-1980s, are beginning to approach retirement. While it can still seem some way off, getting plans and finances ready can help you create the lifestyle you want. Understanding what your retirement lifestyle will cost, and how to pay for it, means you can address potential gaps now to keep your plans on track.

33% of Generation X prioritise socialising in retirement

Retirement is often associated with big-ticket expenses, from luxury cruises to a holiday home in the UK. Yet, a third of Generation X want to prioritise socialising over big-ticket items, according to Money and Pension Service research. Among the simple pleasures that can make retired life fulfilling that they’re looking forward to are:

  • A trip to the seaside (42%)
  • A meal out in a nearby restaurant (34%)
  • A coffee with friends (33%)
  • Gardening (32%)
  • Entertaining family and friends at home (28%)
  • A drink in their local pub (24%).

After the challenges of not seeing loved ones during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s not surprising that 73% said that spending time with family and friends has become more important. With a focus on loved ones and enjoying the small pleasures of life, you may think that Generation X doesn’t need to worry about saving enough for retirement. However, the research suggests many will need to cut back on their plans unless they boost their retirement savings.

Carolyn Jones, pensions expert at Money and Pension Service, said: “Enjoying life’s little pleasures, like a catch up over a coffee with friends, has become even more special than ever in recent months. But our research has served up a less than tasty truth, that many of those currently saving for retirement could face having to cut back on the lifestyle they’re expecting. The important thing is, it’s not too late to take action.”

How much do you need for retirement?

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to how much you need to save for retirement. You need to consider things like:

  • What financial commitments will I have in retirement, such as a mortgage or supporting children?
  • What will my essential expenses include?
  • How much disposable income do I need to create the lifestyle I want?
  • Do I plan to make any large one-off expenses in retirement?

Understanding what you want your retirement to include can help you see how your pension and other assets will support this.

To provide a general idea, Which? research suggests a couple wanting a “comfortable” retirement would need an income of £26,000 a year. This budget includes some of the things that Generation X highlighted as important to them. For instance, an annual budget of £1,476 a year is earmarked for recreation and leisure. It also includes holidays in the UK or Europe. If you want a “luxury” lifestyle with a budget for expensive meals and long-haul holidays, the research estimates you’d need an annual income of £41,000.

For most of Generation X, their main way of saving for retirement will be through a pension. So, understanding how a pension can translate into an income is important.

If you have a defined contribution pension, your savings will usually be accessible from the age of 55, rising to 57 in 2028, and will be a lump sum. There are several ways to access your pension. You could purchase an annuity to generate a guaranteed income for life. Or you could use flexi-access drawdown to create a flexible income, with your untouched savings usually remaining invested.

The Which? research assumes couples will receive the full State Pension, providing a reliable income to build on. For couples aiming to achieve an income for a “comfortable” retirement, the organisation estimates they would need:

  • £265,420 to purchase an annuity
  • £154,700 when using flexi-access drawdown.

While the flexi-access drawdown option may seem more attractive, keep in mind that your money will be invested and the calculations assume your savings will grow by 3% each year, which cannot be guaranteed. Leaving your money invested provides it with an opportunity to grow, but also means it’s exposed to investment risk. This can be the right option for some, but others may find the security an annuity offers is preferable.

Are you ready to plan your retirement?

While it is not too late to boost your pension, it’s not too early to start planning for your retirement either. Whether you’re looking forward to socialising with loved ones more or other experiences, the decisions you make now can have an impact.

We’re here to help you make sense of your options and how pensions can help you turn retirement dreams into a reality. Please contact us to arrange a meeting with one of our team.

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.

How much does your partner have in their pension? 78% of married people have no idea

How much does your partner have in their pension? 78% of married people have no idea

Retirement planning as a couple can be difficult. You may have very different ideas about when you want to retire and how you want to spend your time. While it’s something of a taboo subject, understanding what you both want out of retirement and how you’ll create an income can help you get the most out of it.

A survey conducted by LV= found 78% of married people have no idea what their spouse’s pensions are worth. In fact, almost half (47%) have not spoken to their spouse about their retirement plans. While you may not have discussed how much you’re putting away for retirement, planning together often makes sense.

4 reasons to plan your retirement as a couple
1. Create the retirement lifestyle you want

When you think about your retirement, what does it look like? When do you hope to retire?

Without a clear picture of what you want retirement to be, it can fail to live up to your expectations. Setting out what you want your lifestyle to look like can help you get the most out of the next chapter of your life. If you’re planning with a partner, it is just as important to understand what they are looking forward to in retirement as well.

You may have very different goals, from the date you’d like to give up work to the life you’ll build. A conversation about what retirement will look like now can help you create a plan that suits both of you.

It’s common to focus on the big things when thinking about retirement, like a once in a lifetime trip or other big-ticket expenses. However, the day-to-day lifestyle you create in retirement is crucial for long-term happiness and fulfilment too.

2. Understand how to create a retirement income

In retirement, will you pool both your incomes to pay for essential outgoings? Will you share a disposable income?

Many couples will share income and expenses while they’re working and continue this into retirement. If you’ll pay for retirement as a couple, it’s important that you understand the steps you’re both taking to create an income when you give up work. It can help ensure you identify gaps sooner, enabling you to take steps to close them where possible. You could also find that collectively you’ll have more saved for retirement than you thought, allowing you to retire sooner or increase your planned income.

3. Make the most of allowances as a couple

Planning together can reduce your tax bill and help you make your money go further. The LV= survey found that 85% of non-retired married people are not aware of the tax efficiencies of planning retirement together. By not planning together, they could be missing out on reducing their tax liability.

While you’re still saving for retirement, adding to your partner’s pension can make sense. The Annual Allowance limits how much you can tax-efficiently save into your pension each tax year. This is usually £40,000 or your annual income, whichever is lower. If you may exceed this threshold, adding to your partner’s pension can increase how you’re saving tax-efficiently.

Once you’re retired, planning together continues to make sense. Money withdrawn from your pension may be subject to Income Tax when you exceed the Personal Allowance (£12,570 in 2021/22). Spreading withdrawals across both your pensions can help you make use of your Personal Allowances to reduce the amount of tax paid.

Depending on your assets and goals, there may be other allowances that can help you create a long-term income that minimises tax. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss how to save for retirement efficiently.

4. Ensure the long-term security of you and your partner

While it can be difficult to contemplate, it is important to consider how financially secure you would be if your partner passed away, and vice versa. Not planning as a couple can leave a surviving partner in a vulnerable position and potentially struggling financially.

By considering what could happen, you’re in a position to take steps to ensure long-term security for both of you, even if the unexpected happens. This could include ensuring your partner will inherit your pension by completing an expression of wishes, or purchasing a joint annuity so they would still receive a regular income if you passed away.

Start building your retirement plan as a couple

It can be difficult to know where to start when planning your retirement, especially if you have different goals for your partner. We’re here to help you put a long-term plan in place to help you get the most out of your retired life, whether you’re ready to retire now or are still saving for the milestone.

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.

Investment market update: September 2021

Investment market update: September 2021

While the direct impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has lessened for many economies, businesses are now struggling with the indirect consequences, such as supply chain issues. From microchips to aluminium cans, firms around the world are facing challenges getting hold of the materials and goods they need.

Markets have largely recovered from the Covid-19 volatility, but global investors expect a market correction, according to a Deutsch Bank survey. Some 58% of investors said they expect a correction between 5% and 10% by the end of the year.

UK

Government announcements could have an impact on both employees and employers. An increase in National Insurance contributions (NICs) from April 2022, which will become a separate health and social care levy from 2023, will increase outgoings for both individuals and businesses. NICs will increase by 1.25 percentage points.

For business owners and investors, the government’s announcement of dividend tax rates increasing by 1.25 percentage points from April 2022 could have an impact too.

Figures suggest that UK businesses are struggling with supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, Brexit, and other factors. The IHS Markit Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) monitoring business activity fell to 55. While the reading indicates growth, it has fallen to a six-month low that has been linked to supply chain challenges.

The challenges have affected a range of industries, including construction. “Sustained and severe” supply chain issues were blamed for the PMI falling from 58.7 in July to 55.2 in August. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggests UK shop price increases of 0.4% in August were also related to shortages in microchips and shipping problems. The organisation added that supply chains are on the edge of coping.

Throughout the month, shortages of food, energy, and fuel have also been widely reported. While steps have been taken to reduce the impact, including the military being drafted in to help deliver fuel, the CBI warned that the labour crisis could last up to two years.

This is reflected in the number of businesses struggling to fill vacant roles. According to the Office of National Statistics, 13% of businesses said vacancies have become more difficult to fill when compared to last year in September. This compares to 9% that said the same thing in August. The hospitality industry in particular is facing challenges. Some 30% of accommodation and food service firms highlighted challenges finding workers.

It’s not just imports that are slowing. UK exports to the EU fell by around £900 million in July, a 65% drop. Rising exports outside of the bloc didn’t make up the shortfall.

Demand and challenges facing businesses mean inflation is above the 2% Bank of England target. Michael Saunders, a member of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, suggested higher rates of inflation could mean that interest rates will begin to rise next year, affecting both borrowers and savers across the UK.

In other news, Morrisons and Meggitt were both promoted to the FTSE 100. The share prices of both firms surged after attractive takeover bids, meaning they were worth enough to be included in the index. However, it could be short-lived as both firms would be delisted if the takeover bids go ahead.

Europe

Eurozone GDP figures show economies within the bloc are recovering stronger than initially thought. The GDP figure for April-June has been revised upwards from 2% to 2.2%.

Germany is also leading the way with an unexpected surge in factory orders for major goods, like ships. Official data from Destatis shows a 3.4% rise despite expectations of a fall.

US

Supply chain challenges are also having an impact in the US. While the manufacturing sector is still growing, the pace is slowing down. The PMI data from IHS Markit fell from 63.4 in July to 61.1 in August.

Another area that has disappointed, is job growth. Just 235,000 new jobs were created in the US in August, a significant slowdown when compared to a month earlier and a figure that falls short of expectations. The data would suggest the pandemic is continuing to have an impact on the labour market, with no jobs added to the leisure and hospitality sectors as concerns around the spread of the Delta variant remain.

Asia

Data from China shows that the pandemic continues to have an impact on activity and demand. The country’s service sector’s PMI data in August fell to 46.7 from 54.9 in July. The below-50 reading means the sector is contracting. Increased restrictions to curb the spread of the Delta variant have been blamed.

However, export figures suggest the outlook in China isn’t glum. Exports increased by 25.6% in dollar terms in August, according to official data. Exports reached $294.3 billion, which helped to calm the worries of a slowdown.

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

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.

7 signs of stress and how to combat them to improve your wellbeing

7 signs of stress and how to combat them to improve your wellbeing

National Stress Awareness Day is on 3 November. Stress is something everyone experiences at different points in their lifetime, but it can harm your wellbeing and health. Recognising the signs of stress means you can take steps to reduce the impact it has on your life.

According to a study from HR software provider CIPHR, Brits feel stressed eight days a month on average. That adds up to around three months a year. Almost 8 in 10 people said they felt stressed at least once a month. So, if you feel stressed, you’re not alone.

The research found there are many reasons for stress. Financial anxiety and a lack of sleep were the most common causes. Things like health, work in general, and cleaning were also found to have an impact. Recognising the signs of stress is important for managing the effect it has, so here are seven of the most common symptoms.

1. You feel tired

Even when you plan to get eight hours of sleep, stress can still leave you feeling exhausted in the morning. This may be because you’ve had a restless night, or had trouble going to sleep because your mind is focused on your concerns. It can be a vicious circle too, as a lack of sleep can exacerbate other signs of stress and add to your worries.

2. You experience regular headaches

The occasional headache is common, but if you’re experiencing them frequently, it could be a sign of stress. Stress headaches will often feel like pressure on either side of your head and may be accompanied by tense shoulders and neck. If headaches are common, it’s also advisable to seek medical attention, which can ease concerns if you’re worried about your health.

3. You feel more emotional

Stress can heighten emotions and may mean you react differently in some situations than you normally would. You may, for example, feel more tearful or irritable during the day. This is one of the signs that can worsen if you’re experiencing a lack of sleep too.

4. Your diet has changed

Hormones released when you’re stressed can affect your relationship with food. For some, stress can mean they lose their appetite in the short term. For others, it can lead to stress eating, which could mean eating more or choosing unhealthier foods. A poor diet can contribute to stress, tiredness, and your capacity to carry out day-to-day activities.

5. You feel overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed and like you’re not in control of things is common when you’re stressed. It can mean if you’re facing a problem, you’re not able to come up with a solution to resolve it. When you have a lot on your plate, being overwhelmed can mean you feel less able to tackle it, potentially causing even more stress.

6. You’ve lost motivation

Whether you’re putting off work tasks or avoiding doing the things you used to enjoy, stress can mean you lose motivation. While it can seem easier to avoid these things, it can mean you miss out on activities that would lift your mood.

7. You get ill easier

As well as an emotional impact, stress can have a physical one too. Stress can impact your immune system and mean you become ill more frequently. It can also mean it takes longer for you to recover and feel like yourself again.

5 ways you can combat stress and boost your wellbeing

If you’ve been feeling stressed, it can seem like there’s little you can do. But some relatively small steps can have a real impact on your wellbeing and help reduce the levels of stress you’re experiencing. Here are five ways to do this:

1. Exercise

Stress can mean you feel lethargic but pushing yourself to exercise can release feel-good hormones that can boost your mood. Where possible exercise outdoors to get the added benefits of fresh air and nature.

2. Set small goals

Setting out a plan can help you take back control and work towards your goals. Setting small targets can help keep you on track and mean you feel like you’ve accomplished something each day. Remember to celebrate the positive steps you’re taking.

3. Connect with people

Stress can lead to people feeling isolated and you may avoid spending time with others, whether that’s your family, friends, or colleagues. Make a conscious effort to make plans to socialise.

4. Create some me-time

Think about what you enjoy doing and schedule some time to focus on this. It could be reading a book, going for a walk, or something entirely different, but don’t feel bad about spending time on the things that are important to you.

5. Talk about your worries

Don’t be afraid to seek help or talk about what is causing you stress. It can help you see things from another perspective and create a plan to reduce stress. In some cases, chatting with loved ones can help, in others working with a professional to talk through your worries can be beneficial.

The great British obsession: Why we love to check house prices

The great British obsession: Why we love to check house prices

It’s often said that British people are obsessed with owning a home and property prices. A new survey indicates that’s the case, with more than half of Brits checking how much their family and friends have paid for their homes. There’s more than one reason why people love to check how much a property has sold for.

According to a survey from Zoopla, just a fifth of people think it’s acceptable to ask someone what their home is worth. Many think posing this question is “rude”, but online tools mean it’s easier than ever to snoop and harder to resist checking. 6 in 10 Brits admitted they have looked up how much others have paid for their home. From friends to colleagues, it’s become common to look at the sale price of properties of someone you know.

The survey found that some people use property prices to make presumptions about a colleague’s salary or even check potential partners. 11% has checked how much a colleague paid for their home and 3% have checked the price of their boss’s home. 8% also said they checked the value of the home of a partner, ex-partner, or someone they were dating, with the value influencing the decisions some made about their relationship.

But there are other reasons for watching property prices rise.

1. To understand your own home’s worth

Some 23% of people said they checked house prices to better understand how much their own home is worth. Your home is likely to be one of your largest assets, so it’s not surprising that people want to keep track of its value.

Your home increasing in value can also help you secure a better mortgage deal. As the property price rises, the amount of equity you hold also increases. As a result, you can take out a mortgage with a lower loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. Generally, the lower the LTV, the more competitive the interest rate you’ll be offered. For example, a first-time buyer with an LTV of 90% is likely to pay a higher interest rate than someone who needs a mortgage to cover 70% of the value of their home.

Over a mortgage, keeping track of your home’s worth and remortgaging could save you thousands of pounds in interest repayments. If you need help finding the right mortgage deal for you, please get in touch.

2. The rapid rise can be exciting to watch

House prices have soared over the last decade. And it can make watching the value of your home, and other properties, exciting to watch compared to other assets you may have.

According to the Halifax House Price Index, in the year to August 2021, house prices have increased by a huge 7.1%. The average house in the UK is now worth a record £262,954. With interest rates low on savings accounts and investment markets experiencing volatility in the last year, seeing your house price climb can be satisfying.

3. To inspire projects for your own home

Almost a fifth (18%) of snoopers said they checked properties online because they were curious to see what someone’s home looked like on the inside. As well as giving you a glimpse into someone’s life, it can be a great way to understand what’s possible with your own property or inspire ideas for your next DIY project. If you’re thinking about knocking down a wall to make living spaces open plan, for example, seeing photos from another property can help you visualise it.

It’s also a chance to see what adds value and what local buyers may be looking for. If a property is valued higher than your home, you may be able to see what improvements have a real impact. Would converting the loft lead to a return on your investment if you want to sell? Or would giving the décor a simple update have a real impact on the value of your home?

How does your home fit into your plans?

As one of your largest assets, your home is likely to play a key role in your plans too. Whether being mortgage-free is essential for your retirement plans or you hope to move to accommodate a growing family, your home may be important to your future. You may even plan to sell your home or release equity to fund plans.

Understanding what your home is worth and taking steps to reduce mortgage repayments through a competitive deal can help you get the most of your property. If you’d like to discuss your mortgage or other property needs, 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.

Why money conversations are important for you and your loved ones

Why money conversations are important for you and your loved ones

How often do you discuss your finances? In the UK, talking about money and our long-term financial plans are often still seen as a taboo subject. Breaking down this barrier could help you and those who are important to you make better money decisions.

Talk Money Week will take place between 8–12 November and aims to encourage people to talk more about finances. From discussing pensions in the workplace to saving goals with family, having an open conversation about money can be a positive thing. Despite this, Talk Money Week research found that 9 in 10 adults, the equivalent of 47 million people, don’t find it easy to talk about money, or don’t discuss it at all.

Talking about money can be difficult, but according to research, people who talk about money:

  • Make better and less risky financial decisions
  • Have stronger personal relationships
  • Help their children form good lifetime money habits
  • Feel less stressed or anxious and more in control.

It’s a step that can help improve your financial wellbeing and long-term resilience. It doesn’t just help you, either – it can support the financial security of the people around you too.

If money isn’t something you talk often about, it can be difficult to start conversations and get into the habit. Here are three reasons to start doing it now.

1. Take control of your finances and goals

Money-related stress is common. Research from CIPHR found that 79% of people feel stressed at least once a month, and money was the top cause of this. Some 39% of people said money was the thing they worried most about.

Talking about your concerns can help your worries seem more manageable. When you’re stressed, it can be difficult to make decisions and understand what your options are. Talking about it can help you create solutions and take control of your finances.

You shouldn’t just speak about concerns, either; talking about what money will allow you to do can help motivate you and keep you on track. For instance, talking about a savings account that will help you book a dream trip, or how increasing your pension contributions will mean you can retire early, are just as important as sharing the things you worry about.

2. Make better financial decisions

Financial decisions can seem complex and, at times, it can be difficult to understand what your options are. In other cases, you may take certain steps simply because that’s what you’ve done in the past, even if it’s not right for you now.

Perhaps you save into a savings account with your current account provider because that’s what you’ve always done. But a conversation with a colleague could highlight that there’s an alternative account that’s offering a higher interest rate to help your money go further. Or a conversation may mean you start to consider investing some of your savings rather than holding cash.

Talking about money can help you look at your finances from a different perspective and mean you make better decisions.

3. Pass on your financial knowledge

Over the years, you’ll have picked up your own body of financial knowledge. By making it part of everyday conversation, you can help people around you make better financial decisions too. Perhaps you could highlight why paying into a pension early makes sense to younger generations, or have some tips for starting an investment portfolio.

It can also help you foster a relationship where loved ones feel comfortable coming to you to ask for advice or share their concerns. It can mean they’re less likely to bury their head in the sand if they’re struggling or to miss opportunities.

Having open conversations about money and how it can help you achieve goals can help loved ones make better decisions.

When should you talk to a financial planner?

Talking to loved ones about your finances can be beneficial. However, there are times when working with a financial planner can help you get the most out of your assets. A professional can help you understand the complexities of things like tax allowances, as well as how the decisions you make now will affect your goals.

By working with a financial planner, you know you can have confidence in your plan. It can be useful at any point in your life, including milestones like retiring, and is a step that can ensure you remain on the right track long term. If you’d like to arrange a meeting, 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.