How to be with family over the festive period this year

How to be with family over the festive period this year

This year has been challenging for many of us. With families restricted on when they could meet up due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many have been looking forward to Christmas and the time traditionally spent with loved ones.

Reports suggest that up to three households can form a bubble and get together for a few days around Christmas. However, the new year is expected to involve restrictions. Even with the ability to form a bubble, you may not be able to see all your family and friends as you normally would over the festive period. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate together.

Keep in mind too, that Covid-19 restrictions may change at short notice. While it’s hoped that families will be able to spend Christmas day together, there’s no guarantee and it will depend on how the situation develops.

While a ‘normal’ Christmas and new year are unlikely, there are ways you can be with loved ones over the coming weeks.

Plan video calls to mark usual traditions

If you’re not able to be together, video calls are a great way of keeping in touch and carrying out the usual traditions.

Having a plan for the most important ones can mean loved ones are still involved in the celebrations, even if you can’t be together. That might mean using Zoom to schedule a call so you can watch grandchildren open their Christmas presents in the morning or swapping Christmas cracker jokes in the afternoon. Scheduling the calls can help everyone organise their day and ensure things aren’t missed simply because other things are going off.

Think about the parts of Christmas that are the most important to you and your family when arranging calls.

Go for a socially distanced walk

Getting outdoors for a walk in winter can be magical. While most of us often spend Christmas indoors, a walk can be a great opportunity to spend time with loved ones. A walk around a local park that’s covered with frost can really put you in a festive mood. Plan ahead and take a flask filled with hot chocolate or mulled wine to get you into the holiday spirit too.

Remember to check local restrictions before making plans outside of a bubble and stick to the social distancing guidelines where possible.

Discover online games and quizzes

If your family is a fan of playing board games and quizzes when together, finding online alternatives can be a fun way to connect this year.

For board game fans, there are plenty of options online. If you have a family favourite, try giving it a search on Google, the most popular ones often have online or app-based options. But if you’re looking for something new, there are dedicated websites worth exploring, including Board Game Arena and Tabletopia. Both have free to play options and premium games that you need to pay for.

For quizzes, there are once again plenty of online options to try. But if you have a quiz expert in your group, asking them to put together some questions can make the game more personal to you. Kahoot! is an excellent app that lets you host a quiz with each player using their phone to answer questions.

Don’t give up traditional games either, with a bit of creative thinking, you can set up a game of charades or Pictionary over a video call too.

Plan ahead

Making plans for Christmas always means thinking ahead, from when to get the turkey to putting up the decorations. But this year’s restrictions mean a little more planning can go a long way.

For instance, pass presents on to recipients before the big day, ensuring they’re able to open them even if plans are forced to change last minute. The postal service is always busy this time of the year, but expect more delays than normal as people turn to online shopping options. So, order gifts and send any cards as early as possible.

While a plan can help you get the most out of Christmas this year, they may have to change too. Expect the government to amend restrictions and guidelines both nationally and regionally as new information is available. Keep in touch with friends and family to make sure everyone is clear on what your plans are over the festive period.

The toys topping Santa’s list this Christmas

The toys topping Santa’s list this Christmas

If you’re struggling for Christmas inspiration when searching for gifts for children, then don’t panic, there’s sure to be something that will delight them in this list.

Despite the current economic uncertainty, new research by Rakuten Advertising has found families still plan to celebrate with gifts. Seven in ten people plan to spend the same amount over the festive period as they usually would. Shopping habits are changing to reflect restrictions, with 66% increasing online spending and 50% purchasing more from local businesses, finding the perfect present is still a priority.

Shopping for children can be difficult. There are so many options to choose from, so what’s featuring on Santa’s list the most this year?

1. Star Wars The Child Animatronic Edition

The Mandalorian has become the must-watch show on Disney+. So, it should come as no surprise that its loveable The Child character, dubbed Baby Yoda by fans, is featuring on many Christmas wish lists. The animatronic toy features motorised movements, will make sounds and ‘use the force’ when it’s patted on the head three times; it’s perfect for fans of Star Wars. For younger children, you can buy a plush version too, ideal for having a cuddle with!

2. Botley 2.0

STEM toys that encourage children to explore science, technology, engineering and maths have become hugely popular. Botley 2.0 is a coding robot that comes with endless challenges and obstacle pieces. Children can programme Botley to do a sequence of up to 150 steps, helping them to learn to code from the get-go. As well as coding, it’s designed to enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skills too, while still being fun and imaginative.

3. Feathers and Feeling Peacock

For toddlers and young children, the bright colours, lights and sounds of this interactive peacock are perfect for capturing their attention. The eight emotion feather tails can be taken on or off, with each leading to a different reaction from the peacock, helping young children to explore emotions. It also helps them discover colours, shapes and numbers. With three different modes of play, it’s a toy that can grow with them too.

4. Earth Heroes

Books have long featured on children’s wish lists and this year Earth Heroes is set to be one of the bestsellers. The book features 20 people that have made a difference to tackling climate change. Among the inspiring individuals are David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg. The colourful illustrations make it a beautiful gift for children and offers a selection of stories from around the world that show the different ways people are taking action.

5. Lego’s Adventures with Mario Starter Course

Lego has become a staple on the Christmas gift list and continues to be a favourite among children. One of the most sought after sets this year features Mario and takes you back to the original video game. Using traditional Lego bricks and new obstacle pieces, children can create their own adventure course with an interactive Mario. Seven action bricks trigger different reactions from the character as kids try to beat their top score.

6. Laser Battle Hunters

For kids that love cars, Laser Battle Hunters is the next step. It comes with two remote-controlled vehicles that go faster than the average toy and can drift, perfect for getting away from your opponent. The aim is to use the built-in infrared cannon to blast the other car three times to win. It can be used in single-player mode too, giving players 60 seconds to hit the targets as many times as possible as it races around and returns fire.

7. Rollin’ Rovee

Rollin’ Rovee is an interactive friend for infants and toddlers, with different modes of play to suit the child as they grow. Each of the play modes includes lights, music and activities that are designed to get little ones moving. The toy can clap, play peek-a-boo and roll over so crawling babies can chase it. As they get older, children will be able to play with a ball with Rollin’ Rovee and learn the alphabet, numbers and more.

8. Paw Patrol Dino Patroller

If you know a child that loves watching the action of Adventure Bay in Paw Patrol, the latest toy from the franchise will let them play out their own rescue missions. The new Dino Patroller is motorised and includes a projectile launcher, perfect for going on prehistoric missions. The toy comes with a figure of Paw Patrol member Chase and, of course, a T-Rex that’s in trouble.

9. Hatchimals Crystal Flyers

Hatchimals have featured on letters to Santa for a few years now, and this year Crystal Flyers are popular. The pixie’s glittery wing will spin and flutter when turned on allowing her to fly. Children can then use their hands to guide her in the air to make her do acrobatics and dance.

10. A classic board game with a twist

A board game is a great way to spend some time as a family over the festive period. This year, there are a few classic games that have been given a twist to keep you entertained. Whether the original is a family favourite or you want to try something new Uno Flip, Cluedo Liar’s Edition or Monopoly Sore Loser are an excellent addition to the presents under the Christmas tree this year.


Lasting Power of Attorney: Why is it something we put off?

Lasting Power of Attorney: Why is it something we put off?

Naming a Lasting Power of Attorney is something that we should all do. It’s something that can provide us with security if we’re unable to make decisions. While it’s often something that’s associated with being elderly, it’s just as important for younger generations to take this step too.

A Power of Attorney gives someone you trust the power to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to. When you think about situations in which you would need this, most people think of losing mental capacity through dementia. But Kate Garraway’s story has recently highlighted why it’s important to have a Power of Attorney in place even when you’re healthy.

Kate Garraway’s experience highlights the importance of a Power of Attorney

ITV presenter Kate Garraway has featured in the news throughout the Covid-19 pandemic after her husband took ill. Her husband Derek has been hospitalised with Covid-19 since March and has been in a coma for much of the time. In his early 50s, Derek isn’t someone you’d usually associate with losing mental capacity. However, Kate has spoken out about the challenges.

In an interview with ITV, she said: “One of the practical problems – which a lot of people would have experienced if they’ve got the absence of someone in their life – like many things, the car is entirely in Derek’s name, the insurance is in Derek’s name, a lot of our bank accounts. There are lots of financial goings-on which are making life very complicated because I can’t get access to things because legally, I haven’t got Power of Attorney.”

The lack of a Power of Attorney means that loved ones can be left dealing with a financial mess and inability to manage it while you’re unable to make decisions. It can lead to complications and affect your financial security in the future.

Power of Attorney doesn’t just cover financial issues either but may cover the decisions about your health and care. If you’re ill, for example, a Power of Attorney will be able to make decisions about the type of care you have, including life-sustaining treatment. Without a Power of Attorney, you may be left in a vulnerable position.

3 reasons you might be putting off naming a Power of Attorney
1. “I’m too young to need one”

Needing a Power of Attorney is often associated with losing mental capacity due to age. However, accidents and illness can happen at any time. It’s a step that can protect you should the unexpected happen.

A Power of Attorney isn’t always permanent, it can be temporary until you’re able to make decisions again. It’s also important to note that you may want a Power of Attorney to make decisions on your behalf even if you have mental capacity. Handing financial decisions over to someone you trust while recovering from an illness can mean you’re able to focus on what’s most important.

2. “It will never happen to me”

This is a common reason for not naming a Power of Attorney. It can seem like a hassle for something that you will never need to use.

While it’s true that most people that name a Power of Attorney, thankfully, don’t need to use them, it acts as protection just in case. The chance of your home getting damaged in a fire is very small, but you still take out building insurance to give yourself peace of mind. View naming a Power of Attorney in a similar way; you hope it won’t need to be used, but it’s there in case you do.

3. “My partner will be able to make decisions on my behalf”

If you’re married or in a civil partnership you may mistakenly believe your partner will be able to make decisions on your behalf. However, no one has the automatic right to make decisions for you.

Not having a Power of Attorney can not only leave you in a vulnerable position but your loved ones too. Even if you hold a joint bank account, one party losing mental capacity can mean the account is frozen as it cannot be operated independently of each other.

Naming a Power of Attorney is simple and can protect you

Despite thousands of people putting off naming a Power of Attorney, it’s a simple step to take.

You can fill in the forms online here or download paper forms to post here. You can ask a solicitor to help you if you wish, but the forms are relatively straightforward, and you don’t need to use a legal professional. Once the forms are completed, you need to register a Power of Attorney with the Office of the Public Guardian for it to be valid. This is a process that takes between eight and ten weeks and costs £82 per Power of Attorney.

There are two types of Power of Attorney. The first covers financial and property affairs and the second covers health and care. You should make sure you have both in place.

If you have questions about Power of Attorney and how it fits into your wider plans, please get in touch.

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

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate planning.

The pension basics everyone needs to know

The pension basics everyone needs to know

Most workers are now paying into a pension. But research shows that there is a worrying lack of understanding about how pensions work and why they’re a good option for saving for retirement.

According to Royal London, seven in ten people admit they have little or no knowledge about pensions. Understanding your pension while you contribute can help you get the most out of it and ensure that you understand what it means for your retirement. If you’re unsure about why pensions are used to save for retirement and what happens to your contributions, here are the basics you need to know.

Your pension contributions are invested

The research highlighted that many workers paying into a pension don’t understand what happens to their money.

The money you contribute to a pension is invested. This means the value of your pension can fluctuate depending on investment performance. As you may be paying into a pension for decades, investing aims to help your contributions grow over the long term. As you aren’t making withdrawals from your pension, the returns delivered are invested themselves. This means you benefit from compound growth and your pension can grow even further.

Despite this, just 24% of those with a pension see themselves as an investor. This goes some way to explaining why pension savers aren’t engaging with their investments. Half admitted they have never looked at where their pension is invested. Nearly one in ten (9%) didn’t realise this information was available and 27% didn’t know they could change how their pension was invested.

If you haven’t made any changes, your pension will usually be invested in a default fund. However, pension schemes will offer a variety of funds to choose from. So, it’s worth reviewing these and seeing if alternatives are better suited to your retirement goals. If you’d like some help assessing your pension investments, please get in touch.

Your employer will make pension contributions

If you’ve been automatically enrolled in a Workplace Pension, your employer must also make contributions on your behalf. This applies to most workers.

The minimum they must contribute is 3% of your pensionable earnings. It can boost your pension and make your retirement more comfortable. However, if you stop making pension contributions, your employer no longer has to contribute either. As a result, you’d effectively lose ‘free money’.

You should review your employee benefits and talk to your employer too. Some employers will increase their contributions in line with yours or offer a salary sacrifice scheme that can provide a tax-efficient way to save more for retirement.

You also benefit from tax relief

The tax relief you receive when saving into a pension means it’s a tax-efficient way to save for retirement.

Assuming you stay within the limits of the Annual Allowance, you’ll receive some of the money you’d have paid in tax on your earnings back to add to your pension. It’s a valuable relief that can boost your pension investments. You receive tax relief at the highest rate of Income Tax you pay.

If you’re a basic-rate taxpayer and want to add £100 from your salary to your pension, it would only cost you £80 thanks to the tax relief. For higher- and additional-rate taxpayers, it’s even more valuable as they’d only need to add £60 and £55 respectively.

Again, if you stopped making contributions, you’d lose this ‘free money’ being added to your pension.

It’s tax-efficient when accessing your pension too

Retirement may still feel like a long way off, but how you’ll access the money you’re saving for this stage of your life is important too. A pension is an efficient way to save for your later years.

First, when you reach pension age, you can take a tax-free lump sum of 25% from your pension. It’s a step that can help you reach retirement goals. You can also choose to spread this tax-saving across withdrawals. At the moment, you can access your pension from the age of 55 but this will rise to 57 in 2028.

While an income taken from your pension may be liable for Income Tax, you don’t usually pay tax on investment returns. The favourable tax treatment of pensions means your pension investments can grow faster.

If you’re worried about Inheritance Tax, saving into a pension could also reduce the eventual bill. Please get in touch with us to discuss further how you can minimise Inheritance Tax.

What does your pension mean for your retirement?

Just as important as understanding how your pension works is knowing what kind of retirement lifestyle it will afford you. Understanding how your pension contributions will add up can help you prepare for retirement and means you’re in a position to make changes if needed. Please contact us to arrange a meeting to go through your pensions and retirement plans.

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.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate estate and tax planning.



How many pensions will you have at retirement?

How many pensions will you have at retirement?

When we reach retirement age, we use a pension to create an income. But changes to working habits could make it far more complicated for today’s workers. As a result, actively managing pensions now is important.

Employees today are likely to swap jobs frequently, to suit their lifestyle and career goals. It’s a trend that can help workers balance work and personal life, and further their career prospects. However, each position is likely to come with a pension and it can make managing retirement savings a headache.

Two-thirds of workers in the UK think that a job for life is a thing of the past, according to a survey conducted by Aegon. Younger generations expect to switch jobs frequently. As a result, 73% of today’s workers agree they’ll have far more jobs than previous generations.

Just one in twenty workers aged 18-34 expects to spend more than 20 years with a single employer. This compares to 48% of workers 55 or over who either already worked for a single employer, or expect to work for a single employer, for more than two decades.

Auto-enrolment means new pensions as you switch jobs

Auto-enrolment has been successful in getting more people saving. But it means each time you start at a new company you’re likely to be enrolled in a new pension scheme.

To be automatically enrolled you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Aged between 22 and State Pension age
  • Earn at least £10,000 per year
  • Usually work in the UK

Under auto-enrolment, you will contribute 5% of your pensionable earnings each month, and you can increase this if you wish. Your employer must also contribute 3% of your earnings, though some employers may offer higher contributions. Your contributions will also benefit from tax relief.

If you don’t fit the criteria above, you still have the option to join and your employer may also still contribute on your behalf.

As a result, most workers will benefit from a Workplace Pension with each employer. This is great news for retirement savings. But it means you could retire with multiple pensions to juggle.

The challenges of juggling different pensions

If you don’t actively manage your pensions while working, it’s challenging to understand how much you’re saving. To get a snapshot of whether you’re on the right track, you’ll need to find the information for multiple pensions. It can make it difficult to know if you’re saving enough.

When you come to retirement and are deciding how to access your pension, having it in multiple pots can cause a headache too. Once again, you’d need to bring together the values of different pensions to understand the income and lifestyle your retirement savings can deliver.

On top of the challenges multiple pensions can cause when trying to understand your retirement, it can mean your investments don’t go as far. For example, charges on a smaller pension can effectively wipe out investment gains. In some cases, consolidating your pension can improve returns and make retirement plans easier to manage.

Consolidating pensions could provide a solution

Consolidating allows you to transfer pensions into another existing pension. This way you’re able to reduce how many pensions you have to manage. It can make it easier to keep track of investments.

For many, consolidating pensions, especially if you have multiple small pots, will make sense. It can help you reduce the impact of charges on investment performance. At the point of retirement, it can also make it easier to access your pension to create an income.

However, sometimes consolidation isn’t the most appropriate choice. For example, some pensions will come with additional benefits that you’d lose if you were to transfer out. This may include the ability to access the investments earlier than usual which may be beneficial to your retirement plans. So, it’s important to fully understand your pension before you decide to consolidate them.

You also need to consider where your pension is invested too. There are many areas to consider, including long-term investment performance, charges and your current Workplace Pension scheme.

Please contact us if you’re juggling several pensions and want to make them easier to manage. We’ll work with you to create a long-term plan that not only factors in ease of managing pensions now but consider your retirement too.

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.

New year’s resolutions to improve your finances

New year’s resolutions to improve your finances

The start of a new year is the perfect time to get your finances in order.

A few simple changes could improve your finances in 2021 and beyond, setting you up for a healthier financial future.

So, whether your finances are in a muddle or you just want to ‘do better’, here are five new year’s resolutions worth sticking to.

1. Create a spending budget

If your bank balance has been getting worryingly low, it’s probably time to take a thorough look at your spending habits.

Creating a budget is a useful exercise whatever stage you’re at in life. And you may be surprised at how easily you’re able to save extra money each month.

The following simple steps can help you create a successful budget:

  • Work out how much money you take home each month
  • Add up your monthly outgoings
  • Calculate the difference

If your expenses are greater than your income, check if there’s anything you could cut back on. We’re not suggesting you scrap all of your little luxuries. However, there may be lots of things you’re spending money on that you don’t actually need, such as unused magazine subscriptions or gym memberships.

If your income is higher than your outgoings, consider adopting the ’50-30-20’ budgeting philosophy. This is where essential expenses comprise half your budget, other expenses make up 30%, and the remaining 20% goes towards savings or paying off debt.

2. Pay off expensive debt

If you’ve racked up a lot of debt, the new year could be a great time to start tackling it.

The higher the interest rate, the more the debt will cost you, so it’s usually a good idea to pay off expensive debts first. These could include credit card and store card debts, unauthorised overdrafts, and payday loans.

Paying off your debts could enable you to save more money for your future, improve your credit score, and reduce any anxieties you’re feeling about your finances.

Some loans come with high early repayment penalties, so make sure you read the terms and conditions before paying them off.

3. Increase your pension contributions

If you’ve got extra money sitting around or recently received a pay rise, it could be worth increasing your pension contributions.

Each time you pay into a pension the government tops it up with 20% tax relief, making it a great way to save for your future.

The chart below shows how quickly monthly pension contributions can add up over time. It shows two £20,000 pensions growing by 5% a year over 30 years. One has £100 paid into it each month, and the other has £300.

Source: Bestinvest

It’s never too late to start preparing for your future. However, the earlier you start investing, the better your chances are of living the retirement you desire.

Research by Which? suggests couples need £27,000 a year to live a comfortable retirement, or £42,000 a year to live a luxury retirement that includes a holiday every year and a new car every five years.

Couples would need a pension pot of around £215,450 to produce enough income for a comfortable retirement via income drawdown, or £298,000 through a joint-life annuity. For a luxury retirement, these figures rise to £502,775 and £695,000, respectively.

4. Invest in a Stocks and Shares ISA

Investing in a Stocks and Shares ISA has several benefits. Your money grows free of Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax, and you can withdraw money whenever you like without paying tax.

This makes ISAs a useful vehicle for holding money that you might need to withdraw before retirement. Money inside a pension can’t be accessed until you’re at least 55-years-old, rising to 57 in 2028.

Additionally, because ISA withdrawals are tax-free, they can be a tax-efficient way of taking income in retirement. With a pension, you can withdraw up to 25% tax-free and the rest is taxed at your marginal Income Tax rate.

You can pay up to £20,000 into ISAs in the 2020/21 tax year. Keep in mind that when investing, your capital is at risk. You should invest with a minimum five-year timeframe in mind.

5. Make a will

Making a will is an essential financial exercise, yet research by Royal London suggests 57% of UK adults don’t have a will in place.

If you die without a will, it could cause immense stress and financial hardship for your family. In a worst-case scenario, your loved ones could inherit nothing and become embroiled in bitter disputes.

By making a will, you can ensure:

  • Your money and assets end up in the right hands
  • Your children are cared for by people you know and trust
  • Your unmarried partner and stepchildren are provided for
  • Your family can continue living in their home
  • Your estate doesn’t attract unnecessary Inheritance Tax

Writing a will can give you the peace of mind that your loved ones will be protected long after you’ve gone.

Get in touch

If you want advice on getting your finances in order, we can help. From helping you create a financial plan to organising your pensions and other assets, we’ll ensure your new year is off to a flying start. Please contact us 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.

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 will writing or estate and tax planning.