The ingredients you can add to meals to boost your immune system

The ingredients you can add to meals to boost your immune system

The pandemic has highlighted why keeping your immune system healthy is important. Responsible for protecting you from disease, a healthy immune system can keep you from falling ill and get over illnesses quicker.

The key to a healthy immune system is ensuring your body gets the nutrients it needs and creating an environment where you feel at your best. That means eating a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated, exercising, and minimising stress. However, some foods could help boost your immune system and are easy to incorporate into your usual diet.

1. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits not only taste delicious but almost all of them are high in vitamin C, which helps to build your immune system. From oranges to limes, there are a variety of ways to use citrus fruits when eating. Adding citrus juice to fresh salads and other meals can add some zing to your plate or simply snack on an orange to boost your vitamin C every day.

2. Broccoli

Broccoli is a great vegetable to add to your plate if you’re focusing on your health. It can boost your vitamin A, C and E intake, all of which can help your body function, as well as other antioxidants. With so many ways to cook broccoli, you can add it to a variety of meals, but research suggests that steaming the vegetable is the best way to prepare it to keep as many nutrients as possible.

3. Garlic

Garlic is a staple ingredient that’s used in numerous cuisines, making it simple to incorporate into your meals. It’s often claimed that garlic can help fight colds and flu thanks to its concentration of allicin. While further research is needed to measure this claim, it could help support your immune system.

4. Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in an antioxidant called “flavonoids”, which some researchers suggest can help improve immune systems and play an essential role in the defence system of the respiratory tract. Blueberries are a great snacking option or for adding a handful to your breakfast; they go great with oats, yoghurt, and cereal. For an easy way to add blueberries, try freezing them so you always have fresh berries on hand to add to your meals or make a smoothie.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow spice that’s widely used to add some flavour to curries. While more research is needed to fully assess the health benefits of the spice, some research indicates that it can act as an anti-inflammatory. It’s an ingredient that’s been used in alternative medicine for centuries. Aside from curries, turmeric can be used to add flavour to a variety of meals, including roasted vegetables and salad dressing.

6. Button mushroom

Vitamin D can be hard to boost through your diet. In fact, the NHS states that between October and March, everyone should consider taking a daily supplement because the sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D. Mushrooms are one of the few food sources, including oily fish, red meat, and egg yolks, that contain vitamin D, which is important for regulating the immune system and keeping bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.

7. Acai berries

Acai berries are known as a superfood thanks to their high antioxidant content and potential health benefits. A few acai berries to snack on during the day could help strengthen your immune system and they taste great; the flavour is often described as a mix between berries and chocolate.

8. Spinach

Spinach is packed full of nutrients and vitamins C and E, which help to support the immune system. It also contains antioxidants, which could help improve your ability to fight infections. It’s a versatile food that is easy to add to your usual meals. It makes a great base for creating a healthy salad or you can add a handful when cooking dishes like curry to give your dinner extra flavour and an immune boost.

9. Sunflower seeds

Sunflower seeds might be small, but they pack a punch when it comes to vitamin E, which is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Again, sunflower seeds are an easy option if you want to be able to add an immune-boosting food to your existing meals and are a great way to add some crunch to oats or a salad. Keep in mind though, that sunflower seeds are high in fat so be careful not to overindulge.

10. Dark chocolate

Improving your health doesn’t have to mean giving up all treats. In fact, a small portion of dark chocolate could provide an immune system boost too. Chocolate contains antioxidants that can reduce inflammation and research has linked it to a range of benefits. The darker the chocolate, the greater the health benefits. However, it’s still important to indulge in chocolate in moderation, even if it is delivering health benefits.

Rent is now “cheaper” than a mortgage but there are still reasons to get on the property ladder

Rent is now “cheaper” than a mortgage but there are still reasons to get on the property ladder

House prices have soared over the last year and it means that renting a property is now “cheaper” than making mortgage repayments. Yet, while monthly costs could be higher for aspiring homeowners, there are still reasons to get on the property ladder now.

For the last six years, it’s been cheaper to pay a mortgage each month than it has to pay rent. According to the BBC, before the pandemic, people buying a house with a 10% deposit were £102 better off than renters each month. Now, tenants are better off by around £71. The reversal comes despite a 7.1% rise in average rents over the last 12 months, demonstrating just how much house prices have increased.

It’s suggested that among the reasons for this are:

  • Rental demand dropping when the pandemic led to young adults returning to live with families
  • City living becoming less attractive.

While the figures suggest renting is cheaper now, with a long-term view, buying a property is likely to make more sense financially if you can.

4 reasons aspiring homeowners should still consider buying a property

Buying a home isn’t the right decision for everyone or now may not be the right time. However, if you’re thinking about delaying plans simply because renting is now cheaper, there are reasons to still take the plunge and purchase a home.

1. In the long term, buying can save you money

While a mortgage could mean you end up paying more out now, if you keep up with mortgage repayments, you’ll eventually own the property and repayments can stop. In contrast, if you opted not to buy a home, you’d have to keep making rental payments indefinitely. So, if you take a long-term view, buying a home can be cheaper.

2. Your mortgage costs could reduce over time

As you build up more equity within your home, the interest rates you’re offered are likely to be more competitive. As a result, your regular repayments may fall over the years. While this isn’t guaranteed, homeowners often find their mortgage repayments become more manageable as they near the end of the term.

3. Properties are likely to increase in value

You can also view buying a property as an investment. House prices have experienced dips in the past, but historically they have risen. According to the Halifax House Price Index, house prices have increased by 9.5% in the last year alone. That’s the equivalent of £22,000.

4. It’s a chance to put your stamp on your home

When you’re renting, you may have restrictions on what you can do, such as decorating, and you don’t want to invest in the property by buying a new kitchen if it’s not yours. With your own property, you’re free to put your stamp on it and really turn it into your home. It also means you can invest in the property to make it suitable for your long-term needs and potentially increase the value too.

How can you reduce your mortgage costs?

With the cost of a mortgage rising, it’s more important than ever to find a mortgage deal that’s right for you. Securing a deal that has a competitive interest rate could mean your monthly repayments are lower and you could save thousands of pounds in the long term. Interest rates are low but even a small difference can have an impact.

The table below highlights how your monthly repayments and total interest would change depending on the interest rate if you borrowed £200,000 over 25 years to buy a home.

Source: Money Saving Expert

Taking the time to search the market for a competitive mortgage deal could save you money. While some lenders have a high street presence, many don’t. It can also be time-consuming to search, as well as complicated if you’re trying to understand if your application will be accepted. This is where a mortgage broker can help you.

A mortgage broker can also help you find a deal that matches your needs. For instance, a mortgage that doesn’t require upfront fees or allows you to overpay to be mortgage-free sooner.

If you’d like to discuss buying a home and securing a mortgage, 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.

Did you use a Help to Buy Equity Loan? Rising house prices could mean you owe more than you expect

Did you use a Help to Buy Equity Loan? Rising house prices could mean you owe more than you expect

The Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme has helped thousands of first-time buyers get on to the property ladder. By reducing the amount of deposit needed and making mortgages more accessible, the Help to Buy scheme has been a lifeline for aspiring homeowners. However, as repayments are linked to property value, some could find they owe more than they expect.

What is the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme?

The Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme was announced in the government’s 2013 Budget and will run until March 2023. Since launching, over 310,000 households have used the scheme to buy a home.

The Help to Buy scheme helped first-time buyers in two key ways:

  1. Buyers can take out a mortgage with just a 5% deposit. As house prices have increased, it’s become more difficult to save the traditional 10% needed to secure a mortgage. The 5% deposit required under the Help to Buy scheme helped first-time buyers purchase sooner.
  2. The government provides a loan of up to 20% of the value of the property (40% in London). This means aspiring homeowners can take out a smaller mortgage. As affordability checks have become more stringent in the last decade, some first-time buyers find they are priced out of the market due to the amount they can borrow.

While restrictions when using the Help to Buy scheme have changed – for instance, there are now regional caps on the value of the property you can purchase – the basics remain the same. It can be a useful tool for helping first-time buyers get on to the property ladder. However, it’s vital that you understand how you’ll repay the loan and the role house prices play if you’ve already used the scheme or are thinking about it.

If you use the Help to Buy scheme, no interest is added to the loan in the first five years, but you must pay a monthly management charge of £1. After this point, interest will start to be added to your loan. The interest added will depend on when you took out the equity loan. It must be repaid after 25 years or earlier if you sell your home.

House prices have soared since 2013

Despite a year of uncertainty, house prices have soared in the last 12 months. Pent-up demand, the Stamp Duty holiday, and the introduction of 5% mortgage guarantees, means house prices are higher than ever.

According to the Halifax House Price Index, the average value of a home in the UK is now £261,743. That follows a huge 9.5% increase in just a year.

Data from the Land Registry highlights how much house prices have changed since the introduction of the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme. From March 2013 to March 2021, the average house price has increased by more than £87,000, from £168,681 to £256,405. That’s a rise of more than 50% in less than a decade.

Why do rising house prices matter?

If you’ve used the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, you’ve likely benefited from rising house prices. But how does this affect your finances?

Crucially, when you take out an equity loan, the government owns in stake in your home. If you borrowed 20% of the value of your home through the scheme, the government will effectively own 20% of your home until it is paid back.

This is important as the percentage owned remains the same, even if house prices change. So, as property prices have increased in the last eight years, you may have to pay more to the government than they originally lent you. Equally, if prices fell, you’d pay back less than you borrowed.

According to the Land Registry data, house prices have increased by 52% since the scheme was introduced. That could mean the amount you need to repay is much larger than you expect. If you plan to move home, it’s important you consider your property’s current valuation and how it could affect your plans. If you fail to factor in the increased loan amount, it may mean you’re hit with an unexpected bill and could cause your next property purchase to fall through.

Even if you hope to remain in your home, the amount of equity you own can affect your ability to secure a mortgage or a competitive interest rate.

If you’ve used the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme and aren’t sure how it’ll affect your finances or need help taking out a new mortgage deal, please get in touch. We’re here to help you find the right mortgage for you.

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

5 excuses for not seeking financial advice, and why they’re wrong

5 excuses for not seeking financial advice, and why they’re wrong

Millions of people are missing out on financial advice that could help them reach their goals because of misconceptions, research finds. Speaking to a financial planner can help you organise your finances, understand the impact of your decisions, and make sure you’re on track to reach future goals.

According to Royal London, 9.4 million people in the UK choose not to look for a financial adviser despite being open to the idea of advice. While there is a range of reasons someone may choose not to take financial advice, the survey suggests that some are not seeking advice due to misconceptions. Among them are:

1. Financial advice is too expensive

Almost half (47%) of respondents said that one of the reasons they didn’t seek financial advice was that the cost would be too expensive. Interestingly, 40% also admitted they didn’t know how much it might cost to seek financial advice.

How financial advisers charge varies depending on the firm and your circumstances. This may be a one-off cost or an ongoing percentage of your assets. Financial advisers must be clear about the cost of financial advice. Many will also offer an initial meeting free of charge so you can meet them, discuss your needs, and understand if they can help you. If you’d like to discuss our services and fees, please contact us.

When weighing up the cost of financial advice, it’s also important to look at the bigger picture. A study from the International Longevity Centre (ILC) published in 2019, found that advised clients accumulated more wealth than non-advised clients. It found that those that took financial advice between 2001 and 2006 were, on average, £47,706 better off in 2014/16.

2. I can look after my own money

Over a third (35%) of respondents said they didn’t take financial advice as they felt confident enough to do it themselves. Even when you’re in control of your finances, working with a professional can still add value.

Financial advice can help you understand all the opportunities you have and how best to reach your goals. It can also make sure you are taking advantage of tax-efficient options to help make your money go further. Working with a financial planner doesn’t mean giving up control of your assets but provides you with additional support so you can be confident in the decisions you’re making and the long-term impact they could have.

3. Financial advice isn’t for someone like me

You may think that your net worth or a particular asset has to be above a certain figure to make financial advice worthwhile. However, financial planning can help a range of people.

The ILC report mentioned above found those deemed “just getting by” benefited from financial advice more than wealthy clients. Clients in the “just getting by” category saw their pension wealth increase by 24%. This compares to an 11% increase experienced by “affluent” clients. If you’re not sure if financial advice is right for you, please give us a call.

4. It isn’t something I’ve thought about

For one in five (22%) financial advice simply isn’t something they’ve thought about. With day-to-day decisions to make, thinking about your medium- and long-term finances can be a task that gets put off. However, taking even small steps now can help you have a more secure future that meets your aspirations. Booking an initial meeting with a financial planner is a simple step to take in that direction.

5. I don’t like talking about money

Talking about money is still something of a taboo subject. Even among family and friends, money is something we rarely talk about, so it’s to see why some people may be put off talking to a financial planner. In fact, 17% said they were too proud or too embarrassed to talk to someone about how to manage their finances.

If you’ve put off seeking financial advice for this reason, focusing on how an open discussion about your finances can help you reach goals, from retiring early to creating a nest egg for children, can help. Meeting with a financial planner isn’t all about discussing how much your assets are worth either. While your finances play a role, understanding what you want to achieve and how your assets and decisions can help you reach them are just as important.

If you’re ready to discuss your finances or have any questions about how financial advice could help you, 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 gender pay gap: How it goes beyond salaries and affects retirement

The gender pay gap: How it goes beyond salaries and affects retirement

While the gender pay gap has received lots of attention over recent years, the impact it has on pensions is often overlooked. Figures suggest that women are reaching retirement age with far less in their pensions than their male counterparts and it could have a serious impact on the retirement lifestyle they can enjoy.

It’s been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was introduced. The law set out how men and women must receive equal pay for doing equal work. As well as salary, the law also covers things like pension, annual leave allowance, sick pay and performance-related pay, such as bonuses. Despite strides being made in the last five decades, some businesses have faced criticism over pay gaps recently.

While salary and bonuses have often been the focus of these criticisms, the pay gap can lead to a huge pension gap. According to a study by Prospect, the gender pay gap is around 17%, but the gender pensions gap is more than 40%. In retirement, that translates to an income difference of around £7,500 each year.

There are many reasons for the pension gap, including women being more likely to take time away from work to raise children and the long-term impact this has on income. Earning less over their working lives than men also has a cumulative impact on women’s pension savings.

Worryingly, the pension pay gap has barely changed in the last five years. While positive steps have been taken to close the gender pay gap, women could still face significant challenges in retirement. In fact, previous research from Scottish Widows suggested women would need to work an estimated 37 extra years to achieve the same amount of pension as men.

Taking a proactive approach to pension and retirement planning while still working can help women close the gap and be in control of their future. Here are five things you can do to be more secure in retirement.

1, Understand what you’ll receive from the State Pension

While the State Pension isn’t usually enough to live on alone, it does provide an important foundation to build on. In the past, women’s State Pensions have been complex and may have been linked to their husbands’ entitlement. For some nearing retirement now, this may still be the case.

In most cases, you’ll need 35 years’ worth of National Insurance Contributions to receive the full State Pension. If you have missing years, for example, if you took a career break, you may be able to pay voluntary contributions to bridge the gap. Understanding your State Pension is an important part of planning your retirement. You can receive a State Pension forecast here or get in touch with us if you have any questions.

2. Be proactive and engage with your pension

When retirement is still several years away, you may put off engaging with your pension. Being proactive while you’re still working is essential if you’re to reach retirement goals.

Review your pension and how much you’re paying into it. Will the steps you’re currently taking give you the retirement you want? In some cases, even a small increase in contributions can have a large impact.

If you’re not eligible to be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, it’s worth asking your employer if you can still join. Your employer may still contribute on your behalf. Alternatively, you can open and pay into a personal pension, which will still benefit from tax relief to deliver an instant pension boost.

3. Check if your employer will match your contributions

If you’re automatically enrolled into a pension, your employer must contribute a minimum of 3% of your pensionable earnings on your behalf. However, some companies will contribute more or match your own contributions up to a certain percentage. If your employer offers this, it’s well worth maximising your contributions if you can, as you’ll effectively receive more “free money” to put towards your retirement.

4. Consider how life events will affect your pension

Over your working life, some things are likely to affect your pension. Having children and taking time away from work to raise them can have a huge impact on the amount you save for retirement. Understanding this can help you make decisions that mean your retirement stays on track. You may, for example, decide to continue making pension contributions while taking a career break, increase contributions when you return to work, or adjust your retirement plans.

Divorce is another area that can affect a woman’s security in retirement. While pensions are often among the largest assets held, they may be overlooked when going through a divorce. According to International Adviser, just 3% of divorcing couples seek financial advice that could help them understand the long-term financial impact of splitting up and how to build security.

5. Keep in mind how long your pension needs to last for

One of the challenges facing women is that while they have smaller pensions, they often need to last longer. Life expectancy for women is higher than men’s, so your pension is likely to need to stretch further. Failing to consider life expectancy when reviewing your pension could mean your lifestyle ends up falling short of expectations or that you face unexpected financial insecurity later in life.

If you’re not sure if your pension is on track for the retirement you want, please contact us. We’ll help you understand how the steps you take now can provide the financial security you need later in life.

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

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation, which are subject to change in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

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