Archive for the ‘Savings’ Category

Save Like The Young Ones

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

03 Save Like The Young OnesSaving for a rainy day is what lets you buy an umbrella to keep you dry until the rain passes. Alternatively you may be saving with a specific goal in mind, for example to buy a house, or towards a personal pension. Like many aspects of life, your saving needs and habits may change as time goes by.

If you are on the younger side, you may be looking at paying for your wedding, putting together a deposit on a house or planning for the costs of having children. If you are on the older side, then you may already have passed the bulk of life’s financial milestones. Instead you may be looking at saving for your personal goals. Alternatively you may be saving to help your children.

Whatever your age, the guiding principle should be to save money but enjoy life. You should also look at the most efficient and appropriate ways to save.

Treat savings as a key part of the family finances

In addition to day-to-day purchases, such as grocery shopping and utility bills, there are also recurring and foreseeable expenses which need to be managed. For example insurance policies may need to be renewed and household items, such as washing machines, may need to be replaced.

In very simple terms you will either need to have the money to pay for these or you will need to use credit.

It is also advisable to think about potential emergencies or challenges and how you would cope with them. For example having cash savings may form part of a plan for dealing with a period out of paid employment.

Do you really want to keep all your eggs in one basket?

As well as thinking about how much you need to save, it can be helpful to think about where to keep your savings. Here are some ideas.

Physical cash

Although keeping cash in the house (or elsewhere) means that you are missing out on the opportunity to earn interest, it can be convenient to keep some of your savings in physical form. If you need to use cash, but don’t want to, or can’t, go out, then having a stash of cash close to you can be very useful. Likewise if you live in a place where there is a limited number of ATMs, it may be useful to have a Plan B. Obviously storing physical cash has security implications. You will need to think about the pros and cons of this option for yourself.

Instant-Access Savings Accounts

These come in various forms such as standard savings accounts and individual savings accounts (ISAs). While the money is available to withdraw at any time, you will need to ensure that you understand how you go about accessing it. If you feel it is reasonably likely that you will need to withdraw more than the £250 available at ATMs, then you will need to check that there is somewhere accessible where you can pick up your cash, e.g. a local bank branch or Post Office.

Non-Instant-Access Savings Accounts

Some savings vehicles require a notice period before cash can be withdrawn. The reward for this may be better interest rates. Again, you will have to weigh up the reduced convenience against the potential gains.

Alternative Savings Vehicles

Premium bonds do not offer interest, but they do keep their cash value and can be redeemed at any time. Plus there’s always the possibility that you’ll win, somebody has to.

You might also wish to look at putting some of your savings into peer-to-peer lending. Unlike the previous options, there is always a risk of losing capital in this situation. On the other hand, there is the potential of attractive interest rates.

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN.

YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED

Tips For A Cautious Investor

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

investorWith interest rates offering little to get savers excited, now may be a good time to look at other options.

If you are a first time investor, you may be feeling nervous about taking the plunge. That’s fine; there are a range of low risk investments to help you take your first steps into investing.

Here are some tips to get you started.

You’ll Still Need Some Cash (So Make It Work As Hard As It Can)

Having cash to hand acts as a buffer against life’s ups and downs. How much cash you need to keep depends on your situation. Some people like to keep a couple of months’ salary.

That being so, it’s a good idea to make your cash savings work as hard as they can.

From Autumn this year, ISAs (Individual Savings Accounts) will become more flexible. You will be allowed to withdraw and replace money as you wish.

The only condition is that the net contributions stay within the ISA limit for any given year. This means that all or part of your ISA allowance can essentially be used as a standard savings account. It will have the benefit of allowing you to receive interest on your savings without paying tax.

Look At Government-Backed Schemes

Every now and again, governments introduce schemes to encourage saving and/or investing.

At the moment, first-time buyers building a deposit for a house might like to look at the “Help To Buy ISA”. This scheme is due to start in autumn this year. In short, for every £200 saved, the government will add £50, up to a maximum of £3000.

The government also recently ran a “Pensioner Bonds” scheme for over 65s. This is currently closed, but given its huge popularity, it is entirely possible that it will open again.

It’s always worth keeping an eye open for government-backed schemes as they may offer special benefits.

Make Your Investments Match Your Needs

There is a huge range of investment products available.

Instead of thinking in terms of “good” and “bad”, think in terms of “appropriate” or “inappropriate”. In order to decide whether or not an investment is appropriate, you will need to start by taking stock of your current situation.

In particular, you will need to be realistic as to whether you should start investing right now at all. If you have high-interest debts, you may be better to spend any spare cash you have, on paying them down first.

Once you are ready to start investing, you will need to think about your short-, medium- and long-term goals. You will also need to be realistic about your attitude to risk.

You may have heard the expression “the value of an investment can go down as well as up”. This is true. It is also true that some investments carry more risk than others. Some people are happy to accept higher risk for the possibility of higher reward. Other people prefer to take a safer line in their investment strategy.

Of course it is perfectly possible to divide your investment funds between investments with different levels of risk.

Diversification And Dividends – The Two Pillars Of Investment

You’ve probably heard the saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. That often holds true for investments. Putting all your money into high-risk investments creates the risk of losing it all.

By contrast, putting it all into lower-risk investments means you can miss out on some great returns.

By having a mixture of investments of different degrees of risk, you can have the best of both worlds.

Also remember that investments can be for growth or income or a mixture of both. Many listed companies pay dividends to shareholders. These can be reinvested for more growth or used as income.

 

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN. YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED.

Use Your ISA Allowance Or Lose It

Friday, June 26th, 2015

ISAAllowanceThe phrase “use it or lose it” is very relevant to ISAs.  As of April 6th 2015 you have 366 days to save up to £15,240 in your ISA.  Even though 2016 is a leap year, giving you an extra day to achieve this, it’s recommended to get off the starting blocks quickly.  Let’s cover the basics first.

What Is An ISA?

ISA stands for Individual Savings Account.  In very simple terms, you pay into an ISA out of your post-tax income.  You can either keep this money as cash or use it to buy investments.  You should know that there is a government-defined list of ISA-approved investments and you have to choose from these.  Having said that, the list is pretty extensive, so you have a good chance of finding something to suit you.  If you keep it as cash then the interest you earn is tax-free.  Generally speaking income earned from investments is also tax-free, but there are some exceptions to this.

How Does An ISA Work?

You pay into an ISA in the same way as you pay into any other bank account.  As previously mentioned the amount you can deposit in any one year is capped.  It’s important to understand that this cap relates to the amount deposited rather than the amount in the account at the end of the tax year.  In other words, if you withdraw money, you can’t just put it back later.  Otherwise ISAs work much the same way as a standard savings account or as an investment-funding account.  You can even use the same ISA for both purposes, dividing your money as you see fit.

Do I Have to Pay into An ISA in One Go?

No, you can save over the course of the year if you want to.  Alternatively you can pay in a lump sum if that suits you better.

What’s The Difference Between ISAs And NISAs?

Last year ISAs were given a revamp.  In short the limits were increased and they were made more flexible.  For a while these new-format ISAs were referred to as NISAs.  Sometimes they still are, but the term ISA is also in common use.  There’s a limit to how long something can really be considered new.

How Do I Save into A NISA/ISA?

The short answer is however it suits you best.  If you have a regular income, you can set up a standing order to ensure that your ISA is topped up when you get paid.  If your income fluctuates you can deposit money throughout the year as you have it spare.  Alternatively you could save into a regular savings account throughout the year and transfer a lump sum at the end of the tax year.  That way you can take out and replace money without any penalties.

How can I make the most of my NISA/ISA?

Quite simply the more you put in, the more you can potentially get out.  In other words, if you possibly can, use your whole ISA allowance.

If you were unable to max out your ISA last year, now may be a good time to reflect on why that was.  If you simply didn’t have the money, then that’s fair enough.  Is there anything you could do to make your income go a little further this year?  Maybe now would be a good time to review the family finances and run a keen eye over your household budget.  If you did have the money but didn’t put it into an ISA, what specifically stopped you?  Did you just forget?  If so a standing order may be the answer.  Alternatively you could set a reminder on your phone or calendar to double-check if you should be making a deposit.

Increase Your Savings Vs Paying Your Mortgage Off Early

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

SavingsVSMortgagesIn the past six years, the Bank of England has presented home owners who have savings with a dilemma that it is difficult to resolve.

The slashing of the base interest rate to 0.5 percent has resulted in falling rates on mortgages, making borrowing to afford properties cheaper, but it has also seen the return on savings slump.

Therefore, a property owner with spare cash might be less concerned about paying extra on his already cheap home loan, but also might feel less than incentivised to pour cash into a savings account that offers a three percent APR.

This blog doesn’t pretend to have the answers to this particular conundrum and couldn’t give advice even if it did. Instead, in the next few paragraphs we will explore the various options of home owners and savers.

Paying off the mortgage faster.

By paying £10, £20, £50 or £100 extra off your mortgage every month you are speeding up the day that you finally are able to live mortgage free.

Being able to limit the amount of time you spend in hock to the bank will have the effect of cutting down on the overall interest payments you make.

It might seem like quite a sacrifice at the time, but the quicker the debt is repaid the less it will cost you in the long run.

If this is the case, then why doesn’t everyone pay off their mortgages early? Most of us are fixated on spending in the moment and enjoying money while we have it, instead of delaying gratification for the future.

If you are planning to pay off extra on your mortgage every year then you need to ensure it is a sustainable monthly commitment.

Don’t commit to overpaying more than you can afford, it might be easier to start off with a conservative sum that you know will be easy to stick to and gradually increase it as the months go by.

For some over payers the initial excitement and enthusiasm for excess payments wains as the months go by and ambitions slip. Therefore, in order for overpaying to be a serious, realistic strategy it must be maintained over the long term.

Adding to Savings

As mentioned above, the current financial climate is not one that suits savers. There are few incentives for prudent types who have spent years building up their nest egg.

The rates of return, whilst higher than the base rate set by the Bank of England are generally far lower than they were before 2008.

So why save at all?

There are still reasons to save, it is always important to have emergency funds tucked away, irrespective of interest rates.

Also your savings, if put in an ISA will enjoy protection from taxation and will accrue some interest every month.

The rate of interest is also unlikely to remain at a historic low either, meaning that in the next few years the returns on savings will inevitably improve.

The inevitable choice

As interest rates gradually increase, there will be an incentive both to save and to overpay on a mortgage.

Savings will be better rewarded with higher interest, but mortgage debt will be more expensive making it more important to repay it as quickly as possible.

Without a thorough audit of your circumstances and your financial strengths and weaknesses, it is difficult to know precisely which option to take, overpayment or saving.

This means that before you commit to either, it might be an idea to get some independent financial advice.

YOUR HOME MAY BE REPOSSESSED IF YOU DO NOT KEEP UP REPAYMENTS ON YOUR MORTGAGE

Protect Your Portfolio

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Protect Your PortfolioFor all the old jokes about change being the only constant, change also has a habit of making people nervous. Stock markets are ultimately made up of people – traders on one side and the employees of the companies they trade with on the other. Because of this the prospect of significant change can be reflected in the performance of the stock exchange. This effect can often be noticed around election times in general.

Sterling and the Importance of Image

Outside of the Euro zone, most individual countries have their own currency (at least officially). Therefore in order for international trade to take place, there has to be an agreed rate at which one currency is exchanged against another. While individuals may not think of themselves as being involved in the global market, the truth is that it impacts the daily life of pretty much everyone. Many of the products on supermarket shelves are imported and the UK exports both goods and services. Therefore the strength of any currency as compared to other matters to most people’s money management more than you might initially think. In many ways the relative strength of currencies can be seen as an opinion on the prospects of the countries in question. Therefore, when a country’s future is uncertain, such as in a period before an election, that country’s currency may become weaker in comparison to countries with more stability.

Will the Pound Sterling Start to Spin?

It is a reasonable expectation that markets will react when a new government is formed. If the market’s reaction is negative then it is entirely possible that there will be a fall both in the value of the stock market and the value of sterling itself. This may well be only temporary, but this may be of small comfort to investors who prefer stability. Those old enough to remember the 1990s may still recall “Black Wednesday” (16th September 1992) when sterling collapsed and the UK was forced to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Investors might want to look at their options for protecting their portfolio against a severe drop in the value of sterling. This could be a particularly important step for those with a more international lifestyle, for example those planning on retiring abroad or sending (grand) children to study abroad.

What Does This Mean in Practical Terms?

There are many different approaches to investing, no matter what your attitude to risk you can probably find one which fits in with your financial plan. Some people like to invest directly into stocks and shares, others prefer investing in funds. Whether you are investing for growth or income, whether you specialise in a particular sector or prefer tracker funds or managed funds, you will have to understand that markets and currencies have their ups and downs. At the same time, investing can also be a classic example of the phrase “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. Opening up your investing horizons to opportunities overseas and in other currencies can be a very helpful way of reducing your exposure to (temporary) issues with the UK market.

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN. YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED

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Fancy Retiring to an Exotic Marigold Hotel?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Fancy Retiring to an Exotic Marigold Hotel?In the UK today 40 percent of people consistently put away too little money each month to fund the cost of their retirements. Too many people simply spend for today being unaware that tomorrow waits for nobody.

Throughout the working lives for many of us the day on which we will need to draw on our pensions seems consistently far away.

Even for those lucky enough to be enjoying their youth in a carefree way, the fact remains that by failing to invest in the present, the time they enjoy is being waste.

The government has announced in the last twelve months a huge series of changes and shake-ups in the pension market and savers will have more freedom than ever before to decide how they access their pension savings from the beginning of the new tax year.

The question of how much to put away each month into a pension is a complex one and in this blog, we will address what you need to consider before you arrive at a fixed sum.

The first thing to consider is what type of lifestyle you hope to enjoy once you’ve retired and at what age you see yourself retiring.

Many people leave their working lives before reaching the once statutory 65, and age discrimination legislation now prevents mandatory retirement at any age.

It is possible, therefore, to retire earlier or later, but you will need the finances to sustain you.

The rather bleak question of how long you will live in your retirement also needs to be addressed.

New pension rules ending the compulsory purchase of annuities means that when you do retire, a portion of the pension pot could be used to pay off debts such as mortgages.

This will leave savers with less of a recurring monthly income but also lower overheads and more security.

The chances are that if you are reading this, you may already have a pension plan. If you are a UK tax payer, you may also have access to a state pension through paying national insurance.

This means that you might be in a better position than you thought, so a first step should be an audit of what savings and investments you have.

The government’s Pensions Tracing Service, can help you find any obscure pots of money that you are entitled to. Alternatively if you would like some advice or help in devising a pensions strategy for the future or finding a pension fund that suits you, why not speak to a professional adviser.

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN. YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED

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Is The State Pension Like Jupiter Ascending?

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Is The State Pension Like Jupiter Ascending?The film Jupiter Ascending is arguably a sci-fi version of Cinderella. Jupiter (Mila Kunis) lives a life of drudgery until she discovers her true destiny. The new state pension rules aim to save those planning for retirement from a life of penny-pinching. In short those reaching state pension age from April 2016 will receive a substantially higher state pension (about £148 per week instead of £113.10 per week) – but they will have to pay National Insurance (NI) for longer to get it. Until April 2016, you can claim a full state pension with 30 years’ NI. After April 2016 you will need 35.

A Quick Guide to NI and the State Pension

If you are employed then you will be paying National Insurance and therefore contributing to your state pension. If you are self employed and earning £5,885 or less you can choose whether or not you pay NI. Obviously your choice will affect your entitlement (or otherwise) to a state pension. For those taking a career break to raise children, registering for child benefit will ensure that NI continues to be paid. This means that in terms of an overall financial plan, it can be worthwhile registering for child benefit even if your family’s overall income is too high for you to receive any money directly. It could also worth noting that these credits can be transferred to working age-family members who provide childcare e.g. grandparents. In other words, if you are working and therefore building up excess NI contributions through child benefit, you can pass the NI credits from child benefit to other people who actually can benefit from them. This may be a substantial boost to them in terms of their own money management.

A Note Regarding Contracting Out

Under the current system, there is essentially a two-tier state pension. There is a basic state pension and an additional state pension. At this point, under certain circumstances, people can opt out (contract out) of paying NI towards the additional state pension. Put quite simply, as of April 2016, this option will cease. The government has a formula in place for calculating where people who have contracted out stand in terms of NI payments. Anyone in this situation can register at gov.uk (or nidirect.gov.uk) to get a project of their pension entitlement. This could be a useful exercise for other people too.

Alternative Pension Choices

Politicians of all persuasions are united in their concern over the potential effects of an ageing population saving too little for their retirement. Because of this, they are becoming increasingly active in their attempts to motivate people to save in the here and now to pay for their future. Auto-enrolment into a workplace pension scheme (“We’re all in”) is one example of this. Of course, any individual’s ability to save voluntarily into a pension scheme depends entirely on their ability to meet their needs in the present. It is also fair to say that there are other options for saving for retirement, some of which offer tax efficient options (e.g. ISAs). However, the fact that pension contributions attract at least some degree of tax relief is a clear and potentially significant benefit to saving for retirement through a pension fund. This benefit can be further enhanced with contributions from employers. Therefore, while saving into a pension may not be right for everyone, it is certainly an option which deserves serious consideration.

In short

It’s never too early to start saving for retirement and even late is better than never. The more effectively working-age people plan for the time when they will no longer be working, the likelier it is that they will be able to enjoy the experience of being retired.

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN. YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED

Cashing In On The New NISA

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

FB - NISAFor decades now, successive governments have aimed to encourage saving. Arguably it is very much in their interests to do so. People with savings, pretty much by definition, are less likely to run into financial difficulties. This means that they are also less likely to need state benefits. In recent years, governments have made particular efforts to encourage saving for retirement (“We’re all in!”). While pensions have been the most traditional form of retirement savings, NISAs may also be worth investigating too.

The start of the ISA age

ISAs were introduced way back in 1999. Then as now they essentially provided a tax-efficient wrapper for savings and investments. To begin with there were two kinds of ISAs. A cash ISA received the entire interest income from their cash deposits without any tax being charged. A stocks and shares ISA was used for investments. The rules around tax were a bit more complicated, but they were still very tax efficient. People could choose to have one or the other or both. There was, however, a twist to the rules around ISA limits. Investors could choose to put their whole ISA allowance into a stocks and shares ISA. Alternatively they could choose to split the allowance between a stocks and shares ISA and a cash ISA. Those who did so still received the full ISA allowance, but there was a limit to how much they could keep in cash. Savers who simply wanted a tax-efficient savings vehicle, could choose just to have a cash ISA. If they did so, however, they could only save the maximum permitted cash allowance. ISAs were intended as products for the medium to longer term so the limits referred to the total amount holders could deposit. In other words, if you withdrew money from an ISA you couldn’t just replace it.

ISAs in practice

When ISAs were first introduced (financial year 1999/2000) investors could choose only to have a stocks and shares ISA in which case they could invest up to £7000. Alternatively they could choose to have both a stocks and shares ISA and a cash ISA, in which case they could invest £4000 via the former and save £3000 in the latter. Savers who only wanted a cash ISA could only save up to £3000. The limits and the ratios of cash to stocks and shares changed somewhat over the years but the basic principles remained the same. Then on 1st July 2014, the government introduced NISAs.

Having a NISA is so much nicer than having an ISA

Fundamentally NISAs work the same way as the old ISAs. The government used the introduction of NISAs as an opportunity to raise the deposit limits (to £15,000), but there is nothing particularly unusual about that. The headline change, however, is that the ISA allowance can now be used as the individual wishes. In other words, savers can now choose to use their entire £15,000 to hold cash, or in stocks and shares. Of course, there is a difference between being able to do something and it being a good idea. With that in mind, it may be helpful to get some professional advice from a qualified financial adviser before deciding how best to use your NISA allowance.

Those thinking of inheritance planning might be interested to learn of another change. In the days of ISAs, spouses could inherit the contents of ISAs tax-free but had to pay tax on the income from them. Now, however, the income from ISAs is included under the spousal transfer rules. (These rules also apply to those in civil partnerships).

THE VALUE OF INVESTMENTS AND INCOME FROM THEM MAY GO DOWN. YOU MAY NOT GET BACK THE ORIGINAL AMOUNT INVESTED

How To Protect The Value Of Your Home

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

How To Protect The Value Of Your HomeA decade ago, adding value to most properties was simplicity in itself, you simply bought a house and waited. This was during an unsustainable housing market boom that ended in an epic slump and it isn’t one we should be hoping for again anytime soon.

Protecting your home’s equity now takes more active involvement but home improvements needn’t be a complex, tortuous business if you follow a few simple rules.

Emotional buyers

After house hunters have considered their budget, they may choose the property that speaks to them on an emotional level.

People may buy based on how they feel, far more than they buy based on rational, logical thinking.

With this in mind, it is possible to create an attractive, sellable ambience in your home without spending a fortune.

First Impressions

Before house buyers see the interior of your home, they will see the garden, walk up the path and look at the windows and the front door.

All of these have the potential to kill a sale if they are in a poor state of upkeep, so it makes sense to start with some essential garden upkeep.

It might be a good idea to look at the exterior of your own home from the stand point of a potential buyer and think about what they might find appealing and what might be a potential turn off.

Decor

Some home owners believe that spending thousands on new bathrooms, conservatories, extensions and kitchens are the only way to add serious value to a home.

However, big spending home improvement projects eat into any profits you might make from a sale, so it is always a good idea to find cheaper, more effective ways of creating a fresh, bright, appealing atmosphere.

Firstly, de-clutter. You are in the business of creating a blank(ish) canvas that potential buyers can project their own personality on to. It’s hard to imagine living in a place that is full of someone else’s odds and ends.

Secondly a new coat of paint in neutral colours (don’t make any ‘loud’ statements when you are trying to sell) and some minimalist soft furnishings will make an enormous difference.

Jobs

What have you put off for months? How many leaky taps, dead light bulbs and half finished painting jobs are there around your home?

It goes without saying that you need to get these fixed if you don’t want buyers to assume you’re selling a cheap fixer-upper (they’ll still buy, but at fixer-upper prices).

The home you have lived in for years is your most valuable asset so it makes sense to maximise its value when you come to sell it. One piece of torn linoleum in the bathroom or a blocked gutter could cost you dearly.

Getting Help

It might be that DIY is not your strong suit, in which case, there is no shame in hiring an expert to help you with a few jobs.

What The General Election Means For Your Retirement Plans

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

What The General Election Means For Your Retirement PlansGeneral election time often creates both excitement and nervousness and for much the same reason – the prospect of change. With the battle heating up, the economy in general and pension reforms in particular look like becoming key battlegrounds in the approach to May 7th. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the three main parties have indicated is in store in terms of retirement planning in general and pensions in particular.

The Liberal Democrats

At the moment, the Liberal Democrats’ proposals are still in “pre-manifesto”-stage, i.e. they are still to be made final. Current indications are that they plan to adopt a tax-and-spending economic strategy. Hence pension savers can expect there to be new levies on their pension pots. There will also be a reduction in the amount people can save tax-free in these pension pots. At current time, the Liberal Democrats are talking about capping them at £1M, which would be a reduction of 20% on the current figure.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party has also yet to release its manifesto; however it has shown itself open to reducing tax relief on pension contributions made by higher earners. Specifically it has mentioned targeting those earning over £150K pa and slashing the relief on pension contributions to 20%. Labour believes that this would raise over £1bn, which they say they would then spend on job creation. This is in addition to reintroducing the 50p rate of income tax to incomes of over £150K pa Labour have indicated that they are in favour of a mansion tax, which they say they would use to fund the NHS. As a final retirement-related point, Labour have also proposed abolishing the Winter Fuel Payment for the most affluent pensioners.

The Conservative Party

Again, the Conservatives have yet to release their manifesto. They have, however, stated that they are committed to “dignity and security” in later years. They also have a track record in government, which could give some clues to their outlook. First of all it was the Conservatives who introduced the “Triple Lock” pension policy, i.e. the guarantee that the state pension would rise in line with inflation, wages or 2.5%, whichever is the highest. While Labour and the Liberal Democrats are both in favour of this “in principle”, neither has, as yet, made a commitment to keeping the Triple Lock, whereas the Conservatives have guaranteed to keep it until at least the 2020 election.

Recently the Conservatives have removed the obligation to use a pension fund to buy an annuity, with effect from 6th April 2015. This means that pensioners can choose between the freedom of keeping control of their pension pot versus the security of an annuity. This has been the subject of some controversy; in that the elderly will splurge their earnings (possibly for the best of reasons) and thereby make themselves dependent upon state support in their latter years, particularly if they need long-term care. Given that the logic behind offering tax relief on pension contributions was essentially to ensure that people were able to save enough to have an income in retirement, it is an open question as to how Labour or the Liberal Democrats would respond to this if they were to form a government. They could choose to let sleeping dogs lie, they could choose to bring back the obligation to buy an annuity (albeit possibly at a later age) or they could use this change to justify changes to tax relief on pension contributions.

The Conservatives have announced other changes, which essentially make it easier to transfer pension pots between generations upon the death of the saver. Again, it is unclear whether or not Labour or the Liberal Democrats would continue to support this.

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