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Post Brexit transition and financial services in the EU

Now that we have officially left the European Union and entered a process of “transition”, a few of our ex-pat clients have been asking me what effect this now has; and how will it impact beyond 31 December 2020.

How will Financial Services and investment opportunities change post 2020?

Dealing with the longer-term question is easy, although it’s also a little unsatisfactory, as the simple answer is that nobody know for sure what the financial and investment landscape will look like post 2020’s trade negotiations with the EU.

Popular opinion is that it would be political suicide to hand control of the jewel in the crown (our financial services industry) over to the EU, or to let the EU impact, change or restrict it in any significant way. That would be bad for the UK, the EU and the world economy in general. The feeling is that we’ll be left with something that looks largely like what exists today.

What is the immediate impact on Bridgewater Financial Services dealing with our EU clients?

Well the simple answer is ‘nothing’. There has, and there will be, no change to our ability to full service and advise our clients throughout the European Union. We are currently pass-ported, via the Financial Services Authority, to help and advise new and existing clients in most EU jurisdictions.

In terms of the UK we are, and will remain, integrated with the European Union with regards to regulation, distribution and classification of all investment funds.

With the Irish UCITS funds remaining fully available in all of their current locations. 

As far as Bridgewater Financial Services is concerned, we will continue to go about our usual business and deal with our EU clients up to 31 December 2020 without any change whatsoever. At the start of 2021 we will either carry on dealing direct with our EU clients, or we will do so via an EU company. It all rather depends upon the outcome of the trade negotiations that will take place throughout the year. 

Once we have a realistic indication of what the outcome of those negotiations is likely to be, we will advise all of our existing clients on how we will go about providing continuation of service and advice. 

Rest assured that we will continue to provide our advice and services in as seamlessly as possibly. Our clients in the European Union are extremely important to us and we understand how important we are to them too. Which is why we will continue to be providing unfettered access to our advice and services well into 2021 and beyond.

Is there anything you should be doing?

Again, the general answer to that question is ‘no’. If there is an individual case that we feel needs examining, we will contact you direct and advice you on the opportunities or concerns we have identified. 

If you are still uneasy regarding the future impact of trade negotiations on your investments and portfolios, then please get in touch with us at Bridgwater Financial Services and we will be delighted to help and advise.

But do rest assured that there are no immediate changes coming. We understand that uncertainty, but there really is no need to panic or worry. 

We will keep you fully informed of any changes, once they become clear. In the meantime, as we always say, the best form of action in uncertain investment markets is to simply wait and see.

Changes in Capital Gains Tax and your home!

Selling a property? Then read on about the changes in CGT coming your way.

This year, on 6 April 2020, HRMC are proposing some changes that could significantly increase the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) paid on the disposal of any residential property. 

That, along with a decrease in the time you have to pay CGT, should generate a one-off additional increase in CGT paid to the Government by around £7bn.

Changes in CGT on your main home

If, like the majority of residential sales, you have occupied the property throughout the period of your ownership as your main residence, then there will be no CGT due on the sale. 

However, if you did once occupy the property as your main residence, but have since moved out and let the property, or kept the property of any other reason, then these changes may well affect you. 

Even getting divorced, separated or working away could see your traditional entitlement to full CGT relief significantly diminished. 

Put simply, if any of the above scenarios apply to you, then you will likely face a larger CGT bill if you transfer or sell your property on or after 6 April 2020.

Letting relief 

Since 1980 the valuable tax break that is Letting Relief that was applied to any property that was your main residence, allowed any private gain that remained after Private Residence relief, to be further reduced by up to £40,000. 

Not only is this £40,000 exempt of CGT, if you qualify, but it is also available to each owner of the property. Meaning that a property could deliver a massive £80,000 CGT exemption for a property owning couple.

The bad news here is that for any disposals made on or after 6 April 2020, HMRC is looking to limit the availability of Letting Relief, by restricting it to those landlords who share occupancy with their tenant. Unfortunately for everyone else, it looks as though letting relief will no longer apply.

If you’ve already moved out, then the clock is ticking

In most cases Final-Period Exemption allows you to have moved out of the disposed of property in the last 18 months and still avoid CGT, even if you now live elsewhere. 

However, from 6 April 2020, this will be reduced to just 9 months before CGT becomes applicable.

Those with a disability, or who have moved to a care home, will still be able to claim private residence relief for the last 3 years of ownership.

A decrease in the time to pay

As HMRC take away with one hand, they would also prefer that you paid a little quicker with the other. 

As CGT is included in your self-assessment due on 31 January, following the year of the disposal of the property, this means that HMRC can be waiting for up to 10 to 22 months after the date of the sale.

HMRC believe that they far are better placed to look after that lump sum than you are. |

So after 6 April 2020 you’ll have just 30 days from the date of completion to clear any CGT liability. All this will be done via a residential Property return and the tax will be treated as a payment on account of the CGT tax due for that year.

So what can you do? What are the opportunities?

Well obviously the single most important thing you can do is to be aware of the changes coming. So the very fact that you are reading this sentence should provide you with some sense of calm. 

Other practical things you may want to consider are:

• Speaking to a knowledgeable financial advisor, who understands these matters

• If you are letting out your old main residence, then workout how much additional tax would be payable if you were to sell after 5 April 2020

• If you have multiple properties and are considering selling or gifting, then consider which properties you should focus upon under the lens of CGT

• Consider disposing of property assets before 5 April 2020, if your tax position suits that choice

• If you individually own a property and you have a spouse or civil partner, then consider transferring ownership into joint names prior to any disposal. This can allow you to take advantage of both of your annual allowances and lower any potential CGT.

A bridge over troubled waters

Although this isn’t the start to the new decade that many private landlords want, there are always actions you can take to mitigate the impact upon your own finances. 

So talk to an expert today.

As always, were here to help, whenever you need us. If you do have any further questions regarding the new CGT regulations, then please get in touch with us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

20-20 vision for your finances

Happy 2020!

We’ve just stepped into a new decade and all the surprises that brings. But as we set off on the next chapter, I always think that the exciting thing is the uncertainty. Yes we know some things are definitely going to happen, like most of our New Year’s resolutions will fall by the wayside, the UK will leave the EU and that we’ll all get older and hopefully a little wiser. 

However when it comes to the markets, we can’t know for sure how they are likely to impact our personal finances. Having said that, we do have the next best thing available to us; our ability to review and amend!

Whatever your long-term plans may be, now is the time to review how the last year or two has performed for you and to put yourself in the right position to take full advantage of the financial opportunities now available. A review of your Savings, Estate Planning, Insurance Covers, Investments and Pensions now will allow you to make any changes and tweaks in your finances in order to make sure that you reach the end of the 2020’s in the financial position that you set out to achieve.

Now’s the perfect time to inspect an ISA

If you don’t currently have an ISA in your portfolio, then can I suggest that you add one to your list of things to consider this year.

It’s a great tax-efficient way of approaching investments, as your returns are free of income and capital gains tax. You can invest in an ISA up to a limit of £20,000 of which £4,000 can be paid into a LISA (for those eligible). 

As the annual deadline for ISA’s is 5 April 2020, this means that you potentially have two bites of the cherry available to you throughout 2020. By that I mean that you can currently take advantage of the ISA Tax-free opportunity for the remaining of the tax year, plus you can then do the same again on 6 April 2020. Please don’t leave it too late though, as some providers take several working days to process new ISAs, so leaving things until the beginning of April may mean you miss the closing deadline.

Take a look at a LPA And Will

The chances are that you could be amongst over 50% of the UK adults, including many in their 50’s and 60’s, who don’t currently have a Will in place. If that’s the case, could I respectfully suggest that writing one really should be high on your financial agenda for 2020. 

Whilst you may already have a Will in place, or high on your ‘To Do’ list, can I also prompt you to consider Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), as incapacity often strikes without warning. Which means that sorting out a LPA can save your estate and it’s beneficiaries considerable costs and avoid unnecessary and lengthy delays.

If this all sounds a bit daunting, please be assured that putting Will and a LPA in place is nowhere near as difficult or costly as many people think. If you are unsure regarding whom to approach to best sort these things out, then start by contacting us. We can easily arrange Wills and LPAs through our sister company Bridgewater Wealth Protection www.bridgewaterwp.com

If you do already have a Will or LPA, then please take this reminder as an opportunity to review it. Checking that it is up to date and that it reflects your current wishes.

Improve your Insurance

Even if you have insurance covers in place, now is an opportune time to review things. Our advice would be to just make sure that each plan covers you for everything you need and that the costs are correct. Your circumstances may well have changed since you took any cover out. If that’s the case, then it’s critical that you ensure you are covered for all you require and that there are no plans available that could provide better cover and possibly a lower premium too.

The wrong product can end up costing you a great deal of unnecessary expense and stress, so please take the time to review and compare cover options.

Investigate your Investments

After a bumpy year (The Queen’s words, not mine) in politics and the markets, now is an excellent time to take stock and to just check that your investment strategy is on course to achieve your goals. 

An excellent starting point would be the latest report regarding your mutual funds. There you can check to make sure that they still match your appetite for risk and that you are also happy with where your money is being invested.


A good tip, for when you consider your investments, especially when thinking about your exposure to risk, is to always include your pension, ISA’s funds and stocks together. Do this even when the funds are spread around different accounts and investment products, that way you will get a better feel for your overall portfolio.

Peer into your pension

Lastly and certainly not least, is your pension. 

Your pension is one of the most valuable assets you can have, yet it often gets overlooked; and I feel that more often than not, we don’t give pensions the attention that they deserve. 

Regular reviews of your Pension makes excellent financial sense, especially as legislation has changed massively in the last few years. So if you haven’t recently reviewed your pension position, then now would be a very good moment to do so.

During your review, ask yourself the following questions:

• Are the level of your contributions correct? Too little could leave you
wanting in retirement and too much could create problems with your
Reduced Lifetime Allowance
• Does the strategy still fit with your time horizon, changes in your current
situation or attitudes to your investment risk?
• Is your pension scheme up to date and able to take advantage of the new
pension freedoms, or is it an older scheme that can’t benefit?
• Does your pension fit with your retirement and estate planning?
• If your pension is a Final Salary Scheme, then with the increases in
transfer values, is it worth requesting a transfer value and restructuring
the pension?

Although this isn’t every question you should ask, they are certainly questions you should know the answers to, if you want to ensure that your pension is in the best place it can be.

We’re here to help whenever you need us

Although no one can see into the future, having a close look at your finances now is the difference between approaching 2020 with a clear financial strategy or setting yourself up for a cry of ‘I should have gone to Specsavers’ later in the year! 

I hope that this blog goes someway to starting the new financial year off on the right foot. If however there is something specific you would like to talk to us about regarding your plans, then please get in touch with us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

Wishing you all a Happy and Prosperous 2020.

Now’s not the time to play ‘financial chicken’

Sometimes it’s good to be the odd one out!

The election is over, now let the dust settle

Finally we have the outcome and a new strong direction for the UK, with Brexit now happening in the way that Boris Johnson has planned. There will be international reactions to the new political landscape and the markets will no doubt respond too. In fact, at the moment the exit poll was announced Sterling rose significantly; and we can expect to see further fluctuations across the board in the UK markets. Which is why, whatever way you voted, I’d like to just focus your attention on your finances and what you should and shouldn’t do next. 

Psychologists tell us that we have been hardwired over the last 100,000 years to behave the way we do. With most of these behaviors being based on primal instincts that determine our survival as individuals and as a species. So in many ways, these behaviors are so deep routed at a biological level, we don’t stand much of a chance of avoiding them as individuals. That is of course, if they are not pointed out and guarded against.

The modern world really is an extremely new phenomenon, especially when we look at it through the lens of evolution. The vast interconnections and the exchange of up to the minute information and ideas are truly phenomenal. So have some sympathy for that part of your brain that has been hardwired to live in a world that lasted for around 98,000 years and now no longer exists; and never doubt the influence it still has over you and your finances!

Here’s how a caveman still influences your decision-making

We all carry around these hardwired modes of behaviour; and one that may come to the forefront in the next couple of months is what psychologists call ‘The Bandwagon Effect’

There is an incredibly powerful compulsion to follow the herd. It’s been bred into us at the very base level of our existence; and in uncertain and stressful times, it comes right to the front of our thinking. That’s because for tens of thousands of years, belonging to and conforming to a group was a very successful strategy for survival. Staying with the group is far better for survival than going it alone. Hence, over thousands and thousands of years the desire to follow the herd has been bread into all of us over time – and is now a fundamental human instinct. 

How many times have you fallen for the appeal of a busy mediocre restaurant verses a fabulous empty one saying “Let’s eat here, it looks full so it must be good”?.. It’s the Bandwagon Effect in full swing.

When the wheels come off and that impacts your finances

An excellent and extreme example of The Bandwagon Effect causing financial problems was laid out in the dramatic rise and crash of Bitcoin. That particular bandwagon was one that people couldn’t get on fast enough, despite common sense telling them that it wouldn’t last. For the majority of ordinary investors, they bought Bitcoin at the height of its value only to watch the value plummet. 

Whilst Bitcoin is an extreme example, I use it to illustrate the Bandwagon’s grip on sane minds. So my words of caution are aimed at the post-election markets in general, over the short-term.

March to the beat of your own drum

Over the next few weeks or months the markets are going to react to the first quarter of the new Government. That may well create fluctuations and the odd perceived stampede toward the Bandwagons. My advice would be to bide your time and wait. 


Think about theold adage ‘If you see a bandwagon, it’s already too late’

Markets hate uncertainty and have been reacting to the political deadlock that we have been living with through the post Brexit Referendum. 

However, now is the time for the markets to settle again. It’s certainly not the time to take peer-pressured decisions on investment acquisitions or disposals. If you spot an opportunity whose value is created by a sudden influx or departure of groups of investors, please think again. Remember that bandwagons often artificially alter a market for the short term. So get some impartial advice and consider your options calmly and pragmatically. Please bear in mind that the powerful drives to follow the herd have been with us for over 100,000 years and have served us incredibly well. However, they are your worst enemy when it comes to the financial markets.

Unleash your inner Spock!

I’m not sure if there is such a thing as The Bandwagon Effect on Vulcan. However, I would say that approaching the financial markets with a Vulcan like emotionless clarity, and a determination not to get carried along with the crowd, is the only way to overcoming the possible pitfalls of market hysteria. 

The markets are probably ahead of you anyway

Most of the serious financial markets have had any political upheavals already costed into them. So what you will be witnessing in any fluctuations is merely a settling of the market.

Also, don’t forget that the markets are now interlinked throughout the world. So, whilst the UK General Election may seem incredibly important to us, to the international markets it’s just a small bump in a very long and well-established road – and nowhere near as significant to performance than many of us believe.

Don’t just take our word for it though – talk to us too!

If you have any questions or worries regarding the current or future financial and investment markets, then pleasecontact us at Bridgewater Financial Services where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

Life Assurance

Here’s a lovely Life Assurance idea..

..how about the taxman pays around half of yours?

If you take out a Relevant Life Plan, then he (or she) will.
If you want to provide yourself and your employees with an individual death in service benefit that pays a lump sum if the individual insured dies or is diagnosed with a terminal illness, thena Relevant Life Plan (RLP) is something you should seriously consider.

Is it for you and if not why not?
If you’re an employer, looking to give the peace of mind that Death in Service cover can provide, but you don’t have enough employees to justify a group scheme, then a RLP could be just what you’ve been looking for.

If you’re a Director wanting your own individual Death in Service cover, without including your employees, then a RLP could be for you.

If you’re a high earning individual where Death in Service isn’t currently a part of your lifetime allowance of £1,055,000 (2019-2020), then considering an RLP could prove to be advantageous.

However, if your business is a sole trader, equity partnership or equity members of a Limited Liability Partnership, and doesn’t have an employer/employee relationship, then unfortunately a RLP won’t be suitable.

How does the tax saving work?
Almost all company directors who have some life assurance are paying the premiums personally. This usually this means that they are paying premiums out of pre-taxed income or they’re paying through their company and attracting a P11D benefit-in-kind penalty. However a RLP is paid directly by the company, with premiums allowable as a business expense. This obviously means that Corporation Tax Relief can be claimed and no Employer’s National Insurance is payable either. But that’s not all, the RLP policy does not count as a benefit in kind, so it doesn’t attract Income Tax or National Insurance payments either.

For example, the real cost of a £200 per month insurance policy, to a high rate taxpayer, after tax and NI is around £392 gross. By taking out a RLP, and paying premiums through the company, avoiding the income tax and NI; the remaining £192 produces an extra £98pm of net income available to the high rate taxpayer, whilst providing the same cover. This is a real saving of 49% and for a basic rate taxpayer; the saving is around 36%.

So why isn’t everyone doing this? 
It seems like a no-brainer that anyone who falls into the category of qualifying for a RLP would immediately switch to one. So why aren’t they more popular?
The simple answer is most company directors and, I’m sad to say, their accountants simply haven’t heard of a Relevant Life Plan.

That’s possibly because when the RLP was originally launched, it was only offered by one provider and the message didn’t really get out to a wide audience. Fortunately for you, you read my blogs and I’m here to tell you all about it

Who can you talk to regarding a Relevant Life Plan?
Not so long ago there was only one company who spotted the opportunity to offer a RLP. Their unique approach took advantage of pension simplifications, which meant that due to the way that life insurance was set up under trust, and because the limited company paid the premiums, no benefit in kind issues impacted upon the director or employee.

Understandably other providers held back from entering the RLP market, whilst they waited to ensure that the legislation that the RLP took advantage of was robust and unchallenged. Happily, now that the principles have gone unchallenged, a further half a dozen or so big name providers have now also entered the RLP marketplace, which helps ensure that premiums remain low.

Let’s have a quick look under the covers
The first question people generally want answering is, how much cover can I have?

Just like any other Death in Service policies, the sum assured with a Relevant Life Policy is based upon a multiple of the insured annual remuneration. As a director, remuneration is based upon salary with the addition of dividends and the addition of any bonuses.

Depending upon the provider you pick for the RLP, the multiples may vary depending upon the age of the director being insured. Usually though, you can expect the range to be anything from 10 to 25 times remuneration. So get some independent expert financial advice, before picking your RLP provider.

Get the right advice
As always, if you have any questions regarding your current or future financial situation, especially regarding a Relevant Life Policy and which provider best suits your individual needs, then please contact us at Bridgewater Financial Services where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

Smart thinking AIMed to reduce your inheritance task exposure

An IHT opportunity you may not know about

As the game of cat and mouse continues with the government and taxpayers, the scope of tax planning opportunities that are legitimately open for high earners has been steadily reducing in number and variety.

The latest industry figures show that taxpayers paid £5.3bn in inheritance tax in the last year to February 2018. That’s a rise from the £4.7bn paid in 2016/17. UHY Hacker Young, have suggested that there is a real scope to use Business Relief (BR) to further lessen Inheritance Tax (IHT) bills to HMRC. With forecasts predicting that the value of BR to have risen 8% in 2017/18, from £655m in 2016/17.

Investing in the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), with an Inheritance Tax (IHT) Plan,enables qualifying taxpayers to reduce IHT bills, through investments made in unlisted companies and other business assets.Not only that, but both investors and the government seem to like what’s on offer; as it can produce healthy savings and returns, as well as contributing to the wider economy and create jobs and growth.

An alternative to a Trust that’s worth considering

When you invest in the AIM market, most companies are eligible for Business Relief (BR); and, if held for at least two years, the shares are classed as business assets, so are completely free from IHT.

An AIM Portfolio IHT Plan can also provide you with greater flexibility than a trust and can also be less expensive and time-consuming to set up.

Unlike a Trust, you don’t have to wait for seven years in order for your assets to escape the remit of IHT, as your AIM IHT Plan qualifies for tax relief after just two years as opposed to seven – provided the AIM shares continue to be held thereafter.

Another benefit over a Trust, is that you no longer run the risk of losing access to your investments, as you retain control of your assets at all times. You are also free to increase contributions in the future, as well as possibly earning equity related returns on your AIMs investments.

You can even utilize an existing, or new, (ISA) 

You can either transfer an existing ISA, or set one up in your AIM IHT Plan. Which has the double advantage of the holdings in the AIM companies qualifying for BR. You’ll also be exempt from any income tax on dividends and capital gains tax on profitable disposals. 

How are savings on Inheritance Tax achieved? 

Providing you have held the shares for over two years then, under the current taxation rules, there us unlimited exemption from IHT on all shares that qualify for BR held by you when you pass away.  

Pretty much all of the companies traded on AIM, with the exception of those principally engaged in property or investment activities, qualify for BR. Which means that, under the current legislation, all of the applicable shares in your AIM portfolio will be seen to be business assets, which means that they are exempt from IHT if owned for more than two years.

As the IHT exemption is only available on the qualifying shares, held at the point of death, any AIM IHT Plan should be viewed as a medium to long-term investment, with a view to keeping it for a minimum of five years. 

Upon your death, your portfolio can be sold, or transferred to a spouse, without attracting IHT. 

Is an AIM IHT Plan right for you? 

If you’re concerned that a large portion of your wealth may not get to the people you wish to leave it to, because of the likely IHT charges to be made on your estate, then the AIM IHT Plan could be just what you are looking for.

As it provides you with an investment opportunity that could not only deliver a strong performance, but can also reduce your IHT liability. 

If you are considering investing in an AIM IHT Plan, then it’s important that you get the right kind of independent advice. As it should always be viewed as a long-term investment option that carries a slightly higher risk than other investments and my not necessarily be the best option for your immediate requirements.

The usual minimum investment you should consider with an AIM IHT Plan is £100,000. An additional contribution of a minimum of £25,000, or the full annual ISA contribution, can be made at any time after you start the plan.

A cautionary word about the Plan

Firstly, it’s important to appreciate that the current rate of IHT as well as the value of this option regarding IHT savings and the exemption afforded by an AIM IHT Plan could all change in the future.  

Having said that, BR has been around for a number of years and under various different Governments, and doesn’t appear to be drawing attention in any of the current manifestoes. 

It is important to recognise the long-term, and higher risk, aspect of the plan. As I would suggest that you especially consider the following points, in order to ascertain whether this type of investment fits your personal investment profile:

  • As most AIM shares tend to be illiquid, it might be more difficult to sell them. Also obtaining reliable information regarding their value and the risks they are exposed too can also more difficult to find.
  • Any AIM company can revert to private status. This would mean that shares may become impossible to trade and the value and protection offered by AIM would end. 
  • Like the FTSE, past performance is no guide to the future and the value of shares purchased on AIM (and income received) may go down as well as up; and you may not get back your full investment
  • Not all investments into the AIM market qualify for BR, plus the amount of tax relief available may change at any time. 

Need to know more?
As always, if you have any questions regarding your current or future financial situation, especially around AIM IHT Plans, then please contact us at Bridgewater Financial Services where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

Stay on the right side of the law with Lasting Power of Attorney

Whilst Lasting Powers of Attorney can be the ideal way to safeguard the financial affairs of someone who has unfortunately lost the capacity to do it for themselves (the donor), it does come with some important and onerous responsibilities. 

If you are not fully aware of these, then there is a danger that you could end up with a court judgment against you. In fact, in 2018/2019 court judgements against people acting outside their permitted powers more than doubled on the previous year.

It’s a complex area of law. However following a recent ruling by the Court of Protection (COP), which was referred to them by the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), new guidance is now available. In order to save you the job of sifting through the Court’s judgement and summary, I’ve highlighted the main points in this blog.

The majority of cases under review contained compulsory instructions given to the person with the power of attorney (an attorney) on how they should act. The court rules that the use of compulsory instructions was incompatible with the notion of having to ‘act in the best interest’ of the donor and that an attorney should not be bound by such instructions.

In terms of an attorney using the donor’s money for the benefit of others, without the need of gaining approval from the COP, the judge also made the following important comments:

How to make gifts 

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 clearlysets out what gifts an attorney is able to make. With restrictions in place to protect the donor’s assets from being ‘gifted away’.

As an attorney, you are able to make gifts on birthdays, Christmas or to charities the donor may have previously been a supporter of; with the value of that gift been seen to be reasonable and not detrimental to the donor’s future financial needs.

Obviously this hinders any estate planning that hopes to use large gifts as a mechanism for reducing the value of the estate.

It is possible to make gifts outside of these restrictions by applying to the COP. However this will add costs and delays, with no guarantee of a successful outcome.

If the donor is still capable of making the gifts themselves, then this should be supported. Although, if the donor has any intentions of making substantial gifts this is best done prior to incapacity becoming an issue.

Can an attorney provide for others?

If a payment is deemed to meet the needs of someone the donor was obliged to provide for, such as a spouse or any dependents, then this has always been viewed differently to that of a gift.

However, the recent ruling by the COP has extended this. The Judge commented upon the requirement to act in the ‘best interests’ of the donor, so felt that an attorney shouldn’t just be limited to ‘needs’, but should also take into consideration the donor’s ‘past and present wishes and feelings, beliefs and values’. Which broadly means that an attorney can do whatever he or she believes that the donor may have reasonably done themselves; but you may need to provide some evidence of this. 

Providing evidence of intention

The best evidence of intent comes from a donor’s past behaviour. Or, better still, an expression of intent included within the power of attorney document. 

When making decisions an attorney need only take evidence into account, they are not bound by it. As an attorney’s main consideration should always be the best interest of the donor and not the interest of the recipient.

Be aware that justifying an action on the basis of saving Inheritance Tax (IHT) is unlikely to be deemed to be in the donor’s best interest. There needs to be other factors and motives, although the size of the donor’s estate and associated costs of lifestyle and care can also influence decisions.

As a general rule, and to avoid misinterpretation, any money transferred to an individual that falls outside the definition of a gift under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, will be deemed to be a transfer of value for IHT, unless it’s covered by an exemption.

Scottish independence!

If you are in Scotland, then the legal position is a little different.

An attorney is able to make gifts, including those for estate planning purposes, just as long as the donor has specifically included this within their power of attorney document.

To sum things up

The ruling by the COP provides greater opportunity for an attorney to provide for the needs of family members, without being confined to only providing gifts on birthdays or Christmas. However, these provisions need to be made in conjunction with a clear expression of wishes by the donor along with a belief, by the attorney, that these actions are in the best interests of the donor.

Any uncertainty should result in an application to the COP for further clarity and permission. 

As always, if you have any questions regarding Lasting Powers of Attorney, or if you need to put an LPA in place, then please contact us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to guide you through the complex process.

Don’t sleep through the changes in your pension statement

Wake-up packs and how NOT to lose sleep over them

“Pensions Statement” is possibly the right word for those of us who have thought about these things. Wake-up pack feels a little more like a hysterical last minute plea!

However, whatever your thoughts on the name, as of Friday 1 November 2019, The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has determined that every pension customer should receive a Wake-up pack, from the age of 50 onwards. The pack will be provided by the pension provider and will contain a one-page summary of the pension details and should be updated every five years until the pension is eventually cashed in.

The one-page summary will include:

• The value of your private pension
• Your assumed retirement date
• The contributions made that year by you and your employer
• General information on retirement planning

All Wake-up packs will also carry a risk warning that is tailored for the individual that the packs is being sent out to. So as you will imagine, the risk warning to a 50 year old will be different to that of someone who is 75 years plus. These warnings will be tailored according to the information that the pension provider holds on the client receiving the pack.

Although providers will have free rein to include whatever risk warnings they want, most will cover the risks of pension scams, contributions and investment risk as well as an explanation of tax issues.

What’s the big idea?

The motivations and idea behind this new wake-up pack is to encourage you to consider your approaching pension and to give you the time to put more money aside to cover your retirement, if it seems necessary.

The wake-up pack will also contain information regarding the Government’s Pension Wise Service. Along with a summary of the possible advantages of shopping around when purchasing a pension in the first place, as well as the best practice to follow when exploring this. Assuming you haven’t already covered all of this off with your Financial Adviser.

Packs will start to arrive:
• Within two months of you reaching your 50thBirthday
• Four to ten weeks before reaching the age of 55 years
• After 55 they will arrive every five years until your pension is cashed in

Additional triggers for the packs are:
• When you ask for a retirement quotation (if it’s more than six months before you intend to retire)
• When you are considering, or have stopped, an income withdrawal arrangement
• When you decide to take further benefits from your pension.
• When you request to access your benefits for the first time

Although packs do not need to be sent out, if you have already received one in the last year. Which is good news for the trees, as all wake-up packs must highlight that guidance is available from Pension Wise and, apart from the one sent at aged 50, will also have to be accompanied by a brochure from the Money Advice Service.

So has your financial adviser been asleep then?

You would assume that all these issues and more would have been taken care of by your financial adviser – and in most cases, you’d be right (depending upon who your adviser is).

So don’t worry, as these new requirements are mainly aimed at helping non-advised clients make better decisions for themselves. If however there is anything in your wake-up pack that you have any questions about, then don’t hesitate to contact your adviser and ask.

As always, if you have any questions regarding your current or future pension strategies, then please contact us at Bridgewater Financial Services where we will be delighted to help.

Dealing With Redundancy – what to do right now.

TC Plane
What you need to do, if you are facing redundancy

With the shock collapse of Thomas Cook, leaving over 21,000 people now facing certain redundancy and countless thousands working in support industries with an equally uncertain future, I thought that I might share some thoughts on what to do if you are facing immediate redundancy.

What to do right now

Finding yourself facing redundancy may have a profound psychological effect upon you, but it’s also a time when you need to be strong and take some immediate action.

If you are being made redundant, then you should spend today doing the following things as a matter of urgency. Taking back control of things starts here:

Claim everything you are entitled to. Nobody want’s to sign on, but you’ve been paying into the system; and it’s there for your benefit too. So sign on today, as you may be eligible to claim benefits such as Universal Credit, whilst you are looking for a new job.

There are also other benefits such as Housing Benefits, Council Tax Reductions, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Tax Credits that may be available to you. Here’s a link to the Citizens Advice Benefit Checker, that will quickly show you what benefits you are entitled to:
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/benefits-introduction/what-benefits-can-i-get/

Deal with your mortgage. As you won’t know just how long you will be without an income, notify your mortgage lender (and other lenders) today. That way, if you have problems keeping up payments, they will likely work with you to overcome short-term difficulties and may offer things like payment holidays, or a switch to interest only repayments. They are usually helpful and sympathetic, but they can only offer assistance if they are aware of what’s going on – so tell them as quickly as possible.

Claim on any policies. If you took out insurance against being made redundant, that should cover your mortgage and loan repayments, so claim today. The process of being paid out may take some time, so start the ball rolling now, to help avoid missed payments whilst you wait for the insurance money.

Work out your budget. Calculate what your assets and liabilities are, along with other household income and expenditure. That way you’ll get a clear picture of your current financial standing. Cut any unnecessary expenditure and prioritise remaining expenses in order of importance. Knowing exactly where you are financially will significantly help with any negative emotions you may be having.

Once you’ve done the basics, then it’s time to tackle the rest

I can’t stress how important it is to have done the above points – for both your financial and mental health. Once you’ve dealt with immediate actions, then it’s time to think about the following:

Get professional advice. If the whole situation seems daunting, reach out for some help. Talk to a properly qualified financial planner. You don’t know what you don’t know – and getting expert advice could save you a great deal of stress and money.

Clear existing debts. If you can, clear any outstanding credit cards or loans. Especially because the cost of most debts vastly exceeds any interest you’ll be earning on savings.

But keep access to emergency funds just in case you need them.

Those you can’t clear, move to the cheapest rate. Your credit score may take a post redundancy knock, so now’s the time to move debt to the best possible rate, such as the interest free balance transfers of certain credit cards

Once you’ve received your redundancy payment

Following the receipt of your final lump sum, there are one or two things you may want to consider.

Top up your pension. You could choose to take advantage of the tax relief available on the first £30,000, as you top up your existing pension from your redundancy payment.

Invest for your future. If you cleared your debts, and have a nest egg, you may want to consider your redundancy payment as a windfall and use it to make some longer-term investments.

Early retirement. You may even be in a position that your financial situation allows you to consider an early retirement, or at least a significant step away from the world of work.

Redundancy is a strange and stressful time

Facing redundancy can be emotionally draining and it’s easy to try to avoid meeting it head on. However, if you want to lessen the impact it may have on you, both psychologically and financially, then early planning and preparation is the answer.

Sorting out your existing finances and planning for the short and long-term future are fundamental and very wise moves. Talk to your financial adviser about the points I’ve highlighted in this blog. Then explore those areas of your individual finances that will also be impacted.

It’s not the end of the world, on the contrary, it’s a new beginning; and taking charge of the situation is your first step down the road to a brighter future.

As always, if you have any questions regarding your current or future financial situation, especially if you think that redundancy may be a future possibility, then please contact us at Bridgewater Financial Services where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

Some helpful links:

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/leaving-a-job/redundancy/preparing-for-after-redundancy/

https://www.gov.uk/redundancy-your-rights

http://www.executivestyle.com.au/what-they-dont-tell-you-about-being-made-redundant-gwacfd

Market Volatility a lesson from NASA

aldrin

Don’t Take A Giant Leap

Back on the 20thJuly we celebrated the 50thanniversary of the moon landings. I was totally in awe of Neil Armstrong, who took over the piloting of Eagle, from the computer once he noticed that the preselected landing place wasn’t going to be suitable.

Both he and Buzz Aldrin calmly worked together, whilst the vital fuel that would get them home was used to pilot Eagle over the rocky surface to a safe point of touchdown.

It was this calm, panic free approach that saved their lives, the mission and the hopes of the whole planet.

They trusted what they knew to get them through what must have been a terrifying descent. But they stuck to the plan established by NASA and they achieved what they’d all set out to accomplish.

I can’t help thinking that this idea of sticking to a plan, no matter how appealing it may be to abandon it, is a lesson for us all in the current investment markets, as we go through periods of increased volatility.

I say this because, unlike Apollo 11, we are not actually in uncharted territory. History shows us that volatility is a normal function of the markets.

Our long-term journey as investors will have highs and lows. However we should no more emotionally jump from a growing market than we should from a declining one. As reacting emotionally to market volatility could be far more harmful to your portfolios performance, than the market drop itself.

Here’s something to remember

This interesting graph showing the Dimensional UK Market Index returns by year (from 1956 – 2018*), should help put things in some perspective. As we can see, the markets have provided positive returns for investors for 47 of the 62 years shown (that’s 75% of the time).

So whilst it is sometimes difficult to remain calm during a market decline, it is however important to remember that volatility really is a normal part of investing.

Investors, who do seem to be able to time the market, usually do so with more luck than judgment. With the general wisdom suggesting that the big returns in the total performance of individual stocks over time, are usually produced in a small handful of days.

As investors can never really accurately predict when these days will come along, the prudent strategy would seem to suggest that remaining invested during these periods of volatility, rather than abandoning the stocks, means that investors won’t be on the sidelines on the days when the strong returns occur.

 

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In a changing market, knowledge is power

Hear are the most frequently investment questions I get asked in times of volatility:

I’ve been looking at funds with strong past performances; can I assume that they will do well in the future?
Whilst some investors are known for selecting mutual funds based on past returns, research suggests that most US mutual funds in the top 25% of previous five-year returns did not maintain that ranking in the following five years.

So the short answer would be: No, past performance is just that, history. It offers little insight into possible future performance.

Is being a successful investor all about out-thinking the market?
The short answer is to let the markets do the thinking for you. It’s a fair assumption that people want a positive return on any capital they invest. Over time history shows us that the equity and bond markets have provided growth of wealth that has more than offset inflation. So instead of fighting the markets and trying to out-think them, let them work for you. Remember, financial markets reward long-term investors.

Should I think of stepping out of the UK and exploring international investing?
It’s a good question. We all know that diversification can help reduce risks and that diversifying only within your home market limits that benefit. Not only does global diversification extend your investment opportunity; but by holding a globally diversified portfolio, you are better positioned to seek returns wherever they occur.

To give you an idea of the opportunity, according to MSCI UK and ACWI Investable Market Index (IMI), the UK is one country with 364 stocks; whilst the global opportunity for investments ranges across 47 countries with 8,722 stocks.

Will constantly changing my portfolio help me achieve better returns?
As it’s almost impossible to know what market segments will outperform the others, it’s better to avoid unnecessary changes that can be costly.

Can my emotions affect my investment decisions?

There is a vast body of psychological research that shows that we struggle to separate our emotions when investing our money. Just remember that markets go up and down. So kneejerk reactions are usually poor investment decisions.

Every time I hear the news, I’m tempted to make changes to my portfolio,
is that a good idea?

Day to day commentary can make us question our investment discipline. Some news will stir anxiety about the future, whilst other news tempts us to chase the latest faddy investments.

My advice is to always consider the source and to keep your long-term objectives in focus.

I feel like I need to do something – so, what should I be doing?

Get another perspective on things, especially and independent and expert one. Talk with your financial adviser who can help you focus on actions that add value.
Sticking to actions that you know you can control can certainly lead to a better investment experience.

  • Create an investment plan to fit your needs and risk tolerance.
  • Structure a portfolio along the dimensions of expected returns.
  • Diversify globally.
  • Manage expenses, turnover, and taxes.
  • Stay disciplined through market dips and swings.

Stay on mission

Neil and Buzz didn’t panic. They didn’t cancel the mission, because things looked tough. They trusted in the plan. They stuck to a pre-agreed course of action and rode out the challenges that faced them on the descent to their ultimate goal.

I totally appreciate that market volatility can be a nerve-racking time for investors. However, reacting with your emotions and altering long-term investment strategies could prove more harmful than helpful.

Sticking to a well-thought- out investment plan, ideally agreed upon in advance of these periods of volatility, you’ll be better prepared to remain calm during periods of short-term uncertainty.

As always, if you have any questions regarding your current or future investment strategies, then please contact us at Bridgewater Financial Services where we will be delighted to help.

* Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.