Month: May 2018

Pension freedoms

Running out of money remains the biggest retirement fear for over-55s

On 6 April 2015, the Government introduced ‘pension freedoms’, and with it major changes to people’s private pension provision. Once you reach the age of 55 years, you now have much more freedom to access your pension savings or pension pot and to decide what to do with this money

Three years on from the pension freedoms revolution, people are saving more for their retirement while the over-55s are working longer to fulfil their retirement plans, new exclusive research shows[1]. The new rules have led to consumers taking a variety of different choices when investing their pension pots.

Working for longer than originally planned
The research reveals that over-55s are planning to work for longer than they had originally planned – and about 12% say they or their partner will work full-time or part-time past their original planned retirement date. More than one in ten (11%) working over-55s say they have started saving into a pension for the first time, encouraged their partner to save more, increased pension contributions or restarted pension saving since the rules came into effect from April 2015.

One in seven (14%) are also making more effort to learn about retirement savings. However, the freedoms, which give everyone aged 55-plus flexibility on how to use their defined contribution pension funds, are not a total success with savers and the retired. Nearly two out of three (64%) over-55s say they are confused by the regulations, and the overwhelming majority (82%) want an end to any further government changes to pension rules. More than one in three (42%) are concerned about running out of money during retirement, while 41% worry about paying for long-term care.

Taking your pension
Once you reach retirement, how you use your funds can often be the largest single financial planning decision you make in your lifetime. There is a wide range of options available that could enable you to achieve your aspirations in retirement.

Greater pension freedoms and choice has made the retirement income environment more complex for many retirees, with unprecedented control being handed over to how you utilise your pension savings. So what are your options?

Leave your pension pot untouched
Use your pot to buy a guaranteed income for life – an ‘annuity’
Use your pot to provide a flexible retirement income – ‘flexi-access drawdown’
Take small cash sums from your pot
Mixing your options

Responsibility for making a pension fund last
Pension freedoms have in many cases shifted the responsibility for making a pension fund last throughout retirement directly onto retirees. Previously, most people bought an annuity to guarantee an income for the rest of their lives. Now they can drawdown as much money as they like, but the risk is that they run out of money in their lifetime. Before you make your choice, we’ll help you consider all your options carefully – an important decision like this shouldn’t be rushed.

Many over-55s are also preparing to work longer and save more, which highlights that they recognise this risk and are responding in a rational and responsible way. The best thing most people can do to ensure a comfortable retirement is to take professional financial advice, while also trying to save as much as they can into a pension, especially a company-based scheme where they’ll immediately take advantage of contributions from their employer.

Source data:
[1] Consumer Intelligence conducted an independent online survey for Prudential between 23 and 25 February 2018 among 1,000 UK adults aged 55+, including those who are working and retired.

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.

PENSIONS ARE NOT NORMALLY ACCESSIBLE UNTIL AGE 55. YOUR PENSION INCOME COULD ALSO BE AFFECTED BY INTEREST RATES AT THE TIME YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS. THE TAX IMPLICATIONS OF PENSION WITHDRAWALS WILL BE BASED ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, TAX LEGISLATION AND REGULATION, WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE.

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

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.

Art of bond investing

Portfolio balancing, negating stock market volatility and lowering risk

Bonds have historically been an alternative way to balance a portfolio and negate stock market volatility, and they are treated as lower risk. The art of investing is all about mixing assets to build a portfolio aligned to your investment outlook and attitude to risk, with shares and bonds as primary components. For investors, bonds can provide a stream of returns.

A bond is an IOU, typically issued by a government or company (an ‘issuer’). Companies issue bonds to meet their expenditure or to settle out their debts. Governments also issue bonds in order to settle any financial deficits of the government, and also to bring development. When issued by a company, they are referred to as ‘corporate bonds’. By buying a bond, you are lending the issuer money. Two things are specified at the outset: the agreed rate of interest that the issuer must pay you at regular intervals (the ‘coupon’), and the date at which the issuer must repay you the original amount loaned (the ‘principal’).

Making different market assessments
Bonds can be bought and sold in the marketplace. Their prices change constantly because people in the market make different assessments on two main factors: the likelihood that the issuer will repay its debts (‘credit risk’), and the effect of interest rates (‘interest rate risk’).

If more investors want to buy a bond than sell, the price normally increases. Similarly, if there are more sellers than buyers, the price normally goes down. The rising or falling price affects the yield of the bond. Yield is a way of measuring the attractiveness of an individual bond. However, bonds are not always held until the principal is repaid – they can be bought and sold at any time until the principal is repaid – so there are many ways of calculating the yield. The most common is the ‘redemption yield’. This discounts the value of coupons received over time. It also adjusts for any difference in the price paid for the bond and the principal repaid at maturity.

Generally stable regular income
Bonds pay investors a regular income, and their prices are generally stable. They are also generally considered safer than equities and are issued by reputable companies or governments. Should a company that has issued bonds run into financial difficulty, the bond holders rank ahead of equity holders for repayment. However, the price of a bond can fall as well as rise, and there is no guarantee that an issuer will not default on its obligations. The effects of interest rates and inflation can also erode the future values of returns.

Investors demand a premium for the extra risk they are taking when lending money to a less well-established company or less creditworthy government. Therefore, bonds from these issuers tend to be higher yielding. Comparatively well-financed issuers are referred to as ‘investment grade’, while less secure issuers are referred to as ‘high yield’ or ‘sub-investment grade’. Different types of issuers are affected in different ways. For example, government bonds tend to be more affected by changes in interest rates, while corporate bonds are more affected by the company’s profitability.

Bond investments not right for everyone
Like any security, there are many options when it comes to bond investments, and they are not right for everyone. Various types of bonds can be issued. These include inflation-linked bonds, where payments are linked to changes in inflation, and convertible bonds, which are corporate bonds that can be converted into the company’s underlying equity. Certain types of bonds may be better suited to particular economic conditions or meeting particular investment objectives.

A credit rating can be given to an issuer, either to one of its individual debts or overall creditworthiness. The rating usually comes from credit rating agencies, such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s or Fitch, which use standardised scores such as ‘AAA’ (a high credit rating) or ‘B-‘ (a low credit rating).

Considering economic and technical factors
Inefficiencies in the bond market cause potential returns available from one bond or sector to outweigh each other at different times. By carefully researching the issuers in the market, as well as considering economic and technical factors, bond fund managers aim to manage portfolios of bonds that suit the current investment conditions.

How bond fund managers perform is typically measured against an index of bonds in the region or type of issuer in which they invest. This is known as a ‘benchmark’. The fund manager will aim to outperform the benchmark, as well as protect investors’ capital when the wider market is falling.

Bond Jargon

Face Value/Par Value
The par value or face value is a term used to define the principal value of each bond, which means the amount you had paid while purchasing the bond. The amount that you paid while purchasing the bond is the exact amount that you should expect in return once the tenure of the loan is completed.

Maturity Date
The maturity date of a bond is the date on which the bond validity expires, and the company or government that issued you the bond should pay you back the entire face value or par value at the end of the maturity date.

Coupon
A coupon is the annual interest amount in percentage that you will be receiving for the face value of the bond.

Yield
The yield of a bond is the percentage of annual interest that you get paid for your bond depending on the current market value of the bond you purchased.

Investment Grade
Investments in terms of bonds are generally made by taking the bond investment grade into consideration. The bond investment grade can be considered as the score of a company depicting how likely the company is to pay back your bond after the end of the maturity date.

The investment grade for each company is offered by different agencies such as Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poor. In order to be considered trustworthy for buying bonds from, any company should have at least a rating of ‘BBB’. The companies with a ‘BBB’ grade rating are highly likely to pay back your investment amount after the maturity date and are safe bond investments. The companies that have a rating of ‘BB’ or lower are considered to have a ‘junk grade’ and is not at all recommended while buying bonds.

INFORMATION IS BASED ON OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF TAXATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS. ANY LEVELS AND BASES OF, AND RELIEFS FROM, TAXATION ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

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

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.

Diversification, diversification, diversification

Portfolio building requires different characteristics to evaluate

There are many ways to invest and different types of investments. But when looking to build an appropriate diversified portfolio, investors have a number of different characteristics to evaluate. For example, is the investment designed to provide growth or income? Is it domestic or international? Does it have a maturity? Another consideration is whether the investment is actively or passively managed.

Sometimes, that simple, fundamental choice can make a difference in portfolio performance. During a particular market climate, one of these two methods may be widely praised, while the other is derided and dismissed. In truth, both approaches have merit, and all investors should understand their principles.

Economic and market conditions
Active fund managers select individual stocks. Stock selections decisions in active funds are based on factors such as economic and market conditions as well as company-specific issues, (for example, the profitability of a company and the strength of its management). Alternatively, passive or ‘index-tracking’ funds aim to replicate a specific market index.

An active fund is managed with the aim of generating returns greater than the relevant markets, as measured by an index. Active fund managers base their stock buying and selling decisions on several factors, including market conditions, political climate, state of the economy, and company-specific factors that include profitability and market share.

Industry sector or company size
Depending on the fund’s objective, an active fund manager may have little or no constraint on their investment choice. Where this is the case, they can select what they consider the most promising opportunities, regardless of industry sector or company size. They aim to maximise gains in rising markets and limit the effects when markets are falling.

Actively managed funds have the potential to outperform and, conversely, under perform compared to a market index. They have the flexibility to invest where the investment manager believes there are the best market opportunities. They have the ability to minimise losses in a falling market by investing in shares outside the index, and typically have higher annual management charges than for passive funds, in return for the investment managers’ potential to outperform the market.

Trying to match the index

A passive, or index-tracking, fund is managed with the aim of replicating the performance of a specific index. To track the FTSE 100, for example, an investment manager will aim to invest in the same shares, in the same proportions, as this index. Passive fund managers won’t make any ’active’ decisions, as they’re only trying to match the index. The fund will generally rise and fall with the index.

They perform well when markets rise and poorly when they fall, but funds can be less diversified than active funds, as the relevant index may be dominated by just a few large companies. A change in the investment manager should have no impact on its performance. In addition, passive funds generally offer lower annual management charges and typically have a lower turnover of shares that can mean lower transaction costs apply.

Risk is inherent with any investment
It’s important to remember that a degree of risk is inherent with any investment, and the potential for greater returns comes with a higher degree of investment risk. While a passive fund is considered to have less investment risk associated with it than an actively managed fund, there are still risks (such as stock market risk) involved.

As with most investment decisions, there is no right or wrong selection. The choice is down to the individual investor, their investment objectives, attitude to risk, and the economic and market environment at the time. It is generally accepted that asset allocation has the biggest impact on the variability of returns within an investment portfolio.

INFORMATION IS BASED ON OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF TAXATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS. ANY LEVELS AND BASES OF, AND RELIEFS FROM, TAXATION ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

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

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.

Generous grandparents

The bank that likes to say ‘yes’

Forget the Lamborghini – 2.4 million UK grandparents[1] have either raided their pension to support their grandchildren or plan to in the future. According to research from LV=, a quarter of generous grandparents (25%) who have already given away money to their grandchildren[2] have taken the funds from their pension. A further one in six (16%) plan to use their pension for this reason once they reach retirement age.

Substantial amounts
Open-handed grandparents are willing to give away substantial amounts to their grandchildren, whether from their pensions, savings or wages, with the average grandparent having already spent £1,633. More than one in 20 (6%) have given gifts of more than £10,000.

The generosity shows no sign of stopping, with many grandparents (56%) planning to give away even more money in future. The average grandparent expects to give away £2,938 in the coming years, with charitable grandmas expecting to give away £173 more than grandads on average.

Living inheritance
Pension savings are used to help with a wide range of things, from helping grandchildren get on the housing ladder (21%) and other high-ticket items like university fees (20%) or cars (17%). A similar number would help out with more day-to-day expenses like bills (21%) and hobbies (19%).

Grandparents often view the financial gifts they make as a ‘living inheritance’, with more than a third (37%) wanting to be around to see their grandchildren enjoy the money[3].

Retirement focus
Its heart-warming to see grandparents so willing to help out their grandchildren both day-to-day and with large ticket purchases. With one in five using their pension to help out, it’s important these kind individuals plan for their retirement and have enough money left for themselves, as even smaller outgoings like bills can become harder to meet later in life, as well as the flexibility to access it.

The generosity of grandparents in Britain is clear to see, and it is great that so many feel comfortable enough to be able to help out their family and plan to continue doing so. However, the average retirement is now much longer than past generations, and people’s lifestyle and associated costs are likely to change over this period.

Source data:
[1] According to ONS Population Pyramid, there are 49,533,900 people aged over 18 in the UK. The research found that 39% of a sample of 2,002 adults were grandparents, indicating there are 19,318,221 grandparents in the UK. 56% of grandparents have helped or plan to help their grandchildren, and 22% of these would use their pension to do so. Therefore, 2.38 million grandparents have helped or plan to help their grandchildren, using their pension.
[2] According to research carried out by Opinium Research on behalf of LV=, 25% of grandparents have already taken money from their pension to give to their grandchildren.
[3] Statistics from research carried out on behalf of LV= by Opinium Research in June 2014 (total sample size = 2043). The press release for this research was issued on 20 June 2014.
The research was carried out by Opinium Research from 13–16 October 2015. The total sample size was 786 British grandparents over the age of 30, and the survey was conducted online. Results are weighted to a nationally representative criteria.

Your money, your choice

Supporting your future financial requirements

You can pay into as many pension schemes as you want; it depends on how much money you can set aside. There are several different types of private pension to choose from, but in light of recent government changes the tax aspects can require careful planning. So what do you need to consider?

Building up a substantial pension pot
The term ‘private pension’ covers both workplace pensions and personal pensions. The UK Government currently places no restrictions on the number of different pension schemes you can be a member of. So, even if you already have a workplace pension, you can have a personal pension too, or even multiple personal pensions. These can be a useful alternative to workplace pensions if you’re self-employed or not earning, or simply another way to save for retirement.

Any UK resident between the ages of 18 and 75 can pay into a personal pension – although the earlier you invest, the more likely you are to be able to build up a substantial pension pot. However, the maximum that can be contributed to all your pensions during the tax year and receive tax relief (known as the ‘annual allowance’) is £40,000.

Tax relief on pension contributions
A private pension is designed to be a tax-efficient savings scheme. The Government encourages this kind of saving through tax relief on pension contributions.

In the 2018/2019 tax year, pension-related tax relief is limited to either 100% of your UK earnings, or £3,600 per annum – whichever is highest. Contributions are also limited by the current annual (£40,000) and lifetime allowance (£1,030,000).

Pension tax relief rates:
Basic-rate taxpayers will receive 20% tax relief on pension contributions
Higher-rate taxpayers also receive 20% tax relief, but they can claim back up to an additional 20% through their tax return
Additional-rate taxpayers again pay 20% tax relief, but they can claim back up to a further 25% through their tax return
Non-taxpayers receive basic-rate tax relief, but the maximum payment they can make is £2,880, to which the Government adds £720 in tax relief, making a total gross contribution of £3,600

Annual allowance
The annual allowance is the maximum amount that you can contribute to your pension each year while still receiving tax relief. The current annual allowance is capped at £40,000, but may be lower depending on your personal circumstances.

In April 2016, the Government introduced the tapered annual allowance for high earners, which states that for every £2 of income earned above £150,000 each year, £1 of annual allowance will be forfeited. The maximum reduction will however be £30,000 – taking the highest earners’ annual allowance down to £10,000.

Any contributions over the annual allowance won’t be eligible for tax relief, and you will need to pay an annual allowance charge. This charge will form part of your overall tax liability for that year, although there is the option to ask your pension scheme to pay the charge from your benefits if it is more than £2,000. It is worth noting that you may be able to carry forward any unused annual allowances from the previous three tax years.

Lifetime allowance
The lifetime allowance (LTA) is the maximum amount of pension benefit that can be drawn without incurring an additional tax charge, currently £1,030,000. What counts towards your LTA depends on the type of pension you have:

Defined contribution – personal, stakeholder and most workplace schemes – the money in pension pots that goes towards paying you, however you decide to take the money

Defined benefit – some workplace schemes – usually 20 times the pension you get in the first year plus your lump sum – check with your pension provider

Your pension provider will be able to help you determine how much of your LTA you have already used up. This is important because exceeding the LTA will result in a charge of 55% on any lump sum and 25% on any other pension income such as cash withdrawals. This charge will usually be deducted by your pension provider before you start getting your pension.

Pension protection
It’s easier than you think to exceed the LTA. If you are concerned about exceeding your LTA, or have already done so, it’s essential to obtain professional financial advice. It may be that you can apply for pension protection. This could enable you to retain a larger LTA and keep paying into your pension – depending on which form of protection you are eligible for. We can assess and review the options available to your particular situation.

Alternative savings
In addition to pension protection, if you have reached your LTA (or are close to doing so), it may also be worth considering other tax-effective vehicles for retirement savings, such as Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs). In the current tax year, individuals can invest up to £20,000 into an ISA.

The Lifetime ISA launched in April 2017 is open to UK residents aged 18–40 and will enable younger savers to invest up to £4,000 a year tax-efficiently – and any savings you put into the ISA before your 50th birthday will receive an added 25% bonus from the Government. After your 60th birthday, you can take out all the savings tax-free, making this an interesting alternative for those saving for retirement.

Pension beneficiaries
There will normally be no tax to pay on pension assets passed on to your beneficiaries if you die before the age of 75 and before you take anything from your pension pot – as long as the total assets are less than the LTA. If you die aged 75 or older, the beneficiary will typically be taxed at their marginal rate.

INFORMATION IS BASED ON OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF TAXATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS. ANY LEVELS AND BASES OF, AND RELIEFS FROM, TAXATION ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.

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

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.

Retirement wealth

What’s the right answer for you?

The first increase in minimum automatic enrolment (AE) workplace pension contributions came into effect on 6 April[1]. According to research from Scottish Widows, however, one in five Britons (20%) – amounting to more than ten million people – say they’ll work until they’re physically unable to, while one in 20 (6%) – another three million people – say they expect to work until they die.

While the increase in AE workplace pension contributions will help people narrow the gap in their retirement savings, there are many who need to be doing more to ensure a comfortable retirement. The research shows that 44% of people are not saving its recommended 12% of their salary towards retirement each year[2], which is more than double the new minimum AE contribution level of 5%.

Expectation to continue working at least part-time
In addition, the findings also reveal that more than half (51%) of Britons expect to continue working at least part-time past retirement age, and a fifth (18%) say that working beyond the age of 65 will be a necessity rather than a choice.

Only a quarter (24%) expect to have completely retired by the time they’re 65, the research reveals. Young people are least hopeful of this being a possibility, with only one in 20 (5%) of 18-24-year-olds expecting to retire by the age of 65, but this proportion doubles among 25-34-year-olds (11%) and triples among 35-44-year-olds (16%).

Delaying retirement – make it a choice, not a necessity
Nearly one in five (18%) people say they’ll work longer than they want to because they worry about their level of saving. Just under a third (32%) of 25-54-year-olds worry they haven’t been saving enough in their early years, and two fifths (39%) of people fear running completely out of money in retirement.

Interestingly, women are more concerned than men about the cost of later life. Just over two fifths (43%) of women are concerned that they’ll run out of money during retirement, while only a third (34%) of men feel this way. Others worry about facing potential shortfalls due to policy change, with four in ten (37%) citing concern about changes to the State Pension, such as a further increase to the retirement age.

Preparing for the costs of retirement
Despite the majority of British adults recognising the need to work longer to prepare for their retirement, a significant number have no contingency in place should they face increasing costs in later life. When told that people going into a nursing home can expect to pay an average of £866 per week for this, 22% of respondents said they’d never considered how they would cover this cost, and another 22% said they’d rely on the state to pay for care.

However, more than three in five (62%) people say they are unsure what behaviour they would change to make up for increasing retirement spending. Only 12% say they will hold off drawing down their maximum pension allowance for as long as possible, and just 8% say they will forego leisure spending to prepare for retirement spending.

Source data:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3535 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 17th – 22nd January 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
[1] From 6 April the minimum contribution is 5% with at least 2% from the employer; from 6 April 2019 the minimum contribution is 8% with at least 3% from the employer.
[2] 2017 Scottish Widows Retirement Report – 44% of people aged 30+ are not saving adequately for retirement.

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.

PENSIONS ARE NOT NORMALLY ACCESSIBLE UNTIL AGE 55. YOUR PENSION INCOME COULD ALSO BE AFFECTED BY INTEREST RATES AT THE TIME YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS. THE TAX IMPLICATIONS OF PENSION WITHDRAWALS WILL BE BASED ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, TAX LEGISLATION AND REGULATION, WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE.

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

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.

2018/19 tax changes

New initiatives you need to know

It’s important to consider the tax implications of making financial decisions. The 2018/19 tax year is now upon us, and a raft of new changes have come into force. The good news is that the overall tax burden is little changed for basic-rate taxpayers, but there are number of areas that have changed that should be taken note of.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2018/19 tax year changes and new initiatives.

Personal Allowance
The tax-free Personal Allowance is the amount of income you can earn before you have to start paying Income Tax. All individuals are entitled to the same Personal Allowance, regardless of their date of birth.

In the 2017/18 tax year, the Personal Allowance was £11,500, and it rises to £11,850 in the 2018/19 tax year. This means you can earn £350 more in the 2018/19 tax year than in the previous tax year before you start paying Income Tax. However, bear in mind that the Personal Allowance is restricted by £1 for every £2 of an individual’s adjusted net income above £100,000.

A spouse or registered civil partner who isn’t liable to Income Tax above the basic rate may transfer £1,185 of their unused Personal Allowance in the 2018/19 tax year, compared to £1,150 in the 2017/18 tax year to their spouse or registered civil partner, as long as the recipient isn’t liable to Income Tax above the basic rate.

Higher-rate threshold
The threshold for people paying the higher rate of Income Tax (which is 40%) increased from £45,000 to £46,350 in the 2018/19 tax year. This new figure also includes the increased Personal Allowance.

Dividend Allowance
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced in the Spring Budget 2017 that the Dividend Allowance would reduce from £5,000 to £2,000 from 5 April 2018.

Any dividend income that investors earn above the £2,000 allowance will attract tax at 7.5% for basic-rate taxpayers, while higher-rate taxpayers will be taxed at 32.5% and additional-rate taxpayers at 38.1%.

This may impact on shareholders of private companies paying themselves in the form of dividends, for example, rather than salary. Investors with portfolios that produce an income in the form of dividends of more than £2,000 a year, which are held outside ISA or pensions, will also be affected by the reduction in the allowance.

National Insurance Contributions (NICs)
NICs be charged at 12% of income on earnings above £8,424, up from £8,164 until you are earning more than £46,350, after which the rate drops to 2%. It’s the same in Scotland.

Auto enrolment contributions
Auto enrolment contribution rates have increased for employees and employers. In the previous 2017/18 tax year, the minimum pension contribution rate was 1% from the employee and 1% from the employer, which provides a 2% contribution. However, from 6 April 2018, the contribution rate increased to 3% for employees and 2% from the employer, totalling 5%.

Pension Lifetime Allowance
The Lifetime Allowance increased from £1 million to £1.03 million in the 2018/19 tax year. This is the maximum total amount you can hold within all your pension savings without having to pay extra tax when you withdraw money from them.
If the total value of your pension savings goes over the Lifetime Allowance, any excess will be taxed at a rate of 25% in addition to your marginal rate of Income Tax if drawn as income, or 55% if you take it as a lump sum.

State Pension
There has been a 3% rise for the old basic State Pension and the new flat-rate State Pension. If you’re on the basic State Pension (previously £122.30 per week), this has increased to £125.95. The flat-rate State Pension has increased from £159.55 to £164.35 a week.

Inheritance Tax
The residence nil-rate band (RNRB) has risen from £100,000 to £125,000. The RNRB enables eligible people to pass on a property to direct descendants and potentially save on death duties.

Capital Gains Tax
Capital Gains Tax is charged on profits that are made when certain assets are either transferred or sold. There’s no tax to pay if all gains made in a tax year fall within the annual Capital Gains Tax allowance. For the 2018/19 tax year, this will be £11,700 (it was £11,300 for the 2017/18 tax year).

Buy-to-let landlords
Changes mean that only 50% of mortgage interest will be able to be offset when calculating a tax bill, compared with 75% previously.

Financial freedom

Deciding what to do with pension savings – even if you’re still working

It might seem like a far off prospect but knowing how you can access your pension pot can help you understand how best to build for the future you want when you retire.

On 6 April 2015, the Government introduced major changes to people’s defined contribution (DC) private pensions. Once you reach the age of 55 years, you now have much more freedom to access your pension savings or pension pot and to decide what to do with this money – even if you’re still working.

Depending on the scheme, you may be able to take cash lump sums, a variable income through drawdown (known as ‘flexi-access drawdown’), a guaranteed income under an annuity, or a combination of these options. This means being faced with the choice of deciding how much money to take out each year and setting an appropriate investment strategy. It goes without saying that your income won’t last as long if you take a lot of money out of the pension pot early on.

What are your retirement income options?
There are many things to consider as you approach retirement. You need to review your finances to ensure your future income will allow you to enjoy the lifestyle you want. You’ll also be faced with a number of different options available for accessing your pension. Being faced with such an important decision, it’s essential you obtain professional financial advice and guidance. We’ve provided an overview of the main options.

Keep your pension pot where it is
You can delay taking money from your pension pot to allow you to consider your options. Reaching age 55 or the age you agreed with your pension provider to retire is not a deadline to act. Delaying taking your money may give your pension pot a chance to grow, but it could go down in value too.

Receive a guaranteed income for life
A lifelong, regular income (also known as an ‘annuity’) provides you with a guarantee that the income will last as long as you live. A quarter of your pension pot can usually be taken tax-free, and any other payments will be taxed.

Receive a flexible retirement income
You can leave your money in your pension pot and take an income from it. Any money left in your pension pot remains invested, which may give your pension pot a chance to grow, but it could go down in value too. A quarter of your pension pot can usually be taken tax-free, and any other withdrawals will be taxed whether you take them as income or as lump sums. You may need to move into a new pension plan to do this. You do not need to take an income.

Take your whole pension pot in one go
You can take the whole amount as a single lump sum. A quarter of your pension pot can usually be taken tax-free – the rest will be taxed. You will need to plan how you will provide an income for the rest of your retirement.

Take your pension pot as a number of lump sums
You can leave your money in your pension pot and take lump sums from it as and when you need until your money runs out or you choose another option. You can decide when and how much to take out. Any money left in your pension pot remains invested, which may give your pension pot a chance to grow, but it could go down in value too. Each time you take a lump sum, normally a quarter of it is tax-free and the rest will be taxed. You may need to move into a new pension plan to do this.

Choose more than one option and combine them
You can also choose to take your pension using a combination of some or all of the options over time or over your total pot. If you have more than one pot, you can use the different options for each pot. Some pension providers or advisers can offer you an option that combines a guaranteed income for life with a flexible income.

Significant effect on the amount of income available
The earlier you choose to access your pension pot, the smaller your potential fund and income may be for later in life. This could have a significant effect on the amount of income available to you, meaning it may be less than it could have been, and it could run out much earlier than expected.
Taking an appropriate income or money from your pension is very complex. We’ll help you access your options. Remember: if you choose to only withdraw some of your money, what’s left will remain invested and could go down as well as up in value. You could also get back less than has been invested. Also, if you buy an income for life, you can’t generally change it or cash it in, even if your personal circumstances change. And the inheritance you can pass on depends on what you decide to do with your pension money.

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.

PENSIONS ARE NOT NORMALLY ACCESSIBLE UNTIL AGE 55. YOUR PENSION INCOME COULD ALSO BE AFFECTED BY INTEREST RATES AT THE TIME YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS. THE TAX IMPLICATIONS OF PENSION WITHDRAWALS WILL BE BASED ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, TAX LEGISLATION AND REGULATION, WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE.

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

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.

Protecting your estate for future generations

Many individuals find the Inheritance Tax rules too complicated.

If you struggle to navigate the UK’s Inheritance Tax regime, you are not alone. Whether you are setting up your estate planning or sorting out the estate of a departed family member, the system can be hard to follow. Getting your planning wrong could also mean your family is faced with an unexpectedly high Inheritance Tax bill.

Reluctant to seek professional advice
Findings from a recent survey[1] revealed that many individuals find the Inheritance Tax rules too complicated, but the majority are reluctant to seek professional advice. The research revealed that over three quarters (77%) think the UK’s Inheritance Tax rules are too complicated. Yet despite this, only a third (33%) have sought professional advice on Inheritance Tax planning.

We understand that ensuring your Inheritance Tax planning is tax-efficient is a sensitive subject, and as a result planning opportunities can be missed. Early preparation is the key to success. Taking advantage of alternative methods to secure wealth and to shelter your estate will ensure that more wealth can be passed onto the next generation.

Exempt from Inheritance Tax
Every individual in the UK, regardless of marital status, is entitled to leave an estate worth up to £325,000. This is known as the ‘nil-rate band’. Anything above that amount is taxed at a rate of 40%. If you are married or in a registered civil partnership, then you can leave your entire estate to your spouse or partner. The estate will be exempt from Inheritance Tax and will not use up the nil-rate band.

Instead, the unused nil-rate band is transferred to your spouse or registered civil partner on their death. This means that should you and your spouse pass away, the value of your combined estate has to be valued at more than £650,000 before the estate would face an Inheritance Tax liability.
Here’s our snapshot of the main Inheritance Tax areas you may wish to consider and discuss further with us.

Steps to mitigate against Inheritance Tax

Make a Will
Dying intestate (without a Will) means that you may not be making the most of the Inheritance Tax exemption which exists if you wish your estate to pass to your spouse or registered civil partner. For example, if you don’t make a Will, then relatives other than your spouse or registered civil partner may be entitled to a share of your estate, and this might trigger an Inheritance Tax liability.

Residence nil-rate band
If you’re worried that rising house prices might have pushed the value of your estate into exceeding the nil-rate band, then the new ‘residence nil-rate band’ could be significant. From 6 April 2017, it can now be claimed on top of the existing nil-rate band. It starts at £100,000 per person and will increase annually by £25,000 every April until 2020, when the £175,000 maximum is reached.

Make lifetime gifts
Gifts made more than seven years before the donor dies, to an individual or to a bare trust (see types of trust), are free of IHT. So it might be wise to pass on some of your wealth while you are still alive. This will reduce the value of your estate when it is assessed for IHT purposes, and there is no limit on the sums you can pass on. You can gift as much as you wish – this is known as a ‘Potentially Exempt Transfer’ (PET).

However, if you live for seven years after making such a gift, then it will be exempt from Inheritance Tax. However, should you be unfortunate enough to die within seven years, then it will still be counted as part of your estate if it is above the annual gift allowance. You need to be particularly careful if you are giving away your home to your children with conditions attached to it, or if you give it away but continue to benefit from it. This is known as a ‘Gift with Reservation of Benefit’.

Leave a proportion to charity
Being generous to your favourite charity can reduce your Inheritance Tax bill. If you leave at least 10% of your estate to a charity or number of charities, then your Inheritance Tax liability on the taxable portion of the estate is reduced to 36% rather than 40%.

Set up a trust
Family trusts can be useful as a way of reducing Inheritance Tax, making provision for your children and spouse, and potentially protecting family businesses. Trusts enable the donor to control who benefits (the beneficiaries) and under what circumstances, sometimes long after the donor’s death. Compare this with making a direct gift (for example, to a child) which offers no control to the donor once given. When you set up a trust, it is a legal arrangement, and you will need to appoint ‘trustees’ who are responsible for holding and managing the assets. Trustees have a responsibility to manage the trust on behalf of and in the best interest of the beneficiaries, in accordance with the trust terms. The terms will be set out in a legal document called ‘the trust deed’.

Types of trust you might consider

Bare (Absolute) Trusts
The beneficiaries are entitled to a specific share of the trust, which can’t be changed once the trust has been established. The settlor (person who puts the assets in trust) decides on the beneficiaries and shares at outset. This is a simple and straightforward trust – the trustees invest the trust fund for the beneficiaries but don’t have the power to change the beneficiaries’ interests decided on by the settlor at outset. This trust offers potential Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax benefits, particularly for minor beneficiaries.

Life Interest Trusts
Typically, one beneficiary will be entitled to the income from the trust fund whilst alive, with capital going to another (or other beneficiaries) on that beneficiary’s death. This is often used in Will planning to provide security for a surviving spouse, with the capital preserved for children. It can also be used to pass income from an asset onto a beneficiary without losing control of the capital. This can be particularly attractive in second marriage situations when the children are from an earlier marriage.

Discretionary (Flexible) Trusts
The settlor decides who can potentially benefit from the trust, but the trustees are then able to use their discretion to determine who, when and in what amounts beneficiaries do actually benefit. This provides maximum flexibility compared to the other trust types, and for this reason is often referred to as a ‘Flexible Trust’.

Source data:
[1] Canada Life’s annual Inheritance Tax monitor survey of 1,001 UK consumers aged 45 or over with total assets exceeding the individual Inheritance Tax threshold (nil-rate band) of £325,000. Carried out in October 2017.

Make it a date

Most over-45s are not making plans to match their hopes for the future, according to research from Standard Life[1]. The vast majority (86%) of those aged 45 or over are already dreaming about escaping their working life for retirement, but only 8% of the same age group have recently checked the retirement date on their pension plans to make sure it is still in line with their plans.

Over half (56%) don’t have a clear idea when they want to retire, and only one in ten (10%) have worked out how much income they’ll need when they decide to stop working. The study also reveals it doesn’t get much clearer as you go up the generations: less than a fifth (17%) of those aged between 55 and 64 have recently checked to see if the retirement date on their pension policy is still fitting in with their plans.

Setting your retirement date on a pension plan does matter
Some people will have set their retirement date when they were in their 20s or 30s, and a great deal will have changed since then, including their State Pension age and perhaps their career plans. It may seem like a finger in the air guess when you’re younger, but the date that you set for retirement on a pension plan does matter. It will often dictate how your money is being invested and the communications you receive as you get nearer to that date.

Why you need to keep your retirement plans up to date

Right support, right time
If the date you plan to retire changes or you simply want to take some of your pension without stopping working, it’s important to tell your pension company. Otherwise, you may not receive information and support about your pending retirement at the most helpful times, as they’ll be basing this on your out-of-date plans.

De-risking investments
Some investment options will start to move your pension savings into lower-risk investments as you get closer to retirement. If you don’t have the right retirement date on your plan, you could be moving into these investments at the wrong time. For example, if you move into them too early, you could potentially miss out on investment returns which could increase the value of your pension savings. But if you move too late, you could be exposing your life savings to unnecessary risk.

Investment pot size
The size of the pension pot you need to build up to maintain your lifestyle when you come to retire will depend on when you plan to do so.

Income for life
If you’re planning to buy an annuity at retirement, which will guarantee you an income for the rest of your life, the amount of income you’ll get will depend on the size of your pot and annuity rates at that time. If you prefer to use your pension savings more flexibly, you can keep your money invested, and take it as and when you need. You’re then responsible for making sure your life savings last as long as you need them to.

Work longer or retire earlier
Reviewing your retirement date regularly as you get older makes real sense, and most modern pension plans enable you to change and update this date whenever you choose. It needn’t be the same as your State Pension age – you might want to work longer or retire earlier. Some people who plan to slow down or stop work earlier are using money from their private pension savings to bridge the gap until they can start claiming State Pension. All you need to do is inform your pension company of your plans, even if they change again in future.
Source data:
[1] The research was carried out online for Standard Life by Opinuium. Sample size was 2001 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Fieldwork was undertaken in November 2017.

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.

PENSIONS ARE NOT NORMALLY ACCESSIBLE UNTIL AGE 55. YOUR PENSION INCOME COULD ALSO BE AFFECTED BY INTEREST RATES AT THE TIME YOU TAKE YOUR BENEFITS. THE TAX IMPLICATIONS OF PENSION WITHDRAWALS WILL BE BASED ON YOUR INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, TAX LEGISLATION AND REGULATION, WHICH ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE IN THE FUTURE.

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

PAST PERFORMANCE IS NOT A RELIABLE INDICATOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.