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Client Stories


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‘Dog’ funds

According to the latest data (Bestinvest, 2023), the number of ‘dog’ funds have increased 27% since February this year, that represents 56 equity investment funds versus 44 earlier in the year, but a reduction on the 86 dog funds identified in January 2022.

A ‘dog’ fund is defined as one which has failed to beat its benchmark over three consecutive 12-month periods and has underperformed by 5% or more over that entire three-year period.

Almost three-quarters of the dog funds’ total asset value (£32.14bn, up from £4.49bn) can be attributed to the global sector, where the number of dog funds rose from 11 to 24 during the period.

A sense of perspective
We all know that investment performance can be impacted by many factors and as the risk warning says – past performance is no guide to the future. If a fund has found itself in the doghouse it doesn’t necessarily mean it should be disposed of immediately.

The fund managers are likely to be taking action to improve the performance, perhaps changing managers or redesigning the fund’s investment strategy. Sometimes it can be worth retaining a fund while it’s undergoing this process.

Importantly, knowing why a fund is underperforming will inform the right course of action. That’s what we can determine.

Review review review
Trust us to identify any poor performers and advise you whether it’s worth sticking with those funds for the time being, or whether it’s time to look for other opportunities.

There are many factors to consider in addition to fund performance before taking any action, such as your risk attitude, tax position and overall asset allocation, so rely on us to advise the appropriate course of action.

If you would like support from our team, get in touch today –

*The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.

A financial and wellbeing safety net

Life has a funny way of turning out differently to how we expect it. When faced with the unpredictable twists and turns of fate, it is comforting to have the support of the right protection cover for your needs.

Rising bills reinforce need for protection
Increased household bills, mortgage and rent costs, mean that protection is more important than ever right now. Have you considered how you would be able to afford your monthly outgoings if your family were to lose the income of the primary earner through death or illness?

Longer-term mindset
In response to these challenging conditions, some households are considering reducing their level of protection – and are therefore at risk of leaving themselves vulnerable to financial shocks. It may seem tempting to save a few pounds a month by cancelling or postponing taking out cover. But there is a risk that, should the worst-case scenario strike, you and/or your family will be left in a difficult financial position.

Support for your well-being as well
Did you know – mental health issues are one of the top reasons for claiming under income protection? One leading provider (Zurich, 2023) paid £6m in income protection claims last year of which a third (£1.91m) related to mental health claims. Many life and critical illness policies also include support services for mental health issues.

Protection is an essential part of long-term financial planning for everybody. Having the right insurance cover for your unique needs is an indispensable financial and well-being safety net for you and your loved ones.

Get in touch with our team for more details –

*The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.


The complexities of succession planning

Succession, the hugely popular TV show, highlights the complexities of wealth transfer. There’s a lot to think about when passing on your wealth – as well as the risk of family disputes, tax implications need to be taken into consideration.

Preserving, planning and communication
As families accumulate wealth and assets it becomes important to preserve these and to plan the transfer across generations. Without a solid succession plan, a family’s hard-earned wealth could be at risk of erosion or loss, leading to potential disputes down the line. Open communication through proactive discussions with all family members is important.

Take care with property
If you’re planning to gift property during your lifetime, you need to be aware of complicated Inheritance Tax (IHT) rules around this. For example, if you gift a house to a family member but continue to benefit from it in some way, it will remain part of your estate when you die and HMRC could tax your loved ones at 40% on anything over the tax-free threshold.

Reclaiming overpaid
IHT Even when the estate has paid any IHT that’s due, that’s not the end of the story. Following several years of significant house price growth during the pandemic, property prices are now falling. This means that properties that were valued for IHT at the height of the pandemic are now likely to sell for less. Over the years, stock market volatility due to political and economic uncertainty has also led to investment losses for many. So, the IHT bill may have been overpaid and the estate will need to put in an overpayment claim.

There’s plenty to consider. For support with your succession plans, get in touch –

*The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.


Autumn Statement 2023

Our plan for the British economy is working”

On 22 November, Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt unveiled the government’s latest tax and spending plans saying we back British business” announcing 110 growth measures which he said would boost business investment by £20bn a year. The Chancellor said the government had taken difficult decisions to put the economy “back on track” and claimed, “our plan for the British economy is working.” He also stressed that “the work is not done,” before outlining his package of measures which he said would cut business taxes, raise business investment and get more people into work.

OBR forecasts

Mr Hunt started his statement by revealing updated economic projections produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) which he said showed the government had delivered on all three of the Prime Minister’s economic priorities: to halve inflation, grow the economy and reduce debt.

The Chancellor began with inflation, reiterating that recently released official data showed the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate had more than halved from a peak of 11.1% in October 2022 to 4.6% last month. He then detailed some of the latest OBR projections, which suggest inflation will fall to 2.8% next year and hit the government’s 2% target in 2025.

Growth measures

In terms of growth, Mr Hunt said the OBR now expects the economy to expand by 0.6% this year, 0.7% in 2024 and 1.4% in 2025. While this year’s figure is a considerable improvement on the OBR’s previous prediction of a small contraction, the forecast for the following two years represents a relatively sharp downgrade from the previous forecast of 1.8% for 2024 and 2.5% for 2025.

The Chancellor acknowledged that the private sector is more productive in countries like the US, Germany and France and that, “If we want those [growth] numbers to be higher, we need higher productivity.” He also said that the measures being announced today would help close the productivity gap by “boosting business investment by £20bn a year.”


Backing British business

The 110 measures aimed at creating the right conditions for the private sector to thrive include:

  •   The ‘full expensing’ tax break for businesses has been made permanent, at a cost of £11bn a year – representing “the largest business tax cut in modern British history”
  • Delivering energy security and the net zero transition by removing barriers to investment in critical infrastructure
  • An extension to the 75% business rate discount for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
  • The simplification of Research & Development (R&D) tax reliefs and lowering the threshold for additional support for R&D intensive loss-making SMEs
  • To unlock investment, support levelling up and enable the UK to seize growth opportunities through the transition to net zero, the government is making £4.5bn available in strategic manufacturing sectors – auto, aerospace, life sciences and clean energy – from 2025 for five years.

Turning his attention to the small business community, Mr Hunt said, “I have always known that every big business was a small business once,” as he announced a package of measures designed to support SMEs across the UK. Following consultation with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Mr Hunt argued that tougher regulation was needed to stop the “scourge of late payments.” He announced that businesses bidding for large government contracts over £5m will have to prove they pay their invoices within an average of 55 days, reducing progressively to 30 days. On business rates, he announced a freeze on the small business multiplier for a further year, amongst other measures.

Personal taxation, wages and pensions

As recently announced, the government will increase the National Living Wage for individuals from £10.42 an hour to £11.44 an hour, with the threshold lowered from 23 to 21-years-old, effective from 1 April 2024.


The commitment to the pensions Triple Lock remains, meaning that the basic State Pension, new State Pension and Pension Credit standard minimum guarantee will be uprated in April 2024 in line with average earnings growth of 8.5% (September 2023). The value of the new State Pension will increase in April 2024 from £203.85 per week to £221.20 per week, while the basic State Pension will rise from £156.20 to £169.50 per week.

Universal Credit and disability benefits will increase by 6.7% next tax year, equivalent to CPI inflation in the 12 months to September 2023, which is the typical basis for benefit uprating. This represents an average increase of £470 for 5.5 million households next year.

Changes to National Insurance contributions (NICs) were revealed:

  • The main rate of Class 1 employee NICs is to be reduced from 12% to 10%. This will provide a tax cut for 27 million working people. Instead of taking effect on 6 April 2024, this will take effect from 6 January 2024
  • To simplify NICs for the self-employed, from 6 April 2024, self-employed people with profits above £12,570 will no longer be required to pay Class 2 NICs (currently £3.45 a week), but will continue to receive access to contributory benefits, including the State Pension. In addition, Class 4 NICs will be cut by 1 percentage point to 8% from April 2024
  • The government is extending the NICs relief for employers of eligible veterans for one year. Businesses pay no employer NICs on annual earnings up to £50,270 for the first year of a qualifying veteran’s employment.

No changes were announced for the following allowances:

  • The Income Tax Personal Allowance and higher rate threshold remain at current levels – £12,570 and £50,270 respectively – until April 2028 (rates and thresholds may differ for taxpayers in parts of the UK where Income Tax is devolved)
  • Inheritance Tax bands remain at £325,000 nil-rate band, £175,000 residence nil-rate band, with taper starting at £2m – fixed at these levels until April 2028
  • The 2024/25 tax year ISA (Individual Savings Account) allowance remains at £20,000 and the JISA (Junior Individual Savings Account) allowance and Child Trust Fund annual subscription limits remain at £9,000. The government will allow multiple subscriptions to ISAs of the same type every year from April 2024
  • The Dividend Allowance will reduce to £500 from April 2024
  • The annual Capital Gains Tax exemption will reduce to £3,000 from April 2024
  • The government will legislate in the Autumn Finance Bill 2023 to remove the Lifetime Allowance to clarify the taxation of lump sums and lump sum death benefits, and the application of protections, as well as the tax treatment for overseas pensions, transitional arrangements, and reporting requirements. This will take effect from 6 April 2024.

The latest steps to deliver the Mansion House Reforms for pensions, announced in the days leading up to the Autumn Statement, include:

  • A call for evidence on allowing individuals to consolidate pensions by having one pension pot for life
  • New investment vehicles tailored to the needs of pension schemes, which allow investment into the UK’s innovative companies.

Levelling up

Next, the Chancellor spoke about ‘levelling up’ measures designed to support growth and investment, starting with three new Investment Zones set to be introduced in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and the East Midlands. Together, he said, these Investment Zones will generate £3.4bn of private investment and create 65,000 jobs over the next decade.

Also included in the measures:

  • A second Investment Zone for Wales covering Wrexham and Flintshire
  • Investment Zone and freeport tax reliefs to be extended from five to 10 years
  • A new £150m Investment Opportunity Fund to support Investment Zones and freeports.

Back to work

The Chancellor then took the opportunity to reinforce his Back to Work Plan – worth £2.5bn – which was published the previous week. In addition to helping over a million people with long-term health conditions, disabilities and long-term unemployment issues to find and stay in work, the Plan also imposes tough sanctions on those who can work but choose not to.


Other key points

Alcohol duty – frozen until 1 August 2024

Mortgage Guarantee Scheme – extended until the end of June 2025

Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trust (VCT) extension – the government will legislate in the Autumn Finance Bill 2023 to extend the existing sunset clauses from 6 April 2025 to 6 April 2035

Apprenticeships – £50m funding for a 2-year pilot to explore ways to stimulate training in growth sectors and address barriers to entry in high-value apprenticeships

Support for affected communities within the UK following the conflict in Israel and Gaza – funding that the government has already provided to the Community Security Trust will be maintained in 2024/25

Housing and planning investment – an additional £32m to unlock development of thousands of homes across the country, including funding to tackle planning backlogs in Local Planning Authorities (LPA), alongside further reforms to streamline the system through a new Permitted Development Right to enable one house to be converted into two homes

Creative industries – £2.1m of funding for the British Film Commission and the British Film Institute Certification Unit for 2024/25.


Closing comments

Jeremy Hunt signed off his Statement saying, “We are delivering the biggest business tax cut in modern British history, the largest ever cut to employee and self-employed National Insurance, and the biggest package of tax cuts to be implemented since the 1980s. An Autumn Statement for a country that has turned a corner. An Autumn Statement for Growth, which I commend to the House.”

*It is important to take professional advice before making any decision relating to your personal finances. Information within this document is based on our current understanding of taxation and can be subject to change in future. It does not provide individual tailored investment advice and is for guidance only. Some rules may vary in different parts of the UK; please ask for details. We cannot assume legal liability for any errors or omissions it might contain. Levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are those currently applying or proposed and are subject to change; their value depends on individual circumstances.

Rate-hike pause as inflation dips

Last month, the Bank of England announced a pause in its long run of interest rate rises following an unexpected dip in the UK headline rate of inflation and ‘increasing signs’ that higher rates were starting to hurt the real economy. 


Following its latest meeting, which concluded on 20 September, the BoE’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted by a narrow margin to leave Bank Rate unchanged at 5.25%. This was the first occasion since December 2021 that an MPC meeting had not resulted in the Bank’s benchmark rate of interest being raised.


The decision was clearly a very close call with four of the nine-member committee voting to increase rates by a further 0.25 percentage points. The minutes to the meeting also reiterated that the MPC would be prepared to raise rates again if there was ‘evidence of more persistent inflationary pressures.’ They also repeated previous guidance that monetary policy would remain ‘sufficiently restrictive for sufficiently long’ to return inflation back to its target level.


Commenting on the day the decision was announced, BoE Governor Andrew Bailey said, “Inflation has fallen a lot in recent months and we think it will continue to do so.” The Governor did, however, warn against “complacency” and “premature celebration” and added, “We need to be sure inflation returns to normal and we will continue to take the decisions necessary to do just that.”


Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) the day before the MPC’s announcement had revealed a surprise fall in inflation. The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) 12-month rate – which compares prices in the current month with the same period a year earlier – fell to 6.7% in August, down from 6.8% in July. Most economists had predicted a slight uptick in August’s CPI rate primarily due to a rise in global fuel prices.


*Content is for informational purposes only

Residential Property Review

Conditions remain challenging

The residential sales market continues to be challenging, according to the latest UK Residential Survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), with demand, sales, instructions, and prices remaining in negative territory.


At a national level, new buyer enquiries recorded a net balance of -39% in September, which although weak, is marginally less negative than the previous month’s reading of -46%. The a listings headline net balance was -17% in September (compared to -26% in August). Agreed sales remain firmly negative, with a national net balance of -37%, but this reading is less downcast than readings of -46% and -45% seen in August and July respectively. Looking at twelve-month sales expectations, the outlook is more positive, with a net balance of +3% (up from -5% last time) signalling a much more stable trend in sales volumes emerging over the year ahead.


Rental properties receive 25 tenant enquiries

Over the last two years, average rental prices have continued to rise and there have been more people looking to rent homes than there have been properties available. According to Rightmove, the number of tenants looking to move now, compared to 2019, has increased by more than 40%, while the number of available homes to rent has dropped by 35%. Because of this mismatch, letting agents are receiving an average of 25 enquiries from prospective tenants for every home available to rent. This has risen from eight enquiries per property in 2019 and is five more than in May of this year. Rightmove’s Tim Bannister commented, “The number of new rental properties coming to the market is now at its highest level since the end of last year. While it is likely that there is some way to go before this filters through to rental prices, if the improving trend between supply and demand continues, we could start to see the pace of yearly rent rises slow more significantly than it has been.” 


BoE concerns over longer mortgage terms

Consumers are taking out longer mortgages to cope with higher interest rates and living costs, potentially storing up debt troubles in future, the Bank of England (BoE) has said. 


According to the central bank’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC), the proportion of mortgages lasting 35 years or more has increased from 4% in the first three months of the year to 12% in the second quarter. The FPC said that longer mortgages account for a small share of total mortgages and ‘Such lending will be bound by Financial Conduct Authority responsible lending rules requiring lenders to take account of future changes to income and expenditure, such as the borrower retiring, where that is expected to happen during the mortgage term.’ 


The UK has a relatively short-term mortgage market compared with some countries, including USA, where the average mortgage term is 23.3 years.


Housing market outlook  

“Activity levels continue to look subdued compared to recent years, with industry data showing lower levels of new instructions to sell homes and agreed sales. Borrowing costs are the primary factor, given the impact of higher interest rates on mortgage affordability. Against this backdro

p, homeowners inevitably become more realistic about their target selling price, reflecting what has increasingly become a buyer’s market.” 


Kim Kinnaird, Director, Halifax Mortgages Source: Halifax, October 2023


*As a mortgage is secured against your home or property, it could be repossessed if you do not keep up mortgage repayments. 

FIRE investing

Many of us dream about retiring early so we can devote more time to things we enjoy; but financial realities inevitably mean few of us actually realise those dreams. A growing number of people though are turbo-charging their chances of early retirement success by embracing the FIRE principles of investing. 


We didn’t start the fire

The FIRE movement began in the US but now has a growing band of UK-based devotees. The acronym stands for ‘Financial Independence, Retire Early’ with followers adopting extreme saving techniques in order to invest as much as possible during their working years so they can attain financial independence at a relatively young age. For some, the ultimate goal is retirement in their late thirties or early forties, while for others it’s simply the financial freedom to be able to work part-time.


Playing with fire

Some of the key principles associated with the FIRE movement include maximising savings, with followers setting aside up to 70% of their income every month; paying off all debt, including a mortgage; and living exceptionally frugally. Devotees also save via investment products, such as a stocks and shares ISA, in order to maximise returns while sheltering proceeds from the taxman.  


Eternal flame

Another pillar of the FIRE movement is the ‘4% rule’, a formula used to calculate when someone has enough money to stop work. In simple terms, 4% is the amount someone can typically afford to withdraw from their retirement pot each year without too much risk of running out of money. So, if someone expected to spend £20,000 a year, they would need a pot worth at least £500,000.


Light my fire

Creating a clear, appropriate investment goal is key to financial planning success, and FIRE investors have certainly nailed that. Furthermore, the basic principles do make sound financial sense. So, if early retirement is a burning desire for you, it might just be worth joining the FIRE brigade.


*The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.

Lifetime Allowance removal provides pension boost

Several months have passed since the Spring Budget, which, although not necessarily packed with good news stories, held one announcement that certainly did bring considerable cheer to higher-rate taxpayers. A recent survey has revealed the dramatic impact that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decision to scrap the pension Lifetime Allowance (LTA) is having on people’s retirement planning strategies.


Purpose of the move

In his first Spring Budget Statement delivered on 15 March, the Chancellor announced that the LTA charge would be removed from April 2023 and that the LTA would be abolished altogether from April 2024. This decision was essentially designed to remove a disincentive for retirement saving amongst higher earners and dissuade an increasing number of this group from retiring early. 


Boosting pension contributions 

New research (Investec, July 2023) suggests the change has already had a significant impact on higher earners’ pension saving and retirement planning decisions both in terms of spurring more contributions and encouraging retirement delays. According to the survey, 51% of higher rate taxpayers have restarted, increased or made plans to increase their pension payments since the announcement, with average additional payments amounting to £650 a month. 


Extending working lives 

In addition, 23% of respondents said they had delayed their planned retirement or are likely to delay their retirement due to the fact that they can now save a higher amount in their pension pot without facing a heavy tax charge. Furthermore, around 10% said they had actually come out of retirement as a result of the change, while another 6% were planning to come out of retirement.


Advice is paramount 

While abolition of the LTA has undoubtedly simplified some decisions in relation to retirement and estate planning, it has also effectively increased the need for clients to seek professional advice on their pension arrangements due to the change in tax treatment. There is also always an element of political risk in financial planning which means clients may need to act quickly if they are to make the most of the opportunity the Chancellor has provided.


*The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. A pension is a longterm investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation. Inheritance Tax Planning is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Making purposeful financial decisions

The upsurge in inflation over the last year or so has again vividly highlighted the devastating impact sharply rising price levels can wreak on people’s finances. Carefully reviewing your financial choices now, though, can ensure you continue making appropriate decisions that will help to stop inflation leaving a lasting impression on your financial future.


A lack of understanding

Official statistics show the headline rate of inflation peaked at a 41-year high of 11.1% last October but, although economists expect it to continue falling for the rest of this year, the rate has so far remained stubbornly high. Research (Aviva, 2022), however,

suggests the impact inflation has on our finances is not widely understood, with over half of UK adults failing to grasp how rising prices eat into the buying power of their savings.


Limiting the damage

Inheritance is another area where high inflation can have a profound effect. When combined with the continuing nil-rate threshold freeze, soaring prices inevitably mean more estates are likely to be dragged into the Inheritance Tax net. Careful planning now, though, can limit any future liability and preserve people’s ability to pass on assets to their heirs.


Pension pressures

Retirement provision is also a concern, with growing evidence that cost-of-living pressures are leading some to cut back contributions as a way to make ends meet, without realising the lasting damage such decisions can make. For instance,

Analysis (Standard Life, 2023) based on various assumptions (about such factors as salary, pension contribution rates and investment growth) shows that if someone opts out of pension contributions for five years in their 20s it could reduce their final retirement pot at age 66 by £114,000.


Here for you

As ever, we’re here to help; so please get in touch if you need to review your finances and, together, we’ll plan to mitigate inflation’s impact on your future financial wellbeing.


The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation.


Your financial empowerment toolkit

Traditionally, people might have assessed their financial health by simply checking the balance on their bank account or totalling their amassed level of wealth. In recent years, however, a different measure has emerged which seeks to balance financial stability with emotional wellbeing.

Financial empowerment

This new concept places greater emphasis on goals and developing a financial plan to achieve life’s aspirations; in other words, it’s about people gaining control over their finances rather than their finances controlling them. Achieving genuine financial empowerment does

not therefore focus simply on someone’s level of wealth, but on handling that money so it has a truly positive impact on their wellbeing.

A state of mind

In many ways, financial empowerment is about understanding the emotional relationship with money by focusing on an individual’s mindset as well as their finances. Taking time to strategise, by aligning spending and savings commitments with long-term goals while being prepared for life’s unexpected financial challenges, can provide a logical, ordered approach that brings satisfaction and pride to our financial lives. In effect, it creates control that affords a sense of financial freedom and thereby puts us on track to a fulfilling, well-lived life and retirement.

Empowerment versus income

Analysis (Morningstar, 2023), which compares people’s emotional experiences with their level of empowerment and earnings, offers further valuable insight. It found that financially empowered people had mostly positive experiences, even those in lower income brackets, while those who felt disempowered were generally less happy with their finances than their peers. This suggests that a sense of personal power rather than someone’s income level is the key to achieving emotional wellbeing in their financial lives.


It’s all in the planning

Financial empowerment effectively derives from equipping ourselves with the

right tools. With the clear, transparent advice and professional support our firm provides, we can construct a well thought-out, long-term but flexible plan that will allow you to live the life you want and thereby achieve true financial empowerment.

*The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. A pension is a long- term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down. Your eventual income may depend on the size of the fund at retirement, future interest rates and tax legislation. Inheritance Tax Planning is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.