Category: Funds

Pension Savings
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Pension Awareness Week: Expert Advice for Builders on How to Prepare for Retirement

Pension Savings

Preparing for retirement can be challenging, and it can be difficult to know where to start. In fact, research by IronmongeryDirect found that one in eight (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age (55-64s) don’t have any financial preparations for retirement. 

So, this Pension Awareness Week (12-16th September), what do you need to know about saving for retirement?  

IronmongeryDirect has partnered with Fabian Taylor, senior associate and chartered financial planner in Nelsons’ wealth management team, and George Stainton, senior wealth manager at Hoxton Capital Management, to reveal helpful tips for builders on how to prepare for retirement. 

 

1) It’s never too late to start 

While it’s recommended to begin planning for retirement as soon as possible, IronmongeryDirect’s research found that more than one in ten (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age don’t have a financial plan in place. Thankfully, it’s never too late to make a start. 

Fabian said: “Contributions to a pension attract tax relief from the Government. So, for every £80 you contribute, tax relief of £20 is added, making the total contribution £100.

“As a general rule of thumb, you should try to save half the age at which you started as a percentage of your salary. For example, if you start saving at age 20, then you should contribute ten percent, but if you start at age 30, you should aim to save 15%.” 

 

2) Saving early makes things easier  

While it’s true that you can start saving at any point during your career, it’s sensible to begin putting aside money for retirement as early as possible. 

Many young people have the advantage of being able to use workplace pension schemes, but for those who opt out, are ineligible, or are planning on saving additional funds, starting early has major benefits. 

George said: “If younger people are not contributing to a pension scheme, then they should make sure they have some sort of structured savings in place. Getting into the habit of saving for retirement earlier in your career will make life much more comfortable as you get closer to retirement. Let us look at a simple calculation to prove this. 

“If someone needs to have a retirement pot of £500,000 at the age of 55, they will need to save £441 per month if they start at the age of 25 and see a 7% return on their investment each year. If they start saving at 35, this figure increases to £1,016 per month and dramatically increases to £2,783 per month if they start at 45 years old.” 

 

3) Take advantage of workplace schemes 

For tradespeople who work on an employed basis, they should look to enrol in their workplace pension scheme, if they have not already. 

This means that they will be saving throughout their career, with additional top-ups from their employer, and while tradies should still aim to set up a private pension, a workplace scheme provides a safety net in the meantime.  

Fabian said: “If you are 22-years-old or older, earning over £10,000 and employed by a company, you will be automatically enrolled into your company’s workplace scheme. Through this, a minimum of 8% of your earnings, split between yourself and your employer, between £6,240 and £50,000, will be invested into your pension. If it is affordable, you should consider increasing contributions. If you opt out of this workplace pension, you are missing out on money from your employer.” 

George said: “Thankfully, with the help of auto-enrolment, younger people are better equipped than ever to start saving for their retirement early. As the majority of the young working population will be contributing to some kind of workplace pension, they are able to benefit from the effect of long-term saving and compounded growth.” 

 

4) Remember to plan ahead and save if you’re self-employed 

Those working on a self-employed basis, unfortunately, do not have the same auto-enrolment to a workplace pension scheme that employed people do, so therefore it’s important that you make your own preparations and plan ahead for your retirement. 

Fabian said: “Draw up a budget to see what you can afford to contribute each month, and do some research into the best place for you to put it that allows for investment growth and tax relief. Even if it is a small amount, every little helps.” 

“Assuming a growth rate of five percent, if you were to contribute £50 per month to a pension at age 25, the pension could be worth £76,301 by age 65. However, if you don’t start saving until age 35, the pension could be worth £41,612 by age 65. The longer you wait to save in a pension, the more you may have to pay in later in life to save enough to meet your needs in retirement.” 

Regardless of your age, it’s always best to prepare for retirement in advance. By ensuring that you’re making the most of workplace pensions where available, as well as saving privately, you can place yourself in the best position to enjoy retirement in comfort. 

Investment
ArticlesFunds

5 Wise Questions to Ask Before Making an Investment

Investment

Before you put your hard-earned money at risk, you need to ask yourself several questions. You want to fully comprehend the risk before entering any investment. What you are risking is the first thing that needs to be considered. Only when you know what you are risking should you proceed to consider the opportunity.

When you make intelligent decisions, investing can be incredibly rewarding. Not only is it going to yield you good returns on your investments, but it can also be satisfying knowing you’re making good decisions. Doing all of the research needed and acting on it can bring you mental and financial rewards. There’s a big chance your confidence increases after making a good investment decision.

You need to know the risk and reward when entering any kind of investment to make well-informed decisions.

With countless trading applications on your mobile devices and advertisements across social media, there’s never been greater pressure. Making good decisions on your investments is more important than ever and it shouldn’t be made on a whim.

You need to take the requisite time needed to make smarter and more informed investment decisions. You want to know everything about a potential investment before putting your money at risk. If you are planning on investing long-term, you need to be well aware of volatility. You need to be prepared to go through the ups and down’s that come with the territory. For instance; while investing in Asia, try and keep up to date regarding what’s next for Asian stocks?

Here are some of the best questions you can ask yourself before getting into any investment.

 

1. Am I Willing to Lose This Money?

This is the very first question you need to always ask yourself before putting any money at risk. The only money you invest should be money that you are willing and able to lose. Every investment comes with inherent risk. Some of them are greater than others. Typically, the greater the risk, the bigger the potential returns. You need to figure out what you are willing to risk to make investment decisions.

For some products like savings accounts, you don’t have any risk. The biggest risk to your savings account would be inflation. Inflation could outpace the interest you are earning on your money. Thus, your money would be losing value as time goes on. However, other than that, there is no risk of you losing it.

If you are considering investing in something that offers very significant returns, you need to be prepared to lose some (if not all) of it. Things can go wrong with investments and knowing when to take risks is key.

You also need to be skeptical of investments that offer high returns. This is especially true if you aren’t entirely certain of the inherent risks that come with it. There are complicated asset classes with high return potential that not everyone fully understands. These can include cryptocurrency and even mini-bonds. You can tell if a potential return is high by comparing it to lower-risk investments like bonds.

 

2. Do I Understand the Investment and Is There Enough Liquidity?

This is a big thing that you need to figure out before making any sort of investment decision. You want to know exactly what you are investing in. This is especially true if you are going for riskier and higher reward investments.

What is it that you are investing in? How does it work? Who is the one behind it? How easy would it be to take your money out when it comes time? All of these things are essential to know before putting your money anywhere.

You need to know how easy it is to get your money out if needed. If your plans change, can you take your money out right away? Are there limited options for liquidating? Is there sufficient liquidity for your exit?

Figure out if people are buying and selling the asset or thing you are investing in suggest Hub Agency. For instance, investors are constantly buying and selling stocks. There is high liquidity which makes it easy to get in and out. Do you need an agreement before you can sell? A lot of higher-risk investments can be good, but you may want to have ample experience before getting involved with them.

It’s better to opt for simpler and less risky investment options if you are someone with inadequate experience or you are someone that cannot afford to lose your money. It’s also a good idea to avoid investing in anything that you don’t fully understand. You may want to opt for diversified funds instead. These offer good returns with lesser risk.

 

3. Are My Investments Regulated?

This is an important question to ask. you want to ensure that you are investing in regulated assets and investments. You won’t have access to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme or Financial Ombudsman Service if your investment doesn’t go as planned.

 

4. Am I Protected If the Investment Provider Goes Out Of Business?

There’s never going to be a simple answer when it comes to higher-risk investments. Before making any kind of investment decision, you need to understand that nothing is guaranteed. You won’t be protected because your investment doesn’t go right. Check to see what protections do exist if the provider goes out of business. In the United Kingdom specifically, you will find that a lot of financial service companies need to be authorized. You’ll want to check the Register to see whether or not they have the full authorization.

You want to go for a company that has full authorization because they offer the most protections.

 

5. Should I Seek Financial Advice?

It’s always a good idea to get professional financial advice if possible. This can help you better understand the market conditions and the investments that you are getting into. They can inform you on asset classes and what risks are involved with the investments you are considering. They can even formulate a better and more diversified investment plan that fits your income and risk profile.

Ensure that you choose a regulator that is authorized. Here are some good tips to use to find a reputable one.

You will find that higher risk and higher return investments can ultimately provide exceptional opportunities. However, they are only for seasoned investors who fully understand the risk. These products are best used by those with a lot of experience and with more discretionary income to take on the inevitable losses that come with higher-risk investments.

Gemstone investment
ArticlesFunds

From Cut to Clarity – The Layman’s Guide to Gemstone Investment

Gemstone investment

An interview with Dr Thomas Schröck, CEO and Founder of The Natural Gem

Revered for their beauty and believed by many to have healing powers, gemstones have been used throughout history by people from all echelons of society. Whether they have been used as lucky charms, religious symbols or as ornamental decorations.

The most well-known use of gemstones however, has been as a symbol to signify one’s status. Due to their scarcity and brilliance, royal families have worn gemstone adorned pieces of jewellery for as long as we can remember as a way to demonstrate wealth, rank and power.

Today, gemstones are still used for many of the same reasons as thousands of years ago. There are, however, more ways to enjoy these beautiful mineralogical phenomena than just as part of a piece of jewellery.

Today many people today enjoy investing in gemstones as a means to secure wealth and as an inflation hedge. It’s no wonder why. The gemstone is the world’s oldest commodity, dating back as long as 5,500 years, and holds more historical and cultural importance than probably any other investment options.

With the emergence of stocks, bonds, mutual funds and more, gemstones have taken somewhat of a backseat in the investing world. Perhaps because they are so embedded in our history and culture that people are missing the obvious? Or maybe just because the people who engage in gemstone investing want to guard this hidden gem (no pun intended) and avoid competitors?

After all, gemstones have the highest concentration of value, even higher than gold, and can return great yields. Who wouldn’t want to keep it a secret?

We spoke to Dr Thomas Schröck, CEO and Founder of The Natural Gem, to learn more about gemstones and uncover the secrets to successful gemstone investment.

 

How are gemstones valued?

Gold and gemstones are both tangible investments, but the key difference here is that there is no fixed value for x weight of gemstones. There are multiple classifications which creates an accurate valuation of coloured gemstones, starting with the 4C’s: colour, clarity, carat, and cut. The same standard is also used for diamonds, but there are also additional indicators which are solely used for coloured gemstones – namely, treatment and origin. All these factors heavily influence the valuation.

For instance, two rubies of similar quality but different countries of origin, can have a large dissimilarity in value. One from Mozambique may be valued at 100,000 GBP, while one from Burma may be valued at 150,000 GBP. This shows how impactful one detail can be to the net worth of a gemstone.

There are currently two systems in place to determine prices and price development for coloured gemstones – these are GemGuide and Gemval. The former is primarily directed at wholesale dealers and jewellers whereas the latter calculates market retail prices.

The value of a gemstone consists of three criteria:

  • Intrinsic value (market or trade value)
  • Its aesthetic value (a subjective, mostly optical value)
  • Its historical value, if any

 

One may compare gemstones to art, but the main difference here is that they carry a much higher intrinsic value. The aesthetic and historical value can also have an additional impact on valuation. We could take Kate Middleton’s engagement ring, which previously belonged to both Princess Diana and Queen Victoria, as an example: if we look at purely the intrinsic value of the stones and materials themselves, we may get just a fraction of what the ring would be sold for at an auction due to its aesthetic and historical value.

 

How do ordinary investors invest in gems?

A gemstone is a long-term investment, and since it does not depreciate in value, it’s a smart investment to keep for a rainy day. Our customers either buy it directly off our homepage or come by for an individual consultation. Seeing the stone in person before purchasing is important for many because we always recommend only investing in a stone that speaks to you. We’ve found this also helps when looking to re-sell the gemstone, because you will know and believe in the selling points.

We know that it can be scary when making your first investment in gemstones, and will on occasion hear the Blood Diamond reference. For this reason, transparency is so important to us, and we try to give as much transparency to the supply chain as possible. If a gemstone is legitimate and the same gemstone that the seller claims, you will receive a gemological certificate from a trusted laboratory. This will determine the intrinsic nature of the stone, and removes any risk involved in the purchase.

We provide multiple levels of certification, for example for a blue sapphire from Sri Lanka we can provide certificates from CGL (Sri Lanka), GLA (Austria), Gübelin and/or SSEF (Switzerland).

If the seller can’t provide a gemological certificate, that is your sign to exit the deal.

 

How have gems performed historically?

Gemstones have been used for more than 5,500 years as a means to retain personal wealth, and have historically been worn by royalty as part of their crown jewels, to ensure the gemstones remain part of their legacy. The most well-known gemstone is the diamond, but it does not have the highest value concentration and has a rather low appreciation. The gemstone with the highest value concentration and a growth of 8-10% p.a., is the ruby. The ruby is followed by the blue sapphire at 6% p.a., and then the emerald at 5% p.a.

What makes naturally coloured gemstones unique as an investment is their non-correlative nature to the macroeconomic developments. Gemstones will typically experience steady growth even through financial downturns, and it’s because of this non-volatility that they make the perfect candidates for diversifying investment portfolios.

 

How do gemstones vary in investability according to type?

As already briefly explained, a gemstone has a unique valuation according to its individual characteristics. What we can do, however, is to categorise the gemstones based on quality and country of origin: an example is a fine ruby (high quality) from Burma – historically,  this has been the best performing gemstone in terms of value growth. This begs the question: why do some gemstones increase in value more than others? To uncover this, it is important to highlight what makes a gemstone appreciate in value over all, two of the main factors are their rarity (or scarcity)  and beauty.

Before we can determine this, we need to establish what makes a stone increase in value. For gemstones it all has to do with two main factors, their rarity and beauty. The reason why rubies are experiencing an incredible growth rate currently is because the yield of the ruby mines are depleting. This means that the scarcity of supply drives up the values.

We can see this across all high value gemstones, but what makes a certain kind of gemstone more valuable than the other? To illustrate this, we can take the beryl as an example: more specifically the emerald (belonging to the beryl species) and the red beryl. The red beryl is the rarest of the beryl variety, but the emerald is more valuable. The worth is attributed to its beauty and due to it being more widely known, having a stronger historical significance, and for some its unique beauty. It is, however, hard to put a price tag on the subjective nature of beauty – it is simply compounded with the multiple factors as previously mentioned. In terms of investability, the main gemstones which are recommended for a first investment are ruby, sapphire, and emerald.

 

What is gemstone re-certification?

When we acquire gemstone, we make sure that it has multiple layers of certification. Once this step is completed, we store the gemstone with its certifications until an individual requests to buy it. With some gemstones that have been with us for an extended period of time, we use recertification to showcase the value development by renewing the certification at a gemological laboratory. We will then have the stone re-appraised by an expert, and they will provide the new value which is aligned with the market’s retail price. This is not only good for us to remain in the know of current trends and market value, but also give potential buyers a clear indication of its historical performance.

 

When is the best time to invest in gemstones? and how do they perform during financial crises?

We find that there is an increase in demand for gemstones during the financial crises in particular. This is mostly due to the fact that the value of gemstones does not correlate to the macroeconomic climate, and will therefore be used as a hedge against inflation.

That’s not to say that you should only invest in gemstones during a financial downturn. Investments should not be made in response to global events.

I like to think of investments as an intentional habit; a regular action you intentionally decide to adopt in order to meet a greater goal. And good habits are built now, so don’t wait for an economic crisis to hit before you decide to take control of your investment portfolio and secure your wealth.

 

Where can people learn more about investing in gemstones?

The internet is a beautiful place, filled with so much information from experts dealing with all aspects of the gemstone trade, from mining to jewellery design. Unfortunately, there is also many mistruths and misleading information available on the internet, which can be confusing at the best of times.

I will be releasing a book later this year titled “Investing in Gemstones”, which will be a definitive guide to gemstone investment, helping people understand the gemstone trade and the potential risks in this industry, and how to make sound investments that will yield lucrative returns over time.

Retirement plan
ArticlesFundsPensions

3 Great Tips for Building Retirement Savings

Retirement plan

You don’t want to hit retirement age with no savings. Doing that will leave you dependent on your family and government-issued benefits, or worse — it will push you to keep working for much longer than you’d like. You want a comfortable nest egg that you can rely on through all of your golden years. 

These three tips will help you build up your nest egg.

 

1. Make an Emergency Fund

What do emergency funds and retirement funds have to do with one another? Without an emergency fund, it can be tempting to turn to your large pool of retirement savings to remedy an urgent, unplanned expense. But this comes with consequences. 

Withdrawals before you’re 59 ½ typically come with early distribution penalties that will reduce your amount of funds. Your withdrawals will also be counted as taxable income. You will end up with much less than you originally removed to cover the emergency expense, and your nest egg will be a little smaller for your retirement.

You can avoid this tricky situation by making yourself an emergency fund. If you suddenly face an emergency expense, you can dip into your emergency fund to access the necessary savings to cover it. You don’t have to worry about early withdrawal penalties, and you certainly don’t have to worry about how the decision will affect your retirement. That nest egg can remain untouched.

What if you don’t have enough savings? You should still try your best not to touch your retirement fund. If you need to cover an urgent, unplanned expense, try to cover it using your credit card or a personal online loan. 

When searching for an online loan, make sure it’s available in your state of residence. So, if you happen to live in Little Rock, you should look for Arkansas online loans to manage an emergency expense. This simple trick will help you find loans that are available in Arkansas.

 

2. Match 401(k) Contributions

Do you have a 401(k) through your workplace? Then, you should take advantage of 401(k) matching. This is when employers agree to match a portion of your contributions, meaning you can automatically boost your savings. 

Employers will have limits on how much of your contribution they are willing to match — this is sometimes based on your experience at the company. Employees that have been with the company for a shorter amount of time will typically have lower matching contribution rates. Over time, their rates will rise until they become fully vested.

 

3. Open an IRA

You can have a 401(k) and an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) at the same time. An IRA is a tax-advantaged retirement account that you can store additional savings into once you’ve maxed out 401(k) contributions. An IRA has a much smaller contribution limit than your 401(k), so it’s perfect for this secondary savings role. 

One of the biggest benefits of an IRA is that you get to choose from a diverse array of investment options to help your savings grow. You can invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. With a 401(k) plan, your investment options will be fairly limited and chosen by your employer.

If your employer doesn’t offer a 401(k), you should definitely open up an IRA as your main retirement account. For a secondary retirement savings account, you can store funds in a high-yield savings account. This is an excellent alternative because your balance will grow with compounding interest and contributions over time.

Start building up your retirement savings now. You’ll be grateful you started saving early when you’re older. 

Pension Recession
ArticlesFundsPensions

Preparing Your Pensions in the Event of a UK Recession

Pension Recession

Pensions specialists Penfold has unfolded what the impact of a possible recession will have on pensions including tips on how to prepare pensions in the event of another recession.

In the past, recessions have arisen when people become concerned about the economy and stop spending. Many of these same signs can be seen in the UK in 2022.

Currently, the inflation rate stands at a 40-year high of 9.4%, with reports stating that the rate could increase up to 12% in October, according to the latest data by ONS. 

Rising energy costs and the cost of living crisis have already led to many Britons tightening the purse strings and with further rises to energy bills coming in the Winter, many are predicting a recession is on the way. 

 

How does a recession affect your pensions?

What happens to pensions in a recession is broadly in line with what’s happening with financial markets as a whole. 

Everything you pay into your pension is invested into something called a pension fund.

A pension fund is a big collection of pension savings that invests in a wide variety of financial assets, such as:

  • Stocks and shares
  • Government bonds
  • Commodities like precious metals
  • Overseas investments
  • Property

Generally speaking, your money will be diversified – spread across a broad range of these investments.

When the economy is struggling, the value of these investments tends to dip as well – potentially impacting the value of your savings.

If you still have a few years before retiring (i.e. more than 5), you shouldn’t panic. Your savings will have plenty of time to recover. 

In fact, if you can, continuing to pay into your pension when market prices are lower means you may benefit when the market eventually bounces back.

 

Top tips to prepare your pensions in advance

For those very close to retirement, you may have to act a little sooner. Consider doing the following:

  • Moving to a pension fund comprising of less volatile investments like government bonds 
  • Drawing income from other sources for the short-term
  • Pushing back when you start accessing your pension

However, before making any moves, you should always speak to a financial advisor before making a firm decision.

One thing we can’t predict right now is how long or severe any potential recession might be. 

For example, the UK also dipped into a recession during the onset of the Covid pandemic, although it recovered in a couple of months.

If you’re worried about the future of the economy and its impact on you you can act now. 

You can consider:

  • Make a budget and reassess any short-term goals
  • Clearing any high-interest debt
  • Preparing an emergency fund

The best way to beat inflation is to put your money somewhere where it can grow.

By investing your money in a diversified, long-term pension fund, the return on investment that comes from your pension could outstrip inflation, helping preserve the value of your hard-earned money and leaving you with more than you began with.

Of course, investing can be a little scary. Saving into a pension involves risk, and the value of your pot can go down as well as up, more so in the short term. But that doesn’t mean people should be put off investing their money.

Truth is that leaving your money in a current account or under your mattress isn’t as safe as it might first seem. In fact, you’re actually losing money as inflation eats away at your savings. 

Investment Markets
ArticlesFundsMarkets

What’s Hot in NFT Market? 5 Trends from Top 2022 NFT Events

Investment Markets

Despite crypto being on a downturn, builders are optimistic about the future, with each NFT meetup gathering more and more creators looking to network, discuss ideas, and talk over novel use cases.

Following the crypto market downturn, skeptics keep painting a gloomy picture of the future. However, Indrė Viltrakytė, leading the WEB3 fashion venture ‘The Rebels’, has shared that market volatility has not dampened the optimism of the builder community. Having participated in the hottest NFT events of 2022, she has shared firsthand insights reflecting the prevailing mood of excitement and the main trends that resonated across different meetups.

 

Events – a backdrop for networking

While most of the NFT conferences’ agendas have an impressive line-up of visionary topics, often they play only a secondary role. The main selling point remains the opportunity to network and blend into the community.

“Since the market is nascent, there are still a lot more questions than there are answers. Therefore, everyone is eager to bounce off ideas of one another, which helps bring clarity and focus to their work,” Viltrakytė commented.

 

Keeping the party going

Despite some painting a ‘doom and gloom’ future for all-things-crypto, Viltrakytė says the NFT creator community remains optimistic about the industry’s future, and it clearly shows in the attitude with which they approach discussions or present ideas.

“Builders that continue traveling to different events to network, learn, exchange ideas as well as present their own are in high spirits and not at all shaken up about the current state of crypto. Everyone is bullish, despite short-term market uncertainty, and being certain that the ‘dark clouds will pass’ keeps the creativity flowing.”

 

Rising number of women builders

In 2021, women accounted for only 16% of the NFT art market. However, the scale is slowly leveling out — Viltrakytė noted a noticeable increase of women attendees in NFT events, keen to present their ideas. In some events, women even outnumbered men, showing their growing interest in WEB3 art and its use cases.

“Not that long ago, the industry had a strong label of being a ‘boys only’ club. Now, albeit slowly, but the predominance of a single gender is clearly diminishing, which is incredibly exciting for a few reasons. First, women are proactively killing the stereotype that they aren’t tech-savvy, and secondly, the more diverse ideas are floating around in the market, the more innovative products are likely to be launched because of it,” she commented.

 

Less chit-chat – more discussion

While most of the NFT events strive to strike a work-play balance, Viltrakytė said flashing lights and glitter paled before workshops and discussions. She noted a few experiences that stood out, one of which was an entire week of mini panels held at the ‘We are Web3’ conference, where women could gather and learn.

“I think this will strongly impact how these events are held next year; less music – more spaces to discuss ideas and network with those who can help bring them to life.”

 

Digital fashion on the world stage

Currently, the topic of WEB3 fashion and digital wearables stands out as one of the key narratives in the NFT scene. According to Viltrakytė, fashion will be an important link between physical and virtual experiences, streamlining entry into the virtual world and helping to create a true-to-self digital identity.

“Digital wearables will play a crucial role in virtual worlds, as they will enable users to create avatars through which they can experience the metaverse. In the grand scheme of things, WEB3 will redefine the fashion industry as we know it in a variety of verticals, including self-expression, social networking, industry’s sustainability, its creative potential, and others,” Viltrakytė commented, noting that the curiosity to explore these possibilities is what led to co-founding ‘The Rebels’.

“WEB3 and NFTs have opened many new doors for both established fashion houses and emerging designers. It is very exciting to be part of the force shaping the future of the industry with ideas that, not that long ago, seemed like science fiction but now are becoming the new reality.”

Estate Planning
ArticlesFundsReal Estate

5 Common Estate Planning Mistakes

Estate Planning

It takes a lifetime of hard work and planning to acquire the real estate, investments and other assets that lawyers refer to as a person’s estate. You might think that the last thing anyone would do is leave the distribution of an estate to the one-size-fits-all state intestacy laws, but that is exactly what 67% of Americans responding to a survey have done by not having an estate plan.

Apart from the foolishness of letting a state law dictate which of your relatives get to share in the distribution of your estate upon your death, not having an estate plan puts you at the mercy of courts to decide the type of medical treatment you receive when you are too sick to make those decisions for yourself. A meeting with an estate planning attorney ensures the orderly distribution of your estate according to your wishes upon your death. It also lets you designate someone that you trust to handle your financial affairs and make health care decisions when you are incapacitated and unable to do so on your own.

Estate plans come about through a collaboration with your attorney, but you need to be prepared by knowing what you want done. One way to get you started is by offering the following list of the five common estate planning mistakes and ways for you to avoid them.

 

Putting off estate planning until you’re older 

Too many people think of end of life decisions and death as being so far off in the future that waiting to address them can wait at least until they reach retirement age or older. Unfortunately, life-altering accidents and illnesses happen at all stages in life. 

Estate planning ensures that your wishes are known and will be followed regarding health care, end-of-life decisions, handling of your finances, and distribution of your estate. Consider how comforting it would be knowing that someone you trust has the legal authority to manage and look after your financial affairs should an illness or injury prevent you from doing so. 

A durable power of attorney as part of an estate plan lets you designate an agent to handle business, financial and personal matters on your behalf. You specify the scope of the authority granted to the agent and can make it as broad or limited as you desire. 

There is even a document, commonly known as a health care power of attorney, that lets you designate an agent with the authority to make decisions about medical care you receive should you be incapacitated and unable to make them on your own. However, the only way to get the benefits and peace of mind of powers of attorney or any other estate planning documents is to stop thinking about estate planning and make an appointment with your attorney to create one for yourself.

 

Failing to periodically review and update your estate plan

Life constantly changes, and your estate plan needs to be updated to keep up with all that goes on in your life. Some of the events in your life that signal the need for a change to an estate plan include:

  • Marriage and divorce.
  • Birth of a child.
  • Purchase of a home.
  • Start of a business.
  • Death of close relatives.

 

An estate plan needs to be periodically reviewed to determine whether changes are needed to keep up with what’s going on in your life. For example, it may have been a good idea to name your spouse as the agent to make end-of-life and health care decisions for you, but a divorce may be a good time to have your health care power of attorney changed to designate someone else as the agent.

 

Planning only for your death

A common mistake in estate planning is to focus on death by including only a will and trust agreement in an estate plan without having a plan for living with a disabling illness or injury. According to the Social Security Administration, one-in-four 20 year olds can expect to be disabled before they reach retirement age.

An estate plan that includes only a will or trust agreement providing for distribution of your estate after death can easily be expanded to protect you in the event of a disabling illness or injury. A health care power of attorney, living will, and durable power of attorney are some of the documents your attorney may recommend to ensure that your affairs are managed according to your wishes while you are alive.

 

Letting emotion and loyalty get in the way 

The person chosen to be executor of a will or the agent designated to act for you through a power of attorney must be someone who is capable of doing the job. The obvious decision may be to designate your spouse to make end-of-life decisions for you, but it may not be the right choice when you consider the types of decisions your spouse will be called upon to make.

The emotional bond between you that makes your spouse or one of your children the obvious choice could make it difficult for them to make tough decisions when the time comes. Choose someone who can set aside emotion and follow your wishes as you outlined them in your living will or health care power of attorney.

 

Adding children to the deed to your home to avoid probate

The rationale for changing ownership of your home by adding children to the deed is that doing so avoids the time and cost of probating a will when you die. Because they are named as owners on the deed, title automatically passes to them upon your death without the need for a will or probate proceedings. 

Get advice from your estate planning lawyer before changing the deed to your home. Adding a child as an owner may have subject you to payment of gift taxes. It also makes your home an asset that creditors of your children could seize. 

Transferring title to a trust may be a better option to pass the property to your children upon your death outside of probate without the risks associated with a transfer of title to them during your lifetime. Let your attorney advise you about the best way to accomplish your goal.

 

Conclusion

Make estate planning a priority early in life in the same way that you would planning for retirement. If you do not have an estate plan, make an appointment today with an estate planning attorney to get it done.

Property Inflation
ArticlesFundsReal Estate

Home-Hunting in the Time of Inflation: What Does the Future Hold for House Buying?

Property Inflation

Inflations levels hit 9% in April, registering the fastest rise in consumer prices in the last four decades. As a result, our bills and receipts have been soaring. The cost of food and drink could rise by 15% this summer and filling the average family car with petrol now exceeds £100. So, it is fair to say that inflation is affecting many areas. In this respect, the housing market has not been spared either.

With all that has happened in the last couple of years, we all recognise the importance of having a home that offers you the comfort and safety you require. But as life presents more and more financial hurdles, many home-hunters may feel discouraged when searching for their perfect new property.

How is inflation impacting the price tags of houses for sale? Are properties becoming more expensive or affordable? Here, with some insights from Watermans, a legal and estate agency firm, we take a look at how the existing crisis will influence the future of house buying.

 

Inflation and house prices: costly or cost-effective?

Let’s not beat around the bush: as things stand, property prices in the UK are not likely to be very advantageous. The average asking price in June across Britain stands at £368,614, increasing for the fifth month in a row. But looking back at the figures of the past few months, it is perhaps no surprise that houses’ initial price tags have shot up even more.

In March, in fact, the average cost of a British house reached a record high of £282,753. Not only was this 1.4% higher than the average rate of home prices in February, but it represented an 11% increase compared to March 2021. What this means is that, in the space of a single year, the average property cost has grown by £28,113. When taking into account the fact that the average UK salary now stands at £28,860, you could argue that this costly price rise may be having a significant impact on potential homebuyers’ pockets.

Currently, England is the country with the highest house prices in Britain. As of April 2022, you can expect to pay £299,000 to move into a new property. If you live in Scotland or plan to relocate north of the English border, you might be able to save some money. Yes, house costs have increased in Scottish towns and cities too, but you would be likely to secure a new home for about £188,000 on average.

Inflation is not the only factor to blame for such a considerable growth in property prices. In fact, the sustained increase has been determined by two correlated aspects. On one side, the market has witnessed a shortage of houses for sale; on the other, with the ‘race for space’ incentivised by the pandemic, the demand for new spacious properties has sky-rocketed. As a consequence, home-seekers are being forced to close costlier deals.

Moreover, the rental market has been impacted by the rising inflation as well. With the exception of big English metropolises such as London and Birmingham, the majority of British cities have seen rents increase significantly. For instance, rent rates in Belfast, Bristol, Manchester, and Edinburgh have soared by 15.1%, 12.6%, 8.6%, and 3.9% respectively over the past two years.

The cost of living crisis is bound to stay for the foreseeable future. But, in the months to come, will the rising inflation end up aiding people on the hunt for a new property?

 

Inflation: the long-term effects on the housing market

Britain’s current economic climate and financial situation has brought the cost of houses to an all-time high record. But, as mentioned, the housing market is not the only sector to have witnessed a swift rise in prices. For some time, the increasing cost of living will continue to negatively affect people’s bank accounts.

In the long term, however, this could benefit those looking to purchase a new property. Goods and services are becoming more expensive, which suggests that fewer people will have the budget to afford a significant, life-changing investment (e.g., buying a house).

Hence, demand is likely to decrease in the upcoming months. Not only that, but in 2022 Rightmove has also registered a 19% jump in the number of home-sellers requesting a house valuation, meaning that more properties will be available on the market. All these factors are bound to push down the cost of houses.

Additionally, there is a chance that the price tags of properties in the UK will naturally ‘correct’ themselves. In the same way that costs have gone up considerably, house prices could begin to fall to restore a more affordable value. Therefore, if you have set aside some money to make the move you have been dreaming of, the next few months may offer you the opportunity to relocate to a home that suits you and your needs.

 

The rising inflation is having a substantial impact on many areas of our everyday lives. If you are planning to buy a new property, prices at the minute could seem somewhat prohibitive. That said, with reduced demand and more homes on the market, the future of house buying may be more optimistic for those hoping to inaugurate a new chapter of their life.

Mortgage Interest Rates
ArticlesFundsReal Estate

3 Ways to Beat the Mortgage Interest Rate Rises

Mortgage Interest Rates

Property finance specialist Anderson Harris is sharing three top tips with mortgage holders, to help them get ahead of further interest rate rises.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has already raised the rate five times in the last seven months, to 1.25%. And that’s just the start, according to former MPC members. According to Adam Posen, President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a rate of 3.5% isn’t out of the question. MIT’s Professor Kristin Forbes echoes the projection. Both have served on the MPC.

In light of the rather bleak outlook, Anderson Harris’s Director Adrian Anderson has suggested three ways that mortgage holders can beat future rate increases.

 

1. Set a new budget.

Any mortgage holder with a cheap rate at present would do well to examine their monthly finances and re-budget, according to Adrian Anderson. He recommends re-budgeting to pay more now, so that when rates go up the shock element of the rise is removed. Re-budgeting now to pay off as much as possible each month can cushion the blow. 

 

2. Lock in a new rate. 

For existing borrowers, the advice from Anderson Harris is to explore locking in a new rate as soon as possible. Mortgage interest rates could soon hit 3% (up from 1% just nine months ago), with further potential rises on the horizon. 

 

3. Consider paying down. 

The more that mortgage holders can pay off while rates are low, the better. Those who are in a position to take advantage of overpayment options of up to 10% would be wise to consider paying off as much as they can before rates rise again. Although it’s important for mortgage holders to ensure they still have some cash set aside for a rainy day/emergency fund. 

 

Now is the time to speak to an independent mortgage broker and to look again at your mortgage. It can pay to know what options are available – particularly if you’re in a position to lock in a deal with a bank now, for peace of mind as rates rise further.” – Adrian Anderson, Director, Anderson Harris 

IT Infrastructure Budget
ArticlesFundsRegulation

How to Create An IT Infrastructure Budget

IT Infrastructure Budget

Innovations have made most business owners adopt Information Technology (IT) to run most of their operations. The aim is to allow efficiency. So, you’ll need infrastructure, such as hardware and software, to ensure the proper running of these IT operations. 

In most cases, acquiring IT infrastructure is a big investment since these tools are expensive. Some businesses might struggle to acquire these tools, which shouldn’t be the case. You can easily purchase all the tools your business needs with a budget. 

Are you wondering how to create a budget? What’s your goal? Put your worries to rest. This article discusses tips on creating an IT infrastructure budget. Read on!

 

1. Create a List of Priorities

Your list of priorities guides you in allocating your amount for each activity. You want to allocate most money on operations that you need and downsize on those you don’t necessarily need. How do you come up with the list of priorities?

Your IT infrastructure goals should guide you. If you aim to increase your business security, you’ll need tools with robust security features. In this case, acquiring security-intense infrastructure will be among your top priorities.

Most businesses tend to forget the marketing aspect of their business as they create a list of priorities. This is especially true if they offer IT services to other businesses or customers. Allocate a budget that allows for the effective marketing of IT consulting services without compromising on quality.

 

2. Understand Your Cashflow

Cashflow more or less refers to the amount your business transacts within a given period.  Understanding your cash flow will help you create a budget you can afford. You don’t want to create a budget for the money you don’t have. How do you analyze your cash flow?

Start by checking the regular income you receive on both good and bad days. It’s best to subtract your business expenses from your revenue; factor in the minor and major expenses. You want to know the amount of money available to fund your IT infrastructure. This will help you determine a concrete figure you can work with and rely on for your IT infrastructure needs. 

Even if you aim to spend within your budget, it’s good to acknowledge that some circumstances might warrant exceeding this budget. You may be expecting payments from a given client, and they delay them, yet you’re relying on the money to fund your goals. In such circumstances, you’ll need financing to help you realize your IT infrastructure goals. 

Visit https://www.credibly.com/ to see some of the financing options you can choose.

 

3. Accommodate the Risks

Like any other plan, there’s a probability of unexpected events likely to occur that need your attention and financing. In most cases, you can’t ignore them since they might hinder your realization of your goals. This will make you spend money outside your budget to meet these needs. The same concept applies as you plan your IT infrastructure goals. Therefore, it’s good practice to factor in contingencies in your budget. How?

Start by identifying the things that could go wrong with your plan, such as unexpected breakdowns. Try and estimate the amount you’d spend to counter them and include the costs in your budget. This way, if they happen, you won’t offset your budget.

 

4. Check Previous Budgets

In most cases, there’s a high probability you operate your business as a form of habit, from planning to budgeting to overseeing projects. If you aren’t wary enough, you might end up making the same mistakes year in; year out, which isn’t ideal for any firm. Hence, you must assess your previous budget.

Your previous budget will give you an understanding of the efficiency of your plans. Did you accomplish your goals within the budget you set? If not, by what margin did you exceed the limits? As you find the answers to these questions, identify the events that led to the limit exceeding. It could be budgeting beyond your cashflows or allocating limited funds to major operations. 

By knowing and acknowledging these events, you’ll ensure to avoid and mitigate them as you prepare your current budget. Doing this reduces the chances of having many unexpected events to fund, which might offset your budget.

 

Conclusion

The discussion above has proven that creating an IT infrastructure budget isn’t challenging. 

With the right guidance, as this article gives, the process is quick and seamless. Therefore, consider adopting the tips herein, and you’ll also have an easy time acquiring the tools your business needs.

Pension Crisis
ArticlesFundsPensions

New Data Reveals How Pension Crisis Is Leading to Older Workers ‘Unretiring’

Pension Crisis

Recent research from the ONS has revealed shocking inequality amongst pensions across the UK – as a result of inflation and the rising cost of living – with one third of UK employees not expecting to have any pension provision beyond state pension when they retire.

Those who are self-employed or on lower incomes will be impacted the most by pension wealth inequality.

With the number of older workers steadily increasing over the last decade, Nick Jones – Head of Retirement Living at Lottie – warns us of the impact the pensions crisis will have on older workers approaching retirement:

“The recent figures released by ONS are shocking – and we need to raise awareness of the impact this inequality will have on those approaching retirement.

There are statistically more older workers in employment than ever before – perhaps due to the rising cost of living, inflation, and the amount of remote working opportunities available across the UK.

With inequality in pension wealth across the UK, many older workers are struggling to save money and plan for their retirement. It’s more important than ever for businesses to support all their employees who may be struggling with the increased cost of living by offering financial, practical and wellbeing help.”

Nick Jones continues: “Lottie’s new research has also found a surge of people ‘unretiring’ over the last 12 months – and the reasons for people re-joining employment can be both positive and negative:

  • 100% increase in Google searches for ‘working part time after retirement’
  • 50% increase in Google searches for ‘post retirement jobs’

 

An ageing population means people are living longer and healthier lives, giving more older workers the opportunity to remain in the workforce. Similarly, with an increase in remote and hybrid working, older workers have the flexibility to maintain a good work-life balance, and gradually unwind before retiring.

However, with the rising cost of living crisis, it’s no surprise we’ve seen a surge of retirees heading back to work. Inflation is on the rise, causing many households to feel a huge amount of stress and worry – which is especially heightened for those on a limited income, or planning to reduce their income soon.”

Lottie’s new research has found a surge of employees turning to Google for retirement support – as opposed to their employer:

With the rising cost of living, lack of pension wealth and financial worries, more older workers are deciding to return to work after retirement – whilst they financially plan for their future years.

Over the last 12 months our new research has found a surge of people turning to Google for support with retirement planning:

  • 122% increase in searches on Google for ‘retirement investment’
  • 100% increase in searches on Google for ‘financial advice for retirement planning’
  • 40% increases in searches on Google for ‘retirement financial advisor’

 

“This new research – coupled with the latest ONS release – highlights the importance of raising awareness of the support available to older workers planning for retirement, especially during the cost-of-living crisis”, shares Nick Jones.

As inflation increases, the pension wealth gap across the UK will also grow – meaning the level of support older employees will require when it comes to financially planning for the present and the future will increase.

This is where businesses can step in to offer practical, financial and wellbeing initiatives to help all employees plan for their retirement years.”

 

Here’s 4 practical ways employers can support older workers in the workplace:

By creating age-friendly workplaces where people of all ages are supported, valued, and fulfilled, businesses can increase their employee satisfaction, wellbeing, and productivity.

There are lots of ways businesses can take to support older workers in the workplace:

 

1. Help employees plan for their future

As employees approach the latter stages of their careers, many may start to think about their financial situation, what the next few years at work will look like, what age to consider retirement and what life after work means for them.

Businesses can help employees plan ahead and make the transition from work to retirement easier by providing support for anyone approaching retirement.

For example, you could provide practical workshops aimed at helping older workers to achieve any career milestones, explore what the future may look like for them and sharing advice when it comes to financial planning

 

2. Encourage career development

Career development boosts employee motivation and it is just as important for older workers, as it is for those starting out their careers.

Encouraging all employees to follow their aspirations, achieve their goals and continue to develop their skillset, helps to build a resilient workforce. Offering on-going training will also ensure all employees remain up to date with the latest industry changes.

 

3. Promote a positive work life balance

Previous research has found nearly four fifths of workers over 50 years of age desire flexible working hours.

Flexible working allows older employees the flexibility to remain in the workforce longer, whilst also gradually winding down from full time employment. This can help many workers ease the transition to retirement.

 

4. Consider the unique needs of older workers

Health has the biggest impact on many older workers’ decisions to remain in the workplace. Many older employees face a unique set of challenges in the workplace and the adjustments required differ for each employee.

Supporting your employees with health and wellbeing initiatives and access to healthcare not only encourages a happy and healthy workforce, but also helps older workers to feel supported in the workplace.

Financial Investment
ArticlesFunds

Tips to Help You Financially Prepare for Your Golden Years

Financial Investment

If there’s one goal that everyone shares, it’s definitely saving as much money as possible. In this day and age, money is used for pretty much anything ranging from the obvious necessary purchases to building up financial security. The latter is the most commonly sought-after goal, and for good reason. Having an adequate amount of financial security is how people remain stable even after the time comes for them to retire. Granted, maintaining financial security isn’t always the easiest thing to do for some people. But this is mainly not knowing how to effectively do it. There’s a lot more to financial security than simply saving money. In this article, we’ll be going over tips to help financially prepare for your golden years.

 

Put Your Money Towards an Investment

One of the best ways to start building financial security is to consider putting your money towards a lucrative investment. You might think that this will have the opposite effect of obtaining financial security as investments of any kind comes with their own risks. Risks, in investment terms, are the potential situation where you lose value in your assets or your money as a whole. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many people avoid investments because of risk alone. Although there’s nothing wrong with being cautious, investing your money doesn’t mean you’ll always be doomed to failure.

The truth of the matter is that you can keep risk at an all-time low by simply doing your research first. Many would-be investors end up failing solely because they weren’t prepared and didn’t understand what they were doing. You can start by choosing a method that appeals to you. This can be participating in the traditional stock market to investing into real estate. Both are solid investments to try as both can yield a considerable profit if done correctly.

 

Consider Selling Your Life Insurance Policy

At some point during your life, you might have purchased a life insurance policy. You bought it with the sole intention of ensuring your family had a prosperous life after your demise. However, what if we told you that death isn’t necessary for you and your beneficiaries to receive a payout. You can, instead, sell your life insurance policy through a life settlement. A life settlement is a financial process where you surrender the policy rights to a third-party buyer. The buyer can be either an individual person or an entire company. Regardless, they’ll pay you a lump sum of money that varies on the overall value of the policy.

The amount you get can be up to 30 percent, but it does vary on the life settlement company and buyer. Furthermore, if you’re trying to sell a term policy, you need to make sure it can be converted into a whole one. Term policies aren’t generally sold because there’s no value to them. But if it can be converted, you shouldn’t have a problem selling it. But since the life settlement sector is still new, you might have a harder time finding your way through the process. You can look up a guide that better explains how everything works for more information.

 

Budget Everything Out

Budgeting may already be something that you’re already accustomed to. However, you might not be budgeting extensively. A comprehensive budget is one of the most useful tools you can have in your life. It’s how you can maintain a solid grasp on your finances. In fact, knowing exactly how much you owe and what you can save every month is just another factor in having proper financial security. Go over your bank statements and see how much you’ve made. Then calculate how much you spend on your monthly expenses. This will give you insight into what you’re paying for each month. This also gives you the ability to cut out any unnecessary expenses that don’t belong there. You can cut your expenses by about 20 percent by getting rid of these types of expenses. If you are not a paper and pen or spreadsheet fan, there are financial apps that can help you stay on budget without much output or maintenance on your end.

 

Don’t Spend More Than You Need To

A very common reason why people don’t have enough money is because they often spend more money than they have to. Splurging is a common spending habit among many people. While it’s normal to want to buy what we want, it’s important to learn self-control. You’d be amazed at how self-control can help you save hundreds every month. The money you spend on little things, like a subscription, eating out or a trinket at the store can be put in your savings account.

Invest in Property
ArticlesFundsReal Estate

Things to Know When Investing In Property Abroad

Invest in Property

With sterling struggling on occasions against the US dollar and other currencies affected by often fast-moving fluctuations in exchange rates, having someone in your corner with the expertise to guide you through an investment property abroad is essential. Foreign investment, particularly in property, can still be a wise move, yet we know property development investment abroad involves more than finding the right mortgage.

But when you’re looking to find assistance, there are a wealth of options open to you. So how do you know who to choose and what you need to consider? Here, Enness Global offers our advice on things you should know when investing in property abroad and safeguarding your investments.

 

Foreign exchange (FX)

It is highly likely that you will be buying a property in a currency other than your home currency for any property purchase abroad and will need to borrow in that foreign currency. Finding the best conversions rates can be a minefield and getting it wrong can cost you dearly. It’s essential to be FX savvy before investing and take on expert help that can help you identify the best lenders and conversion rates before harm is done.

 

Know local laws

To ensure you’re not stung, it’s essential to know local laws and enlist the right legal advice. Making a decision without taking quality legal advice before making any big decisions will undoubtedly lead to complications, potentially lengthy and costly delays, and significant legal bills you haven’t budgeted for.

Further to this, you might want to consider the wider EU laws, for example. Since Brexit, there have been many ex-pats who have had to give up their house in the sun because they weren’t aware that residency rules had changed, following the UK’s exit from the EU. Consider too, whether you want to purchase a buy to let or want to use the property for yourself, as the laws applicable to you might be different in each case.

 

The right broker

It’s worth looking for brokers that offer a transparent service that keeps you informed at every step, especially important when foreign investment is involved. When they let you down, don’t have the skills or aren’t putting in the time in your situation needs, this can complicate matters and lead to frustration. Read reviews and have a chat with prospective brokers to get an idea as to whether they’re likely to live up to their claims.

If they dodge questions, don’t have many successful references or reviews and seem reluctant to provide any solid evidence they can do what they say, it might be best to walk away and find someone else.

 

Local knowledge

Going alone to navigate the foreign property market is tough, and you certainly, without experienced help, leave yourself open to being taken advantage of by local developers. However, much can be learned by visiting the area you’re considering buying in, and learning on the ground what benefits there are to the property you’re considering.

Safeguarding Crypto
ArticlesFundsRegulation

8 Tips to Safeguard Crypto Investments

Safeguarding Crypto

It’s said that the cryptocurrency market has gained popularity as an investment option for many in the past decade. The success stories of overnight crypto millionaires are very tempting, but experts recommend a cautious approach to it. 

The decentralized nature of the digital assets market is perhaps the riskiest part of investing in cryptocurrency. It’s crucial to understand that cybercrime is rampant in the crypto market, and your portfolio can disappear into thin air without a trace.

However, such cases shouldn’t stop you from investing in crypto. You can follow these simple tips published here to safeguard your investment. Alternatively, this feature can give you insights into navigating the digital assets ecosystem. 

 

1. Wallets are Key to Security

Once you buy your preferred crypto, move it to your digital wallet immediately. Leaving your investment on the platform is risky because hackers can access the exchange floor and wipe it clean. 

Primarily, the digital assets landscape has hot (online) and cold (offline) wallets that work as crypto storage. Both wallet options have pros and cons, but experts advise using a cold wallet to safeguard your crypto investment. 

 

2. Exchanges Matter

Investing in the cryptocurrency market requires the same business acumen you’d use in the traditional financial market. You must research the intermediaries offering access to the crypto trading floor. 

Exchanges will only protect their interest and can’t guarantee safety for your investment. Additionally, not all exchanges are trustworthy and you could be risking your money buying from any exchange or crypto marketplace. Reach out to the crypto community to learn more about established crypto exchange platforms.

 

3. Use Strong Passwords

Using a strong password is perhaps classic advice in the information age. Encoding your wallets and intelligent devices to transact cryptos will save you the heartbreak of losing your investment. Select a password you can remember since your wallets can lock you out for not having the correct combination.

Aside from solid passwords, using a public network is also risky if you’re using hot wallets or connected to your cold wallet. Hackers will have an easy time collecting cryptos through the shared network. So, be cautious when using untrusted networks.

 

4. Sharing Keys Is Careless

It’s best to keep your private keys to yourself. Sharing your private keys jeopardizes your investment’s safety since it validates crypto transactions. You can disregard the request to communicate your private keys in the cryptocurrency landscape.

Typically, experts recommend printing the seed phrase on a private printer and keeping it safe. It’s perhaps an ideal option since most attackers target unsuspecting online users. Further, access your cryptocurrency only when transacting and avoid browsing the exchange platforms while your portfolio account is online.

 

5. Avoid Dubious Crypto Schemes

In cryptocurrency, you must understand the underlying information before investing. The most basic research will look at the digital asset’s market capitalization and the traded volume.

Cryptocurrency schemes have come up owing to the unregulated nature of the market, and millions disappeared through crypto schemes such as Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in the crypto arena. If you get an invitation to join groups that promise unrealistic returns, reject them and block them altogether. 

 

6. Keep Off Untrusted Links

When transacting cryptos online, avoid clicking unrelated links. You could be exposing your portfolio to cybercriminals. In addition, upgrade your software from trusted sources to back up your crypto investment’s security.

Alternatively, use a separate email address when accessing the internet to conceal your identity. You’ll protect your portfolio from any breach or phishing attempt to access your account.

 

7. Diversify

Keeping your eggs in one basket is dangerous, especially in the digital asset market. For obvious reasons, the market is unregulated and things change very fast. Your safest bet is diversifying your portfolio. 

So, spread your investment across the cryptocurrency landscape and leverage opportunities presented by the influx of new crypto making a debut. Though, you must upskill your knowledge of the underlying digital assets.

 

8. Crypto Hype Is Risky

If you follow the hype in the cryptocurrency market, you might invest in the wrong digital asset and get the timing wrong. The market price changes very fast, and it will not spare your investment.

Consult the cryptocurrency community because investors, crypto enthusiasts, and developers discuss current issues in forums like Quora. It’ll enlighten you to safeguard your crypto investment.  

 

Final Thoughts

Investing in cryptocurrency requires researching the underlying assets to avoid making wrong moves in the market. Plus, your exposure to risk doesn’t stop hackers from trying to steal from you. You must beware of the market volatility that can empty your investment account in seconds. So, deploying the above tactics can safeguard your investment to enjoy digital assets.

IRA Savings
ArticlesFundsPensions

How to Use IRA Savings

IRA Savings

You may withdraw money out of your IRA whenever you choose, but be aware that if you’re under the age of 59 ½, doing so could result in a tax penalty. This is because the government wishes to discourage you from withdrawing funds from your IRA until you reach the age of retirement. Since an IRA is a retirement account, it’s understandable.

If you are under the age of 59 ½ and you withdraw any money from a conventional IRA you will be subject to a 10% penalty on the amount of money you take out of the account. Additionally, you’ll be liable for standard income tax on the amount of money you take out of the account. This is a bad concept.

 

Traditional Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) vs Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (Roth IRAs)

Traditional IRAs, at their most basic level, are available to people who make an income for as long as they continue to do so. This sort of IRA may allow you to deduct your contribution from your taxable income in the tax year in which it was made, as well as possibly allowing your profits to grow tax-deferred. In most cases, withdrawals from an IRA account begin when the account owner reaches the age of 72, at which point they will be subject to taxation.

Roth IRA contributions, in contrast to traditional IRA contributions, are made after tax. This means that there is no tax deduction available. Roth contributions are not taxed when withdrawn as long as you are at least 59 ½ years old. This is because you have previously paid taxes on the money you contributed.

Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs are controlled by income levels, which determine who is allowed to make contributions to the accounts and how much they may contribute. The total annual contribution maximum for Roth and regular IRAs in both 2019 and 2020 is $6,000 if you are under the age of 50 and $7,000 if you are 50 or over, regardless of your age.

To put it another way, with a Traditional IRA you pay taxes on your income and profits when you withdraw the funds, but with a Roth IRA you pay the taxes up front. You may be eligible for a tax deduction for the year in which you make your contribution, and your contributions may grow tax-free. Roth IRAs are exempt from required minimum distributions (RMDs) since they are taxed at the time of contribution.

In most cases, you may make penalty-free withdrawals (also known as “qualified distributions”) from any IRA if you are 59 ½ years old or older. However, if it is a typical IRA you will still be liable for income tax. To be eligible to take qualifying withdrawals from a Roth IRA, you must be at least 59 ½ years old and have been contributing to the account for at least five years. Furthermore, if you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA you will not be able to withdraw the money from the Roth IRA until at least five years following the conversion.

 

What Happens to My IRA When I Reach the Age of Retirement?

Knowing what will happen to your IRA when you reach a specific age is just as essential as understanding what an IRA is and how to use one effectively. Here are a few things you should be aware of in order to avoid penalties:

  • Your money can’t just sit in your IRA for an indefinite period of time. Because of congressionally mandated minimum distributions, if you do not remove any money from your IRA throughout your lifetime (RMDs) you will not be able to refuse to take any money from your IRA and just pass the entire account on to your spouse or children. Regardless of whether or not you are employed, once you reach the age of 72, you must begin taking funds from your account to cover living expenses. This need is necessary in order for the IRS to be able to tax money that had previously been exempt from taxation.
  • RMDs are calculated differently for each individual. It is not necessary for everyone to have the same retirement plan, nor have they all invested the same amount of money throughout their working years. As a result, the amount of money that individuals must remove from their accounts each year will vary and rely on a variety of circumstances.
  • The failure to take an RMD leads to a severe penalty. It is true that if you do not remove the requisite minimum amount from your IRA you will be subject to a tax penalty. The penalty is calculated as a 50% levy on the amount of money that was not withdrawn in a timely manner.

 

Another great method of investing the money again would be to put it in self-directed IRA real estate. That way your money could continue to work for itself just as it has for all of these years.

Loan Application Rejected
ArticlesFunds

Common Reasons Mortgage Loans Are Rejected

Loan Application Rejected

Without the existence of mortgages, relatively few Americans would be able to realize their dreams of homeownership. So, when submitting a home loan application, you’d do well to remember that a lot hinges on lender approval. Needless to say, considering how much money is at stake with the typical home loan, lenders typically aren’t keen on making unwise bets. As such, homebuyers preparing to start submitting loan applications should familiarize themselves with some of the most common reasons for rejection.

 

Poor Credit

It should come as no surprise that poor credit can be a huge detriment to mortgage loan approval. After all, if you have a history of failing to pay off debt, many lenders are liable to conclude that you won’t be able to keep up with monthly mortgage payments. So, if your intent is to make yourself an attractive borrower, take care to get your credit in order before proceeding to submit any loan applications.

When trying to maximize your chances of loan approval, you’ll want to have the lowest possible debt-to-income ratio. This means getting your credit card debt as close to zero as you possibly can – if not paying it off entirely. This also entails paying off any bills that have been sent to collections in full. Virginians who are looking for Virginia Beach mortgage lenders would do well to get a handle on outstanding credit card debt before proceeding to apply for loans.

You should also abstain from submitting mortgage loan applications immediately after paying down your credit card debt, as your credit score needs time to recover. Furthermore, avoid adding to your debt throughout the loan application process. So, if the need to make any large purchases arises during this time, either pay for them in cash, put them off or borrow money from a trusted friend or family member. 

  

Lack of Credit History

Just as a troubled credit history can hinder your chances of loan approval, so too can a lack of a credit history. While you may view having no credit history as a positive, most mortgage lenders are unlikely to share this opinion. If you’ve never had to make monthly payments or purchase anything on credit, lenders won’t have any evidence of your trustworthiness or reliability with regard to financial obligations. So, unless you have a good cosigner, it’s generally recommended that you take the time to build your credit history before proceeding to apply for a mortgage loan.

 

Insufficient Down Payment

The higher your down payment is, the better your odds of approval are likely to be. Putting forth a high down payment illustrates a firm commitment to homeownership, as well as a strong sense of financial responsibility. As an added bonus, a large down payment stands to lower the cost of your monthly mortgage payments. The more you put down at the outset, the less you’ll have left to pay off.

On the flipside, a low down payment will have the opposite effect. Low payments often give off the impression that borrowers aren’t particularly serious about buying homes and aren’t in a great place financially. So, if you’re hoping to wow lenders from the outset, try to muster up the largest down payment possible.

 

Lack of Regular Income

It’s only natural that mortgage lenders would regard regular income with importance. After all, if someone isn’t making money consistently, how are they going to keep up with monthly mortgage payments, home insurance, property taxes and other house-related expenses? Of course, this isn’t to say that regular income has to come from a traditional job. Pensions, trust funds and strong investment portfolios may also be viewed as acceptable sources of income. So, if you’re currently without a consistent source of income, it’s strongly recommended that you find one in advance of applying for a mortgage loan.  

Since mortgages serve as a gateway to homeownership for countless Americans, all homebuyers should approach the loan application process with seriousness. While it’s not unusual to be approved for a mortgage loan on one’s first attempt, it’s also very common for applications to be denied for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, educating yourself on these reasons can help prevent you from inadvertently sabotaging yourself during the application process. So, if you’re looking to get approved for a good mortgage loan posthaste, be mindful of the factors discussed above.

Pension Scams
ArticlesFundsPensions

Pension Fraud Is On the Rise – Here’s 5 Simple Tricks to Stay Savvy Against the Latest Scams

Pension Scams

Pension and investment scams can have a serious impact on your financial health, losing you a lot of money. Falling victim to fraud may affect your wellbeing and leave you feeling anxious, stressed, and worried.

New research from Lottie has found a recent rise in scams targeting the over 55’s. Over the last three months, online searches for those looking for support after falling victim to pension and investment scams has significantly increased:

  • 75% increase in online searches on Google for ‘scam help’ and 50% increase for ‘fraud support’
  • 24% increase in online searches for ‘pension fraud’
  • 22% increase in searches for ‘pension scam’ and ‘investment scam’

 

Here’s why pension frauds are on the rise, according to Lottie’s Will Donnelly:

“More people than ever before are seeking online support after falling victim to fraud. With more flexibility in managing your pension at retirement, it is no surprise there has been a recent rise in pension and investment scams.

Fraudsters have exploited the uncertainty around the pandemic and the recent rise of living costs to trick people into transferring over their life savings. Many people choose to retire at the end of March because of a lower rate of Income Tax, so there is now more opportunity to fall victim to pension and investment scams.

Anyone can fall victim to a fraud – especially as they are becoming more sophisticated – but the over 55s are most likely to be targeted, according to previous research by Citizens Advice.

Scammers will often try to persuade you to remove some or all money from your pension fund. They may ask you to invest in unusual, high-risk investments, including overseas property. Or they may contact you out-of-the-blue for a free pension review, promising advances on your pension pot.

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce your risk of falling victim to fraud and we must raise awareness about staying savvy to scams.”

 

Five simple tricks to lower your risk of pension fraud:

Frauds are becoming even more sophisticated, so it is important to stay clued up on the warning signs of pension and investment scams. They can lead you to losing a lifetime’s worth of savings in one moment, so you must stay cautious.

  1. Watch out for warning signs

Scammers will often contact you unexpectedly, whether that is via a phone call, text message or email. Remember – since January 2019, there has been a ban on cold-calling about pensions. So, if you do get contacted and offered a free pension review or investment opportunity, it is likely that it is a scam.

Simply hang up or ignore any unsolicited text messages promising you more money.

  1. Seek financial guidance first

If you are keen to review your pension, there are ways to receive free, impartial advice, including Money Helper’s Pension Wise service. Before changing any of your pension arrangements, seek out impartial financial advice from a reputable source, first.

Take the time to check any investment opportunities before transferring over any money. Make sure that whoever you are dealing with is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and they are authorised to provide you with financial advice.

  1. Keep up to date with the latest scams

It is no surprise that fraudsters are becoming even more sophisticated. An important part of reducing your risk of falling victim to fraud is staying clued up on the latest scams. Age UK provide information on the latest scams – including fake Ukraine fundraisers and fake energy refund emails.

  1. Speak to your loved ones

If you have fallen victim to fraud, do not suffer in silence. Anyone can be susceptible to scams, especially as they are becoming more sophisticated. Even the most careful people can be caught out.

Make sure you speak to your friends and family, as it can feel a huge relief to open up about how you’ve feeling. They can support you in reporting the fraud and help you cope with any stress, anxiety or worry you are experiencing.

  1. Report a scam

Most importantly, do not feel embarrassed about reporting fraud. There are organisations that can support you and you will help them track down the fraudsters. Contact the police via 101 immediately if you feel threatened or if you have transferred money to the scammer in the last 24 hours.

You can also report fraud to the Citizens Advice service – make sure you note down all details about the scam, including whether you have transferred any money, who you have been in contact with and the type of information you have shared.

Private Equity
ArticlesFunds

Resilience Within the Private Equity Market Can Lead to New Opportunities

Private Equity

Philip Dakin (Managing Director) Restructuring advisory, Kroll.

According to Preqin’s 2021 Global Private Equity and Venture Capital Report, the global private equity market is now worth over $4 trillion. The UK, long the most developed private equity sector in Europe, remains at the centre of this trend. However, as we come out of lockdown there are two sides to this picture—the dry powder available to private businesses, and the impact the pandemic has had on private equity vehicles.

 

Supply and demand meet

COVID-19 has been without a doubt one of the biggest challenges ever to confront the economy. No more so than for the private sector. However, for businesses, both large and small, government support has been available in the form of loan schemes, the job retention scheme (aka furlough) and moratoriums on rent and HMRC liabilities. 

While cash flow may look strong today, the rollback of government support will start within months, and for some, pressure on balance sheets will follow soon after. This is not to say that the financial pressures facing businesses will drive many into insolvency but dealing with an increase in working capital requirements is a challenge facing many business owners in the short term.

Potential changes to capital gains tax are also beginning to focus the minds of many business owners who may now see this as a time to invest or indeed sell.

For many, public ownership has fallen out of favour as an exit strategy, and selling to a competitor, especially in the current circumstances, can have its own business risks. The private equity market has been the beneficiary of a trend that has been happening for over a decade following the last great economic shock of 2008.

With the supply of investment opportunities looking healthy, what does the demand curve look like? 

As mentioned previously, there remains a high level of market liquidity and a strong desire from funders to invest in quality businesses, with private equity funds—a continued firm favourite route—to market for institutions, family offices and high-net-worth individuals. In other words, there is lots of opportunity for investment and acquisition. This has already been demonstrated, with global M&A activity in Q1 2021 being at its highest for over a decade.

However, whilst there is plenty of dry powder, the stage at which a private equity fund was in the normal fund lifecycle when the pandemic hit, will have a potential impact on the success of that fund and its ability to raise its next fund. How the portfolio of investments within a fund have been managed through the pandemic and how they recover post-pandemic will be crucial.

 

Portfolio Resilience

PE firms themselves have faced their own unique issues as a result of the pandemic. Funds briefly stopped active transactions back in March 2020 as economies closed and people were ordered to stay home. All attention was instead focused towards an almost A&E “triage” assessment of their portfolio companies at the start of the pandemic, with origination and portfolio teams working together to support the management teams of their portfolios.

Many sponsor-backed companies struggled to access government-supported loan schemes, such as CLBILS and CBILS, ironically due to EU laws on state aid for “undertakings in distress.”

The typical private equity investment structure using quasi-equity debt instruments to fund investments being the root cause. However, most have taken advantage of the job retention scheme by furloughing employees and sought access to grants and the deferral of accrued HMRC liabilities to weather the storm. Needless to say, in some instances, this has resulted

in a squeeze on working capital, and any top-up funding has had to come from existing lenders and/or equity injections from the PE houses themselves. The question now is how much of that dry powder has been utilised in supporting their portfolios to maintain a status quo for 12 months, and what impact does that have on their ability to make new investments.

But despite the uncertainty, many PE firms are adapting and keen to point to their funders’ patience and understanding in what has been a difficult period for the business world. Equally, there will undoubtedly be opportunities to acquire some assets cheaply as some corporates fail in the post-pandemic market. These may provide bolt-on opportunities for existing portfolio investments or create a new platform investment.

We are without a doubt entering uncharted territory, and unlike previous recessions, the pandemic may have long-term effects on consumer behaviour and business models.

Like all other markets, private equity needs to negotiate the current COVID-19-induced economic crisis. But the sector is immensely well placed to weather the storm because one of the key characteristics of PE is its ability to be nimble and respond quickly to changing trends.

Real Estate Money
ArticlesFundsReal Estate

Tips for Making Money in Real Estate

Real Estate Money

If you’ve dreamed of making money in the world of real estate, now is the time to learn about the process. With the right preparation, you can reduce the chances of inflation while growing your wealth. There are plenty of ways to use the market to your advantage.

 

Consider Real Estate Crowdfunding

You might have heard of crowdfunding as a way to help someone who needs money for something, but it can also work in real estate. Many investors will put their money together to invest in a property. You will earn a specific amount of income from that space. One of the benefits of crowdfunding is that you don’t have the responsibility of owning it yourself. Buying shares of properties allows you to earn rental income and appreciation. You can browse homes, choose a property, buy your shares, and start bringing in extra funds going forward.

 

Consider a Turn-Key Property

In some cases, an investor will want to sell their investment prematurely. They might need the funds for something else or simply no longer want to be a landlord. The home may still have tenants in it when they sell it, and it is called a turn-key property. One of the benefits of acquiring this type of real estate is that the home will start to bring in income immediately. You also do not need to spend time getting it ready for tenants. Plus, you will not need to worry about how to pay for the home’s expenses if there are not tenants in it. Of course, a transfer of ownership can leave tenants wondering what the new landlord will be like, so try to make this as smooth for your new tenants as possible.

 

Taking Advantage of Appreciating Value

Over time, much real estate starts to appreciate. This is the opposite of depreciation, as homes begin to increase in value. Many times, you don’t have to do anything to see this gain in value. It increases equity, or the difference between your mortgage and the property’s value. There are a few ways that homes can gain this value. For example, renovating the home can improve the value. Improvements to the bathroom, kitchen, or outside make it more desirable. And adding more energy-efficient appliances or windows can also boost the value. By continually making improvements, you can start boosting the value to earn a bit more income. On the other hand, as the area becomes more desirable to live in, the home’s value will go up automatically.

 

Renting Out Real Estate

When you are a real estate investor, you have many options for renting out homes. This involves allowing tenants to use the space in exchange for a fee paid on a regular basis. These tenants may not be able to or wish to purchase their own space. There are multiple ways of using this method to build wealth throughout your life. One of the more common rental types is long-term properties, where the tenants will make the space their home. Typically, landlords of residential properties have yearly leases. At the end of the term, you can offer a renewal if you wish. The tenant can choose to either renew this lease or move out.

As rent is typically paid on a monthly basis, this is a great method for building wealth. That’s because many other kinds of investments do not pay a cashflow on a monthly basis. The rent should cover the property taxes, any mortgage payments, maintenance costs, insurance, and any other costs. The amount after all expenses is paid is your profit.

 

Consider a Short-Term Rental

The other option is short-term rentals. This protects you from having to deal with tenants year-round. You will still own the property, but the lease will be much shorter than a year. Vacationers or travelers can choose to stay in the home for a length of their choosing. This could be overnight, a few days, or a few weeks. This is a good option if you have a second home you only want to use every now and then. Of course, part of managing your rental property in this fashion means you will need to be around to clean the home after each renter, and if there is a problem, you will need to have a plan for how to deal with it if you are not around.

Rainy day fund
ArticlesFunds

It’s Time You Had a Rainy Day Fund. Here’s How to Start One

Rainy day fund

When it comes to our finances, we know all about budgeting for our monthly outgoings. Your rent or mortgage, electricity, gas, council tax, and any other bills you might have are regularly occurring and straightforward to budget for.

 

What about the unexpected?

We know that sometimes things go wrong, but what if we haven’t budgeted for them? A 2021 study revealed that 19% of us have savings of less than £100, while the number of people who aren’t actively saving has risen from 12% to 21% since 2019.

 

Why do I need a rainy day fund?

If you drive and you’ve experienced an unexpected fault, such as a tyre puncture or faulty brake pads, you’ll know that the costs can add up quickly. Unexpected expenses can crop up from many areas of our lives, so it makes sense to account for them.

A rainy day fund is smaller than an emergency fund, which is recommended for longer-term financial issues such as a job loss and should consist of three to six months of living expenses. That doesn’t mean that you can’t build up a healthy pot of cash for unexpected costs though – we recommend putting towards your rainy day fund every month.

 

How much money should I have in my rainy day fund?

A rainy day fund is a safety net in case of unforeseen circumstances, such as a lost or broken phone, tyre punctures on your car, or an emergency boiler repair. How much you save may depend on your personal circumstances – if you drive, it’s sensible to account for the costs of a car breakdown as well as these other common problems. If you don’t drive, you might not need to put as much away.

Having an understanding of the rough cost of these surprise incidents will give you an idea of how much to put away. Making a list of the most likely problems and working out how much they’d cost if they happened is recommended.

For example, gas boiler repairs cost between £150 and £400 on average, so putting away a minimum of £150 will help you cover that cost. If you break your phone screen and you don’t have insurance, you could be looking at a bill of up to £316.44 for the latest iPhone models.

 

How can I start up my rainy day fund?

Now that you understand the importance of a rainy day fund, let’s look at how you can put one together. Many people find the idea of starting to save overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a lot of money left at the end of the month after your expenses.

If you already have a structured budget and you’re aware of your monthly outgoings, you’ll know how much disposable income is left at the end of the month. This is a good place to start – so if you have £300 a month left over, you might want to put half of that into your rainy day fund, or even £100 a month.

By working out how much you can afford each month, you’ll be able to work out how long it will take to reach your rainy day fund goal. If you’ve worked out that you’d need £1,000 to cover a broken boiler, a smashed phone screen, and car faults, and you put £100 away each month, you’ll hit that target in 10 months. But once you’ve reached that goal, you don’t have to stop contributing – if you can afford to, keep adding to your rainy day fund! You might even be able to finance something that you want, like a new car or a holiday, rather than only accounting for the unexpected.

 

What if I can’t afford to contribute that much?

For many of us, £100 a month isn’t realistic. In fact, even £25 a month might feel like too much, and that’s okay. There are solutions available to people who find it difficult to put lump sums away, such as apps that round up your spending to the nearest pound, putting that extra money into a savings fund.

Reviewing your current bills to see if there are any savings you can make is also a good idea – especially if there’s no wiggle room in your budget at all. By using price comparison sites, you could get cheaper bills on your gas, electricity, phone, broadband, and more.

It’s unlikely that you’ll have the best deal for all of your monthly outgoings, so this could save you a decent amount of money that you could then put into savings. Searching for better deals on your energy supplies alone could save you up to £350 a year. That’s a lot of money you could be putting into your rainy day fund.

 

Life contains a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and many of them come in the form of important but unforeseen expenses. There’s an adage that these things always happen at the worst time, and if you don’t have a rainy day fund, they could hit your finances hard. The amount of money in your rainy day fund will depend on your personal circumstances, but if you don’t already have one, now is the time to start saving.

Late Payment
ArticlesFunds

Why 2022 Will Be a Big Year in the Campaign to End Late Payments

Late Payment


British businesses are facing a late payments crisis, with
£23.4 billion of invoices left unpaid over the last year.

 

But 2022 could be the year this problem is finally addressed. On 1 April 2022, new rules will require businesses to pay 90% of invoices within 60 days, or risk being excluded from public contracts.

 

From that data, companies bidding for government contracts must submit details of any payments of interest for late payments over the previous twelve months, as well as an explanation of why the delay in paying an invoice and “an outline of what remedial steps have been taken to ensure this does not occur again”.

 

A policy note detailing the new rules also contains a recognition of the “importance of prompt, fair and effective payment in all businesses”. The Small Business Commissioner has been surveying companies to understand the extent of the problem. Results of the study will be released later in the year.

 

There are at least 55.5 million small businesses in the UK, with 75% having no employees except for the owner.


When invoices go unpaid, small companies can face challenges meeting operating costs, servicing debt or paying employees and suppliers.

Late payments are a major problem for small businesses, with tens of thousands collapsing every year because their clients fail to settle invoices on time.

 

Research from Quickbook shows that the average British business is owed £31,055, with 71% of small business owners losing sleep due to money worries keeping them up at night.

 

The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that the “£23bn late payment crisis” has deepened during the pandemic, with the majority of small businesses (62%) facing late or frozen payments since the Covid-19 lockdowns began. It found that 50,000 businesses close every year due to late payments, “damaging Britain’s prosperity and threatening jobs”.

 

Liz Barclay, Small Business Commissioner, said: “Late payments threaten the survival of small businesses, so it is heartening to see the introduction of new procurement rules that assess the speed of bidders’ payments.

 

“The government has recognised the problems caused by late payments. Now the private sector should do the same by measuring details of the time taken to pay invoices as part of corporate ESG measures.”

 

The Co-operative Bank is working to develop technological solutions to the late payments crisis. It is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2022 and remains committed to the fair treatment of its business customers today as it did when it was founded in 1872 as part of the wider co-operative wholesale society.

 

It has championed and pioneered sustainable banking for almost 30 years by supporting local communities, treating customers “fairly and honestly” and paying people a living wage.

 

As well as becoming carbon neutral and reducing the waste it sends to landfill to zero, it has worked alongside Amnesty International to fight injustice across the world and campaigned with Refuge to challenge economic abuse. The bank has also invested £1.7 million to support cooperative businesses since 2016.

 

These efforts were recognised by Sustainalytics, which gave The Co-operative Bank the highest ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) rating of any UK high street bank.

 

Catherine Douglas, Managing Director, SME, at The Co-operative Bank, said: “The new rules on late payments are very welcome and will help to address this important issue. The statistics around late payments are startling. Yet it is important to look beyond the numbers and look at the human side of this crisis, which is affecting millions of hard-working people across the UK and having serious impacts upon their lives.

 

“The Co-operative Bank has a strong sense of community and is committed to the values and ethics that are such an important part of our heritage and how we do business. We put our customers’ needs at the heart of everything we do.

 

“We’re now working very closely with the wider industry to find solutions to this problem. The banking sector needs to come together to support small businesses with tools and strategies which directly address this challenge.

 

“There is no single way to improve this, because the needs of businesses are very different, so they need a variety of options and services that are appropriate. We appreciate that small businesses are too busy working hard and earning money to perform cumbersome admin tasks, which is why we’re steering them towards technological solutions.”

 

The Co-operative Bank is already offering innovative ways of helping companies get paid on time and cope with the issues caused by unpredictable income.

 

The Co-operative Bank is working with the banking technology platform provider BankiFi to develop tech which allows businesses to collect instant, secure and cost-effective payments from their customers.

 

It has also set out clear, easy-to-follow guidance for businesses on how to chase unpaid invoices, ensure clients make payments on time and lodge complaints through the UK Government’s Prompt Payment Code. The bank is working closely with smaller companies through in-person meetings and video calls to advise them of financial options which can help them cope with delayed invoice payments.

 

BankiFi’s solution to the problem of late payments is a Request to Pay (RTP) service called Incomeing, which it launched in association with The Co-operative Bank.

 

It allows businesses to send secure, real-time payment requests using text, email and WhatsApp, as well as QR codes which can allow simple face-to-face transactions. This means a business owner could meet a client in person, who can then pay an invoice simply by scanning the QR code.

 

The solution is powered by Open Banking technology and ensures funds are transferred into a chosen account immediately, boosting cash flow. Incomeing also generates invoices, streamlines the process of chasing late payments and automates financial admin through deep integration with all major accounting applications.

 

Mark Hartley, Founder & CEO, said: “We are an SME ourselves, so feel the same pain as other small businesses across the nation. We know exactly what it is like to be up late, worrying about cash and making sure we can pay our suppliers on time.

 

“The late payments problem isn’t new, but  through technology, government action and the work of ethical institutions like The Co-Operative Bank, I genuinely feel a solution is not just on the horizon – but here today.”

Man in business attire checking the cryptocurrency market on his tablet with computer screens moitoring other investments in the backgorund
ArticlesFinanceFundsInfrastructure

How To Utilize Cryptocurrency In Your Business

Man in business attire checking the cryptocurrency market on his tablet with computer screens moitoring other investments in the backgorund

 

Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual coins or tokens that use cryptography to secure their transactions and to control the creation of new units. Cryptocurrencies are decentralized, which means they are not controlled by governments or financial institutions. Bitcoin, the world’s first cryptocurrency, was created in 2009. Since then, a number of new cryptocurrencies have been introduced.. Cryptocurrencies hold a variety of potential applications, from providing a more secure means of payment to facilitating cross-border transactions. As the popularity of cryptocurrencies grows, so too does the importance of understanding what they are and how they work. This blog post will provide an overview of cryptocurrencies, discuss some of the key features that make them unique, and how to utilize them In your business.

 

Why Consider Using Cryptocurrency in  Business?

Bitcoin is used by more than 2,300 businesses in the United States. A growing number of firms all over the world are making use of bitcoin and other digital assets for a variety of investment, operational, and transactional purposes.

The usage of cryptocurrency in business presents a slew of possibilities and challenges.

There are both unknown perils and powerful incentives. That is why organizations that want to use crypto in their operations need to have two things: a clear understanding of why they are doing it and a list of questions they should think about.

 

What can crypto offer your business?

Cryptocurrencies are still a relatively new phenomenon, however, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that crypto can offer your company:

  • Transparency in Transactions: Cryptocurrencies are public, unchangeable, transparent records of value transfers that may be recorded and kept in a public ledger. They are verified, and they can’t be easily hacked or controlled. This assures that cryptocurrency transactions are safe and secure.
  • Low transaction fees: Banks add transaction fees and taxes to every digital payment. It’s easy to understand since they have to pay their workers, rent the buildings, and pay utility bills. Transactions using cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies are not the same. Because they commence on online platforms, they have lower transaction costs, which makes them more popular and profitable among firms.
  • You can take cryptocurrency anywhere: Cryptocurrencies can be kept in a digital wallet (wallet) that you may manage from your computer or smartphone. This wallet allows you to take your cryptocurrency with you wherever you go, making it more convenient for your business.
  • Protected customer privacy: The problem of cybersecurity is still one of the most significant drawbacks of digitalization. We hear about major data breaches that expose people to identity theft and financial loss. The buyer can choose the type and amount of information they provide in a cryptocurrency transaction, which makes it extremely anonymous. Offering crypto as a payment option makes it more appealing to customers who place a high value on their data privacy.

 

How can you earn passive income?

Earning a passive income is the goal of many business owners. But, what is a passive income and how can you earn one? A passive income is an income that you earn without actively working for it. You can invest in dividend-paying stocks, rent out the property, etc. But there is another easy option to earn passive income is to stake your cryptocurrency. This is the best way to earn crypto staking rewards. By holding onto a certain amount of tokens in a specific blockchain network, you can earn rewards for participating in the network’s governance. So if you’re looking for some new investment opportunities, consider staking your cryptocurrency and earning rewards.

 

Is It Possible To Pay Employee Salaries With Cryptocurrency?

In recent years, the cryptocurrency market has exploded in value, with Bitcoin and Ethereum becoming two of the most valuable digital assets in the world. Due to this meteoric rise, many businesses consider using cryptocurrency as a form of payment. There are certain advantages of paying employees salaries in digital currencies:

  • Speed: Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether, and other digital currencies can be sent up to 95% faster than traditional wire transfers.
  • No Boundaries: More and more organizations are operating remotely these days. Cryptocurrencies may be sent and received around the world with ease. That is why, for businesses with workers working from other nations, crypto payments may be a more convenient option for a worldwide workforce.
  • Attracts Better Talent and New Clients: Crypto is drawing the interest of the most forward-thinking and tech-savvy employees since it is a young, rising sector. Crypto is drawing the interest of the most forward-thinking and tech-savvy employees since it is a young, rising sector. When future employees choose a company to work for, one of the most important aspects will be payroll provider. When you begin paying employees in digital currency, you gain the attention of other crypto firms and startups, possibly attracting new customers and partners.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many benefits that cryptocurrency has to offer. Whether it’s for your business or personal use, the advantages of using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other digital currencies should be considered as an investment opportunity. With all the information we have provided in this article, hopefully, now you feel more confident about investing in a new form of currency!

ArticlesFunds

Online Business Ideas to Start in 2022

If you want to make money without having to spend time at a 9-to-5 job, launching an online business could be exciting and rewarding. As an online entrepreneur, you can work remotely, hire freelancers, and make money from anywhere.

The goal of starting your own business does not always have to be to get rich. You could start your business with minimal cost, make a reasonable profit, enough to cover all your expenses, and still consider yourself successful. All you have to do is choose an idea that matches your skills and interests, and then find a way to make it happen.

Here are some business ideas to consider.

 

Online Retailing

As a niche market retailer, you will offer a range of products to a smaller group of customers, such as people with specific product interests. Starting a niche eCommerce site is an excellent way to build a profitable online business.

Using the right marketing strategy, you can reach a niche customer base and grow your business organically. To get your online storefront up and running, you only need a dynamic website and a web hosting service like WooCommerce hosting, which provides full-service solutions necessary to optimize an eCommerce site.

Once you have set up your store, focus on developing a high-quality delivery service to ensure customer loyalty.

 

Consulting

Here are some popular types of consulting services that pay well because of their subject matter expertise.

  1. Search Engine Optimization Consultant: Are familiar with organic web traffic and have technical skills with tools like Google Ads and Google Analytics? Then you may want to consider becoming a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) consultant. You’ll advise companies and organizations on how to increase their search engine ranking and online visibility. You’ll also scout out the competition and give your clients advice about how to outperform them.

  2. Small Business Marketing Consultant: If you have been an entrepreneur, you may be able to share your experience with people struggling to start their own business. You can market yourself by creating a blog or podcast to offer advice and tips to aspiring entrepreneurs. Taking on the role of an advisor will allow you to use your considerable knowledge and hard-won experience to help others succeed in life.

 

Blogging

You can establish yourself as an expert in your industry by starting a blog. It’s a great way to get your name out there, increase the visibility of your products or services, and drive more traffic to your website.

When you’re writing, keep quality and value for your readers in mind. Sharing your thoughts, opinions, and experiences with the world helps you build a personal brand. You can monetize your blog by selling advertising on your site or promoting affiliate links.

 

Affiliate Marketing

You can generate leads and revenue through affiliate marketing. Often people trust the opinion of a friend, family member, or colleague over an advertisement.

Affiliate programs allow you to link to products and earn a commission for sales so you can make money from your website or social media following. This type of advertising will always be around since it’s one of the cheapest ways to reach customers.

 

Lean Into It

If you’re not ready to make the leap into starting your own online business next year, then lean into it gradually. Don’t quit your day job; just start your online business project as a side-hustle.

Making the leap from full-time employment to entrepreneurship can be a difficult decision because it’s a big change with many risks. However, even just starting a part-time business for passive income can mean not having to work a 9-to-5 job while you pursue your dreams.

Asset Management
ArticlesFunds

Seven Critical Ways to Help Protect Your Financial Assets

Asset Management

Protecting your financial assets can mean many different things. It can mean that you want to keep as many of your assets as possible in the event of a divorce. Protecting assets could also mean ensuring that your assets go to the right place in the event of your death. But in this case, let’s talk about how to protect your financial assets in the here and now. There are hackers, identity thieves, and even people looking for opportunities to get some of your money. Here are the easiest ways to protect your financial assets in your everyday life.

 

Keep Your Address Up to Date

You’d be surprised at how much of a risk you’re at when you don’t keep your address up-to-date. While it can be a hassle to get all your addresses changed on your bank accounts and all your investments, it’s easier than ever before to do a change of address online after you move to a new location. If you don’t do this and your account information gets sent to an old address, you’re at risk of people stealing this information.

 

Don’t Give Your Information to Untrustworthy Individuals

It’s important to carefully vet your brokers, your bankers, and your accountant to ensure they are on the up and up. These people will have direct access to all your personal and financial information, which can open you up to getting completely liquidated if any of these people are not doing the right thing. It’s okay to interview multiple people before you decide on who will handle your accounts.

Even with the best research and interviews, you can still be at risk, so you may want to account for any possible scenario. Ask them questions about their cyber security and data security, as well. This will help you determine if there are any potential risks with their system.

 

Use Antivirus Software on all Your Devices

When you type in your login information or account information into a computer that’s been compromised with viruses and malware, you’re putting your finances at risk. Hackers can record keystrokes and use that information to log in to your accounts and liquidate your assets. Antivirus software protects you from getting your systems bogged down with viruses and other malware. These sneaky hackers get in through emails, unsecured websites, and even through your wireless connections. Using anti-virus is one barrier you can put in place to protect your assets.

 

Get Liability Insurance

Are you a homeowner or rental property owner? Do you own a business with a physical location? Then having liability insurance is critical. If someone gets hurt on your property or your property harms another, you want insurance to cover everything. Without the right amount of insurance, you’re at risk of litigation that could impact your wealth and finances for decades to come. And if you own rental properties, liability insurance will help you protect your assets if any of your tenants get injured on the property.

 

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

One of the risks in investing and keeping your money in bank accounts is that if a breach occurs, or something else ever happens to that company, all your assets are at risk. It’s best to have more than one account at different places to ensure your money is spread out and diversified. Not only should your investment portfolio include more than just stocks at Target, but it should also include accounts in more than one banking institution. In the event of any breach or catastrophic loss, you would still have assets in other places.

 

Have Both a Will and Living Will in Place

Another thing to think about when it comes to your assets and financial future is who will inherit it if you die or have control of it if you are temporarily incapacitated. By considering these things while you are healthy and in your right mind, you can be sure that all your assets go to the right people — or are used in the right ways while you’re not in control. Additionally, it ensures that your wealth doesn’t get liquidated unless you give explicit consent.

 

Are Your Assets Safe?

Protecting your financial assets while you’re alive is important if you want to maintain your wealth. Not only can it keep your money safe, but it can also protect you from other types of financial fraud. You might not think you’re at risk, but with the right safeguards in place, you can help keep your financial assets protected in all ways. 

ArticlesFunds

Who Is Eligible for Pre-settlement Funding?

When the negligence of another party causes painful and disabling injuries, the lawsuit and negotiations to get the compensation you need and deserve take time. Staying home from work to recover from your injuries takes a financial toll as you try to find a way to pay medical bills and living expenses while waiting for a settlement.

 Pre-settlement funding provides an immediate solution to your cash-flow challenges. A funding company gives a cash advance against the anticipated settlement of your personal injury case that can be used to relieve some of the financial pressures. There are, however, eligibility requirements to meet in order to receive funding.

 

What is pre-settlement funding?

A cash advance made by a funding company based on its evaluation of the value of your personal injury lawsuit and the likelihood of a settlement or judgment in your favor goes by many names, including:

  • Pre-settlement funding

  • Lawsuit funding

  • Pre-settlement loan

  • Lawsuit cash advance

  • Lawsuit loan

  • Litigation financing

These and other names describe the same product, which is an offer of a cash payment representing a portion of what a funding company believes your lawsuit settlement or judgment to be worth. The money advanced plus the fees charged by the company are repaid from the proceeds of the judgment or settlement.

Unlike bank loans that are based on your creditworthiness and ability to repay the debt, pre-settlement funding entirely relies on the funding company’s evaluation of the lawsuit. Your income or ability to repay the money advanced is not a factor in determining whether you are eligible for pre-settlement funding.

The advance and fees are repaid from the settlement or judgment from the lawsuit. If you lose the case, the lender absorbs the loss. The typical pre-settlement funding arrangement does not impose on you any personal obligation to repay the money.

 

How do lenders determine eligibility for pre-settlement funding?

Each company that offers to advance money against the outcome of your lawsuit has the ability to set its own eligibility requirements as a result of limited government regulation of the industry. Some of the most frequently encountered eligibility requirements include the following:

  • Existence of a lawsuit: You may apply for a cash advance at any stage of the case, but a lawsuit must be pending in court at the time you submit it.

  • You must have a lawyer handling the lawsuit: Funding companies obtain the information needed to evaluate your case from the lawyer representing you.

  • Type of case: Personal injury cases and other types of lawsuits likely to end in a judgment or settlement awarding money to the plaintiff. For example, a lawsuit seeking an injunction or other type of non-monetary relief would not qualify for funding.

Underwriters for the funding company look at the extent of your injuries and the evidence proving that the other party was at fault to evaluate the value of the claim and the likelihood of the lawsuit ending in a settlement or judgment in your favor.

 

Learning more about pre-settlement funding

Get advice from your personal injury lawyer about whether a cash advance against the outcome of your lawsuit would be a good option for resolving current financial challenges. If it is, compare the rates and terms offered by different pre-settlement funding companies before submitting an application.

Financial advisors looking over spreadsheets and graphs
ArticlesCorporate GovernanceFundsLegalPensions

How Can Pension Schemes Align With ESG Goals?

Financial advisors looking over spreadsheets and graphs

 

By Tracy Walsh, partner in the pensions team at law firm Womble Bond Dickinson

Pension schemes and the industry as a whole are responding to the zeitgeist of ESG investing. Last year, the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the UK’s largest pension scheme, announced that by 2023 it will have divested from companies involved in tobacco manufacturing, coal mining and weapons manufacturers, where this makes up more than 25% of their revenues.

The government has chosen not to impose targets onto pension schemes and is instead hoping that all schemes can learn from the actions of some larger schemes like this that have set ambitious ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investment strategies, and in particular those that have voluntarily adopted net zero targets for their investments. Pension schemes will need to engage much more with their asset managers, understand what net zero really means, and be prepared to better interrogate their managers over their fund selection and how this is being monitored.

That will require Trustees to be more clued up, and to have a much different investment strategy, than perhaps they have been in the past. But the effort is likely to be worth it, for their scheme members. ESG investing is proving to be very attractive to millennials (Trustees may be surprised by just how many of their members fall into that bracket), and is bucking the assumption that ESG investing means lower returns.

Research from Bloomberg has shown that the average ESG fund fell in value by just half the decrease registered of other funds in the S&P 500 index over the same period during the Covid-19 crisis. All of which is good news for DC fund values, and also for DB schemes that are seeking to rely less and less on the employer going forward.

Trustees should not focus solely on the “E” in ESG though. The social credentials of companies seeking investment are just as important and it seems that those companies with solid scores in their area have also performed better during the pandemic, and members will likely expect further and better particulars from their schemes about how those scores are arrived at, and how it has shaped the investment strategy for the scheme.

So how can trustees ensure that managers engage positively with investee companies on their behalf? There are some key actions Trustees should take, in order to exercise the right degree of influence and accountability among their fund managers:

 

Awareness:

Trustees should educate themselves about the S and the G in ESG, not just the E. Ask the managers and other advisers to provide training on how to interpret information, and what sources are being used to asset the ESG credentials of funds (especially social factors, such as labour standards and diversity). This will enable the Trustees to better monitor their managers and understand and interrogate the information provided by them, and in turn, managers will be forced to engage positively with investee companies

 

Accountability:

Trustees should make clear in their SIP and their risk register what their position is in relation to ESG, and how they will review the performance of their managers and investments against that position. Don’t just use boiler-plate assurances that the asset manager’s policies are consistent with the Trustees’ ESG beliefs. The voting policy is an excellent tool, even where voting is delegated, and would set out how schemes check their manager’s approach (some asset managers’ policies currently offer limited coverage of social topics) and the steps that will be taken where the managers’ voting choices diverge from the scheme’s voting policy.

 

Leadership:

Require your managers to be signatories of the UK Stewardship Code. If you are a qualifying scheme, you should also sign up, to show that you are walking the walk as well.

 

Follow through:

Select managers whose approach to ESG and sustainability issues is in line with that of the scheme, and choose those that can demonstrate that they fully integrate ESG considerations into their investment process.

Tracey Walsh
Tracy Walsh
Private Equity
ArticlesEquityFunds

Bite Investments Launches Private Markets Portfolio

Private Equity
  • Bite Investments is launching its first ever commingled private markets product to meet the needs of high-net-worth investors and wealth managers

  • The fund is a one-stop solution offering a diversified strategy mix to support wider portfolio objectives

  • By expanding access to private markets, Bite solves an acute problem in wealth management

Bite Investments, a digital asset manager and fintech company specialised in alternative investments, launches the Bite Private Markets Portfolio, offering investors the opportunity to access a diversified allocation to alternatives with one investment.

From this week, investors can get diversified exposure across investments strategies, geographies, and fund managers in one ticket. The Bite Private Markets Portfolio will allocate capital into 8-10 underlying top-tier funds, assessed and selected by Bite Investments’ expert investment team. The minimum investment size is $100,000 and the core sectors are: Healthcare, Information Technology, Software, Business Services, Financial Services, Consumer, and Industrials.

“The promise of alternatives is excess of returns in comparison to risk. For far too long, individual investors have not been able to capitalise on this. Through technology, we are now pleased to offer them exceptional access to the best parts of private markets via a single ticket investment”, says Henry Talbot-Ponsonby, Co-Founder and President at Bite Investments.

 

Companies are staying private longer

There has been a profound change in the way companies grow and raise money, by staying private. Their eventual success may never actually be accessible via public markets. This means investors who ignore private markets now, may be limiting their potential for the future.

Not only has there been a growth in in the number of private firms, but since 2000, buyout asset value has grown 3.5 faster than public equity market capitalisation, according to Bain’s Global Private Equity Report 2020.

“Historically, individual investors have neither had access to top fund managers, nor have they been able to reap the benefits and value created as companies stay private for longer. Tomorrow’s unicorns may never even go public”, says Anna Barath, Investment Director at Bite Investments.

 

Technology removing barriers for growth investing

Private equity has been one of the best performing asset classes globally over the last 3 decades, according to McKinsey’s Global Private Markets Review 2020. However, due to a combination of high fees, high minimum investment amounts, and lack of access to top funds, wealth managers, RIAs and IFAs have not been able to access this investment strategy. As a result, high-net-worth investors are under-allocated as compared to other investors.

“By making alternatives more accessible to our clients, we are helping them diversify instantly. Using technology, we enable individual investors to access, unlock and invest bite-sized amounts into some of the most exciting private markets strategies out there”, says Henry Talbot-Ponsonby, Co-Founder and President at Bite Investments.

 

The growing market for private equity

Estimates predict that private investment markets will grow. A Deloitte Insights article forecasts global PE assets under management to reach almost US$6trillion in the next four years and it has shown great resilience to recent downturns, including the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-09 and the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020-21, as shown in McKinsey’s Global Private Markets Review 2021.

“With the public markets not generating alpha to satisfying levels and the current low-interest rate environment, investors are turning to the private markets. Our new Private Markets Portfolio is suitable for clients looking for long term capital appreciation with alpha outperformance potential provided by co-investments and venture capital strategies”, says Anna Barath, Investment Director at Bite Investments.

 

A seasoned team

All funds are assessed by Bite’s investment committee before being offered to investors. The selection basis includes, but is not limited to, underlying fund market opportunity, team, track record, fund terms and fit with Bite’s investor base.

The investment team has advised on over $13 billion of capital raises and conducted in-depth due diligence on over 100 funds and co-investments. Fund and direct commitments made across private equity, private credit, and real assets are in excess of $4.2 billion total.

Pension
ArticlesFundsPensions

Pension Awareness Day: Expert Advice for Tradespeople On How to Prepare for Retirement

Pension
  • One in eight (13%) older tradespeople (55-64s) have no financial plan for retirement 

 

Preparing for retirement can be challenging, and it can be difficult to know where to start. In fact, recent research by IronmongeryDirect found that one in eight (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age (55-64s) don’t have any financial preparations for retirement. 

So, what do you need to know about saving for retirement? 

IronmongeryDirect has partnered with Fabian Taylor, senior associate and chartered financial planner in Nelsons’ wealth management team, and George Stainton, senior wealth manager at Hoxton Capital Management, to reveal helpful tips for tradespeople on how to prepare for retirement.

 

1. It’s never too late to start

While it’s recommended to begin planning for retirement as soon as possible, IronmongeryDirect’s research found that more than one in ten (13%) tradespeople approaching retirement age don’t have a financial plan in place. Thankfully, it’s never too late to make a start.

Fabian said: “Contributions to a pension attract tax relief from the Government. So, for every £80 you contribute, tax relief of £20 is added, making the total contribution £100. 

“As a general rule of thumb, you should try to save half the age at which you started as a percentage of your salary. For example, if you start saving at age 20, then you should contribute ten percent, but if you start at age 30, you should aim to save 15%.”

 

2. Saving early makes things easier 

While it’s true that you can start saving at any point during your career, it’s sensible to begin putting aside money for retirement as early as possible.

Many young people have the advantage of being able to use workplace pension schemes, but for those who opt out, are ineligible, or are planning on saving additional funds, starting early has major benefits.

George said: “If younger people are not contributing to a pension scheme, then they should make sure they have some sort of structured savings in place. Getting into the habit of saving for retirement earlier in your career will make life much more comfortable as you get closer to retirement. Let us look at a simple calculation to prove this.

“If someone needs to have a retirement pot of £500,000 at the age of 55, they will need to save £441 per month if they start at the age of 25 and see a 7% return on their investment each year. If they start saving at 35, this figure increases to £1,016 per month and dramatically increases to £2,783 per month if they start at 45 years old.”

 

3. Take advantage of workplace schemes

For tradespeople who work on an employed basis, they should look to enrol in their workplace pension scheme, if they have not already.

This means that they will be saving throughout their career, with additional top-ups from their employer, and while tradies should still aim to set up a private pension, a workplace scheme provides a safety net in the meantime. 

Fabian said: “If you are 22-years-old or older, earning over £10,000 and employed by a company, you will be automatically enrolled into your company’s workplace scheme. Through this, a minimum of 8% of your earnings, split between yourself and your employer, between £6,240 and £50,000, will be invested into your pension. If it is affordable, you should consider increasing contributions. If you opt out of this workplace pension, you are missing out on money from your employer.”

George said: “Thankfully, with the help of auto-enrolment, younger people are better equipped than ever to start saving for their retirement early. As the majority of the young working population will be contributing to some kind of workplace pension, they are able to benefit from the effect of long-term saving and compounded growth.”

 

4. Remember to plan ahead and save if you’re self-employed

Those working on a self-employed basis, unfortunately, do not have the same auto-enrolment to a workplace pension scheme that employed people do, so therefore it’s important that you make your own preparations and plan ahead for your retirement.

Fabian said: “Draw up a budget to see what you can afford to contribute each month, and do some research into the best place for you to put it that allows for investment growth and tax relief. Even if it is a small amount, every little helps.”

“Assuming a growth rate of five percent, if you were to contribute £50 per month to a pension at age 25, the pension could be worth £76,301 by age 65. However, if you don’t start saving until age 35, the pension could be worth £41,612 by age 65. The longer you wait to save in a pension, the more you may have to pay in later in life to save enough to meet your needs in retirement.”

Regardless of your age, it’s always best to prepare for retirement in advance. By ensuring that you’re making the most of workplace pensions where available, as well as saving privately, you can place yourself in the best position to enjoy retirement in comfort.

For more information and advice, visit: https://www.ironmongerydirect.co.uk/blog/tradey-retirements 

ESG Digital
ArticlesFunds

New Paper Predicts the Rise of Custom Equity Portfolios for Institutional Investors

ESG Digital

Managing customised equity portfolios in-house is one of the biggest trends to develop over the next few years among institutional investors, according to a new report from quant technologies provider SigTech.

In his whitepaper ‘How custom equity portfolios are disrupting pension funds’ ESG and index investing,’ Daniel Leveau, who manages SigTech’s strategic initiatives for institutional investors, argues that the combination of digitising the value chain of the investment management industry, ESG taking centre stage in the investment process and investors’ need to customise their equity investments, has created new opportunities for the industry. 

“Five years ago, the idea of creating and executing your own index strategies in-house would have been a daunting task. Today, it is 100% achievable. Custom equity portfolios allow institutional investors to define the investable universe and tailor their investment strategy to incorporate specific ESG policies and to directly hold individual securities”, comments Leveau. 

“By applying the concept of alternative indexing methods, investors can gain exposure to various risk factors that are optimal for them. One might want global equity exposure with larger downside risk, another a larger bias to small caps, whereas a third investor might desire a stable income from dividend payments. The same goes for ESG. No two ESG policies are alike. By owning the securities directly, investors can decide to what degree they want to be an active owner through voting and direct engagement.

“Investing is not about searching for an existing product that offers the best possible fit to the investor’s needs. It is about creating a product that 100% fulfils the investor’s requirements.”

Below we look in more detail at how ESG and indexing can be combined effectively and how the digitisation of the investment management sector now enables transparent, customised solutions that are created in direct alignment with the asset owner’s requirements.

 

ESG and indexing in combination

How does combining ESG and indexing work in practice? Today, investment products are mostly offered in “one size fits all” versions in the form of mutual funds or ETFs. An increasing number of index products that implement ESG policies have entered the market recently, but it is unlikely that these are fully aligned with an individual investor’s specific ESG policy. Aside from a lack of alignment, investors struggle with ESG rating agencies which often assign wildly divergent ESG scores to companies. 

The divergence is attributed to how the rating agencies define and measure ESG performance. Many of the criteria are hard to measure and assigning a rating for a specific criterion is often not as precise as using input from a firm’s financial statement. This ambiguity around ESG performance makes it hard to form a universal standard for ESG ratings.

Apart from this suboptimal situation, investing in a pooled investment vehicle – as opposed to owning the individual securities directly – such as an index fund or an ETF, makes it even more difficult for an investor to become an active owner. A pooled investment vehicle only gives the investor indirect ownership of a security. Investors don’t have the right to vote at a company’s annual meeting and it is more difficult to actively engage with these companies to constitute change. Lately, large institutional investors have increasingly come under fire for being anonymous owners and not taking full responsibility over their investments. 

Instead, Investors would be better off tailoring equity investments according to their desired risk factor exposure and incorporating their unique ESG policy. “One-size-fits-all” products are not the solution, investors need to embrace customisation and direct ownership of securities.

 

Digitisation

The commoditisation of investment strategies (e.g., through rules-based products such as index and smart beta products) is driven by technological advancements and has resulted in fee pressure for asset management products. Gradually it is also impacting the distribution process. Instead of offering pre-packaged products, fully transparent customised solutions are created in direct alignment with client’s requirements. To enable investors to profit not only from efficiency gains, but also from customisation, scalable turnkey solutions are now offered by service providers.

 

Rethinking equity portfolios

The investment management industry is undergoing tremendous change. Indexing and ESG are reshaping investor portfolios, whereas digitisation is impacting the industry’s entire value chain. Investors no longer need to look for an existing investment vehicle that is most closely aligned to their needs. They can now create a bespoke product that meets their requirements fully.  Custom equity portfolios are expected to become one of the biggest growth areas in asset management and are one of the industry’s most exciting new developments.

Woman chatting online with a laptop
ArticlesInfrastructure

Best Service Management Conversational Tech Company 2020

Woman chatting online with a laptop

 

Increasing productivity and efficiency for its clients, Aisera’s cloud-native management software is becoming the go-to option for companies across the board. With a vast array of capabilities that is only growing, its work is one of the most exemplary when it comes to intuitively automated personal interactions. 

 

Aisera’s AISM Architecture is a fully optimized team management service that is completely cloud enabled and fully end-to-end. Using a single AI platform across a multitude of services and allowing the accomplishment of multiple tasks all supported by the same software, it is multi-function and an invaluable business tool for the streamlining of processes across the board. Aisera provides service automation and empowers its clients to operate faster and more accurately. Improving business uptime, improved productivity, cost reduction, and consumer-like self-service for employees and customers, it cuts down on the manpower needed to handle basic processes and in-house operations by automating those with an intuitive and teachable AI interface. 

 

With Aisera, a client can turn their business into a high-volume resolution engine that is scalable to their business. This is one of the ways in which it makes itself highly cost effective, as its product can be scaled to match any company and their operations, ensuring that no client receives something too big or too small to handle what they need it to. Its self-service resolutions are quick and accurate, whilst allowing both customers and employees to enjoy a personalized and proactive AI service experience. In this way, it seeks to go against the notion that AI query resolution programmes are impersonal and clunky, ensuring its solution is empathic and well-designed. The platform itself is efficient and organized, allowing all encompassing AI Service Management that drives an efficient and automated service experience. Based on the principles of conversational engagement and workflow automation, it gives all users direct access to the tools their need to be more productive easier. AI and RPA solutions handle the direct interactions with end users. 

 

These programmes are concierge-grade, and with the technologies behind them being top of the range, they can help with everything from HR and sales to customer service and internal operations. Furthermore, AI Service Management integrates seamlessly with existing ticketing systems, knowledge bases, call centres, and customer service processes to automate those resolutions in a matter of seconds. Programmed with the ability to understand intent, sentiment, and ambiguous messages that other AI solutions find difficult, its clients and their end-users find themselves impressed by Aisera’s digitized multistep employee conversations. This has been especially pivotal in the past year with the advent of a majority work from home culture. Without the ability to simply cross an office and ask a colleague, Aisera’s services allow them to get an answer quickly and efficiently without having to wait for a co-worker to be available to chat. 

 

Aisera’s services also learn quickly and efficiently, picking up on nuances and working practices exclusive to the company it is managing so it can adapt to them. Aisera combines user and service behavioural intelligence with supervised and unsupervised NLP, NLU, and NLG in order to do this. Furthermore, it connects to existing systems, tailoring itself to work with over 400 different connections such as ITSM, CSM, Alerting, Monitoring, Chat Provisions, and RPA. It is also both no-code and cloud-native, requiring no additional resources or onboarding for getting it set up – it just works. Aisera also offers clients the option of improving productivity by use of its catalogue of over 1200 pre-built workflows. With all this in mind, it’s no wonder Aisera has become the trusted AI integration platform for so many businesses, and it looks forward to helping streamline the work of many more businesses in
the future.

 

For business enquiries contact Kim del Fierro at AISERA vai aisera.com

Close up of a welcome mat that reads "first time buyer" with two people's feet above it.
ArticlesReal Estate

Study Reveals: First-Time Buyers’ Biggest Fears

Close up of a welcome mat that reads "first time buyer" with two people's feet above it.


● Over a third of first-time buyers fear experiencing a ‘house value drop/negative equity’
● More than a quarter (26%) of first-time buyers worry they won’t be able to match their deposit saving rate to the rate of house price rises
● 11% of people fear ‘breaking up with someone after buying together’

Figures* show that there are approximately 39,000 Google searches on average for ‘properties for sale’ in the UK per month. Despite clear interest in the property market, this buying process can be particularly challenging for those getting onto the property ladder for the first time.

But what are first-time buyers really worrying about? The mortgage experts at money.co.uk surveyed 1,501 first-time buyers to discover what they are most fearful of when it came to buying their first home.

Top Five First-Time Buyers’ Fears Revealed:

Fears %
1. House value drop / negative equity
31
2. Saving enough deposit vs rise in house price
26
3. Unable to afford your mortgage long-term
22
4. COVID-19 influencing a spike in prices
13
5. Breaking up with S.O. after buying together
11


The biggest concern raised by first-time buyers is experiencing a ‘house value drop/negative equity’. In fact, 31% of respondents said they are worried about their property becoming less valuable than the remaining value of their mortgage.

Nisha Vaidya, mortgage editor at money.co.uk, said: “There are a few things you should keep in mind if you want to avoid negative equity. Firstly, it’s important to make sure you pay the market value for the property, so don’t shy away from negotiating on the asking price.

“Secondly, the larger your deposit, the more equity you will have in the property. So, if you are able to save enough, putting down a bigger deposit is a good idea.”
While putting down a larger deposit is a great way to unlock lower interest rates and better mitigate shifts in house prices, over a quarter of first-time buyers said they are worried that they wouldn’t be able to save at the same pace as the rise in house prices.

Nisha Vaidya, a mortgage editor at money.co.uk, offered these tips for saving for a deposit:
● Setting a budget: In addition to understanding how much deposit you’ll need, there are other costs to consider when purchasing a home, such as survey costs, solicitor or conveyancer fees and insurance. But by setting a budget, you’ll be able to plan out your savings targets and start saving for your ideal home.
● Cut the cost of your rent: You’ve probably asked yourself the question ‘How to save money for a house’ multiple times, but one way is by paying less rent to free up more cash for your deposit fund. If you live alone, consider moving into a house share or living with family to save on rental costs.
● Get a lodger: If you live alone and have space, taking in a lodger can be a great way to help subsidise the cost of renting and give you extra money to save for a deposit. Before you begin your search for a new flatmate, check your landlord is happy for you to share their property and sub-let a room.

The third most common worry experienced by first-time buyers is being ‘unable to afford your mortgage long-term’ – a concern experienced by 22% of respondents. 

Nisha Vaidya added: “If you are worried about affording your mortgage, there are ways a buyer can get support. This type of support can include: a payment deferral, an extension to your mortgage term and a change to your mortgage type. If you are looking to buy a new home but have financial worries, using the Help to Buy scheme could offer you the support you need. 

This Governmental scheme offers buyers an equity loan they can use to help buy a new build home, allowing buyers to purchase a property with a 5% deposit and receive a loan for up to 20% of the property value, which will be interest free for 5 years. The buyers must then take out a standard mortgage for the remaining 75%.”

Moreover, the pandemic has affected us in many ways, and it has created new concerns in different aspects of our lives, including financial ones. The survey conducted by money.co.uk reveals that 13% of first-time buyers fear ‘COVID-19 influencing a spike in prices’.

This is not the only fear people have as a result of Covid-19. With many people becoming remote workers, confusion has arisen in regard to where it’s best to buy, in the eventuality of going back to the office. 5% of respondents have said they have concerns regarding the ‘uncertainty about location with working from home [WFH]’. 

Couples who buy together have also admitted that a big concern is ‘breaking up with someone after buying together’, with 11% of people fearing a separation could create difficulties with property related matters. 

Nisha Vaidya, a mortgage expert at money.co.uk, said:

“Getting on the property ladder can be a nerve-racking experience for first-time buyers, as being misinformed can cost greatly – whether it’s losing out on a dream home or losing a lot of money in the process. However, the best thing first-time buyers can do is do their homework thoroughly before embarking on this journey.
“Being equipped with the right information will cut the risk of encountering unpleasant scenarios that many first-time buyers fear, such as experiencing negative equity or being unable to afford a mortgage long-term. Once you are confident in your knowledge the process should be less risky and more exciting.”

Methodology
● Mortgage experts at money.co.uk conducted a survey in which 1,501 people participated. The question “As a first-time buyer, what is your biggest fear?” was asked.
● The survey sample is broken down as follows: 56.5% male respondents, 43.5% female respondents. 8.5% were aged 18-24, 19.5% were aged 25-34, 13.7% were aged 35-44, 17.0% were aged 45-54, 22.9% were aged 55-64 and 18.4% were aged 65+.
● Geographically, 77.7% of respondents were from England, 15.6% of respondents were from Scotland, 6.1% were from Wales and 0.7% of respondents were from Northern Ireland.

*Figures provided by https://ahrefs.com/.

Savings
ArticlesFinanceFunds

The Nation’s Most-Searched Savings Strategies… and How to Access Them

Savings

By Annie Charalambous, Head of Communications at ETX Capital


Britain is pinching its pennies. According to the FT, UK household savings have increased nearly 2 percent in the last quarter as 20 million Brits commit to saving more of their income after the pandemic settles. That being said, many Brits aren’t sure where to start when it comes to managing finances.

We’re taking a look at how the nation is researching its savings options, revealing the UK’s most-searched strategies and we’ll even explain how to take the first steps towards them.

 

1. Premium bonds (368,000 monthly searches)

Premium bonds are a unique, interest-free way to save. You buy the bonds (in this case, a minimum amount of £25, and a maximum of £50,000) from NS&I, and each month you enter a prize draw in which your odds are 34,500 to 1, and you can win between £25 and £1 million. You won’t earn interest on your bonds, but instead, it’s the interest that funds the prizes.

Anyone can buy premium bonds, and this can be done on the NS&I website. Your money is secure in premium bonds and you can cash out all – or part of – your bonds at any time.

 

2. Lifetime ISA (74,000 monthly searches)

Lifetime ISAs are specialised savings accounts designed for those aged 18 to 40 to save for retirement or a first home. They allow you to save up to £4,000 each tax year, and the government adds 25 percent to whatever you contribute.

Anyone within these age limits can open a Lifetime ISA with a bank or building society. They can be paid into until you turn 50, however, money can only be withdrawn once you turn 60, or to buy a first property once the account has been active for 12 months. If you withdraw money before these key dates, you’ll lose your government contribution.

 

3. Savings accounts (74,000 monthly searches)

A savings account is a traditional bank or building society account, which lets you deposit money and earn interest each month. Savings accounts often have a low, if any, minimum starting amount, anyone over the age of 18 can open one, and your money can typically be withdrawn at any time. For these reasons, savings accounts are a common, low-risk approach to saving money.

 

4. State pension (74,000 monthly searches)

The UK state pension is a weekly financial sum for retirees. Anyone with 10 years of National Insurance contributions or more is eligible for some level of the state pension – with 35 years qualifying you for the full amount.

State pensions can currently be claimed once you turn 66, however, this is set to increase to 67 in 2028. The basic state pension is £137.60 per week but you may be able to claim more, depending on your earnings over your career.

 

5. Bonds (49,500 monthly searches)

A bond represents a loan, typically given by an investor to any government or company, which agrees to buy it back at an agreed date, with interest.

Anyone can buy bonds. Savings bonds can be accessed from banks and building societies, while Government bonds can be bought through their dedicated Debt Management Office website.

 

6. Fixed-rate savings account* (14,800 monthly searches)

Fixed-rate savings accounts offer a guaranteed rate of returned interest, on the agreement that deposited funds aren’t withdrawn for a set time. They typically offer higher rates of interest than traditional savings accounts and are also resistant to market fluctuation.

Anyone can open a fixed-rate savings account with a bank or building society, however some institutions may require a minimum deposit amount or set term length, so this may not be the ideal route for everyone.

 

7. Private pension (14,800 monthly searches

Unlike the state pension, which workers automatically contribute to through their National Insurance, private pensions require active entry and payments. Private pensions can include both workplace pensions, arranged by employers (who typically also contribute) or personal pensions.

Anyone of working age can set up a pension. Some, like ‘final salary’ and ‘career average’ pensions will pay out a pre-agreed sum upon retirement, while other pension types may invest your money, meaning you’re able to earn higher interest (at higher risk).

 

8. Child savings account (14,800 monthly searches)

Child savings accounts are similar to regular ISAs but are designed for parents to save for their children (18 and under). These give children the opportunity to learn how to manage and save money, and they can even withdraw money before they’re old enough to open a regular savings account.

Some alternatives to children’s savings accounts include Junior ISAs and Children’s Bonds. These may offer greater returns and tax breaks but often put limits on when and how funds can be accessed.

 

9. Student bank account (12,100 monthly searches)

Some banks and building societies offer specialised savings accounts for those in higher education. These typically act in the same way as a regular ISA but offer sign-up incentives for students, like discount public travel cards and 0 percent overdrafts.

As the name suggests, only active students can open student bank accounts and providers will require savers to prove their identity with a valid student card.

CBDC
ArticlesFundsMarkets

CBDCs Impact on Payments Market: A Push for Repositioning Barriers for Market Newcomers

CBDC


For the payments market, government-backed digital currencies could accelerate innovation by setting novel technology benchmarks, as well as rearrange some of the entry barriers for new companies looking to set up shop.

A recent survey of central banks has revealed that 86% are actively doing research into central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), 60% are already in the experimenting phase and almost 15% doing pilot testing. With CBDCs heavily gaining traction across governments worldwide, Marius Galdikas, CEO at ConnectPay, has discussed how this technological solution could impact the payments market players.

The idea of CBDCs has been circling around for a few years now, however, with the growing attention towards cryptocurrencies and money digitalization in general, banks are now focusing on how to put the idea into practise. For instance, the Bank of England together with HM Treasury has created a dedicated task force to explore potential use cases of CBDC in the UK market, as well as monitor international developments regarding the topic. Norway is pushing ahead with CBDC, too, while China is already in the process of testing digital Yuan out in the real world.

“CBDCs could be a game-changer for the payments industry. Aside from the clear benefits, for instance, low-cost cross-border payments or boosting financial inclusivity, it could also enhance domestic payments system resilience, slightly shifting dependence from the international payment processing networks,” Galdikas said.

According to Galdikas, CBDCs could be a major catalyst for the payments market, as government-issued digital currencies would be as easily accessible as current e-money payment methods, yet, in some respects, it could surpass what current market players have to offer.

“Although it has immense potential, the idea still has a long way to go. Essential decisions need to be made concerning how state-backed currencies could inherit the properties of cash, for instance, working offline or addressing the double-spending problem. Also, it’s highly likely that the central banks will not take on the responsibility to develop and implement the technology themselves, yet will want to retain the control of the currency itself,” Galdikas explained. “There is no best way to address these types of questions and that’s why specialized teams and task forces are being assembled — to come up with an approach that would combine different tools into a single solution.”

“Therefore payment service providers will have to step up their game to match the benefits CBDCs would bring to the table, which means moving up into a higher gear when it comes to innovation and delivering unique market solutions. They’ll have to be more strategic in communicating their strengths and value proposition to their target audience, too,” he added.

While outlining the benefits, Galdikas also noted how this would impact market newcomers. “CBDCs would definitely set an even higher standard for greater technological competence, which means setting up shop for new businesses is going to need a lot more investment from the get-go.”

“That said, I believe that some of the barriers would drop, for example, the requirement that only credit institutions have access to payment systems, such as SEPA. All in all, the CBDC, with inherent properties of cash, would allow for a wide variety of innovative financial solutions,” he concluded.

This could be a pivoting moment in the industry, which would greatly contribute to building a more financially inclusive society. However, a lot of questions must be addressed before then, with the main ones being technological implementation, as well as privacy concerns, which might arise due to CBDCs being state-backed.

Bills
ArticlesFinanceFunds

South West Businesses Piling on Debt, Bills and Overdrafts Mounting During Lockdown


A year on from the start of the pandemic, business finances in the South West have been badly damaged, with many business owners increasingly reliant upon costly sources of borrowing such as overdrafts and credit cards, a Business West survey has revealed.
40% of the 550 businesses that responded to the survey reported a higher level of indebtedness than a year ago, whilst a similar number (43%) had 6 months or less of cash reserves remaining, laying bare the huge financial cost of coronavirus despite extensive government interventions in the economy.
With pressures on firms growing after multiple lockdowns, 28% of businesses seeking out finance opted to utilise the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) – a government backed initiative offering favourable interest rates and flexible repayment terms, but this scheme has now ended.
Salisbury-based 365 Linen Hire, which provides tablecloths and napkins to the weddings and events industries, highlights how emergency borrowing has taken the strain for many COVID-19 impacted businesses. Its Manager Richard Gould said that as hopes were dashed of the economy unlocking earlier in the year, the business sought out BBLS funds to gear up for a summer reopening, having “held out as long as possible”.
The use of overdrafts and credit cards by local businesses is also relatively high, at 22% and 19% respectively, considering that these sources of finance are more expensive than government backed emergency finance. They are also more common than the formal government backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which only 16% of respondents chose, typically larger businesses within the survey respondents. The percentage of businesses borrowing money from family and friends is also quite significant, at 11%.
Bristol-based marketing agency Feisty Consultancy was one of the businesses that complained of receiving a rough ride from their banking provider over the past 12 months.
“During the first lockdown at least, the banks were helpful in reducing/removing fees,” said Feisty Consultancy’s Managing Director Vikki Little. “But this stopped some months ago and hasn’t been reinstated, despite the fact that the situation is now worse for many businesses. I wrote to my bank regarding this and was told ‘tough’ essentially.”
If the increased prevalence of short-term borrowing wasn’t worrying enough for the state of business finances, it is particularly so for the self-employed. Two fifths of respondents identified credit cards as their main source of financing during the pandemic – a finding which suggests that the self-employed (many of whom fell through the cracks of government support schemes) were unable to access cheaper, alternative forms of borrowing.
Against this background, Business West is concerned at a potential ‘finance crunch’ coming for small businesses. With repayments starting on government backed loans and the level of (often high cost) debt from financial institutions and others, the burden of this debt is expected to act as a drag on business recovery.
Unsurprisingly, after a year of lockdown restrictions, almost half of the 550 participants reported a deterioration in their cashflow, taking this to the lowest point in the last 3 years, with responses consistent across both the services and manufacturing sectors. “It is dreadful,” said Val Hennessy of the International House language school in Bristol – one of the businesses speaking out. “Virtually no income and little prospect of a real increase in income in the near future as international travel is banned or the costs of travelling to the UK for students is too off-putting. We cannot risk borrowing anymore because the future is so uncertain.” she continued.
For businesses such as The Zoots band, government financial support has unfortunately done little to make up for the income shortfall of a year ravaged by stop-start lockdown restrictions. Its proprietor Jamie Goddard revealed that he is “currently in £30,000 debt” adding “with SEISS grants of only £2500 that covered about 1.5% of my usual turnover” and hopes they “will get something eventually” to address the situation.
Aside from widespread financial worries highlighted by the survey, the region-wide study also found that almost 40% of South West employers had experienced staffing issues as a direct result of school closures.
Stephen Sage, Managing Director of ACES Ltd – an electronics firm based in Bristol – said that along with school closures: “Social distancing measures have slowed our production along with…home working,” before adding “material shortages have also compounded the problem.”
The cumulative effect of rising debt levels and lockdown restrictions on business growth and performance across the region is plain to see.
Over half of respondents reported that their turnover, profitability and cash flow have been negatively impacted as a result of the pandemic. The percentage of businesses impacted in the retail, tourism, food and drink, and consumer services industries is even worse (over 60%), with many delaying growth plans and experiencing reduced profit margins.
Despite the pain of the past 12 months, businesses are remarkably upbeat regarding the future prospects of the UK economy, with business confidence also showing signs of lifting following government’s announcement of an irreversible roadmap out of lockdown in England. On both measures, this represents a marked uptick when compared to the last quarter’s results.
 
Providing his assessment of the survey findings Business West Managing Director Phil Smith comments:
“Whilst the UK’s successful vaccination programme provides genuine light at the end of the tunnel, it would appear that businesses will have to wait a little while longer before they are able to bask in the glow of a dawning economic recovery.
“There have been few winners and very many losers as a result of the pandemic, a good proportion of whom have taken on added debt to help see them through.
“In the best-case scenario, we will see pandemic related debts repaid quickly as business activity begins to ramp up and accelerate as lockdown restrictions are lifted. In the worst case, a mounting debt burden stymies business growth and proves a long-term drag on the region’s economy.
“To see businesses utilising the flexibility of the BBLS is pleasing. However, the fact that more and more businesses are turning to credit cards and overdrafts to solve cashflow issues is concerning. The reliance on friends and family may also be interpreted as a market failure that government and lenders would be wise in addressing.
“We are worried about small businesses and the self-employed’s access to suitable finance during the recovery period. At the end of March both BBLS and CBILS closed, and CBILS was replaced by the successor Recovery Loan Scheme. However, this is available via commercial bank lending and is only government guaranteed for 80% of the loan. Our findings highlight a looming finance gap for smaller firms, given the particular finance needs of smaller businesses, who appear to not be utilising CBILS, perhaps because it is harder to access this more formal bank form of financing. We think further government finance schemes for these smaller firms may be needed.
“After business’ most challenging year in living memory, it goes without saying that eyes remain fixed on the roadmap out of lockdown, as only then do we have the realistic prospect of healing the wounds inflicted by the pandemic and repairing business finances.”
Property investment
ArticlesFinanceFundsReal Estate

Top Tips to Raising Property Investment Finance in 2021

Property investment


In the UK, property remains one of the most resilient asset classes. From first-time buyers to portfolio landlords, getting established on the property ladder remains a popular way for many to grow their wealth. Depending on an individual’s circumstances and ambitions, Arbuthnot Latham, Private and Commercial Bank, explains the various routes to securing finance for property investment in 2021 and beyond.

 

Property finance for individuals

Many individuals, who have enough capital, will look to supplement their income by acquiring a second or third property on top of the one they live in. This will almost always involve a personal investment of capital and additional funds secured via a loan or mortgage.

The appeal of becoming a buy-to-let landlord is not just the relatively good performance of the UK residential property market, but the fact that the value of the asset can be increased with a proactive approach to property maintenance and improvement. Until now, property has been a very stable asset class, and is one that empowers the owner to increase its value over and above standard market movements. It is important to note, with any asset class, that previous performance is not an indicator of future performance.

If an individual is looking to make this sort of investment, any finance they are able to secure will be contingent on their own circumstances. For example, will they be able to show how they would personally cover a shortfall if rental income doesn’t cover interest payments?

 

Other factors banks consider with individual buy-to-let mortgage applications

Credit rating

Whether they are entering the property investment market for the first time or expanding their portfolio, a clean credit score is an essential part of the puzzle. Small issues like missed payments might not make a huge difference, but County Court Judgements or missed mortgage repayments will be a significant barrier to securing the finance they need.

Minimum income

Most lenders in the UK require a minimum income to consider eligibility, but there are options for those with a lower income threshold, and there are even options available that have no income requirements.

Existing portfolio or assets

What lenders are willing to offer will change depending on if the individual is new to property finance or already own properties. Some lenders won’t consider landlords who own several properties, but this varies across the UK.

 

Property finance for portfolio landlords

Individuals who own four or more mortgaged properties become what’s known as a ‘portfolio landlord’. When they pass this threshold, there are certain expectations on banks regarding due diligence. From here, it’s not just about their own personal circumstances. For example, a bank is required to know the status quo of the rest of their portfolio. They need a deeper understanding of how the assets might interact and will also want to gauge their understanding of the market they’re operating in.

 

Factors banks consider with buy-to-let applications

  • Do they keep accurate records? There are many conditions to satisfy buy-to-let properties (fire safety certificates, guarantees for electrical items, insurance, etc.) More important still for HMOs: annual gas certificates. If they’re disorganised, cannot produce documentation when asked, or their business approach obstructs a bank’s due diligence, this is a red flag when considering a finance application.

  • The bank wants to know that a buy-to-let landlord is competent: aware of their obligations and best practice

  • A portfolio landlord should understand the market they want to operate in. Banks look for investors who have a good handle on their local area. A speculative application – not rooted in a comprehensive business plan – means more risk for the bank and a higher rate of interest.

Portfolio landlords should make sure they chose a lender who is right for them. If the individual are vastly experienced, cheaper rates found on the high street can be the right approach. A note of caution here is that as different lenders’ appetites change, it could result in an ongoing dynamic of regular refinancing to achieve the cheapest rate.

Other investors might move away from -the potentially lighter touch relationship approach of the high street, and opt for a longer-term relationship of consistency where their banker understands their circumstances, has years of sector expertise and can tailor solutions to meet their needs.

This is particularly helpful when circumstances change. The pooled collective knowledge of a real estate finance team can be particularly valuable to help a portfolio landlord adapt when circumstances change.

Stimulus Check
Funds

8 Great Ways to Use Your Stimulus Check

Stimulus Check

You’re getting the stimulus check, which is great news for those experiencing financial hardship. Now, it’s time to think about how you’re going to use it. The following are a few ways to help yourself and the nation’s economy.

  1. Clear Debts

One of the best suggestions on how to use stimulus check money is to pay down some debt. If you can decrease the amount you owe, the money saved going forward can be used to buy a new car or maybe even start a business. You’ll be freer, and that’s priceless.

  1. Vacation

Face it, people have had a rough year, and if you want a vacation, then maybe that’s the best thing you can do. It’s a way to recharge your batteries and feel good again. The vaccine is going to reopen things soon, so just plan your vacation with this cash. Stay within the US to boost the economy.

  1. Treat Yourself

Maybe you’ve been a little wary about spending because of everything going on. Things are turning around, so why not consider treating yourself with this check? There must be something you’ve wanted for a long time, like an entertainment center or something similar.

  1. Sustainability

The pandemic has taught us the value of self-sustainability. You can use this check to start your journey. There are many ways you can do this, from buying a chicken coup to have access to fresh eggs at home or investing in a greenhouse to grow vegetables.

  1. Home Repairs

Some folks have been sitting on much-needed home repairs for some time. It’s time to address those repairs, and you can use the check for that. You’ll be stimulating the local economy if you use a repair person from your community. Your home will function a lot better, so it’s a wise decision.

  1. Car Repairs

Maybe it’s not your home that needs to be repaired but your car. People sometimes put off repairs as long as the vehicle is still running. You don’t have to take that risk because you have this check coming. You’ll be supporting mechanics, and that’s a good thing to do during these times. Have an inspection done to see what needs fixing.

  1. Invest

If you feel like you’ve got enough money saved, then consider investing. Granted, there are markets where you might not want to invest just yet, especially if they’re in trouble, but there are a few industries still thriving. Do your research and find out where it might be a good idea to invest. This is an excellent way to ensure that your wealth keeps growing; it’s not like these checks will keep coming though they probably should because they are doing a lot of good.

  1. Save

Sometimes, the smartest thing you could do is just save the money. Maybe you want to make sure you have the cash for your kids to go to college. This could go a long way in making that a reality for you. Maybe you just want to save to buy your kid’s first car. There are many reasons to put your money away, so if there’s nothing else, then this is your wisest move. You don’t want to waste money frivolously, so just keep that in mind.

These are some ways you can use the stimulus check coming your way. You can use other ways, but you know your financial situation and goals, so choose carefully.