Stuart Rodgers

What is your job role?

Trainee Mortgage & Protection Adviser

If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?

I would love to see real life dinosaurs! Wouldn’t want to get too close though. Maybe if Jurassic Park becomes a reality I’ll get my chance.

If you won the lottery tomorrow, what would you do with the money?

Fly to Hawaii and spend the next month on the beach sipping cocktails from coconuts, in my floral shirt and hula skirt.

What is the top item on your bucket list?

There are quite a few items left on my list, but skydiving has to be at the top. I am not great with jumping off diving boards though so I might need a push to get out of the plane.

Finish this sentence – On Sunday mornings you can usually find me…

full from breakfast and out walking the dog along the beach or through the park. Usually thinking about what’s for lunch!

Flashback to when you were in primary school – what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was really young I always wanted to be a Power Ranger. Jason the Red Ranger to be exact. I even told people that was my name.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The team I work with. We all get on so well and love to have a laugh. No day is boring and there are always people there to support you when you need help.

What do you find challenging about your work?

In the protection aspect of my role, we have to have some frank conversations with people about death and illness, which isn’t a particularly pleasant thing to think about. But it is all made easier knowing that we have helped to protect those families at the end of it all.
A woman sitting on a sofa reading a book with a cup of coffee

World Book Day is often associated with book fairs and children getting dressed up as their favourite literary characters. This year, on 3 March, World Book Day celebrates its 25th anniversary and, even as an adult, it’s a great opportunity to delve into children’s literature.

Whether you have children or grandchildren to share a book with or want a nostalgic read, there are plenty of children’s books that can delight and entertain adults. While they are simpler to read, children’s books can be filled with thought-provoking stories and whisk you away on an adventure when you want to escape. Here are 10 children’s books that worth rereading or picking up for the first time as an adult.

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The Chronicles of Narnia series is one of the best-known classic fantasy series aimed at children, with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe being the most popular book. The imaginative story follows children who find a portal to the magical world of Narnia that’s filled with talking animals and adventure. The book also features many religious allegories, reflecting the author’s Christian views, that you may have overlooked as a child.

2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are is a picture book by American writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak that’s been adapted several times since it was first published in 1963. The book is little longer than 200 words but manages to capture a story of love as Max’s bedroom turns into a forest filled with wild things. It’s an excellent book to read to young children that you can enjoy too.   

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

While now considered a children’s classic, The Secret Garden was first serialised in an adult magazine, and it’s still a great option for adult readers. At the start of the novel, the main character Mary Lennox is often rude and selfish, but as she discovers a door leading to a secret garden she becomes more self-aware and grows as a character.

4. Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

Northern Lights is the first book in His Dark Materials trilogy written by Philip Pullman. Fierce heroine Lyra takes a journey that spans worlds and is perfect for those who want to escape with a fantasy novel. As with many books on this list, when rereading the series as an adult, you’ll notice darker and more philosophical themes.

5. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

The novel Peter Pan is much darker and more complex than the Disney version that’s often associated with the classic character. The timeless classic sees the Darling children visit Neverland, which is filled with adventure and wonder, but it’s also a poignant reminder of youth and how quickly it can pass.

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Dystopian novels have become a staple of the young adult genre, and Lois Lowry’s The Giver led the way when it was published in 1993. Set in a society that has taken away pain and strife, the novel follows Jonas as he struggles with new emotions and understanding the world when he is selected to become the “Receiver of Memory”.

7. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

We all know the story of the girl that falls down a rabbit hole and into a world of strange characters. If you’ve yet to read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it’s worth adding to your list. Characters like the Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter have delighted readers, young and old, for over 150 years.

8. Matilda by Roald Dahl

Any one of Roald Dahl’s bibliography could be included on this list. His books are fun, charming and often have witty narratives adults can appreciate. Matilda follows a five-year-old girl who loves to read and discovers she has special abilities. It’s a classic good vs evil story as Matilda deals with her horrible family and headmistress.

9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Despite being published almost 80 years ago, The Little Prince still holds up as a great story and remains a classic. The fantastical parts of the story, including the young prince from a tiny asteroid visiting earth, keep children entertained, but it makes many observations on life and human nature that are still thought-provoking for adults.

10. Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian

First published in 1981, Goodnight Mister Tom is set during World War II and follows a young boy, Willie, as he’s evacuated from London to the countryside. While written for children, the novel touches on some dark topics, including abuse and mental health, but is a heart-warming story of two people saving each other from loneliness.

A modern block of flats in the UK

Figures suggest that demand for flats is rising. They can be a great option for first-time buyers, as they’ll often have lower prices, for those who want to live in city centres, or even for those who want to invest in property. While the process of buying a flat is similar to a home, it can create more obstacles if you’ll be using a mortgage to purchase one.

For much of 2020, house prices increased at a faster pace than flats as families sought larger homes, while first-time buyers struggled to secure a mortgage as the number of low-deposit mortgages fell. However, according to the Halifax House Price Index, this changed in 2021. While detached properties increased by 6.6% last year, annual price inflation for flats was 10.8%. The figures suggest that demand for flats is on the rise.

If you’re thinking about buying a flat this year and will be applying for a mortgage, some things could harm your mortgage application. It doesn’t mean you can’t purchase a flat, but being forewarned can help you find the right property for you and approach lenders that are more likely to say “yes”.

Here are five reasons why a bank could reject your mortgage application for a flat.

1. The leasehold is too short

If you buy a flat, it will usually be a leasehold property. This means you own the property, but the land it’s built on is owned by a freeholder. The leasehold gives you the right to occupy the property for a defined period.

Many lenders will not approve your mortgage if there are less than 70 years on the leasehold. Some may also need you to pay off the mortgage before the lease reaches a certain point. It’s important you check the leasehold and understand the criteria lenders have before you apply.

If you’re interested in buying a property with a short leasehold, the current leaseholder may be able to extend it. Keep in mind that this may increase the value of the property, or they may ask that you cover the associated costs.

2. The ground rent and service charges are high

When you apply for a mortgage, a lender will carry out affordability checks. This is to ensure you can meet the regular repayments of both your mortgage and your other outgoings, such as bills and credit repayments. If you’re buying a flat, you will typically need to pay ground rent and service charges. As a result, the lender will consider their cost and how they could rise in the future when they review your application.

3. Potential cladding issues

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, cladding and fire safety have become important issues if you’re buying a flat. Some lenders will require an EWS1 form before an application is approved. This form shows that an assessor has looked at a property’s external cladding. Some older properties may not have this, and it can delay the home buying process, or even mean that a lender will not approve your application.

4. You don’t have the deposit needed

Traditionally, first-time buyers have needed a 10% deposit when buying a property. There are also mortgages now available where you need just a 5% deposit. If you’ve saved with this in mind, you could find you don’t have enough if you want to buy a flat.

Banks may view flats as harder to resell if they are repossessed. As a result, some lenders may require a higher deposit to offset this risk.

5. The property is above commercial premises

If you’re looking at a flat that is above commercial premises, keep in mind that some lenders will not approve a mortgage based on this. This is because some commercial properties can mean more noise or anti-social behaviour, and they could prove more difficult to resell. If you find a property that is above commercial premises that you want to buy, you may have to look at challenger banks or specialist lenders to secure a mortgage.

Finding a lender that will approve your mortgage application for a flat

While the above five issues can mean it’s more difficult to get a mortgage, it doesn’t mean you have to scrap your plans to buy a flat. What is important is that you understand the criteria of different mortgage providers and choose one that suits your goals.

There are many providers to choose from, from well-known high street banks to lenders you may never have heard of. It can be challenging to understand which one is right for you, and this is where a mortgage broker can help. We’re here to help you identify the lenders that could approve your application, whether you hope to purchase a flat or house. Please contact us to talk about your mortgage needs.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only. Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on a mortgage or other loans secured on it.

A woman signing some paperwork

As you start to put winter behind you, you may be thinking of giving your home a spring clean or the projects you want to take on over the next few months. As you do, don’t forget to think about your finances.

Regularly reviewing your finances and plans for the future can help keep you on track. It can provide a chance to find opportunities you may have previously missed to help your assets go further, and ensure the steps you take continue to reflect your plans. Here are eight things to do to give your finances a spring clean.

1. Review your budget

While looking over your budget can seem like a chore, it’s still a worthwhile task. For example, does your budget still reflect your needs and goals? Going through your regular expenses can help you manage your money more effectively.

As well as looking at what money is going in and out of your account, assess if there’s anything you can do to simplify the steps you’re taking. For instance, if you regularly contribute to an ISA, why not set up a standing order? It can minimise the financial tasks you need to do and ensure it doesn’t slip your mind.

2. Organise your paperwork

It’s easy for paperwork to become unorganised. Taking some time to review your paperwork can help ensure you, or others, have access to the information when you need it. Make sure important documents, such as insurance policies, are accessible, and take the opportunity to clear out paperwork that you no longer need.

If your documents are stored or delivered online, make sure you know how to access everything and download important information.

3. Review your pensions

Whether your retirement is years away or you’ve already retired, keeping on top of your pensions is important.

If you’re still paying into a pension, reviewing your contributions and forecasts can help give you an idea of whether you’re on track for the retirement you want, or if you need to take additional steps. Don’t forget about old pensions you may not be paying into, and consider whether consolidation could be beneficial for you.

If you’ve already retired and are using flexi-access drawdown or have a pension you haven’t accessed yet, a review can give you confidence in the future and ensure you have enough for the rest of your life.

4. Check your State Pension entitlement

If you’ve yet to reach State Pension Age, do you know what you’ll be entitled to? To receive the full State Pension, you must have 35 years on your National Insurance record. You should also look at when you will be able to claim the State Pension, as the age is gradually rising and is currently under review. Not being able to claim the State Pension when you expect to, or not being entitled to the full amount could harm your long-term plans.

5. Assess your financial resilience

It’s impossible to predict what will happen in the future. As part of your financial plan, you’ve likely taken steps to create a financial buffer in case something unexpected happens, do these steps still reflect your needs and risks?

Looking at the steps you’ve taken can give you confidence that you’ll be protected and highlight potential gaps. This may include checking your emergency fund and calculating how long it would cover essential outgoings or reviewing if protection policies are still adequate.

6. Check the level of interest your savings are earning

Interest rates are still low, but as the Bank of England increased its base rate, you may be able to make your savings work harder. Switching to an account that offers an initial incentive or a higher rate of interest can give your savings a boost. If you don’t need access to your savings in the short or medium term, locking them away for a defined period could help you secure a better rate of interest too.

7. Review the rate of interest you’re paying for credit

Rising interest rates can mean your savings earn more, but if you still have some form of debt, your regular outgoings could increase too. Creating a plan to pay off debt with a high interest rate can improve your finances over the long term.

It’s also worth looking at transferring your debt to access a better rate of interest. You may be able to transfer existing credit card debt to a different provider that offers an introductory 0% interest rate, for example.

8. Review when your current mortgage deal comes to an end

Finally, if you’re paying off a mortgage, make sure you know when your current deal comes to an end. Once the deal is up, you’ll usually be moved on to the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR), which will typically have a higher rate of interest than alternative deals you could find.

If you need any guidance or would like to review your financial plan, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment not normally accessible until 55 (57 from April 2028). The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances. Thresholds, percentage rates and tax legislation may change in subsequent Finance Acts. 

Close up of a man looking through some paperwork

While investment decisions should be based on facts, many investors find their decisions are sometimes influenced by emotions. Whether you’re excited about an investment opportunity, or worried about market volatility, keeping emotions in check can help you make better investment decisions.

According to research from Barclays, half of investors admit to making impulsive decisions based on their emotions. While these decisions can seem right at the time, 67% of investors said they go on to regret their choice. Worries during short-term market volatility are often associated with making knee-jerk decisions. If you see the value of your investments fall, it’s natural to want to make changes. However, the study found that other emotions play a role in impulsive investment decisions, including:

  • Excitement (34%)
  • Impatience (21%)
  • Fear (16%)

Letting emotions play a significant role in your decisions can mean you make choices that you wouldn’t normally or that don’t fit into your financial plan.

What can you do to reduce impulsive investment decisions?

While you can’t remove the emotions you feel when investing, there are things you can do to reduce the chance of you making impulsive decisions and recognise when emotions are affecting your thought process.

1. Keep in mind where you get information from

In modern life, you’re surrounded by news and information that could affect how you view your investments. It’s important to keep in mind how reliable the information is and how it relates to your circumstances.

When asked what influenced their investment decisions, 32% of respondents said “social media” and 31% said “friends”. While both of these can be useful sources of information, they can also lead to you making decisions that aren’t right for you. Such information may be inaccurate or biased. There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when investing either. So, while a friend may have made an investment decision that’s right for them, it doesn’t automatically mean it makes sense for you too.

Taking a step back before you make an investment decision can help you review what it’s based on and how reliable the source is.

2. Have faith in your investment plan

Almost a third (30%) of investors said they’d made an impulsive investment decision due to the “fear of missing out” (FOMO). If you’ve heard of a great investment opportunity, it can be tempting to invest yourself. While some of these may be a good option for you, it’s important not to be impulsive and to weigh them up carefully. Having confidence in your financial plan can help you look at opportunities objectively and see how they’ll fit into your long-term goals.

3. Keep your long-term goals in mind

Investing can involve a lot of ups and downs. That’s why a long-term plan is important. Ideally, you should invest with a minimum time frame of five years with an investment strategy that reflects this. However, it can still be easy to let short-term market movements affect your decisions and how confident you feel about the decisions you’ve made.

The survey found that 6 in 10 investors feel like they need to constantly monitor their investments. Keeping an eye on performance can ease feelings of anxiety you may have if investments have increased in value or remained stable. However, it can also mean you’re more prone to reacting to short-term fluctuations in the market. While investment values may fall, historically, markets have recovered.

While guarantees can’t be made when investing, it’s important to review your investments with a long-term outlook. Reacting to short-term falls could mean you miss out on long-term gains and harm your overall plan. That’s not to say that you should never make changes to your investment portfolio, but, rather, these decisions should be based on information rather than emotions.

Working with a financial planner can help give you confidence in your financial plan. It also means you have someone to talk to if you’re thinking about making changes to your investment strategy, whether based on emotions or other factors. If you’d like to discuss your investments and how they can help you achieve your aspirations, please contact us.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

An older couple laughing as they walk around a town with a map

A million-pound pension can provide you with financial freedom in retirement, but it may not deliver the millionaire lifestyle you think.

Having access to a £1 million can conjure images of an extravagant lifestyle, from chartering yachts to hitting designer shops. While having a £1 million pension can mean you can indulge in things you love or tick off items on a bucket list, you still need to think long-term.

Could you save £1 million in your pension?

It can seem like a huge challenge to save £1 million in your pension, but it can be easier to achieve than you think.

Often, you’ll be paying into a pension for decades. As a result, the amount you’re contributing to your pension can add up. On top of this, your employer will usually contribute on your behalf, and you will also receive tax relief. The money going into your pension will typically be invested over the long term, which can help your retirement savings grow. So, while you may think a £1 million pension is out of reach, you could be closer than you expect.

Keep in mind that the Lifetime Allowance limits how much you can tax-efficiently save into a pension in total. For the 2022/23 tax year, the Lifetime Allowance is £1,073,100, this is the total value of your pension, so it may include contributions from yourself, employers, and other third parties, tax relief, and investment returns.

If you exceed the Lifetime Allowance, you could face additional charges when you access your savings. So, it’s important to keep the limit in mind and track how the value of your pension changes.

The retirement income a £1 million pension could deliver

The income delivered by a £1 million pension will depend on a variety of factors, including:

  • The age you retire and your life-expectancy
  • Whether you want to take a tax-free lump sum from your pension.

How you access your pension can also have a significant impact. According to research from Fidelity, a £1 million income used to purchase an annuity could provide an income from £22,623 to £53,714 for a healthy man aged over 65. That’s a huge difference that demonstrates why it’s important to consider your options and what’s important to you.

An annuity is something you buy that will then deliver a regular income for the rest of your life. It can help create financial certainty in retirement. When purchasing an annuity, you will have to make several decisions, including if you want the annuity to provide an income for your partner if you pass away, and whether you want it to increase in line with inflation to maintain your spending power. The below table highlights how the decisions you make with a £1 million pension can affect your income.

Source: Fidelity

The table is based on a male aged over 65 in good health and, for the joint life policies, a female dependent aged over 62 in good health. It’s important to note that annuity rates cannot be guaranteed. The rate offered will depend on your age, lifestyle and health, as well as the wider market. 

An annuity isn’t the only way to access your pension, however. You may also choose to use flexi-access drawdown. This is where you can flexibly withdraw money from your pension while the rest will usually remain invested.

While you’d be in control of how much income you take, you need to consider what’s sustainable. Withdrawing too much too soon could mean you run out during your lifetime.

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t withdraw more than 4% each year for withdrawals to be sustainable. For a £1 million pension that would mean an annual income of £40,000.

However, while this rule can give you a general idea, it’s important to look at your own finances. Longer retirements can mean the 4% rule no longer makes sense and a lower withdrawal rate is appropriate. Investment performance could also affect the value of your pension. When using drawdown, you need to consider your circumstances now and how they could change over your retirement to ensure you’re financially secure.

Using cashflow modelling to understand your pension

While a £1 million pension can certainly provide security in retirement, it may not mean the lavish lifestyle that first springs to mind. It’s still important that you consider how to make use of your pension so that it provides an income for the rest of your life.

Whether you have £1 million in your pension or not, we can help you understand what level of income you can expect throughout retirement, as well as planning for unexpected costs you may face. We’re here to help you pull together other sources of income you may have too, such as investments, property, or savings.

We know that it can be difficult to visualise how your wealth and income could change over a retirement that may last decades. Cashflow modelling can provide you with a way to visualise how the decisions you make at retirement, and even before, can affect the rest of your life. It’s a process that can let you explore the different options and mean you have confidence in the future.

Please contact us if you’d like to arrange a meeting to discuss your retirement income and the lifestyle it can offer.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment not normally accessible until 55 (57 from April 2028). The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances. Thresholds, percentage rates and tax legislation may change in subsequent Finance Acts. 

Paperwork stating “State Pension”

If you’ve yet to retire, you may give little thought to the State Pension. But the government is currently reviewing it, which could mean millions of people will need to wait longer than expected until they can claim it.

The State Pension Age is now equalised for men and women and is currently 66, but there is already a gradual increase planned. By 2046, the State Pension Age will reach 68 for those born on or after 1 April 1977. Once you reach State Pension Age, you can begin to claim your State Pension, which will then provide an income for the rest of your life. The full State Pension for the 2022/23 tax year is £185.15 a week (£9,339.20 a year), although the actual amount you receive will depend on your National Insurance record.

The State Pension Age has slowly increased in line with rising life expectancy, but so has the cost for the government. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, State Pensions are the biggest item in the social security budget. In the 2018/19 tax year, the department estimated that the State Pension cost £96.6 billion.

Against a backdrop of tightening fiscal policies following the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has now launched a second State Pension Age review.

What will the review look at?

The review will focus on whether rules around the State Pension Age are appropriate, based on life expectancy data and other evidence.

The government said: “As the number of people over State Pension Age increases, due to a growing population and people on average living longer, the government needs to make sure that decisions on how it manages its costs are robust, fair and transparent for taxpayers now and in the future.

“It must also ensure that as the population becomes older, the State Pension continues to provide the foundation for retirement planning and financial security.”

While nothing has been confirmed, there has been speculation that the State Pension Age will rise further or at a faster pace than currently expected. The results of the review will be published by 7 May 2023.

Life expectancy figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest that men reaching 66 this year have an average life expectancy of 85 years, meaning they’d be claiming the State Pension for 19 years. With a 1 in 10 chance of reaching 96, a significant portion will claim the State Pension for an extra decade. For women aged 66, the average life expectancy is 87, with a 1 in 10 chance of celebrating their 98th birthday. The review will look at whether the State Pension is sustainable when considering life expectancy predictions.

The review could also prompt a look at the State Pension triple lock. The triple lock guarantees that the State Pension will rise each tax year by either average wage growth, inflation, or 2.5%, whichever is highest.

However, Covid-19 has put the triple lock under pressure. For the 2022/23 tax year, the wage growth data was not used, as furlough meant many incomes fell in 2020, leading to a rise of more than 8% in 2021. As a result, the triple lock was temporarily suspended, and the State Pension will rise by a more modest 3.1% in April 2022.

Amendments to the triple lock policy would breach the Conservatives’ election manifesto, but that doesn’t mean changes can be ruled out.

Why the review could affect your retirement plans

The State Pension provides a foundation to build your retirement income. While you may have pensions or other assets you plan to use to fund retirement, the State Pension is still likely to play an important role.

If you’re not able to claim the State Pension when you expect, it could mean you need to delay retirement plans or reduce your income so your other assets can stretch further. Understanding the review and the changes the government could make can help you create a retirement plan that you have confidence in. That could mean saving more during your working life to create a larger financial buffer or reviewing your pension so you can have confidence in the income they’ll provide in retirement, even if changes occur.

If you have concerns about your retirement or would like to work with a professional to organise your pension and other assets, please contact us. We’ll help you get to grips with your pension now, and can schedule regular reviews so you know you’re taking steps to keep your retirement on track, even if the State Pension review leads to changes.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

Daniel Fenton

What is your job role?

Financial Planning Assistant

Do you have any hidden talents or hobbies?

My party trick is the moonwalk, so I’ll say that. As for hobbies, football (watching) and running (trying) are my go to.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Night owl, definitely. You’re lucky to find me with my eyes open before 11am on a weekend.

What is your favourite band and why?

Has to be ABBA. If Gimme, Gimme, Gimme doesn’t get you in the mood, what will?

Which famous figure would you most like to meet and why?

I’ll have to say Christopher Lee. An actor in my favourite films (Lord of the Rings) and also being an inspiration behind the character James Bond. It would be absolutely fascinating listening to the hundreds of stories he would have from his time in the war to his acting career.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Waking up just before midday with a full English breakfast, taking the dogs out for a walk with the sun shining. Then sitting in the garden with some friends waiting for Arsenal to put 6 past Tottenham. Follow that up with a BBQ and some beers and I’d say you have the perfect day.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Attending client meetings. It’s been great being able to see who it is you’re helping and getting to know clients on a personal level. It’s nice to have a face to the name on the report!

What do you find challenging about your work?

Not challenging per se, but being new to paraplanning there are a lot of new processes to learn, and following the financial planning journey from the first contact to the implementation stage is a new experience.