Someone reading the news on their phone.

With so much doom and gloom in the headlines every day, it can be easy to overlook the positive new stories, but there are plenty of them. From scientific innovations to projects that protect the natural world, here are some feel-good stories from 2022 that you may have missed. 

1. The COVAX vaccination programme surpassed the 1 billion milestone

At the start of 2022, the COVAX vaccination programme reached a milestone – it delivered more than 1 billion Covid-19 vaccines. The United Nations-backed vaccine-sharing programme delivers the much-needed vaccine to poorer nations. The milestone shipment arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, on 15 January 2022. Around 85% of the vaccines delivered went to lower-income countries. 

The World Health Organisation update demonstrates excellent global cooperation to help countries struggling to deliver vaccines. The programme continues to deliver essential supplies, such as tests and treatment, too.

2. The Irwin family celebrated saving their 90,000th animal

Steve Irwin’s legacy of conservation and protecting wildlife continues to inspire people all around the world, including his own family.

The Irwin family announced they had saved their 90,000th animal at the Australian Wildlife Hospital. The lucky milestone animal was a platypus named Ollie. Many of the animals the hospital helps are vulnerable species that the centre rescues from devastating wildfires. 

Steve’s daughter Bindi said the hospital was “busier than ever” and that they were focusing on saving as many lives as possible in the future. 

3. The Great Blue Wall initiative will protect marine areas

10 nations in the western Indian Ocean have come together to protect marine areas. 

Dubbed the “Great Blue Wall”, the initiative will create a network of marine conservation areas. It’s a significant step towards the goal of protecting 30% of the oceans by 2030. Currently, less than 10% of the world’s oceans are protected. 

The project will focus on the protection of coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass meadows. They are important for underwater ecosystems and crucial for carbon removal and biodiversity. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) added that it will also benefit local livelihoods and empower communities to protect one of their most precious resources. 

4. The UK approved the world’s largest floating wind farm 

A new project could significantly boost the UK’s efforts to switch to renewable sources and improve energy independence. 

The largest floating wind farm in the world could provide enough power for more than 927,000 homes in the UK. Gwynt Glas, which means “blue wind” in Welsh, will be built off the coast of Pembrokeshire. It will be 20 times the size of the current largest floating wind farm, which is off the coast of Scotland.

The new technology used to create floating wind farms means they can be installed at a wider range of locations than traditional wind farms, which are limited by depth. It also means they can be positioned so they’re not visible from the coast. 

5. Scientists announced they’ve potentially cured a woman of HIV for the first time

Over the last year, there have been plenty of medical advancements that could improve patient care, health, and treatment outcomes.

One of the good news stories from the medical world in 2022 was that a team of researchers in the US announced they had potentially cured a woman of HIV for the first time. It follows the news that three men had also been potentially cured. Long-term monitoring and testing are required before the team can confirm that treatment is a cure, but it’s a positive step that could save and improve lives. 

The treatment used a stem cell transplant method, which the researchers expect to become a viable treatment option for more people each year. 

6. Angela Ávarez wins best new artist at the Latin Grammys

Proving that you’re never too old to follow your dreams, Angela Álvarez became the oldest person to be nominated and win best new artist at the Latin Grammys.

The 95-year-old has been writing songs since 1942 and dreamed of becoming an artist as a young woman. She finally released her first album last year after decades of performing for family and friends. In fact, it was her grandson that recognised her talent and helped her produce songs. 

If you’ve been putting off reaching your goal because you believe you’ve missed your chance, Angela could be just the inspiration you need. 

Someone opening a front door with a key.

While you can take out a mortgage without the support of a mortgage broker, their help can be invaluable. 

Whether you’re a first-time buyer, moving home or remortgaging, a broker can help you understand all your options and could help you save money. Here are five reasons to choose an independent broker. 

How could a mortgage broker help you?

1. A mortgage broker will search the market with your needs in mind

There are many mortgage lenders available, and some don’t have a high street presence. If you’re applying for a mortgage alone, it can be difficult and time-consuming to go through all your options and understand the criteria of each provider. If you work with a mortgage broker, they’ll help you find the right deal for you.

In some cases, a mortgage broker may also be able to access a better rate of interest than you would receive if you applied alone. It means your repayments and the overall cost of borrowing could be lower. 

The knowledge mortgage brokers have is even more useful if your circumstances aren’t straightforward. For example, if you’re self-employed or have a poor credit score, they can identify which lenders are most likely to approve your application and explain the evidence you need to supply. 

2. They can explain the different mortgage options to you

There are several different types of mortgages you’ll need to consider – do you want a repayment or interest-only mortgage? Would you prefer the interest rate to be fixed or variable?

A mortgage broker can explain the different options available to you. Tailored advice means you can understand how your decisions will affect your finances now and in the future. It means you’ll have the information you need to choose the right mortgage for you. 

3. A mortgage broker can provide support throughout the application process 

Applying for a new mortgage can seem complex. A mortgage broker will work with you throughout the process, such as checking your paperwork to avoid any mistakes. It can make the process smoother and mean if you have any questions, there’s someone you can speak to. 

If you’re buying a new home, having someone on your side that understands the process and can keep everything moving in the right direction can be invaluable. 

4. They can offer guidance about financial protection 

As well as helping you with your mortgage needs, a mortgage broker can also offer guidance about financial protection.

Financial protection can provide you with a safety net when you need it most. Depending on the type of protection you pick, it may pay out if you’re unable to work due to illness or provide a lump sum if you or your partner passes away. 

It’s common to think about how you’d cope financially in unexpected circumstances when you’re taking on a large financial commitment. Yet, financial protection is something many homeowners overlook. A report in Mortgage Solutions suggests that just 17% of workers have income protection. 

Financial protection can provide you with peace of mind. It means you could meet mortgage repayments and other expenses if your income stops. 

5. A mortgage broker can help you secure a new deal when your current one ends

Often, you’ll need to take out a new mortgage when your current deal ends to access the lowest interest rates available.

Usually, mortgage deals will last for two, three, or five years. So, you’re likely to need to go through the mortgage application process several times, even if you stay in your current home. A mortgage broker that you’ve worked with previously can remind you when you should start looking for a new deal and offer support. 

When your mortgage deal ends, you will usually be moved on to your lender’s standard variable rate (SVR), which often isn’t competitive. It could mean you’re paying a higher rate of interest than you need to.

According to Unbiased, 1 in 4 homeowners could be paying around £4,000 extra each year because they’re paying an SVR. 

Contact us to discuss your mortgage

We can work with you to find a mortgage that suits your needs and offer guidance throughout the process. Please contact us to arrange a meeting. 

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 relaxing with a cup of tea.

While it can be tempting to actively monitor and manage your investments, taking a back seat could lead to better outcomes. 

There’s a saying that “the best investors are dead” because they’re not tempted to try and time the market. Daily movements mean it’s tempting to try and guess when the market is at a high to sell, and when to buy at a low. However, it’s impossible to predict market movements consistently, and even missing out on a handful of the best performing days could cost you. 

Previous research from Schroders found that if you had invested £1,000 in 1986 in the FTSE 250 and left that investment alone, you could have £43,595 by 2021. On average, the annual return would be 11.4%.

However, if you had been tempted to make changes to your portfolio and ended up missing just the 30 best performing days of the 35 years, the average annual return falls to 7%. 

Periods of volatility are part of investing 

Investment volatility can make it tempting to regularly buy and sell. However, it’s part of investing and learning to ride out the peaks and troughs could make you a better investor.

When you start investing, doing your research is important. If you understand which investments are right for you and your goals, you can create a portfolio that has a long-term view. You should then have faith in the portfolio you’ve created so you can take a hands-off approach, even during times of uncertainty.

Working with a financial planner can give you the confidence you need to get through the ups and downs of investing.

While markets have historically delivered returns over the long term, you should remember returns cannot be guaranteed. You should understand if investing is right for you and what is an appropriate level of risk. Please contact us if you have any questions. 

5 practical investment tips for holding your nerve during market volatility 

1. Try not to review your portfolio too frequently 

While checking your investment performance can be addictive, especially during periods of volatility, it can make it far more tempting to try and time the market. Having access to the information with just a few taps on your phone means it’s easier than ever to get caught in a cycle of checking your portfolio’s performance every day or week.

So, while it might seem strange not to check the performance regularly, it could help you stick to your long-term plan. 

2. Tune out the noise from the media

The media is often filled with sensational headlines about share prices plunging overnight or soaring on the back of other news. It can make it seem like you should be doing something to get the most out of your investments. 

Remember, market movements are a normal part of investing, and the headlines often report the extremes. As a result, the movement in your portfolio may not be the same as the media reports. Try to ignore the noise and focus on the steps you’re taking to reach your long-term goals. 

3. Take your time when making investment decisions 

There are times when it’s appropriate to make changes to your investment portfolio. However, these should carefully consider and reflect your wider financial circumstances and goals. While it may seem like you must act fast when investing, take your time. Giving yourself time to look through your options could mean you make better choices. 

4. Look at the investment performance over a long time frame

When you see your investment portfolio’s value has fallen when compared to your last review, it can be frustrating. Yet, over your full investment time frame, you will likely have benefited. 

Look at how much your portfolio has grown since you first started investing to get the full picture. Looking at long-term trends can put short-term market movements into perspective and ease concerns you may have. 

5. Remember, losses are only realised when you sell

It can be disheartening when the value of your investments falls. However, remember, they are only paper losses unless you sell the assets. Historically, markets have recovered even after periods of downturn. 

Do you want help building an appropriate investment portfolio?

Understanding which investments make sense for your goals and when you should make changes can be difficult. Working with a financial planner can help you create a portfolio you have confidence in, so you feel comfortable taking a hands-off approach. Please contact us to talk about your investments. 

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.

A woman standing under an umbrella at the side of a lake.

Over the last few months, you may have heard the term “stealth taxes”. While you may not be affected by changing tax rates or lowered thresholds immediately, your tax bill could rise without you noticing due to freezes in certain allowances or exemptions. 

The term stealth tax is used to refer to a levy that you might not think of as a tax hike but nonetheless has the same effect.

The phrase has been seen in the headlines since chancellor Jeremy Hunt laid out a package of tax rises worth £24 billion in the autumn statement last year.

It’s clear how some of the measures will affect your wealth. For example, the Dividend Allowance will fall from £2,000 to just £500 by 2024. So, if you receive dividends, your tax liability may rise. However, Hunt also announced other measures that could affect how much tax you pay that you may have overlooked.

Read on to find out what stealth taxes could affect your wealth.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt froze key tax thresholds until 2028

During the autumn statement, Hunt announced that some thresholds and allowances would be frozen until 2028:

  • Income Tax bands, including the Personal Allowance
  • National Insurance thresholds
  • Nil-rate band, which is the threshold for paying Inheritance Tax (IHT).

Previously, the Lifetime Allowance, which limits the amount of pension benefits you can tax-efficiently save during your lifetime, was also frozen at £1,073,100 until 2026.

At first glance, keeping allowances at their current level may seem like it’ll have little effect on your tax bill or wealth. Yet, in real terms, it can. 

Frozen thresholds mean the value of allowances falls over the long term

Freezes to thresholds can affect your wealth when you consider the effect over years. As the cost of goods rise, the value of allowances falls in real terms, so they’re not as valuable as they once were.

Let’s say you benefit from a pay rise each year that’s in line with inflation. This maintains your spending power as the costs of goods and services rise.

If Income Tax thresholds don’t rise in line with inflation, a larger proportion of your wages will be deducted. You could also find that you’re in a higher tax band, even if your income hasn’t increased in real terms once inflation is considered. 

According to the BBC, freezing the Income Tax bands until 2028 will create an additional 3.2 million new tax payers and mean 2.6 million more people will pay a higher rate of tax. So, while your Income Tax bill may not immediately increase, in real terms you could end up paying more. 

The issue is currently exacerbated by high levels of inflation. However, even when inflation is stable – the Bank of England has an inflation target of 2% a year – the effect of prices rising adds up.

The freezes can also affect your long-term plans. 

Take the IHT nil-rate band, for instance. The current threshold means you can pass on £325,000 before your estate could be liable for IHT. However, over the next five years while the threshold is frozen, the value of your assets could rise. 

As a result, more families will need to consider if their estate could be liable for IHT and how it’d affect the wealth they leave behind for their loved ones. 

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that freezing the nil-rate band will boost the government’s income from IHT by £1 billion by the 2027/28 tax year.

What can you do to limit the effect of stealth taxes?

With key allowances frozen until 2028, it’s vital you understand how they could affect your financial plan and the options that could reduce the effect. To make the most of your money, it’s more important than ever to make use of allowances that are right for you.

A regularly reviewed financial plan can help you manage your finances and reflect changes in thresholds, including freezes. We can work with you to identify:

  • The allowances that could be right for you
  • How to make the most of your wealth so it grows in real terms
  • Steps that could help you mitigate a tax bill in the future. 

If you’d like to arrange a meeting with us or have any questions about how the chancellor’s announcements could affect your long-term wealth, please get in touch. 

Please note:

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

A retired couple hiking.

Retirement is a milestone that’s often greeted with celebration. But what do you need to do to be happy during your later years? Research has revealed that it’s experiences, rather than material items, that are important. 

A survey from Royal London found that 72% of those aged over 55 favoured experiences over material possessions. From seeing more of the world to trying a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, retirement offers an opportunity to create the life you want.

It’s not just the big-ticket experiences that those approaching retirement believe are important either. Many are looking forward to spending more time with loved ones. 

When asked about their life goals, retirees are focusing on creating lasting memories. The most important goals were:

  • Spending time with family and friends (52%)
  • Relaxing (47%)
  • Maintaining health and fitness (45%)
  • Travelling (37%)
  • Spending time on hobbies (37%). 

The research found that 17% of those nearing retirement are worried about a lack of experiences, and the same proportion said a lack of purpose was a concern. While worries are normal when you approach a big life event, setting out a plan now can help you realise your goals. 

Gary Beyer, protection product lead at Royal London, said: “It is clear to see that those aged 55 and over value experiences more than anything else, including material possessions. Being able to lead an active, healthy lifestyle, try new things, and travel to new places, combined with spending more time with family is the key to retirement happiness.”

Many people approaching retirement are focused on experiences that will create lifelong memories. However, the research also found that finances could mean retirement doesn’t live up to expectations. 

40% of over-55s say money is the biggest barrier to achieving their goals 

Among over-55s that have yet to achieve their life goals, 40% said money was the biggest barrier. 

The cost of living crisis is further exacerbating financial challenges for those planning their retirement. 3 in 10 over-55s said they are changing their plans as a result. 

If you’re looking forward to a retirement that’s filled with experiences that will make you happy, financial planning is crucial. It can give you confidence about your long-term finances, so you can focus on what’s really important. 

Calculating if you’re on track to have enough to reach your retirement goals can be broken down into two key questions:

1. What income do you need in retirement to reach your goals?

Having a target retirement income in mind is essential for understanding if you’re saving enough.

Many retirees find that their income needs fall when they stop working. You may have finished paying off your mortgage or no longer need to budget for commuting.

Research from Which? suggests a couple needs an annual income of £28,000 to live comfortably. While this figure is a useful starting point, keep in mind living expenses can vary significantly. You should review your expected outgoings to create a goal that’s tailored to you. 

Remember, your income needs may change throughout retirement and could be affected by outside factors, like inflation. 

2. How much are you saving for retirement? 

With an annual goal in mind, you can then start looking at if you’re saving enough for retirement. How much do you already have in your pension? What contributions are you making? And are there other assets you plan to use, such as savings?

Bringing together all the information you need to understand if you’re on track can be difficult. As financial planners, we’re here to help. We can help you understand how the value of your assets may change between now and retirement, and how you can use them to create an income. If there is a gap in your savings, we’ll work with you to create a plan to get you back on track. 

Contact us to review your retirement plan

Please contact us to talk about what your retirement goals are and the steps you can take to reach them. 

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.  

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.

A mum talking to her adult daughter.

Have you thought about how you’ll use assets later in life or what you’d like to happen to them when you pass away? Planning for the future with an estate plan now could improve your long-term security and ensure your wishes are followed.  

While it can be difficult to think about long-term challenges and understand what decisions are right for you, an estate plan is important. It’s the process of organising your affairs to effectively manage your estate in a way that reflects your wishes, gives you peace of mind, and could reduce potential taxes.

An estate plan that’s tailored to you could mean you feel more confident about how your estate will be managed in a range of circumstances, including if you were unable to make decisions or pass away. 

Over the next few months, you can read on our blog the steps you should take to create an estate plan and the things you need to consider.

If an estate plan is something you’ve been putting off, read on to find out why you should make it a priority.  

5 reasons you should prioritise creating an estate plan 

1. An effective estate plan ensures your wishes are carried out when you pass away

One of the main reasons to create an estate plan is that it’s a way to ensure your wishes are carried out when you pass away. You no doubt have people or organisations that you want to benefit from your estate.

Without an estate plan, some of your loved ones may be overlooked or assets may not be distributed in the way you want. For example, you may want someone to inherit particular sentimental items, but this could be missed if your instructions aren’t clear. 

Even if you’re married, in a civil partnership, or have children, you shouldn’t assume your estate will be distributed according to your wishes if you don’t take steps like writing your will. 

2. You can use an estate plan to protect your beneficiaries

An estate plan ensures your wealth goes to those it’s intended for, and it can protect them over the long term too, whether you want to pass on assets now or through an inheritance. 

You may want to consider things like what would happen if a relationship broke down. You may want to gift a property to your child, but if they divorced their partner, would it remain within your family? An estate plan can help you address concerns like this and put steps in place to protect your beneficiaries. 

If your beneficiaries are children or vulnerable adults, an effective plan can also protect their best interests. 

3. An estate plan can protect you if you lose mental capacity 

An estate plan can be used to protect you in your later years. It could, for instance, include naming a Lasting Power of Attorney to act on your behalf if you’re unable to make decisions for yourself.

Thinking about needing extra support in your later years or losing mental capacity can be difficult. However, creating a care plan and ensuring your loved ones know what your preferences are can provide security when you need it most.

By making later-life planning part of your estate plan, you can take steps to ensure you have the necessary finances and legal documents in place to give you peace of mind. 

4. An estate plan can help you focus on what’s important 

One of the most valuable benefits of having a tailored estate plan is the peace of mind it provides. It means you can focus on what’s important, safe in the knowledge that your affairs are in order.

Knowing that your later years or loved ones will be secure, even if something happens, can help you live your life to the fullest and enjoy the things that are important to you. 

5. It could help you reduce your estate’s tax bill

If your estate exceeds certain thresholds, it could be liable for Inheritance Tax (IHT). It could reduce how much you leave behind, but there are often steps you can take to reduce the potential tax bill. However, you need to be proactive.

An estate plan that considers IHT could mean you leave more behind for your loved ones or causes that you support. Depending on your circumstances, this could include gifting assets to loved ones now, making a charitable donation, or even spending more during your lifetime. 

If you have any questions about IHT and your options for mitigating tax, please contact us. 

Contact us to talk about your estate plan

Next month, read our blog to find out how to better understand the value of your estate and how it could change during your lifetime. It’s a process that could change your plans.

If you have any questions about your estate plan or want to work with us to create one, please get in touch. 

Please note:

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

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing, estate planning, or tax planning.