Colourful Easter craft projects.

It seems barely any time has passed since the last school holiday, but the Easter break is just around the corner. If you have children to entertain over the holiday, making plans can ease the pressure. Here are five fun ways to spend time together this spring. 

1. Search for a local Easter egg hunt 

Over Easter weekend, as well as eating chocolate eggs, a hunt is a great idea that young children will love. Lots of places hold Easter events over the weekend that you can attend, and many of them are free.

An excellent choice to combine Easter activities with some culture is visiting a National Trust property. Taking part in the Easter egg trails costs £3 and will take you into beautiful gardens, around lakes, or through ancient woodland. Some of the properties also have other activities planned, like games to learn about spring animals or mini competitions. Make sure you check your local National Trust location to see what’s available. 

Of course, you don’t have to go out to create an egg hunt either. You could arrange one in your garden or home. For older children, adding riddles they’ve got to solve to find the chocolate treasure can make it even more entertaining. 

2. Plan a crafting day

Kids love getting messy, so a day dedicated to paint, glitter, and glue could be something they’ll enjoy. Put down a sheet to protect the furniture and let their imagination go wild. 

Many high street shops and supermarkets will sell small crafting kits, including Easter-themed ones, that can make planning this activity simple. Or get out the supplies you already have and get creative.

If you need some inspiration, there’s plenty online. As well as traditional activities, like painting eggs with brightly coloured paints or making an Easter bonnet, why not use cotton wool to create a fluffy Easter bunny card? Or use tin foil to make a shiny egg to decorate your home?

3. Hold a mini sports day in your home

If your children love being outdoors and getting active, this could be perfect for them. Host a mini sports day in your garden, or even the local park if you need more room.

It’s a fantastic chance to demonstrate some of the classic games you may have played at school, like a three-legged race, an egg and spoon race, or seeing who can roll their egg the furthest without it breaking. You can even offer small prizes to get everyone into the competitive spirit.

Combine your plans with a delicious picnic to really make a day of it and, hopefully, enjoy the spring weather. 

4. Check out your local theatre 

A day out at the theatre can really capture the imagination of children, and there are lots of family-friendly shows across the UK. Some even feature characters from favourite children’s TV shows or films, from Disney’s Frozen, which is currently on in London’s West End, to Hey Duggee, which is travelling across the UK throughout spring and summer. 

Lots of local theatres also schedule family-friendly events during the school holidays, so it’s worth looking at what extra days out could be on offer. For example, many will have baby and toddler groups that are focused on music and workshops that are perfect for older children. 

5. Be a tourist for a day

It’s easy to overlook the fantastic amenities you have close to you, so check out what the best-ranked tourist attractions are nearby and plan a visit to them.

Is there’s a museum that you’ve always thought about visiting but never got around to it? Or a country park nearby that will be perfect for a walk?

It could really help you appreciate your local area, meet new people, and you may find your new favourite activity to do as a family. 

A couple reviewing paperwork with a professional.

Mortgage deals have a record low shelf life, and the market is changing quickly. If you’re searching for a new mortgage, it can make it difficult to find the right deal for you. In a situation like this, a mortgage broker can lend support. 

The average mortgage shelf life has fallen to just 15 days 

According to a report in Mortgage Solutions, the average shelf life of a mortgage fell to a record low of 15 days at the start of 2023. It means deals are available for a little longer than two weeks before lenders pull them off the market. 

If you’re searching the market for a mortgage, it can mean there’s added pressure. A deal you believe could be right for you, but you want some time to think about, may not be available when you’ve made a decision. 

The figures also show that the number of mortgages available is on the rise, so you have more choice. While this is good news, it can make finding a mortgage overwhelming. 

Combined with interest rates, which have increased significantly in the last year, navigating the mortgage market to find a deal that suits your needs can be difficult. Here are three ways working with a mortgage broker in today’s market could be valuable. 

1. A mortgage broker will help you understand the type of mortgage that’s right for you

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or are remortgaging your current home, understanding the type of mortgage that suits your needs can be difficult. Should you choose a variable- or fixed-rate option? What term should you choose, and how would it affect your repayments?

A mortgage broker can help you get to grips with the different options and explain the pros and cons of each. Having a clear idea about the type of mortgage you need means you can narrow down the market and focus on the deals that make sense for you. 

2. A mortgage broker will keep track of interest rates

One of the reasons mortgage deals are being pulled from the market so quickly is that interest rates are changing. Throughout 2022 and the start of 2023, the Bank of England gradually increased its base rate, which affected mortgages.

The Mortgage Solutions report found average interest rates are falling. However, there are still large differences in the market, and even a small change could affect your monthly repayments and overall cost of borrowing. 

If you borrow £200,000 through a repayment mortgage over 25 years with an interest rate of 3%, your monthly repayment would be £948 and over the full term you’d pay more than £84,000 in interest. If the interest rate increased to 5%, your monthly repayments would rise to £1,170 and you’d pay more than £150,000 in interest over 25 years.

So, working with a mortgage broker to potentially access a lower interest rate could save you money in the short and long term. 

Remember, it’s not just the interest rate that’s important when taking out a mortgage. Other factors, such as the ability to make overpayments, may be just as crucial depending on your circumstances. 

3. A mortgage broker understands the criteria of each lender

One of the challenges of getting a mortgage is not only finding a deal that’s right for you but understanding how likely a lender is to approve your application.

Each lender will set its own criteria, from how much they’re willing to lend relative to your income to the level of risk they will take. With lots of different options, including some that aren’t well-known, finding this information and relating it to your needs can be challenging and time-consuming. 

A mortgage broker will take the time to understand your circumstances and select lenders that are more likely to say “yes” to your application.

If your situation isn’t straightforward – perhaps you’re self-employed or have a poor credit score – a mortgage broker could also identify specialist lenders to help you reach your home ownership goals.  

Choosing the right lender for you means you can have more confidence when you submit your mortgage application. 

Contact us to talk about your mortgage needs

We’re here to help navigate the mortgage market. We’ll work with you to understand your needs and help find a deal that’s right for you. Please get in touch 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 checking the time on a watch.

When you look at investment performance with the benefit of hindsight, you may think you could predict how markets will move. Yet, markets are unpredictable and expert forecasts prove how difficult timing the market is.

Every investor has heard the advice “buy low, sell high”. So, it can be tempting to try and guess how investments will perform in the short term to make the most of your money. But history shows us that trying to time the market is impossible.

Even experts who have far more resources at their disposal sometimes get it wrong, so trying to predict the market and economy could mean you miss out. Here are five examples of when expert predictions completely missed their mark.

1. 1929: The market has reached a “permanently high plateau”

Irving Fisher is considered one of America’s greatest mathematical economists. But his name is still linked to a major incorrect prediction – in 1929, he claimed that stock markets had reached a “permanently high plateau”.

Just nine days later, the “Great Crash” occurred and led to the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange. In a single day (29 October 1929), investors traded some 16 million shares, making it the largest sell-off of shares in US history and investors lost billions of dollars. The crash signalled the start of the Great Depression. 

2. 1995: The internet will “catastrophically collapse”

When you’re considering investing in new industries, expert advice can be invaluable. However, basing your investment strategy on predictions could mean you miss out on opportunities.

In 1995, Robert Metcalfe, the co-inventor of the Ethernet, gave a magazine interview where he said the internet would “soon go spectacularly supernova” and in 1996 “catastrophically collapse”. He was so confident, he promised to eat his words if he was wrong.  

Of course, almost three decades later, we know that wasn’t the case. The internet has become an integral part of everyday life and business operations. Metcalfe stuck to his word though – he blended the magazine and literally ate his words in front of a live audience. 

3. 1999: Stock values will soar fourfold 

Just before the turn of the millennium, two experts, James Glassman and Kevin Hassett, published a book that claimed stocks in 1999 were significantly undervalued. As a result, investors could benefit from a huge rise in value over the next few years, they said.

In fact, they predicted the value of stocks would increase fourfold and the Dow Jones Industrial Average would increase to 36,000 by 2002 or 2004.

Just two years later, the dotcom bubble meant the stock market fell sharply. Other factors, including the 2008 financial crisis, meant that the Dow didn’t reach the 36,000 milestone until 2021.  

4. 2007: The subprime mortgage market troubles are “largely contained”

Many investors will remember the effects of the 2008 financial crisis, which was partly caused by the subprime mortgage market in the US. Looking back, it can seem like all the signs of impending trouble were there, yet many experts failed to connect the dots. 

Former US treasury secretary Hank Paulson said the subprime mortgage market would be “largely contained” and he didn’t see it causing a “serious problem” in 2007. He wasn’t the only expert to downplay the risks either. Others agreed, and some even suggested that it presented an opportunity. 

The problem turned out to be far-reaching – it triggered a global recession, markets fell in value, and governments had to bail out financial institutions. 

5. 2021: Inflation will peak at around 5%

As it considered the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in November 2021, the Bank of England (BoE) predicted that inflation would be around 5% in spring 2022 and that the period of high inflation would be temporary.

Just months later, the war in Ukraine meant that oil and gas prices were much higher than anticipated. Other factors also affected the cost of living, which was high for much of 2022. Inflation reached 11.1% in the 12 months to October 2022 and remained well above the BoE’s 2% target at the start of 2023. 

How time in the market could help you overcome volatility 

The five examples above highlight how difficult it is to time the market. While you may base your prediction on information available at the time, there are so many factors that could affect how the market moves that are outside of your control. As a result, trying to time the market could mean you miss out on growth opportunities.

For most investors, a long-term investment strategy focused on time in the market makes sense. Rather than buying and selling frequently, creating a portfolio that reflects your goals and risk profile could help you build long-term growth. While markets do fall, and so can the value of your investments, historically, markets have recovered from dips and delivered growth over a longer time frame. 

It can be difficult to ignore the noise when you’re investing and you may be tempted to make changes. However, looking at the value of your investments over years, rather than days or weeks, is important. Remember, time in the market, rather than timing the market, could deliver long-term value. 

Contact us to talk about your investment strategy

If you have any questions about your investment strategy or which opportunities could be right for you, 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 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.

Someone checking their Premium Bonds on the app.

There are now more chances to win through Premium Bonds as the prize rate reaches a 15-year high. So, what are your odds of becoming a millionaire overnight and are they worth it? Read on to find out.

Premium Bonds were first introduced in 1956 to encourage more people to save. They’re issued by National Savings and Investments (NS&I) and backed by the government. However, they’re different to traditional savings accounts or bonds.

While Premium Bonds offer an “interest rate” of 3.3% as of March 2023, it’s not paid in the same way as a savings account.

Instead, each bond is entered into a prize draw each month, with ERNIE (the Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment) selecting the winners. It means you could win up to £1 million, but on the flip side, your savings may not earn anything at all. 

You can buy Premium Bonds for just £25 up to a maximum of £50,000. Each bond you hold has 24,000 to 1 odds of winning, with prizes ranging from £25 to £1 million.

You can also purchase Premium Bonds on behalf of children.

Premium Bonds have proved a popular way to save. In fact, more than 22 million people have more than £119 billion saved in them. 

So, should you make Premium Bonds part of your financial plan? As with any financial opportunity, there are pros and cons, and whether it’s right for you will depend on your goals. 

4 reasons why people use Premium Bonds to save

1. You could become a millionaire! 

One of the biggest draws of Premium Bonds is the chance to become a millionaire overnight – each month two Premium Bond holders win £1 million. Everyone loves the idea of winning big, so it’s easy to see why Premium Bonds are attractive to some people. 

2. Your savings are risk-free

HM Treasury backs Premium Bonds, so there’s no risk of losing the money you use to buy them. As a result, Premium Bonds could fit into your overall financial plan. 

This point used to be key, but since the introduction of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), all UK savings are protected up to £85,000 per person, per institution the savings are held with.

3. Your money is instantly accessible 

You can withdraw money held in Premium Bonds instantly, without facing any charges. So, if you’re saving for short-term goals or building up an emergency fund, Premium Bonds could be a useful option to consider. 

4. The prizes are tax-free 

If you’re lucky enough to win a prize through Premium Bonds, the money is tax-free.

If you don’t have the maximum £50,000 in Premium Bonds, there’s an option to automatically purchase more to increase your chances of winning again in the future.  

2 key drawbacks you need to know before using Premium Bonds

1. There’s no guarantee that you’ll win

With a traditional savings account, you know how much interest you’ll receive on your deposits. This isn’t the case with Premium Bonds – if you’re unlucky, you could go years without winning. 

In fact, according to Money Saving Expert, around 60% of people that hold £1,000 in Premium Bonds don’t win a prize at all each year.  

You need to weigh the excitement of potentially winning big against the reality that you could receive far less than you would if you place the money in a savings account. 

2. Your money could be losing value when you consider inflation

While your money is secure in Premium Bonds, once you consider inflation, the value could be falling in real terms.

This is because the prizes you win are unlikely to keep pace with inflation. So, over the long term, your savings will gradually buy less. This isn’t just an issue for Premium Bonds, but something most people that are holding money in cash need to consider.

If you’re saving with long-term goals in mind, investing could help your savings grow at a pace that matches or exceeds inflation. However, investing comes with risks and you cannot guarantee returns. As a result, you’ll need to consider what your risk profile is and whether investing is right for your goals. 

Do you want to talk about how Premium Bonds could fit into your financial plan?

If you have questions about how Premium Bonds could fit into your financial plan and support other steps you are taking, please contact us. We’ll help you understand if Premium Bonds could be appropriate for you, as well as look at the alternatives. 

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.

Workers in an open-plan office.

Tax relief could boost your pension and mean you have more financial freedom in retirement. Yet it’s something that you may overlook when reviewing your pension, as analysis suggests that some workers aren’t claiming their full entitlement.

In fact, according to a report in the Telegraph, higher- and additional-rate taxpayers could have missed out on as much as £811 million of tax relief in the 2021/22 tax year.

So, how does pension tax relief work? Read on to find out.

Tax relief is like a bonus the government gives when you save for retirement

A pension provides a tax-efficient way to save for your future because of the tax relief you receive. Essentially, when you add money to your pension some of the money that would have gone to the government is added to your savings instead.

When you consider how this could add up over the long term, it means saving for retirement through a pension makes sense for two key reasons.

  1. More money is going into your pension when you contribute so you could have a larger pot when you retire. As the money held in your pension is often invested, tax relief, along with other pension contributions, could grow further during your working life.
  2. As saving into a pension is tax-efficient, contributing could reduce your overall tax liability. However, you should keep in mind that pension savings usually aren’t accessible until the age of 55, rising to 57 in 2028.

You receive tax relief at the highest rate of Income Tax you pay. The amount is calculated on your pre-tax earnings. So, as a basic-rate taxpayer, if you contribute £80 to your pension, you’ll receive £20 in tax relief, meaning a total contribution to your pension of £100.

To boost your pension by £100 in total, you’d need to contribute £60 and £55 as a higher- or additional-rate taxpayer respectively.

If you don’t earn more than the Personal Allowance, which is £12,570 for the 2022/23 tax year, you could still benefit from tax relief at a rate of 20%.

You may need to fill in a self-assessment tax return to claim your full entitlement

If you have a workplace pension, tax relief of 20% will usually be automatically added to your pension. This is known as “relief at source”.

However, if you have a different type of pension or you’re a higher- or additional-rate taxpayer, you will need to complete a self-assessment tax return to receive your full entitlement. You’d normally receive this additional tax relief through a tax rebate, which you can deposit into your pension if you choose.

It’s worth checking you’re receiving all the tax relief you’re entitled to, even if you believe it’s automatically added to ensure you’re not missing out. The Telegraph report indicates this is something many workers are overlooking.

How much tax relief can you claim?

If you can, contributing more to your pension could mean you receive more in tax relief so your money goes further.

There are limits to how much you can add to your pension before you could face an additional tax charge when you access your savings. These thresholds include the:

  • Annual Allowance: This is the amount you can add to a pension during a tax year while still retaining the benefits of tax relief. For the 2023/24 tax year, the Annual Allowance is up to £60,000 or 100% of your annual earnings, whichever is lower. There are circumstances when your Annual Allowance may be lower, including if you’re a high earner or have already taken an income from your pension. Please contact us if you have any questions about the Annual Allowance.
  • Lifetime Allowance: The Lifetime Allowance is the total pension benefits you can build up before suffering a tax charge. It covers the total value of your pension, rather than just your contributions, so you may also need to consider how tax relief, employer contributions, and investment returns will add up. Note that, in the spring Budget, the chancellor announced the Lifetime Allowance tax charge will be removed in 2023/24, and that he will then legislate to abolish the Lifetime Allowance altogether.

Contact us to talk about your pension

Pensions can be confusing and you may not be sure if you’re saving enough for the retirement you want. Contact us to talk about your long-term goals and the steps you could take now to help you 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. 

A multi-generational family walking through the countryside.

A key part of your estate plan is setting out how you’d like to pass on assets to loved ones. There’s more than one option to consider, so read on to find out more. 

Your estate plan should consider how you’ll use your assets during your life and what you’d like to happen to them when you pass away. Last month, we explained what you may need to consider when taking stock of your estate and how the value of your assets may change during your lifetime. This is an important step to understanding your estate and who you’d like to benefit from it.

Now, read on to find out your options when you want to pass on assets. 

3 useful options to consider when passing on wealth

1. Leave an inheritance through a will

A will is a common way to leave assets to loved ones when you pass away. It’s a legal document where you set out exactly how you’d like assets to be distributed. 

There are several different ways you can pass on assets through your will. For instance, you may leave a proportion of your estate to each beneficiary, or you may choose to name specific assets you’d like them to receive. 

Even if your affairs are straightforward, you should still take the time to write a will. Without a will, your assets will be passed on according to intestacy rules, which may not reflect your wishes. Not having a will could also lead to delays in the probate process and conflict among beneficiaries. 

2. Place assets in a trust

A trust can be a useful way to pass on wealth during your lifetime or when you pass away while retaining more control over the assets if you wish to.

A trustee that you choose will manage the assets placed in a trust on behalf of the beneficiary. You can set out how you want the trustee to use or distribute the assets.

You may create a trust for a child and state you want them to have the assets when they reach the age of 25. Or you can set up a trust to provide an income for loved ones without giving them control of the assets held in it.  

Trusts may be right for your estate plan if you want the assets to be used in a specific way, or you want to ensure they remain within the family, for example, to protect assets being lost in a divorce. 

Trusts can be complex, and you may not be able to reverse the decisions you make. So, taking both financial and legal advice before you proceed can be useful and ensure the trust acts in the way you want. 

In some cases, you can use a trust to reduce a potential Inheritance Tax (IHT) bill, as, provided it meets certain conditions, the assets placed in a trust are no longer yours. You may need to consider IHT if the total value of your estate exceeds the nil-rate band, which is £325,000 for the 2023/24 tax year. 

3. Gift assets during your lifetime 

While leaving an inheritance is the traditional way to pass on wealth, gifting during your lifetime could be beneficial too. Not only could you lend loved ones financial support during key moments in their life, but it also means you get to see the impact of your gift. 

According to a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, around 5% of adults receive a substantial gift over a two-year period. This rises to around 30% among adults in their 20s and early 30s. 

The research found gifts are most commonly received to mark milestones, such as purchasing a home or getting married, or in response to an unexpected life event, including being widowed. 

When making gifts, it’s essential you consider your own long-term financial security; could gifting mean you have to adjust your lifestyle later in life or that you couldn’t weather a financial shock? Reviewing your financial resilience first means you can feel confident when gifting. 

If your estate could exceed IHT thresholds, it’s important to note that some gifts could be included in your estate for IHT purposes for up to seven years. These are known as “potentially exempt transfers”. 

Some gifts are immediately outside of your estate when calculating IHT, so if you’re thinking about gifting to reduce a tax bill, making use of these could be valuable. Please contact us to talk about gifting and IHT to create a plan that’s tailored to you. 

Contact us to talk about your estate plan

When you’re deciding how to pass on wealth, there’s no right or wrong answer. Your circumstances and priorities play a key role in what makes sense for you. Please contact us if you have any questions about passing on wealth and creating an estate plan you can rely on. 

Read our blog next month to learn more about IHT and the steps you could take to reduce a potential tax bill and leave more to your family. 

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 tax planning or estate planning.

Do you have multiple pensions? It could make it difficult to manage your pension savings during your working life and when you retire. In some cases, consolidating them could be beneficial.

This guide explains what you need to know about transferring your pension savings, so you have fewer pots to manage. It could help you feel more in control of your retirement and, in some cases, reduce the amount you’re paying in fees.

However, there are reasons why consolidating your pension may not be right for you:

  • You have a defined benefit pension
  • Your pension has additional benefits
  • You may need to pay an exit fee
  • You could benefit from using “small pot” privileges.

Download “Your guide to pension consolidation: The pros and cons you need to know” now to read more about pension consolidation and understand if it could be the right decision for you.

If you have any questions about your pension or retirement, please get in touch.