Charity Spotlight: Wirral Society of the Blind and Partially Sighted

We are always delighted to promote charitable causes that matter to our clients.

In this newsletter, we turn our spotlight on to the Wirral Society of the Blind and Partially Sighted.

The charity was founded in 1989 by a group of visually impaired people and, since then, has gone from strength to strength, despite having to raise 100% of its funding.

Adele Law, who sits on the charity’s board, says: “We help blind and partially sighted people on the Wirral with the practical, emotional and social support they need to live independently with sight loss. We work with people of all ages and their families, providing Low Vision Aids, IT training, an advocacy service as well as clubs, classes and social activities.

“Although our resource centre is in Birkenhead, several of our members live in the Neston area, as we are the only organisation providing these services on the Wirral

“This year, with the end of a substantial grant, we have already had to make staff cuts and curtail some planned activities.

“We are always looking to increase our links with the business community and would love to talk to businesses who may be able to support us in some way. Whilst cash is always welcome – businesses help us by staff fundraising or donating much needed services.”

For more information please visit http://www.wirralsociety.org.uk/or email fundraising coordinator Lynne Sedgwick at lynne@wirralsociety.org.uk

Helen named in top financial adviser guide

Helen Brown, a chartered financial planner at Phillip Bates & Co, has once again made it into VouchedFor’s 2019 Guide to the UK’s Top Rated Financial Advisers.

The guide “aims to demystify the advice landscape and highlight those financial advisers who are consistently doing an excellent job for their clients.”

Selection is based on the number of client reviews amassed during the course of a year.

Helen’s achievement caps a successful 12 months as, together with colleague Margo Dorozik, she achieved chartered status. This means that, along with MD Alan Mellor, the firm now has three chartered financial planners, something that is extremely rare in the region.

The effect of a Trump tweet

President Donald Trump does a lot of things differently to previous incumbents of the Oval Office.

One of the more significant is his addiction to Twitter and his habit of using the social media platform to fire staff and, more worryingly, announce changes in policy.

More recently, this has included giving his 59.1 million followers updates on how trade talks have been going with China.

One minute the talks are going great, the next they are going nowhere and there are renewed threats of stringent tariffs.

Every time President Trump tweets the markets naturally react as they are barometers of sentiment, looking for signs of future value.

A Trump tweet in the middle of the night can trigger short-term consternation and cause financial advisers to grow a few more grey hairs.

Thankfully, any temporary blip caused by the President’s running commentary on issues such as trade talks balances itself out in due course.

But I think most advisers will hope that the next President of the United States is a little less active on social media.

Offshore Tax Crackdown

One notable announcement coinciding with the Chancellor’s Spring Statement was a further crackdown on offshore tax evaders and their advisers as part of an initiative called No Safe Havens 2019.

A Treasury document outlined HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) strategy for reducing the amount of overseas tax evasion. This includes hefty punishments for those found to be transgressing.

The document states: “We will relentlessly pursue enablers using the new penalty regime for anyone who designs, sells or otherwise enables the use of a tax avoidance arrangement which HMRC later defeats.

“Similarly, we will impose new civil penalties on those who deliberately enable another person’s offshore evasion or non-compliance.”

It went on to reveal that HMRC has collected data on 3 million UK residents’ offshore financial interests during the last year and is beginning to detect cases of possible non-compliance.

The crackdown on offshore tax evasion should not be confused with offshore bonds which are completely above board and meet all regulatory requirements.

Chancellor’s hands tied by Brexit

Usually, the Chancellor’s Spring Statement is an important event in the Government’s calendar.

But this year, it passed by almost unnoticed, drowned out by the Brexit pantomime being played out in Parliament.

While Philip Hammond talked about a potential ‘deal dividend’ of around £27billion, it means nothing until a deal is concluded.

Hammond talked about “an economy that has defied expectations and will provide the solid foundation that Britain needs to seize the opportunities that the future offers.”

The positive messages from the Chancellor were dampened slightly by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) which slashed its forecast of UK growth by a third, from 1.6% at the time of last November’s Budget to 1.2% now.

On a rolling 12-month basis it marks the lowest figure since the UK exited the 2009 recession.

Robert Chote, Head of the OBR, commented: “In recent weeks survey indicators of current activity have weakened materially, in part reflecting heightened uncertainty related to Brexit.”

Clients often ask me about the impact of Brexit on their financial planning and my response is always that a good, long-term, well diversified plan anticipates bumps in the road such as recessions, economic dips and even extraordinary events like Brexit.

Having said that, I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t want to see an end to the uncertainty caused by Brexit. Without such certainty, it is impossible to understand the Government’s intended future direction of travel.

How much money is enough to retire?

How much is enough to retire?

By Alan Mellor, Chartered Financial Planner and Managing Director of Phillip Bates & Co Financial Services

I often take on a number of new clients at the start of a new year.

The holiday season will have provided an opportunity to discuss both immediate and longer-term plans. This is particularly the case for those in their early to mid-50s who are starting to think about retirement.

When can I retire? How much do I need?

Of all the questions I am asked, these are two of the more popular ones. However, the answers depend on the individual and require careful consideration before any significant life decisions are made.

I know from experience over the last 25 years that people often leave it later than they should to plan for their retirement.

Traditionally, the advice has always been that you should try and save the equivalent of half your age. For example, if you are 50 then you should aim to put away around 25% of your salary.

This is extremely rudimentary and not something we work to at Phillip Bates. Instead, we work with clients to put in place a very personalised and long-term financial plan.

We will carry out cash flow modelling that takes into account someone’s larger and smaller outgoings. How much of the mortgage remains to be paid off? Are you paying private school fees? How much do you spend – and expect to continue spending – on foreign holidays?

Our job as chartered financial planners is to provide clients with the right advice. This isn’t necessarily always what they want to hear, but the recommendations that will give them the best chance of long-term financial security.

I recently met with someone in their early 50s who said he would love to retire by the age of 57. We looked at the numbers together and agreed that this would simply not be possible. By working up a financial plan together, taking into account current and projected future spending, we were able to see how retirement in his early 60s would be achievable by taking important steps such as increasing monthly pension contributions.

I have also recently met up with a long-term client, now in his mid-70s, who retired over 10 years ago following the sale of a company in which he was a director and shareholder.

He did quite well from the sale but not as well as he and his fellow directors had anticipated.

Part of the plan we put in place was based on his desire to be able to continue enjoying a holiday home abroad until his mid-70s after which he would look to sell in order to help fund the next stage of his retirement plan.

But, following a recent review, we agreed that there was actually no pressing need to sell the home because his overall financial plan had performed well and was extremely robust.

There are lots of different factors to take into account when putting together a long-term financial plan.

Some clients choose to leave their full-time employment and take on a part-time job to help cover the gap between 60 and 66. Others take advantage of today’s more flexible pensions which give scope to take more for a few years and less later. Some people will spend extremely carefully during their working years in order to speed up the point at which they can take early retirement.

Often people simply do not realise quite how much they are spending now, let alone what they will ideally need when they do finally reach retirement.

Planning is key and the sooner that process begins the better your prospects of being able to enjoy the retirement you envisage.

Typically, we start working with clients in their late 40s, early 50s, but there is no hard and fast rule. We have some clients – often sons and daughters of older clients – who come to us in the 30s, while others will come to us much later following advice from family and friends that they should start planning for the future.

We are proud to be one of only a handful of Chartered Partnerships in the North West – combining the knowledge and expertise of our chartered accountants and chartered financial planners.

In the Financial Services team alone, we now have three dedicated chartered financial planners – myself, Helen Brown and Margo Dorozik.

Please contact us if you would like to arrange a free initial consultation.

Pre-Brexit Budget promises steady growth

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget this week is unlikely to be one that we will talk about in years to come.

As is often the case in modern politics, the vast majority of its contents had been heavily leaked in the run-up to Monday’s speech.

But, for investors and those with a focus on long-term financial planning, Budgets lacking big surprises are often the best.

As former US President Ronald Reagan and a number of other notable people are supposed to have said: “Don’t just do something, stand there.”

One of the biggest concerns prior to the Budget announcement was that the Chancellor might look to reduce the amount of cash savers can put in their pension. As things stand, the maximum is £40,000 per annum and there was talk in some quarters of this being reduced to £30,000 or even less.

Thankfully, the annual allowance remained untouched, principally because Mr Hammond had taken advantage of revised borrowing forecasts which helped to fund a £103billion giveaway.

It allowed the Chancellor to continue the theme of Prime Minister Theresa May’s party conference speech that austerity is finally coming to an end after a decade of belt-tightening.

There are a lot of misconceptions around the annual allowance. For many business owners, putting away money is extremely difficult for the majority of their working life, but in later years they try to catch up meaning that the current £40,000 annual allowance gives them the opportunity to ensure their longer term financial planning is on track.

Other announcements that will be welcomed by the majority of tax payers are the increase in the personal allowance to £12,500 and the raising of the higher rate tax threshold to £50,000.

The Chancellor also disclosed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had increased its projections for GDP growth from 1.3% to 1.6%. This is by no means dramatic growth, but often a steadier upward curve is preferable in the long-term to more erratic growth.

Overall, my view is that Budget 2018 is a good Budget for the vast majority. The economy is continuing to move in the right direction. We have waited a long time for signs that the austerity of recent years is coming to an end, but, equally, any loosening of the purse strings needs to be sensible and with the longer view in mind.

There were, of course, very few mentions of the elephant in the room – Brexit. The Chancellor said he was “confident” a deal would be done, but also talked about not being “complacent”.

If his confidence turns out to be misplaced, we may be having the next Budget rather sooner than anyone would want.

  • Clients with any questions concerning this week’s Budget, can give me a call on 0151 353 1066 or email: mail@pbatesfs.co.uk

 

Alan Mellor discusses the Budget

How will Brexit affect you?

Alan Mellor

Having a long-term financial plan is vital in order to “weather inevitable storms” like Brexit, according to a leading chartered financial planner.
Alan Mellor, Managing Director of Cheshire-based Phillip Bates & Co Financial Services, says the question he gets asked more than any other at the moment is: How will Brexit affect me?
Alan said: “While there is every chance there will be an economic downturn at some stage over the coming months, the key to good financial planning is to ensure that you are not overly exposed.
“And, as with every significant moment in history, the financial position is far from straightforward. There are always winners and losers.
“For example, a fall in the value of the pound increases the opportunities for businesses which export. Similarly, non-UK investments will typically go up in value as the pound is worth less.
“On the flip side, the cost of goods and other items such as foreign holidays goes up.
“What we don’t know yet, which is causing continued uncertainty for private investors and business owners across the UK, is how the current Brexit negotiations will play out.”
Alan added: “The best case scenario is clearly as smooth a transition as possible. The worst case scenario would see Britain crash out of the European Union in an unplanned and disjointed way. Having said that, even a more chaotic departure from the EU may work out for the better in the longer term.
“When the UK took the shock decision to leave the EU, the pound and the markets went into freefall. It looked like seismic change was on the horizon. The reality over the ensuing 12 to 18 months was somewhat different as investors were on the receiving end of some of the best returns since the 1980s.
“I met a client the other day who first became a client a few months prior to the 2008 crash. When the crash hit and values started to tumble, I was a little nervous. Surprisingly, the client was a lot more relaxed and told me everything would be alright because we had put a long term financial plan in place. When we met up again the other day, he reminded me of our conversation of 10 years ago and, as it turned out, he was right!”
Phillip Bates & Co Financial Services is one of only a handful of Chartered Partnerships in the North West – combining the knowledge and expertise of our chartered accountants and chartered financial planners.
Alan added: “For us, it is less about the money and more about ensuring that our clients have a considered, long-term plan in place that is fit for purpose and capable of weathering the inevitable storms that will come along during the lifetime of the plan.
“It is only through long-term planning that clients can have the best possible opportunity to be in control of their destiny rather than finding themselves dictated to by events outside of their control.
“The political and economic consequences of landmark events like Brexit focus the mind on the importance of having a broad and diversified portfolio of investments.”

When is the right time for business owners to retire?

 

By Alan Mellor, Chartered Financial Planner and Managing Director of Phillip Bates & Co Financial Services

A good proportion of the clients we look after at Phillip Bates & Co Financial Services are business owners.

This presents added complexities when trying to work out when the best time is to retire or, at the very least, step back from the day-to-day frontline.

Business owners are naturally extremely protective of the business they have built up, often over many decades.

Taking the decision to let go of the reins can often be daunting.

There are, of course, examples when a business owner has meticulously planned his departure with the final years running the company centring on his or her exit strategy. Sometimes, ill health can accelerate the need to put in place an exit plan.

At Phillip Bates & Co, we are all about long-term planning to give business owners the best possible opportunity to be in control of their destiny rather than finding themselves dictated to by events outside of their control.

Often, business owners I talk to think that their only option is to sell their company outright.

But the reality is very different. In recent months, working closely with our sister business, Phillip Bates & Co Chartered Accountants, we have helped business owners take a different route to creating more time for themselves and their loved ones.

In one case, we assisted the owner in exiting his business via an employee share ownership buyout. It is an altruistic way to pass a business on to the very people who have helped you to grow it over the years. In this instance, it cost the ‘buying’ employees nothing, with the retiring owner being paid an agreed sum based on future profits.

In other cases, the business owner often sees his exit as all or nothing when, in fact, one client of ours recently successfully reorganised his company so that other members of his management team took on more responsibility, allowing him to reduce his working week to just a couple of days.

There are a number of other ways in which business owners can move towards retirement. Some will pass the business on to their children or other family members. Some may consider a merger with another, complementary business. And, of course, many are sold as a going concern.

Whatever the route you choose to go down, a lot of emotion will be wrapped up in the decision-making process. To most people, their business is more valuable to themselves than it is to anyone else as it contains emotional value.

Planning is key. Addressing the question of “how much is enough?” should ideally begin a number of years before the decision is taken to start to exit a business.

We are proud to be one of only a handful of Chartered Partnerships in the North West – combining the knowledge and expertise of our chartered accountants and chartered financial planners.

In the Financial Services team alone, we now have three dedicated chartered financial planners – myself, Helen Brown and Margo Dorozik.

If you are a business owner considering options for retirement either now or in the future, please do consider making contact to arrange a free initial consultation.