To coincide with Good Money Week 2016 starting on Sunday 30th October, a new report from Castlefield Advisory Partners claims that Tracker funds are financing activities that are damaging people and the planet, pumping hundreds of millions of pounds into tobacco and fossil fuel companies.

John Ditchfield, Partner at Castlefield, said: “Trackers might appear to be a cheap investment solution, but we are concerned that people may not be fully aware that they are financing damaging social and environmental activities and putting investors’ money at risk.”

“Automated robo-investors are pumping hundreds of millions in pension savings and other investments into businesses which individuals would not choose to support and may actively want to avoid, for example tobacco and heavily polluting fossil fuel companies.

“More than 70 countries have ratified the Paris Climate Agreement and it is about to come into force, but a large chunk of tracker capital is invested in coal, oil and gas, exposing investors to serious risk.”

A new Good Money Week survey from Triodos Bank, released alongside the Castlefield report highlights how worried consumers are about these findings.

  • 60% believe people should avoid investments that negatively affect people, society and the environment;
  • 47% would move their money if they found their investments conflicted with their values.
  • Nearly half (47%) have no idea which companies and industries their money is supporting.
  • Investors want transparency – 48%, think that it should be standard for banks and other financial advisors to make customers fully aware where their money is invested.

For more information on ethical money issues, please take a look at Good Money Week and  Castlefield Advisory Partners.

ENDS

As the clocks go back this weekend and the winter nights draw in, millions of homes could be left vulnerable to opportunistic thieves while their owners are working 9-5, as burglars take advantage of the extra hour of darkness to prey on empty homes.

According to a survey of over 3,000 people by home insurer Policy Expert, the average time to get home from work is 5.08pm. At present, that means people are arriving home in daylight hours.  However as of Sunday 30th October it will get dark at 4.36pm, meaning that from Monday homes could now be empty and unattended in darkness for 33 minutes. The length of time for which homes could be left empty in darkness will increase by a one to two minutes every day until mid-December when the average home could be left unattended in darkness for a full hour and 17 minutes.

The most popular time that people return home from work is 5.30pm, which would mean people could be leaving their homes in darkness for 54 mins on Monday 31st and potentially an hour and 39 minutes in mid-December.

Despite this, the research revealed that many homes do not have adequate security measures in place to protect their homes while they’re empty. Only 2 in 5 (40%) of those surveyed have timed lights and just a third (35%) have a burglar alarm fitted, while 5% admitted they had no security in place at all.

Adam Powell, Head of Operations at Policy Expert commented: “The winter months are a tempting time for opportunistic burglars, so it’s unsurprising we see thefts rise over this time. Longer nights and shorter days mean that there are more opportunities for crime to take place under the cover of darkness, so it’s important to remain vigilant and ensure your home is adequately protected. Any way to make your home look occupied or any visible deterrents, such as lights on timers, CCTV and burglar alarms should go some way in preventing a break in. Finally, check your home insurance policy to ensure it’s up to date and any valuables are declared – that way you shouldn’t return home to any nasty surprises.”

 

Tips on protecting your home:

  • Install a timer to set lights inside your home to come on once it gets dark – choose a light in a visible room at the front of the house, not the hallway, as this will create the impression that someone is inside
  • Invest in sensor-activated, external lighting for the garden and around the front of the home
  • Install a burglar alarm – not only is this a visible deterrent, if someone does attempt to break in the alarm would alert neighbours and the police before any damage could be done
  • Don’t leave curtains closed – during the day this makes it look like there’s no-one at home
  • Make sure any outbuildings or sheds are locked and that any tools are hidden away – these could be used to break into your home
  • Ensure any valuables are out of sight – remove the temptation and make sure these items cannot be seen from outside the house through the windows
  • Never leave a spare key anywhere near the front door, for example under a doormat, flower pot – thieves know all the usual hiding places
  • Similarly, don’t store house/car keys just inside your front door, as burglars could try to fish for the keys through the letterbox

The over 50s are intrepid travellers but it appears many will take some home comforts away with them if they’re heading abroad this winter, according to Saga Travel Insurance.

A poll of almost 8,000 over 50s shows that one in three can’t go without a cup of tea as they take tea bags on holiday with them. In fact, one in five say they pack travel appliances, such as a travel kettle, so they can make a cup of tea while they’re away.

More than a quarter of over 50s also fill their suitcases with their favourite treats, such as cereal and chocolate. Some of these people also say they take a jar of marmite (3%) on holiday with them so they can enjoy a taste of home while they’re away.

However, it’s not just food and drink that over 50s pack in their suitcase. Around 6% of people travel with photos of their family, 2% take a picture of their pet with them and some over 50s even take their own pillow with them.

It seems that while focusing on packing home comforts, the over 50s overlook some holiday essentials. The most common items people forget are travel adaptors (13%), phone chargers (9%) and sun cream (6%).

Saga understands it can be easy to forget some holiday essentials, especially when people are excited about going away so it has recently launched a trip planner website to help the over 50s prepare for their holiday. Customers can visit the website and use ready-made packing lists so they don’t forget things like their sun cream or adaptors and buy their travel insurance and airport parking. The over 50s can also input their travel details and check the status of their flight, baggage allowance and what the weather will be like so they know what clothes to pack.

Roger Ramsden, Chief Executive, Saga Services, commented: “Everyone looks forward to their holiday but there are lots of things you need to take care of before you go away such as buying your travel insurance and booking your airport parking. We know that our customers like to be prepared and are savvy with their money so we have launched our new trip planner site to help them plan their holiday, as well as save money on things like car hire and airport hotels.”

 The average UK property takes 91 days to sell, according to the latest City Rate of Sale report from Post Office Money Mortgages.

The report, which examines the average time a property takes to sell in 20 major cities across the UK, found that sellers in Bristol and Edinburgh had the least amount of time to wait, with homes spending 51 and 53 days on the market, respectively.

Cities to the West of the UK were most likely to see a long wait with residences in Swansea and Liverpool taking the longest to be sold –  a typical property taking over 100 days (100 and 108 respectively) to sell in both of the cities.

John Willcock, Head of Mortgages at Post Office Money, said: “House prices continue to rise across the country but eager sellers should remember that this might not be any guarantee of a successful sale. The attractive asking prices can lead many people to put their property on the market, leading to competition in the local market. Even property hot spots such as London are not necessarily guaranteed to sell quickly.”

Edinburgh has seen the biggest fall in the typical time properties have spent on the market over the past year – with the average home taking 25 per cent less time to sell compared to last year.

In contrast, the housing markets in Brighton and London, some of the best performing areas since the financial crisis, have seen the sharpest increase in the typical time that properties have spent on the market with Brighton seeing a 24 per cent increase and London, a 20 per cent increase. In part these movements in time on the market reflect changes in the number of properties listed for sale in the cities. For instance, time on the market in Bristol has risen over the past year (by 17.5 per cent) as strong house price growth has begun to attract more properties for sale – despite the fact it is still the quickest selling city in the UK.

 

With the exception of Swansea, where prices have remained steady, house prices have risen in each of the cities analysed in this report over the last year. The average price of a home in the UK rose by 8.7% in the year to June 2016. However, despite these rising prices, there are indications that the housing market pressure softened recently, with falls in both demand and supply.

 

Car insurance can be expensive but dog and cat owners are often shocked that pet insurance can be even more. Many people find that confusing; cars are considerably larger and more expensive than most dogs (though some pure breeds, like French Bulldogs, can cost thousands).
Bought By Many have spent time looking into the reasons why pet insurance can be more than your car insurance and have listed the reasons below.

1. Car breakdown isn’t covered by car insurance, you’ll need a separate breakdown policy for that. Dog breakdown – getting sick and going to the vet – is covered by pet insurance.

Emergency vet treatment is expensive because it means the vet has to drop everything, including pre-booked appointments made by other people, to attend to your pet. Garages are more likely to schedule in a slot for a broken down car after they’ve finished their current jobs.

2. Vets are more expensive than garages. Vet bills cover the cost of skilled labour to treat each individual animal, rather than the skills needed to replace standard parts on a car. Although being a mechanic can be difficult and needs specialist knowledge, it takes at least five years to train as a vet.

3. Cars don’t get chronic conditions, most things are a one-off fix. Dogs do and sometimes need long-term treatment. Most pet insurance policies include the cost of medication and ongoing treatment for chronic conditions (as long as these were not classed as pre-existing conditions when the policy was taken out) – these things don’t come cheap.

4. Even when written off, cars can be salvaged for scrap. Insurers sell these parts to cover some of the costs of a claim. Not true with dogs.

5. Because all drivers must have car insurance, the companies that offer it have huge buying power and negotiate favourable rates from repair garages to keep their costs down. This has only just started with Pet insurers – like More Th>n and its network of vets it has negotiated with.

6. There is only so much that can happen to a car and, for a trained mechanic, the problem is not difficult to identify. Dogs can be quite accident prone and get themselves into a myriad of unfortunate situations.

There are many conditions and illnesses that may affect dogs and, much like with humans, these can take time to diagnose. This means more frequent visits to the vet, which adds up.

7. The cost of treating pets is going up quickly as more cutting-edge medical technology originally developed for humans is used on animals. For example, pets can now have CAT scans and gene therapy. While there have been advancements in car repairs, things have not progressed as quickly and at the same level.

Anything that pushes up the cost of vet bills will be reflected in the cost of pet insurance because insurers need to make sure they can afford owners’ claims.

But what it boils down to is that cars are machines and easily replaced. Dogs are living creatures and for many people are part of the family. It is only natural to spend more money making sure these loving, loyal companions stay healthy and happy for as long as possible.

With record numbers of us ‘staycationing’ in the UK this year, many people’s thoughts are turning to one last dose of sunshine before the winter months kick in, according to research from Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Money.

A whopping 40% took our main summer holiday in Great Britain this year, with a variety of reasons cited, including a patriotic 38% who responded ‘I love the UK, you can have a great holiday here’; 15% who said they prefer going abroad outside of the school summer holidays; 13% who said that travelling with kids and/or pets in tow was easier in the UK, and another 13% who said that by staying in the UK they were avoiding foreign travel costs including flights, ferries or trains. Of these ‘staycationers’ 15% said they now plan to take a foreign break during October half-term.

Of all Britons, one in eight of us is planning to book a foreign sunshine break during October. This is supported by analysis of Sainsbury’s Travel Money’s data from October 2015 which shows steady sales volumes, peaking in the week before half term, and then dropping off sharply.

Analysis of hotel and flight costs shows that travelling to warmer destinations such as Dubrovnik, Santorini and Dubai at shorter notice in October 2016 could be on average 26% cheaper than in July 2017.

Simon Taylor, Sainsbury’s Travel Money, said: “Some half-term holiday sunshine is a great way to eke out the last feeling of summer before we batten-down for winter. With fewer crowds and many flights and hotels offering better value, what could be nicer? Even better – pick up your currency when you go shopping, then all you have to do is pack.”

Finding the best home insurance can be a minefield at the best of times; comparing prices and coverage is never straightforward, but recent research by consumer services website, Money-Mate, has revealed that if you own a pet you might need to pay even closer attention to the small print.

Most of us purchase insurance, believing that when we need it, the protection will be there. However, while we might be confident that all eventualities are covered, unless you’ve taken out specific accidental damage coverage then you may not be covered after all. News that is likely to cause some dismay amongst the 78% of Brits who say that their pet has caused damage to their home in the past year.
Among that figure, a quarter (24%) said that they were unsuccessful when they tried to claim on content damage caused by their pets, while a further 42% said that they were unsure what animal damages their home insurance covers.
Delving a little further, Money-Mate wanted to know which of our furry friends were responsible for the most destruction. Being the most popular pets, it’s hardly surprising that cats and dogs were the worst culprits, but what might surprise some people is that hamsters take the third spot! Those cute little balls of fluff are also cited as causing personal physical damage to one in four (25%) of survey respondents, who said that they’d suffered trips and falls as a result of the hamsters escaping or using their exercise balls!
The most common damage caused by pets falls into the following categories:

  • Destroyed valuable items (33%)
  • Building damage (29%)
  • Scratching (25%)
  • Tearing (25%)
  • Chewing (19%)
  • Fouling (10%)

However, pets aren’t the sole offenders, with uninvited animal malefactors causing damage in the homes of more than a third (36%) of Brits. Birds, squirrels and foxes seem to be causing the most problems, but there have been claims based on badger and even snail-related damage! Again, not all insurance providers will honour these claims.
‘When you take out insurance, you feel a bit like it’s a case of “job done”,’ says Money-Mate founder, Roopesh Patel, ‘but every policy has its caveats, so it’s important to check out the finer details before you commit. Don’t be lured into purchasing the cheapest policy as you may find out at a later date that you only have the most basic of insurance and a large excess.

Nearly seven in 10 (68%) of people are unaware that over the next few years there will be increases to the minimum contributions they will have to make into their workplace pension scheme, according to the latest Scottish Widows Workplace Pensions Report. But despite this lack of knowledge about the mechanics of the initiative, nearly four in five (78%) say they will stay enrolled, with only 3% saying they will opt out when contributions increase.

While awareness of auto enrolment is increasing markedly, from 39% in 2012 to over 76% in 2016, a quarter (24%) still remain unaware.  Other statistics from the research revealed that over two-thirds (35%) of people working for large businesses and almost half (49%) of those working for medium businesses are not saving adequately for retirement. However, the report also reveals that the number of employees from smaller companies now saving sufficiently has increased from 40% to 44% in the last year.

Over a quarter (27%) say that they can’t save any more into their workplace pension due to financial pressures. Younger generations, in particular, are most likely to be prevented from saving because of a lack of understanding, with a quarter (24%) of 22-29 year olds and over a tenth (13%) of 30-39 year olds giving this as the reason.

The younger generation (22-29 year-olds) are also twice as likely as the rest of the nation to save more into their workplace pension if they had more information from their employer (14% versus 7% on average). Furthermore, over a third (36%) of those aged 22-29 and 31% of 30-39 year olds think an employer who offers a pension scheme should also offer advice on how to budget for retirement.

Younger generations place a high value on employer contributions to their workplace pensions. Those aged 22-29 and 30-39 are the most likely of any age group to choose to save into a company scheme because their employer contributes too, at 60% and 58% respectively, with 26% of 22-29 year olds and 27% of 30-39 year olds wanting employer contributions to increase a little year on year.

New figures from StepChange Debt Charity, released today, suggest that almost two thirds of people seeking its help with overdraft debts have regularly exceeded their limit and faced charges of £45 each time on average.

Every month, between 6,000 and 10,000 people contacting the charity will have incurred unarranged overdraft fees. In the year before they sought debt advice, the charity estimates that they will have been hit with over £1.3 million in fees between them.

The new figures also show that people with overdrafts had gone into the red in almost every month during the last year. The charity believes that too many people in financial difficulty are being trapped in an overdraft cycle and it is calling on the FCA to take strong action to both cap charges and reduce the role of overdrafts in persistent problem debt.

Regular overdraft use rife among people in problem debt

The charity’s new survey of 1,019 clients with overdrafts revealed that on average, they went overdrawn in 11 of the last 12 months. Recent national research from StepChange Debt Charity has shown that around 1.7 million people are trapped in an overdraft cycle, consistently using overdrafts to meet essential and emergency costs. This makes them significantly more likely to fall into financial difficulty.

More than half of the people advised by StepChange Debt Charity in the first half of 2016 had overdrafts. This amounts to 93,000 people struggling with overdraft debt and they owed an average of £1,679 on their overdrafts, in addition to their other debts.

People in financial difficulty paying millions a year in charges

Many of those trapped in a cycle of using their overdraft regularly had exceeded their overdraft limit. Nearly two thirds (62%) of survey respondents had gone over their limit in the last year and did so in an average of five of the past 12 months. 39% of respondents revealed that they faced average charges of £45 each time for using an unarranged overdraft, adding around £225 a year to their already heavy debt burden.

Each month, the charity is contacted by around 15,500 people with overdraft debt. Based on the survey results, the charity estimates that approximately 9,600 go into an unarranged overdraft, doing so in an average of five of the 12 months before they seek debt advice. Around 6,000 would pay an average of £45 per charge, a total of £225 for the year. The charity therefore estimates that those seeking advice on overdraft debt in any given month will have paid at least £1.35 million in unarranged overdraft fees between them over the last year.

New research from UK peer-to-peer lender RateSetter has found that most people in the UK think their family members know best when it comes to financial advice.  Four in ten people (38%) have gone to another family member for advice about money, while only one quarter (25%) have used a professional, qualified adviser.

The most common source of advice in the family are mums and dads; overall, 29% have asked their parents, rising to nearly two-thirds (63%) of under 35s. But the flow is not all one way, with one in ten over 55s saying they have asked their grown up children for advice, perhaps reflecting that many financial services are now accessed online.

Indeed, a quarter of under 35s say they have provided tips to their parents, and 5% say they have advised their grandparents.

Strikingly, almost half of people across the UK are sufficiently confident in themselves to have never asked for financial advice.

Half of those that have provided advice to family members did so about savings, with the next most common topic being credit cards and loans (47%).

When it comes to the question of who is most trusted to provide financial advice, 59% of under 35s trust advice from their parents, with 39% trusting financial advisers.  Under 35s are also the least likely age group to trust tips provided by websites and newspapers, and more likely than other age groups to trust advice from friends and work colleagues.

However, there is cause for financial advisers to be optimistic for the future.  While only one in seven under 35s have consulted a financial adviser in the past, half (52%) say that they are likely to use one in future, along with four in ten (41%) 35-55s compared to only a quarter of over 55s.

 

Lucy Bott from RateSetter commented on the research:

“We’ve heard how millennials are tapping the ‘bank of mum and dad’ for things like a deposit to buy a house, and this research shows that parents and grandparents are important and trusted sources of financial advice too. Perhaps more surprising is that many parents are now turning the tables, seeking advice from their grown up children.

“The key thing is to keep your finances under review – and with interest rates recently cut even closer to zero, it is all the more important not to bury your head in the sand and hope for the best. Putting money to work now can help turn dreams for the future into reality.”