28 Feb 2018    BRITS BRACE THEMSELVES FOR COSTLY SNOW STORM DAMAGE

  • One in ten UK adults have had to make a claim on their insurance policy due to storm damage, a survey of more than 4,000 adults has found
  • This is includes damage to roofs, fences and outbuildings, as well as burst or damaged water pipes
  • With the average claim estimated to be £905, total damage caused by the Beast from the East could add up to millions of pounds across the country
  • When it comes to burst or damaged water pipes, 14% admitted they wouldn’t know what to do, while one in four would be confident they could fix it themselves. Three quarters of those surveyed would have to call an expert to repair the damage
  • Furthermore, people underestimate the cost of an emergency plumber by nearly £30 per hour
  • People assume an emergency plumber costs an average of £63 an hour, whereas it actually costs approximately £90; an additional, unexpected cost that can further inflate the cost of storm damage

Adam Powell, Head of Operations, Policy Expert commented: “It’s essential people are aware of the potential costly damage a storm could throw at them this winter. Cold and stormy weather can ravage buildings and pipes so we would urge all homeowners not only to protect their homes but to invest a bit of time and money in ensuring you have the correct level of home insurance. For example, check the small print – some policies may not cover sheds and outbuildings, and others won’t cover damaged boilers if they haven’t been seen by a registered plumber. It’s also important to remember that your home insurance policy isn’t a maintenance policy. If a problem has been caused or exaggerated by general wear and tear, or poor upkeep of your property, it’s highly likely you won’t be covered – so make sure you’re taking the necessary precautions just in case.”

Top tips from Policy Expert on protecting your home from winter weather:

  • Check your boiler and heating system – If you haven’t done so already this year, get your boiler checked and/or serviced by a Gas Safe registered plumber.
  • Roof tiles – Check for any cracked, missing or loose tiles and replace them. If a roof is in disrepair the weight of snow or high winds can prove to be hazardous.
  • Keep the central heating on – Set the central heating to a minimum of 14 degrees Celsius throughout the winter. It helps prevent pipes freezing and frost damage.
  • Repair damaged chimneys – Look for cracks around chimney pots and at the roof join, also for loose render and render that’s come away from the stack. High winds and heavy rain can damage chimneys even further, make sure they’re properly stable before extreme weather happens.
  • Windows – Take a look at your window frames and fill any cracks and put on a coat of paint if needed. Extreme temperatures and wet weather can cause untreated wood to expand and rot, treating the window sills helps prevent water and frost damage.
  • Insulation – Lag any pipes and water tanks in exposed areas such as lofts, garages and utility rooms to prevent pipes freezing and bursting.
  • Guttering and drains – Clear your guttering and drains of any debris such as leaves, mud and stones; they can block easily and freeze up.
  • Walls – Check the pointing in brickwork both on the main house, all outbuildings and garden walls, look for any loose stone or areas that are in need of repair.
  • Fuse box and electrics – A home’s electrics are a major source of insurance claims. If you haven’t done so in a while, get a registered electrician to check your home’s fuse box and wiring.

28 Feb 2018  The latest Government review into pensions auto-enrolment shows 9 million employees are now enrolled into a workplace scheme and employer contributions have been on the rise reaching a record 61% in 2016-to-2017. However, new data from online pension planning tool, Pension Monster, suggests women are still lagging behind when it comes to saving for retirement.

The findings show only a third (32%) of consumers currently using Pension Monster to review their pension options are female suggesting men generally take more active interest in their savings. And worryingly this lack of engagement appears to correlate with their pension pot sizes, with women accumulating just £70,000, less than half the male users’ £192,000 average pot size.

The career breaks and part-time jobs many women take during their working lives all contribute to this pensions shortfall. As it stands women need guidance to bridge the pensions gap. Significantly, data from Pension Monster shows women with access to professional financial advice have a significantly bigger pot size of around £125,000 compared to those earning a similar salary and who are unadvised.

Employers can help their employees engage more with their pensions by hosting online tools like Pension Monster within their workplace websites. This can provide a tailored report to show what their options are and how much is needed to save to meet their retirement goals.

Peter Bradshaw, National Accounts Director, Pension Monster commented:

“Despite the initial success of auto-enrolment, efforts to maintain this level of engagement are necessary. Women in particular will benefit from early and ongoing planning and guidance. Considering women will likely take career breaks for child care, and the fact life expectancy for women has reached 83 years old, they have the most to benefit from early and ongoing planning and guidance.”

28 Feb 2018 Research by Moneynet Awards winner Yolt, the money app backed by ING, reveals that 22% – nearly 1 in 4 – of the public now know what Open Banking is.  This represents a significant increase from the identical question being asked in Which? research in October 2017, when the same question revealed that 92% of the public didn’t know what Open Banking was.  In the Yolt study, only 39% of consumers had absolutely no idea what Open Banking is – whilst 30% knew it had something to do with banking online or via a smartphone but couldn’t be more specific than that.

Leon Muis, from Yolt said:

“Just over a month since the Open Banking process started in earnest, the dial has really moved in terms of consumer understanding of what the Open Banking reforms are all about, which is great to see.  If we can move from 8% to 22% in just a few months, it suggests that consumers are receptive to the possibilities Open Banking can offer.”

Additional findings from the Yolt research included:

  • 1 in 5 people (20%) said that seeing all their bank accounts in one place is a key benefit of Open Banking
  • Only 16% of women knew what Open Banking was, despite research from Allianz showing 51% of women saying they are the ‘Chief Financial Officer’ in their household. This is compared to 28% of men who knew what Open Banking was.
  • 20% of consumers would consider using Open Banking if it meant that the products and services offered were tailored specifically towards them. This figure increases to 28% of Londoners and over 30% of millennials

Leon Muis, from Yolt, added:

“Open Banking has come such a long way in such a short space of time.  As the process progresses and more and more customers start to engage with Open Banking, users will be able to access more genuinely personalised products and services.  Only when you have all of your different accounts and products in one place – such as Yolt – can you really start to manage your money properly.

“Yolt is a great example of how Open Banking works in practice, and with more than 100,000 users we hope that more users will embrace the ease, choice and control that it will bring.”

23 Feb 2018 The ABI’s ‘Britain Uncovered’ study has revealed that over a quarter of households – 7.5 million – have no contents insurance, leaving possessions worth over £266 billion unprotected and at risk.

Commenting on the findings, a spokesman for GoCompare said: “Unlike buildings insurance, which is compulsory with a mortgage, contents cover is completely optional and for many, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, getting it doesn’t appear to be a priority. When you consider that for one in seven private renters half their pay packet goes straight to their landlord, it’s not a surprise people are looking at where they can cut their out-goings.

“But consider this – pick up your home, turn it upside down, and give it a good shake – everything that falls out, plus your floor and wall coverings, are your ‘contents’. It’s not just your phone, TV or other high-value items. Could you afford to replace everything in the event of a burglary or severe damage, such as after a fire or flood?  For most of us the answer is no.

“Good quality contents insurance can be pretty inexpensive too but make sure the cover is right for you, don’t just head straight for the cheapest policy on offer. Consider whether you need accidental damage protection, cover for your items outside of the home – particularly useful for bikes, gadgets and jewellery – and check if you already have cover elsewhere first, such as through a packaged bank account or from your phone provider, for example.

“Shopping around to compare prices and cover levels is easy, and free, so you may as well have a look around to see if it’s something worth your while to invest in.”

For more information on home insurance http://www.gocompare.com/home-insurance

21 Feb 2018 The number of UK 18-year-olds who have a profile on Instagram is more than double those who are ready to vote for the first time, new statistics have revealed.

The number of people turning 18 who are registered to vote has fallen by 6.09% year-on-year. Just 374,515 youngsters joined the list for 2017, down from 391,978 the previous year.

The statistics from the annual canvass come as politicians continue to debate whether the right to vote should be extended to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Experian’s Head of Consumer Affairs James Jones said: “For many young people, getting onto the electoral roll may not seem like a priority but they may not realise that by not registering they stand to miss out on much more than their voting rights. A wide range of organisations including banks and lenders use the electoral roll to help verify a customer’s identity and, in some cases, creditworthiness. As a result, failure to register to vote can make it harder for people to access lots of services including competitive rates on loans, credit cards and mortgages. Young people should view registering to vote as a first step to establishing their credit history, which is a key part of the information lenders use to grant credit responsibly.”

Figures for registered voters overall are more encouraging, topping 47 million for the first time. The 47,161,118 registered voters represent a 0.69% rise on the previous annual canvass.

Reasons to sign up for the electoral roll include:

  • Vote in elections
  • Prove your identity online
  • Get better rates on credit cards, loans and mortgages
  • Lower insurance premiums
  • Strengthen your credit score

20 Feb 2018 New research from Charter Savings Bank shows Cash ISA savers are missing out on transferring their accounts to gain more competitive rates and increased flexibility because they value convenience over better returns and fear the transfer will be too complicated.

The research indicates that half of Cash ISA savers aged 55-plus have never moved their accounts to another provider, with more than two out of five (43%) saying they don’t transfer their savings because they want all their money in one place.

However, nearly one in 10 say they have never transferred because they think the switch will be too complicated, while 42% believe they will not be able to secure a more competitive deal.

HMRC data shows around 10.3 million over-55s have money in Cash ISAs, with around 3.9 million opening new accounts each year. Under current ISA rules, most providers only allow savers to deposit their annual allowance into one type of Cash ISA account per year, limiting options for savers.

Charter Savings Bank is offering more choice with its Mix & Match ISA platform, enabling savers to spread their annual allowance within multiple Cash ISAs.

Most providers only offer a Fixed Cash ISA or Easy Access Cash ISA as an option to their customers and lock them in, whereas the Mix & Match ISA gives the customer flexibility.

With the Mix & Match ISA, customers don’t have to put all of their annual allowance into one single Cash ISA. They could for example open an Easy Access Cash ISA with £5,000 and then the following month deposit £10,000 in a 1 Year Fixed Rate Cash ISA product. If they have more money available they could open a third Cash ISA product using the remaining £5,000 of their annual allowance.

Charter Savings Bank has also adopted the industry’s ELSA system to ensure most savers switching will benefit from a quick and simple transfer.

Its research shows the main motivation for transferring Cash ISA accounts from their existing provider is a rate reduction: 51% of over-55s who have moved said they switched because of a reduction.

Just 35% of over-55s say they always assess the Cash ISA offers each year and move if they find a better rate, while one in three (33%) say they move when the fixed rate term on their Cash ISA expires.

Charter Savings Bank’s research found the age group most likely to transfer Cash ISAs are those aged between 25 and 44 – around 62% of them have switched their Cash ISAs.

Paul Whitlock, Director of Savings, Charter Savings Bank says: “Transferring Cash ISA accounts is a straightforward process, now that the industry has signed up to new standards and is utilising new technology and systems.

“People regularly shop around for more competitive deals on a wide range of goods and services, and that should also be the case in the Cash ISA market. Those who don’t move are risking missing out on more competitive rates, greater flexibility and access to their savings when needed.

“The Charter Savings Bank Mix & Match ISA provides flexibility for savers and enables them to split their allowance across multiple accounts, all with competitive rates.”

16 Feb 2018 Nearly one in four primary school children have used their parents’ card to make purchases and one in five know their parents’ credit or debit card PINs, research from Prudential shows.

The study coincides with the introduction of a new free online educational resource, Cha-Ching (www.cha-chingeducation.co.uk), which is designed to improve the financial capability of Key Stage 2 pupils across the UK.

Prudential’s research found that nearly 16 per cent of  parents let children pay for items with their contactless card.

Emergency cash

Kids who are allowed to use their parents cards are mainly given permission so that they have access to money in an emergency. Parents also argue that it helps them to keep track of what their children are spending. The vast majority (92 per cent) say they set a limit on how much their children can spend. 

Jane Rawnsley, Group Head of Corporate Responsibility at Prudential Plc, said: “The survey suggests that the way children use and understand money is changing very fast. It’s important that parents and teachers are given the tools to ensure that the opportunities created by digital payment technology are accompanied by an understanding of the responsibilities that come with it. That is why we are launching Cha-Ching in the UK, a digital-first financial education programme built around mobile, tablet and online resources which can also be integrated into the real environment of a classroom and home.”

Cashless worries

Prudential’s research went on to show even if spending on contactless cards is soaring teachers and parents are worried that relying on contactless cards means children are not learning the value of money. Around 78 per cent of teachers and 37 per cent of parents say the rise of the cashless society is damaging to children’s understanding of money.

However, the majority of children themselves (87 per cent), still prefer their pocket money in cash.

14 Feb 2018 One in seven young Britons (14 per cent) say they would buy a home with a stranger in a bid to get on the property ladder, according to nationwide research.

A new study of 2,000 Brits (aged 18 – 40) by HSBC has revealed the true extent to which buying a property now feels increasingly out of reach for the younger generation, with 83 per cent claiming they may never be able to afford to buy their own property.

According to the report, 80 per cent would co-own a property with someone who is not their partner, with a further 59 per cent saying they’re at least “open to the idea” of buying with a stranger – if they ticked all the right boxes.

4 per cent said they would be prepared to move in with “someone they met in the pub”, while just under one in twenty would even consider buying with an ex.

13 Feb 2018 Retired homeowners have gained more than £7,900 each in property wealth in the past year despite uncertainty in the housing market, analysis* from leading over-55s financial specialist Key Retirement shows.

Total property wealth owned by over-65s who have paid off their mortgages is near a record high of more than £1.101 trillion after growing £37 billion in the past year, Key’s Pensioner Property Equity Index reveals.

Owning a home outright has been worth nearly £660 a month on average for retired homeowners. Over-65s in the South East and East Anglia have been the biggest winners with gains of more than £1,000 a month while retired homeowners in the West Midlands have made £960 a month.

The long-term value of home ownership is underlined by Key’s index – since the group started analysing over-65s housing wealth in 2010 retired homeowners have seen growth of 41% or £321 billion which is worth around £68,500 on average for every over-65 homeowner.

The strength of the housing market means property wealth is making a major contribution to retirement standards of living as the equity release market expands with customers** releasing an average £77,380 of property wealth and nearly £134,000 in London and £91,000 in the South East.

Dean Mirfin, Chief Product Officer at Key Retirement said: “The long-term strength of the housing market is delivering for retired homeowners who have made around £7,900 in the past year.

“Total property wealth of more than £1 trillion means pensioners who have paid off mortgages can rely on using their homes to generate tax-free returns no matter what happens in the short and medium term.

“The average homeowner is releasing through equity release the equivalent of the gains made since 2010 and property wealth is having a dramatic effect on the standards of retirement living for many thousands across the UK.”

08 Feb 2018  Although the Bank of England kept the base rate at 0.50% at it’s monthly meeting today, it intimated that rates may rise again soon and more quickly than previously predicted.

Some analysts are suggesting that the base rate will increase from today’s level of 0.50% to as much as 1.75% by 2020.

Personal finance expert Andrew Hagger of Moneycomms said: “There are still some excellent credit card and personal loan deals available, but with the next rate rise getting ever closer they won’t be around much longer, so grab them while you can.”

Hagger points out some of the top products currently on offer as follows:

  • 0% purchases credit card for 31 months from Sainsbury’s Bank
  • 4.9% APR Credit Card with rate fixed for up to 5 years from MBNA 5
  • Credit card offering up to 30 months 0% on both purchases and balance transfers from Nuba
  • Personal loan from M&S Bank at 2.8% APR representative for £7,500 to £15,000

He added: “You will need a good credit record to be accepted for these products as they are amongst the best in market and will be in great demand.”

“Borrowers have had it good over the last decade, but it looks as if the tide is about to turn and the cost of borrowing whether by mortgage, personal loan or credit card is likely to become more costly in the not too distant future.”