13 Aug 2019 Up to half of older homeowners are using equity release to repay debt as they struggle to meet payments, new analysis from UK’s leading independent equity release adviser Key shows.

Analysis of customer data suggests that 30% of people are using equity release to repay unsecured debt while 20% are using it to repay mortgages.  Debt is a growing issue with customers aged 55-plus owing an average of £10,319 on credit cards and £13,578 on loans. The UK average for people with unsecured debts is £11,830 meaning that some over-55s could have more than double the average amount of unsecured debt.

The biggest single debt burden identified is outstanding mortgages – customers clearing home loans on average owe £87,181, the data shows.   Further analysis suggests that the debt issue spreads across age group – customers in their 70s owe an average of £9,773 on credit cards compared with £10,926 for homeowners in their 60s. However, even some customers in their 80s owe money on plastic with average debts of £10,443.

A significant impact of carrying debt into retirement is the cost of regular repayments – customers are paying off an average £300 a month on credit cards; £282 on loans and £586 in mortgage repayments. That takes a substantial bite out of monthly income with those with credit card debt needing to use an average of 40% of the state pension (c. £730 per month) on repayments before meeting other regular costs such as housing, utilities and general living expenses.

The table below shows the average debts and monthly repayments.

CREDIT CARDS £10,319 £300
LOANS £13,578 £282
MORTGAGES £87,181 £586

Will Hale, CEO at Key said: “Juggling debt at any age can be stressful but with typically a fixed income, older people are likely to find it even more stressful than most.  Clearly people in their 70s and 80s are having to balance how to keep up these repayments alongside maintaining their standard of living in retirement.

“For homeowners, it makes sense to look at downsizing, equity release or other later life lending options to clear their debts and set them up for a more comfortable and less stressful retirement.  Good independent expert advice is key to ensuring that older homeowners receive the most benefit from their property wealth and use it in the most appropriate way for them and their families.”

13 Aug 2019 Latest research from Caxton FX, the international currency and payments specialist, shows that a family of four could easily blow around £390 of their holiday budget before leaving the UK simply by not planning ahead.

·         Sorting your currency card, a week or two in advance, and NOT buying currency at the airport – save £215.78

·         Not booking car parking online and paying on the day – save £139

·         Bringing your own food and drink instead of buying at the airport or motorway services – save £20.77

·         Topping up with petrol at the local supermarket rather than using motorway service station – save £12.00.

·         Total saving £387.55

Some summer travellers are needlessly shelling out a huge chunk from their summer holiday budget before they even set foot in their resort.

A lack of basic planning ahead and slipping into ‘holiday mode’ too early can eat into money set aside to pay for meals out, excursions, sangria, poolside beers and sunbeds – the things your holiday spend is really meant for.

Alana Parsons, Travel Money Expert at Caxton FX said: “many of us are travel savvy when it comes to getting a good deal on our holiday accommodation and flights.”

“However, because we live such busy lives with long working hours and family pressures, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball on the finer holiday details nearer departure”

The family holiday is a big deal and something you look forward to for months – so you don’t want to be putting a big dent in your spending kitty before you’ve even left the UK.

Alana’s 5 top pre-holiday tips are:

1.      Sort your currency out a couple of weeks before you travel – lock in the rate with a prepaid currency card instead of being stung by horror exchange rates at the airport.

2.      Pre book your car parking – those claims that you can save up to 60% compared with paying on the day are true.

3.      Always make sure you have travel insurance in place when you book your holiday just in case something crops up and you need to cancel your trip.

4.      Don’t waste money on expensive airport food and drinks or at rip off service stations – pack your own and you can easily save two thirds of the cost.

5.      Make sure the petrol tank is topped up before you set off – don’t risk running on fumes and having to pay through the nose at motorway services.

Alana added, “We’re not being party poopers and saying don’t relax and have a great holiday but it’s about spending your Euros or Dollars on the holiday niceties rather than the mundane expenses you can easily avoid before you set foot on the plane”.

06 Aug 2019 People on low-incomes are less likely to use credit than those on higher incomes and when they do borrow it is usually for essentials such as food and household bills.  However, people on low-incomes are more likely to use high-cost lenders when they do borrow according to a new study released today.
For example, UK consumer survey data shows that 38% of adults with household incomes less than £15,000 per year are credit users, compared with 56% of adults in the household income bracket £30,000-£50,000 and 55% with household incomes of £50,000 or more.

Research examining the UK, Germany and USA found that in all these countries consumer credit use was lowest amongst households in the bottom (income quartile).

The study, carried out by the University of Bristol’s Personal Finance Research Centre for Standard Life Foundation, reviewed around 150 existing studies on borrowing behaviour. Researchers found that details such as credit card design, credit-limit increases and other marketing also increase borrowing.

When it comes to high-cost credit, speed, convenience and easy access attract people, particularly if they have few other credit choices.Researchers also found that young people today borrow more than their previous generations as debt becomes normalised.

The evidence shows that borrowing increases with age, typically peaking when people are in their 30s and 40s, and then declines.The study also raised concerns that young people, with lower financial literacy, are particularly at risk from poor borrowing decisions. However, increasing financial education for young people is not necessarily the answer.

The evidence is weak regarding the impact of financial literacy programmes (which tend to focus on financial knowledge) upon financial behaviour. 

Mubin Haq, CEO, Standard Life Foundation, said:“Contrary to popular belief, people on low incomes use considerable caution when borrowing money. They’re less likely to borrow than those with higher incomes, but when they do it’s usually for essentials such as food, paying the electric bill or rent – it’s not for luxuries.

However, those on lower incomes are more likely to use high-cost credit, partly due to the limited choices available. This report has brought together strong evidence on the impact borrowing has on the financial well-being of those struggling to make ends meet. It highlights the need for greater action including in relation to the cost of borrowing and the need to boost incomes.”

01 Aug 2019

Recent figures from a survey by Moneycomms show that consumers are often being tripped up at the final hurdle of their credit card application.

Customers could end up with a 0% balance transfer or purchase offer reduced by up to a year, or get an APR (annual percentage rate) nearly 10% higher than advertised.

Used properly, credit cards can help consumers get on top of their finances — transfer a balance, get access to cash, or cut the cost of a big or unexpected purchase. But all this uncertainty, on top of the risk of not even being accepted in the first place, makes it a monetary minefield.

Risk-based pricing, a method used to assess the risk of lending to certain individuals, is common practice by most lenders. However, it’s not common knowledge and can lead to poorly managed consumer expectation.

Alastair Douglas, CEO of credit experts TotallyMoney, comments on the latest research from Moneycomms, revealing the difference between advertised credit card deals and what the customer sometimes gets.

Douglas warned: “Lenders are not always clear enough when advertising rates. Only 59% of cards let consumers know that risk-based pricing will be used to make the lender’s decision — and even when they do, it’s not all too clear.

“Some customers will be offered a very different product. A 29-month 0% balance transfer deal could be slashed to just 16 months, and the 27.4% APR advertised balance transfer rate could be hiked to 59.9% APR.

“One way to ensure you get the advertised offer or rate is to apply for a card you’re pre-approved for — which you can check with TotallyMoney. Pre-approved means you’ll get the deal, providing you pass the lender’s fraud and identity checks, and that the information that you provide is correct.

“Otherwise, it’s hit and miss for card applicants, and it doesn’t help customers who are choosing the length of 0% deals for a specific purpose to suit their budget.”

Andrew Hagger personal finance expert from Moneycomms, who carried out the research, said: “It’s frustrating for customers to get a watered-down deal and the financial consequences only makes matters worse.

“If a borrower gets their 0% duration cut by the average 7 months, on a £2,000 balance, the shorter interest-free intro offer could cost them up to £256 in that time.

“From a customer perspective, it’s a bit of a lottery and being short-changed on a 0% balance transfer or purchase deal can play havoc with their financial budgeting.”

Table 1. Well-known high street lenders can cut their 0% offers by 12 months. Seemingly top offers can be cut down to sub-prime levels, and the market-leading length you apply for could become very mid-tier.

Provider 0% product type Advertised term months Could be down sold to (months) Difference
MBNA Balance Transfer 29 16 -13 months
Tesco Bank Balance Transfer 28 16 -12 months
Halifax Balance Transfer 29 18 -11 months
Post Office Money Balance Transfer 25 18 -7 months
TSB Balance Transfer 28 22 -6 months
Tesco Bank Purchases 26 14 -12 months
Halifax Purchases 20 9 -11 months
TSB Purchases 20 10 -10 months
Sainsbury’s Bank Purchases 28 22 -6 months

Table 2. When applying for an advertised low-rate card, you could end up with something nothing of the sort.

Provider Advertised Purchase APR Potential Purchase rate (APR) based on risk Potential increase in Purchase APR
NatWest 18.9% 27.9% +9.0%
RBS 18.9% 27.9% +9.0%
Bank of Scotland 6.45% 14.95% +8.50%
Asda Money 19.9% 27.9% +8.00%
TSB 19.95% 26.95% +7.00%
Creation Cards 18.90% 24.90% +6.00%
New Day – Aqua 27.4% 59.9% +32.50%
Vanquis 39.9% 69.9% +30.00%
Aquis 29.8% 59.9% +30.10%
Chrome 29.5% 59.9% +30.40%
Natwest Credit Card 9.90% 18.90% +9.00%
Halifax 19.95% 27.95% +8.00%
Tesco 19.9% 26.9% +7.00%
Tandem 18.90% 24.90% +6.00%

Research – Moneycomms.co.uk 26.04.2019

Survey research – TotallyMoney annual Financial Awareness Survey 2019 of 2,000 UK adults, carried out by OnePoll and commissioned by TotallyMoney

30 July 2019 A third of millennials are counting on an inheritance windfall to fund their own retirement, according the new research from specialist lender Hodge.

Nearly half of those surveyed said  they felt unprepared for retirement, citing higher cost of living (67%) and lack of job security (42%), with a quarter saying they were or had been prioritizing getting on the housing market over considering life after work.

As a result, just 15% of those questioned had savings over £10,000 or were contributing to a pension at a higher rate than their auto-enrolment level.

As such, nearly 65% of those aged between 25-45 felt their existing savings and pension pots would not be enough for them to able to enjoy retirement, with a fifth claiming they would not be able to afford to retire at all, without receiving an inheritance windfall.

The research found seven out of 10 were expecting to receive some level of inheritance, with an average expectation of £86,000.

The figures are concerning, as without private income, millennials could face a significant retirement gap when they reach retirement age.

According to ONS figures, the average weekly expenditure for a retired person is £249.40. As of June 2019, the full state pension is £168.60. This means for each year in retirement someone without an additional source of income would face a £4,201.60 shortfall each year. For someone looking hoping to retire at 66, this would mean a £58,822.40 deficit.

How millennials expect to fund retirement (choose all that apply)

  1. Don’t know (35%)
  2. Private / Employer pension (34%)
  3. Receiving an inheritance from parent/grandparents (33%)
  4. State Pension only (25%)
  5. Own savings (18%)
  6. Investments (such as shares, gold or cryptocurrencies) (13%)
  7. Winning the lottery (3%)

Matt Burton, managing director for mortgages at Hodge said; “With housing and living costs rising, it’s not surprising to see people hoping for a cash windfall to come their way in later life.

“However, relying on an inheritance can be an extremely risky strategy to fund retirement, and also creates a knock-on effect for future generations.

“While the idea of saving more is easier said than done, it’s really important for people to try and consider their retirement as soon as possible. Aside from putting money away in a savings account, another solid strategy is to look to increase your pension contributions to more than the minimum as soon as possible, ideally before you can notice the money coming out of your paycheck.

“For those later in life concerned about retirement, there are a range of options such as 55+ mortgages, RIO mortgages and equity release products designed to help you unlock the value in your existing assets to fund your retirement.”

26 July 2019 Research by credit experts TotallyMoney reveals that credit card owners are often caught out by high fees because of not knowing what classifies as a cash advance.

The annual Financial Awareness Survey 2019, carried out by OnePoll and commissioned by TotallyMoney asked a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults about cash advance fees. It reports:

  • Almost nine in ten (87%) don’t know there’s a cash advance fee when paying an entry fee for a fantasy football team, which is classified as gambling
  • Six in seven (86%) have no idea a cash advance fee applies when purchasing a lottery ticket
  • More than three quarters (76%) don’t realise a deposit on a gambling website incurs a cash advance fee
  • More than six in ten (64%) don’t know that exchanging foreign currency triggers a cash advance fee
  • Nearly half (49%) aren’t aware that cash withdrawals from an ATM incur a fee

A cash advance fee is added to any cash transaction on a credit card. But, this isn’t limited to just cash withdrawals. As exposed by the survey results, what classifies as a cash transaction isn’t clear.

Most people don’t know that buying lottery tickets, entry fees for fantasy football, and exchanging foreign currency all trigger a cash advance fee.

A cash advance fee is charged as a percentage of the amount spent on the card, or a flat fee. For example, 3% or £3 per cash transaction — whichever is higher. For small purchases, the fee could be more than the item itself.

For example, a lottery ticket costing £2 could incur a £3 cash advance fee, meaning the fee is 150% more than the ticket itself. This is before any interest is added.

Interest charges will also usually apply from the moment the transaction occurs. Cash advance transactions are usually excluded from any 0% interest offers — leaving customers with even more to pay.

The research calls into question whether more should be done by lenders and retailers to ensure customers know which transactions incur a cash advance fee.

Alastair Douglas, CEO of credit experts TotallyMoney, said: “If customers aren’t aware of a cash advance fee, they may use their credit card in the same way as a debit card. In some instances, people might not realise a fee or interest is added until they check their statement.”

Douglas continues: “Being aware of the fee allows customers to make cost-effective decisions when making purchases.

“If you apply for a credit card, look at how much the cash advance fee is. You can check your eligibility for cards before applying with TotallyMoney’s credit card comparison tool.”

Here are a few of the most frequent transactions that trigger a cash advance fee.

ATM withdrawals

This cash transaction is the one that most people are aware of. Over half (51%) of people know withdrawing cash from an ATM with your credit card will involve a fee. Always try to avoid using your credit card to withdraw cash.

Any form of gambling

Playing in a casino, buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet, and entering a fantasy football team are all forms of gambling. As such, they all include a cash advance fee when bought with a credit card.

Paying with a credit card for gambling purchases results in an extra £545 million a year spent by customers on transaction fees and interest. Some organisations, including TotallyMoney, welcome a blanket ban on the use of credit cards for gambling.

Gift cards

This one can be a surprise for customers. Buying a gift card is considered a cash transaction. Be aware of this when purchasing a gift card and opt to pay with cash or debit card instead.

Currency exchange

Just over a third of people (36%) know exchanging currency could incur a cash advance fee. When exchanging money for a holiday, people may be keen to convert a lot of cash. But, this could result in a very high fee based on the percentage of the amount changed.

A cheaper option is to use a travel credit card with 0% fees on overseas transactions, or to find the best exchange rate and change money using your debit card.

26 July 2019 It may be summer holiday season, but the majority of British households (57%) are looking to tighten the purse strings this summer in order to lower the cost of running a home. 

At a time when it has been reported that, 10 years after the recession, the majority of Brits are still living in the ‘age of austerity’ new AA Financial Services research suggests only one in four Brits are splashing out on a family holiday in the sun this summer. Instead many are focusing on how they can make domestic cutbacks to make their money go further.

The new AA Financial Services data suggests young families (parents of children under the age of 5) are the ones prioritising spending to add value to homes rather than going on holidays, and are the most likely looking to save money on bills and monthly commitments (76%) this summer – from switching supermarket to hunting around for cheaper insurance.  

Top 10 cost saving measures adopted this summer to lower the cost of running a home:

National average and by number of children in household

  NationalAverage No children Children under 5 Children5-11 Children 12-16
Getting cheaper gas or electricity suppliers 22% 18% 33% 27% 25%
Getting a cheaper insurance deal  18% 12% 27% 24% 22%
Getting a cheaper broadband supplier 15% 14% 19% 22% 16%
Changing to a cheaper supermarket 13% 13% 23% 13% 16%
Reducing the number of TV subscriptions  10% 9% 17% 16% 10%
Change to a cheaper mobile phone supplier 9% 9% 14% 12% 12%
Having a smart meter installed for more accuracy on gas and electricity readings 9%  9% 12% 8% 8%
Change to a cheaper landline phone supplier 7% 6% 9% 10% 8%
Consolidating existing loans 4% 4% 8% 8% 10%
Installing/ having double glazing fitted 3% 3% 3% 3% 3%

The budgeting pressures felt by young families coincides with them being the group that have spent most heavily on home improvement projects since the spring – an average of £9,355 compared to a national average of £4,123.  

Young parents are also most likely to have raided their savings (50%) and to have taken out additional finance (32%) to fund these DIY projects. The AA Financial Services research suggests the need to expand or adapt the home for the arrival or needs of young children has financially stretched many young families and forced them to look at a series of cost cutting measures to keep the family finances under control. As a consequence, parents of under 5s are also less likely than the national average to say they will be splashing out on a holiday in the sun this summer (20% Vs. a national average of 26%).

Warren D’Souza, Head of Insight at AA Personal Finance comments: “Our latest research suggests homeowners with young children are now more likely to be making budget cutbacks on everyday bills and commitments than university students. Many have drawn on savings and taken out loans to adapt their homes to make them baby and child-friendly but, for many, the consequence is they are having to work hard to free up disposable income by reducing their monthly bills and are also foregoing summer holidays as a result.” 

26 July 2019 Whilst we may be living in an increasingly inclusive society in the UK, when it comes to physical and mental disabilities, those who suffer with these issues can still sometimes struggle to achieve financial independence.

This is also borne out by the numbers, which reveal that disabled people’s finances are continually being impacted by barriers to employment and a series of stringent welfare payment changes. Back in 2014, it was found that 3.7 million disabled people lost up £28 billion of support as a result of welfare system changes, with some being hit by multiple simultaneous reforms.

It’s estimated that a quarter of disabled people live in poverty in the UK, which is almost unthinkable in a progressive and modern society. This makes the road the financial independence a challenging one for disabled people, but what steps can be taken to plot a more successful course?

  1. Plan your career path

There’s no doubt that employment barriers represent a significant challenge for disabled people, and one that varies according to individual circumstances. Nearly 20 million working-age adults currently have a physical, sensory or cognitive disability in the U.S. alone, with the rate of employment within this demographic estimated to be just 33%.

This not only prevents those affected from fulfilling their earning potential, but it also creates issues in terms of their mental wellbeing, purpose and their underlying sense of identity.

Hence it’s important for people with a disability to identify viable career paths, which enable them to sidestep their individual issues and leverage their skills to their advantage.

  • Get Access to your Own Private Vehicle

Many disabled people can also struggle overcoming universal barriers to the UK jobs market, from tangible skill gaps to the lack of private transport that gives job-seekers the ability and flexibility to be able to get from A to B.

Fortunately, you can negate the latter issue by investing in your own private vehicle, and one that has been modified to suit specific disabilities.

Specialist vehicle providers such as Allied Mobility can help to connect you with accessible and affordable vehicles, enabling you to become more independent and pursue viable job opportunities as they appear.

  • Use Free Tools to help Manage your Finances

As the rate of employment for disabled people in developed economies shows, even those who are able to plot viable career paths will typically have less opportunities than individuals who don’t have a registered physical or mental disability.

This means that your earning potential may well be restricted, creating a scenario where you need to manage your money and achieve financial independence.

This is particularly true in the existing economic climate, where sluggish real-wage growth and the rising cost of living continue to squeeze people’s earnings.

So, in addition to having a bank account, you should look to draw up a personal financial budget that enables you to manage your outgoings every month without going into the red and being penalised with costly bank charges.

24 July 2019 Two in five (42%) grandparents will be relied upon to provide childcare during the upcoming school holidays, according to new research by Lloyds Bank.

Part of the ‘How Britain Lives’ study, the UK-wide analysis conducted in partnership with YouGov found that 61% of working parents regularly rely on childcare support from nurseries, childminders and family or friends throughout the year, and this summer an estimated 5.3 million grandparents will be called on to help.

The savings for parents are likely to be significant. The poll found that UK families spend an average of £350 per month on childcare. That means, based on the UK’s average salary, parents are forking out 20% of their monthly disposable income to cover childcare costs, a figure likely to be even greater during the school holiday months.

Of the grandparents who provide childcare support, one in four say that on top of caring for the little ones, they also cover the costs of keeping them entertained with activities, and another 70% buy their grandchildren regular treats while looking after them.

Miles Ravenhill, Director at Lloyds Bank said: “The cost of childcare can be a big financial burden for parents, especially during the summer holidays when most children can be off school for up to six weeks. Our latest research has found that grandparents are set to support many families across the country, helping parents juggle work and childcare during the school holidays. Families who don’t have savings to fall back on could find that the summer months are a particularly hard time if they don’t have friends or family who can help.”

It isn’t just the school holidays when families turn to grandparents for help, with around a third relied upon at other times in the year for the school and nursery runs (34%), providing before and after school care (32%) and helping out on the weekends (36%).

On average, grandparents report spending eight hours a week caring for their grandchildren. Based on the average salary of a childcare worker at almost £8, that means grandparents are giving the equivalent of £3,200 worth of childcare throughout the year.

Despite the graft, two thirds of grandparents said they were asked to help and were happy to do it. A third said they proactively offered their support.

Seven in 10 of the grandparents polled say helping means they get to spend more time with their grandchildren than they did with their own grandparents.

22 July 2019 First-time buyers are increasingly setting their sights on larger, detached homes while starter-homes of the past are being overlooked, according to findings from Yorkshire Building Society.

An analysis of the lender’s first-time buyer mortgages since the financial crash reveals the number of home loans for detached homes has doubled, while those for terraced houses have fallen to a third (34%) from almost half (46%). 

Larger homes are also increasingly sought after by first-time buyers compared to 2007. Of the mortgages analysed, home loans for four and five bedroom homes increased significantly while demand for one bedroom homes fell.

The Yorkshire also found the average age of a first-time buyer slightly increased to 31 years old over the decade, from 30 years old.

Charles Mungroo, senior mortgage manager at Yorkshire Building Society, said: “Our findings show how would-be homeowners’ attitudes to buying their first homes have changed over the years, with more focus now seemingly on larger, detached homes compared to the starter homes that once were. It no longer seems to be a first step on the property ladder for many, more the forever home.

“Schemes such as Help to Buy, the removal of stamp duty for first-time buyers and the wider availability of mortgages requiring smaller deposits, will have helped those taking the first step on the property ladder, financially allowing them to look at larger properties.”

Research by the Yorkshire indicated almost a third (32%) of potential first-time homeowners would aim for a detached house as their first property and nearly half (49%) would consider a semi-detached house. Less than a quarter (24%) would be happy to settle for a studio or flat. To fund their purchase, would-be first-time buyers indicated they would be prepared to save for up to 10 years. 

Charles added: “In a housing market often deemed too tough for aspiring homeowners, it’s encouraging to see the strong ambition of first-time buyers and the importance they place on owning a home, which for many is deemed the key milestone in life.”