Reviewing and planning your financial future with a financial adviser is time well spent if you’re looking to get the most out of your money and to be able to look forward to a comfortable retirement.

For many people the biggest obstacle is a lack of time during the working day, so heading into town to see a financial adviser just isn’t feasible.

However we’re starting to see greater use of new technology enabling you to discuss your future financial plans via a video link in the comfort and convenience of your own home.

Yorkshire Building Society has just launched an innovative new service in conjunction with Legal &General, who already offer investments through its branch network.

Its customers will now have the opportunity to get advice in the comfort of their own home via a secure video link.

It’s simple to set up and can be accessed through a laptop or tablet and allows the advisor to show documents on the screen whilst discussing investment options with the customer.

Time is an increasingly precious commodity and we need to see greater use of technology to help people plan their future finances at a time and place that works for them.

It’s been well documented that households with a poor credit rating can pay hundreds of pounds more per year for finance and utilities payments than consumers with healthy credit scores.

Specialist credit card provider Aqua showed last year that families with a lower credit score typically can only access a month by month broadband contract (avoiding the need for a credit check) resulting in an average annual charge of £175, expensive when you consider that those with good scores pay only £60.

If you’ve never looked at your record, try taking a quick look at a new service from ClearScore.com where you can obtain a copy of your credit score and details for free.

This will enable you to check exactly what information is registered against your name as for all you know the details may be incomplete or incorrect and thus making it more difficult and more expensive to obtain credit than it should.

Your credit report contains details of your balances, limits and payment history.

It will also list any late or missed payments on your existing loans and credit cards as well as previous borrowing you’ve had during the last six years.

Your record will also shows details of any bankruptcies and county court judgements as well as the amount you currently owe on your credit agreements together with details of searches and new applications made.

It’s also worth trying to dispel some of the myths surrounding credit reports and CRA’s.

Ensure you are registered on the electoral role otherwise you won’t appear as being listed at your address if a lender makes a credit search.

Third party information, including members of your family who live, or have lived with you does not appear on your credit file as long as you don’t share any joint financial commitments.

Other people who have lived at your address previously will not affect your credit score.

If you’re looking for a few tips on how to improve your credit rating, consider the following.

Close credit card accounts that you’re no longer using. Even though your balance may be zero, any prospective lenders will take into account any existing credit limits you have available to you when assessing applications for new finance.

Having no record of managing credit can count against you so it’s worth having a credit card and using it a few times each year – if you repay the statement balance in full and on time it won’t cost you a penny, but demonstrates that you are capable of managing credit and will reflect positively on your file.

More than eight in ten people (83 per cent) are unaware that the protection provided for savings by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) will fall by £10,000 to £75,000 on 1 January 2016, according to research from peer-to-peer lender RateSetter.

The FSCS, launched in 2011, guarantees the safety of savings kept in banks and building societies up to a limit of €100,000, to match the guarantee offered in the EU, and the UK limit is falling following the decline in the value of the euro relative to the pound. RateSetter’s research shows that the public awareness of the level of protection provided by the FSCS is declining and many people overestimate its ability to protect them.

Nearly four in ten people (37%) said they did not know what level of protection the FSCS provides – a significant increase from a quarter of people (26%) who said this nine months ago.  A third (34%) believe that rules around the FSCS are confusing.

One in six people (16%) mistakenly believe that the FSCS protects their money against the pressures of inflation and nearly one in ten (8%) thought the FSCS currently provides protection for more than £85,000.

“With the reduction in the FSCS limit just 100 days away, the clock is ticking.  Anyone in the fortunate position of having more than £75,000 in savings will want to use this time to take a good look at whether their money is appropriately allocated”, commented Rhydian Lewis, CEO at RateSetter. “For many people, that might mean splitting savings between different banks and building societies.  But some investors have told us that lower FSCS protection will prompt them to seek a better return on money above the new limit – and perhaps this is one of the reasons why we’re seeing increasing levels of investment in peer-to-peer platforms such as RateSetter.”

Interest in peer-to-peer lending has continued to grow in the two months since the change to the FSCS limit was announced: the number of people investing on RateSetter’s platform has increased by 7%, and the average account size has increased by 3%, to £20,530.

Pensioners in the UK pay a total of more than £17.5 billion in income tax every year, according to new analysis by Prudential.

The insurer’s analysis of the most recently available ONS data on income and tax shows that in the 2012-13 tax year, over-65s paid an average of £3,258 each in tax. Collectively this accounts for 11 per cent of the £157 billion total income tax paid for the tax year.

The figures do however confirm that the amount of tax you pay falls after turning 65 – the average tax bill for over-65s in the UK is £2,300 lower than that for under-65s.

The Prudential analysis also shows that the distribution of income tax paid by over-65s across the country is skewed heavily towards London. In the capital, the average amount of income tax paid by over-65s was £8,386 – more than £5,000 higher than the UK pensioner average of £3,258.

Stan Russell, retirement income expert at Prudential, said: “These figures show that just because someone has retired from work doesn’t mean they have retired from paying tax, so taking into account the impact on retirement income is an important part of planning for a comfortable retirement. Discussing your retirement aspirations with a professional financial adviser is an important step for many towards achieving the best possible disposable income in retirement.

“For most of us, saving as much as possible as early as possible in our working lives remains the best way to help secure a comfortable retirement.”

Santander, the stand out performer when it comes to current account switching this week announced an increase in the 123 current account monthly fee from £2 to £5 with effect from January 2016.

The cashback returns on utilities payments and in credit interest rates have not been changed, however the increased fee takes some of the shine off this deal, particularly for those customers with smaller credit balances.

For someone with a smaller balance it could be a game changer – if you have a £3,000 balance you’ll earn £90 per year (£72 after 20% tax), but will be paying out £60 in fees – thus giving you just £1 per month benefit.

There’s a higher fee in the pipeline for Santander 123 credit card holders too with the fee increasing from £2 per month to £3 per month also from next January.

If you’re considering an alternative in credit bank account then it may be worth a look at Tesco Bank.

The Supermarket bank also pays 3% on balances up to £3,000 and whilst it doesn’t offer rewards on utilities payments like Santander, there’s no monthly fee plus it has just dropped both the £750 minimum funding limit and £5 charge that was levied if you paid in a smaller monthly sum.

This week saw further evidence that credit card companies are battling harder than ever to take advantage of what is currently a buoyant credit card market.

The surge in competition has ratcheted up a level in recent weeks, further evidenced by two new stand-out credit card offers.

Virgin Money launched a table topping limited offer of 37 months interest free on balance transfers as it seeks to grab a slice of the frenzied activity in this sector of the market. The deal comes with a one off balance transfer fee of 2.79%, but you’ll need to get your skates on if you’re interested as the card is only available until 30th September.

To put the size of the 0% switching market into perspective, there was just over 6 million balance transfers totalling more than £13.4 billion carried out in the 12 months to the end of July 2015. If each transfer was subject to an average balance transfer fee of 2.75% that’s £368 million straight into the coffers for the credit card lenders

The other new card launch that caught my attention this week was the ‘Everyday Plus’ card from MBNA.

It’s an impressive all round credit card for those who are looking for a long term piece of plastic for their wallet rather than constantly switching and ditching cards every few months.

Everyday Plus offers a competitive low rate of 7.4% APR, no fees for balance transfers, money transfers or cash withdrawals and no fees for using the card for transactions overseas.

The low rate makes it less of a financial burden if you decide to roll a balance over from time to time – for example a £2000 balance carried over for 1 month would cost £12.57 in interest charges compared with £32.10 on a card at a market average rate of 18.9%APR.

This card will prove stiff competition for the Halifax Clarity credit card which is also free to use overseas but earlier this year Halifax hiked the interest rate from 12.9% APR to 18.9% APR for new customers.

I’m sure there will be a reaction from rival companies to these latest best buys, particularly as consumers have rediscovered their appetite to borrow on plastic.

Increased confidence on the back of the UK economic recovery has seen the total sum outstanding on credit cards at the end of July rise to £41.36 billion (Source- BBA) up by £3.4 billion in the last 12 months and I’m sure it’ll continue to grow throughout the remainder of 2015.

With many experts predicting an interest rate rise in early to mid-2016 there has been increased focus on consumers currently on a variable rate mortgage and the potential cost implications they face.

The last time there was an increase in base rate was back in July 2007 so there are thousands of borrowers out there who have yet to experience the consequences of a mortgage market where rates start to climb.

A report from Equifax this week revealed that 78 per cent of homeowners on a variable rate home loan aren’t budgeting for the possibility of higher repayments despite eight out of ten of those affected believing there will be an interest rate rise within the coming 12 months.

In isolation this statistic may not be as scary as it first seems as factors such as the size of mortgage balance and whether the household budget has sufficient slack to absorb increased monthly mortgage repayments need to be taken into account.

What is more worrying is that the same survey highlighted that almost three in ten at risk of a rate rise weren’t aware how much extra they would have to find each month if their home loan rate increased by 0.50%.

As with most personal financial products half the battle is appreciating the ‘what if’ scenarios and for mortgage borrowers knowing what a rate rise will cost them is one of the most important.

If you know what the financial impact is likely to be, you will be in a better position to deal with it. For example you may not be overly worried as you have a healthy surplus in your household finances, but if things are already quite tight and there’s little spare cash left at the end of the month then it may be worth considering switching to a fixed rate mortgage to protect yourself from higher monthly costs.

If you decide to opt for a new fixed rate mortgage you’ll find there is a mind boggling array of products to choose from. Some offer low rates but with high product fees whereas others advertise higher rates with no fees. It’s worthwhile getting an independent mortgage broker to crunch the numbers to see which works out cheapest in your situation.

To put the potential increases into perspective, a borrower with a £130,000 mortgage balance with a 20 year term at a rate of 3 per cent would see their repayments increase by £33 per month if their mortgage rate went up by 0.50%. Similarly a borrower with £250,000 owing over 20 years at the same interest rate would see monthly payments increase from £1386 to £1450 per month, an extra £64 per month to find.

When those questioned by Experian were asked what action they would take to ensure the mortgage standing order was paid each month, 27% said they would cut back on food shopping whilst four in ten said they would cut back on going out and a third would reduce their spend on holidays.

The good thing is that the first rate rise is still potentially six to nine months away so there’s time to prepare.

So if you’re one of those many mortgage customers currently on a variable rate deal, have a quick word with your lender to check what the impact of a rate rise will mean for your circumstances – at least you’ll know what to expect and can plan accordingly.

Research from Policy Expert reveals that almost half (47%) of parents are happy for their child to regularly take valuable items such as mobile phones, iPads and computer consoles  to school with them.  One in five (21%) trusting parents allow them to take more than £250 worth of gadgets, jewellery and other costly goods with them each day.

There are approximately 7.9 million children aged between six and 16 in the UK – this means there could be as much as much as £1.8 billion worth of valuables being carried in children’s school bags every day.  Parents across the UK admit that the average age at which children are considered old enough to take a mobile phone or tablet to school with them is 11 years old.

The most popular valuables in a British kid’s school bag are:

  • A mobile phone (37%)
  • An iPad or Tablet (11%)
  • A musical instrument (7%)
  • A hand held games console (4%)
  • A laptop (3%)

Despite parents’ willingness to let children take responsibility for valuables outside of the home, almost a third (27%) of adults surveyed don’t have away-from-home cover as part of their home insurance, with a further fifth (19%) unsure what their policy covers.

Adam Powell of Policy Expert commented:

“While some parents may not give a second thought to what their children take to school, they might be surprised at the actual cost of the valuables they are carrying. With the UK averaging 600,000 pickpocket incidents each year, and the high propensity for valuables to be lost or broken outside of the home in the care of children, it’s best to make sure you’re covered to avoid tears as well as financial loss.”

Research from Kwik Fit reveals that 3.6 million motorists wait until MOT failure before changing their tyres.

Kwik Fit warns that not only can illegal tyres leave motorists risking three penalty points and £2,500 in fines, but even more importantly, can seriously compromise their vehicle’s safety and handling. With the end of summer approaching and the weather turning colder and wetter, drivers should think carefully about their tyre health and not leave it until the MOT for them to be checked.

The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on car tyres is 1.6 millimetres, across the central ¾ of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. However, tyre performance deteriorates well before reaching this limit – at 1.6 millimetres in wet weather it takes almost 40 per cent further to stop at 50 mph than it does at 7mm. This is equivalent to 8 car lengths of reduced stopping distance.

A spokesman for Kwik Fit said: “With vehicles being increasingly sophisticated in monitoring their own maintenance intervals, drivers are often leaving it to their cars to warn them of potential issues. Motorists should realise that responsibility for vehicle health and safety lies directly in their hands. Without proper care, motorists could land themselves either in legal trouble or in an incident on the road.

“Tyres should be the number one priority for drivers – after all, they are the only part of a car which keeps it on the road. Even though at 1.6 millimetres of tread a tyre is legal, it will not have much grip on the road and travelling in adverse weather conditions can be treacherous. That’s why leading tyre manufacturers recommend that drivers change their tyres at 3mm of tread depth to maintain optimum performance.  It’s very worrying that so many drivers let their tread depth drop so low and leave it to the MOT to check – after all that could be up to a year away.”

An offset mortgage is a smart and tax efficient way to cut your mortgage costs, yet reports suggest that only around one in ten borrowers are currently taking advantage of this type of home loan.

It can be a big money saver for mortgage borrowers and makes even more sense in times like these when interest rates on savings accounts are at rock bottom. By simply combining your savings and mortgage balances it’s possible to save thousands of pounds in mortgage interest costs and at the same time reduce the term of your home loan.

Another key benefit, even more so for higher rate tax payers, is that there’s no tax to pay on your savings interest and the equivalent return is the same as your mortgage rate.

With interest rates on even the very best instant access and 1 year savings accounts struggling to break 1.5 per cent, for many people there’s far more to be gained by offsetting your nest egg against your mortgage balance which in many cases is being charged at upwards of 3 per cent.

A further plus point is that offsetting gives you flexibility, in that you always retain access to your entire savings balance in case you need to dip into it at a later date.

Although many standard mortgages will allow you to make limited over payments, unlike an offset mortgage, once you’ve committed to the overpayment you can’t get that money back at a later date.

A major reason for the poor take up is that consumers assume it’s a complex product and only suitable for those with large savings balances, but both of these assumptions are wide of the mark.

A further issue is that not all lenders offer the offset facility, and therefore some customers are missing out because they aren’t even given the option to take advantage of this breed of mortgage.

Along with Barclays and First Direct, Yorkshire Building Society is one of the main players in the offset market and unlike some rivals it allows offset to be used on its entire range of standard mortgage products with just a 0.2% loading on the rate.

Offset is available across a wide range of loan to values (LTV) with some of the top deals as follows – First Direct 3 year fixed at 2.79% and £950 fee to 65% LTV, Yorkshire Building Society 5 year fixed at 2.84% and £845 fee to 75% LTV and Barclays Lifetime Offset Tracker at 2.49% and £999 fee up to 75% LTV.

To give you a taste of the savings you can achieve with an offset and to prove that it is a viable option for those with fairly modest savings or those who intend to save on a regular basis, the following numbers highlight the positive impact this strategy can have on your finances.

For someone with savings of £7,500, offsetting this balance against a £100,000 mortgage at 3.00% would save interest charges of £7,753 and takes 1 year and 4 months off the term of a 25 year mortgage.

You don’t have to have a huge lump sum to benefit from offsetting, regular savings will work too.

For example, if you are able to put aside £200 per month into your savings account each month, then you’ll save £17,159 in mortgage interest charges, cut 3 years off the length of your 25 year mortgage plus you’ll end up with a savings balance of £52,800 when the mortgage is repaid.