Planet Retirement can sometimes be a bewildering place and with a scarcity of UK retirement blogs out there (other than those proffering financial advice) I thought I'd keep my own.

Please visit from time to time and do add your comments. Popular posts and those highlighting my journey are specifically pinpointed on the right hand side together with a list of topics covered. Alternatively you may prefer to look at the Summary or the Tips from Wisdom Acquired or even our Have Visited List with its retirement atlas and dip in and out of the blog using the links given.

Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Money. Show all posts

Monday, 11 June 2018

A Trip Back in Time Along the High Street

Yesterday Mister E and I had a brief mosey along Northallerton High Street, closed to traffic as it celebrated the 1940's. With live music, albeit an empty dance floor on the pavement in front, bomb disposal experts, an array of vintage and classic vehicles in use in the 1940's, GI brides, nurses with babies in prams and shops with themed windows it was a unique transformation. Coupled with a blue sky, it certainly seemed to have brought the crowds out.

Too often and too close to home we hear about shops closing and the difficulties faced by retailers with competition from online sales, increased business rates and the limited spending power of consumers as their wages stagnate and austerity, coupled with the impending effect of Brexit, continues.

I'm sure demographics must be playing a part too, as more and more of us leave the workplace and move into retirement leaving impulse purchasing behind.

Setting aside the whole issue of fostering nostalgia for bygone years (especially those associated with a role in World War Two) it is good to know that the councils and others are working hard to keep the appeal of  our local town centre and by innovation seeking to prevent its decline. It is after all only two weeks since the same street was closed to host a 10k run, following its previous closure for the annual May Fair and the Tour de Yorkshire, only three weeks before that.

For many spending power in retirement may be less,  but let's please try to apply our expenditure in shopping locally when we can.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Flying to America

No I have not flown to the USA today but I may well have done. It is the youngest who has gone but I am fast discovering in retirement that I seem to do far more than ever for my children despite the fact that they are technically both now adults. No doubt if therefore they had asked me to wing my way across the Atlantic, I would have had a go. The youngest, however, is spending a year studying at the University of Texas in Austin and there have been some frantic preparations going on of late, aggravated by culturally-different (better described as indifferent) bureaucracy. 

For instance amongst the list of "must-haves" was a certificate to evidence that either you have been innoculated against or are not carrying tuberculosis. Has anyone ever tried to acquire such a certificate in the UK where the disease has been eradicated to the point where the dreaded BCG vaccination was abandoned several years ago on the basis that it was unnnecessary? Certainly the doctor's surgery could neither issue such a certificate nor recommend a body that could and when an online search produced reference only to one specialist unit in London that treats people suffering from the disease (usually in foreign visitors or immigrants apparently) but does not issue certificates, she had to give up the quest.

Interestingly we have received an e-mail reassuring students and their parents about the introduction of the Carry On Campus law. It's not another in the series of English Carry On comedy films but rather legislation upholding the right to bear arms within the university perimeters subject to certain restrictions. Talk about reassurance. I've almost gone mental at the thought.

Then there appears to have been an aversion from the private hall of residence she is to live in to communicate by  e-mail as instead it prefers the medium of letter and text message (but only to those with a zip code and US mobile, sorry cell-phone). When it has remembered, an occasional Facebook message has been sent instead. Consequently the youngest was not informed that invoices are obtained by logging into an account for which she was never sent a PIN and please don't get me started on paying that bill.

Oh okay, I'm going to rant anyway. Strangely, and perhaps it's a privacy or money laundering issue, but you are not permitted to know the details of the destination bank account. As a result the ability to make an international transfer is denied. Instead we were invited to send an "e-check." Try asking an English bank to do one of those: "We can make an international payment," is the not unsurprising stock response.

Then there was the option of using something called "Discover" but we never did discover what that is.

Of course there was the ubiquitous facility for payment by debit or credit card which we had hoped to avoid because of the ridiculous transaction fees that our banks can charge when sterling is changed. 

"Are there any other means of payment?" she enquired. 

"No, but you can give us a money order on arrival," we were informed. A what? Obviously another banking term unknown to our Anglo Saxon systems but which would appear to resemble a humble postal order. "You might be able to use your currency card to pay for that or else withdraw cash at an ATM and buy it in the premises across the road."

Well we could hardly risk that, especially as there is of course a daily limit on the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from an ATM. So rejecting the potential for the youngest carrying a wadge of cash  it had finally reached the point of  reaching for the good old reliable visa card. Except that without a USA zip code the site really did not want to accept my payment. 

Several attempts later and after liaising with my bank and the recipient, payment was made but only after I had to tick a box consenting to a twenty six dollar "convenience fee." Twenty six dollars to use a credit card and the insult of calling it a convenience fee after the hassle we had gone through; I cannot forgive.

Mind it is not just the USA that looks to charge for fresh air. Manchester airport is onto a clever little earner with car parking fees; £45-99 for an overnight stay at the onsite multi-storey. I'm sure I could get bed and breakfast cheaper for myself than that rate. Instead we arranged to pay less than a third of that for hotel parking last night and then, just as my faith in faceless capitalist profiteering had hit rock bottom, the gentleman at reception waived the charge.

When we visited Cuba, I recall our guide impressing on us that prices there are set according to need, so that essential items are priced lower than non-essentials; white rum for instance is treated as an essential and virtually given away. What a brilliant system. Forget open market economics and pass me the bottle. After all the hassle of getting the youngest airborne, I could do with a drink!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Expenditure in Retirement

So many people feel they cannot afford to retire and whilst this may be true for some, there are others who have not done the maths. Before Mister E and I decided to take the plunge, we felt that it was important that we worked out the extent of our expenditure as opposed simply to an income and savings forecast. We accordingly tracked and broke down our spending, then, satisfied that the kind of retirement we sought was indeed an affordable option, jumped in.

We have continued to analyse our expenditure and, as we anticipated, in retirement spend less on some areas (primarily car expenses and clothing) and more on others (travel, leisure and incidental costs in particular). Surprisingly utility bills which we had assumed might increase significantly with our daily presence have not done so, presumably offset by our various absences.

The most important thing, however, is that by now knowing what we use our money for, we are in control and, should the need arise, would be able to alter our spending habits and consumption levels accordingly. 

If anybody is unsure whether or not they too can afford to retire I would recommend analysing your plans for the kind of retirement that you realistically seek  and your likely monetary outgoings as a result. You are after all able to exercise more control over your spending than your income.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Saving and Life Expectancy

My accountant has drawn my attention to a report published by Aviva. Not only does it stress that we tend to underestimate our life-expectancy but also that savers are likely to live longer than non-savers. 

I suppose it is just as well that it is not the other way round or there would presumably be a real problem for non-savers when their funds run out.

At face value it is, of course, strange that there should be a correlation between saving and life term. I assume however that those who save also live a healthier life generally than those who don't, perhaps predicated by their wealth or alternatively by deliberate life choices in all areas. Pre-disposition or choices; nature or nurture; family values or education; innate intelligence or robust common-sense. 

No doubt scientists will find a gene that governs both traits in due course. In the meantime, just point me in the direction of a piggy bank.

Friday, 6 March 2015

The Serious Business of Comedy

Mister E and I went to the ARC in Stockton on Tees last night to be entertained by Andy Parsons. At one point when he began to describe the conundrum that is life, I thought that he may have put his routine together especially for us.

He maintained that there are three facets to enjoying life, namely: money, time and health. He submitted, however, that regrettably there never seems to be a stage of life when we have all three. At that point he honed in to emphasise that, whilst in retirement people may have a bit more money than earlier in their lives and oodles of time, their bodies are spent! 

Wow - such serious stuff that there I was, in the middle of a comedian's show, seriously thinking about the work-out I must do at the gym the following morning.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

The Small Print

I hate small-print, which for somebody who, so many would say, used to make a living out of writing it, is probably a little strong. Nevertheless even a trip to the supermarket reduces me to a state of  irritation in the face of all those 2 for 1 offers and bargain items, half of which are not what they seem when you can find something in the next aisle, around the corner or even displayed next to the heavily marketed product, at a much more attractive price. Of course, when I worked, and because shopping was done in a rushed trip usually en route home from work, I hardly noticed. Now that I have more time and actually read the pricing labels with care, I am amazed at how easy it is to fall foul of the advertising.

It used to be the same with bank and building society accounts. You know those accounts where for a fixed and better rate, you tie your money up for a year or whatever period is on offer. Then, and cynically I assume the institution relies on the lethargy of its customers, I was invariably too busy at work to sort the transfer of funds in a timely fashion leaving them to accrue either no, or very notional, interest. It didn't just apply to fixed rate accounts either; variable interest rates can alter and still I would rarely quite get round to do anything about them in a snatched and limited lunchtime and, if I did make it to the bank or building society, it was inevitably without whatever the latest forms of identification were that they needed to release funds.

You can imagine therefore how proud I felt today to make my way to both bank and building society in advance of deadline dates, ahead of lunchtime queues and sort out the necessary changes. Even more so when I also tackled the supermarket labels and to the best of my knowledge (that's the caveat in the small-print talking) came out a winner.

However, the best was still to come.  

Upon returning home the postman had delivered a cd from a lovely couple with whom we had travelled around Cuba. I placed it in the disk player and moody Latin American salsa and tango filled the air. The Youngest and I had a fantastic session dancing in our living room. It seemed she knew all the steps from an electronic dance mat on which she had wasted her mid-teen years and we had a wonderful happy time. 

Who really cares about contractual terms anyway?

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Comfort from £15,000 a Year

A study by NEST,  reported yesterday, gave an insight into how much money it takes to make people feel comfortable in retirement. It seems that with a pension income of £15,000 per annum most people in the UK feel content. Below that level and they struggle to pay bills, whilst interestingly above £40,000 per annum there is no additional happiness benefit. 

I'm assuming that the simple moral of that research is that so long as you have sufficient income to avoid worrying about the basic necessities of life (a roof over your head, food and clothing), you then cut your cloth according to your means and can enjoy whatever excess you have. I'll soon find out.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pressing Send

There's something about the Send button, that turns me to a quivering wreck. A state of nervousness usually overtakes me as I tussle with the dilemma of making sure all is correct before I click in the appropriately marked box. Inevitably if it's an e-mail and despite the lengths I procrastinate over it, I have still been known to omit the attachment and my follow up message of "Oops" ought now to merit an autotext entry in its own right.

Worse than e-mails however is on-line banking. It is so convenient but there are times when undertaking a simple banking transaction can reduce me to jelly, something that queuing in the branch has never done. It's the fear of making a mistake with the figures; checking and double-checking the account  numbers and, as for the amount itself, a nought in the wrong place could prove a costly error.

Anyway, spurred on by the Chancellor's effort to kick start contributions to pension schemes and with the end of the tax year drawing nigh, I logged on, overcame my neurotic wavering and finally pressed Send, hopefully remitting what will be a final payment to my pension scheme and not that of somebody else.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Budget Day

So the Chancellor today announced a budget aimed to help savers and pensioners. Forgive me but I saw nothing that actually increased interest or annuity rates and I'm still a long way off 65, so there is no likelihood of me benefiting from the introduction of Pensioner Bonds. 

Still it seems that from next Thursday access to flexible pension draw down arrangements will become easier when the threshold reduces to £12,000 pa for other income as opposed to the current £20,000. 

Also, and even with capped draw down, there is to be enhanced access to funds and I shall be able to take 150% of an equivalent annuity each year. Effectively I can gallop through my pension funds at a quicker rate than I might previously have imagined, and to help me there is even going to be a very slight increase to the level of income I can take before paying higher rate tax. 

However, and with total flexibility on offer, I could opt to limit my pension income to £10,500 pa and take advantage of an extra £5,500 tax free allowance on savings income.

Is it actually now enticing enough to make a contribution to my pension funds before the end of the tax year in just over 2 weeks time? 

Oh dear, I feel the need to drop an e-mail to the IFA but suspect that he may be inundated.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Golden Decade for Retirement Planning

According to the magazine that arrived in the post for me today (Money Matters by Armstrong Watson accountants) your 40's is the golden decade for retirement planning. That's when you should be putting as much as possible into your pensions to give them a chance to grow before you retire.
Well it didn't work for me.
In the first half of that decade I got caught by the collapse of Equitable Life. Then I got very disillusioned with the returns on the fund transferred and invested in other schemes and probably didn't contribute as much as was prudent. Finally, right at the end of that ten year period, recession struck and decreased again the value of my pension fund. I'm afraid it was at that point that I began to look at the mattress on my bed and appreciate why in days gone by people would hoard their funds under one!
Fortunately Mister E is one of the dwindling number of people with access to a final salary pension scheme (albeit deferred many years ago) and I'm hoping, with a bit of help from the financial adviser tomorrow, that we've still managed to get the sums right.