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Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

Towards the end of 2013 Nsure Financial Services had the good fortune to meet and employ Lorna Marrett. Joining Nsure from Santander, Lorna brings her expertise in financial services, in particular investments and pension planning.

 

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Payday lenders are in the press and on the TV a lot at the moment, be that in their own adverts or the news and it is a business that seems to have come from nothing in just a few years. Journalists and politicians are quick to blame the current economic climate for the meteoric rise in the use of these high cost lenders but is this the real reason? We've been through recessions before without the existence of these companies so what is different this time? There are two seemingly positive but innocuous changes that have happened since the last period of economic turmoil that have allowed them to prosper and they're not the ones you may think. They both sound fairly dull and are not as headline grabbing as charging the government with causing unemployment and cutting benefits or blaming individuals for their "must have it now" attitudes but without them the payday loan industry would not exist.

Firstly, following public and government pressure the cost of unauthorised overdrafts and meeting bill payments where the customer doesn't have enough money in their account have fallen substantially. Whilst at face value this is a good thing, if something isn't profitable for a bank to do they won't do it. If they can't make money from customers use of an unauthorised overdraft why let a customer have one? It's far easier to bounce the payment and not have to worry about the customer paying you back. This in turn means the customer needs to find the money from elsewhere and this is where the payday lenders step in.

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

The banks have been at it again, this time getting caught miss-selling insurance against card fraud and charging customers over £1 billion in the process.
With so many major purchases now being carried out online using a credit or debit card surely insuring against the risk of your card details being used without your knowledge is a sensible thing? It would be if such misuse was your problem. What the banks neglected to tell you was that, provided you hadn't been reckless and negligent with your card, the problem of card fraud was theirs and not yours.
To make matters worse this insurance was being miss-sold while the banks were paying out billions of pounds in compensation for the PPI miss-selling saga! The series of miss-selling scandals will continue until such time as "free" banking ends. I like things to be free as much as the next person, but the reality is banking isn't free. There might be no monthly fees to have an account or charges for most transactions but the banks only offer this free banking in the hope they can make money out of you in other ways, such as selling insurance you don't need or levying horrendous overdraft charges.
We are all partly to blame for believing we get something for nothing. If a window cleaner said I'll come and clean your windows every month and it's completely free you'd ask "where's the catch?" But when a bank says you can have an account for free and use it as much as you like, forever, we take it at face value.
Even where current accounts do have a monthly fee they don't want you to think it is for using the account, instead we are told it's for "bundled" products, such as mobile phone insurance or to get a higher interest rate on the first portion of the balance. Despite the regulations that were introduced last year tightening up on the sales of these accounts I think it is only a matter of time until claims of miss-selling are made about them and so the cycle will continue.

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

There has been positive news for homeowners recently with mortgage lending and house purchase enquiries increasing substantially, coupled with news that house prices in most of the country have increased slightly over the past year and surveyors predicting they will continue to rise for the next year.

Most commentators put this increase in values down to the Government's help to buy scheme and I agree. This scheme involves the Government providing an equity loan of up to 20% of the purchase price towards the cost of a new build property, therefore reducing the size of mortgage a buyer needs. The Government then shares in any increase, or decrease, in the value of the home.

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

With the cost of living increasing and the easy access to credit that people enjoyed in the last decade a distant memory, it's no surprise that people are looking for ways to boost their spending power. It is an environment like this where the unscrupulous prey on the vulnerable and use people's concerns to con them out of their savings. The latest I've come across is "pension release"

What could be wrong with something as positive sounding as "pension release" or even "pension liberation"? Schemes that promise to give you access to your "hard earned pension" that the big bad insurers won't let you access are increasingly common. The literature states how their scheme allows you to access your pension before the standard minimum age of 55 and promises more than the maximum 25% lump sum you can usually take. There are many ways they promise to do this, perhaps involving a loan, moving the fund overseas or investing in a particular asset that utilises a "legal loophole" to give you the access you require.

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Regular readers will know my dislike of gold as an investment but recently I've come across an "investment" I hate even more – Bitcoins.
Bitcoins are a virtual currency that can be traded for real cash or used to purchase actual physical goods from sellers willing to accept them as payment. There are even reports of a seller of a New York Flat who will only accept Bitcoins as payment. They can also be traded through exchanges.


Proponents of the Bitcoin system state that because the system has a limit on the number that are allowed to be created they will hold their value over time, much like any other supply limited commodity. This is in contrast to our currency system where central banks can create new money at will, which has the effect of devaluing the money already in circulation. This is a similar argument presented by fans of gold and it is not dis-similar from the arguments put forward about tulip bulbs in the 1600s in Holland.

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

At the end of last month's article I mentioned that business owners can potentially treat life insurance as an expense. This generated a lot of interest so I'm using this month's article to explain how.


This can be done through a "Relevant Life Policy" which is a stand-alone death-in-service plan. As it is classed as a death-in-service plan there are no tax implications for the employee even though the employer is paying the premiums, i.e. the employee pays no income tax and national insurance on this benefit.

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How much is your ISA allowance increasing to for the 2013-14 tax year? If you answered £5,760 you are wrong by 100%. That is the maximum that can be paid into a Cash ISA. The total allowance is increasing to £11,520. However, to utilise this full allowance you will have to make use of an Investment ISA.

The Investment ISA is often missed, even by those who pride themselves on using their allowance on 6th April each year, but why? For one, they are subject to less marketing than Cash ISAs. Secondly, I think they are deliberately ignored by many because they are perceived as risky. In my opinion, in the current market, the real risk is keeping everything in cash.

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

Have you ever used a financial adviser where they have arranged your initial investment and you have never heard from them again? In fact this is very common. In most of these instances, the adviser will be taking an annual charge from your investment, but what are they doing to earn this, if they are not actively looking after your plan?

It is now the financial services regulator's requirement, following the Retail Distribution Review, to ensure adviser charges are justified. Nsure have always ensured this, and won't just take your money and leave you to your own devices. We offer a wide range of ongoing services which is why we know our annual charge is well earned.

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

Are you throwing away £23,000?

 

It might come as a shock, but that's how much it could cost if you don't shop around to find the best income for your retirement.

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Posted by on in Financial Services Blog

I was disappointed but not surprised to read the results of a recent study showing only 7% of people insure their income which is less than the number who insure their mobile phone and pets. So why do so few people think that insuring their income is worthwhile?

 

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