Informed Choice Podcast 004: Autumn Statement 2014 Special

Informed Choice Podcast 004: Autumn Statement 2014 SpecialThis week on the Informed Choice Podcast it’s an Autumn Statement 2014 special.

Listen to episode four of the Informed Choice Podcast now

Martin examines some of the key personal finance measures announced by George Osborne yesterday – including stamp duty, the death tax on pensions, ISA tax charges and new taxes on big multinational companies.

He also gave a recap of his week, which included hosting two movie premieres and organising a 10k race for charity at Dunsfold Park.

You can watch Martin’s documentary – Boom! Demographics Are Destiny – on Vimeo on Demand. Use the special code ADVENT1 to get 50% off a rental.

Martin mentioned a couple of podcasts he has been listening to recently – Meaningful Money and the MPAF Podcast. He has also been listening to Endurance Planet, Ben Greenfield Fitness and the Tim Ferriss Show.

Moving on to the Autumn Statement, Martin mentioned the free 10-page briefing note you can download from here.

You can use the comments box below to share any thoughts you had about this episode or ask questions. Alternatively, you can leave a voicemail for the show here.

Listen to episode four of the Informed Choice Podcast now

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Jigsaw Run 2014 raises £3,750 for charity

One of the annual events we absolutely love being involved with is the Jigsaw Run, which in 2014 has raised around £3,750 for charity.

We’ve organised and sponsored the Jigsaw Run since its inception in 2012 when it started as a 5k fun run. The event has been steadily growing in popularity since.

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A misty morning cleared just in time for the start of the third annual Jigsaw Run 10k at Dunsfold Park in Surrey on Sunday 30th November.

A record number of entrants completed two circuits of the runway and perimeter road, taking in parts of the BBC Top Gear Track and passing the iconic Boeing 747 used in films including Casino Royale.

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After a Magic Mile fun run, the 10k race was started by Kim Robson from 96.4 The Eagle Radio, patron of Jigsaw Run charity The Jigsaw Trust. With cool temperatures and minimal wind, new course records were set by the men and women.

First across the line for the men was Mark Greet (Horsham Joggers) in 35:47.

Fastest lady was Caroline Pleasence (unattached) in 39:49. Caroline holds the World Record for running the fastest marathon in a nurse’s uniform, after finishing the Virgin Money London Marathon in this attire in 3 hr 13 min 58 sec earlier this year.

Over 200 runners completed the 10k race, with the full results available here. The feedback we received on the day and after the race has been really positive, with lots of happy runners setting new personal bests on this very fast course.

The two charities this event supported in 2014 were the Jigsaw Trust and the Eagle Radio Trust. As you can see from this photo, Ryan (3) was a little unsure of the presence of Eggbert, the Eagle Radio mascot:

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It takes a massive amount of hard work and careful coordination to bring an event of this scale to fruition, as well as ensuring the safety of so many people on a large site on the day itself. We were fortunate this year to have the invaluable help of lots of volunteers, including a team from the Cranleigh Lions who did sterling work directing traffic and helping runners find their way around the course.

The Informed Choice team were also on hand to marshal runners, hand out goody bags and remove chip timing modules from shoelaces as runners crossed the finish line. Informed Choice chartered financial planner Philip Sullivan ran the 10k and finished in a time of 1:04:28.

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We’re already making plans for the event again next year, with a provisional date of Sunday 29th November and an intention to open registrations early to give those who have run with us before an opportunity to secure their places before entries open for the general public.

All photos courtesy of Stuart March Photography

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Unbiased.co.uk Media Awards 2015 shortlist

Unbiased.co.uk Media Awards 2015 shortlistThis afternoon saw the publication of the shortlist for the Unbiased.co.uk Media Awards 2015.

We were pleased to see Informed Choice managing director Martin Bamford has made the cut, appearing on the shortlist for Social Media Adviser of the Year alongside four other advisers.

Financial advisers who feature regularly in the media were nominated in thirteen categories for the awards. The awards offer a chance to meet with the most influential advisers and prominent journalists in the profession.

Winners will be announced at an awards evening in central London on 4th February 2015.

Martin was shortlisted for Social Media Adviser of the Year following the production of his feature-length documentary about the Baby Boomer generation entering retirement.

Boom! Demographics Are Destiny was produced with the aid of a successful crowdfunding campaign using the Kickstarter platform; an example of innovation unsurpassed in the retail financial service sector and something we hope will earn Martin this prestigious award early next year.

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What is your genetic destiny?

What is your genetic destiny?This morning I placed an order for a personal genome service from a California-based personal genetics company, 23andme.

The decision to buy the kit and start learning about my genetic destiny was prompted by several things.

An article appeared on my news feed as I was eating breakfast, from the BBC News website titled Controversial DNA test comes to UK.

It’s ‘controversial’ because in the US, where the company is based, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned 23andme from marketing its service to consumers, claiming they had failed to provide enough information to support the claims it made about results offered from the tests.

It has however been approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), with the caveat that no DNA test is 100% reliable and you should speak to your healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns about the test results.

Another reason for placing the order was an interview I carried out when making my documentary about retirement, with Jennifer Rusted, Professor of Experimental Psychology at University of Sussex.

Jenny talked during her interview about the “apolipoprotein E” gene, also known as APOE. This gene provides instructions for making a protein which combines with fats (lipids) in the body to form molecules called lipoproteins.

Changes in the APOE gene are associated with an increased risk for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The APOE e4 allele may also be associated with an earlier onset of memory loss and other symptoms.

This isn’t the only thing I’m looking for in the results from my 23andme test. The test looks for over 100 inherited conditions, genetic risk factors and traits, as well as providing information on prescription medication responses.

The test should also provide some interesting information about my genetic ancestry; this includes what percentage of my genome came from Neanderthals – no comment!

Genetic testing like this is still very new and, when the test results are made available in 3-4 weeks time, I’m looking forward to delving into the information and learning a lot more about the various elements of the test results.

I think the service from 23andme and others is likely to become more popular in the future as individuals want to take control of their genetic destiny, making better lifestyle choices and monitoring health appropriately.

There are certainly concerns about privacy and confidentiality, as having your DNA floating around on the web isn’t a particularly appealing thought. And of course any material facts discovered during the process will need to be disclosed to insurers in the future.

But for me personally, the benefits of satisfying my curiosity and desire to better understand my genetic destiny outweighs concerns about the limitations of the test, privacy of results or potential impact on future insurance applications.

Depending on what I discover when the test results are in, I might or might not share some of the findings here!

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Monthly Investment Update – December 2014

Monthly Investment Update - December 2014The FTSE 100 index of leading UK company shares finished November at 6,722.62, gaining 176.45 points or 2.7% during the month.

Speculation continues that the FTSE 100 could still break its all-time high before the end of the year, despite it being back to virtually where it started 2014 at the end of November. Stocks often perform strongly during a December led ‘Santa rally’, although of course nothing is guaranteed when it comes to investing.

History tells us that the FTSE has delivered a positive return in 19 of the past 20 years during December, with an average return of 2% during December in each of the past two decades. Regardless of the fundamentals, this belief that stock markets tend to perform well in the final month of the year could be enough to drive positive investor sentiment and higher markets.

Troubled Japan

Globally, Japan continues to be troubled, with a snap election coming up over the issue of ‘Abenomics’ (the economic stimulus measures promoted by prime minister Shinzo Abe) and now a downgrade of the sovereign credit rating by agency Moody’s. This is based on “rising uncertainty” over their debt, with a cut from A1 to Aa3, a one-notch downgrade.

The downgrade follows news that Japan’s economy sunk into recession in the last quarter, with economic output contracting by 1.6% between July and September, despite continued central bank and government intervention.

Sliding oil

The oil price continues to slide lower, presenting an opportunity for governments to phase out expensive subsidies, according to the head of the International Energy Agency. Globally, oil and other fossil fuel subsidies cost an estimated $550 billion in 2013.

The benchmark Brent crude price has fallen by around 40% since June, with the sell-off of oil and related stocks accelerating at the end of November due to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) deciding against curbing outputs to support the market price for oil. It is seen as test of the economics of ‘unconventional oil’, which includes production of oil from shale and oil sands. Brent crude fell to a five-year low of $68 a barrel at the start of December.

Another factor which might place downwards pressure on the oil price is slower than expected growth in Chinese manufacturing activity. China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 50.3 in November, despite analysts predicting a figure of 50.6. Anything above 50 represents growth, but growth in manufacturing at these levels is marginal at best.

A slump in commodity prices has pushed European stocks lower at the start of December, with oil and mining stocks the hardest hit. The STOXX Europe 600 energy sector index is now in bear market territory, down 23% since June, driven lower by falling commodity prices. Copper prices have also fallen to a four and a half year low, hurting mining stocks. A gainer from falling energy prices is the airline sector, with fuel representing around a third of expenditure for aviation companies.

House price inflation

Here in the UK, house price inflation fell to an 11-month low in November, according to the latest figures published by Nationwide. Average house prices rose by 8.5% in the year to November, their slowest growth since last December. Growth peaked at 11.5% back in June. For the three months to November, perhaps a better indicator of house price trends, growth fell to 0.9%.

According to the chief economist at Nationwide, “There is something of a disconnect between the slowdown in the housing market in recent months and broader economic indicators, which have remained relatively upbeat,”

The latest price inflation figures show the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure up just 1.3% in October, from 1.2% in the year to September. Analysts described this modest increase as a ‘blip’ driven by temporary factors and still expect inflation to continue falling, resulting in interest rates remaining on hold for the foreseeable future. Inflation as measured by CPI has been at or below the Bank of England target of 2% for nearly a year.

Looking solely are ‘core inflation’, which does not calculate some of the more volatile goods and services, such as food and energy costs, price inflation remained unchanged at 1.5% for the year to October. The latest Bank of England quarterly inflation report forecast inflation to fall below 1% during the next six months, so an interest rate rise before the second half of 2015 is increasingly unlikely.

Gilts, gold & currency

The yield on a benchmark 10 year gilt stood at 2.65% at the start of December, up from 2.25% at the start of November.

The Forex Gold Index is $1,178.75/ounce and the Silver Index is $15.73/ounce.

£1 will buy $1.57510 or €1.26030.

Download our Monthly Investment Update for December 2014

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Informed Choice Podcast 003: Justin King, equity exposure & growing old without children

Informed Choice Podcast 003: Justin King, equity exposure & growing old without childrenThis week on the Informed Choice Podcast, we speak to Justin King about his new book on retirement, question whether conventional wisdom on reducing equity exposure as you get older still makes sense, and consider growing old without children.

Listen to the Informed Choice Podcast: Episode Three

Martin started the podcast with a recap of his week. He talked about the Jigsaw Run he is helping to organise this Sunday, a 10k race at Dunsfold Park, home of BBC Top Gear.

The YouTube show and podcast Martin mentioned in the introduction was called London Real, a weekly one hour chat show format with individuals who seek to inspire and inform.

Martin mentioned that the Informed Choice Podcast is now available on Stitcher, which is radio on demand.

Listen to Stitcher

If you have a personal finance or investing question you would like Martin to answer on the show, you can leave an online voicemail here.

The article Martin discussed about a rising equity “glide path” can be found here.

Justin King, MFP Wealth ManagementThe main interview this episode of the Informed Choice Podcast was with Justin King, a Financial Life Planner from MFP Wealth Management in Christchurch in Dorset.

Martin and Justin have written a new book together, which is being launched today, called Ready, Steady, Retire! They chatted about the book, a growing retired population and things to consider when you enter retirement.

You can get in touch with Justin on Twitter @JustinKing_MFP.

Finally, Martin talked about an article in The Guardian by a campaign group called Ageing Without Children. You can read the article here.

You can use the comments box below to tell us any thoughts you had about the show or ask questions. Until next time!

Listen to the Informed Choice Podcast: Episode Three

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Retirement documentary now available for pre-order

Retirement documentary now available for pre-orderI’ve spent the past year interviewing experts and creating a feature-length documentary about the post-war Baby Boomer generation entering retirement.

The movie, Boom! Demographics Are Destiny, launches this week, with premiere screenings in Cranleigh and Christchuch. This launch was planned to coincide with Financial Planning Week 2014.

Boom! Demographics Are Destiny is now available to pre-order ahead of its general release next Monday, 1st December 2014.

You can pre-order the movie on Vimeo on Demand at vimeo.com/ondemand/boom. It is available here with worldwide distribution for $2.99 for a 48-hour streaming period or to buy (stream or download anytime) for $5.99.

Alternatively, you can pre-order Boom! Demographics Are Destiny on DVD here for £9.99, with free postage for UK customers.

Some free tickets are still available for the premiere screening of the movie at the Cranleigh Arts Centre at 8pm on Thursday 27th November 2014. Click here for details and to reserve your seat.

You can also join us for a special screening of the movie at The Regent Centre, Christchurch at 11am on Friday 28th November 2014, hosted by executive producer Justin King of MFP Wealth Management. Email kathy@mfpwealthmanagement.co.uk to reserve your free ticket to this screening.

Here are the 8 short excerpts from the movie we have released over the course of the past week:

 

 

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Something fishy about annuity sales figures

Something fishy about annuity sales figuresThere’s something fishy going on with annuity sales figures.

New figures published by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) present a rather worrying state of affairs since the Budget in March announced new pension freedom rules, being introduced next April.

Despite the sale of annuities (a financial instrument designed to convert a pension fund into a pension income for life) falling by 42% in the second quarter of the year, the ABI explained that sales by insurance companies have remained broadly level during this time.

It is sales of annuities being purchased through financial advisers, with the benefit of advice, which have fallen sharply since the Budget, as advisers and their clients weigh up the most suitable retirement income option.

Insurance companies however appear to have ploughed on regardless, selling annuities to every retiring customer without as much thought to whether it is the best option.

The ABI claims it is “likely” these statistics are because retiring customers are continuing to take advantage of annuity guarantees attached to their pension plans, which is often a very good reason for buying an annuity from your insurance company.

However, only 12% of annuities sold in 2012 had a guaranteed annuity rate attached, so this explanation doesn’t tell the whole story.

One leading commentator has already described these annuity sales figures as symptomatic of a “huge market failure”. It’s hard to disagree with that view.

Poor health, higher income

Also today was have seen an investigation by The Telegraph suggesting another mis-selling scandal, with people in poor health being sold conventional annuities (which do not pay extra for health or lifestyle conditions) instead of more suitable enhanced annuities.

The paper found that only 7% of retiring insurance company customers who qualify due to poor health are getting access to these enhanced annuities. They explain that insurer Aviva has already repaid some customers who should have received higher annuity incomes due to their medical condition.

Buying an annuity when another retirement income option would be more suitable, or being sold a conventional annuity when your health means you should be paid more with an enhanced annuity; these are both problems stemming from going direct to an insurance company rather than seeking advice at retirement.

An independent financial adviser will consider all of the retirement income options and recommend the most suitable. They will certainly make sure that your health and lifestyle are taken into account when recommending an annuity, so you get the best possible pension income in retirement.

Seek advice

If you go direct to your insurance company and buy an annuity when you retire, you are almost certainly going to miss out on a better annuity rate elsewhere or a more suitable retirement income option, based on your personal circumstances and goals in life.

The new guidance guarantee being introduced by the government next April, and paid for by the financial services sector, isn’t going to do much to stop this from happening. It might raise awareness of the various retirement income options a little, but only independent financial advice can make sure people entering retirement get what is best for them.

Don’t wait for the inevitable findings of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) investigation into annuity sales; rather than placing your faith in large companies like insurers and banks (who have a pretty terrible track record when it comes to acting in the best interests of their customers), speak to an independent financial adviser like Informed Choice.

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A new look for Informed Choice

A new look for Informed ChoiceIn 1994, Informed Choice was created in the attic room of Nick and Andy’s house, working in association with a larger business in London.

Our goal at the time was to be different in our approach to the delivery of financial advice to our clients. Everything about the way we run our business today has roots in the way Nick and Andy established the firm in 1994.

For over 20 years now we have helped our clients plan for a secure financial future. We have delivered peace of mind, removed a great deal of stress and given our clients confidence about money.

Changing landscape

Much has changed in the UK financial services landscape over the past twenty years.

We’ve experienced regulation by four different bodies – FIMBRA, the PIA, the FSA and (more recently) the FCA – during our 20 year history.

A significant change to the way financial services are delivered was introduced at the end of 2012, with the abolition of commission on the sale of most investment products and a drive to raise professional qualifications and standards.

Despite all of this change, our values at Informed Choice have remained consistent.

We’ve continued throughout to give independent financial advice which is careful and considerate. Our clients tell us that working with Informed Choice is always a friendly experience, something which is very important to every member of the team here.

Looking to the future

We are very proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to more successful decades in business ahead. As has always been the case at Informed Choice, we believe we are very good at what we do and that we can always get better.

With this in mind, we have spent some time over the past few months reviewing how Informed Choice looks to the outside world.

We employed the services of marketing consultant Michelle Daniels from Extended Thinking in Godalming, graphic designer Stephanie Chalmers from Over the Moon and website developer Gareth Thompson of codepotato.

Working together with our entire team, all three have contributed to the new look for Informed Choice we are delighted to reveal today.

Our new logo

Our new logo is the symbol which sums up Informed Choice and we feel takes our brand into the future while reflecting everything our clients and professional connections came to expect from the original mark.

We picked green and grey as our new brand colours to differentiate Informed Choice from the competition as a very distinct firm offering Independent Financial Planning.

The image in our logo is based on the original architects drawings of our offices, Sundial House in Cranleigh. In the future you might see our full logo, the logotype or the Sundial House logo used in isolation.

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We have also put together a 30 second video presenting our new identity:

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This morning our office in Cranleigh was updated with new exterior signage and we continue to redecorate the reception area, meeting rooms and offices here. We’ve started taking delivery of new stationery and our letters to clients will reflect our new look from next week onwards.

What do you think?

We would love to hear what you think about the new look we introduced today.

As we look ahead to the next 20 years in business at Informed Choice, I want to thank all of our loyal clients and associates who have helped us reach where we are today.

Thank you for your valuable support.

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Informed Choice Podcast 002: Financial Planning Week, Under 30s & Inflation Figures

The Informed Choice PodcastThis week on the Informed Choice Podcast we speak to Sue Whitbread about Financial Planning Week 2014, critique an article in The Telegraph by Alex Proud about being financially screwed if you’re under 30, and look at the latest price inflation figures.

Listen to the Informed Choice Podcast: Episode Two

Martin started the podcast with a recap of his week. He mentioned the Meaningful Money Podcast by Pete Matthew, as he was interviewed by Pete for this podcast on Monday, along with another Chartered Financial Planner, Justin King.

Martin and Justin were chatting to Pete about a couple of big projects they are launching next week; Martin’s documentary, Boom! Demographics Are Destiny, and their book together – Ready, Steady, Retire!

There will be more about the movie and the book on the next episode of the Informed Choice Podcast, along with an interview with Justin King about the book and his approach to Financial Life Planning.

Martin talked about the book he is currently reading, The Hard Thing About Hard Things by tech investor and entrepreneur Ben Horowitz. Martin also mentioned the book he has just finished reading, the excellent fiction time-travel novel The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

Martin invited your Financial Planning and investing questions which he will answer in future episodes of the Informed Choice Podcast. You can leave your question for Martin using the online voicemail system here.

The article by Alex Proud in The Telegraph Martin discussed in this episode can be found here – If you’re under 30, bad luck. You’re screwed.

Martin interviewed Sue Whitbread, Communications Director of the Institute of Financial Planning (IFP), about Financial Planning Week 2014. This runs from 23rd to 29th November 2014, and is an exciting campaign raising the profile of Financial Planning and its benefits.

Whitbread-Sue-Comms-director-IFPSue mentioned that over 60 firms across the UK are offering free 1:1 Financial Planning surgeries next week. You can find the full list herePrestwood are offering a free Financial Planning Tool to recognise Financial Planning Week, called Truth Lite.

Martin and Sue talked about the CFP accreditation and also Accredited Firms.

Sue mentioned you can follow @wayfinderIFP on Twitter, and use the hashtag #FPWUK. To contact the IFP, follow them on Twitter @ifp_uk or Sue at @swhitbread. The email address for specific queries is fpweek@financialplanning.org.uk.

We apologise for the sound quality on this interview! Yesterday we placed an order for some powerful recording equipment including a mixing desk and lots of cables, which will enable us to conduct podcast interviews over Skype in the future with much higher quality sound.

Earlier this week, the Office for National Statistics published their latest price inflation figures, with CPI at 1.2% and RPI at 2.3%. Martin talked about these latest inflation figures and what they might mean for the economy and interest rates in the future.

You can use the comments box below to tell us any thoughts you had about the show or ask questions. Until next time!

Listen to the Informed Choice Podcast: Episode Two

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