Helping tidy up Cranleigh

On Saturday morning, four members of the Informed Choice team joined volunteers from Cranleigh in Bloom to take part in the Great British Spring Clean.

Martin, Andy, Nick and Lizanne grabbed a rubbish bag each and collected as much litter as possible from around the village, as part of a team of sixteen enthusiastic volunteers.

The Great British Spring Clean is a campaign with one simple ambition; to bring together people from across the country to clear up the litter that blights our towns, villages, countryside and coastline.

In 2015, one enthusiastic individual – Melissa Murdoch – had an idea to get people from all walks of life together in cleaning up the rubbish that surrounds us.

Together, with Adrian Evans, Keep Britain Tidy, Country Life Magazine and a range of supporting partners the Clean for The Queen campaign inspired 250,000 people to get involved in local clean ups through March 2016.

During March 2017, the Great British Spring Clean aims to to inspire 500,000 people across the UK to get outdoors, get active and help clear up the rubbish that lies around us.

Martin, who is Chairman of Cranleigh in Bloom, organised the Great British Spring Clean in Cranleigh, arranging for the volunteers to spend more than an hour collecting litter from around the village, including the Downs Link, Snoxhall Playing Fields, The Common and High Street.

The team collected more than 20 bags of litter from around Cranleigh, making a small contribution to improving the local environment for the enjoyment of all.

Did you take part in the Great British Spring Clean where you are?

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Financial advisers for people living with dementia

Financial advisers for people living with dementiaCan a financial adviser go into a care home or approach adults with dementia in their own homes to drum up business?

This was the question leading an article on the front page of the Money section in the Sunday Times yesterday.

The article was prompted by a Financial Ombudsman Service ruling, which found restricted adviser St James’s Place had provided unsuitable advice to a client living with dementia, in respect of an ISA transfer. You can read the final decision here.

The article in the Sunday Times raises some important points about financial advisers who are working with vulnerable customers, especially those who are living in residential care home or who have Alzheimer’s disease.

As an independent financial adviser who specialises in care fees planning, and is often working with vulnerable adults and their families, I want to share a few thoughts on this important subject.

The Sunday Times article was published at an interesting time, as on Friday afternoon two more of my team had attended a Dementia Friends information session in Cranleigh.

We are encouraging all of our Financial Planners and back office team to become Dementia Friends after attending these one hour awareness courses which are designed to offer an insight into what it is like to live with dementia.

Something else we do at Informed Choice is to publish a set of Later Life Client Procedures, which we share with every later life client.

Later Life Client Procedures

As you will see from the 15 points described in this document, the procedures are designed to make sure our most vulnerable customers are treated fairly, and with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Our regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has been doing some good work in this area too.

Back in February 2015, the FCA asked us to participate in a video about financial services and vulnerable customers, created to launch an an Occasional Paper on Consumer Vulnerability.

The video, which features Informed Choice’s Nick Bamford, highlights that some vulnerable consumers seeking help from financial providers are meeting ‘a computer says no’ approach, putting them at risk of further detriment.

Also featured in the the video were the FCA’s Martin Wheatley, Macmillan’s Lynda Thomas, Nationwide’s Graham Beale, MoneySavingExpert’s Martin Lewis and Barclays’ Ashok Vaswani.

After reading The Sunday Times Money article about St James’s Place and customer vulnerability yesterday morning, I noted a few questions I believe are important to ask whenever a financial adviser is working with someone living with dementia.

1 – Is the adviser an Accredited Later Life Adviser?

LLA Accreditation is a recognised benchmark of the advice skills of advisers who advise in the older client market.

Offered by the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA), the accreditation has been shaped following consultation with consumer groups and those actively involved in advising in the older client market.

My professional opinion is that no financial adviser should work with an individual living with dementia unless they are a full member of SOLLA, holding the Later Life Adviser Accreditation.

2 – Is the adviser a Dementia Friend?

A Dementia Friend learns a little bit more about what it’s like to live with dementia and then turns that understanding into action.

Whilst the information session only lasts one hour, it is a powerful experience and a good starting point for developing a deeper understanding of some of the issues associated with living with dementia.

If a financial adviser is working with someone living with dementia and they are not a Dementia Friend, it raises some serious questions about their commitment to delivering suitable advice to that individual and their family.

3 – Is the adviser an independent financial adviser?

Financial advice firms can be either independent or restricted.

In order to call yourself an independent financial adviser, you need to provide unbiased and unrestricted advice based on a comprehensive and fair analysis of the market.

Because only independent financial advisers can act in the best interests of their clients, you should always choose an independent financial adviser to work with someone living with dementia or in an otherwise vulnerable situation.

Restricted advisers can only recommend certain types of product, or advise you on products from one or a limited number of providers, and therefore working with a restricted adviser severely limits the ability of the adviser to deliver advice which is in the best interests of the client.

4 – Does the adviser charge fees for their services?

Since the start of 2013 and the abolition of commission payments for retail investment products, all financial advisers (independent and restricted) should be charging fees for their services.

However, some restricted advisers continue to operate with a so-called ‘vertical integration’ business model, where one charge covers the cost of the product and advice.

Some independent financial advisers have failed to move very far from the old commission remuneration structure, charging a percentage of any investment amount or a fee which is contingent on the sale of a financial product.

The way in which you pay for financial advice can have the unintended consequence of influencing the outcome of that advice, so consider this very carefully.

Only an independent financial adviser charging a genuine fee for their advice (and not contingent on the implementation of a financial product) should be working with vulnerable customers and those individuals living with dementia.


These four simple questions, which should be asked in addition to the usual due diligence questions about regulatory status and financial standing of the firm, should help to identify a financial adviser who is able to provide suitable advice in the best interests of a vulnerable customer or someone living with dementia.

We hope to see more from the Financial Conduct Authority in the near future to describe best practice when working with vulnerable customers, in terms of the status and approach taken by the adviser.

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Shattered retirement dreams, Monthly Investment Update, & PPI claims deadline

Welcome to the latest roundup from our experts and thought leaders here at Informed Choice, with latest news and unique insights from our team.

August 2019 deadline for PPI claims
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set a deadline of 29th August 2019 for making payment protection insurance claims. This leaves consumers who were mis-sold PPI with a little over two years to claim for compensation.UK banks set aside… Read more

Introducing Informed – the new client magazine from Informed Choice
Over the past few months, the team have been busy putting together the first edition of a new client magazine from Informed Choice.Informed is our bi-annual printed magazine written for our clients, professional contacts and advocates.It is… Read more

Retirement dreams shattered for millions
Millions of people are being condemned to work into their 80s because of inadequate retirement savings. A new report from insurer Royal London is warning that the four million people automatically enrolled into workplace pensions have been lulled… Read more

Our latest blog posts

Monthly Investment Update March 2017
In our latest monthly investment update for March 2017, we look at how the investment markets, global economy and commodity prices are performing.   Read more

U3A Investments & Money Matters Group
Nick gave a presentation to the Investments and Money Matters Group at U3A Cranleigh, talking about choosing an investment platform.   Read more

Our latest podcast episodes

ICR180 – Vicky Eves, I Beat Debt   Listen now

ICR181 – Kelly Eroglu, Reduced Grub   Listen now

ICR182 – Warren Buffett’s Annual Shareholder Letter   Listen now

Before you leave!

We are pleased to be the headline sponsor of the Cranleigh Literary Festival which is taking place at Cranleigh Arts Centre all of this week.

Tonight features Edinburgh Fringe hit Chopping Chillies, written by and starring Clair Whitefield, and directed by Olivier Award winner Guy Masterson.

On Saturday there is “Wings!” craft session and live storytelling in Cranleigh Library, especially for children.

On Saturday evening at Cranleigh Arts Centre, Tania Szabó will talk about her mother Violette Szabó GC, CdeG – her life, her missions in occupied France during World War Two, her incontestable bravery at all times and her relevance to our world of today.

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U3A Investments & Money Matters Group

U3A Investments & Money Matters GroupThis morning I gave a presentation to the Investments and Money Matters Group at U3A Cranleigh, talking about choosing an investment platform.

U3A, the University of the Third Age, is a fantastic national organisation formed of local groups across multiple subject interests.

Martin and I have both presented a number of times now for the U3A personal finance groups in Cranleigh and Camberley, to discuss investments, inheritance tax and care fees planning.

Investing has come a long way since the times when people would invest directly ion shares or funds, often selected in the newspaper and then executed over the telephone or through the post with a stockbroker.

These days, it’s all about choosing the right investment platform on which to invest in order to achieve your financial goals.

An investment platform is a service which allows investors and financial advisers to check on their portfolios and make investment instructions.

From the adviser’s perspective, we can see the transaction history, valuations and dealings. This information allows us to make sure that your financial goals remain on track.

Most modern investment platforms offer access to the full range of tax wrappers, including Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) and personal pensions. Some also offer access to onshore and offshore Investment Bonds.

It’s important to get the best possible value for money when choosing a suitable investment platform.

To make sure you are not paying over the odds, you need to be able to understand all the fees and charges attached to financial products.

Other fees which you need to assess are adviser fees, fund management fees and product fees, all of which can be deducted from your investments on the chosen platform.

I would never recommend to constantly check on your investment portfolios. Doing this will simply just raise your blood pressure.

The most important thing to remember is when it comes to investing, make sure you align that investment with your financial plan.

If your plan tells you that you don’t need to invest then don’t!

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Monthly Investment Update – March 2017

Monthly Investment Update – March 2017In our latest monthly investment update for March 2017, we look at how the investment markets, global economy and commodity prices are performing.

The FTSE 100 index of leading UK company shares finished February at 7,263.44 points, rising by 164.29 points or 2.3% during the month.

European markets finished the month with a quieter period of trading, as investors waited for President Trump’s first address to Congress overnight on Tuesday.

During February, European stock markets performed well against the positive backdrop of the European Commission’s Winter 2017 Economist Forecast.

According to the forecasts, the Eurozone is expected to grow by 1.6% in 2017 and 1.8% in 2018. Advanced economies outside the United States are forecast to benefit from the spillover effect of economic activity in the US. European exports are also expected to get a boost from the rising interest rate and the US dollar.

In the latest quarterly reshuffle of the FTSE indices, Dixons Carphone is expected to be demoted from the FTSE 100 index, replaced by Scottish Mortgage, the investment trust run by Baillie Gifford.

Also set to leave the top flight, based on its market capitalisation at the end of February, was Capita, Easyjet and Intu Properties. Rentokil Initial and the packaging company DS Smith could both be promoted.

The UK manufacturing sector continues to grow in February, putting it on track to deliver its strongest quarterly performance in three years. The latest Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index reading was 54.6; this was down from 55.7 in January and slightly below the City of London consensus forecast of 55.6. An index reading above 50 represents growth.

According to Rob Dixon, an economist at Markit, the readings in January and February were consistent with first quarter manufacturing sector growth of 1.5%, which would represent the strong quarterly expansion since the first quarter of 2014.

Investors in the US are pricing in an interest rate hike this month, with dollar and US Treasury yields trending higher. Comments from some Federal Reserve policymakers suggested rate-setters are worried about waiting too long to raise interest rates, in light of pending economic stimulus out of Washington.

According to Reuters, investors have priced in a 68% probability of an interest rate rise in March, up from 30% the month before.

In Japan, capital spending by domestic businesses rose by 3.8% year-on-year in the final quarter of last year. The government figures show this marking a turnaround for Japanese companies as they seek to boost output. Capital spending has long been a weak point for the Japanese economy, with businesses reluctant to invest when the economic outlook is uncertain.

In the UK, price inflation has risen to its highest rate for two and a half years. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measure of price inflation rose to 1.8% for the year to January, up from 1.6% in December. This is the fourth consecutive month of inflation rises and takes CPI inflation to its highest level since June 2014.

Price inflation in the UK remains below the Bank of England target of 2%, last reached in December 2013. The Bank is expecting inflation to reach 2.7% next year.

Consumer inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which includes some housing costs, rose to 2.6% in January, up from 2.5% in December.

House price growth accelerated in February, according to the latest Nationwide survey. Average property values rose by 4.5% during the year, up by 0.6% compared to the previous month. This makes the average cost of a home £205,846. Nationwide has forecast an uncertain outlook for house prices in 2017, with modest 2% annual growth.

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee kept interest rates on hold at 0.25% during their meeting at the start of February. A forecast from accountancy firm Moore Stephens suggested that an extra 18,000 people could face insolvency by 2020 if interest rates were to rise by 1%.

Most economists expect the Bank to keep interest rates on hold at least until the end of next year, although they could face growing pressure to hike up interest rates should price inflation continue to rise.

Oil inventories in the US reached a new high at the end of February, with the American Petroleum Institute reporting a build of 2.502 million barrels. Despite this US inventory build-up, the OPEC agreement to cut output appears to be holding, with compliance of 94% in February.  Brent Crude Oil Futures were $56.81/barrel at the start of March.

The benchmark 10 year UK Gilt yield stands at 1.185% at the start of March, falling during February.

£1 buys $1.23720 or €1.17410.  The Forex Gold Index is $1,255.60/oz and the Silver Index is $18.28/oz.

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Grandparent army, bin collection cuts & Cranleigh Literary Festival

Welcome to the latest roundup from our experts and thought leaders here at Informed Choice, with latest news and unique insights from our team.

Martin Bamford – Grandparent Army save billions in childcare costs
If it wasn’t for the support of my parents and mother-in-law, our childcare costs would be astronomical.Becky and I both work full-time, with Becky holding down two part-time teaching jobs. Her working hours fit nicely into school hours, most of… Read more

Nick Bamford – Nick & The Silverback
My good friend Paul Miles and I often discuss financial planning matters and try to put the world to right. Paul runs the consultancy firm Silverback Consultancy and I invited him to Cranleigh to eat some bananas and chew over some current… Read more

Martin Bamford – Bin collections cut to fund social care
The Local Government Association, which represents local authorities, is warning of cuts to services in order to plug the growing shortfall in adult social care.Services including road repairs, parks, children’s centres, leisure centres and… Read more

Martin Bamford – Cranleigh Literary Festival
Informed Choice is delighted to be the headline sponsor for the Cranleigh Literary Festival this year.This packed literary festival starts on Tuesday 28th February with a Spoken Word Night offering a special showcase of spoken word, poetry and… Read more

Martin Bamford – Lower fees for registering a Lasting Power of Attorney
Some good news this afternoon from the Office of the Public Guardian.The fees they charge to register an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) or Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) are being reduced from 1st April 2017.The change is cited as The Public… Read more

Our latest podcast episodes

ICR177 – Ann Pettifor, The Production of Money

ICR178 – Kalpana Fitzpatrick, Mummy Money Matters

ICR179 – 5 Investment Themes for the Next Decade

Informed Choice in the press

Martin in FT Adviser – Bond markets under Brexit cloud

Martin in Money Marketing – Advisers and FCA struggle with DB transfers

Before you leave!

Informed Choice is exhibiting at the Master Investor Show in London on Saturday 25th March 2017. Find out more at and used the code INFORMEDCHOICE to claim one of 100 free tickets to the event.

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Collapsing care, depressing retirement & a bond bubble

Welcome to the latest roundup from our experts and thought leaders here at Informed Choice, with latest news and unique insights from our team.

Martin Bamford – Adult social care at risk of total collapse
We’ve heard warnings of an adult social care crisis for years, but this new report from Age UK takes those warnings to a whole new level.According to the charity, around 12 million over 65s are not getting the basic care and support they… Read more

Nick Bamford – Is retirement too depressing?
Surely retirement should be a time of excitement not depression? And yet it appears that many it is the latter rather than the former.Perhaps this comes down to lack of planning. It’s not just about having enough money it’s also about having a… Read more

Martin Bamford – Price inflation rises to 1.8%
The rate of price inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), is continuing to rise towards the Bank of England target of 2%.The latest figures for the year to January 2017 show inflation up from 1.6% to 1.8%.This is the highest… Read more

Martin Bamford – Self-funder care fees tax rises to £1.3bn a year
Individuals who self-fund their residential care cross-subsidise the cost of local authority funded beds in the same home.This rather unpalatable fact of life has been apparent for years, with local authority contribution rates falling short of… Read more

Our latest podcast episodes

ICR174 – Martin speaks to Jo Read about her new book, Suddenly Single   Listen now

ICR175 – An interview with Curtis Evans, Investment Director at Fidelity International, about the outlook for fixed income investing   Listen now

ICR176 – What happens to your pension fund when you die? Find out in this episode   Listen now

Informed Choice in the press

FE Trustnet – These global funds have beaten the MSCI World at least 80% of the time. Martin comments on this new research…   Read more

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Department of Health social care charging structure for 2017/18

Department of Health social care charging structure for 2017/18The Department of Health has published a Local Authority Circular confirming the charging structure for adult social care in the 2017/18 financial year.

It’s interesting to note that the figures remain the same as 2016/17, with only one change, to interest on Deferred Payment Agreements.

It means the capital limits in England remain at their current level, so a lower capital limit of £14,250 and upper capital limit of £23,250.

The Personal Expenses Allowance (PEA) for local authority supported care home residents remains at its current level in 2017/18 at £24.90 per week.

The Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) for people receiving local authority arranged care and support other than in a care home also remains at its current levels in 2017/18.

The savings credit disregards remain at their current level in 2017/18, so up to £5.75 per week for individual supported residents and up to £8.60 per week for couples. There is more detail on this in the annex of the circular.

The Disposable Income Allowance for people who have entered into a Deferred Payment Agreement with a local authority remains at its current level of £144 per week.

In terms of the interest on Deferred Payment Agreements, this is intended to be run on a cost-neutral basis, with local authorities able to recoup the costs associated with deferring fees by charging interest.

Local authorities have the ability to charge interest on any amount deferred, but cannot exceed the maximum amount specified in regulations.

The national maximum interest rate changes every six months on the first of January and July, to track the market gilts rate specified in the most recently published report by the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) plus a 0.15% default component (for example, gilt rate 1% plus 0.15% equals a maximum interest rate of 1.15%).

The Department of Health will not routinely publish the national maximum interest rate going forward and local authorities will need to establish what this is by checking the market gilt rate.

The market gilt rate is currently published in the Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which is usually published twice-yearly alongside the Budget and Autumn Statement on the OBR website.

The Department of Health Local Authority Circular, which is called Social Care – Charging for Care and Support, can be accessed at the link below:

Department of Health social care charging structure for 2017/18

If you have any questions about what this means for care fees planning for you, a friend or a relative, please do get in touch.

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Care homes, property ladder & unmarried couples

latest news & insights from Informed ChoiceWelcome to the latest roundup from our experts and thought leaders here at Informed Choice, with latest news and unique insights from our team.

Martin Bamford – The business of care homes
One of my favourite programmes on Radio 4, apart from The Archers, is The Bottom Line with Evan Davis.In the latest episode, the assembled experts discussed the business of providing residential care for our elderly.This appears to be a struggling… Read more

Shelley McCarthy – Owning a home by age 25?
Buying your own property at any stage in your 20s seems like an unachievable dream for most.  This was a really interesting article by the BBC highlighting some examples which show it is possible, but only with a lot of hard work and some… Read more

Martin Bamford – Café Culture is coming to Cranleigh
This morning I took another phone call from a lady referred by Surrey County Council. As a member of the Society of Later Life Advisers, we are often approached by individuals who do not qualify for local authority funding for their adult social… Read more

Shelley McCarthy – Spouse’s pensions for unmarried couples
A lady has won a share of her late partner’s pension, despite not being married.This court case could mark the start of additional cases surrounding the tax advantages that married couples get over cohabiting couples.  Is it time that these rules… Read more

Martin Bamford – Informed Choice Radio to appear at the Master Investor Show
The team from Informed Choice Radio, our personal finance podcast, is pleased to be attending the Master Investor Show next month.The event takes place at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London on Saturday 25th March.Informed Choice Radio… Read more

Our latest podcast episodes

ICR173 – Fixing the broken housing market   Listen now

ICR172 – Canna Campbell, Sugar Mamma    Listen now

ICR171 – Trevor Greetham, Rock Around The Investment Clock   Listen now

Informed Choice in the press

FT Adviser – City bonuses linked to compliance and conduct
A global survey from Mercer shows conduct, compliance and risk management are increasingly being used in the calculation of bonuses by financial services companies. Martin comments for FT Adviser…     Read more

Share Radio – The Investment Trust Show: The Issue of Risk
This week we’ll be taking a look at the rather critical issue of risk. And to do that, I’m joined in the by Martin Bamford from Informed Choice and Share Radio’s Senior Analyst Ed Bowsher.    Listen now

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Latest news & insights from Informed Choice

latest news & insights from Informed Choice

ICR168: Faith Archer, Much More With Less
Have you ever dreamed about moving to the country, living more simply and making the most of life? Faith Archer is an award-winning money journalist, who also writes the blog Much More with Less…      Listen now

ICR169: Martyna Sroka, Money Saving Girl
Martyna Sroka is Money Saving Girl; a money blogger born in Poland and based in London. She likes finding money saving deals and offers…     Listen now

ICR170: It’s all about charges
Nick joins Martin in this episode to discuss the cost of financial advice and investment products…     Listen now

Informed Choice in the press

The Times – Portfolio Therapy: ‘We would like to buy a house, but may need to sell other assets
Chris Park, 35, and his partner, Laura, 27, live in a flat in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, where Chris works as a quality assurance software tester for an insurance company. Martin comments in this Portfolio Therapy features for The Times…    Read more

The Sun – Money Makerover: Want to buy your own house but worried you’ll never save enough? We’re here to help
In the first of a new weekly column in The Sun, Martin is the expert adviser helping pub manager Terri in her quest to step onto the property ladder…     Read more

Money Marketing – Major firms duck the issue on charges
The largest advice firms in the UK have broadly failed to come clean on what they charge for advice and the service they deliver for those charges. Martin comments for Money Marketing magazine…     Read more

Read the latest Insights from Informed Choice

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