Monthly Archives: September 2009

Alice Ross

I’ve always wondered what a ‘fine toothcomb’ actually is. Can you really comb your teeth, and if so, should I be doing it? Having just googled the phrase, I learn from our helpful friend Wiktionary that it should really be a “fine-toothed comb”. “There is no such thing as a comb for the teeth,” it remonstrates.

Anyway, to use the phrase in context, it would probably make sense to say that investors are currently going over dilapidated investment trust shares with a fine-toothed comb. This is also known as sifting through the rubble from the bubble, and quite a few people in the City are starting to say they’re seeing huge opportunities here to make a profit – yet another investor told me about a scheme of his this morning.

Ellen Kelleher

Throngs of Brits are looking to take tax-free lump sums from their pensions before April when the retirement age jumps from 50 to 55.

Hargreaves Lansdown has fielded 142 per cent more enquiries on the matter in the last six months than it did during the same period last year. And like other advisers, the IFA is urging other clients with self-invested personal pensions to take action.  So, you might want to follow their advice as well.

With the FTSE 100 up 32 per cent since March,  it is a good time to consider cashing in shares.

“Investors need to be aware that a retirement option will be disappearing in April and need to plan accordingly,” says pensions analyst Nigel Callaghan. “Drawdown allows investors to take tax-free cash and to keep their income options open, but there are risks attached.”

Up to a quarter of the personal pension funds of an investor over fifty can be taken as a tax-free sum. After April, only those who are 55 or older will qualify.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

For those people with a Facebook account posting notes on other people’s walls and looking at shared photographs seems to be more important than working out how much money you will be left with at the end of the month.

A new survey from 1st – The Exchange, the financial technology group, has revealed that 58 per cent of people who are active on Facebook visit the website daily with almost half of those confessing to logging on at least twice a day. And yet, when it comes to matters of personal finance, the results are not so impressive. 

Lucy Warwick-Ching

It seems no-one is safe from the rogue builder. Lord Sugar this week appeared on a list of ‘victims’ published by the Office of Fair Trading after a five-year inquiry into the building industry – because he was duped by a builder over his Dover Street development in Mayfair.

But while the OFT investigation resulted in some of the construction industry’s finest being fined nearly £130m, it is rare that cowboy builders are taken to task for shoddy work done at less opulent addresses. One company, however, claims to have the answer.

Alice Ross

A surprising number of things can earn a stamp of approval these days. It seems there are hoops to be jumped through for every possible object – British Standards will happily certify street signs, face masks and even electric blankets.

Now, your pension fund is in on the act too. I should point out this hasn’t come from the British Standards body, but rather the National Association of Pension Funds, which this week unveiled its Pension Quality Mark for company pension schemes.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Interest rates are expected to remain on hold for at least another six months, according to some of the UK’s leading economists. Perhaps someone should tell HM Revenue & Customs.

While the Bank of England this month left its base interest rate at an all time low of 0.5 per cent - where it has been for more than six months – HMRC is now hiking the rate of interest charged on late payments of most taxes to 3 per cent.

Matthew Vincent

Do I owe warehouse owners in the Midlands an apology? I ponder this from the safe distance of leafy Surrey, at the FT Fund Links conference, where I’ve just listened to a presentation from Don Jordison, managing director of Threadneedle Commercial Property. A few weeks back, I blogged:

Would you buy a warehouse in Daventry? As an investment? I wouldn’t – not even if the commercial property equivalents of Kirstie and Phil attempted to wax lyrical about its location, location, location. More

My somewhat dismissive analysis was prompted by news that the F&C Commercial Property Trust had spent £17.25m on such a warehouse, attracted by a yield of 9 per cent – while still issuing warnings that “capital values could come under further pressure” if rents and income streams are hit by economic weakness.

Is it a risk worth taking? I’m now thinking it might be, having just heard that Threadneedle bought a similar warehouse for a lot less, at an equally attractive yield. Other fund managers are making similar moves.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Thousands of students are waiting to hear from the  body responsible for administering student loans whether their funding has been confirmed for this year.

For some of them, the answer could mean the difference between working extra shifts at the pub or enjoying the last weeks of summer before starting university next month. 

But for ex-students, there has been some unexpected good news: their student loans have shrunk - even if they haven’t paid off a penny.

Ellen Kelleher

Interest in buying into commercial property funds is on the rise again thanks to all the rosy reports on the outlook for the country’s property market which have come out in the past few weeks.

And the arrival of a new line of tax-efficient investment vehicles could shake up the sector.  Similiar  to real estate investment trusts, property authorised investment funds – known in industry argot as Paifs – are open-ended vehicles that pay dividends from rental income to investors before tax.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Royal Bank of Scotland – the lender that is majority-owned by the taxpayer - has said it will cut charges relating to overdrafts from next month.  It’s about time too: it currently charges customers £118 for an unauthorised overdraft for just three days.

As a customer of a Natwest (an RBS subsidiary) who’s been hit by these charges (only once, I hasten to add), I have long wondered how banks can get away with levying such high fees. And I am not alone. RBS has faced criticism from consumer group Which? for levying fees nearly eight times larger than some of its rivals. In contrast, the research showed that an HSBC customer would pay nothing while a Halifax customer would pay £15 for a three-day £30 overdraft.



The FT’s Money blog is a forum for the latest news and insights from the UK’s personal finance scene. Matthew Vincent, the editor of FT Money and his team of reporters will upload their views and insights on what’s happening in the industry and how this affects people’s finances.

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About our bloggers

Lucy Warwick-Ching is the FT’s new Money Online Editor and has been a UK Companies reporter covering tobacco, pubs and leisure companies as well as the deputy editor on House and Home.

Matthew Vincent is the FT’s Personal Finance Editor and was previously the editor of Investors Chronicle, where he also devised the award-winning online video The Market Programme, and produced the BBC-FT standalone magazine ‘How to be Better Off’. He presents the weekly FT Money Show audio podcast, and previously worked on the BBC TV programmes Short Change and Pound for Pound.

Alice Ross is deputy personal finance editor of FT Money. She specialises in pensions, investments and investment trusts. Alice joined FT Money in April 2008 - prior to that she was deputy editor at Money Management magazine.

Ellen Kelleher has been a personal finance reporter in the UK for close to four years. Before arriving in London, she worked in the FT's New York bureau where she covered the insurance sector.

Steve Lodge is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in savings.


Josephine Cumbo has written about all aspects of personal finance but currently specialises in insurance. She also covered company news for FT.com. Prior to working at the FT she was a news reporter for the ABC.

Tanya Powley is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in mortgages and the housing market. Tanya joined FT Money in November 2009 after working in Australia covering personal finance for the Australian Financial Review and its sister magazine Asset. Prior to that, Tanya wrote about mortgages for UK trade newspaper Money Marketing.

Jonathan Eley is editor of Investors Chronicle, and has been with the title for ten years. Before that he worked for newswires and trade journals in London, New York and Hong Kong.

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