Monthly Archives: January 2010

Lucy Warwick-Ching

There are a number of important changes to pensions coming into force, this year, some requiring action before the end of the tax year in April.

Ben Smaje, managing director at Kennedy Black gives us five top tips to ensure you get the most from your retirement planning:

1. If you are aged between 50 and 55 and plan to start taking benefits from your pension in the next few years, then you should consider starting now. The statutory minimum retirement age is rising from 50 to 55 on 6th April, but if you crystallise your benefits in advance of that date then you will not fall foul of the change.

Tanya Powley

Homeowners were given good news today as Nationwide Building Society revealed in its latest house price index that property values had surged 1.2 per cent in January, showing a year-on-year gain of 8.6 per cent.

The lender also helped buoy the market by stating: “Unless there is a fall in property values in February, annual house price inflation is likely to move into double-digit territory next month for the first time since May 2007.”

But before you crack open a bottle of champagne and get drunk on the excitement that this month’s housing data will set a precedent for the rest of 2010, it’s worth looking at a few of the comments from the experts out there.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Last week’s news that Air France could start charging obese fliers for the cost of a second seat if they are unable to fit into the standard seats has re-ignited the debate over whether airlines should charge a ‘Fat Tax’ or not.

There was an uproar when the news came out it, with many saying that the move would be unfair, it seems that in reality the majority of Brits would be behind the introduction of such a tax.

Three quarters of 550 people surveyed by  travel site said people should be charged with just 22 per cent disapproving of such a move.

It found the worst offenders were those from the Pacific island of Nauru, which is currently classified as the world’s fattest country by the World Health Organisation, with 94.5 per cent of the population being overweight.

But while we may be feeling quite smug about that fact that the UK ranks quite far down the scale, as the 28th fattest country, there is still a hefty 63.8 per cent of Brits who would test the airline’s scales.

Alice Ross

So Anthony Bolton’s return to fund management will come in the form of an investment trust, it was confirmed yesterday.

All eyes are now on the 8th February, when details of the company – which has been registered at Companies House under the name Fidelity China Special Situations – will be released.

Yesterday Anthony Bolton was out in front of the Fidelity offices in London posing with a Chinese dragon and a festive red and gold tie as part of the marketing material for the fund.

Josephine Cumbo

It is not often that insurers get a public pat on the back for treating their customers fairly. But Aviva deserves a plaudit for today announcing that it will introduce discounts for cancer and multiple sclerosis (MS) exclusions which are applied on its critical illness policies.

This is a big step for fair treatment of customers who up until today were paying for elements of insurance that they could not claim on (and cancer and MS are among the most common claims on the policies) Aviva has taken its time to introduce these discounts, with its much smaller competitors bringing in fairer pricing for cancer and MS last year.

But today’s step by Aviva, the country’s largest insurer, does set the tone for the rest of the big players to follow suit.

Related reading:

L&G offers premium discounts for cancer (, 4 Dec 2009)

Ellen Kelleher

This afternoon, Tom McPhail, head of pensions research with Hargreaves Lansdown, sent a list of how-to-web sites for those seeking advice on pensions. Here are three suggestions:

Direct Gov
This is a government site with information on a host of subjects, from battery recycling to blue badges for disabled motorists. The pension section has a series of sub-sections including a Beginners Guide to Pensions, State Pensions, Pension Credit, Company and Personal Pensions, National Insurance etc.

Hargreaves Lansdown
The Hargreaves Lansdown site has a library of free consumer guides on pension and tax planning and investing, as well as fund manager interviews, calculators and stock analysis, telephone helpdesks with real people who know what they are talking about and access to advisers if needed. Unlike the other two listed here, Hargreaves Lansdown is a commercial organisation but all the information is free; no jargon, no gurus, just helpful.

Independent voluntary service grant-aided by the DWP, the TPAS website has news, calculators, guidance, telephone advice and links to other government sites. Straightforward. User friendly. No jargon here.

Alice Ross

So we’re officially out of recession as of this morning.

But the news doesn’t exactly have investors cheering. Growth was lower than expected – GDP grew just 0.1 per cent in the last quarter, compared with predictions of 0.4 per cent.

Sterling has already slumped, and a rise in interest rates in the near future is looking less likely.

So for investors the focus on income is likely to continue for the time being. Bestinvest, the financial advisers, says people looking for income should remember than 66 per cent of the UK stock market’s earnings are from overseas, with much of that coming from emerging markets. It recommends the Standard Life UK Equity High Income fund, which invests in these sorts of companies.

Alice Ross

F&C Investments got some bad press over the weekend but what seemed like quite a big story seems to have been just bad luck.

The Observer reported on Sunday that regular savers in the Foreign & Colonial Investment Trust – one of the biggest in the UK – were banned from cashing in holdings or making top-ups to their savings due to anti-money laundering regulations.

These savers/investors had been sent letters from the fund management group asking them for documentation to verify their identity under these AML regulations.

This sounded rather intriguing so I called up F&C today to see what was going on. In fact, they said that of the 98,862 investors in its investment trust savings schemes, the letter had been sent out to just 73 investors.

One of those investors just happened to be a reporter at the Observer.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

“Pensions without the piffle” is the catchline for an industry website which claims to be able to cut through the jargon of the pension industry.

The site, which will be run by newly-recruited pensions guru Steve Bee and is called, will go live on Thursday with Bee’s first blog since joining as managing pensions partner from Scottish Life.

As a follower of Steve’s blog BeeHive – one of the few pensions news and analysis blog to be written in non-technical language – I will be logging on on Thursday to see if Bee really can cut through the jargon that seems to swamp the retirement industry.  

 Related links

Cutting through the pensions jargon (Money Show podcast, Aug 29 2009)

Tanya Powley

The huge spike in inflation has been the talk of the week. Official figures showed this week that consumer price inflation had jumped to 2.9 per cent in December from 1.9 per cent the month before – the highest single month rise on record.

This has prompted many experts to warn that borrowers’ low interest rate holiday is likely to come to an end sooner than expected.

But these warnings may have come a tad too early.

Swap rates – which are used to set fixed-rate mortgage prices – dropped yesterday back down to pre-inflation report levels suggesting the panic over inflation has subsided.

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.

This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

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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 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.