I read that the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) had been chosen to deliver the face-to-face free advice under the UK Government’s pension guidance guarantee. The Government has pledged £20m to pay towards independent pension advice for people.
The Government’s pension guidance will be available to people with defined contribution (DC) and private sector defined benefit (DB) pension schemes. DC schemes have no guarantees of pension income, while DB schemes guarantee a pension income (usually based on number of years of service and contributions).
That £20m won’t all go to CAB, as The Pensions Advisory Service (TAPS) will be responsible for delivering pension guidance over the phone, and an online advice service is being developed.
TAPS staff already specialise in giving advice on pensions. Whereas CAB staff deal with a whole raft of issues. I wonder if there is time and sufficient funding for CAB Staff to receive specific training in pensions?
One of our sons is looking to replace his laptop. When I read that Lenovo was offering to refund VAT on some models costing over £500 purchased from selected retailers by 5 December 2014, I decided to take a look.
If you buy one of the listed models from a participating retailer, you need to reclaim the VAT by completing an online form 21-51 days from the date on the invoice for the purchase. Your VAT refund should then arrive in your bank account within 30 days. Just make sure that you adhere to all the refund terms and conditions.
Now wouldn’t it be so much simpler if the price you paid could be reduced at the point of sale.
When people were asked if they thought the UK motor insurance industry was trustworthy, 39% were indifferent, 27% thought it was relatively trustworthy, while 24% thought it was relatively untrustworthy. My rating would be indifferent. It sounds as though motor insurance firms have some work to do in improving consumer perceptions.
When asked if they could get a better deal by going direct to an insurance company, 55% agreed, while 45% disagreed. I think that you can sometimes get a better deal by going direct. The best chance of getting a discount seems to be as a new customer. After doing research and getting cheaper quotes, I’ve also phoned our car insurance provider to ask then to reduce their renewal price. Sometimes they have reduced the price, other times they haven’t.
I won two return flights with United from Edinburgh to Chicago in a business card prize draw. After some family discussions about who would be my travelling companion, our son Simon decided he’d like to come with me.
Chicago hotels looked pretty pricey for a one week stay, especially as we required a room with two beds. After a good search on the HotelsCombined price comparison website, it seemed that the Dewitt Place Apartments, priced at $1,114 (approx £670 when the booking was made) on the booking.com site, offered a combination of a reasonable price, a central location and mainly positive reviews. It would’ve cost around £120 less for a seven night stay in a studio with one bed.
I had to pay a 50% deposit on booking, the remaining 50% being due on check-in. It was possible to cancel the booking with no penalties up to 7 days prior to the date of arrival.
With interest rates of less than 2% on some mortgages, this could be a good time to get into the property market. Buying a home could save you money in the long term compared to paying rent for the rest of you life.
But apart from finding the lowest rate of interest, how do you decide which mortgage is best suited to your requirements? Below is a short explanation of the different types of mortgages.
Variable Rate Mortgages
The amount that you pay may change according to the standard variable rate charged by your lender. Last time that we arranged a mortgage, we planned to pay it off within a couple of years from earnings. This meant that we ended up taking out a standard variable mortgage because of the flexibility to make overpayments and/or pay off the mortgage early. Although the variable rate meant that we paid a higher rate of interest than was available on other types of mortgage, the money that we saved by not paying interest over many years more than compensated.
Fixed Rate Mortgages
If you want to know exactly how much you’ll pay per month, fixed rate home loan repayments stay the same during the fixed rate period. With an interest rate rise on the cards, this could be a good time to fix a low rate. Generally, the longer the period for which you fix, the higher the interest rate. There may be penalties if you wish to over pay or terminate the mortgage before the end of the fixed term.
The National Counties Building Society is offering a fixed rate of 1.9% on its 53rd Issue Savings Bond on a minimum deposit of £10,000. The current top paying 12 month fixed rate account, from BM Savings, pays a lower rate of 1.85%.
With the September 2014 rate of inflation (CPI) at 1.2%, basic rate taxpayers could net a rate of 1.52% on the National Counties account, giving them a small real return of just over 0.3%.
With a rise in the Bank of England base rate now looking like it’s been pushed back for a good few months, an 8 month fix until 30 June 2015 looks like a good bet.
If interested, I suggest that you open a National Counties 8 month fixed rate account as soon as possible, as best buy accounts are often closed to new subscriptions after a few days.
The slew of recent changes to pensions in the UK has left me wondering if a pension is changing from being an income in later life into a general savings vehicle. A pension pot now seems to be something which you either pass onto your family upon your death and/or help your kids or grandchildren through further education and/or onto the housing ladder.
Now while these are laudable uses, where does it leave the pensioner with regard to income once they give up work?
The new single tier UK State Pension is due to be introduced in 2016. It will offer the equivalent of around £145 a week, as long as you have paid 35 years of National Insurance Contributions.
I often read all sorts of banking scams and tricks that try to relieve you of your cash. While some of these attempts are more obvious, e.g. receiving an email asking to download and complete a form with your details, others are pretty sophisticated.
In fact, the last time that I had a phone call and text from my bank to inform me that, because of a suspicious transaction in the US my debit card had been cancelled, I initially thought it might be some kind of scam. However, as the call progressed I was reassured that it was genuine.
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Nationwide Drops Rate of Loyalty Saver - The rate of interest paid by the Nationwide Loyalty Saver to members of 15 years has dropped to 1.5%. This can be beaten by 1.6% paid by the open-to-all BM Savings Online Extra (Issue 14).
As the vast majority of my air travel has been within Europe, I’ve been covered by EC 261/2004 duty of care regulation. This legislation means that an airline departing from an EU airport or any EU based airline has to reimburse your expenses if your flight is delayed or cancelled and re-route your flight.
This covered us when ash cloud led to the cancellation of our Ryanair flight from Malta to Edinburgh on 2011. I was able to go online and book seats (without additional payment) on the next Malta to Edinburgh flight two days later. Ryanair reimbursed us for 2 nights half board accommodation and a taxi to the airport.
However, when I read about the possible eruption of the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland three weeks before we were due to fly from Edinburgh to Chicago with United Airlines, I thought I’d better check out the situation if there were ash cloud delays.