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A Guide To Alternative Investments

When people think of investments, they generally tend to think of bonds, stocks, and shares. However, there is an increasing number of alternative investments that you may not necessarily have thought of, and they can provide some interesting additional bonuses.

Chocolate
In recent times, a chocolate company created a “chocolate bond.” In 2010, this money allowed them to open more stores and create more jobs. Recently, the investors have been repaid with six boxes of chocolate a year, which in financial terms translates as 6.72 percent interest on the initial investment.

Wine
Another example is a wine company that offered customers a choice- you could either receive 7% income in cash in exchange for your bond or 10% a year in vouchers that could be used to spend on wine instead.

Burrito
An early example of this kind of investment in 2014 was the “Burrito bond” where a Mexican chain restaurant offered an 8 percent yield, raising £2 million in the process.
Equipment leasing
This type of investing is ideal if you have specific product knowledge. For example, a lot of dentists want to use the latest dental technology but may not necessarily have the means to buy it new. Therefore, being able to lease this equipment can provide them with the tools they need, as well as giving the investor means of regular income.

Artwork
When people think of investing in art, they tend to think of private collections of famous paintings. But this doesn’t have to be the case – coins, stamps, memorabilia, and sculptures can all be potential forms of investment.
However, it is important to be cautious. For example, the original Action Comics #1 that features Superman on the cover is very valuable. Conversely, there are a lot of Superman #1 comics out there that would be considerably less valuable, depending on their age and how widely available that particular comic would be. Therefore, it is important to research carefully before buying any art in order to get the best price for it and the most value.

Ethical investment
The term “ethical investment” can be very wide-ranging, as it depends on your personal ideals what is or is not ethical. On a basic level (sometimes referred to as “light green”) it is about investing in companies that do not make money from arms dealing, pornography, tobacco or anything that a person might personally consider exploitative.
“Darker green” investments tend to be stricter in terms of what they will invest in, often with a specific emphasis on community benefits or on a wider global scale. In terms of a return, as with any type, there will be some that provide more than others.

We can help
It can be overwhelming when it comes to deciding what alternative investments to choose. With our experienced team of professionals on hand, we can guide you through the process to help you decide what will be most appropriate for you and your personal circumstances. Contact us today, and we will be happy to go over your options in more detail to find the best investments for you.

How To Save On Energy Bills

Energy is one of the biggest costs for households. Keeping a home warm, running electronic gadgets and other forms of energy usage can be expensive, with costs often going up year on year. Therefore, it helps to know a few tips on how to save on energy bills.
Turn it down
While it may sound obvious, even a slight lowering of the thermostat can make a massive difference, with even one degree lower making an enormous saving year on year. Other examples include switching off appliances that are on standby, spending less time in the shower or using the shower instead of having a bath.
Change suppliers
One of the most effective ways of saving money is changing your supplier. It is not necessarily as complicated as you may think and can result in reduced costs. However, it is important to check if any lower tariffs are temporary or not, regularly checking so that you can always switch and get the best possible deals.
Paying by direct debit
If you are paying with a top-up card or by credit or debit card, you may want to consider setting up a direct debit instead. This method is cheaper than other forms of payment, plus there is the additional benefit of not having to worry about forgetting to pay bills.
Become more energy efficient
There are numerous ways in which you can make your home more energy efficient. Insulation is one of the most effective ways, loft insulation often being particularly useful as a lot of heat escapes through the roof. Other elements can include filling in gaps in walls and doors, as this prevents more heat escaping.

Another way is by updating your boiler and other appliances in your home. New appliances are more energy efficient, as this will allow you to save more money by using less energy, while at the same time having more effective and up to date technology. If you do not want to replace your appliances, check to see if it has an “eco” setting that will allow you to use less energy.

Solar panels are also an example of potentially reducing costs. It is also worth checking online to see if you are entitled to any energy efficiency grants, as this can help financially when it comes to replacing insulation in the loft, installing solar panels and so forth.
We can help
At Larcomes Financial Services, we are dedicated to helping you get more from your money. We can help you look at your costs and find ways to save money and make your budget stretch further. Our motto has always been “Big enough to specialise, small enough to care.”
What this means is that we have the specially trained employees and resources to give you the help you need, while at the same time giving you the customer service that you deserve. If you would like to know more about how Larcomes Financial Services can help you get more from your money, please contact us today.

The Advantages Of Using A Credit Card

People can get nervous about credit cards. While it is true that if used incorrectly people can get into debt if used in the right way they can be very useful. In this article, we are going to look at the various advantages of using a credit card, as well as tips to make sure that you get the most out of them.
Spreading the cost
One of the major advantages of using a credit card is being able to spread the cost, especially if it is at zero percent interest. This means that something that you may not be able to have afforded for a long time becomes more accessible, provided that you pay off what you owe during the interest-free period (this will depend on what the card issuer will let you have, so make sure you shop around before choosing a card.)
Protection
One of the biggest benefits with using a card is protection – for example, if you book a holiday using the card and the provider goes bust then you will get your money back, something that may not happen if you pay in cash or via a debit card.
Rewards
A lot of providers offer rewards such as cashback or air miles. However, it is important to note you only really get the benefit if you pay what you owe, or the interest will be higher than the value of the rewards that you receive.
Could help clear debt
If you have expensive store cards, it may be possible to switch the debt to an interest-free card. While you may have to pay a transfer fee, it is likely that this amount is likely to be less than the interest you are currently paying. Provided you then clear the debt by the end of the interest-free period you could potentially save yourself problems in the long term.
Be credit savvy
It is important to emphasise that used responsibly there are a lot of advantages with using credit. However, it is vital that you do not get caught in a cycle of debt, using one card to pay off another over time, especially if you do not keep up the repayments as this can cause problems to mount up.
As with any purchase, it pays to shop around, compare the various options that are available to you and consider what is most appropriate for your own individual circumstances.
We can help
At Larcomes Financial Services our motto has always been “Big enough to specialise, small enough to care.” We know that it is not always obvious what the right move is when it comes to your finances, so we want to give you the information you need to make the decision that is right for you.

Spring Time Is Financial Planning Time

A lot of people associate spring time with the idea of spring cleaning. This can involve clearing out clutter, making everywhere look nicer and generally getting everything tidied up. However, spring is also the best time to do this with your money, and today we will we show you why spring time should be a financial planning time.
Look at both annual and monthly
Checking both annual and monthly income will make it easier to budget, as you will be able to look at how much is coming in. Equally, you also need to look at what you are spending and where savings can be made.
Papers
One issue people may have, with regard to finance, is what papers to keep and what to throw away. When it comes to documents related to tax, it is recommended you keep hold of them for at least seven years.
Budgeting
One aspect of budgeting is to look at how you spend. For example, if you regularly go out for coffee it may be better to get coffee at home in order to reduce spending on it. If you go to the cinema, it is worth checking the prices of local cinemas, as some will have reduced prices at certain times. This doesn’t mean eliminating treats entirely, but looking at ways to do so without spending as much.
Investments
If you have an investment manager, it is worth sitting down and talking to them about your investments and whether or not they are providing the return that you want from them. It may be that you need to change how you invest in order to reduce risk or cut costs.
Check your bank statements
It may sound obvious, but sometimes it is possible to miss overcharges, fraud, etc. through not properly checking your bank balance. For example, if you have an overdraft it may be possible to switch to a different account and reduce the amount that you are paying in overdraft charges.
Check your credit history
One aspect you may not have considered is your credit history- if a bankruptcy should have been removed from the record and is still on there, then that can negatively affect your credit. Get a check and make sure that any mistakes are corrected.
Have a contingency
As well as budgeting for the day to day expenses, it is worth having some level of buffer for one-offs or unexpected additional expenses. A serious storm could result in roof repairs, or you may need to replace a dishwasher or washing machine. Events such as birthdays and weddings can also add to regular expenses.
We can help
Larcomes Financial Services is a family firm that for years has been helping people get more from their money. If you would like to know more about controlling your finances contact us today, and we will be happy to discuss your individual circumstances in more detail, and see what we can do to help you.

Advice For Setting Up A Joint Account

If you are getting married or have been with a partner for a long time, you may want to consider setting up a joint account. In this article, we are going to look at what you should be aware of and to see if this is right for you, and what would be the best option for you and your partner.

Advantages

As well as being able to avoid continually paying each other back, having a joint account makes it easier to track household finances. This makes it easier to pay bills, rent and keep an eye on expenditure every month.

The account is an effective way of maintaining balance, because if you set aside an agreed combined amount every month, it avoids conflict about who pays what, and it means each partner pays an equal amount. It is also important to remind people that you can have a joint account and still have your own separate savings.

It can also be useful if one partner has a bad credit rating, as you may be able to get a joint account elsewhere.

Disadvantages

Some people may be uncomfortable with a partner knowing how much they earn, and there are risks with sharing the amount of money between two people. A lot of it depends on trust, and it is vital that each partner is responsible with their share of the money. For example, if one partner becomes overdrawn, then both parties in the account are considered responsible.

Setup

There are two ways to do this- you can add a partner to an account you already have, or create a new one. With an already established account, there is the benefit that it is easier to do, as there is something that is already in place. In the latter case, it works pretty much in the same way as establishing something for a single person, in that you need ID and documentation as requested by the provider.

In each case, the provider will ask you to sign a mandate, detailing how the account will be managed. For example, you may wish both partners to co-sign cheques, or alternatively sign them in one name.

As with any service, it is important to be prepared. Get a credit report, so that any mistakes can be corrected. Get reviews and compare the different options available as this will help you to get the best possible deal.

Talk to us

One of the best ways to ensure you get the right option for you and your partner is to discuss what is available to you with a financial expert. The ethos of Larcomes Financial Services has always been “big enough to specialise, small enough to care.”

This means we have the resources to help you, but also the people who can guide you and give you a level of customer service you should expect and deserve. For more information, please contact us today and we will be happy to discuss this with you in more detail.

Tips For Switching Accounts

People are often told that switching bank accounts is the best way to get a good deal. However, customers are often hesitant, and may be missing out on the best deals due to the fact that they have a feeling of loyalty to a particular brand, or may have the opinion that switching could be difficult or inconvenient. However, with the right approach it is possible to find the ideal account and move over to it.

Service

The Current Account Switch Service was set up in 2013 in order to make it easier to change over to different accounts. For example, when the switchover occurs, any standing orders, direct debits and so forth should automatically be part of the transfer.

It is fair to say that when you do switch this will affect your credit rating. However, it will not be that much of a reduction, and with a few sensible steps you will be able to boost it back to a regular level without too much effort in the process. This is why before you do a switch it is important to check that your credit history is up to date, correcting any errors or outdated information that could negatively affect your rating.

It is also a good opportunity to look at your outgoings- for example if there is a magazine you no longer subscribe to, or you are not going to the cinema often enough to justify a monthly pass. It may sound obvious, but when you take a look at the figures it can make a big difference.

Read the small print

As with any product comparison, you need to think carefully about what you are switching to. An initial rate may look attractive, but how long will it last for? Using a rate calculator will allow you to look at the numbers, helping you to decide if the rate is worth the effort to change over to a different bank or lender.

It is also worth checking to see what additional services are included. For example, if you get cashback on purchases, free cinema tickets or insurance then this could be deciding factors. However, it is important to consider the whole picture before making the final decision.

Finally, although it may sound obvious, when you have the made switch make sure that the old account has been cancelled! Inevitable there may be other issues, which although in theory should not happen it is important to check. For example, you want to be certain that any direct debits or standing orders you use to pay rent or phone bills have put in place, to prevent problems later on.

Still unsure?

It is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to choosing the right account. Larcomes Financial Services has the resources and the experienced team available to guide you through the options available to you, tailoring advice to suit your personal and financial circumstances. To find out more, contact us today and we will be happy to discuss you needs in more detail.

Recent Changes To Overdraft Charges

In recent months if you have an overdraft you may have received a letter from your bank about recent changes to your account and how you will be charged. In this article we are going to look at how this could potentially affect you and what steps (if any) you may need to take.

Charges

At present the changes only affect Lloyds and Halifax customers, although as with any change like this it is important for other account holders to talk to the bank regarding any potential issues there.

Essentially the change is that customers will be charged a penny per day for every seven pounds in an overdraft. The figures are said to be the equivalent of 52 per cent APR, more than some credit cards. The reason this has occurred was due to a restructuring, the Lloyds group stating that nine out of ten customers would be better off. Unfortunately, however, for the one out of ten this has resulted in some potential difficulties due to the increase in charges.

Notification

If you are a Lloyds customer you should have received a letter informing you about the changes. At this point there is an opportunity to go over the options available. For example, it may be better to choose a loan or use a credit card for spending.

This can be difficult as some customers (especially older customers) may be hesitant to apply for loans or credit cards. In recent times, there have been some bad press regarding both but this does not have to be the case, sometimes the rates for a loan or a credit card are more affordable and a better option.

Other providers have also reached out to these customers, offering larger interest free overdrafts for people to switch. This is a good habit for people to get into in general as comparing the different accounts available could result in longer term savings. Equally when comparing you should look at loans or credit cards as well. A credit report is also useful as it will allow you to see what is likely to be available.

What to do

Once you know about the increased overdraft fees it is worth discussing the options available with your bank, such as a different account or credit card. They should show you the options available to you and breakdown the rates involved. While they cannot directly advise you can get an idea of what is there. If you need more information there are helplines and services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau that can also listen to any concerns you may have.

Of course, another option and one that we recommend is talking to us! At Larcomes Financial Services there is the benefit of having the resources and experience to help our customers, as well as the advantage of not being specifically tied to a bank or larger organisation, so we can look over your financial situation and help find a solution best suited to your needs.

What Can Affect Your Credit Rating?

If you are looking to apply for a loan, a mortgage or any number of other things your credit rating can be a factor in any decision. But while you may have seen adverts talking about finding out what your credit rating is how could it potentially affect those applications? In this article we are going to look at the factors behind your credit rating and what you can do to improve it.

It’s not just about what you earn

What may surprise you is that your credit rating isn’t solely about the amount you have in the bank or any borrowing you may have done in the past. Other factors can come into play – for example if you are registered to vote this can improve your rating.

That being said missing payments can have an impact- any time you miss card payments will stay on your record for at least three years (this also applies to any mobile phone contracts as well!)

Comparing is good but be careful

While shopping around for the best deal on a card is a good idea you should avoid applying for too many cards at once. The reason for this is that a lender may see this and think you are a potential risk so if you can space out any applications for at least a month.

When checking online for possible deals look before you contact any companies directly. Some will have so called “soft” checks that will allow you to see if you can apply without it having an impact on your rating.

Joint accounts

In some respects, joint accounts can be beneficial to a credit rating but this is not always the case- if one partner has a poor rating then this can negatively impact both people in the partnership. Therefore, it is worth checking before agreeing to any joint accounts.

If you have to end a partnership make sure you contact any credit reference agencies so that you make it clear the link is broken and that your rating is updated.

CCJs

If you can’t keep up repayments then you may have to agree to a County Court Judgement (CCJ) in order to repay your creditors. A CCJ or declared bankruptcy can stay on your record for as long as six years so it is important to see if there are any alternative agreements you can do with a creditor before resorting to this.

Check your rating

Ratings agencies are not perfect and there will be times when mistakes are made. For example, if it has been longer than six years a CCJ should no longer be applicable or if you no longer have a joint account then your partner’s rating shouldn’t affect your own. Getting a credit rating checked will ensure this stays updated.

If you are concerned about your credit rating or are looking for other financial advice and services please contact Larcomes Financial Services today and we will be happy to discuss your circumstances in more detail and find the best solution to suit your needs.

 

Will interest rates go up?

For years now interest rates have been at a historic low. For some people (especially borrowers) this has been beneficial and keeping rates low has meant more access to credit and reduced costs on items such as mortgages. By the same token others have called for rates rises and for savers this period has been especially difficult.

In this article, we will look at whether or not interest rates will go up in the coming years and if so whether or not it will be beneficial in both the economic short and long term.

Change in circumstances

Some analysts (such as Derek Halpenny, the head of global market research at MUFG) have argued that the current low rate was as a response to the Brexit vote and the fear that it could lead to excessive inflation.

Indeed, his argument is that the current weakness of the pound has resulted in more export orders and so the idea that the economy is fragile is an exaggerated claim.

The argument against

Of course, as is often the case there are arguments for and against the rise in interest rates. According to Andrew Goodwin the leading UK economist at Oxford Economics any raise is unlikely to happen before 2019 at least.

His argument is that in order for this to happen there would need to be evidence of stronger growth as well as firmer wage and cost unit pressure. A lot of this also depends on the result of Brexit negotiations (it is arguably not a coincidence that he is not setting a timeframe before the negotiations have been finalised).

Getting a clearer picture

Ultimately the economic picture will remain unclear until after the Brexit negotiations have been finalised. Only then will businesses know for sure what they can expect and therefore the banks will know how confident they are.

If this then means there is more long-term stability post Brexit then an increase in interest rates is likely to reflect that.

In contrast if an agreement can’t be met or businesses do not feel that the deal is satisfactory then there may not be increased confidence in the economy and therefore interest rates will remain low.

What does this mean for you?

Naturally it is easy to switch off and think this is something that only applies to you in theory. However, this can be relevant in a number of different ways, both positive and negative.

If you are currently saving then low interest rates can be challenging as it can be difficult to get a high return on your savings. However, if you are a borrower low interest rates are beneficial because you pay less on what you borrow.

If you are concerned about how this could potentially affect you or would like to know more please contact Larcomes Financial Services today. We can look at your individual financial circumstances and help find investments best suited to your needs. Talk to us today and we will be happy to go over this with you in more detail.

A Guide To Ethical Investments

Increasingly people are not only looking for ways to get a return on their money but they also want to know where it is going. This is both in terms of making a positive difference but also in ensuring that their money is not used in any untoward schemes or in anything that they would deem unethical. There are a number of ethical investment schemes out there and today we will be offering an overview of how to check that what you are investing in is ethical and whether or not you should invest in it.

Criteria

The first thing to look at when considering a company or organisation to invest is their criteria. First of all, there are the positives – they may use your money to help fund renewable energy schemes or healthcare in developing nations. There is also avoiding anything that could potentially be seen as less ethical such as tax avoidance schemes or anything that could damage the environment.

It is also worth considering what your personal criteria I i.e. some people may want to invest in research while others may be uncomfortable if it involves animal experimentation.

Sometimes an ethical investment can be more complicated than it first appears- for example while biofuel is an environmentally friendlier alternative to diesel or petrol some developing countries have set aside crop space to develop the plants for this fuel rather than for food.

Is it all ethical?

Just because a company offers one form of ethical investment it does not necessarily mean that all the companies and projects they fund will also be ethical. As with anything it is important to do your research and to check as much as possible before making a decision (such as getting feedback from previous investors to see their views on both the investment and the company as a whole).

What about the performance?

Of course, while you may want to support a project like renewable energies or new research you also want to be sure that you will get a return. It is important to emphasise that nothing is guaranteed and as with any form of investment it is best to spread the risk and you should never invest more than you would be prepared to lose.

What you can do to reduce the risk is to look at performance tables so that you can gauge for yourself the likelihood of success as this will make it easier to find something that is both ethical but also gives you the best chance of seeing a return.

Talk to us

At Larcomes Financial Services we have the benefit of specialist knowledge, resources and a hands-on customer service approach. We can go over all the options available to you and help develop a portfolio of investments that can be both ethical and spread the risk. For more information please contact us today and we will be happy to discuss your requirements in more detail and help find the right investments for you.