Author Archives: Mark Lucie

How To Encourage Your Kids To Save

Saving is something that you should encourage your kids to do from a young age. Often it can be hard for them to initially grasp the concept. However, with a few tips, it is possible to get them into the habit and help them have a positive long-term relationship with saving and money.

The difference between want and need

This is something that children should learn initially. Necessities include clothes, food, and bills, but equally, this does not mean that expensive clothes or takeaway deliveries are necessary. Knowing the difference can allow children to recognise what is a thing people need and what is a thing they want.

Earning money

Pocket money should be earned through work. This is important, as it makes clear that you get rewarded for what you put in. You should encourage younger children to put money into their piggy bank, and then when children are older, you can encourage them to put money into an account.

Setting a target

It is very likely that a child will have something specific they want to save for. This is good- a thing to aim for makes it easier for them to save. For example, if you have a holiday coming up, then encouraging them to put money aside will mean they will be able to enjoy themselves more spending their own money.

Equally, this is something that you can help them with when it comes to spending. For example, the amount of money spent on stickers or bubble gum could be put aside for a trip to the cinema. Getting them to write down what they spend makes this easier to track (equally, this can be a good habit for adults too!)

It is also possible that you could provide additional incentives, such as a bonus, if they hit a certain target amount.

Talk to children about money

To be fair, for many adults, it can be difficult to talk about money. This is why it helps to demystify what money is and how it works. Guiding children through the process will make it easier for them in later life.

As well as talking to them, it is important to listen. If children have questions, it is important to answer them as best you can without talking down or simplifying it too much.

Set a good example

If you want to encourage children to save, then it helps if you also have a savings account yourself. It is important to demonstrate a good example, so it is not just giving people the theory but also showing that you practise what you preach.

We can help

If you are unsure of how to word a conversation with children about money, we can help. There are also accounts available that can be used to allow your children to save, trust funds, and other options. We have always prided ourselves on offering both the resources to support our clients and the customer service they deserve.

For more information or to discuss your requirements in more detail, please contact us today.

Pension Transfers And Sharing After Divorce

A lot of people have pensions that are tied into joint accounts or are dependent on being part of a wedded partnership. However, this can be complicated by a couple getting divorced. This is why it is worth looking into pension transfers and sharing after divorce to see what options are available and best suited to you and your ex-partner.

Pension sharing

As the name suggests, pension sharing involves the funds being split between the two former partners. The benefit for this is that each individual has their own share, that they are then able to manage their funds independently.

In order to do this, you need to file for a pension sharing order (PSO) with the court, and it will be the court that decides the amount that each partner will receive.

The funds can include company benefits, state benefits, as well as any personal pension schemes. Once the court decides on the value to be transferred from these funds, this can either be paid into an existing scheme or a new one can be created.

The cost of arranging this can be done via legal representatives or through a fixed fee online.

Transfers

An alternative to PSOs is transferring. For example, a former partner may off-set the sale of assets such as a family home. This can be a practical arrangement due to the fact that the partner may need to re-home themselves and their children, or if they live alone, it may be better for them to downsize and move to a smaller property.

Get advice

While on paper, this may sound simple, transferring assets and sharing pensions can involve some complex arrangements. This can be done without legal representation, but this can involve some potential pitfalls.

This is why we recommend talking to us. As well as being able to guide you through the options available to you, we can help you through what can be a difficult and stressful emotional experience.

Our motto has always been “big enough to specialise, small enough to care.” For more information and to discuss your needs in more detail, please contact us today so that we can go over your pension options in more detail.

How To Detox Your Finances

January is often the time of people making resolutions, some more realistic than others. Unfortunately, it can also be a difficult time as the period after Christmas can be a tricky one financially. Fortunately, just like your body, it is possible to find ways to detox your finances.

Work out a budget

This may sound like an obvious thing to do, but it’s also an easy one to slip up on. It’s easy to get tempted by a snack near the counter or an impulse buy because it’s “on sale.”

Working out a budget can also be a good way of making you see what you are spending and help you cut out things you don’t need to spend money on.

Another aspect of this is having an emergency fund. Putting away a small amount per month can help prepare you for anything that may occur in the future (boiler breaking down, car repairs, and so forth). ISAs are also an option, allowing you to save money tax free.

Check your account

Do you know what is coming in or going out of your account? For example, it maybe you signed up for a streaming service, did the free trial, but then forgot to cancel it. It is also worth comparing options available, as it may be that there are better deals on your account elsewhere (the same goes for phone bills, energy costs, etc.).

Look up your credit score

A big factor that can affect you is your credit score. In some cases, it may be that a mistake on the report is negatively affecting your ability to get loans, better rate mortgages, and so forth. Knowing your score will also you to address any issues to help you improve it, such as adding yourself to the electoral roll.

Debt consolidation

Another possible option is debt consolidation, allowing you to reduce your debts to one monthly payment. Depending on the consolidation company you go with, you may also be able to reduce the amount of interest that you pay.

However, this option is not one size fits all- if you take out a consolidation loan, check the period of time you are repaying because this could result in being more expensive even with a lower rate of interest.

Review

Over time, a savings plan that worked in one instance may not be appropriate later on. If you want to get married or have a family, there may be things you need to look at in terms of moving home, new car, and other things that may require savings elsewhere.

It can be as simple as looking at how often you buy coffee in a café or whether you use the gym membership enough to justify spending on it per month, or as big as looking at changing your mortgage or downsizing and moving to a smaller property.

Get advice

At Larcomes Financial Services, we are here to help. We want you to be able to get more from your money. For more information or to discuss your financial situation in more detail, please contact us today to see how we can help you detox your finances.

Advice For Completing Your Self-Assessment Tax Return

Completing your self-assessment tax return can feel like a daunting task. However, it is something that is a process that can be made easier. Here are a few tips to help make completing your self-assessment tax return easier.

Who needs to complete a tax return?

If you are self-employed, do self-employed work in addition to a salaried job or a sole trader, then you will need to do a self-assessment. You may also be required to submit this if you are a higher rate taxpayer and want to apply for tax relief on pension contributions. In order to check whether you need to do this look on the HMRC website.

Deadlines

There are two deadlines for completing your self-assessment. The first is the paper return, which is due on the 31st October (please note that this needs to arrive before this date). If you complete it online, then you have until 31st January.

If you do not fill in your tax return on time, then you will face a £100 fine. It is also important to remember that any payments need to be made before the deadline, as well.

If you have already been registered, you don’t need to do this again, but if not, then you will need to register and get an activation code (this can take up to 10 working days, and you can’t submit online without it).

Paperwork

Before filling out the form, check to make sure you have all the paperwork for the tax year (April to April). This can include payslips, expense repeats, electronic transfer information, and so forth.

Check online

If you have a question about your return, it is recommended you check the HMRC website. Aside from having all the information available, people have reported dissatisfaction with calling the HMRC helpline, so this should be avoided if possible.

Use an accountant

Using an accountant to fill in the tax return can be very useful. While it will cost an additional fee, the amount of money saved in terms of paying less tax can often make the cost worth it.

Create a spreadsheet

Creating processes to record expenses etc. can reduce problems later on. If you have had problems with this in the past, you should learn from this and adapt (there are various programs that can help with this, simplifying the process).

Be prepared

Another recommendation is to be prepared for paying taxes. Having a savings account specifically set aside for a portion of your income can reduce the risk of not paying and creating problems later on.

We can help

It is understandable that people can be nervous when it comes to submitting their forms. If you are worried about aspects of filling in the self-assessment tax return or need advice, we are here to help. At Larcomes Financial Services, we will guide you through this process, making sure that all the necessary details are properly filled in. To find out more or to talk this over with experienced professionals, please contact us today.

10 Practical Ways To Cut Costs

It can be hard to save money. Often, we may spend without realising it. Here are ten practical ways to cut costs, allowing you to enjoy life while saving money in the process.

1. Write it all down

One effective way to reduce costs is to write down what you spend. This covers everything from buying a chocolate bar to your gym membership. This will give you a better idea of how much you spend and what can be cut out.

2. Change your approach

You need to look at your priorities. There are certain things that are necessities, such as paying for rent, food and so forth. However, even then you can take a step back- do you really need to run a car? Can you lift share, walk, or cycle to walk? If you are renting a property, look at the surrounding area to see if there are cheaper properties near you.

3. Reduce takeaways

Takeaway coffee and food may be more convenient, but it can also be a lot more expensive, especially if you are paying to have it delivered. Cutting this out can save you a lot of money as well as being healthier.

4. Go bargain hunting

There are numerous ways to save while shopping- Vouchers while ordering food in restaurants, looking for reduced short life food, and buying items in charity shops can all help you save money.

5. Compare prices

Switching accounts for heating, credit cards, phones, etc. can allow you to reduce costs. Don’t be afraid to see what is available and negotiate for a better deal.

6. Pay in cash

One problem with paying with cards is that you forget that the money is going out of your account. If you have the physical amount in front of you, you are more likely to be more cautious when handing it over.

7. Have a clear out

Selling old toys, trading in games consoles and other items can not only raise money but also removes clutter from your home. Be brutal- if you don’t use it or it’s not personal to you, don’t keep it!

8. Cancel subscriptions

Do you really need that magazine subscription? Do you have a gym membership but only go a couple of times per month? These costs can add up, so it’s worth cancelling them to free up funds.

9. Quit smoking/cut back on alcohol etc

This is not just important in terms of saving money but also can improve your health. There are a number of support methods available to allow you to reduce smoking, while cutting back on alcohol can be as simple as not going out as much or having fewer meals with alcohol. Small steps can make a big difference.

10. Talk to us

At Larcomes Financial Services, we want to help you get the most from your money. Whether it is finding effective ways to invest or reduce costs, we can help. For more information or to discuss your circumstances in more detail, please contact us today.

A Guide To Ethical Investments

Increasingly, people are becoming more aware of how investments work. They are looking for companies to invest in that act in an ethical way. However, some people may be cynical, suggesting that an ethical investment may not result in a higher return. As with any form of investment, it depends on getting the right advice and gauging the right choice for you.

The different types

There are three categories that generally form ethical investments. The first is funds that are specifically geared to remove “sins” such as investing in tobacco, alcohol, the arms industry or anything that might be considered exploitative. The second is companies that are considered to be well-governed and score highly in terms of transparency and social responsibility. Finally, there are impact funds, so-called because they are specifically created to have a positive impact in terms of the benefits they offer the environment or the local community.

An extra benefit

It is often recommended with any form of investment that you have a broad portfolio. A lot of the stocks and bonds that are available to ethical investors may not be found in other portfolios, potentially allowing for better returns that other investors may not have considered.

Your choice

Of course, it is also fair to say that different people will have different standards as to what they consider their moral obligations or what they personally believe in. Therefore, when you are considering investing, you need to think about this.
For example, if you are against animal testing, then you should ask if the company you are looking to buy stocks in, has a policy on this. This will then make it easier to narrow down the options available to you as you select something in line with your own personal moral leaning.

Getting a return

As an investor, while you may have someone who you want to support, it is also about what returns you will receive as well. In effect, you need to balance out your personal choice alongside the numbers regarding what returns you are likely to get.
Ideally, you should be able to narrow down some options. With any portfolio, it is recommended that you keep it reasonably broad. You should have a mix of low, medium and high risk in order to balance out the likelihood of getting a reasonable rate of return.
It is also important to emphasise one crucial rule with investment- only put in an amount that you could conceivably afford to lose. You should not risk your property or saving funds with an investment.

We can help

At Larcomes Financial Services, we are here to guide people through the financial options available to them. If you are interested in investing ethically, we want to help you get the most from what you invest in, while at the same time ensuring that what you choose fits your own personal criteria. To find out more or to discuss your individual requirements in more detail please contact our team today.

10 Tips To Cut Spending

Whether you are trying to save for a house, a new car or are just generally trying to be more careful with money; it can seem like an uphill battle. However, there are a number of ways you can reduce costs and here are 10 tips to cut spending and help you save money.

Write it down

One of the best ways to reduce costs is, to be honest, and write down what you spend money on, everything from toilet rolls to sandwiches. By writing down what you spend, it becomes easier to take a step back and decide what expenses can be cut.

Charity shops and trade-ins

Charity shops and trade-ins are a way of saving money. For example, it is possible to buy cheaper books, artwork and other items from a charity shop. As with any form of shopping, it is worth looking around a number of shops to find bargains.

Another aspect to reduce spending money is trade-ins or selling items online, helping to both save and clear out clutter at the same time.

Compare prices

This applies to bills, phone contracts and big-ticket purchases- price comparison sites can help you to save by seeing the different options are available. However, it is worth checking a number of these sites as some may be more biased to certain providers.

Keep the change

It may seem old-fashioned, but the cliché is true- if you save up change over the year, it can add up.

Clear overdrafts if you can

Overdrafts can be expensive- clearing them can reduce charges over time. However, don’t be tempted to do so with payday loans as these can be very expensive (especially if you don’t pay them back within the allotted timeframe).

Look at transport costs

There are different ways to reduce transport costs- if you go for a night out, see if everyone can club together for the taxi back. Where possible, walk or cycle rather than using public transport or a car. If this isn’t practical (for example where you work is outside the city), then you should look into lift-sharing so that you can collectively reduce costs.

Handmade gifts

Handmade gifts can feel more personal than something store-bought. Also look at how you do it- instead of buying a hamper from a shop, reusing a bag or box and presenting items you’ve made yourself can be more personal (as well as being more environmentally friendly.)

Cut costs

If you aren’t committed to going to the gym, cancel the membership. A monthly cinema card can be good if you go a lot, but if you are only going once a month, it can be more expensive. Be brutal and cut the costs you don’t need.

Energy efficiency

As well as benefiting the environment, using more energy-efficient technology, making sure lights are switched off and ensuring your home is properly insulated will allow you to save money.

Budget with cash

While contactless cards can be more convenient, the danger is you can lose track of when you use it and how much is taken from the card. Setting aside cash can reduce the risk of spending excessively without being aware of it.

For more information on managing your money, contact Larcomes Financial Services today.

What To Be Wary Of When Shopping Online

Shopping online can be more convenient. Increasingly more people want to buy items online. However, while it can be an effective way to get cheaper items delivered directly to you, it is important that you do safely, so here are some tips to help you when shopping online.

Trust your instincts

The old cliché of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” is as applicable online as it is anywhere else. If it is not a trusted source or the feedback from the seller looks suspicious (for example, overly positive reviews with bizarre sentence structure) then go with your gut and don’t use that website.
One thing to look for is websites with “HTTPS” rather than “HTTP” as this will indicate if the website is secure. Also, do not click links on any emails you are sent.

Be careful ordering with your phone

It can be very easy to order items with your phone. However, they tend to be less secure than ordering from a computer as they don’t tend to have the same level of protection software. Be wary of any shortened URLs you don’t recognise and have password protection so that someone cannot easily access your information if your phone is stolen.

Regularly change passwords

Passwords should be changed on a regular basis, as this will allow you to protect your information more securely. Furthermore, using strong passwords (a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters) will reduce the risk of people hacking your device. Updating your browser on a regular basis is important to maintain protection on your device as well. There are also management tools online where you can either generate random passwords or having a single protected sign-in.

Check your credit card statement

If you order items with a credit card online, then it is possible to reclaim money under the Fair Card Billing Act. Unfortunately, it is not possible to do this with cash, cheques, or debit cards, so if you order online using a debit card, then you need to be extra vigilant.
It is also important to check electronic payment platforms to see what their cancellation policy is.

Check the refund/exchange policy

Sometimes when you order something online, it may not be what you want- it is important to keep hold of any receipts or packaging. If you are not sure, check the return, refund and exchange policy of the company before you place an order.
If you don’t receive the items you ordered when you pay with a credit card you can get the charge cancelled.

Report them

If there are any issues and the company refuses to co-operate, then you can report them by contacting an organisation, such as the local financial ombudsman or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

We can help

If you are having issues with buying items online and need advice, you can talk to us. Contact Larcomes Financial Services, and we will be happy to discuss your situation in more detail.

What Is Value For Money?

The term “value for money” comes up a lot. Whether it is in terms of a deal in the supermarket, buying some new furniture or getting insurance, it is important to look beyond the price of something. You should remember that value for money doesn’t always mean the cheapest.

False economy

It is understandable when you are on a budget to look for the cheapest deal. However, this is not always the best option. For example, if you buy cheap bin bags, they are more likely to rip, while because you need to use more non-brand washing up liquid, you don’t tend to save so much.

That being said, non-brand doesn’t always necessarily mean worse. A number of discount supermarkets have seen massive growth in recent years with high quality non-brand food. As with anything, it is about finding the best quality, regardless of the price or brand.

Insurance

Insurance is another example where it is important to be aware of what you are getting. A lot of bank accounts come with free insurance. While this can be an attractive perk, you should check to see what it covers, as you may need more cover than the free insurance provides.

While you may save money in the short term, if you can’t claim when you have to because you didn’t get the right cover when you need it, then what did you really save?

Thinking ahead

There are ways to save money day to day- planning meals ahead of time is one good example. Buying in long term items like noodles and rice and tinned goods can allow you to have food in advance without having to get more in.

Preparation can also help you to avoid extra costs- for example, buying food in advance, rather than buying expensive snacks while going to an event or attending an event can cut a lot of costs, as well as getting public transport rather than expensive car parking charges.

Charity shops

Buying gifts for people can be expensive over time. However, charity shops can provide less expensive gifts while also giving support to good causes. Equally, items like kitchenware, furniture, and other practical items can be bought this way (make sure you check the condition first).

Bargains

Saving money can also mean getting less expensive treats as well. A lot of restaurants have emails you can sign up for that offer discounts, and a quick search can often help you find discount codes online. Price comparison sites are also an effective way to compare the various options available to you.

This equally applies to financial products such as bank accounts, mortgages, credit cards, and loans. With switching now, a lot easier, it is worth shopping around to get the best long-term deals.

We can help

These are just a few of the ways that we recommend getting value for money. If you would like someone to look over your financial situation and offer advice tailored to you, we recommend contacting our specialist team today, who can go over the options available to you and help you get more for your money.

Tips for trading shares online

It can feel intimidating at first when trading shares online. However, with the right approach it is possible to learn the best ways to trade online.

Important

Before you buy any shares, you need to think about your budget. It is vital to ensure that any money you invest with won’t put your home or savings at risk. It is also recommended that you work with an established broker, as this will give you the best chance of getting advice on when to buy and sell.

Options

Shares (as the name suggests) is a part of a company- you can either own these yourself or join with other investors as part of a fund. The latter can be a safer option, as this means you are not dependent on the success of one individual company.

Timing

When you buy or sell shares can vary. Different circumstances can affect the value of shares (sometimes all it can take is someone to say the wrong thing at the time!)

It is recommended that you should invest in shares for around five years, as markets can rise and fall during this time. If you need access to funds during this time, it may be better to have a separate savings account alongside the shares.

It is also recommended that you avoid putting your money into one individual company, for the fact that if this particular company goes bust then you could lose all your investment money.

Making money

There are two ways to make money from your shares- when you sell them and dividends. A dividend is a repayment on the interest your shares earn, either as a one-off or as regular payments. Also, the first £2000 you earn through dividends is tax free, after that your dividends will be taxed depending on what tax band you are in.

Be scam aware

Don’t invest in a share from someone who cold calls you or contacts you through an unsolicited email (these are often referred to as “boiler room” schemes.) You should only invest with a recognised broker or website.

Risk, reward and review

With any investment, generally speaking if you want higher returns, you also have to accept there will be higher risks involved. It is also important to review your investments on a regular basis, looking at the level of performance of your investments in your portfolio.

It is also important to avoid over-reacting when the market changes. People can often be tempted to buy or sell because everyone else is. A good broker should be able to help you gauge the best times to buy and sell in order to maximise the best chance of getting the best returns.

We can help

At Larcomes Financial Services, we have an experienced team and the resources to help guide you through the options available, helping you to learn what investments would be best suited to your particular needs and financial circumstances. For more information, please contact us today.