F1RST Financial Blog

We find ourselves in uncertain times again and the news coming out of Ukraine is heart breaking.

I wanted to write to help explain what the current challenges mean for your investments, how your money is invested and what we should be doing.


Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet with Katie Trowsdale, Head of Multi-Manager Strategies at abrdn (Standard Life), and Jeremy Lawson, Chief Economist and Head of the abrdn Research Institute, at their offices in Bread Street, London. These are the very people that decide where our money is invested and I had them all to myself for a couple of hours . Katie oversees all the MyFolio Portfolios that we recommend and although markets are volatile, I left as confident as ever that abrdn and MyFolio have a robust strategy to navigate these uncertain times.  


Firstly they use a committee of 8 Investment Professionals, containing some of the world’s best economists and analysts, to provide their Strategic Asset Allocation process. They look at where in the world we should be invested and at what level. They take into account political as well as economic and industrial information. In other words, they chose the right mix of investments and where in the global economies some of your money should be invested, as well as the percentage of the portfolio that should be invested there.


This team take the information from the SAA and drill down further. They are made up of 25 Investment Professionals and members of the Global Strategy and ABRDN Research Institute, plus the 34 member strong Multi-Asset and Risk Group. They look at which asset classes to favour over the short term for each fund.


Once each Portfolio knows where to invest and at what level, they will research and find the best funds for that global region or sector. For example, if the SAA/TAA’s brief is for 17.4% to be invested in the UK, the teams will look at a number of funds in the UK to invest in. They will look for diversity to reduce the risk of not having ‘all their eggs in one basket’, like energy or financials etc. The SAA will provide a long term view and be the basis for the initial fund choices. The TAA will act at times of sudden change, like the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Russia/Ukraine conflict.


The last stage is to constantly review and rebalance. Rebalancing is important to keep the Portfolio within it’s risk rating. If a sector does extremely well, they will look to sell some of that asset and rebalance the portfolio accordingly.


Please see above a great video by a YouTuber I follow called Pete Matthews. Pete is a Financial Adviser like me and puts things perfectly in this short video.

As per my previous email, I still feel the best thing to do currently is nothing, as hard as it may be.  I constantly monitor the situation and will update you as and when I feel necessary.  On the second Friday of every month, we have scheduled meetings to look at macro and micro economics to ensure we stay on top of things.  The more informed we all are, the better.



After the low-key Christmas that most of us had last year, many will be looking to reunite with loved ones and celebrate in style this December. But with rising energy prices, Brexit shortages, and pandemic chaos helping to hike up consumer prices, Christmas may be an expensive one.


The Office for National Statistics reports that UK inflation had surged from 3.1% to 4.2% in the 12 months to October.


This is the fastest rate increase in almost a decade, and with so many shoppers rushing to the high street in the lead up to Christmas, it seems inflation may continue to grow. According to a survey by the CBI, retailers experienced a dramatic increase in sales last month, while the UK saw its biggest Black Friday ever. Some estimates predict £9.2bn was spent over the weekend. So should we be worried?

Are interest rate rises ahead?

Those in-the-know predict the Bank of England may soon increase interest rates in an attempt to reduce the impact of inflation.


But if the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that nothing is certain and even the experts can get things wrong! 


Many expected the Bank of England to increase rates back in November, but it postponed making any changes due to concerns over how it may affect unemployment. 


And then we have the sceptics and the naysayers! Not all economists believe an interest rate rise is necessary. How much difference will it actually make? Could it be that the rise in inflation is temporary? 


After all, the pandemic has had us doing a lockdown hokey-cokey for almost two years now. We’ve not long stuck our legs out the front door before we’re told to put them back in again!

This has made it hard for businesses to stay open, consumers to spend, and prices to maintain some stability. 


The UK isn’t the only place to be affected by rising inflation. In November, the US recorded an annual inflation rate of 6.2%, its highest level in 31 years. Parts of Europe are experiencing similar spikes too, though it’s unclear which nations will be brave enough to increase the cost of borrowing. 


So, what does all this uncertainty mean for you this Christmas and in 2022?

Borrowing could become more expensive

If interest rates rise, this could spell bad news for borrowers.


Whether you’re applying for a personal loan or a credit card, the interest rates available to you may be higher following an interest rate rise than they are currently. It can be a good idea to compare several different deals before opening a new line of credit. 


Homeowners on a variable rate mortgage or those nearing the end of a fixed-rate period may see an increase in their mortgage repayments. 


Hopefully, most people will only experience a small change, but there’s no harm in being prepared! 

If you are able to fix, this could give you certainty over your repayments. In some cases, finding a new mortgage deal could leave you better off financially than you are now. 

Give us a call if you need any help or guidance! It’s what we’re here for after all.

Saving could become more rewarding

Many people believe there’s been little incentive to save in recent years, thanks to what feels like an eternity of low interest rates. 


Just a few years ago you couldn’t turn on the TV without seeing national treasure Martin Lewis praising high interest current accounts. Unfortunately, the banks became so frugal that he started telling us to switch energy suppliers instead! Now that good energy deals are few and far between, we can’t help but feel for the man.


Anyway, we digress. Generous current accounts are as rare as hen’s teeth and savings accounts aren’t any better.


If you’ve got cash in the bank, news of a potential interest rate may be music to your ears. 


Could this be the start of something special? We’re hopeful that our savings might work a little harder in 2022, but we won’t hold our breath. 

Investing remains essential for wealth building

If you want to build wealth for the future, investing is essential. A long-term financial plan that’s aligned to your goals is a sure-fire way to secure a comfortable retirement.


Many people have seen their stock portfolios decline in the last few days and some experts predict that uncertainty surrounding the new Omicron variant is responsible. But we’ve seen fluctuations like this many times before (remember the start of the pandemic?!) and it’s rarely a cause for concern. 


Most stocks will recover, and some will continue to go from strength to strength. 


Unless you need the money in the near future, step away from your laptop, and focus on having a good Christmas. At the very least, we’re hopeful it’s better than the last one! 

Welcome to our latest issue. Inside, we look at a number of different topics to help you accomplish what matters most to you and your family as the festive period approaches.

In these uncertain times, it can help to focus on the things you can control. And working out what your moneys doing for you now and where it might come from in the future can give you real peace of mind.On page 6, as another year rapidly draws to a close, many of us may already be starting to think about what resolutions we can make to improve our financial health in 2021. And even though we may resolve to improve our finances, it’s knowing where to begin that’s key.

For the first time in over a decade, the point at which people can claim a State Pension (the ‘State Pension Age’) is simple. If you have reached your 66th birthday, you can claim it. Otherwise you cannot. Men and women born between 6 October 1954 and 5 April 1960 start receiving their pension on their 66th birthday. For those born after that, there will be a phased increase in State Pension age to age 67 in 2028, and eventually age 68 from 2037. Turn to page 3 to find out more.

There is no easy way to say it – anticipating one’s death is an uncomfortable topic. Yet it is often worth pushing past the initial discomfort to pursue the potential rewards of effective wealth transfer planning. On page 4 we consider the three places your assets can go at your death: to your family and friends, to charity or to the government in the form of taxes.

At the time of publishing this issue the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was due to end on October 31, but has been extended for a month throughout November as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced England is moving into a second lockdown period. In order to reflect the extension of the furlough scheme for employed workers, Mr Johnson also announced self-employed workers will be able to claim government support worth 80% of trading profits for November.

A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2.

Your life, your money, your plan

Whatever stage of life you’re at, we can guide you through the opportunities and challenges you may face. We hope you enjoy this issue, and wish you pleasant reading.

Welcome to our latest issue. As the world continues to work out how to live with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many will agree that the new normal needs new thinking.

The pandemic has unleashed changes that seemed unthinkable only six months ago. Along with the health, safety and well-being of family, friends and loved ones, the new normal has also highlighted the need for financial guidance and support during this turbulent period.

Saving into a pension is one of the most tax-efficient ways to save for your retirement. Not only do pensions enable you to grow your retirement savings largely free of tax, but they also provide tax relief on the contributions you make. On page 10, we look at the various pension allowances that you need to be aware of and help you understand how to make the most of them.

While the number of couples divorcing has decreased in recent years, the cohort of couples deciding to split in later life is on the rise. Splitting with a spouse in your forties, fifties or even later can bring with it many complications. What’s the reason for the boom in so-called ‘silver splitters’? Turn to page 9 to find out.

Giving up the 9-to-5 doesn’t necessarily mean stopping work. On page 3, we explain why many people are now considering staggered or flexible working. It can suit some individuals who have caring responsibilities or health issues, or those thinking about retiring in the next few years.

We are living in extraordinary times right now, in the grip of a global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Families are becoming more open about their finances, with the COVID-19 crisis highlighting the need to discuss Wills and inheritance. Read the article on page 6.

A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and if you require any further help or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us – we’re here to help and support you and your family.

Welcome to our latest issue. A return to how life was at the start of 2020 is some way off. Even now that lockdown restrictions are starting to be eased, coronavirus (COVID-19) will continue to affect our lives in many ways.

Whether you have earned your wealth, inherited it or made shrewd investments, you will want to ensure that as little of it as possible ends up in the hands of the taxman and that it can be enjoyed by you, your family and your intended beneficiaries. On page 10, we look at why, without an appropriate estate plan, your family may end up spending a substantial amount of time and money battling over your assets if you pass away.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the global economy. Around the world, economic activity has dried up. Fewer consumers are buying and fewer companies are investing. But if you take the view that inflation will start to go up in the long term, on page 6 we look at why it is worth considering whether your savings and investments could be affected. After all, you need your investments, and the income from them, to keep pace with inflation to maintain the value of your buying power.

There are lots of variables in retirement: how long people will live for, the costs of goods and services they will need, interest rates available on their accumulated savings, and so on. But once you have retired, investing is anything but straightforward. On page 4. we discuss how to avoid having insufficient income to pay your projected retirement expenses.

Sharper focus on money

The coronavirus crisis has drastically changed all aspects of life as we know it, but it has also brought a sharper focus on money, particularly on how prepared we are to weather unexpected financial events. We hope you find this issue useful, and if you require any further help or guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2

Welcome to our latest issue. It has been a very challenging time for many of our clients, their families, their employees and the wider business community.

During this difficult time, we hope youre staying safe. The ongoing news of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and how it is affecting everyone is a huge concern for us all. Understandably, people are worried about the general economic outlook and their own personal finances.

The Government’s actions to help businesses and households manage the short-term economic disruption, such as interest rate cuts and rescue packages, have been positively received, but the intended consequences are yet to materialise.

The Government has created new legal powers in the COVID-19 Bill, enabling it to offer whatever further financial support it thinks necessary to support businesses. On 17 March, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced an unprecedented package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses, making available an initial £330 billion of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of the country’s GDP.

This was on top of a series of measures announced at Budget 2020. The Government announced £30 billion of additional support for public services, individuals and businesses experiencing financial difficulties because of COVID-19, including a new £5 billion COVID-19 Response Fund to provide any extra resources needed by the NHS and other public services to tackle the virus.

During these challenging times, there has also been an increase in the number of fraudulent scams. Individuals are at increased risk of being exposed to financial scams – including those involving phishing emails and cold calls – in an attempt to obtain personal or sensitive information. Be extra vigilant and do not respond to any correspondence which you are unsure about – letters, emails, phone calls, text messages, etc.

A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2.

Harnessing our expertise to meet your needs

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, inside this issue, we look at a number of areas to consider during this difficult time. If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us

Welcome to our latest edition. At the time of writing this issue, Sajid Javid had resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer with less than a month to go until Budget Day. His replacement, Rishi Sunak, will deliver the Budget on 11 March 2020. In our next issue, we’ll look at the key announcements and how they could affect your finances.

Some of the questions our clients almost always ask us are: ‘Will I be able to retire when I want to? Will I run out of money? How can I guarantee the kind of retirement I want?’ Worryingly, it’s been well documented that many Britons aren’t saving enough in their pension for their retirement. On page 08, figures published by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in September 2019 show that the annual average contributions that every individual makes decreased in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17. We look at what you need to consider when saving for retirement.

The end of the 2019/20 tax year is fast approaching, and there are a number of valuable allowances and reliefs that will be lost if they are not used before the deadline. These opportunities include, but are not limited to, four important areas of tax planning that should be considered. On page 03, we’ve summarised these allowances and suggest that if appropriate to your particular situation, these areas should be reviewed before 5 April 2020.

Are you worried about leaving an inheritance to your loved ones and then having them pay tax on your legacy? No one likes to think about a time when they won’t be here, but unfortunately the reality is that some people aren’t prepared financially. Estates that pass on to a spouse, registered civil partner or charities are exempt from Inheritance Tax (IHT), even if the value of such estates is higher than the threshold limits. Estates that pass on to anyone else, including siblings, children and grandchildren, attract IHT. Turn to page 7.

A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2.

An understanding of your financial needs and aspirations

We hope you enjoy this issue. Whether you’re saving for the future, enjoying your retirement or funding care in later life, if you have any further requirements, please contact us – we look forward to hearing from you.

Welcome to our first edition for 2020. Inside this issue, we feature articles covering a number of different topics to help you successfully grow and protect your wealth.

Whether it’s stopping smoking, losing weight, eating more healthily or getting fitter, most of us have probably made at least one New Year’s resolution, but how many of us will actually go on to achieve it? We all have different financial goals and aspirations in life, yet these goals can often seem out of reach. On page 4, if your New Year’s resolutions include giving your financial plans an overhaul, we’ve provided our financial planning tips to help you create a robust financial plan for 2020 and beyond.

Estate planning is an important part of wealth management, no matter how much wealth you have built up. It’s the process of making a plan for how your assets will be distributed upon your death or incapacitation. On page 8, we consider why having an effective estate plan in place will not only help to ensure that those you care about the most will be taken care of when you’re no longer around, but it can also help minimise Inheritance Tax (IHT) liabilities and ensure that assets are transferred in an orderly manner.

It’s a dream for many that after years of hard work, it’s finally time to travel to far-off lands and enjoy retirement without worrying about finances. With milder winters, warmer summers and the potential to get more from your pension pot, it’s not surprising that some people decide to retire abroad. On page 12, read about how, with some planning beforehand, the dream of retiring abroad can become a reality. A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2.

Financial planning advice that is tailored to your needs

Everyone has unique goals in life, and with professional financial advice and guidance tailored to your needs, we can help you get there. The start of a new year is the perfect time to discuss your financial plans. Please contact us – we look forward to hearing from you.

Welcome to our latest edition. Inside this issue, we look at a number of the topical financial planning stories making the news agenda.

Creating and maintaining the right investment strategy plays a vital role in securing your financial future. But we live in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, and ‘bad news sells’. The investment world can be unpredictable, and investors currently have plenty of bad news to process, with a plethora of events making the daily and even hourly news headlines – from the US-China trade conflict and oil price volatility, to Britain's exit from the European Union. On page 6, we consider why it’s important to stay positive and focus on your investment goals.

Once we enter January, the end of the 2019/20 tax year will be just over three months away on 5 April. As this date approaches, the window of opportunity reduces if you want to make the most of valuable allowances, reliefs and exemptions that could help reduce your tax bill and make sure your finances stay tax efficient. Read the full article on page 4.

On 3 October, campaigners lost a significant legal battle against the Government's handling of the rise in women’s State Pension age. The retirement age for women has increased from 60 to 65, in line with men, and will go up to 66 by 2020, and to 67 by 2028. Nearly four million women have been affected by these changes. On page 8, we consider the impact of the High Court's decision.

Also inside this issue, we look at whether some people are ‘sleepwalking’ into retirement and how much you will need to save to afford a comfortable retirement. We assess, too, how the financial implications of divorce, added to the emotional upheaval, can be difficult to deal with. A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2.

Welcome to the latest issue. At the time of writing, the UK Government said it is ‘ready and willing’ to do a deal to leave the EU if new terms are negotiated with Brussels. But the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has vowed the UK will leave the EU ‘come what may’ by 31 October – the date the UK must depart if no deal has been reached.

Even though we don’t definitively know what the impact of Brexit will be on both the UK’s and other countries’ economies, it doesn’t mean this is necessarily a bad time to invest internationally. Any well-run investment portfolio should include exposure to companies from around the world. This gives investors access to a greater range of opportunities and allows portfolios to be insulated from any shocks that could affect individual economies.

Saving for retirement is one of our greatest financial priorities, especially as life expectancy is growing and retirements are likely to last longer. It may be the case that you want to take the reins and have more control of your pension pot. Turn to page 6 to see how, for appropriate investors, one option to consider is a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP).

Nobody wants to worry about how they’ll pay the bills if they become sick or injured and can’t work. But illness or injury can strike at any time and can lead to serious financial trouble. On page 12, we look at the latest government figures that report the dramatic increase in the likelihood of long-term sickness absence when we age, leading to an employment absence of four weeks or more.

Also inside this issue, we look at how to spot the warning signs if you’re approached by a pensions scammer; consider the winners and losers under the new State Pension; and if you have accumulated a number of pension pots over the years from different employers, why consolidating them could be appropriate. A full list of the articles featured in this issue appears on page 2.

We hope you enjoy this issue. To discuss any aspects of building, growing and protecting your future financial plans, please contact us – we look forward to hearing from you.
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