New State Pension – winner or loser?

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The new State Pension (nSP) will be implemented at a maximum flat rate of £155.65 per week in 2016/7. This is good news for some, not so good for others.

Women and the nSP

I am a woman however this does not really affect my State Pension, largely because I have been continually employed since I left university and because I still have a few (we will gloss over exactly how many) years before I reach State Pension age (SPa).

Regulatory fees: To get change we must focus on the right target

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I am compelled to address the thorny issue of regulatory fees.

The bills received recently by Sense members, and of course those of all other advisers, have risen dramatically; the largest increase we have seen is an eye watering 300%.

We all know that the current system is unsustainable. The FSCS levy, for advisers with pension permissions, has risen three fold compared to last year and it is already warning that it may breach the £100 million levy cap on intermediaries.

What the dividend tax means for you and your clients

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Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few weeks you’ll probably have heard about the changes to dividend tax.

But do you know how it’s going to affect you and your clients?

If I’m wrong, and you haven’t heard about it, don’t beat yourself up, the Government hid it well in the Summer Budget.

So what is it all about?

Putting a stop to pension rip offs – and how you should help

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The Work and Pensions Committee, which I chair, has focused its first inquiry of this parliament on the pensions industry. The Committee is investigating the guidance and advice on offer to people attempting to navigate their way through the new system of pension freedoms introduced in April this year.

We are currently taking evidence on whether people are adequately supported in making good, informed decisions about their retirement savings under this new regime.

All too often under the previous system, in which savers needed to purchase an annuity on their pension pot, shocking reports emerged of how savers were open to being ripped off when trying to access their money. This isn’t just a recent claim; trust in pensions (and, indeed, the wider financial services industry), has been eroded over many years.

My pension predictions, how did I do?

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In the run-up to the Summer Budget, the good people at Sense Network asked me for my thoughts  on pension policy. So, obediently, I came up with six predictions on what George Osborne could have in store for pensions on 8 July and beyond.

Sense Network has now come back and asked: so Rachel, how many did you get right?

Now, this is alarming. As a pension pundit you get used to sprouting your opinion on where the whole pension mess is going. But you are less likely to be pulled up a couple of months later and asked to revisit what you said. It’s like getting your homework marked in public. But here goes. This is how I did.

Is allowing people to sell their annuity a good idea?

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Whilst the rest of us were enjoying our Turkey Dinner, Steve Webb, the Pensions Minister, spent his Christmas thinking about, um, well, pensions. Specifically, following the Treasury’s move to give people from next April the ability to use their pension funds how they see fit, Webb is keen to explore what can be done to help the five million people who already are receiving an income stream from a money purchase annuity.

And all that musing led to a new initiative. To let those who already have an annuity sell it on. Trade it in second hand. The prospective buyer will pay the annuitant a lump sum, and in exchange will receive each annuity payment until the annuitant dies.

Retirement – Five things that were important in 2014 – and five to look out for in 2015

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As one year draws to a close and a new one begins, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the events that have shaped retirement advice in the last 12 months and cast an eye forward to what will be affecting your business in 2015.

There’s plenty to choose from so here are five key points from 2014.

  • FCA’s thematic review of annuities – this found the annuity market wasn’t working well for consumers with 80% of those who bought an annuity better off if they’d gone for an open market option. With the findings triggering a market study to ensure consumers get a better deal, we’re likely to see more transparency introduced around annuity sales.

Top Ten Words That Defined 2014 for Investors

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The investment story of 2014 is a complex tale dominated by global politics.  If ten words alone can capture the essence of a whole year then the list below might be good candidates.

1.)    GREXIT

When people doubt the future of the Euro they tend to start their argument with Greece.  A “GR-eek EXIT” from the monetary union could be the little rip that spreads to destroy the whole 18-member tapestry.  That’s why a small country’s politics has shifted far bigger markets this year.  When the Greeks wobble, the Eurozone panics.

2.)    ABENOMICS

In 2012 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe came, saw, and seemed to be conquering Japan’s deflation problem. 

What next for Steve Webb?

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Steve Webb has been in the role since the start of this parliament. Having served as Minister of State for Pensions (to afford him the full title) for such a sustained period, Webb has brought the kind of continuity and stability which is rarely seen at the DWP.

He is generally popular in the industry and has been sympathetic to the technical complexity of the sector, whilst also retaining the necessary focus on the electorate and working hard to engage the public in pension saving.

The right to guidance

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There is an old joke that a camel is simply a horse designed by a committee. As the various stakeholders manoeuvre and jostle for positions on the Government’s Committee to design an appropriate at retirement service, I really do hope that the client’s needs are placed quite clearly at the centre of what emerges.

But I’m worried. The insurers seem to be split on whether or not it is possible for them to deliver a truly impartial service. Not surprisingly, the provider with the largest pension book, the Pru, want to play a role. Presumably, so that they can point maturities at their in house sales force: or am I being too cynical?