New Years Resolutions

Around 50% of us make New Year’s Resolutions and “sort the finances out” must be one of the most popular: but that’s a little vague – it’s more a wish than a firm commitment to take action.

Looking at the January appointments we’ve had with new and existing clients, here are the topics that we’ve discussed most often. If you’re determined to sort out your finances, these may give you some food for thought.

1. Sort out the mortgage

The mortgage is the biggest monthly expense for the vast majority of people, and making sure that the rate you’re paying is competitive is basic common sense. Many people are paying a higher rate than they need to and half an hour with a financial planner or independent mortgage broker can be time very well spent. Yes, there are costs involved in moving your mortgage, but these can often be outweighed by the savings to be made.

2. Sort out our life cover

This is an absolute priority, especially if you have children. Many people don’t know the answer to questions like ‘how much life cover do I need?’ ‘How much do I have?’ ‘Does it include critical illness cover?’ No-one likes to think about the possibility of being seriously ill or dying, and therefore we tend to neglect our protection policies. Life cover can be surprisingly inexpensive: and even if you do have cover in place, make sure you have it checked on a regular basis. In many cases the cost of protection is continuing to fall and it may be possible to replace old policies and increase the amount of protection you have, without increasing your premiums.

3. Start saving for the children

However much you’ve just spent on Christmas presents, your children are going to cost you a lot more in the future. Whether it’s university tuition fees, a first car, your daughter’s wedding or the deposit on a house, the numbers are only going to go one way. Even if you only save a small amount, doing it on a regular basis over a long period can make a significant difference – and with the ability to save tax efficiently through an ISA, at least the taxman will be on your side.

4. Start saving for ourselves

What’s true for the children is equally true for yourself; if there’s a specific savings target you have in mind, or whether you simply need to save for the proverbial ‘rainy day,’ the earlier you start to save the easier it is to achieve your goal.

5. Sort out my pensions from previous employment

Many people have pensions left over from previous jobs, and despite various Government initiatives aimed at simplifying the system they still don’t have an accurate idea of how much is in their pension ‘pot.’ Good pension planning is impossible without knowing the position you’re starting from, so it’s a sensible idea to talk to a financial planner and find out the position with any old pension policies. For example, can they can be brought together and simplified?

6. It’s time I understood the company pension scheme

Just as importantly, far too many people don’t understand their existing company pension scheme. Is it final salary? Money purchase? Eightieths? Sixtieths? Can I make additional contributions? Buy extra years? Again, half an hour with a knowledgeable financial planner will be time well spent. He’ll be able to summarise the main benefits of the scheme for you, tell you the sort of pension you’re likely to receive and advise you of the best course of action if you want to improve your pension benefits.

7. Investigate Inheritance Tax and Long Term Care

If it’s the case that your parents are elderly, then it may be worth thinking about Long Term Care planning. Similarly if their – or your – estate is likely to be subject to Inheritance Tax, then action taken now could pay significant dividends in the future. Again, a financial planner will be able to tell you what’s possible, and the steps that could be taken now to prevent an unpleasant surprise in the future.

8. Look at Private Medical insurance

Many people look at the option of private medical insurance. This may be an investment worth making, particularly if you run your own business and would need treatment at a time to suit you.

9. We need to sort out the partnership insurance

Many businesses are run as a partnership (whether it’s a straightforward partnership or through equal shares in a limited company). The death or serious illness of one of the partners could have catastrophic consequences for the business – and serious implications for the other partner. And yet very few businesses have addressed the simple question of partnership assurance. Your financial planner will be able to explain the basic rules to you and give you an idea of what protection might cost: you may well be pleasantly surprised!

10. We need to make a will

Last – but by no means least – make sure that you have an up to date will. The consequences of dying ‘intestate’ (that is, without a will) can be severe, and with a simple will being relatively inexpensive it’s sensible to make sure that this area of your financial planning is kept up to date.

So there’s plenty to think about… If you would like to discuss any of the above points – or any other aspect of your financial planning – then as always, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01753 668831 or

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The New Help to Buy ISA – Windsor

HotelsoncoinsDuring the 2015 Budget announcement, the Chancellor, George Osborne revealed a new type of ISA, to be made available to the public in the Autumn of this year. The Help to Buy ISA is sure to be of interest to young people in particular, or to parents with children who are currently in the process of searching for their first home. So, just what is a Help to Buy ISA and how exactly do they work?

Like a regular Cash ISA, the Help to Buy ISA is a relatively short-term savings vehicle with a few unique features. Firstly, as well as earning interest on the ISA, at a rate set by the provider, the holders of Help to Buy ISAs will also receive a contribution from the government. This contribution is set at 25%, to a maximum of £3,000. To receive the maximum government contribution, therefore, individuals will need to save £12,000 into their Help to Buy ISA to reach a total savings amount of £15,000.

The other unique feature is that the Help to Buy ISA savings can then only be used as a deposit on a first home, which is going to be the main residence of the account holder. Because of this tight control, the government’s 25% contribution will only be added to the account at the point it is converted into a deposit.

Other features

There are other controls around the Help to Buy ISA that it is worth taking note of for those planning to use them for themselves or their family. Although the monthly contribution to the accounts is capped at £200 per month, savers will be able to boost their account with a £1,000 deposit when they open it. This measure has been introduced to allow people to save for the £1,000 figure now, with one eye on the account’s introduction in the Autumn.

For anyone planning on taking advantage of this though, be aware: if you contribute to an existing Cash ISA, or set up a new one after April 5th 2015 but before the introduction of the Help to Buy ISA, you will need to wait until April 2016 to open your Help to Buy ISA account. This is because the Help to Buy ISA is classed as a Cash ISA, and tight rules around Cash ISAs only allow you to contribute to one account per tax year.

Following their introduction, it is envisioned that the Help to Buy ISA will be available for four years, to anyone aged 16 or over. For savers who open their account during that period, there is no proposed limit on the amount of time they can save into them, nor on the timeframe for exchanging the accounts for a deposit and ‘cashing in’ the government contribution. The accounts are limited to one per person, rather than one per home, so a couple can save double the deposit and receive double the contribution. The savings can be used to purchase a home worth up to £250,000 or up to £450,000 when purchasing in London.

If you have any questions please call me on 01753 668831 or email




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Pension Drawdown Freedom – Windsor

JAR_PENSION1-e1409224432636The new pension freedoms are great news for savers, with more flexibility and options for retirement now available. However, the freedoms also come with a level of risk, particularly for that first wave of savers looking to exercise their new rights in the next twelve months or so.

The main recommendation for savers is to seek independent financial advice. An adviser will be able to talk you through your options and ensure you get value for money. Whilst you weigh up your decision though, here are four more things to add to your checklist and consider carefully alongside any decision you make about how you’ll receive your pension income.

Make sure you factor in, but don’t overestimate, your state pension

It is important to remember that, alongside your private pension savings, you will also probably benefit from a state pension in your retirement. Where once it might have been tempting to rely on the state pension, now it is more readily expected that your personal savings will be your main source of income in retirement and the state pension a nice ‘bonus’.

With this as your model, it’s important to remember the income the state pension will give you when planning for your retirement, but at least equally important to not overestimate the contribution the state will make. Factor a realistic figure into your plans, alongside the income your personal pension will generate.

Don’t underestimate your lifespan

It is very common for retirees to underestimate their own lifespan and, by extension, the amount of money they will need throughout their entire retirement. Whilst it is, of course, a difficult factor to put any sort of prediction on, it is vital that you plan for a long and happy retirement, rather than risk trying to ‘get away’ with having less capital available to you. When planning your retirement income, make sure you’re planning for the long term!

Consider tax carefully

If you are looking at the new pension freedoms with some eagerness then don’t forget: whilst the taxation implications have been reduced, they have not been eradicated entirely.

After the first 25% tax free lump sum, withdrawals from your pension will be charged at your normal rate of income tax. If you are still earning an income, or if you make sizeable withdrawals in a tax year, then this could mean you enter the upper tax bracket.

Of course, if what you are planning for your pension income requires this level of withdrawal, then it may well be worth that level of taxation, but take care and make sure you have planned for, and are aware of, the taxation implications that your actions will create.

Work out what you want to do with your money, rather than just trying to get the highest amount

Perhaps the most important point of all! Whilst money is important to each of us, ultimately it is merely an enabler. There is no better aid to a happy retirement than clearly planning how you want to spend your money: the things you want to buy, the experiences you want to have, the family you want to help.

Once you have planned what you want to do with your retirement, money decisions become much easier. Will accessing your pension through the new pension freedom arrangements help you get to where you want to go in your retirement? More so than any monetary factors, this is arguably the most important question for retirees to attempt to answer.

If you have any questions please call me on 01753 668831 or email




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Pensions vs ISA’s – Windsor


Many of our clients will be aware of the tax advantages that can come from using an ISA or a pension to save for your future. If you are not currently a client however, or are unfamiliar with the tax benefits available, then it is worth briefly recapping just what you could be missing out on!

Both pensions and ISAs offer various ways to reduce the amount you pay in tax. Though there are many different types of pension – and two different types of ISA – the main difference between the two is broadly that, with a pension, you are typically locked in to saving for longer, whilst with an ISA you could access your money whenever you wanted to, though this may affect the returns you generate.

Deciding on which one is right for you or whether actually, as many clients do, that you would like to pursue both options, is a matter for each individual’s financial planning. If you are saving for an income in retirement, for example, then typically a pension would normally be appropriate. If you are perhaps planning on a large purchase in your 50s then it could be that an ISA, along with other more sophisticated financial planning strategies, can help you to achieve that.

The tax benefits of both savings options can be significant and are worth considering when deciding on your financial plan. ISAs present the promise that, in most cases, you pay nothing on any income you withdraw from your ISA account. The money you put in will more than likely have been subject to income tax already, so rather than taxing the money twice, ISAs allow you to report a gain, without incurring another tax bill. Depending on how and when the money is invested, and how long it is invested for, the gains from ISAs can potentially be sizeable, so the fact that there is no tax to pay can form significant extra income.

Pensions, meanwhile, save on tax at source. By paying in to a pension, you do not need to pay income tax on the sum submitted to your pension savings, as you do with the rest of your income. When you retire and gain access to your pension, you can take 25% of it tax free and then pay a rate of income tax on anything else you withdraw from your pension pot. If this amount lands you in a lower tax band than you had when you were working, then you could make a further tax saving here.

When it comes to deciding on how to leave your inheritance too, there is also a decision to make on how you save and pass on your wealth. More pensions than ever will now avoid the so-called ‘death tax’, which saw some pensions taxed at 55% before they were passed on to beneficiaries. This potentially makes pensions a very good option for passing on wealth, as ISAs form part of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes, whilst pensions do not. If your estate is worth more than £325,000 on death, anything above this amount is taxed at 40%.

As you can probably tell from the above, careful individual financial planning can really help to make sense of when ISAs and pensions can be most beneficial for you and your family. There’s little doubt, though, that as part of a properly conceived financial plan, both could help to provide a real boost to your savings, helping you out in both the short, medium and long term.


Thanks for reading!

Giles Warren

tel. 01753 668831

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Property Prices Update – Windsor

House Logo Child drawingGreater caution appears to be being exercised across the UK housing market as house price momentum slowed to the same level it was 16 months ago, according to the latest Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Residential Market Survey. Nationally, new buyer demand slipped for the third consecutive month and in London, caution took a particular toll, with prospective new buyer demand seeing its fifth consecutive monthly decline – a trend not seen since April 2012.

Meanwhile, stock coming onto the market remained virtually unchanged in September (a net balance of -1%), which led to a number of surveyors reporting a ‘return to more sensible prices’, as properties staying on the market for longer were now beginning to receive offers below asking price.

Interestingly, and likely in response to political rhetoric around Mansion Tax, the survey showed a drop in 12 month member price expectations for larger properties (three and four or more bedrooms), which have fallen since the start of the year to 2.2% (down from 3.8% at the start of the year) for three bedroom properties and 2.0% for four or more bedroom properties (down from 3.5% at the start of the year).

At a national level, the slowdown in buyer activity stands in contrast to the lettings market, where demand has continued to grow solidly across the majority of the UK, despite new instructions to let not keeping pace with the rise in tenant demand.

However, despite market conditions, surveyor expectations for price growth over the coming three months remain positive, with only surveyors in London expecting to see values decrease and prices across the rest of the UK still expected to rise by an average 2.1% over the year.

Demand and supply are looking a little more balanced, which is removing some of the upward pressure in prices, particularly in London. Part of this is down to the Bank of England becoming more vocal about the risks, with affordability, new mortgage rules and the expectations of higher interest rates all playing their part. Ideally, more supply should be coming onto the market, but with interest rates still at historically low levels and long term house price expectations positive, households are not under any real economic pressure to sell. RICS commented that the outlook for 2015 was expected to look significantly more subdued than it has in 2014.

Sources: ( Resdidential Market Report: 2014/10/09)

We can help with your Buy to Let enquiries and can offer you a free rental yield calculator to check the rental yield of the property you are interested in.  Call us for more information.

Giles Warren

tel: 01753 626866

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Buildings & Contents insurance on flood plain – Windsor

headache-160wMy house is on the Flood Plain in Windsor and I thought I would ring around to get some comparisons for Buildings and Contents insurance.  In many cases it is difficult to get Home and Contents Insurance if you are on the Flood Plan,  or if you can its often rated with higher premiums.

I recently found a company who have reduced my monthly premiums from £78.08 per month to £52.73 per month on a like for like basis.  This is a saving of £25.35 per month or a 32% reduction!

If you would like a quote please call me on  01753 626866 or fill in the form below.



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Understanding Active vs Passive Strategies – Windsor

Question markThe debate about whether a passive or an active investment strategy produces a better return for investors is one that has rumbled amongst financial planners for as long as passive strategies have been in existence. For you as a client, the method favoured by your adviser can have a major impact on your investment experience, so understanding  the two different approaches is important.

An active strategy is one in which the investor – possibly a fund manager or other investment professional – will make investment choices on a regular basis, buying or selling holdings when they think it is necessary, often when they believe they can make a peak profit. An active strategy is highly involved and requires constant management.

A passive strategy meanwhile is one which requires hardly any trading whatsoever. Instead, money is invested into funds linked to indexes, such as the FTSE 100, by way of just one of many possible examples. Relying on the market to make your gain, passive investing is typically seen as a longer term strategy and, although it may sound easier than active from a management point of view, there is still a lot to do in terms of selecting the right funds and creating a well-balanced portfolio of asset classes that meet client’s needs.

On the active side, proponents claim that such a strategy is the only way to generate better-than-average returns; the only way to ‘beat the market’. After all, passive strategies, though divested across indexes and asset classes, are by their very design market-linked. If the index your passive strategy invests in goes up, so will your investments, with the negative being true if the index falls. Your investment may never outperform the market but it will also never lose more than the market as a whole.

Passive proponents, meanwhile, point out that active investment strategies typically cost more in fees, with these fees potentially impacting on the ability of the strategy to produce a better return. Those who favour passive investments also point out the increased volatility of active strategies, stemming from the higher frequency of investment movements and the timing of those movements, which also produce the potential for market-beating gains.

Here at Giles Warren Financial we review both of our Active and Passive strategies to ensure our clients are getting a good return on their money.  For more information please contact me directly on 01753 668831, visit our website email or fill in the form below.



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Are you giving the Tax man lots of money?

TAX-200w-roundedAlthough, 38% of the nation thinks they’d be confident in sorting out their tax planning without help of professional advice,’s research shows that three out of four (77%) Brits admit they haven’t done anything in the past 12 months to cut their individual tax waste figure, up from 68% last year. 

UK taxpayers’ tax wastage 2014 – the key stats:

£2.9 billion in pension tax relief waste

  • UK employees on average put away £3,260 annually into their pension, including £652 a year in tax relief from the government
  • 4.4 million UK adults are currently in employment not saving into a pension and not making use of their pension tax allowance from the government resulting in £2.9 billion in tax relief set to remain unused this year
  • Anyone paying towards a pension receives tax relief on their pension savings at 20% and up to 45% according to the rate at which they pay tax.  If you are a higher rate taxpayer the onus is on you to claim back the additional tax relief owed to you

£1.1 billion in ISAs

  • 49 million UK bank account holders are set to waste a combined total of more than £1.1billion by not moving their money into tax-efficient individual savings accounts (ISAs)
  • Of that wastage, £984 million can be attributed to failure to use cash ISAs and a further £160 million in stocks and shares investments not held in ISAs

£530 million in inheritance tax waste

  • £530 million wasted in inheritance tax (IHT) by individuals not placing life protection policies ‘under trust’
  • Not placing it under trust could reduce a £100,000 life insurance payout by as much as £40,000 if an individual’s total estate is worth more than £325,000
  • Only 27% of people would be confident in tackling IHT planning without the help of a professional adviser

£154 million in capital gains tax

  • £154 million in unnecessary capital gains tax (CGT) payments this tax year
  • 2014 Tax Action research shows one of the main areas of CGT waste occurs from people not using ISAs to shelter investments from any tax liabilities
  • Each UK taxpayer has an annual CGT free allowance, which for the current tax year stands at £10,900.  Any gain above the allowance is charged at 18% for lower and 28% for higher rate tax payers

If you would like more information please call me on 01753 626866 or visit our website at



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Married without a Will – Windsor

So you think you’re going to get all of your spouse’s estate if they died without a will?  Think again!  If you have children, then the spouse left would inherit £250,000 and the life interest in the remainder,  and the rest would go to the children.  This can mean that the family house has to be sold, to put the money into Trust for the Children.  At a very stressful time this can be the last issue that any family would need to deal with.

Because of the importance of Wills I  can now take instructions for my clients and arrange your Wills to be written.  We offer a free will diagnosis and can provide you with a report to explain all the options that might be suitable for your situation.

For more information please call me on 01753 626866.


Giles Warren

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Accountancy Software

Its that time of year when I have to start thinking about doing the dreaded accounts!  2 Days of copying my bank statements into my accounts software – its normally a real chore.  Not this year though!  I’ve recently signed up to using Freeagent which can import the data straight from my online bank accounts, taking me now only 2 hours to complete them!  You also get a months free trial,  to see if you like the software,  and if you sign up at the following site you also get a 10% discount 

It has most of the usual features of software accountancy, such as invoicing, profit and loss etc. and is really easy to use.

If you’ve completed your accounts and it looks like you might have a large tax bill, there might be tax planning which we can arrange to help you reduce this bill.  Obviously this will depend upon your personal circumstances and please call me to discuss on 01753 626866 or email me at


Giles Warren

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