Watch out, there’s an ad about!

Simoney Kyriakou is an award winning finance journalist who has been writing on personal finance since the late 1990s

Now Covid-19 has forced us to spend more time online, social media has enabled the rise of targeted insurance adverts, based on keywords we have used and our browsing history. 

A reminder to protect our lifestyle might seem like a good thing. After all, statistics show Britons are woefully unprepared when it comes to insuring our income and the people we love. 

A 2019 study by insurance giant Swiss Re suggested the UK has a protection gap of £2.4tn. This means most of us have zero income protection or life insurance in place should the worst happen. 

Moreover, the average UK household has just £1,500 in the bank, according to 2018 figures from insurer Legal & General. How long will that last if the breadwinner becomes seriously ill, or has an accident and cannot work for months?

A crucial question indeed, and with Covid-19 making us more aware of our vulnerability, many Britons have considered buying life insurance or income protection. 

This desire to protect our families is definitely a good thing, but the people behind those targeted adverts on social media are aware of this. 

These advertisers are called lead generators, and they lure people in with promises of unrealistically low premiums; they use photographs of passports or National Insurance cards to fake authority; and they use targeted, alarmist messages, such as ‘Women aged 35-45 in your area are at high risk of dying early – Protect your children from just £10 a month’. 

Avoid such adverts. These lead generators do not care about protecting you or your data. 

They will pass your details to different insurers, meaning you could be called by many companies, in direct contravention of the General Data Protection Regulation. 

They assume authority by using official government papers, such as an HM Revenue and Customs logo or an NI card. This is illegal. 

They also use scaremongering tactics; the Advertising Standards Agency takes a dim view of ‘alarmist’ adverts and have banned such operators. 

And they sell false promises of low monthly payments, when your unique circumstances might mean the best insurance policy for you actually costs a little more. 

Always report such adverts, both to the social media platform and to the Advertising Standards Agency. You could also forward them to technology platform Contact State, which is lobbying for certification for every generated lead to make your journey more secure. 

Do not be put off getting vital insurance, however. A regulated financial adviser will search the whole market for the best product for your specific needs, at the most appropriate premium for your financial circumstances.  Advisers can give you peace of mind, knowing your data and your family’s financial future is secure.

 

For a discussion about your personal circumstances, you can book a session with an expert via our scheduling window below:

 

 

Death of a Home: a journey of love, life, ‘death’, forgiveness and acceptance

Save us out from the darkness stock

Our guest writer and client has suffered from serious mental health problems in the past and has been on a positive road to recovery.  Her experiences have impacted her identity as a daughter, a sister, and a mother. She prefers to remain anonymous to respect the privacy of those involved in her story.

Fifteen years ago, it happened. It all had culminated around the time I hit twenty. I was both numb and excited. Excited? And numb all at once? Hmm. Such a paradox of emotions. I suppose at this age very rarely is one so aware and reflective of one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions. There’s a certain level of emotional immaturity. A lack of an awareness of reality. I jumped in the car next to my siblings and never looked back. Number 51, my family home for seventeen years, was just a number from then. Arbitrary. Meaningless. Denied. Dead. It was as though I had been fed a banquet of flavoursome foods for almost two decades and then been stripped of such privileges in the blink of an eye, being fed nothing but stale bread. I was hungry. Feeling undernourished. I missed the taste of structure. The flavours of togetherness. The aromas of love.

My father’s gambling problems cost him a marriage, his children, their stability and their opportunity for security and nurture in what was still our formative years. Yes, I still felt like a child at 20-lost and vulnerable. My father had forfeited the house. The family home. Our family home. Gone… just like a new-born bird flying its nest. Never to be seen again. The blame I shifted onto him was surreal. It was all his fault! The man who had put 51 on the line and dropped it so effortlessly without a fight. I remember intruders frequently waltzing into my bedroom, snooping around and smiling. I felt sick. I wanted to throw them out and chain myself to the walls. It was still my bedroom and my window that overlooked our enchanted garden.

I was three years old when my mother and father decided to move to number 51. I had no real concept of what was going on, yet somewhere deep down, subconsciously, I knew this house was ‘the one’. Not just a house, but a home. A base. A foundation of love, magic, stability, and growth. My parents put everything they had into this house. Extensions, new wallpaper, a lick of new paint, etc. Money..! Friends coming over for playdates. Parties in the living room which overlooked the garden patio. Mum baking cakes in our extended kitchen and dad sitting on the couch watching TV (usually football!). My younger brother out in the streets skateboarding up and down that memorable hill that 51 sat on, and my sister prancing and dancing around upstairs playing with her toys. Such a ‘typical’ and comfortable lifestyle we all had. ‘Normal’. Simplicity overruled any external complications, and tranquillity was always a recurring theme in our house. Our home. My home….

Time-jumping to teenage years whilst still at 51, tensions began to brew. Friction. Like two gripped hands clasping for survival upon a thick piece of rope! You can almost hear the red-raw chafing and see the smoke forming from the friction. Damn! What a burn! It felt so painful! If this were a fire, we would all slowly be burning a painful death. Parents arguing, mum discontent, and dad in his own world….Dad in his own bubble. Dad? What’s wrong? No response. I really wanted to read between the lines with him, but he didn’t want to open his book. We could read his front cover. A title of stress and turmoil, visions of cloud and rain, the cracks starting to show. What was once a beautiful-looking egg-so oval and smooth and flawless-had now been cracked, the gooey yolk starting to overspill on the family unit. The egg protected us. It held us. It encased us. It revived us. We grew inside this egg. The egg was no more now, and darkness began to linger over us all, as if some sort of evil entity had possessed the family. What was going on? D I V O R C E.

My brother and I knew it was coming but couldn’t quite believe it until we heard it. We were in my bedroom, lying on the floor with our ears pressed against the carpet listening intently to the words, “I want a divorce”. My brother made a fist and started banging on the carpet. His anger and sadness diffused through the floor like a toxic gas and started spreading throughout the house.

I remember my mother driving us away from number 51, cruising with both tension and hope towards new foundations; towards number 50. Number 50 sat on an unrecognisable street.  A street that was like a piece of clothing that didn’t quite fit right. It covered us, but felt tight, tense and awkward. Settling was only to become unsettled yet again since, some years later, we were to lose this house too. Are we cursed?

Anxiety manifested and depression hit me during these next few years. I experienced major eating disorders and it was as though the breakdown of my parents’ marriage seriously affected my own relationship with both food and people, seeing little value in myself and seeking external acceptance.

My brother was off the rails-smoking, taking drugs, truanting, etc.-and my sister, being as young and naïve as she was, felt like her whole world was caving in. She felt unloved and undernourished in family values and morals. Her studies suffered as she strained to find solace within a broken home. I did my best to educate, inspire, and carry her. I knew it wasn’t enough- nowhere near -but it was all I could offer. We were all alone, and despite my mother’s efforts (which were few and far between), we saw little of her and felt emotionally neglected.

I am a mother now myself, still suffering the trauma of those many years ago. Yes, I wish I had been more resilient in the grand scheme of things, but alas, I wasn’t. I’ve since forgiven my father. In fact, I carry guilt for my blame I put on him. You see, my father was also a victim. A victim of an indescribable grief that I only recently uncovered. I learnt that my father was given a stark choice by my mother during the time my mother had given birth to a beautiful baby girl. She was my sister. She was Danielle. And she was born with Down’s syndrome.

My mother had decided to give Danielle up for adoption and this shattered my father. If he had refused, it would have resulted in his loss of both my mother and me. I learnt how my father would visit Danielle every day without my mother’s knowledge, leaving early from work, just to see her whilst she was in some sort of purgatory awaiting ‘rescue’ from a deserving and loving new family. When she was saved, a part of my father died too. He grieved, and his love for Danielle (and possibly his anger towards my mother) manifested in gambling which addictively consumed him. I don’t remember Danielle as I was barely a year old, and I have no idea of her whereabouts now. All I know is that I have another sister whom is a part of me, yet apart from me.

Danielle my darling, it’s like I can hear your thoughts: ‘How dare my mother do this to me?! What type of mother was she?’ But my mother has her own story – she was adopted herself at birth. So you see, by unwinding the tight ribbon and loosening the tension, an understanding is achieved, and with understanding comes acceptance and forgiveness. With all the challenges my mother had to go through as a Jewish Irish woman and the challenges faced by my father of having to forcefully accept the adoption of a daughter, I’ve surrendered to blaming people and taken comfort in forgiveness. People have incredible lives, some with tortured paths, trodden by no fault of their own but one too many an unguided turn. Acceptance, understanding and forgiveness are key to growth. Holding on to dark thoughts and feelings only disturbs the keeper of these feelings. Letting go through acceptance, understanding and forgiveness creates space for healing. I’m able to breathe a new lease of life now.

I’m happy with the person I’ve become. I’m certainly not perfect, but what is ‘perfect’? I am the perfect version of myself, perfectly imperfect. My safety net is as strong as ever, being surrounded by terrific and authentic friends. I own my own home and have a solid grasp of budgeting and investing. I recognise that the financial future I’ve set out for my son is far better than what my parents had available to them. Where am I now? I am in an ideal position to fulfil future endeavours and successes. Here’s to life!

Anon

Should you like to discuss your own personal circumstances with an expert, please don’t hesitate to reach out via our scheduling window below:

 

 

Not tied the knot? Part 1 – Maybe you should have a difficult conversation

When you start a new relationship, most of us hope it’s for the long run. However, for many couples although they have a long term relationship, they don’t wish to get married.  If you have made the choice not to get married, you will probably still have entered into a complete life together – or plan to. Unfortunately though, many people don’t realise that unmarried couples are still not recognised in law – and they can find themselves in a financial tangle when circumstances change.

Although in recent years there have been proposals and recommendations to give couples who live together greater rights and protection, the Government hasn’t as yet announced any clear legislation. So for couples who are not married or in a civil partnership, there still exists a great deal of insecurity on their financial affairs.

In this two-part piece, we explore your financial options in the case of separation or death if you are one-part of an unmarried couple.

Parting ways.

It’s never comfortable preparing to part. To be honest, rather you than me. I have never done this and probably won’t with the current girlfriend or the one after her. She doesn’t know I’m writing this by the way.

But essentially if you share a family home then you may retain some rights to the property if you’ve contributed to it in some way or another, this is basically known as an implied trust, learn more about it here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/relationships/relationship-problems/relationship-breakdown-and-housing/if-you-live-with-your-partner-relationship-breakdown-and-housing/if-you-live-with-your-partner-and-you-own-your-home-relationship-breakdown-and-housing/relationship-breakdown-and-housing-beneficial-interest-if-your-partner-owns-the-home/

This can create a right headache if things were to go downhill, so the sensible thing to do may be to have that difficult conversation and negotiate what is called a Cohabitation or Living Together Agreements.  These agreements are like a contract and make clear what would happen regarding your home or joint assets in the event of your relationship ending.

If you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, what does require some serious thinking about is what would happen in the event of the death of one of you. Now this should be a conversation all couples should have especially if you have children.

Pensions

If you have a pension scheme it will be prudent to make sure you have nominated your partner to receive the funds in the event of your death. You can do this by contacting your pension provider. This will make sure that they receive the benefits and it doesn’t become tangled up with claims made by your long lost brother living in Australia. Not doing this, could delay your surviving partner receiving the much-needed income.

Life Insurance

Life insurance plans – whether as part of your mortgage or otherwise – are a very good idea and can be put under trust for your partner and at least another beneficiary, so trustees have a discretion to whom to pay proceeds to. If you have children together, they can also be included. Discretion is important so trust assets are not deemed to be in the estate of any single beneficiary.

 

Disclaimer: The information contained within this article are provided as illustrative purposes only based on legislation at the time of publication. Nothing in this article should be construed as advice or guidance to one’s personal situation. The value of your investments may go up and down, similarly, other aspects of your wider lifestyle and financial context may impact on your objective. In a nutshell, don’t rely on blogs and the articles for personal advice, and always seek advice from a qualified professional.

Expecting the Unexpected: Protect Your Income

Looking to the future is something most of us only do in the short-term.  We think ‘it will never happen to me’, or ‘we’ve got better things to spend our income on’ and unfortunately planning for the worst is simply not a priority.

The sad truth though is that none of us are immune to illness or injury, which could keep us away from work and considerably impact our lifestyles.

Future-proofing – just in case.

At the very least look at your expenditure habits, be honest with yourself with regards to how long it would take you to return to work, even factor in the possibility of losing your job due to sickness and then looking for new work once you are better. That should give you an idea of how many months worth of income you will need to replace.

That figure should be your initial savings target, before you even think about investing a single penny into stocks and shares. There’s no point investing in stocks and shares which are long term investment vehicles if you have to disinvest at the wrong time, it could cost you and your family a lot of money.

Serious illness or injury that stops you from working is a real concern and affects hundreds of people each year.  Consider the following facts:

  • Nearly 1 million people a year are off work long term sick
  • Most common long-term work absence is stress, mental health and musculoskeletal injuries
  • Musculoskeletal injuries are more common for manual workers and stress is more common for non-manual workers.

You can read more here: http://www.legalandgeneral.com/library/protection/sales-aid/W13952.pdf 

What would you do?

If you were one of those 1 million, or maybe your willing to take that chance? Maybe your thinking population in the UK is around 64 million so it appears as if it’s a 1 in 64 chance. A chance that you are willing to take. BUT, the working population is 31 million, so, now that’s a 1 in 34 chance and we haven’t got to considering your current health, dietary habits, exercise habits and current mental health. If we were to factor those in, the statistics could look a lot scarier.

Income Protection

An income protection policy usually protects your income upto 50% of your gross salary. It’s at 50% primarily to encourage you to return to work and if it is used in conjunction with your savings it can be a useful way to help you manage your finances when things are not going so well allowing you to focus on your recovery. What’s more, is that it is permanent, this means once you have been underwritten you can make as many claims as you need to if you return to work and then become unwell again. The benefits are also tax free.

#don’tinvest.protectfirst.

 

Source: http://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/2015-04-17

 

Disclaimer: The information contained within this article are provided as illustrative purposes only based on legislation at the time of publication. Nothing in this article should be construed as advice or guidance to one’s personal situation. The value of your investments may go up and down, similarly, other aspects of your wider lifestyle and financial context may impact on your objective. In a nutshell, don’t rely on blogs and the articles for personal advice, and always seek advice from a qualified professional.