Please help Freddie get a new kitchen for his friends!

2014-02-01 17.53.46Those of you reading this who know me will know that our son Freddie has special needs.

A little while ago Sue and I were looking for a club or activity that Freddie could go to on a Saturday. His brother and sister were off to swimming lessons and tag rugby and all manner of stuff but Freddie had nothing that he could go to.

It was then that we stumbled upon Melton Mencap and their Fun & Friendship Club on a Saturday morning. Based in Melton Mowbray; Melton Mencap is a charity that help people with learning disabilities and their carers. Those visiting the centre for their clubs and activities range from 8 to 80. They do a tremendous job and if you want to find out more click here.

Freddie absolutely loves the Fun & Friendship Club. He can’t wait to get there and we are almost always the last ones to leave the hall at the end.

We need your Vote!

Melton Mencap need your help. 44 Financial have submitted an application to the Aviva Community Fund for £3,600 for a new kitchen for Melton Mencap. The kitchen they have is well past it’s sell by date and gets constant use – seven days a week.

They’d love to install a washing machine and update their cooker so that they can help adults with learning difficulties to become more independent.

At a time when local authority provision for people with learning difficulties is contracting places like Melton Mencap do a great job in filling the gap.

How can I help?

Freddie needs your vote to help his friends at Melton Mencap get a new kitchen.

VoteYou can vote on the Aviva Community fund web site. Click here to find out more about our application and to vote.

Each person can vote up to 10 times so don’t be shy! It doesn’t cost a penny and will only take a couple of minutes – you can even use your Facebook account to log in and get your 10 votes.

It is so much more than a kitchen for all the people that Melton Mencap help to support.

Please vote if you can – Freddie will  be really pleased!



Pensions–Tax opportunites and traps

    RISKS_GREY_Writing(female)The new pension freedom reforms are being accompanied by a flurry of tax changes in April.

    Savers could be able to pass on what’s left of their pension pots to loved ones tax-free after death, after the Chancellor announced the scrapping of the 55 per cent tax rate currently applied to funds left to children.

    Instead, beneficiaries will either pay tax at their own income tax level – with the money they receive added to their earnings to calculate this – or if the person who dies is under 75 there will be no tax to pay.

    The Chancellor also announced in his Autumn 2014 Statement that husbands and wives whose partners die before reaching 75 will get annuity income from their spouse’s pension tax-free. Beneficiaries of ‘joint life’ annuities, or other types that come with death benefits, currently pay income tax on what they receive.

    However, over-55s looking to take advantage of new pension freedoms to withdraw big sums from retirement savings need to be wary of landing themselves with big tax bills. Although people will suddenly get unfettered access to their whole pension pot, only 25 per cent of retirement savings will be tax-free while the rest will be taxed as income.

    Workers used to usually paying the basic rate of tax through employers might not realise that dipping too freely into their pension pot at retirement could put them into the higher rate tax bracket. If they get it wrong, because they hadn’t checked it or worked it out, they could find themselves suddenly paying out a large amount of tax when cashing in their pension.

    People tempted to use their retirement savings to acquire a buy-to-let property are also advised to weigh the tax implications carefully because money shelled out upfront to HMRC could prove a significant drag on returns.

    It might also be sensible not to rush into things and to avoid drastic decisions before the May election, which could bring in a new Government that immediately starts tinkering with the pension reforms and tax system.

    Although many observers feel that any incoming Government will not want to upset older savers, early in their term, the opportunities for change will still be rife in the coming months.

    Nice to see you–to see you NISA!

    Amongst all the major pension changes announced in the Budget you could have easily missed the fact that the ISA rules are also changing.

    On 1 July 2014 the new rules relating to ISAs announced in March’s Budget announcement come into effect. The launch of the NISA is the biggest change to the ISA rules in 15 years. So – here goes – your five minute guide to the changes.

  • The limit has increased – from 1 July you can invest up to £15,000 into your ISA this tax year – this is an increase from £11,880. In practice many people stuck to the Cash ISA limit of £5,940 so that is quite an increase for most people.


  • You can hold cash in your Stocks and Shares ISA – if your existing Stocks and Shares ISA qualifies as a NISA (although the name will be staying the same) – this means that you can hold both cash and funds, within your ISA. Previously, you were allowed to hold cash temporarily within a Stocks and Shares ISA as long as you were going to invest it in funds.


  • More flexibility to transfer – from 1 July 2014 you’ll be able to transfer freely between Stocks and Shares ISAs and Cash ISAs, as many times as you like. However, you must transfer the whole current year holding each time.


    There are a load of other “what if” questions that you may have. We’ll tackle these in another blog post soon. For now that’s probably enough.

    As always, this information isn’t intended to constitute financial advice or suggest that a NISA is suitable for you. To get to the bottom of that thorny question you may need to sit down with an authorised financial adviser and get some personalised advice. Get in touch if you fancy a chat, a cup of coffee and, if you’re lucky, a biscuit or two!

  • Steve Clark


    We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns

    It’s been a long few weeks on Planet Pensions. The Auto-Enrolment bandwagon is creaking up to full steam with around 30,000 employers due to come into the new system this year.

    As a complete break from pensions and finance I was checking out the feeds on the Zite app on my iPad. I finally wrestled it away from my son and the grasp of Minion Rush! I came across this video that has a really powerful message.

    To me the video symbolises the fact that although we’re all different (and sometimes markedly so) in the end as the Scottish saying goes “We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns”. Translated literally (for those of you that are not voting in September) this means “We’re all John Thomson’s children”.

    You can read more about the various interpretations of the phrase if you click here. Basically to me it means at the end of the day we are all the same. In this hectic world it’s something that we may tend to forget.

    Govt eases rules on auto-enrolment?

    The second response in the government’s consultation on auto-enrolment was issued late last week.

    In the second round of consultations the government propose that employers can ignore certain groups of workers in their assessment. These are:

    • Employees who are already contributing to pension savings.
    • Employees who are just about to leave.
    • Employees who have given notice of their retirement.
    • Employees who have cancelled pension membership after being contract joined.

    Although it does seem at times with auto enrolment that we are building an aeroplane in the sky these recent suggestions are pragmatic and welcome. If nothing else it shows that the government are listening (and not to your mobile phone calls for a change!) and are prepared to alter the regulations to make them more workable for employers.

    The ministry mandarins are working on the proposals as we speak and we’ll have to see what they deliver.

    Meanwhile, where this leaves many of the small employers who are facing the daunting task of dealing with auto-enrolment with no advice is debatable.

    Steve Clark