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  • A misconception of financial planning is that it is just for the super wealthy. But define wealthy?! One of my favourite financial quotes comes from Ramit Sethi, “Anyone can be rich; it’s just a question of what rich means to you.” And he’s right!

    Financial Planning is all about getting to the heart of what’s important to you; quantifying your goals and objectives and finding a way to help you achieve them. Whether you are a novice to the financial world or a savvy DIY investor; I’ve put together five reasons why you should use a financial planner.

    1. My best friend, Google

    The Internet has come so far in the last decade; so much so, you can turn to Google for just about anything nowadays - your finances being no different. But where do you start? You will be inundated with information in under 1 second (impressive!) but what to do with it? How are you meant to find impartial advice when all sites will no doubt be offering the “best products/services available”? At FMB, we are completely independent. We’re not interested in making our clients fit the product; we will find best options for you from the entire financial market.

    2. How much is enough?

    Once you have outlined your life goals and ambitions, the next battle is determining how much money you are going to need to achieve them. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task as there are so many factors that need to be taken into account. Inflation, what age you plan to retire and what pension and savings income you expect to receive once you are no longer working are just to name a few.

    Financial planners are skilled at quantifying your goals and with the use of some extremely powerful cashflow modelling software; we can forecast just how much you are going to need. This software is extremely flexible too. It can be tweaked to look at many different options such as whether you would have enough money to last you if you retired a few years earlier or what difference saving a little bit more each month would make over the long-term.

    3. Planning your spending

    Many find that by defining a ‘target’, financial decision-making can be a lot easier. Sometimes sitting down and writing out your expenditure can highlight areas that you hadn’t realised you were overspending on. Being financially prepared for those rainy days and luxuries will keep you on top of your saving and help you build up financial security for the future effectively.

    4. The ‘what ifs’ of life

    Nobody wants to think about the bad things that life can throw at us but being prepared for the worst can provide you with peace of mind. We hear ‘if only we’d thought about this before’ all too often.

    We will cover ‘disaster planning’ as part of our comprehensive financial planning process. We can use our cashflow modelling software to demonstrate what effect certain things could have on your financial situation such as whether you would be able to cope if the main breadwinner of the family fell ill or passed away. By highlighting the implications that these disasters could cause, we can help you put plans in place early to protect your assets and your family should the worst happen.

    5. Keeping you on the right path

    Unfortunately, many people who make their own financial plans forget that the reviewing process is just as important as the implementation. As with anything, things can change.

    Financial plans need to be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are still in keeping with your long-term goals and that you are still on target to reach them. A financial planner will monitor your plans regularly so any necessary tweaks can be dealt with early.

    Call us on 01539 725855 if you would like to speak to a financial planner about your financial future.

  • FMB's Jon Nicholson presenting Ian Nicholson with the FMB Super 32 Trophy
    Caption: FMB's Jon Nicholson presenting Ian Nicholson with the FMB Super 32 Trophy

    Sunday 5th April saw me attend the second annual FMB Super 32, held on the hallowed turf of Netherfield Crown Green Bowling Club. Dream child of Alan Gilpin and organised by the Kendal and District Bowling League, it is an invitational champion of champion’s event to kick start the new season. Invitees represent the crème de la crème of the area’s bowlers who are all winners in their own right. Entrants are invited based on the previous season’s results. Most originate from the top half of the Division 1 merit table; with the remaining places being filled with the winners and runners-up of the lower divisions respective merit tables and championship competitions from the 2014 season.

    As proud sponsors of local sport in the community generally and the Kendal and District Bowling League Website in particular, the Directors’ at FMB were only too willing to help when Denise Noble, League Secretary, asked for FMB’s assistance in getting the Super 32 Competition off the ground last year. We are thrilled that we can continue our sponsorship for the second year running.

    Bowls may look like a very simple sport. And it is. But like any sport there are good players and bad; with most fitting somewhere in the middle. Line and length are the most important factors but understanding the speed and undulations within the green are also crucial to success. Many club bowlers are constantly caught out with a quickening or slowing green depending on the time of day. A rising sun will warm up the playing surface and speed up the green and the reverse happens as the temperature drops. Similarly, rain will slow the speed of the bowls over the ground with the game quickening up as it dries or drains away.

    Rules are simple, each player has two bowls and the first player to start will bowl the jack. This is a smaller bowl quite often coloured yellow for official matches and competitions. Nearest to the jack wins one point and if the same player has first two nearest he will score two points. The winner of each end retains the jack and will put it wherever he/she likes on the green. The only condition is that it must travel at least 20 metres. First to 21 wins the match.

    As part of the FMB Super 32 format, division 2 players are given a +2 handicap; division 3 +3 and so on. The early rounds of the Super 32 have become known for who will be the 'giant-killing' victims and the crowd was not left disappointed by the displays of several underdogs from those lower divisions this year. Verna Ashley (Lower Holker) was the first of those to triumph over #11 seed Dave Grisedale (Holme). Ashley started the game 5-0 up and finished it with the same points advantage, 21-16.

    However, more impressive perhaps was Tom Wilson (Sedbergh); a fourth division entrant (starting 4-0) who demolished #16 seed Kevin Tomlinson (Bowness) 21-7.

    The first semi-final saw a family affair with father and son Martin and Alan Gilpin (both Victoria) competing against one-another. Gilpin was the only semi-finalist outside of the top four rankings (#7) and led superbly on short lengths to defeat his father 21-15.

    In the second semi-final top seed Ian Nicholson took on Holme youngster Mark Ashburn in the game of the day, with both players illustrating their quality and it was only a bowl-sized gap at 20 each that stopped Ashburn from reaching the final.

    Ian Nicholson in action

    Nicholson quickly built a 9-4 lead in the final but Gilpin was determined not to disappoint the crowd and came back to 11-12. But Nicholson played excellently to complete the win.

    There are several attractions to this FMB sponsored event that have seen it grow in popularity in such a short time frame, as witnessed by the large crowd. Lower division club players get to pit themselves against the area’s best and the winner is invited to a £3,500 invitational tournament in Lancaster against the countries elite.

    There are 25 clubs in the south lakes area with my own club Netherfield running 7 teams on a competitive weekly basis. If you would like to find the nearest club within your area, click here

  • More than four million married couples and 15,000 civil partners may be able to benefit from a new tax saving*…

    With effect from 6th April 2015, there has been some new allowances introduced which could see couples make a welcomed tax saving. If you earn less than the £10,600 income tax personal allowance (for the 2015-16 tax year) you may be able to reduce your husband, wife or civil partner’s tax by up to £212 by transferring up to £1,060 of your unused personal allowance to them.

    This can be done providing the recipient of the transfer isn’t a higher rate (40%) or additional rate (45%) tax payer. This transfer opportunity is also available to those who are self-employed providing the criteria is met.

    So what’s the catch?

    There is none. As long as all of the following applies, you are able to claim Marriage Allowance:

    • you’re married or in a civil partnership
    • your annual income is £10,600 or less
    • your partner’s annual income is between £10,601 and £42,385 (2015-16 tax year)
    • you were born on or after 6 April 1935 (see below if you were born before this date)

    How do I claim it?

    If eligible, one person within the couple can register to transfer their unused allowance to their spouse or civil partner online. This is done via the Marriage Allowance site. You are able to register at any point within the tax year and will still receive the full benefit of the allowance.

    Those who register will then be contacted by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to ask whether they want to apply. Once in place, HMRC will notify the recipient of the change to their Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax code.

    What if I was born before 6th April 1935?

    Then there is some good news for you too! If you live with your spouse/civil partner and one of you was born before 6 April 1935, you can claim for Married Couple's Allowance. This could reduce your tax bill by between £314 to £816.50 for the 2015-16 tax year.

    This is just one tax saving opportunity. If you would like us to give your financial situation a review, please feel free to contact us.

    *source: 20.02.15

  • Chris Hill taking part in last year's Keswick to Barrow fundraising walk
    Caption: Chris Hill taking part in last year's Keswick to Barrow fundraising walk

    I recently read Alfred Wainwright's “Coast to Coast” walk. In it he states, “One should always have a definite objective in a walk, as in life it is so much more satisfying to reach a target by personal effort than to wander aimlessly. An objective is an ambition, and life without ambition is... well, aimless wandering."

    You can relate this statement to so many different aspects of life, however, I immediately associated it with financial planning and how identifying an individual’s goals is the most important component of any financial plan. When determining life goals, many will look towards longer-term aspirations such as retiring early or buying that dream holiday home. Others will look more at shorter-term goals such as saving for a child's wedding or university fees.

    I will soon be (hopefully) achieving a personal goal of my own and completing the Yorkshire 'three peaks' challenge. On 13th May, some of my colleagues and I will be taking on the peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough as part of our company fundraising efforts for Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool. That’s approximately 24 miles with around 2100 metres of ascent - all in under 12 hours. Being a keen fell walker, this is an event I have always wanted to do and although I have summited each of these mountains a number of times previously (Whernside being a personal favourite), I have never taken on all three together.

    Over the last few weeks, the team has had the opportunity to complete a few training walks in preparation for the challenge. Fortunately, most of the walks have been in good weather, some in glorious sunshine and we have been lucky enough to enjoy some spectacular views from the mountains around the Langdale valley. The latest of our preparation walks on Sunday, however, showed us how, as in life, we must be prepared to adapt our plans. After a week of wall to wall sunshine and temperatures of 20 degrees, that morning we were met with grey skies, low cloud, rain and falling temperatures.

    When we met at Kentmere Church, the rain had turned to snowfall and the cloud base had fallen further. We agreed that, in view of the size of our group and also the different levels of experience in tackling winter mountain conditions, we would change our plans and instead walk along the valley floor. While we did not complete our intended walk on that particular day, as a result of sensible planning, we all still had a very enjoyable morning. We all remain focused on the three peaks in just over four weeks’ time.

    Although we will, of course, aim to complete the circuit in under the 12 hours, I believe it's more important to focus on the main objective of the day - raising money for a fantastic charity. I'm sure that Wainwright wouldn't mind if some take a little bit longer providing we all make it back to the bottom safely, and everybody enjoys their day out in the fells.

    If you would like to support us and Sandgate Hydrotherapy Pool, you can do so securely online via our JustGiving page. We are grateful for all donations, no matter how big or small!

  • Lasting Power of Attorneys (LPAs) have been featured more widely in the press in recent years and are something I discuss with each of my clients. They are a legal tool allowing you to appoint someone to make certain decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself in the future, otherwise known as ‘lacking mental capacity’.

    These might be decisions concerning your finances or your health and welfare. For the latter, using an LPA can ensure that the appointed person has the power to fulfil any medical wishes that you have and ensure that are not given any treatment that you do not want to receive.

    There are two different types of LPAs; property and affairs LPA and health and welfare LPA. Each type covers different decisions and you can choose to apply for both or just one of these.

    A property and affairs LPA covers decisions about your finances and property and can include; paying your household bills, collecting your income and benefits or selling your house if necessary. This could be used even if you still have mental capacity to deal with these things yourself, for example if you were living abroad.

    A health and welfare LPA allows your Attorney to make decisions such as where you live, or day to day care such as your diet and what clothes you wear. This type of LPA can only be used once you have lost mental capacity, and it must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.

    Nobody likes to think about growing old and possibly losing mental capacity. However, an LPA can be thought of in a similar way to an insurance policy. You insure your house, your car, and your life - this is simply like taking out an insurance policy to ensure someone you trust will be able to make decisions for you if you are not able to.

    If you are interested in setting up an LPA, FMB can assist by referring you to a solicitor who specialises in this area.

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