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  • Andrew Laisby
    Caption: Andrew Laisby

    March's Budget has seen more than a fair share of comments regarding the fairness of the various tax raising measures, which I will not go into today, one being the so called ‘Sugar Tax’.

    This got me thinking about other obscure and perhaps bizarre forms of taxation over the years since tax had its origins in what is believed to be the first tax, which was a tax on cooking oil, imposed by the Egyptian Pharaohs.

    • There was a taxation on playing cards since as early as the 16th century, however, in 1710, the English government significantly raised taxes on playing cards and dice which led to widespread forgeries of playing cards in order to avoid paying taxes. This tax wasn't removed until as recently as 1960.
    • In 1660, England imposed a tax on fireplaces which led to people covering their fireplaces with bricks to conceal them to avoid paying the tax. This tax was repealed in 1689.
    • Throughout the 16th century, producing speckled soap was banned in Britain as it depleted the country’s supply of tallow trees. As speckled soap was significantly easier and cheaper to produce than coarse and sweet soaps, the government introduced a tax to try and halt production. However, all this did was ensure that soap became a preserve of the rich and wealthy and it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in 1853 that the tax was finally revoked.
    • In 1712, England imposed a tax on printed wallpaper. Decorators avoided the tax by hanging plain wallpaper and then painting patterns on the walls.
    • In the 1700’s, England imposed a tax on bricks. However, resourceful builders soon realised that they could use larger bricks (and therefore fewer bricks) so that they could pay less tax. Shortly after, the government realised their error and placed a higher tax on larger bricks. Brick taxes were finally repealed in 1850.
    • Towards the end of the 17th century, Russian Emperor Peter the Great introduced a tax on men’s facial hair in an attempt to force men to adopt the clean shaven look that was common in Western Europe, therefore ‘he hoped’, modernising society. All bearded men were forced to the pay the charge and carry around a copper or bronze token to show they had paid the tax.

    So, perhaps a ‘Sugar Tax’ is not as off the wall as first thought.

    In closing, I came across a suggested motto for HMRC, "We have what it takes, to take what you have" - (anonymous).

  • Louise Smith
    Caption: Louise Smith

    I have had several queries lately from clients concerned about the volatility in world stock markets we have seen since the summer of 2015. Markets have recovered somewhat in recent months but are still some way from the highs we saw in the first half of 2015.

    Investor sentiment often results in clients switching investments during times of volatility, for example into cash or lower risk investments when markets fall, and similarly into higher risk investments when markets are performing well, in a hope of catching those higher returns. However, past performance data shows us that this strategy rarely works, and can, in fact, be disastrous.

    Buy and hold is an investment strategy whereby an investor holds securities for the long-term, regardless of short-term market fluctuations. Although this term is usually used in relation to direct equities rather than unit trust funds, the theory behind it can be applied to any type of investment which fluctuates in value over time.

    Please open the PDF document at the bottom of the page to read my full blog and to see the performance comparisons.

  • Ruth encouraging her kids to get the running bug at the Kendal Colour Run
    Caption: Ruth encouraging her kids to get the running bug at the Kendal Colour Run

    You may have noticed that we talk less about Financial Advice and more about Planning, but what does this mean? Well, rather than talking about a financial product you might need, we go back right to the beginning.

    We start with finding out what is important to you in life. You will have things you want to achieve in the short, medium and long term for instance. You might not have even thought about this before let alone discussed it with your partner. A financial planner will almost “coach” you into understanding what these objectives are.

    Without knowing what you want from your money, how can we make a plan? Often people accumulate and save with no real focus, or conversely spend with no thought to the future and find themselves in debt. Both sets of behaviour can be a source of anxiety. For the savers, how much is enough? For the spenders, how can you spend without the inevitable guilt and worry about the future!? A plan can help in both of these situations. Saving is more pleasurable when you have a goal, and the future is more reassuring when you start making provision.

    Goal setting can be hard. We all have dreams, but we set them to one side as an impossible folly and the stuff of childhood. Okay so I might not be able to climb Everest, but what about base camp? Being a pop star might be a pipedream but what about some singing lessons? Think about your dreams and don’t set limitations; think about how the dream inspires you and find a way to make that part happen.

    Here are my goals and aspirations, they are bound to change as I go along, but it feels good to have some landmarks on my journey!

    • Short-term: home improvements to kitchen, take family to Florida, run a marathon
    • Medium-term: help children with cars/university fees/house deposit/weddings
    • Long-term: retire at age 60 and travel regularly, set up a scaled back business, or work as non-executive director

    Okay, so some goals might be mundane, but I love to cook and being in my kitchen is a great source of pleasure which is why I plan to improve it in the short-term. I’ve got five years until I turn 50, so I’d like to take my casual running hobby to the next level, so a Marathon is on my to-do list.

    If you are struggling to think of your goals, these questions can help. These are used by prominent life planner George Kinder, who asks his clients to consider not just their goals in life, but their values.

    1. Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.
    2. Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live. You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life and how will you do it? (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds.)
    3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

    These are not easy questions, delving this deeply can be unsettling and even upsetting for some, but it is the foundation of a really good financial plan. As the saying by Antoine De Saint-Exupery goes, "A goal without a plan is just a wish" - and don't we all want to turn our wishes into reality!?!

  • I was reading an interesting article recently about how technological change has always historically seen a struggle between fear and hope.

    When we think of technology, we tend to think of electronic devices such as computers, mobile phones, tablets, TVs and the like. However, as far back as four hundred years ago, technology was seen with as much fear as some have with the latest electronic gadgets today.

    In fact, you may be surprised to learn that in 1589, the first stocking knitting frame was denied a patent by the then Queen, Elizabeth I, on the grounds it would threaten existing hosiers and bring them ruin by depriving them of employment.

    At the time trains were invented, physicians issued stark health warnings as they believed that seeing and even breathing may be difficult for our bodies that weren't used to such velocity!

    When the first electric light bulbs were introduced, The New York Times warned customers that they may go blind. Of course, this wasn't the case and it seems unbelievable now how many people believed this at the time.

    The New York Times also published an article in 1985, at the start of the computer generation, adamant that people would never want to lug a computer to the beach or on a train let alone wanting to fritter away hours looking at it as people would rather read a newspaper! Jump forward to today and technology forms many people's everyday lives especially since smartphones were invented. Many people now read the news on their phone and can do so at home, on the beach or on the train. We can also use it for online shopping, banking and keeping in touch with family, friends and work.

    As technology has advanced so much, societal fears now tend to be more aimed at identity theft and identity fraud with cybercrime becoming more and more heard of.

    I attended a security seminar recently and was surprised to learn that the most common method of identity fraud actually occurs via post with email following in second place. Identity fraud is something that we at Financial Management Bureau are very aware of and are taking further steps to address. Our client's data and confidentiality are of the utmost priority to us, so later this year we are introducing a new web portal call PFP (Personal Finance Portal) that will allow messages and documents to be sent back and forth securely. It is fully encrypted and will give that added reassurance to our clients when sending emails and also to those who prefer to receive documents electronically rather than by post.

    The portal also has a lot of other features that our clients can utilise too, such as live valuations of their portfolio, net worth, achievements of financial goals against objectives as well as the ability to update any of their personal data. There is also an option if they wish, to securely link it to their credit cards and bank accounts so that they can see all of their money in one place and assess their spending against any specific budgeting that they may have.

    Of course, the web portal will not be for everyone and we will continue to deal with our clients in the way they are most comfortable with. But rest assured, Financial Management Bureau are always looking for new and improved ways to bring value and reassurance to our clients and minimise any fear they may have with the ever changing world of technology.

  • ‘Second Measure’ the tapes confirm the blue bowl belonging to Dan Varcoe wins this end. Dan goes on to win the semi against no 2 seed Martin Gilpin of Kendal.
    Caption: ‘Second Measure’ the tapes confirm the blue bowl belonging to Dan Varcoe wins this end. Dan goes on to win the semi against no 2 seed Martin Gilpin of Kendal.
    Eventual Winner Mark Ashburn closely scrutinises his Holme club mate Dan Varcoe in the final.
    Caption: Eventual Winner Mark Ashburn closely scrutinises his Holme club mate Dan Varcoe in the final.

    The Kendal and District Bowling League began on Sunday 3rd April with the third annual FMB sponsored Super 32 competition, hosted by Burneside Bowing Club. The 32 invited players had been selected from their successes in 2015 across all divisions of the KDBL - and they did not disappoint! With the sun shining there were excellent matches from the start. Two of note were Steve Carruthers Windermere A seeded 7 against fellow club mate Chris West Windermere C - last year’s Division Five merit winner, Steve just pulling away at the end of the match 21:19. Also Andrew Atkinson Staveley A Division Two merit place against Ian Nicholson Victoria A and number 1 seed. Andrew played some excellent bowls ending up losing 18:21 against the more experience Ian.

    The standard of bowling did not diminish all through the day, culminating in excellent semi-finals. Dan Varcoe Holme A seeded 3 against Martin Gilpin Victoria A seeded 2; the game went to the last end with Dan Varcoe just pinching the last point. Similarly, Mark Ashburn Holme A seeded 4 played James Dennison Levens A seeded 9 battling to the end, just a couple of doubles in the middle of the game separated these two. In the end, Mark won 21:19.

    After such intense semi-finals, the players did not fail to produce more fine form in the final. With both finalists being teammates at Holme A the final proceeded to be a nip and tuck affair with the lead changing hands many times. However, Mark managed to edge away in the last couple of ends to win 21:18.

    Thanks were given to Burneside Bowling Club for hosting the event and to FMB, who sponsor the event. Another excellent start to the Kendal and District Bowling League season with league matches due to start on Tuesday 5th.

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  • Top 5 financial planning tips for accumulators

    If you are in your thirties or forties now could be a good time to review your finances. We have compiled our top 5 tips for small tweaks that can make a big difference to your long term financial plans. See the top 5 tips here

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Financial Management Bureau Ltd is a limited company registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Shenstone House, Helsington, Kendal, Cumbria LA8 8AA. Registered number: 02089786