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  • Our team before we started The Ullswater Way
    Caption: Our team before we started The Ullswater Way
    Me enjoying some much needed flat ground
    Caption: Me enjoying some much needed flat ground
    Stunning views over Ullswater
    Caption: Stunning views over Ullswater
    All still smiling! (L-R) Katie, Kelly, Dan, Helen, Ali, Alyson, Chris and Phoebe
    Caption: All still smiling! (L-R) Katie, Kelly, Dan, Helen, Ali, Alyson, Chris and Phoebe

    Why walk 24 miles? My husband thinks I am mad, but along with 15 other colleagues from FMB I took part in the Ullswater Way Challenge at the weekend. The event was organised by Nav4 Adventure and takes in the newly opened circular route around Ullswater as well as some additional high level sections that really add to the fun and diversity of the walk.

    There were times during the day when I felt really challenged and at the edge of my physical capability but it was all worth it. Here’s why we encourage our staff to take part in these kind of madcap adventures:

    • Setting yourself a physical challenge for some point in the future (and I mean actually booking it and committing to it), really does make you up your game and do more exercise. We think that’s a good thing for our team… we want them to be healthy and well. They don’t look that well right now but in the long term they will thank us for it
    • We had a shared experience and made memories that we will remember forever as a team; some good, some bad (thankfully the weather was kind this time, but don’t ask the ones who did the Keswick to Barrow in 2014!)
    • We got out in the beautiful Lake District for a whole day, what’s not to like about that? The Autumn colours were stunning, I love that feeling where you can smell bracken and moss on your clothes when you get home. Put that in a bottle Lancôme!
    • MD Liz Beavis, reminded me en-route, “You really appreciate the little things when you do something like this.” She’s right; you are so grateful for that piece of flapjack at the check point, the point where we went onto grass after a mile of rock, that hot bath at the end and the feeling of being so overwhelmingly tired that you sleep like a baby.
    • Working as a team; making sure everyone has the support they need at the time when they need it. Keeping your spirits up with silly jokes and idle chit chat…for 10 hours! We still liked each other at the end as well.
    • The sense of satisfaction when you look back and say, flipping heck I really did walk THAT far!
    • The banter you have when you’re back in the office about how big your blisters are and how everyone looks in their slippers!

    So what’s next?

    Well, I didn’t get to walk the Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks last year due to a chest infection so a few of us are thinking of having another crack at that. But you know what, it really doesn’t matter what the challenge is, as long as we keep on having the challenge. As "America's Marathon Man", Jerry Dunn, quite rightly says, "Don't limit your challenges, challenge your limits!"

    That’s what counts.

    If you would like to see all of our pictures from the day, check out the album on our FMB Facebook Page HERE.

  • After the historic referendum on 23rd June which resulted in a decision to leave the European Union, the initial worries about the UK plunging into recession with stock market Armageddon have been unfounded.

    There may be difficult times ahead, but the actions taken by Government and the Bank of England to calm uncertainty have been effective.

    Whatever your political opinion on Brexit, financial decisions should be rational, not emotional. Actions taken now can have far-reaching consequences farther down the line. Our opinion has always been that investments should be made with appropriate time horizons in mind and always according to the amount of risk a client feels comfortable with.

    The UK and European markets are just one asset class that makes up part of a diversified portfolio that is designed to withstand shocks like this.

    We meet regularly with the fund companies we work with either in person or remotely so that they can keep us updated on any strategic changes to their funds and what is driving those decisions.

    When we think of investments, many people jump to the stock markets, but stocks and the economy are just one part of a complex jigsaw. Other factors include currencies, precious metals, oil and other commodities, government bonds, interest rates, politics and trade.

    Initial shocks to both the FTSE 100 and 250 have largely been short term so far, but the main factor in long-term buoyancy will be the nature of the trade agreements thrashed out with both the EU and the rest of the world. A lot hangs in the balance, and it will take time. Multi-asset diversified portfolios such as those we use are a great way to make sure you are protected.

    Analysists were surprised that in light of the referendum, Bond rates went down not up. Given the choice between Italian Government Bonds for example and UK Government Bonds, investors obviously thought the UK was a better bet.

    However, caution is generally being exercised. With interest rates currently so low, and global GDP so weak it doesn’t quite stack up. Some of these threats were here long before Brexit and in some ways have never left us since 2008. You could argue that the problems in the financial system contributed to the desire to leave the EU, rather than being a result of Brexit. In the interests of balance, it might be that some of the problems will be exacerbated as a result? Only time will tell.

    At FMB our approach to investment is that we leave decisions about what to invest in (and when) to expert fund managers in actively managed diversified funds. You are most likely invested in those kinds of funds from the selection on our investment panel.

    If you would like more information on how FMB selects funds and how our Investment Committee works, e-mail Rebecca for our free guide at

  • Trust… How do you earn it?

    Every day I see examples of someone wanting me to trust them when I shouldn’t.

    Spam e-mails are my first pet hate. Today’s beauty was “Helene is urging you to get the financial report done within this week. Here are some accounting data I have collected. Please merge it into your report. Best regards, Earl Watts” Who the hell are Helene and Earl?! These kind of lazy attempts to get me to open a virus laden attachment are so regular now I have become blasé to them.

    My next bugbear is awards. We would love to win a bone fide award and have recently dipped our toe into the water by applying for reputable awards such as those run by our professional bodies and local newspapers. However on a weekly basis I get this:-

    These awards are run by companies who charge you to enter and charge you for the award. So basically you can buy an award. A photographer friend of mine gets the same kinds of solicitations. So if a company is using an award in its marketing I am now beginning to question the value. It’s such a shame and cheapens all the brilliant efforts by people who have actually won an award through excellence.

    Trust is so important in our line of work. It takes years to build and can be broken in minutes. It is not something we take lightly. We work to high ethical standards and our recruitment process emphasises this so people we employ know what we expect. Our financial planners work hard to gain not just the minimum qualifications but beyond and engage with training and professional development to keep them at the top of their game.

    It was with complete dismay that I read not only in our local paper but in the national financial press that a financial advisor not a million miles away from here has been fined £110,000 by the FCA for lying about her qualifications and falsifying documents because she had not met the minimum standards to be authorised by them.

    It is a really sad day for Financial Services and means that we have to work harder than ever to gain the public’s trust.

    If you have any concerns about how to find a good financial advisor always get a recommendation from at least three sources, you can check their qualifications via the FCA website, this case shows that they do check and pick up on any advisors who are trying to buck the system.

    Click here for the FCA Register.

    Click here for advice from the Money Advice Service on how to choose a financial adviser.

  • Probate is "the legal process whereby a will is "proved" in court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased."

    Probate fees are due when the estate’s executor applies for a grant of probate; enabling them to collect the estate’s assets and distribute them to the beneficiaries as outlined in the deceased’s will.

    Probate fees set to rocket

    At present, probate fees are charged at a flat rate of £215 per personal application (£155 for applications made through a solicitor), regardless of the size of the estate. Fees can only be avoided when assets pass in their entirety from one partner to another, or the value of the estate is less than £5,000. However, under new rules proposed by the government, they intend to scrap the current flat fee and base the charge on the value of the deceased’s estate. See table below.

    Value of Estate Proposed Probate Fee
    Below £50,000 or Exempt £0
    Exceeds £50,000 but does not exceed £300,000 £300
    Exceeds £300,000 but does not exceed £500,000 £1,000
    Exceeds £500,000 but does not exceed £1m £4,000
    Exceeds £1m but does not exceed £1.6m £8,000
    Exceeds £1.6m but does not exceed £2m £12,000
    Above £2m £20,000

    As you can see; for larger estates, the proposed changes are enormous. Not forgetting that, in all cases, the fee is in addition to any inheritance tax (IHT) due.

    According to the consultation document, the proposals are intended to redesign the probate service to make the experience of the bereaved as easy and hassle-free as possible. Increasing the threshold for probate fees from £5,000 to £50,000 will result in approximately 30,000 more estates being exempt from fees. However, for the remainder, the proposed fee changes is set to raise an additional £256m a year for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.

    One of the main issues with the way inheritance and probate works is; firstly, you are not able to secure probate until IHT and other taxes have been paid. This can be a big problem when beneficiaries are relying on the proceeds of inheritance to pay the IHT bill which they are unable to access until they receive probate; causing more stress and upset.


    Assets held as joint tenants transfer automatically to the survivor upon death. It must be noted, however, that joint assets removes the individual’s choice over who the beneficiary of the asset will be on death.

    Another possibility is to use a life assurance policy (subject to a trust) to cover the IHT bill and also avoid the need to apply and pay for probate. The policy can be set up either on an own life or, alternatively, with husband and wife as lives assured on a joint-life, last death basis with the sum assured set at the amount of IHT liability concerned. Placing the policy in trust whereby the settlor is not set to benefit from the proceeds, means that the sum assured can be passed to the beneficiaries without any liability to IHT. That means that the proceeds would be paid out without the need to apply for probate or borrowing funds to settle any taxes owed by the estate.

    The consultation period for proposals closed in April this year; however, final details of when the changes will be introduced have not yet been confirmed.

  • 24 August 2016

    Mind Full or Mindful?

    Unless you have been living in a cave without TV, radio or the internet, you cannot have failed to notice that the Olympics have just finished.

    In all seriousness, you cannot help marvel at the physical fitness and dedication of all those sports people (and horses!) who have taken part; many breaking personal, Olympic and world records.

    This lead me to think about another sort of fitness; one that most people do not even think about - the fitness of the mind. An important part of each and every one of us.

    Let’s just think about walking the dog; an activity that is encouraged, even if you don’t have a dog, as it gets you out for some fresh air, exercise, and some Vitamin D - when the sun is shining anyway.

    However, if you think about taking the dog out, it's most likely that it's only the dog that is mentally ‘in’ the park. The human will likely have their mind elsewhere; thinking about work, family, what's for tea even - thoughts racing about 100 miles an hour, potentially leading to feelings of anxiety, stress and possibly depression. So while the walk may be benefitting them physically; unless the human is able to free their mind, the holistic effect of the walk may well be lost.

    So, what is being mindful? Mindfulness is a thought process that allows us to pay attention to, and clearly see what is happening in our lives at present. While it cannot eliminate life’s pressures, it can be a good way to help you deal with them in a calmer manner that is beneficial to your overall well-being.

    There are numerous websites available that discuss and promote mindfulness and mindfulness techniques including meditation:

    NHS Website: Mindfulness

    Free Mindfulness

    So, if all the excitement of the Olympics has made you take up some extra exercise or take part in a new sport, great, but spare a thought for your mind too!

    Healthy Body + Healthy Mind = Happy Life!

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