They say that change is the only constant in life; well this year has been no exception to the rule.
At Chilvester we are coming to the end of our 15th year in business and this has been one of the most exciting for us. In April, Andrew Tottman, who had been with us for the last couple of years took a seat on the board which has shared some of the management responsibilities – and allowed me to spend a bit more time sailing!
Staff numbers have grown over the last year. Sally joined us in January to provide technical support to our advisers and over the year she has become a really valued member of our team. Demand for mortgages has picked up back to levels not seen since before the housing crash of 2007/8 and in July we appointed Kirsty as our first full time mortgage adviser for some years. Having dropped to a team of just four of us in 2008, we are back up to an office of nine staff now with five advisers admirably supported by an experienced admin team.
The bigger changes to affect many of our clients (and keeping us in work) are the financial/political ones. We have seen a string of announcements from government and legislative changes this year; some expected and others which no one had foreseen. Over the course of the year electioneering has got more and more pronounced and this is likely to continue in intensity right up to May.
The big legislative change this year has been the passing of the Care Act, which makes some fundamental changes to how care will be provided and funded. I have spent quite some time this year speaking to groups about the implications of this Act, parts of which start to come into effect this coming April.
Changes long proposed in State Pensions have also been finalised (until the next government tweaks them again) with a single tier state pension, for those eligible to draw their state pension from April 2016, of around £148 per week in todays money. Those already eligible for state pension will not see any increase and those already eligible for more will not see any reduction. We will be publishing a more in depth article on this in the New Year.
Personal pension freedoms announced in George Osborne’s March Budget came as a complete surprise to the advice profession and to political and financial commentators alike. The provision of uncapped access to monies held in pension funds for over 55’s from this April has given individuals much greater control over how to plan their retirement income streams but also much greater risk of the monies running out. This strategy has benefits for many; individuals have greater freedom to plan more flexible income streams to meet needs; we as advisers are going to be more in demand to support requests for advice on how best set this all up and, being the cynic I am, it will also increase the immediate tax take for government as everyone cashes in pension funds to buy their Aston Martin! Once again, we will be producing a detailed briefing on this in the Spring.
Several other money related announcements have hit the headlines this year.
The changes to ISA rules earlier this year unexpectedly lifted the threshold to £15,000 per person (going up to £15,240 from next April).
The promise of the reintroduction of National Savings Pensioner bonds for over 65s from this January with 1 year fixed bonds at 2.8% gross interest and 3 year bonds fixed at 4% are well in advance of current market rates. It makes no economic sense for the government to be borrowing at these rates only to be then letting the banks have the monies back at 0.5% but hey ho, we are now in the run up to an election!! More information on these will follow from us as soon as it is available but each individual will be able to deposit up to £20,000; £10,000 into each tranche. They are limiting the availability of this and it is highly likely that this opportunity will not extend beyond the election, earlier if demand is really high.
George’s recent Autumn Statement also saw a fundamental change to the way Stamp Duty is charged on property transactions which has made purchases cheaper for us mere mortals buying houses below about £930,000. This was a welcome stimulus and no doubt has had the desired effect of endearing a few more votes in the desired direction.
So that was last year, what will 2015 bring us? Personally I have a few ideas, but one thing is certain and that is that there will be more of the same ……change.
Thank you all for your support and business throughout 2014 and we would all like to wish you a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.