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April News

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1. National Savings & Investments has not yet reintroduced Index-Linked Savings Certificates, but watch out for their return as reportedly they have a target (limit) of £2 billion in new issues. I think they will go very fast, bearing in mind continuing concerns about inflation. You can register with NS&I here to receive email updates and be among the first to get in.

2. As we are in a new tax year, you have a fresh ISA allowance. The overall limit per person is £10,680 of which up to £5,340 can be in a cash ISA; any excess must go into a stocks and shares ISA, which can be with the same or a different provider.

3. Investing for children: as you will know, the Child Trust Fund was launched in 2005 and vouchers backdated to include children born after 1 September 2002 – and now the scheme has been shelved. However, plans that have started can continue and contributions can still be made. This autumn (1st November) we expect the introduction of an alternative for under-18s, the Junior ISA. According to the Daily Mail, the allowance will be £3,000 per child and unlike adults ISAs it will be possible to switch from cash to stocks and shares and back again. It’s also worth noting that this allowance also applies to children born before 1 September 2002 (who were not eligible for the Child Trust Fund). Please also see this article by Gaynor Pengelly on other options for children’s investments.

4. For various reasons, my personal attitude to risk re stocks and shares is still cautious, except possibly for commodities – but even in that sector there are issues of big-boy speculation and market manipulation. If you invest now, I’d suggest you be prepared to take a long-term view. Do please contact me if you’d like a personal discussion of your own portfolio and future plans.

5. Contracting out of SERPS/S2P: from 2012, it will no longer be possible to contract-out through a personal pension, stakeholder or money purchase pension scheme. This is because the Government plans to introduce a more generous flat-rate State Pension for all, from 2015 or 2016. I warmly welcome this, because up to now we’ve had a terribly complicated scheme of giving with one hand and taking away with the other – Pension Credit, Pension Savings Credit etc. The bizarre result was something like an effective 40% tax rate if you had a small State pension and had a little extra income from savings – Higher Rate Tax for poor people! Here’s an intriguing angle: We’ve yet to get full details, but a possible effect of this change of policy could be that if you are currently contracted-out (or have previously done so) and are due to reach State Pension Age after the new scheme starts, you may get the full new State Pension PLUS extra income from the contracted-out pension, whereas someone who had stayed in SERPS/S2P throughout would get nothing more. Maybe the Government will do something about it (surely their civil servants will have spotted it) – but let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope they’ll think it’s too complicated to adjust now.

INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: None. Still in cash, and missing all those day-trading opportunities. DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog.

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