Stephen Little

Avoid rash pension decisions and beware scams, says FCA

Regulators are urging savers not to make any rash decisions about their pensions during the coronavirus pandemic owing to an increase in scams.

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) and The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) say fears over the impact of the pandemic on markets and personal finances may make savers more vulnerable to scams or making a decision that could damage their long-term interests.

The coronavirus outbreak has created a financial hit for all kinds of companies, including those listed on the stock market that pension funds invest in.

Nationwide sets aside hour to open early for the elderly

Nationwide is opening its branches an hour early to help the elderly and vulnerable during the coronavirus outbreak.

The government is expected to shortly announce that those over 70 should self-isolate for up to three months. This would make it difficult for them to use banking services, as they are typically located on busy high streets. Older people are also less likely to use internet banking.

Nationwide says that branches will open from 8am, instead of the usual 9am, to support people aged 70 or over and those with underlying health conditions.

TV licence fee changes for over-75s delayed amid coronavirus pandemic

Over-75s will continue to get free TV licences for a further two months as a result of the coronavirus.

They were originally going to be scrapped on 1 June, but this has now been pushed back until 1 August.

The BBC and the government said in a joint statement that they did “not want anyone to be worried about any potential change”.

Leasehold property buyers ‘misled’ by developers

A government investigation has uncovered “troubling evidence” of potential mis-selling and unfair contract terms in the leasehold housing sector.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) says that it is concerned that leasehold homeowners have been unfairly treated by housing developers.

It found that some homeowners were often misled by housing developers that the property was a leasehold and what this meant.

MPs call for inheritance tax to be cut to 10%

A cross-party group of MPs is calling for a radical shake-up of inheritance tax (IHT), cutting it from 40% to 10%.

They also suggest scrapping the rule that currently allows gifts to be made tax-free so long as the giver lives for seven years after they make the gift.

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Inheritance and Intergenerational Fairness, says IHT is “unpopular” and "ripe for reform”.

Currently, IHT is charged at 40% on estates above £325,000, or £650,000 for married couples or civil partners.

UK house prices rise by fastest rate in over a year

UK house prices rose at their fastest rate in 14 months, suggesting that confidence has returned to the market following the General Election in December.

Annual house prices rose by 1.9% in January – up from 1.4% the previous month, according to the latest Nationwide House Price Index.

This follows twelve 12 successive months in which annual price growth has been below 1%.

On a monthly basis, house price growth rose by 0.5% in January, taking the average UK house price to £215,897.

Spouses in line to receive extra £20,000 if their partner dies without a will

The government is increasing the amount that automatically goes to a spouse if their partner dies without leaving a will.

The amount of money a spouse receives when their partner dies is rising by £20,000 on 6 February to £270,000.

The intestacy rules – what happens to your estate if you die without leaving a will – were updated in 2014.

Currently, the surviving spouse gets the first £250,000 of the estate, all of the personal property and belongings of the person that died and half of the remaining estate.

State pension increases to continue for expats in Europe after Brexit

British retirees living in European Union countries will continue to see their state pension rise in line with inflation once Brexit is completed at the end of the month.

The UK government has confirmed that expats living in the EU will see their state pension increase annually as long as they continue to live there. Pensioners in Switzerland and the European Economic Area - which includes Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein - will also receive the annual rise.

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10-year plan launched to help savers and boost financial education for children

The government has put forward a new 10-year plan to help transform the nation’s financial health by getting more people to save regularly.

The Money and Pensions Service (Maps) has launched a strategy with five “agendas of change” to help improve financial well-being for millions of people by 2030.

According to Maps, about 11.5 million people currently have less than £100 in savings to fall back on, while nine million people often use credit to pay for food or essential bills.