Don’t fall of the retirement cliff

Failing to have sufficient pension plans could lead to significant financial headaches in retirement.

An over-reliance on the state pension could prove dangerous. The £8,456.20 maximum amount of annual income it pays, for the 2018/19 tax year, is certainly an extremely valuable benefit to support your lifestyle. But on its own, will it be enough to provide for your retirement? A December 2017 report, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), suggests it won’t. The report warns many people could face something of a retirement income cliff – because the gap between UK employment earnings and state pension income is the largest in the developed world.

On average, state pension income equates to around 29% of what UK people earn – or less than a third of the income you currently receive. This compares unfavourably to other developed nations, where state retirement income is an average of 63% of earnings. So if you want to maintain or enhance your lifestyle, you face a huge shortfall to make up.

The importance of planning

Understandably, many of us feel apprehensive about our retirement plans. June 2017 figures from the Office for National Statistics show 46% of working adults, who were questioned between June and December 2016, aren’t confident their retirement income will give them the standard of living they hope for. Over two-thirds have not thought how long they will need to fund retirement for. The last point is important. Thanks to improvements in living standards, people are living longer and your retirement plans need to factor this in. It’s not just about having savings for the first few years of retiring, but considering how your needs might change, and if you might require provisions for areas like long-term care. There’s also your family’s inheritance. You may want to leave some of your wealth behind for them to enjoy, rather than spending all of it to fund your retirement.

Are you paying enough into a pension?

It’s never too early to start preparing for retirement, so if you have a few years left of working, considering your current arrangements could allow you to make better plans. For example, you might want to pay more into your pension, or even set up additional pensions. A huge advantage of taking this route is tax relief, as the government tops up your contributions by 20% or 40% (depending on if you’re a basic or higher rate taxpayer). With the pension freedoms also opening up your options for using these savings, from 55, you have greater flexibility to shape your retirement. There are important tax considerations around making withdrawals. The way your pension contributions are invested is another key factor. If you’re enrolled in your employer’s default pension scheme, there’s every chance it’s invested in a way that’s not fully suited to your circumstances. You might be willing to take more risk with your money, for example. With the stakes so high, speaking to a financial adviser is recommended. They can help you consider what you want to achieve in retirement, and if you have the provisions to make it happen. Retirement should be a chapter in life to relish, but it’s a leap into the unknown. A financial adviser can help you to plan for different scenarios, so you can look forward with confidence.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount invested. Accessing pension benefits early may impact on levels of retirement income and is not suitable for everyone. You should seek advice to understand your options at retirement. Levels and bases of and reliefs from taxation are subject to change and their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor.

(Sources: 6


Conference delivers advice to business owners

Over 100 delegates and 15 business support stands attended the Nicholsons Small Business Conference at the Drill Hall in Lincoln last Week.  The conference was organised by Nicholsons Chartered Accountants and was the first of its kind to be held in Lincoln. The aim of the conference was to provide small business owners with support and advice from a team of experts to help them face the daily challenges that running a business brings.

Networking over breakfast and an opportunity to visit a number of trade stands all offering services to small businesses, got the conference off to a buzzing start before seats were taken for the second part of the three part conference. Richard Hallsworth, Director at Nicholsons, opened the conference with a selfie ice breaker and an electronic voting poll, giving the audience a chance to interact and ask questions during the morning, before discussing why business failure rates are higher in years 2 and 3 after start up.

Richard said “Our research and conversations with business owners told us that there were gaps in knowledge when it came to certain areas of running an expanding business. We are committed to helping business owners not only with their finances but supporting them with wider business challenges. A conference covering a wide range of topics delivered by experts seemed like a good way of helping business owners and we were delighted with the response.”

First to take to the stage was keynote speaker, Glen Foster, from small business software company Xero. Glen touched on how technology is enabling small businesses to better understand their financial health and gain access to financial products and services to fuel growth. Providing further key elements to the conference were Michael Squirrell from Wilkin Chapman ‘Getting the legal’s right’. Nicholsons Head of Human Resources, Andrew Tomlinson, set out the essential points of employing people.  Cyber Security expert Ant McGhie from Barclays used the opportunity to talk about the importance of making sure businesses are protected and what more they can do.

The third and final part of the conference covered the hot topics of marketing, health and wellbeing and IT. Alex Wright from Knapton Wright, Rachel Linstead from Firecracker and Chris Pickles from the F1 Group all gave the audience an insight in how to make the most of these specialist areas and the benefits they could bring to their business.

Richard Grayson, Director from Nicholsons, gave an overview of the morning’s events and asked the audience to take three action points back to their business. The panel stepped back onto the stage to answer the questions submitted during the conference.

Videos will shortly be available – so if you would like to hear what our speakers had to say contact Linda Clark – Due to the success of the event plans are already in place to hold a similar event next year.

What our delegates and speakers have to say…

Rachel Linstead – Firecracker  “I really enjoyed Nicolson’s Small Business Conference, it had the right balance of networking and speakers which all were very informative & shared easy to implement tips on how I can grow my business”

Gail Wood – LAGAT Ltd  “What a fantastic Business Conference Nicholson’s arranged on Thursday March 8th. Excellent informative speakers, good location and a very good range of businesses attended. The location was superb with parking close by. Let’s have some more Nicholson’s !!!! ” 

Anthony McGhie – Barclays Bank Plc “Great event. Well planned and coordinated, well attended on the day and a fantastic venue.”

Samantha Pover – Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce  “The event was very well put together, Chamber were happy to exhibit and would certainly do it again if and when you do another. It was really informative not only for small businesses but for us too.  The speakers were very engaging, all talked about relevant subjects – very on topic.  Well done!!”

Michael Squirrell – Wilkin Chapman “We were delighted to take part in the inaugural Small Business Conference.  It was well organised and attended and I enjoyed the range of topics covered in the presentations.  It was great to have the opportunity to speak to some very interesting businesses who we had not met before.  Overall, an excellent event!”







Lincoln City – the penultimate review

Lincoln City fought hard with a 0-0 score against Newport.  This was followed by two successive wins against Stevenage (3-0) and former National league rivals Forest Green (2-1). A brace for Matt Rhead propelled City to 3rd place in the table. 

Optimism was high as Lincoln City took the lead twice against the 10 man team from Luton before losing 4-2 to the top of the table side after having Harry Anderson sent off. 

Notts County arrived and after going a goal down, City were 2-1 up thanks to a home debut goal from Lee Frecklington on his return, before County equalised against the run of play the game finished 2-2. A slightly disappointing away 1-1 draw against bottom club Barnet was followed by a 3-1 home win over Newport. 

A last minute equaliser saved a point against 10 man Swindon in an exciting 2-2 draw. On the following Friday a workmanlike 0-0 against Cambridge and a 1-0 home win over Cheltenham put the imps 7th in the table. Unfortunately the month ended with successive defeats against Crawley 3-1 and a 4-1 home defeat against lowly Crewe. This was a most un Cowleyesque performance and left City just outside the playoffs with a quarter of the season to play. 

Whilst the league form has been keeping the team in and around the Play offs – it has been the much maligned Check-a-trade trophy that has got the fans really buzzing. A 1-0 away win at league 1 Rochdale set City up for a quarter final against Peterborough. A cracking game saw Lincoln come from behind twice before winning 4-2 to send them through to the semi-final against Chelsea under 21 and a chance of a first ever Wembley appearance for the club in its history.   

An almost full Sincil Bank saw Lincoln overpower their young opponents live on Sky without a goal to show for it, until Captain Luke Waterfall scored in the 72nd minute to put Lincoln ahead.  However, City’s goal lead was short lived as the Chelsea youngster Redan equalised almost immediately. After missing numerous chances City’s Wembley fate was left down to a penalty shootout. Lincoln’s first penalty taker was Sam Habergham who according to the referee “missed” his shot (skytv showed it was over the line)  

Nevertheless, luck was on City’s side as Chelsea u21’s went on to miss two penalties. It was then left to Lee Frecklington to score the winning goal that sends Lincoln to Wembley for the first time in the clubs history on April 8th.What a day it promises to be!
Team Nicholsons will be at Wembley!

The Perils of exceeding your pension lifetime allowance

There is such a thing as paying too much into pension. Last year it landed nearly 2,600 people with a sizeable tax bill.  The pension lifetime allowance is the government’s way of capping how much you can pay into a pension and still benefit from tax relief. From April 2016, this allowance was reduced to £1 million – with savings above it subject to 55% tax.

A freedom of information request from The Telegraph discovered a 33% increase in the number of people who received a tax bill for exceeding their lifetime allowance. The total amount raised over the 2016/17 tax year topped £120 million. That’s an average tax bill of £46,332, based on the 2,590 people who paid this extra charge. If you’re currently or projected to exceed the lifetime allowance, there are types of protection available from the government to help you.


Long-term sickness absence and dismissal

I have recently read about a case that went to Employment Tribunal, then to Employment Appeal Tribunal before concluding at the Court of Appeal. The case involved the dismissal of an employee who was dismissed following over a year’s sickness absence. The Court of Appeal ruled that this was unfair dismissal.

The Court of Appeal handed down its judgment in the case of O’Brien v Bolton St Catherine’s Academy Case number A2/2015/3377 (2017). This ruling is important as it gives employers guidance on dealing with long-term sickness absence and resulting dismissal.

Briefly, O’Brien (O) commenced work as a teacher for an Academy in 2005. In March 2011 she was assaulted by a pupil. O had a short period off work afterwards, but was terribly shaken by the incident. Following some further incidents in December 2011, O went off sick again with severe stress, anxiety and depression. After more than a year’s long-term sickness absence, the Academy sought clarification from her as to when she might be able to return to work and what adjustments (if any) it could make to facilitate a return. O was asked to attend a meeting to discuss these issues but refused because she felt it might upset her. Considering her refusal, the Academy asked O to “provide the information in writing” and this was provided by a letter from her GP in which the GP stated that he was “not confident” about when she might be able to return to work. As a result the Academy decided to hold a medical incapacity hearing under its formal absence management procedures and subsequently dismissed O. She then lodged an internal appeal. At that appeal hearing, O presented a fit note from her GP which stated that her return to work was “imminent” but did not give a likely or possible date. The Academy took the view that the GP’s report was suspicious and inconsistent because it only appeared after the dismissal had taken place.

O made a complaint for unfair dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of disability and won her claim at the tribunal. The Academy appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal which overturned that ruling. O then went to the Court of Appeal which restored the tribunal’s finding of unfair dismissal.

More importantly the Court of Appeal gave some useful guidance;

  1. Where an employee has been absent for a period of twelve months or more and there is no certainty about their return, a dismissal is not necessarily unfair. This is reasonable as these matters cannot remain open ended for such a long time period.
  2. With all matters, each case must be treated on its own merits and therefore the timing of the dismissal and its justification can vary from person to person and organisation to organisation. From a general point of view, if the situation is manageable then dismissal may well be unjustified even if it is causing significant problems and conversely if a situation is causing disruption and is unmanageable then a dismissal may well be justified. However, the benchmark is high in terms of the evidence required. It also follows that smaller employers will always dismissal for long term sickness absence easier to do than larger ones because they have far less resources at their disposal.

UK Food consumption – survey shows support for British farmers

Released at the end of last year, the Office of National Statistics has published the 2017 update to consumer food trends, giving some interesting reading for farmers.

For the first time in recent years, food prices started to rise in real terms in 2017, meaning that food price increases have exceeded the rate of inflation, with this increase being attributed to increases in the price of agricultural commodities and oil prices. Inflation appears to have hit across the board, with all baskets of food increasing, whatever the level of spend of the consumer.

Interestingly for farmers, with the cost of the back British farming campaigns constantly coming under scrutiny; of the consumers surveyed in 2016, 77% felt it was important to support British farmers, but only 45% felt that British food tasted better and 41% were prepared to pay more for British food. With 48% of those surveyed at least checking labels to see the origin of their food and 60% stating that they try to buy British when they can, it does at least appear that the campaigns are bringing the origin of food into consciousness.

In terms of the more specific product differentiation increasingly used to create a unique selling point for produce, fair trade and rainforest alliance products seem to be profiting while the organic tag does not seem to have been able to increase its level of spend over the last five years. There has however been more success in marketing with labels such as free range and sustainable; freedom foods sales alone increased by 29% in 2015.

When it comes to Brexit negotiations the statistics are mixed, giving few clues as to what would constitute successful negotiations. 49% of food consumed in the UK in 2016 was deemed to be of UK origin, with 30% from the EU, however the value of food imports was in excess of exports for all categories of food. Beverages were the exception due to exports of Scotch Whisky far exceeding the value of any imports. Within the top ten foods exported in 2017, Whisky was the number one, beer number four, with beef and pork at seven and eight respectively.

In 2017 the top three markets for UK food exports were Ireland, the USA and France; China and Hong Kong being the only other countries outside the EU to also feature in the top ten. Interestingly the five fastest growing export markets in the year were the Philippines, Latvia, Iceland, South Korea and Romania – of the top 20, 12 are countries outside of the EU, perhaps a reflection of the Brexit uncertainty.

Small Business Conference for business owners and managers

Are you a business owner or manager? Need advice and support to grow your business?

Nicholsons Chartered Accountants invite you to attend their Small Business Conference on Thursday 8th March 2018 at Lincoln Drill Hall – 8am – 12noon.

The Conference is aimed at business owners and managers and begins with a networking breakfast, giving you an opportunity to visit stands and discuss business matters with likeminded people. Seats will be taken as the expert speakers take to the stage to talk about the challenges that small businesses face today. Nicholsons has also secured a keynote speaker from small business software technology company XERO who will be discussing “frictionless finance”.

Other topics covered will include;

Getting the Legals right – Employment issues – Staying safe online – Marketing challenges – Health and wellbeing – Latest technology and more.

Alongside the conference there will be an area for trade stands where delegates will be able to go and talk to the experts, who in return, will be able to offer further support and advice on a range of business matters.

XERO, Wilkin Chapman,  F1 Group,  Firecracker,  Barclays,  Knapton Wright,  DBS Internet Marketing,  Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce,  Lagat Training,  Thompson & Richardson,  Federation of Small Businesses.

Don’t miss this opportunity book your place today by emailing or go to Eventbrite.

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