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Is IHT in the firing line due to the lockdown?

By | Estate Planning

Did you know that after World War II, the UK government raised inheritance tax (IHT) by 80% and then went as high as 85% in 1969? These figures are much higher than the 40% levied in 2020 on the value of an estate exceeding £325,000. Yet questions have been raised in the press about whether IHT may be in the Chancellor’s sights as we approach the autumn budget.

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Pensions and the gender savings gap

By | Pensions

There is good news and bad news. For the good news, you may be encouraged to hear that since 2017, the average pension pot has grown significantly in size. In 2020, employees in large firms in the UK have an average of £120,000 in their pension pots – up 35% from 2017. Yet the bad news is that there is still a large gender gap here.

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What impact has COVID-19 had on the FTSE 100?

By | Investment Planning

With the end of the first quarter (Q1) of 2020 now behind us, a clearer picture is starting to emerge of how COVID-19 and the subsequent global lockdown has affected the stock markets and those invested in it. Here at WMM, our Oxford financial advice and planning team wanted to offer this short update in light of the latest data, with specific focus on the FTSE 100.

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5 coronavirus scams to watch for in June

By | Money Tips

The UK may be edging its way out of lockdown, yet sadly there is still no shortage of unsavoury people seeking to exploit the situation for financial gain. Here at WMM, we wanted to draw your attention to five types of scam which have become more prevalent during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Please get in touch for more information or if you are at all concerned about the security of your financial plan.

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6 financial plannings areas to review at summer

By | Financial Planning

The slower pace of life during the summertime can be a great opportunity to review your financial plan. Here at WMM, our Oxford-based financial planning team suggest 6 important areas which you may want to look over – especially if you are tempted to spend more money on a lavish holiday overseas following the months of lockdown we’ve all experienced!

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Let the Markets do the heavy lifting

By | Investment Planning, News

If you didn’t know better you may assume, probably because of constant media noise, that Stock markets globally have virtually ceased trading, and just given up. Actually, they haven’t and many of our clients have seen really good market recoveries lately. That clients have listened to and accepted the logic behind our investment philosophy is extremely reassuring to us. It has meant sitting tight, taking advantage of recent downturns, knowing that ‘this too shall pass’.

We are acutely aware that many investors will not have experienced the levels of recent volatility, however, I personally have been through around 7 of these ‘Black Swan’ events so feel confident we know what works to get people and families through the times. It really resonated with me when new National Treasure, Colonel Tom Moore said: “For all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away,”. Captain Tom may not know all the academic research behind key investment principles, like the one below about letting Markets work for you, but I couldn’t have put it better myself. He’s been around you know!


Let the markets do the heavy lifting

In investing, there are two main sources of potential returns. The first is the return that comes from the markets and the second is the return generated through an investor’s skill. At its simplest, there are two main ways in which an investor can try to deliver a better return than the market return; time when to be in or out of the markets (known as market timing, tactical asset allocation or sometimes a ‘top-down’ approach), or to pick individual stocks (known as stock picking, security selection or sometimes as a ‘bottom-up’ approach). This gives us the four main combinations of strategies set out in the figure below.

Figure 1: Four main strategies exist – they are not equal in effectiveness

Trying to beat the market – through either market timing or stock picking – is a tough game, with very few winners, and in our view is not a game worth playing. That positions our own approach in the bottom right quadrant, where we and other sophisticated investors use the information in the empirical evidence to employ an approach with the greatest chance of delivering a successful outcome. We avoid trying to market time or pick stocks. We just let the markets do the heavy lifting.

Letting the markets do the heavy lifting on returns will take a great weight off your shoulders; you no longer need to worry about picking the right stock, the right manager or deciding if you should be in or out of the markets. We are always happy to chat about some of the overwhelming empirical evidence in support of our approach, so if you feel you want to know more then call us on 01869 331469.


How to battle investment fear & bias

By | Investment Planning

As we write this, the global markets are still in a period of great uncertainty. Even as European nations tentatively begin reopening their schools and business, COVID-19 still hangs over the economy and stock exchanges. Many investors, already bruised from 30% market falls in the first quarter of 2020, are looking ahead with trepidation, wondering if things will get better. If they do not, moreover, how can an investor muster the mental fortitude to stay true to the investment strategy they agreed with their financial adviser?

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Investment strategy in a volatile market

By | Investment Planning

It’s often hard enough to stay true to the investment strategy agreed with your financial adviser during “good times” in the market. When the economy is unstable and markets are fluctuating, however, holding course is usually even more difficult. The temptation to withdraw from falling stocks, jump onto rising ones or redistribute your asset allocation can be very strong – especially if following the media or if you believe others around you are doing so.

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Is the state pension triple lock safe in 2020?

By | Pensions

This content is for information and inspiration purposes only. It should not be taken as financial or investment advice. To receive personalised, regulated financial advice regarding your affairs please consult us here at WMM (financial planning in Oxford).

If you’ve been following the financial news in May 2020, you’ll likely have noticed the headlines about the state pension triple lock. Our financial planning team here in Oxford have certainly had plenty of enquires about this. In summary, most questions were about whether the “triple lock” can be sustained following the huge increase in government spending from March 2020.

In this article, we will be examining the likelihood of this change and the possible implications. We hope you find value in this content. Get in touch to join our mailing list for the latest updates, or request a free consultation if you’d like to discuss your own retirement planning needs with a member of our team: 01869 331469.


The triple lock & COVID-19

For those unfamiliar with the triple lock system, it was introduced in 2010-11 to ensure that state pension payments rose by 2.5% per year to keep up with the rising cost of living. In 2020-21, for instance, the new full state pension rose to £175.20 per week – up from £168.60 in the prior financial year. However, there are noises from the government that they could announce a suspension or abolition in the triple lock.

The reasoning behind this speculation appears to be linked directly to COVID-19. The March 2020 budget to combat the pandemic announced £30bn in extra spending (added to £18bn of other spending pledges). This has been called the biggest budget “giveaway” since 1992, and is estimated to add another £100bn in public debt over the next four years. As such, the government is now looking for ways to save money and bring stability to the economy. Stopping the “rising cost” of the triple lock could save £8bn a year and £20bn over five years; hence its focus at this time.


Likelihood & financial planning implications

This is obviously concerning to those currently relying on their state pension for an income in retirement, or those who plans depend on it. Whilst our Oxford financial planning team cannot predict the future, it is worth noting that the Conservatives tried to abolish the triple lock ahead of the 2017 general election, but changed course to secure power with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). This time, the government has an 80-seat majority and strong incentive to rein in areas of public spending. Time will tell, of course, whether or not the triple lock will be axed in 2020.

The possible implications for financial planning are what concern us here. It’s worth noting that, had the triple lock not been established in 2010, then pensioners today would be getting about £10 less per week (i.e. £525 per year). As such, if the triple lock is indeed suspended or axed, then it will be necessary for many people to revisit their financial plan. For some already in retirement, they might need to accept a slightly lower income each year. Others yet to reach State Pension Age might need to increase their workplace or personal pension contributions to try and make up for some of the shortfalls. Indeed, in certain cases this might mean reassessing your planned date of retirement, to give more time to build up your pot and national insurance record. However, here at WMM, we aim to help you find realistic ways to achieve your retirement goals. Do get in touch if you are in Oxfordshire and are concerned.



If you are interested in starting a conversation about your own financial plan, then we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today to arrange a free, no-commitment consultation with a member of our friendly team here at WMM.

Call us on : 01869 331469


COVID-19: The Financial Impact

By | News

Only a few months ago no one really knew of Coronavirus.  Now, no matter where you live globally, everyone knows of Coronavirus. As with any public health concern, there is a great deal of scaremongering mixed in with the genuine facts.

While many people are understandably concerned about the impact on their health, their family and the provision of medical services, we cannot escape the impact that world events have on financial markets.

So what is Coronavirus, how has it/will it affect your investments, and what should you do?


What is Coronavirus?

While we do not claim to be medical experts, the basic facts are:

  • Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory illness believed to have originated in China.
  • As the illness is a virus, there is no treatment, only medications to relieve the symptoms. No vaccine is available, as yet.
  • Most people who catch the virus will not be seriously ill. Elderly people, pregnant women, babies and those with compromised immune symptoms are most at risk.
  • The illness is extremely contagious. NHS advice is to stay at home if you can, as this helps to stop the virus from spreading.
  • Those not specifically listed as ‘most at risk’ shouldn’t really panic about the possibility of catching Coronavirus, indeed many consider it inevitable over time, although sensible precautions should be taken.


What is the Financial Impact?

In reality it is still too early to determine the true economic impact; as this will probably be a long term cost borne by future generations meeting the costs of Government spending at this time. In the short term; the impact will come from lost working hours, restricted travel and leisure spending, and demands on healthcare services for example. Some companies may even profit from a health scare, as people stock up on over-the-counter medications and non-perishable food items.

While there is no doubt that Coronavirus has impacted on share prices recently, this is exaggerated by ‘typical’ investor behaviour. One investor becomes concerned about the impact of the virus and sells their shares. This results in a small drop in the share price, which then leads other investors to become worried and possibly sell their shares. As more money is removed from the market, share prices fall across the board like dominoes. Until new ‘news’ changes the momentum, markets can be expected to remain a little volatile in the short term.

This can be worrying, particularly if you are approaching retirement, or relying on your investments to support your lifestyle. However, we have the benefit of hindsight, and can say with confidence that if the past is any indicator, the markets should bounce back fairly quickly.


What Can We Learn From the Past?

If you have held investments over the last 20 years, there will have been some points at which you were very nervous.

It is now over a decade since the sub-prime mortgage crisis, collapse of Lehman Brothers and the subsequent recession had such an impact around the world. Many were still feeling or recovering from the effects, having suffered job losses, home repossessions and ten years of austerity.

However, the markets march on, and as you can see from the chart below, the financial crisis (and various other major world events) have barely warranted a blip on an otherwise upward trajectory. There is no reason to think that Coronavirus will be any different.

Investor sentiment causes the markets to rise and fall, but ultimately, a sound investment strategy, held for the long term, is unlikely to fail.


FTSE World Index

Please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team to find out more.


What Should I Do?

Much of the activity in the market is driven by fear or greed, causing investors to buy and sell at the wrong times. The best strategy is to stick with the plan and weather the storm. Many investors who switched to cash or took a lower risk approach in the midst of global events, are finding that they are now worse off than if they had simply ignored the noise of the financial press.

The most successful investment strategy is the one you stick with, providing it is well-planned in the first place. A sound investment plan:

  • Holds a wide range of assets from different asset classes, world regions and industry sectors;
  • Is aligned with your tolerance, requirement and capacity for risk;
  • Has costs under control and;
  • Doesn’t react unnecessarily to world news.

Whether you have a few thousand set aside for your children in an index-tracking fund, or a multi-million pound managed portfolio, you need to keep the points above in mind. Tuning out the financial press will become much easier.

We have preached this message for many, many years, and know that this works.

Please don’t hesitate to contact a member of the team if you would like to find out more..