News & Insights

Are you missing out on State Benefits?


Catherine Alexander, Mortgage Adviser
8th April 2021

Just Group’s recent state benefits survey revealed that 42% of pensioner homeowners are not claiming any of the benefits they are entitled to. Also, a further 20% are claiming some benefits but not their full entitlement, with the average annual value of missing benefits being £788 in 2020. This reflects the government's own figures and and raises serious questions about whether people in most need are able to navigate the complexities of the benefits system.

Helping pensioners to claim their full benefit entitlement reduces, and can even remove, the need to release equity - which many people seek to do as a way to pay living expenses in retirement. This gives them extra income immediately and allows them to keep the equity in their homes to use later in retirement, or as an inheritance.

So, which benefits are not being claimed? Three such benefits are:

  • 1. Guaranteed Pension Credit
  • 2. Savings Pension Credit
  • 3. Council Tax Reduction

Guaranteed Pension Credit is the main benefit targeted at helping low-income pensioners, it tops up your weekly income if you have a low income. It has the highest take up rate of the three benefits above with 80% who are eligible claiming. Conversely, Savings Pension Credit has the lowest take-up rate among state pension-aged claimants, of just 33% of those who are eligible. Those failing to claim are typically missing out on £576 a year. Finally, Council Tax Reduction is claimed by less than half (47%) of those who are entitled to claim with an average shortfall of £796 a year.

There are many other benefits that pensioners could be entitled to, which is why it is integral in any retirement discussions. If you think you or a loved one may be eligible for pension benefits, you should visit https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators and use the government's calculator to see what you are entitled to.


Spring 2021 UK Budget - Changes for April 2021


Jessica Amodio, Adviser & Pension Transfer Specialist
17th March 2021

The Personal Allowance will rise to £12,570 and then be frozen until April 2026.

The Basic Rate Band will increase by £200 to £37,700. This means higher rate tax will be due on income above £50,270.

The Savings Tax Band will remain frozen at £5,000 and the Dividend Allowance will remain at £2,000.

The Capital Gains Tax Allowance will remain at £12,300 for individuals and £6,150 for trusts. This will remain frozen until April 2026.

The Inheritance Tax Bands will be frozen until 2026. The nil-rate band will remain at £325,000 and the residence nil-rate band will remain at £175,000.

The rate of Corporation Tax will increase from April 2023 to 25% on profits over £250,000. The rate for profits under £50,000 will be 19%. There will be relief for businesses with profits under £250,000.

The Temporary Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) has been extended. The increase of the SDLT nil-rate band will continue to be £500,000 until 30 June 2021. The nil-rate band will reduce to £250,000 on 1 July 2021, and then return to £125,000 on 1 October 2021.

The ISA Allowance will be frozen at £20,000 and the Junior ISA allowance will be frozen at £9,000.

The Standard Lifetime Allowance for pensions will remain frozen at £1,073,100 until 2026.

The Mortgage Guarantee Scheme will be introduced in April 2021. The scheme is available for new mortgages up to 31 December 2022, allowing buyers an opportunity to fix their initial mortgage rate for at least five years. It will provide a guarantee to lenders across the UK who offer mortgages to people with a deposit of just 5% on homes up to a value of £600,000.


Accord Launches New 95% Loan-to-Value Mortgage


Catherine Alexander, Mortgage Adviser
16th March 2021

Accord is becoming the first lender to return to the 95% LTV mortgage market on 17th March 2021. They are launching a 5-year fixed mortgage exclusively for first-time buyers with a fixed rate of 3.99% and it is available up to a maximum borrowing of £500,000. This mortgage does not use the government's mortgage guaranatee scheme as announced in this year's spring budget.

First-time buyers will be able to borrow a maximum of 4.49 times their income, ensuring prudent affordability. An affordability calculation must be carried out to get an estimate of the amount affordable.

This mortgage is not available for flats, new builds or properties in Northern Ireland, which still means that 5% deposit mortgages remain elusive for many first-time buyers who are less likely to be looking to purchase houses.

This is the first of many announcements that we will be hearing from lenders, as details are released about 95% LTV mortgages which do use the government's mortgage guarantee scheme. We continue to follow news from across the market closely and advise our clients accordingly.


Spring 2021 UK Budget - Mortgage Update


Catherine Alexander, Mortgage Adviser
4th March 2021

Yesterday the Chancellor announced a number of changes in the Budget that impact mortgages and the housing market.

Stamp Duty Holiday Extended

The Temporary Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) has been extended and the temporary increase in the residential Stamp Duty Land Tax Nil Rate Band to £500,000 will continue to apply in England and Northern Ireland until 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021, the Nil Rate Band will reduce to £250,000 until 30 September 2021 before returning to £125,000 on 1 October 2021.

This will be good news for many buyers and sellers in England and Northern Ireland who were worried their transactions wouldn’t complete in time for the stamp duty savings. The extension will also ease some of the pressure on conveyancers, lenders and surveyors.

Mortgage Guarantee Scheme

The Scheme will be introduced April 2021. All buyers will have the opportunity to fix their initial mortgage rate for at least five years. The scheme is available for new mortgages up to 31 December 2022 and provides a guarantee to lenders across the UK who offer mortgages to people with a deposit of just 5% on homes with a value of up to £600,000.

It’s designed to help more first-time buyers who have been impacted the most by the lack of mortgages available with smaller deposits, with many of the larger lenders already signed up to the scheme.


Why it’s important to think ahead when applying for a mortgage


Catherine Alexander, Mortgage Adviser
3rd March 2021

Applying for a mortgage can be a daunting prospect, but with the help of a professional mortgage adviser it doesn’t need to be.

In the past, some people were allowed to take out a mortgage they could not afford. This led to some of them falling behind with their payments or losing their home. A mortgage lender must therefore check that you can afford your repayments now and in the future. To do this they will need information about your income and outgoings. So before you launch into the application process there are a number of small things you can do that could greatly increase your chances of getting your dream home.

Your credit rating is important
Your credit score enables lenders to see that you have the financial means and discipline that will be required to pay back your mortgage. Key things lenders will check include your history of repayments, so if you have any missed payments on credit cards, catalogues or any other existing debts within the last three months, this may hinder your chances. Make sure you have applied for your credit report and disclose anything that may affect a mortgage application to your mortgage adviser, with their industry knowledge they will be able to look at the most appropriate lenders for your situation.

Are you linked financially to someone else?
If you’ve got financial links to someone else, for example, a joint bank account from a previous relationship, you will need to ensure that that link is removed as soon as possible. If that person makes a late payment or has any other issue that affects their credit, it will reflect on your own report and hinder your chances of getting the best deal. As before, if you do think this may be a possibility let your mortgage adviser know as soon as possible, forewarned is forearmed.

Take a good look at how you are managing your credit
When applying for a mortgage, your last three months’ account statements will come under scrutiny so it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time. When we talk about credit, we don’t just mean your credit card, it is also your debit balances on your bank accounts and overdraft limits. You should avoid things such as applying for credit in the run-up to a mortgage application as this would not look favourable.

The important thing to remember is that every lender is different in what they view as the ‘perfect candidate’ to lend to. Just because you don’t fit one lenders’ criteria, it doesn’t mean you won’t fit another’s. A mortgage adviser will be able to guide you through the process and advise you on all your available options, helping you to get a product that suits your personal needs and circumstances.


Ten Reasons you should be saving into a Pension


Jessica Amodio, Adviser & Pension Transfer Specialist
3rd February 2021

  • 1. The earlier you start, the less it will cost.
    You are never too old to start saving. However, if you start saving aged 18, you will only need to put away half as much compared to starting saving in your 40s. The additional years of saving means you will have the same return due to compound interest.
  • 2. Put yourself first.
    If you put off saving because of other demands on your finances, you are likely to find yourself years down the line struggling to catch up. Moments in life will require your attention; weddings, mortgages, children, but remember that your retirement is also important. Start small, and increase your contributions as and when your salary allows.
  • 3. Take advantage of tax relief.
    Pensions are very tax efficient. If you are contributing into a personal pension you will benefit from the government boosting your contributions. A basic-rate taxpayer gets 20% back on their pension contribution, a higher rate payer gets 40% and a top rate payer gets 45%. In basic terms – for a basic rate taxpayer, every £80 you save, you get £100 in your fund.
  • 4. Frugal or fun?
    The current full state pension is £175.20 per week. Once the bills come out, this does not give you much to live on. It certainly will not pay for any holidays you would be looking forward to jetting off to in your spare time! If you want a decent income in retirement then the responsibility is on you.
  • 5. Take advantage of employer contributions.
    If you are offered a chance to save through a workplace pension, then your employer will match some or all of your contributions. Take them up on the offer – they are boosting your pension pot by a considerable amount and this will add up over the years.
  • 6. Tax-free cash.
    Personal pensions and most workplace pensions will allow you to take 25% of your pension savings as a lump sum when you retire. You can use this to top up savings elsewhere, take a well-deserved holiday, or pay off liabilities. Much of this cash will have been contributed by an employer or taxman, but you are enjoying the benefit.
  • 7. Flexibility.
    Previously, one of the major downsides to saving into a pension was that your only option at retirement was to convert the income into an annuity for life. This was incredibly bad value, and choosing the wrong permutation, meant that spouses were left penniless when their other halves died. Fast forward to now, you have the flexibility in many schemes to choose to take as much income as you need. This income can be increased, reduced, stopped or restarted as and when your needs changed.
  • 8. Your loved ones will be looked after.
    Should you die before or whilst in retirement, your remaining pension fund held in a personal pension would be passed to your beneficiaries, with either no or very little tax to pay. The fund is also held outside of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes. If you are in a workplace pension there is normally a lump sum payable to your beneficiaries should you die whilst still in employment.
  • 9. Benefit from the ‘downs’ as well as the ‘ups’.
    If you are paying into your pension regularly, then you may benefit from periods of stock market volatility. When investment values are low, you buy more units with your contribution than you could have when unit prices were higher. When the market recovers, the units bought will benefit from the recovery.
  • 10. Early retirement.
    If you are unable to keep working due to ill-health, most schemes will allow you to take your pension early. This is reassuring for people who may not be able to take out health policies elsewhere. Defined benefit schemes also usually offer some enhancement to offset the fact you have been deprived of saving for longer.

If you have any questions regarding the issues covered above, please do not hesitate to contact your adviser at GDA Financial Partners.


Important advice for dealing with suspicious emails


Gerry Caley, Senior Partner
26th January 2021

We have recently been made aware of a scam within the financial services industry whereby fraudsters purporting to be from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), or law enforcement, are targeting clients of investment management firms (e.g., FundsNetwork, Old Mutual, Cofunds, etc.), advising them that a specific investment manager or the firm is under investigation. As part of this scam, the fraudster specifically asks the client not to speak to their investment firm or friends and family as this would be considered “tipping off”. The client is then advised to encash their portfolio and to move the cash to their bank account. Once this is done, the fraudster then recommends an investment which is a scam.

We would like to use this opportunity to remind you to be extra vigilant if you receive any unexpected communications from third parties relating to your relationship with your investment firms. If you do receive suspicious instructions, please do telephone your adviser at GDA Financial Partners to check its legitimacy.

What to look out for?

  • 1. Scams often start by the fraudster hacking into an email account and tracking email exchanges. Please keep your email security measures up to date.
  • 2. Scams often use fake email addresses and websites. Look out for words mis-spelt, or email addresses and names you are unfamiliar with.
  • 3. The email will often ask you to do things, in secret and/or quickly.
  • 4. If in doubt, check the FCA warning list – this will help you check an investment or pension opportunity and avoid scams.
  • 5. You can also find more advice on www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart.

If you have any questions regarding the issues covered above, please do not hesitate to contact your adviser at GDA Financial Partners.


To read our previous blog posts please click here.