Irish Financial Review

Protecting against fraud and exploitation in retirement

By Frank Conway

A lot of what I have written about as well as content in media in general focuses on financial topics for those in the 20 – 50-something age bands. These include mortgages, investing and savings.

Personal Wealth Management Key to Long Term Financial Success

Protecting against fraud and financial exploitation is key to a successful retirement

One area that I have noticed that receives less coverage is financial planning for those already in retirement. No, I am not talking about financial planning in the strictest sense, rather I have focused in the area of loss prevention.

I have published a new e-book that provides high level tips to those in retirement already about how they can protect themselves against fraud and exploitation.

If you know of someone that may benefit from my Protecting Against Fraud and Financial Exploitation in retirement, please feel free to make contact and request a copy.

Teaching our future generation how to handle money

It’s taken a while to get here but MoneyWhizz is about to go live across Ireland. Already, over 50 schools have signed up for the programme and will shortly be receiving their unique login and password details to get them started (the programme is also available in the US and UK).

This has been a really important project for me and one that I feel very strongly about. Teaching our youth how to manage money is a critical life skill.

If you have an area school that would benefit from MoneyWhizz, let them know about the programme. This is sure to make a lot of difference in the lives of our students and young adults.

You can access further details at www.moneywhizz.org

Five ways for small business owners to improve their financial performance

For small business owners, a deep understanding of their company’s financial situation will significantly improve their chance of long-term success. When they know exactly where they stand in terms of their financials, they can plan for the future and avoid common financial management pitfalls.

money talk

Financial literacy skills for small business owners are critical for success in todays global economy

 

Unfortunately, the fact remains, business owners struggle to get a grasp on their finances. In a recent North American study, 46 per cent of owners rated their knowledge of financial management as sufficient or less, while one in 10 surveyed believe that a lack of financial management knowledge is the greatest barrier to small business success.

Around the world, a common mistake made by owner-managers is to assume that accountancy is finance – nothing could be further from the truth. Accountants are financial historians whereas in business finance, this involves a very high degree of forward planning.

The following tips have been compiled to provide some general guidance to assist owner-managers take greater control of business finances, improving financial literacy and taking their company to the next level:

1. Do the sums. Do you know how much money it takes to run your business? Determine the true costs of your products and services, including wages, transportation, rent, marketing, insurance, phone, internet, utilities, taxes, and whatever else you require to function. That’s just the beginning. You need to learn how to effectively track money in and out of your business, a first step of which would be setting invoicing periods.

2. Uncover those other costs. Have you ever needed to obtain license? Even securing an online presence requires time and this costs money. The expense of these things can start adding up, especially when you factor in the cost of legal services, your own salary, return on investor capital, and capital for future expansion. Don’t forget to add the cost of borrowing money and the interest and debt you may have already accrued. Then start thinking ahead: once you can put numbers to everything that takes money out of your business, you can plan how much you will need to grow going forward.

3. Don’t avoid the necessary. A major challenge for business owners (this is true for large and small firms) is that if they don’t fully understand the figures, they assume someone else will…and will also look out for them. This is a major mistake. Not because of any trust issue but because owners with even a good level of financial knowledge can challenge costs and the impact costs can have on the performance of the company. This includes knowing and using of – income statements and balance sheets, understanding inventories and learning to manage cash flow and supply chain.

4. Take the landscape view. Become familiar with the general state of your immediate marketplace. Analyse your competitors and ascertain how your company stacks up against them in terms of goods, services, and pricing. Do a SWOT analysis and determine competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and identify opportunities therein. Additionally, work on deepening your understanding of your customers and figure out if they could and would spend more for what you provide (there are some easy – and free online tools that can assist you here).

5. Learn how to use financial training software. Business owners no longer need to take long journeys or days out of the office to improve essential financial skills. New online resources such as Ablata can provide valuable up-skill services that can assist owner-managers improve their financial skills significantly for a fraction of traditional in-class settings. Whether you have a good understanding of finance or are just starting to learn, pioneering software options can be structured to help owner-managers become proficient in the language of business finance in as little as 12 hours.

Worth isn’t just about price or what to charge – it’s about the true value of your business, which involves a combination of factors: your products, services, competitive landscape, and the value your business brings to customers. By educating yourself on your financials, and working with the correct tools and credible professionals, you’ll be on your way to a lifetime of success – without leaving anything to chance.

Irish motorists could be stripped of licences under new EU laws

The European Commission is proposing to ‘harmonise penalty points’ in move which could see Irish motorists stripped of their licences if they are caught speeding while they are abroad

Irish Financial Review - Speed Cameras

New rules could extend penalty points across EU

 

Irish motorists caught speeding or committing other motoring offences in Europe will face fines and could even lose their licences under new EU laws.

At present motorists using their own vehicles abroad avoid punishment if they are caught by speed cameras. They only face fines if they are stopped by a police officer at a roadside.

The European Parliament is on Wednesday expected to vote in favour of new measures that will give police forces the power to issue fines across Europe and to pursue offenders in courts abroad.

The new rules are expected to be supported by the vast majority of MEPs, and cover penalties for speeding, ignoring red lights, drink and drug driving and driving while using a mobile phone.

Next year the European Commission will also, under the same legislation, review whether it should introduce “harmonisation of penalty points”, under which motorists who commit motoring offences abroad will get points on their licence.

How most students are being cheated when it comes to money

Secondary school students are studying up on mathematics, physics, advanced chemistry, and world history, but most aren’t learning fundamental money lessons to help them financially navigate the real world.

 

MoneyWhizz - money samples

Financial education provides lifetime benefits to students

 

Such is the case with students all over Ireland who struggle with the basics of personal finance. Even in so-called ‘top rated schools, students are being neglected when it comes to basic personal finance.

The assumption is that somebody else will teach it” said Mr. Frank Conway, Founder of MoneyWhizz.org, the personal money management and personal budgeting service.

Across the globe, there is a growing chorus of influencers calling for the introduction of financial education to be introduced into the curriculum. Both the OECD and UNICEF have been calling for such material to be introduced at school level for years.

What is really concerning are the findings of a study carried out by Harvard University which reveals that even smart students don’t have an understanding of personal finance” said Mr. Conway.

Growing complexity that parents and teachers couldn’t be expected to fully understand

Part of the problem is that the financial system has become increasingly complex. New rules, new products, new technologies have made many areas of personal finance more and more abstract. For example, many people no longer fully understand how complex mathematical models track how they borrow and repay their debts. These can have life-long implications across a range of areas ranging from credit to employment. Also, for students that may live and work abroad, personal credit scores will impact their insurance costs, ability to rent property and in some cases, whether or not they get admitted into hospital.

Personal credit reports have become our most important social media profile yet nobody teaches this stuff to students” said Mr. Conway.

Deemed preserve
Interest is there, opportunity in not. In a US poll, 84 percent of high school students desire more financial education. Among 16- to 18-year-olds, 86 percent said they would rather learn about money management in the classroom than make financial mistakes in the real world.

Irish parents have also expressed concern, as have grandparents. In 2011 – 2013, Cents & Sensibility – a financial guide for young adults sold out in a matter of weeks at Ireland’s top book store. This was despite the fact the book was marketed via word of mouth and testament to the emotional appeal of teaching finance to the next generation.

There is a market demand for personal finance knowledge but too often, there are few answers to solve the lack of training” said Mr Conway.

New programme
MoneyWhizz is a new, non-profit programme developed specifically for students aged 16 – 20. It teaches 10 essential money lessons that every student will require knowledge of as they become financially independent.
In Ireland, a number of schools are beginning to buck the trend with gradual introduction of personal finance to students. But the major difficulty for teachers and schools is the lack of financial resources.

Free, Independent, Commercial-free
MoneyWhizz offers 10 core money lessons that have been specially written and edited for students. Schools that would like to avail of the MoneyWhizz programme can contact info@moneywhizz.org

Where on earth can your savings grow?

Savers in Ireland have it rough these days. Government imposes a punitive tax (41%) on interest income (DIRT) and many banks scarcely pay any interest worth writing home about. So between earnings potential and holding onto it, options are very, very limited for your cash to grow. That said, there are more ways to squeeze a few cent from the current market.

10 tips to avoid bank fees

Where to for your savings

To really look at what consumer choices really exist, let’s consider all of the consumer options, not just deposits and savings accounts.

In the deposit arena, there are only a few options open to consumers that really pay market leading interest income. For example, the UK savings giant, Nationwide UK (Ireland) offers up to 4% before the 41% DIRT tax is applied on its regular savers account. KBC, the expanding brand also offer some good deals for regular savers with gross 3.5% offers (before DIRT) followed by Permanent TSB, which promotes a 2.5% deal. So the real challenge is on earning some interest income and actually holding onto it as DIRT will reduce the earnings significantly!

In the other area of deposits, Lump Sum, the returns generally are very, very low. For example, the best deals on the market are on offer from Rabo Bank but with rates generally at the 1.95% – 1.75% range before DIRT, this makes for pretty limited interest income options. Some of the Rabo Bank deals have access restrictions of between 90 days and 30 days with one of the accounts offering instant access. The interesting feature of the Rabo Bank are available via online only so for those that like to transact face-to-face, these offers are not for them (Rabo doesn’t operate a branch network in Ireland anyway!).
Of the Irish savings institutions, Permanent TSB offers one of the better deals on the market for Lump Sum savers with a 1.75% offer, but it is an online-only deal if you want instant access.

What about the State Savings (DIRT-free) and National Solidarity Bond deals?
Despite being free of DIRT, the various State deals on offer via An Post don’t make for very appealing offers. Yes, while the concept of DIRT-free may earn some headlines, the reality is that these products stopped offering any meaningful return on deposit some time ago and are a shadow of their former self. For example, if we look at the 4-Year National Solidarity Bond (Issue 5), the AER on this deal (the AER is the real measure on return) is just .99% (or 4% Gross). The 3-Year Savings Bond (Issue 16) offers even less (.83% or 2.5% gross).

One issue that depositors have to watch out for is the digital divide and this is where some institutions offer their best interest rates for deposits. As pointed out earlier, Rabo Bank beats the market generally but it deals are only available via online banking simply because it operated purely as an online bank. But AIB too as well as Permanent TSB also advertise deals that are only available online only so those shopping for the best deals need to check the fine print on online or not as no everybody (young and old) are entirely comfortable with online banking (especially after the Ulster Bank online fiasco of recent years). This online trick applies across both Lump Sum and Regular Saver accounts.
DIRT exempt

One important development in the most recent Budget was the introduction of DIRT free savings for first time buyers that are savings for the deposits towards their new homes. While the specific details on how the DIRT will be verified and refunded for qualifying accounts, its introduction will some as a welcome reprieve to those who will benefit more from the initiative. Of course, the new deposit rules for first time buyers has just created a whole new dynamic here so for many first time buyers, the savings term was just doubled!

Pension contributions – of course, this is the other side of savings that can sometimes be omitted from the narrative and pension contributions are a great tax-efficient savings scheme. In fact, they probably represent one the best savings deals on the market for those with qualifying income. When managed properly, income goes into an approved pension plan before income tax, can grow tax free and a percentage of income can exit a pension plan tax free (for example, 25% of the fund value up to a limit of €200,000 if using the ARF option). Not a bad deal in an otherwise very tough market!

Negative equity cemented under new mortgage rules

Under new Irish Central Bank mortgage rules, banks will only be able to lend up to a maximum of 80% of a property’s value in most cases.

Urges action on arrears

New mortgage rules will restrict lending

The new rules will not be phased in, and will have immediate effect once they have been approved by the Oireachtas.

However banks will be able to lend up to 90% of the value of the home to first-time buyers up to a limit of €220,000 but any amount above this threshold will be subject to the 80% lending cap.

This means that first time buyers will need a 10% deposit for the first €220,000 and 20% for any amount above this.

For all other owner-occupier borrowers, the deposit required will be 20%.

Return of Property Price Ceilings

What this all points to is price ceilings returning to the property market much like the old stamp duty ceilings on second-hand homes before the system was reformed.

Much worse for existing homeowners in negative equity

For existing homeowners, this is bad news as it now means that if they are currently in negative equity, the likelihood of they remaining there for a longer time has just shot up. Additionally, higher priced properties have suddenly seen their potential market shrink as fewer first time buyers or existing homeowners will have the necessary funds to buy them.

Of course, to be fair to the Irish Central Bank, it does not and should not owe higher house prices to anybody, that is not part of its remit. Its job is to ensure the stability of the banking system.

So much for ECB money printing experiment (A.K.A. Q.E.)

The reality on the ground though is that property prices really do matter; they have a major impact on consumer confidence. The irony of course is that in less than a week after the ECB said that it would start printing money in a desperate bid to boost economic activity (and consumer confidence) the latest mortgage rules here are likely to result in the opposite. After all, who really feels flush living with €60,000 of negative equity?

Who knows, perhaps there will be lots and lots of investors sitting on the sidelines ready to take up the slack!

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