We were approached by Ian via an introduction from an existing client. Ian was in his mid to late 50s and had reached a well-paid executive position in a national organisation. Although he enjoyed his work and was proud of his achievements, he wanted to explore restructuring his work-life balance and move into partial retirement. His reasons were similar to those that many people associate with at his age, regardless of their specific occupation – lengthy commuting time was frustrating, the constant demands of the corporate environment were taking their toll on his stress levels, the serious illness of a close friend of the same age had given perspective, and above all he yearned for more time to spend following his outdoor pursuits, and having just become grandparents he and his wife wanted to devote time to visiting their family in another part of the country.
Until recently, Ian had always believed that he would have to work through to his mid-60s, but a few of his friends were confident that they could accelerate the process. He knew that he had a substantial ‘final salary’ pension from an employer for whom he worked earlier in his career that would commence at 65, and that his state pension age was 66. In addition, he had built up a large fund in the Group Personal Pension scheme of his current employer, and was interested in understanding whether what he had read in the weekend papers about ‘pension freedom’ and ‘flexi-access drawdown’ could help him improve his quality of life. Alongside this, he was aware of a growing trend in his industry for people of his age and level to move to a consultancy basis in order to have control over how much they worked, and Ian was confident that he would be in demand if he went down this route.
All of this context came to light during our first meeting with Ian, which we held at his home on a day that he was not working so that he was relaxed and focussed on the issues. The discussions were aided by Ian having given thought to the family budget and exactly how much he felt he and his wife would require to have an enjoyable standard of living once he left full-time retirement.
Later in the meeting, we explained the fundamental differences between drawdown and annuities, and how drawdown carried the flexibilities that would enable Ian to move to consultancy basis now, by bridging the shortfall in his income requirement until the final salary and state pensions kicked in. After further discussions about investment risk – both in terms of what Ian was comfortable with and what level of risk was needed to meet his objectives – Ian engaged us to prepare a suitability report. This recommended a drawdown provider and investment portfolio, and reassuringly included lifetime cashflow planning projections to demonstrate that the financial plan was sustainable for life – ie that the drawdown fund would not run out.
We meet Ian face-to-face twice-yearly to review both recent performance and his needs going forwards. We are also often in touch between these times by phone or email as Ian has online access to his drawdown plan, and as a ‘hands on’ individual is keen to run thoughts by us, which we welcome.
IN THE SANDWICH
Tom and Jane were friends of a member of a networking group to which we belong. The member was conscious that a recurring theme in their social gatherings was the combined financial and time pressure that Tom and Jane felt under, and so she recommended that they have an exploratory meeting with us, which we held without cost or obligation them at their home one evening.
This couple were in their mid-40s, and both worked full-time in demanding roles. With two children approaching secondary school age and a busy schedule of activities, they had their hands full outside work. In addition, Jane had lost her father recently, and it had become clear that her mother would need to move into a residential care home in the near future. As an only child, the onus was on Jane to devote as much time as she could to her mum, both emotionally and from a practical perspective given that there was a diagnosis of dementia and Jane held Lasting Power of Attorney.
While both clearly intelligent and capable people with a substantial level of disposable income that they could commit to financial planning, Tom and Jane were open in admitting that they lacked the time and dedication to focus on their financial planning. The initial meeting was wide-ranging, and we identified three key areas where by working together we could make an important contribution to their lives:
- Pensions – They both belonged to workplace pension schemes, but due to time pressures had drifted into default contribution rates and investment strategies. Their ideal scenario would be to retire at 60, but they had no idea of the extent to which they were on track to achieve this, or whether the funds they were invested in were suitable for their own risk profile and time horizon. Using lifetime cashflow modelling, we estimated the shortfall in their combined monthly pension funding, and given that only one of them was a higher rate taxpayer, recommended that they should make the increased contribution in order to benefit from the additional tax relief.
- Protection – Protection – We checked the protection provisions of both Tom and Jane’s employee benefit packages, and found that these were restricted to Death in Service (ie life assurance) cover only. We compared this against both their capital needs (paying off the mortgage) and income needs (eg replacing lost income and childcare costs) should anything happen to either of them. As a friend had also been diagnosed with cancer, the couple were keen to explore the costs of both critical illness cover and private medical insurance. Having identified how much of their household budget they could commit to protection, Tom and Jane were then able to select a range of benefits that gave them peace of mind that the family could cope financially whatever may arise in the future.
- Long Term Care – Jane was naturally anxious that her mother would settle in the new environment of a care home.Having found one that her mother enjoyed during a trial stay, Jane was keen for her to remain there on a permanent basis, but was concerned about the cost and whether if she and Tom could afford ‘third party top ups’ if her mum’s resources ran out. Working together, we calculated the shortfall between her mother’s pension income and Attendance Allowance and the care home fees, which enabled us to identify that her mother’s capital (in terms of the value of her house and savings) would be exhausted within 4 years. Jane felt there was a strong chance that her mother would live beyond then, and was worried that at that point she may have to undergo an unsettling move to a local authority funded home. We investigated a number of options, including whether to rent out instead of selling her mother’s home, but eventually recommended an immediate needs annuity, which in this case was able to guarantee that the shortfall would be paid tax-free to the care home for the full duration of Jane’s mother’s life.
We have an annual review meeting with Tom and Jane, and while life ‘in the sandwich’ caring for both children and parents remains hectic and challenging, they feel like a weight has been lifted from their minds by making a conscious decision to have a full financial review at this stage in life.
We were originally introduced to John by his accountant a few years ago, when we worked with him to introduce an Auto Enrolment compliant workplace pension scheme and Group Death in Service (life assurance) scheme for his workforce. We had also discussed business protection measures such as Keyman Insurance to ensure that the business would have been able to continue in the event of the death of a critical individual.
Now, John had recently sold his small but successful engineering business, and needed a long-term financial strategy for his retirement. We attended a joint meeting with John at the accountant’s office, where we were able to fully understand the details of issues such as Entrepreneurial Relief and Capital Gains Tax and quantify the net proceeds that John would receive. Although John had not been overly keen on pensions during his ownership, one thing he had done many years ago was place his business premises into a Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP), and the SIPP had grown with the value of rental payments over the years. The property had grown in value over the years and was not subject to CGT on sale as it was within a SIPP.
So, when formulating a plan for how John would fund his retirement, we were faced with both a substantial capital value and a sizeable pension fund. Having identified the income requirement for John and his wife, the challenge was to structure this most tax-efficiently across the different tax regimes.
Estate planning was also important to John and his wife, as they wanted their three children to ultimately benefit as much as possible from a legacy once they had both passed away. Given the value of their estate, it was significant that the children could also be nominated as potential beneficiaries of John’s SIPP. This created the potential for them to inherit the pension fund in pension form, rather than it being paid out as capital and being subject to tax in the event of death after 75. The radical changes to the tax treatment of death benefits now means that in some cases it is more suitable to draw on a pension fund later than non-pension capital, whereas the reverse was previously true.
John is adjusting to the psychological gear change of retirement and we enjoy catching up with him at our six monthly meetings.