The trick to DOUBLING your pension tax relief that could save you £18k

Higher earners are being urged to use a loophole to boost tax-free pension contributions up to a temporary £80,000 annual limit before this allowance gets slashed next April.

The trick potentially allows people to massively boost payments into a pension during the current tax year – assuming they can afford to do so, and meet certain conditions – and is a side-effect of a move to tidy up the rules around the £40,000 annual allowance.

Someone who is sufficiently wealthy but hasnt yet tapped their tax-free allowances for the previous three years can still use them up as well, and top up their pension pot by a further £140,000.

New $35 million competition will enable greater financial inclusion for …

A number of challenges have prevented the financial services and agribusiness sectors from developing and scaling up the financial products and services that farmers and rural poor people need. These challenges include the high costs to traditional financial service providers of doing business in remote areas, the lack of staff know-how to design appropriate products and the fact that many farm families are unaware of the benefits they might obtain by accessing the formal financial system.

Those who make their living from agriculture, either directly or indirectly, make up two-thirds of Africas workforce, live largely in rural areas and are among the continents most marginalized people. Only about one percent of all commercial bank lending across the continent goes to the agricultural sector.

We are looking to help financial service providers expand an innovative product, service or program that is currently in operation but may only reach a limited number of smallholder farmers or rural poor in Africa, said Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion at the Foundation. Smallholder farmers – many of them women – depend on agriculture to sustain their livelihoods. We need to enable much larger numbers of people to benefit from access to formal financial products and services in order to transform their lives. This is what the Scaling Competition is all about.

This latest initiative will focus on Cote dlvoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia to expand the most promising ideas or pilots that will foster financial inclusion for smallholder farmers. Through this competition, the Fund expects to see changes at a scale that will positively influence the financial services environment of these countries.

The Scaling Competition comes after the Innovation Competition which closed in March 2015. The two competitions operate under the Fund for Rural Prosperity, managed in partnership with KPMGs International Development Advisory Services, Africa. Analysis of more than 400 entries in the Innovation Competition is ongoing; the announcement of the winners of up to one million dollars in support will take place on October 1st.

For the current Scaling Competition, applicants have from July 20, 2015 to September 30, 2015 to submit proposals for expanding business products or services in the eight countries. The final selection of winning proposals is expected to be made in early 2016. Two more Innovation and Scaling Competitions under the Fund for Rural Prosperity will be held in 2016 and 2017.

New Mortgage Prepayment Stats

New Mortgage Prepayment Stats

June 20, 2015 Robert McLister 697

Manulife released new data this week on homeowners tendency to prepay their mortgages, as well as their ability to withstand interest rate hikes. Heres what those numbers revealed.

Prepayment Trends

Mortgages with big prepayment allowances save a small fraction of the population a lot of interest. Theres no disputing that. But for most, they are one of the more over-rated mortgage features. Manulifes Homeowner Debt Survey supports that assertion.

The report found that while 40% of mortgage holders paid extra on their mortgage last year, those payments totalled only 3.3% of the average Canadians mortgage balance (which is $190,000). Moreover:

  • Fewer than 1 in 15 mortgagors pre-paid more than $10,000.
  • Only 1 in 50 prepaid more than $25,000 (ie, more than 13% of the average Canadian mortgage balance).

This chart from Manulife helps explain why 6 in 10 mortgagors are passing up prepayments.

Borrower Stability

Its encouraging that 56% of homeowners said they reduced their debt in the past year. Thats up from 51% a year ago.

Clearly, the majority of borrowers have household debt under control. But Manulifes survey revealed some sobering statistics on the minority, like the fact that 40% of homeowners claim theyd struggle to make their mortgage payments within three months of being out of work.

In the event that the primary income-earner lost his/her job:

  • One in six homeowners said theyd struggle to make their regular mortgage payment within just one month.
  • Over a quarter (27%) would struggle to do so after three months.

And then there are interest rate hikes to consider:

  • More than a third of homeowners surveyed would encounter financial difficulty if their mortgage payment increased by just 10%.
  • 15% of mortgagors said they could not absorb any increase in their payment.

Now, mind you, surveys have a funny way of drawing out biased responses. And this may be one of those cases.

CAAMP economist Will Dunning told Amanda Lang his research suggests that many people have paid more than they’re paying now. Yet those same people say they can’t afford higher payments.

“Probably, they’re not telling us what they can afford, he said. They just don’t want to see their payment rise…”

Whatever the case may be, it appears there is still ample room for financial improvement before a sizable minority of homeowners achieve a good night’s sleep.

The Survey: The Manulife Bank of Canada poll surveyed 2,372 Canadian homeowners between ages 20 to 59 with household income of $50,000 or more. The survey was conducted online by Research House between February 10 and 27, 2015. National results were weighted by province, income and age.

Tax relief for more seniors and disabled citizens

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Tax relief for more seniors and disabled citizens – The Goldendale Sentinel

Buying a Home in Your 50s or 60s Is a Delicate Dance

If youre in your 50s or 60s and youre ready to buy your move-up home, plenty of challenges await you. Perhaps your adult child is moving back home or your aging mother wants to come live with you.

The good news is that you also have some big advantages over your younger home-buying peers.

Typically, people in their older years are the most prepared for such an investment, says Natalie Frazier, a real estate salesperson with Fenwick Keats Real Estate in New York City. They have a steady history of employment, an opportunity to have built strong credit and have usually been able to save up a good amount for a down payment.

The buy-and-sell tango
One of the bigger challenges that Cara Ameer, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, has seen with her 50- or 60-something buyers is that so many of them have to sell an existing home before they can buy a new one.

They either dont want to or cant swing making two mortgage payments at once, Ameer says.

This is a delicate dance that many younger buyers dont face. Of course, buyers would prefer to sell their existing homes and then move immediately into their new ones. Getting this to happen isnt easy.

If youre an older buyer, chances are you are going to take your time to find a home since its likely to be your final home purchase, says Ameer.

Since finding temporary rental housing is never easy, Ameer says the best move that older buyers can make is to study their markets carefully to understand how long it has taken similar homes to sell.

Adult kids and aging parents
Adult children and aging parents can throw new wrinkles into the home-buying plans of older buyers as well, says Ameer.

 If theyre worried about their aging parents, they might only be looking at ranch homes, she says. If they have adult children living with them, they might hesitate before down-sizing quite as much as they might like.

Should I downsize? 
Miguel Berger, president of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Tech Valley in Albany, New York, says that many of his older clients tell him that they want to downsize. But often, these clients are not realistic about how small of a home they can stand.

Its not always easy to downsize when youre used to living in a 2,000-square-foot home, Berger says.

Ive had clients call me up six months after downsizing to tell me that they cant do it. Their new homes are too small, Berger says. Downsizing sounds good. But often, its not as satisfying as you might think. Its not easy moving from a larger home to one that is too small.

So before you shop for that two-bedroom condo, make sure that small living is something that you really want.

Crimping your retirement
Carolyn Dunlavy, owner of Jade Tree Retirement Planning in West Hollywood, California, says that older buyers are often immersed in saving for their retirement years. Buying a new home, and taking on the costs of a new mortgage loan for the next several decades, can eat into your retirement savings, she says.

Older buyers risk depleting their future retirement funds even more if they are both saving less for retirement and withdrawing from their IRAs to fund buying a home, Dunlavy says. That can be a double whammy.

You need to carefully weigh whether your decision to buy a new home will make your retirement years less financially stable.

A mortgage into retirement? 
Financing a home in your 50s and 60s means having a monthly mortgage payment throughout your retirement years.

Older buyers might prefer a shorter-term mortgage, says Doug Leever, executive vice president of the Tropical Financial Credit Union in Plantation, Florida, but shorter-term loans, while having lower mortgage rates, come with higher monthly payments.

Can you afford the payment that comes with a shorter-term loan? Thats a big question for many older home buyers, Leever says. Some cant, and they have to really look at their finances to determine if they can handle a mortgage payment in their retirement years.

Falling home values
Older buyers have traditionally relied on the profits from the sale of their existing homes to cover their down payment and closing costs on the purchase of their move-up or down-sized residences. But in todays market, that might not be a possibility for you depending on when you purchased your home, says Lee Williams, a real estate salesperson with Charles Rutenberg Realty in New York City. 

That can be quite a shock, and can even keep older buyers from purchasing their dream homes, Williams says.

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New study reveals unmet demand in digital financial products for under 11s

Gone are the days when childrens pocket money was a pound coin to spend on comics and penny sweets.

New research shows that parents are increasingly making digital payments to their children, who in turn spend the money on digital and online services like iTunes and Minecraft. The survey polled 2,000 parents on how they choose to give pocket money to their children.

It was commissioned by Intelligent Environments, a provider of mobile and online financial services solutions. According to the survey, just over one third (34%) of parents now pay pocket money directly into a digital bank account rather than in cash.

A total 28% skip the bank account and pay in digital currency for online platforms such as Moshi Monsters, Minecraft and iTunes. Despite the fact that over 80% of parents educate their children about financial management from a young age, very few high street banks offer products aimed at children.

Only two banks, HSBC and NatWest, offer accounts for under-11s and there are no current accounts for under 7s. The financial services industry is missing out on an important opportunity, according to David Webber, managing director at Intelligent Environments: [In] an increasingly cashless society, more should be done by banks to give young children access to digital personal financial management tools. We share parents views that learning the power of spending and the value of saving from a young age provides children with valuable life skills that will take them far. In a world of apps, e-books, digital music, and online games, more children than ever are asking for their weekly allowance digitally to fuel modern-day spending such as in-app purchases, in-game currency and digital music downloads. Intelligent Environments is calling on banks to offer a wider range of products for children, with lower minimum age restrictions on current accounts and bespoke online services to help youngsters manage their money.

Top 3 financial products for every SME

Business writer, Zoe Efstathiou, takes a look at three financial products that will help any SME get their books in order.


Established in 1983, QuickBooks is one of the most well-known cloud accounting products for small or medium-sized businesses. It offers three packages, ranging in price from £5.60 to £15.00 per month. The cheapest package enables you to generate invoices, monitor sales and expenditure, and accept credit and debit card payments. The software offers the handy, time-saving feature of automatically syncing up with your online business or personal bank account, saving you the hassle of manual data entry. The most expensive QuickBooks package is targeted at bigger businesses, and includes the functionality to prepare budgets, create purchase orders and manage stock levels. If you have employees, you can also run payroll on all packages for an additional £1 per employee per month.

RELATED: 5 steps to help secure your business loan

Its reasonable price coupled with free phone and online chat support has made QuickBooks one of the most popular cloud accounting solutions, with over one million online subscribers.


If youre running a very lean business and dont mind a few adverts thrown in with your accounting software, then Wave, a free cloud-based solution, might be right up your street. The software has similar features to paid alternatives like QuickBooks, such as expenses tracking, bank reconciliation, unlimited invoicing and integration with online banking, yet it also contains a few useful extras. For example, to ensure that you stay on top of your payments, Wave issues reminders about unpaid invoices and bills. You can even set your invoices to include a Pay Now link to allow you to take credit card payments at the click of a button. If you require add-ons such as payroll, the functionality is available, but it does entail a small fee.

Wave is a popular choice for small businesses, but it supports itself by placing advertisements on the dashboard and emailing you special deals about other software packages, which could prove irritating to some people.

Financial advisor

While decent accounting software is a must-have for any start-up business, having access to frank, honest and clear advice from an expert is also invaluable and it won’t necessarily break the bank. If you find an accountancy firm that caters specifically to small and medium-sized businesses, they will be more likely to appreciate your need to keep costs down while gaining value for money. Take London-based firm, The Accounting Crew. They offer a comprehensive yet reasonably-priced service which includes VAT completion, payroll administration, annual preparation of company accounts to Companies House and HMRC, filing of tax returns, support on tax issues and free face-to-face meetings, amongst other benefits.

The Accounting Crew basic package will set you back £85 (+ VAT) per month, which may seem like a lot of money when you’re growing your business, but its likely to work out a great deal lower than many other London firms which charge costly hourly rates for financial support. And if it can save you a headache and free up your time to focus on what youre passionate about, then it could be a worthwhile investment.

How about a blind taste test of competing Pa. property tax relief plans? (letter)

Blind taste tests often produce surprising results. Imagine if this years two property tax relief proposals were wines Gov. Wolfs plan unveiled in March as part of his 2015-16 budget proposal and the Republican-sponsored HB 504 that passed the Pennsylvania House in May.

We at the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center think that if Republican lawmakers were subjected to a blind test (without party labeling) of which of the two property tax plans they prefer, many would be astonished to find that they would pick Wolfs. The similarities between the two plans and the benefits of Wolfs plan for many Republican areas of the state should make property taxes one area for potential compromise in the current state budget debate.

PBPC laid out the facts on both property tax plans in a package of three briefs released late last month. PBPC calculated and compared how much property tax relief typical homeowners in each of Pennsylvanias 500 school districts would receive under both plans. We also color-coded maps so Pennsylvanians can see at a glance which districts would get the biggest share of tax relief under each plan and the actual dollar amount of relief to be received.

Heres what we found:

Both proposals would raise the state income tax by the same amount (from 3.07 percent to 3.7 percent) and also would raise revenues by increasing the state sales tax.

In most school districts, typical homeowners would receive similar dollar amounts of tax relief under both plans.

More Military Families Experiencing Debt


(KCEN) — According to a recent survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, military families have twice the credit card debt of civilians and have much fewer assets.

Those numbers dont surprise David Roebuck of Symphony Homes. He works with military families often who are trying to build and buy homes.

Many of them are used to having things paid for without needing to save. Then when its time to do it, Theyre over their head, he says.

Its something Gerald Reddick experienced himself. Before he was a successful DJ in Killeen, he was once a young soldier.

Reddick moved from place to place, ate out a lot, and bought expensive cars. Before he knew it, he was over his head.

Our pride and joy was electronics. We all wanted the best. In most case we didnt have the responsibility of a family, he recalls.

Many of his fellow soldiers lived on credit cards and spent more than they had according to Reddick.

He says purchases helped fill the void of missing friends and family.

Our thing was shopping and buying stuff. Because we wanted more and more and more, Reddick explains.

He says before he hit rock bottom, he decided to make a budget, cut up the credit cards and start spending cash instead.

I had to wake up and grow up. I wanted a family and a future, he says.

Lucky for him it wasnt too late. But the same cant be said for many in the military still losing the battle against debt.

For resources to repair debt for military families: