Many exhausted new mums put their finances on the backburner, but this momentous life change is also an extremely expensive one which calls for careful planning.
There are a whole range of clever money moves mums can make. Here, independent online matching service findaWEALTHMANAGER.com offers its top personal finance tips for Mothers’ Day.
Lee Goggin, co-founder of findaWEALTHMANAGER.com, says:
“We often find that the birth of their first child is what has prompted our users to seek a wealth manager. For mothers and fathers alike, starting a family is a real watershed in how they approach their finances.
“When you have children your financial objectives change completely. Your new priorities need to be reflected in your financial plan, so taking proper advice is vital.”
Ten Top Finance Tips for New Mothers
1. Take out adequate life insurance
Taking out adequate life insurance (or reviewing existing policies) should be a priority. Children are designated as dependents for a reason and sadly none of us are guaranteed to be around as long as they need us.
Family Income Benefit policies are a good option for those with young families as they pay an income to the family of the deceased for the remainder of their policy’s term. A good financial adviser will help you assess the amount of cover you need and can afford.
Extra tip: Many employers offer life insurance/death in service benefits at cheaper rates than individuals can obtain.
2. Write a will
Incredibly, 60% of the UK population are without a will, despite them being the only guarantee that your wishes will be carried out posthumously. Parents need to appoint legal guardians for minor children and executors for the estate, as well as working out how to bequeath their assets.
Your will needs to arrange carefully for the maintenance of surviving children and their eventual receipt of family wealth when they are of age. Trusts are a time-honoured solution. Most wealth managers will have close links to professional trust companies which will be able to protect your children’s financial interests very robustly.
Extra tip: Professional trustees are advisable with large or complex estates held in trust, but in other circumstances family or close friends can serve perfectly well.
3. Pay heed to your personal pension; use all available reliefs
Motherhood often entails career breaks or working part-time, which can have a big impact on your pension provision. It’s crucial to fund a secure retirement in your own right, rather than relying solely on your partner. The sad truth is that the divorce rate is nudging 50% and many financially weaker partners have found themselves in much reduced circumstances as a result.
All married couples, regardless of whether they have children, should take professional advice on how their individual income and capital gains tax allowances can be best used in tandem. Spread pension savings across both your pots to maximise reliefs and if one of you owns a business think about putting shares in both your names. These are just a few of the options a wealth manager can help you explore. Good forward planning could save you thousands over a lifetime.
Extra tip: Even non-workers can obtain basic rate tax relief on personal pension contributions of up to £2,880 a year, meaning that the government will top this up to £3,600.
4. Use the incoming childcare tax break
From 2015 the government is set to introduce a childcare tax break which could be worth up to £2,000 a year per child. This will replace the current childcare voucher system, which has been criticised since many employers don’t offer them and the self-employed can’t apply.
Under the new system working parents will be able to claim a 20% subsidy on childcare costs, up to a maximum of £10,000 per year and assuming an Ofsted endorsed provider is used. To be eligible as a couple, both parents must earn over £50 a week but not more than £150,000 a year each (lone parents are also included).
Extra tip: The scheme still applies to parents who are on maternity/paternity or long-term sickness leave, as long as they qualified before they went on leave. People who are starting a business and so earning nothing initially are also eligible.
5. Consider nanny sharing
With childcare costs running so high, sharing a nanny with another family might work out to be an economical option. The way that you share the nanny’s services has to be carefully managed, however, since as their employer you are responsible for their tax and national insurance.
If the nanny is dividing her time between the two families then you need to agree to split her tax allowance proportionately. If this seems like a headache, then there are payroll companies which can handle this for you.
Extra tip: The proposed childcare tax break will apply to any Ofsted-registered form of childcare, nannies included.
6. Face up to the true cost of education
A solid education will go a long way towards securing your child’s financial wellbeing as an adult, but the total cost of 13 years’ private schooling and then university has soared frighteningly close to a quarter of a million pounds per child. Saving well before your child sees the school gates is essential. Make sure the whole family’s ISA allowances are used each year and consider setting up a Junior ISA for when the child goes to university.
Average private schooling fees of £10,000 a year are a significant burden, not to mention university tuition fees of around £30,000 and living costs during a degree – and don’t forget these figures are only per child. But there are many investment strategies wealth managers can deploy to help you meet these costs. They will also be able to advise you on tax-effective options like trusts.
Extra tip: Many private schools now offer an advance fee option, where the school invests the money and discounts the fees in exchange. This could also confer tax advantages for the wealthy.
7. Start building a nest egg
Most parents will want to be able to give their children a leg-up onto the property ladder, and over a couple of decades even modest savings can compound with interest to become quite a chunky sum. Under the Budget’s ISA reforms, from 1 July the annual contribution limit for Junior ISAs will be raised to £4,000.
As with adult ISAs, funds for children can now be invested in either cash or stocks and equities accounts. While cash might be safer, equities are almost certain to outperform over the 18-year saving period.
Extra tip: Remember that a Junior ISA can’t be accessed until your child turns 18. Also bear in mind that they will get full control of the money once the account becomes an adult ISA.
8. Enlist the grandparents
Grandparents may wish to help with the costs of education or help give your child a nest egg. With so-called bare trusts, grandparents can place assets in trust for your child with the income and capital gains on them taxed at the child’s rate.
People are often surprised to learn that children have tax obligations just the same as adults. But they will pay no tax if the annual allowances for personal income and capital gains (£10,000 and £11,000 for 2014/15 respectively) are not exceeded.
Extra tip: Grandparents should also be aware of the seven year gifting rule, which means that if they give assets to your children and go on to survive seven more years then the gift is free from inheritance tax on their death.
9. View family wealth holistically
There are many tax advantages to be had from looking at family wealth across the generations and pooling assets. Depending on your level of wealth, there are a range of structures which can be used to minimise inheritance and capital gains tax.
One option is to establish a Personal Investment Company to hold the family’s assets. This allows parents and children to get different income from the company through each being allocated a different share class. Establishing the Company offshore could bring further tax benefits.
Extra tip: Another solution is bancassurance, which uses a combination of life assurance and investment management.
10. Don’t ignore your child’s financial education
There is a woeful lack of financial education in schools, which means that it is vital parents take the lead in teaching about money matters. Instilling a healthy attitude towards money has to start early and encouraging children to save a proportion of their pocket money is a great introduction to personal finance.
As children get older you can introduce more complex financial matters, explaining things like interest rates, credit cards, mortgages and investments. The degree of financial education your child will require will depend on your level of wealth and how complicated your family’s affairs are, but the basics need to be covered.
Extra tip: If you have significant wealth and use a wealth manager you will find that most have educational programmes for clients and their children.
findaWEALTHMANAGER.com is the only independent, free online matching service that helps people find the wealth manager best suited to them.
The process involves completing a short online questionnaire, which impartially identifies a shortlist of up to three best-matched wealth managers. findaWEALTHMANAGER.com takes the guesswork out of choosing the firm with the capabilities, service levels, approach and geographical location that offers a client the best match.
findaWEALTHMANAGER.com’s panel of wealth managers covers the entire spectrum of institutions – large and small, traditional and more recently established, independent and bank-owned.
Taking control of compliance: how FS institutions can keep up with the ever-changing regulatory landscape
By Charles Southwood, Regional VP – Northern Europe and MEA at Denodo
The wide-spread digital transformation that has swept the financial services (FS) sector in recent years has brought with it a world of possibilities. As traditional financial institutions compete with a fresh wave of challenger banks and fintech startups, innovation is increasing at an unprecedented pace.
Emerging technologies – alongside the ever-evolving concept of online banking – have provided a platform in which the majority of customer interactions now take place in a digital format. The result of this is a never-ending stream of data and digital information. If used correctly, this data can help drive customer experience initiatives and shape wider business strategies, giving organisations a competitive edge.
However, before FS organisations can utilise data-driven insights, they need to ensure that they can adequately protect and secure that data, whilst also complying with mandatory regulatory requirements and governance laws.
The regulation minefield
Regulatory compliance in the FS sector is a complex field to navigate. Whether its potential financial fraud or money laundering, risk comes in many different forms. Due to their very nature – and the type of data that they hold – FS businesses are usually placed under the heaviest of scrutiny when it comes to achieving compliance and data governance, arguably held to a higher standard than those operating in any other industry.
In fact, research undertaken last month discovered that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has had a greater impact on FS organisations than any other sector. Every respondent working in finance reported that the changes made to their organisation’s cyber security strategies in the last three years were, at least to some extent, as a result of the regulation.
To make matters even more confusing, the goalpost for 100% compliance is continually moving. In fact, between 2008 and 2016, there was a 500% increase in regulatory changes in developed markets. So even when organisations think they are on the right track, they cannot afford to become complacent. The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID II), the requirements for central clearing and the second Payment Service Directive (PSD2), are just some examples of the regulations that have forced significant changes on the banking environment in recent years.
Keeping a handle on this legal minefield is only made more challenging by the fact that many FS organisations are juggling an unimaginable amount of data. This data is often complex and of poor quality. Structured, semi-structured and unstructured, it is stored in many different places – whether that’s in data lakes, on premise or in multi-cloud environments. FS organisations can find it extremely difficult just to find out exactly what information they are storing, let alone ensure that they are meeting the many requirements laid out by industry regulations.
A secret weapon
Modern technologies, such as data virtualisation, can help FS organisations to get a handle on their data – regardless of where it is stored or what format it is in. Through a single logical view of all data across an organisation, it boosts visibility and real-time availability of data. This means that governance, security and compliance can be centralised, vastly improving control and removing the need for repeatedly moving and copying the data around the enterprise. This can have an immediate impact in terms of enabling FS organisations to avoid data proliferation and ‘shadow’ IT.
In addition to this, when a new regulation is put in place, data virtualisation provides a way to easily find and access that data, so FS organisations can respond – without having to worry about alternative versions of that data – and ensures that they remain compliant from the offset. This level of control can be reflected even down to the finest details. For example, it is possible to set up access to governance rules through which operators can easily select who has access to what information across the organisation. They can alter settings for sharing, removing silos, masking and filtering through defined, role-based data access. In terms of governance, this feature is essential, ensuring that only those who have the correct permissions to access sensitive information are able to do so.
Compliance is a requirement that will be there forever. In fact, its role is only likely to increase as law catches up with technological advancement and the regulatory landscape continues to change. For FS organisations, failure to meet the latest legal requirements could be devastating. The monetary fines – although substantial – come second to the potential reputation damage associated with non-compliance. It could be the difference between an organisation surviving and failing in today’s climate.
No one knows what is around the corner. Whilst some companies may think they are ahead of the compliance game today, that could all change with the introduction of a new regulation tomorrow. The best way to ensure future compliance is to get a handle on your data. By providing total visibility, data virtualisation is helping organisations to gain back control and win the war for compliance.
TCI: A time of critical importance
By Fabrice Desnos, head of Northern Europe Region, Euler Hermes, the world’s leading trade credit insurer, outlines the importance of less publicised measures for the journey ahead.
After months of lockdown, Europe is shifting towards rebuilding economies and resuming trade. Amongst the multibillion-euro stimulus packages provided by governments to businesses to help them resume their engines of growth, the cooperation between the state and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters has perhaps missed the headlines. However, this cooperation will be vital when navigating the uncertain road ahead.
Covid-19 has created a global economic crisis of unprecedented scale and speed. Consequently, we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of support from national governments. Far-reaching fiscal intervention, job retention and business interruption loan schemes are providing a lifeline for businesses that have suffered reductions in turnovers to support national lockdowns.
However, it’s becoming clear the worst is still to come. The unintended consequence of government support measures is delaying the inevitable fallout in trade and commerce. Euler Hermes is already seeing increase in claims for late payments and expects this trend to accelerate as government support measures are progressively removed.
The Covid-19 crisis will have long lasting and sometimes irreversible effects on a number of sectors. It has accelerated transformations that were already underway and had radically changed the landscape for a number of businesses. This means we are seeing a growing number of “zombie” companies, currently under life support, but whose business models are no longer adapted for the post-crisis world. All factors which add up to what is best described as a corporate insolvency “time bomb”.
The effects of the crisis are already visible. In the second quarter of 2020, 147 large companies (those with a turnover above €50 million) failed; up from 77 in the first quarter, and compared to 163 for the whole of the first half of 2019. Retail, services, energy and automotive were the most impacted sectors this year, with the hotspots in retail and services in Western Europe and North America, energy in North America, and automotive in Western Europe
We expect this trend to accelerate and predict a +35% rise in corporate insolvencies globally by the end of 2021. European economies will be among the hardest hit. For example, Spain (+41%) and Italy (+27%) will see the most significant increases – alongside the UK (+43%), which will also feel the impact of Brexit – compared to France (+25%) or Germany (+12%).
Companies are restarting trade, often providing open credit to their clients. However, there can be no credit if there is no confidence. It is increasingly difficult for companies to identify which of their clients will emerge from the crisis from those that won’t, and whether or when they will be paid. In the immediate post-lockdown period, without visibility and confidence, the risk was that inter-company credit could evaporate, placing an additional liquidity strain on the companies that depend on it. This, in turn, would significantly put at risk the speed and extent of the economic recovery.
In recent months, Euler Hermes has co-operated with government agencies, trade associations and private sector trade credit insurance underwriters to create state support for intercompany trade, notably in France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK. All with the same goal: to allow companies to trade with each other in confidence.
By providing additional reinsurance capacity to the trade credit insurers, governments help them continue to provide cover to their clients at pre-crisis levels.
The beneficiaries are the thousands of businesses – clients of credit insurers and their buyers – that depend upon intercompany trade as a source of financing. Over 70% of Euler Hermes policyholders are SMEs, which are the lifeblood of our economies and major providers of jobs. These agreements are not without costs or constraints for the insurers, but the industry has chosen to place the interests of its clients and of the economy ahead of other considerations, mindful of the important role credit insurance and inter-company trade will play in the recovery.
Taking the UK as an example, trade credit insurers provide cover for more than £171billion of intercompany transactions, covering 13,000 suppliers and 650,000 buyers. The government has put in place a temporary scheme of £10billion to enable trade credit insurers, including Euler Hermes, to continue supporting businesses at risk due to the impact of coronavirus. This landmark agreement represents an important alliance between the public and private sectors to support trade and prevent the domino effect that payment defaults can create within critical supply chains.
But, as with all of the other government support measures, these schemes will not exist in the long term. It is already time for credit insurers and their clients to plan ahead, and prepare for a new normal in which the level and cost of credit risk will be heightened and where identifying the right counterparts, diversifying and insuring credit risk will be of paramount importance for businesses.
Trade credit insurance plays an understated role in the economy but is critical to its health. In normal circumstances, it tends to go unnoticed because it is doing its job. Government support schemes helped maintain confidence between companies and their customers in the immediate aftermath of the crisis.
However, as government support measures are progressively removed, this crisis will have a lasting impact. Accelerating transformations, leading to an increasing number of company restructurings and, in all likelihood, increasing the level of credit risk. To succeed in the post-crisis environment, bbusinesses have to move fast from resilience to adaptation. They have to adopt bold measures to protect their businesses against future crises (or another wave of this pandemic), minimize risk, and drive future growth. By maintaining trust to trade, with or without government support, credit insurance will have an increasing role to play in this.
What Does the FinCEN File Leak Tell Us?
By Ted Sausen, Subject Matter Expert, NICE Actimize
On September 20, 2020, just four days after the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a much-anticipated Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the financial industry was shaken and their stock prices saw significant declines when the markets opened on Monday. So what caused this? Buzzfeed News in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released what is now being tagged the FinCEN files. These files and summarized reports describe over 200,000 transactions with a total over $2 trillion USD that has been reported to FinCEN as being suspicious in nature from the time periods 1999 to 2017. Buzzfeed obtained over 2,100 Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and over 2,600 confidential documents financial institutions had filed with FinCEN over that span of time.
Similar such leaks have occurred previously, such as the Panama Papers in 2016 where over 11 million documents containing personal financial information on over 200,000 entities that belonged to a Panamanian law firm. This was followed up a year and a half later by the Paradise Papers in 2017. This leak contained even more documents and contained the names of more than 120,000 persons and entities. There are three factors that make the FinCEN Files leak significantly different than those mentioned. First, they are highly confidential documents leaked from a government agency. Secondly, they weren’t leaked from a single source. The leaked documents came from nearly 90 financial institutions facilitating financial transactions in more than 150 countries. Lastly, some high-profile names were released in this leak; however, the focus of this leak centered more around the transactions themselves and the financial institutions involved, not necessarily the names of individuals involved.
FinCEN Files and the Impact
What does this mean for the financial institutions? As mentioned above, many experienced a negative impact to their stocks. The next biggest impact is their reputation. Leaders of the highlighted institutions do not enjoy having potential shortcomings in their operations be exposed, nor do customers of those institutions appreciate seeing the institution managing their funds being published adversely in the media.
Where did the financial institutions go wrong? Based on the information, it is actually hard to say where they went wrong, or even ‘if’ they went wrong. Financial institutions are obligated to monitor transactional activity, both inbound and outbound, for suspicious or unusual behavior, especially those that could appear to be illicit activities related to money laundering. If such behavior is identified, the financial institution is required to complete a Suspicious Activity Report, or a SAR, and file it with FinCEN. The SAR contains all relevant information such as the parties involved, transaction(s), account(s), and details describing why the activity is deemed to be suspicious. In some cases, financial institutions will file a SAR if there is no direct suspicion; however, there also was not a logical explanation found either.
So what deems certain activities to be suspicious and how do financial institutions detect them? Most financial institutions have sophisticated solutions in place that monitor transactions over a period of time, and determine typical behavioral patterns for that client, and that client compared to their peers. If any activity falls disproportionately beyond those norms, the financial institution is notified, and an investigation is conducted. Because of the nature of this detection, incorporating multiple transactions, and comparing it to historical “norms”, it is very difficult to stop a transaction related to money laundering real-time. It is not uncommon for a transaction or series of transactions to occur and later be identified as suspicious, and a SAR is filed after the transaction has been completed.
FinCEN Files: Who’s at Fault?
Going back to my original question, was there any wrong doing? In this case, they were doing exactly what they were required to do. When suspicion was identified, SARs were filed. There are two things that are important to note. Suspicion does not equate to guilt, and individual financial institutions have a very limited view as to the overall flow of funds. They have visibility of where funds are coming from, or where they are going to; however, they don’t have an overall picture of the original source, or the final destination. The area where financial institutions may have fault is if multiple suspicions or probable guilt is found, but they fail to take appropriate action. According to Buzzfeed News, instances of transactions to or from sanctioned parties occurred, and known suspicious activity was allowed to continue after it was discovered.
How do we do better? First and foremost, FinCEN needs to identify the source of the leak and fix it immediately. This is very sensitive data. Even within a financial institution, this information is only exposed to individuals with a high-level clearance on a need-to-know basis. This leak may result in relationship strains with some of the banks’ customers. Some people already have a fear of being watched or tracked, and releasing publicly that all these reports are being filed from financial institutions to the federal government won’t make that any better – especially if their financial institution was highlighted as one of those filing the most reports. Next, there has been more discussion around real-time AML. Many experts are still working on defining what that truly means, especially when some activities deal with multiple transactions over a period of time; however, there is definitely a place for certain money laundering transactions to be held in real time.
Lastly, the ability to share information between financial institutions more easily will go a long way in fighting financial crime overall. For those of you who are AML professionals, you may be thinking we already have such a mechanism in place with 314b. However, the feedback I have received is that it does not do an adequate job. It’s voluntary and getting responses to requests can be a challenge. Financial institutions need a consortium to effectively communicate with each other, while being able to exchange critical data needed for financial institutions to see the complete picture of financial transactions and all associated activities. That, combined with some type of feedback loop from law enforcement indicating which SARs are “useful” versus which are either “inadequate” or “unnecessary” will allow institutions to focus on those where criminal activity is really occurring.
We will continue to post updates as we learn more.
Mastercard Delivers Greater Transparency in Digital Banking Applications
Mastercard collaborates with merchants and financial institutions to include logos in digital banking applications Research shows that ~25% of disputes...
Success beyond voice: Contact centres supporting retail shift online
As the nation continues to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19, customers have shifted their channel preferences, and contact centres have demonstrated...
7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business
Hospitality requires charisma and innovation The hospitality industry is a multibillion-dollar industry with lots of career opportunities in hotels, theme...
AML and the FINCEN files: Do banks have the tools to do enough?
By Gudmundur Kristjansson, CEO of Lucinity and former compliance technology officer Says AML systems are outdated and compliance teams need better...
Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’
By Andy Woods, Design Director of Rouge Media The ‘North Star Metric’ (NSM) is one of many seemingly confusing terms...
Taking control of compliance: how FS institutions can keep up with the ever-changing regulatory landscape
By Charles Southwood, Regional VP – Northern Europe and MEA at Denodo The wide-spread digital transformation that has swept the financial...
Risk assessment: How to plan and execute a security audit as a small business
By Izzy Schulman, Director at Keys 4 U Despite the current global coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty it has placed...
Buying enterprise professional services: Five considerations for business leaders in turbulent times
By James Sandoval, Founder and CEO, MeasureMatch The platformization of professional services provides businesses with direct, seamless access to the skills...
Wireless Connectivity Lights the Path to Bank Branch Innovation
By Graham Brooks, Strategic Account Director, Cradlepoint EMEA As consumers cautiously return to the UK high street in the past...
Financial Regulations: How do they impact your cloud strategy?
By Michael Chalmers, MD EMEA at Contino How exactly do financial regulations affect your cloud strategy? It’s a question many of...