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Newly-retired women urged to check their state pension for little-known boost worth thousands

Newly-retired women urged to check their state pension for little-known boost worth thousands

The new state pension system has a special concession for women who paid ‘married woman’s stamp’ any time in last 35 years

Stephen Little
Wed, 10/09/2019 – 10:43

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Some retired women could be missing out on thousands of pounds a year because of a little-publicised concession under the new state pension system.

Newly-retired women who paid the ‘married woman’s stamp’ towards their pension early in their careers could still benefit from it now, according to a former pensions minister.

Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former pensions minister, is urging women to check their state pension income to see if they benefit from this little-known feature designed to protect those who paid a reduced rate of National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

How much could you get?

The concession could be worth between £4,027 and £6,718 a year depending on your circumstances.

Before the introduction of the new state pension system in April 2016, women could claim a partial state pension based on the NI record of their husband. 

However, the new state pension system is based on an individual’s own NICs, not those of their husband, which could leave some women disadvantaged.

Recognising this problem, the government introduced a concession which allows women reaching state pension under the new rules and who paid the married woman’s stamp to make a claim based on their husband’s NI record. 

The rate payable would be a full basic state pension of £129.20 if they are now divorced or widowed or 60% of the basic state pension – £77.45 per week – if they are married.

The government estimates that around 10,000 women could potentially benefit from this concession.

Mr Webb says: “It is amazing that in designing a state pension system in the 21st Century, the government had to include special rules to protect women affected by a rule designed in the 1940s. 

“It is not widely known that women who paid the reduced stamp at any point in the 35 years before they re-tired, and who come under the new state pension system, can claim a minimum payment under the new system. 

“If any woman is getting a substantially reduced amount from the new state pension she should check if she paid the reduced stamp and contact the Pension Service if she is in any doubt.”

What is the married woman’s stamp?

Until 1977 married women who went to work could opt to pay a reduced rate of NICs – known as the ‘married woman’s stamp’.

These women would not build up a state pension in their own right but would be entitled to claim a partial state pension based on the NI record of their husband when he retired.

The number of women paying the reduced stamp peaked in the 1970s at around 4.4 million. 

From 1978 onwards, no new married women were allowed to opt to pay a reduced rate of contributions as the idea that a man was the main breadwinner had become outdated.

Those who were already paying the reduced rate were allowed to continue to do so and this entitlement has continued to this day and only lapses if a woman does not pay contributions for a period of two full years.

A Freedom of Information Request from Royal London shows that around 200 women are still paying reduced NICs.

What should you do to claim?

The for a full basic state pension for women is £129.20 if you are divorced or widowed or £77.45 per week if you are married.

Royal London is calling on women receiving less than these amounts to check if they paid the married woman’s stamp at any point in the 35 years up to retirement.

If they did, they should contact the Pension Service to see if they are entitled to a higher pension.

Moneywise First 50 Fund manager Alexander Darwall to retain investment trust and cut fees

Moneywise First 50 Fund manager Alexander Darwall to retain investment trust and cut fees

The trust’s board announced that it will end its contract with its current fund management company, Jupiter, in November

Tom Bailey
Wed, 10/09/2019 – 08:25

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Moneywise First 50 fund manager Alexander Darwall will be bringing his European investment trust with him to his new investment company, Devon Equity Management.

The trust’s board announced that it will end its contract with its current fund management company Jupiter in November.

Earlier in the year, Darwall announced that he would be leaving Jupiter in order to start Devon Equity Management.

While it was confirmed that Darwall would no longer be managing his two open-ended funds, Jupiter European and Jupiter European Growth, the fate of his investment trust was not entirely clear.

In late April, Darwall publicly pledged that he would continue to manage Jupiter European Opportunities Trust for at least five more years. The fund is one of Moneywise’s top 50 investment picks for beginner investors.

The move will also see the trust cut fees. Until May 2020, Jupiter will continue to receive its current management fee, while no performance fee will be charged.

The trust has charged an average of 1.1% a year over the past five years, according to Numis, the analyst, under the current charging structure, which includes a performance fee.

From next May, the trust will charge a management fee of 0.9% on the first £1 billion worth of assets held by the trust and 0.8% on any amount above that.

Currently, the trust has around £860 million in assets under management. No new performance fee will be introduced.

Stockbrocker Numis has welcomed this fee change, noting: “This has the potential to significantly reduce costs for investors, given the fund’s strong returns have led to an average performance fee of 1.1% of net assets over the last five years.

“In return, there will be a relatively modest increase in the base fees by around 0.15%.”

Darwall’s Devon Equity Management will take control of the trust in November, which will then be known simply as European Opportunities Trust.

In a further blow to Jupiter, in response to the continued underperformance of the Jupiter UK Growth investment trust, its board has announced that it is considering the potential of replacing the trust’s manager Steve Davies with someone from outside Jupiter.

Davies took over management of Jupiter UK Growth (formerly Jupiter Primadona) in April 2016.

This article first appeared in our sister publication Money Observer

Barclays to stop over the counter cash withdrawals at Post Offices

Barclays to stop over the counter cash withdrawals at Post Offices

The bank has pledged to not close branches in remote areas where it is the last bank in town

Stephen Little
Tue, 10/08/2019 – 11:23

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In another blow to rural and elderly customers already hit by bank closures, Barclays says it stopping over the counter cash withdrawals from the beginning of next year.

Barclays says it “remains committed” to the Post Office network, but while customers and businesses can still pay in and check their balance, over the counter cash withdrawals will end from January 2020.

Customers wishing to make a withdrawal by cheque will still be able to do this if they arrange it beforehand.

The decision by Barclays will reduce then number of places their customers can get cash, forcing them to use cash machines or find an alternative bank.

David Clarke, head of policy at campaign group Positive Money, says: “The news that Barclays is stopping savers from withdrawing cash at Post Office branches is a blow to millions of the bank’s customers who rely on cash in their day-to-day lives.

“With bank branches and free-to-use ATMs closing at an unprecedented rate, over-the-counter Post Office withdrawals had been seen as a back-up option, but that view is no longer viable.”

Rural areas have been hit by a raft of bank branch closures in recent years, while cash machines are also closing at a rate of 250 a month as operators shut unprofitable ones.

This has left towns and villages without access to basic banking services, hitting the elderly and the disabled particularly hard.

Banks often justify branch closures by pointing toward partnerships with the 11,000 Post Offices across the UK.

While this provides people with the opportunity to do their day-to-day banking, post offices only offer basic banking services, such as cash withdrawals, business deposits and balance enquiries.

A spokesperson from the Payment Systems Regulator says: “We are concerned about the impact this will have, and we will be closely monitoring the steps Barclays plan to take to make sure there are suitable alternatives for its customers to access their cash – especially those who rely on cash or who live in rural areas.”

The Post Office has confirmed that the rest of the UK’s major banks will continue to offer full banking services to their customers through the Post Office.

Pledge to save banks

Barclays has pledged to not close any branches in remote areas or where it is the last bank in town for two years.

The bank says that over 100 branches will be ring-fenced and remain open until at least October 2021.

Banks are shutting down branches at an alarming rate, with 3,303 bank closures between January 2015 and August 2019 – around 34% of the network, according consumer group Which?.

The closures were primarily driven by the Big Four banks, with RBS Group cutting its network by 56%.

Earlier this year, Nationwide pledged to keep its last branch in any town or city open until at least May 2021.

Mr Clarke says: “The major banks cannot be relied upon to protect customers’ access to cash, and industry commitments – such as Barclay’s pledge to keep open a small number of branches for two years – are piecemeal and inadequate.

“The only solution is for the government to introduce legislation that guarantees consumers’ ability to use cash for as long as they need it.”

Adam Rowse, managing director of branch-based banking at Barclays, says: “By maintaining last in town or remote branches over the next two years, and working with the community, we hope to increase demand and keep these branches viable.”

Barclays is also introducing a cashback scheme enabling customers to withdraw cash at businesses in remote towns and areas where there is no branch or ATM.

Branches Barclays has pledged to protect

Last In Town branches (62)

Alderley Edge, Bargoed, Barnard Castle, Barnoldswick, Bedale, Bentham, Biggin Hill, Bilbrook, Builth Wells, Burnham-on-Crouch, Cadishead, Carnforth, Chalfont St. Peter, Cockermouth, Cuffley, Drayton Norwich, Dunmow, Esher, Flitwick, Framlingham, Guiseley, Haltwhistle, Harleston, Haxby, Hemsworth, Heywood (Church St), Histon, Holmes Chapel, Hoyland Nether, Keswick, Kidsgrove, Kirkby Stephen, Knowle, Leiston, Leyburn, Llandeilo, Llangollen, Manningtree, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Oundle, Pickering, Radlett, Risca, Saltburn by the Sea, Seahouses, Shenfield, South Woodham Ferrers, Southwick, Southwold, St Ives, Stanhope, Tredegar, Treorchy, Wadebridge, Watton, West Mersea, Whickham, Woburn Sands, Wombourne, Wroxham, Yarm, Ystrad Mynach.

Remote branch (43)

Bideford, Brecon, Brigg, Caernarfon, Camborne, Chipping Norton, Cranleigh, Daventry, Deal, Devizes, Driffield, Easingwold, Falmouth, Gainsborough, Heathfield, Helmsley, Helston, Horncastle, Kirkby Lonsdale, Lampeter, Launceston, Leek, Malton, Market Drayton, Mildenhall, Monmouth, Pocklington, Porthmadog, Prudhoe, Pwllheli, Richmond North Yorks, Settle, Shaftesbury, Sheerness, Sleaford, Stow-on-the-Wold, Tenby, Thirsk, Towcester, Ulverston, Welshpool, Whitby, Workington.

House price growth at its slowest since 2016

House price growth at its slowest since 2016

The report from Halifax is the latest to highlight how the property market has stalled since the EU referendum in 2016

Stephen Little
Mon, 10/07/2019 – 10:32

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Annual UK house price growth is at its lowest level in six years in a further sign that Brexit is weighing on the market, new figures show.

House prices rose 1.1% year-on-year in September, down from 1.8% in August – the lowest rate of growth since April 2013, according to the latest Halifax house price index.

On a monthly basis, house prices fell by 0.4%, taking the average price of a property to £232,574.

Halifax says that growth is likely to remain hampered whilst the uncertainty around Brexit continues.

Russell Galley, managing director at Halifax, says: “Whilst this is lowest level of growth since April 2013, it remains in keeping with the predominantly flat trend we’ve seen in recent months.

“Underlying market indicators, including completed sales and mortgages approvals, continue to be broadly stable. Meanwhile for buyers, important affordability measures – such as wage growth and interest rates – still look favourable.

“Looking ahead, we expect activity levels and price growth to remain subdued while the current period of economic uncertainty persists.”

The UK housing market has slowed since the EU referendum in 2016, with prices falling in some regions such as London and the South East.

However, low interest rates and a low supply of available homes have helped stop house prices from plummeting.

Treasury data shows that house sales rose in August – up by 16% from July and the highest level since November 2018. This is possibly due to buyers looking to conclude transactions before the country leaves the EU at the end of October.

Mortgage approvals fell slightly from July. Figures from the Bank of England show that the number of mortgages approved to finance house purchases were 65,545 in August – a 2.2% fall from July.

Brian Murphy, head of lending for Mortgage Advice Bureau, says: “Once certainty around our EU exit timetable is known – one way or the other – it’s widely anticipated that those would-be home movers who are currently ‘waiting to see’ will take decisive action.

“Generally, the property market tends to see traction increase overall in the autumn as it’s traditionally one of the busier months of the year for movers; whether or not we’ll see a ‘Brexit Bounce’ in November, however, remains to be seen.”

According to the latest data from Nationwide, annual house price inflation was at 0.2% in September, with average prices at £215,352.