Mindfulness: How to reduce stress and anxiety

by libertas2019 on May 19, 2020

At times we all feel stressed and anxious. Amid the current circumstances, you may feel more stressed than usual and not able to access your usual way of unwinding, whether it was hitting the gym or meeting up with friends. Mindfulness can help you feel calmer and better deal with the challenges of the day.

Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword recently and you’d no doubt heard of the term. But what does it actually mean? It’s a technique that focuses on being present in the moment without judging anything. It has links to Buddhism and meditation, but you don’t have to be spiritual to benefit from mindfulness.

Among the aims of mindfulness are helping you be more self-aware and feel calmer. With uncertainty over the pandemic, it’s not surprising that more people have concerns about their daily life. Making mindfulness part of your routine can help improve day-to-day wellbeing now and in the future.

How does mindfulness help ease stress?

When we’re stressed is often down to things that are outside of our control or concerns that haven’t yet materialised. Mindfulness is about focussing on the present and what you’re feeling now. Mindfulness can help you reduce stress by pulling our focus away from those areas that may be causing concern.

There are plenty of mindful activities to try too, so you’re able to find something that suits you. Meditation is one exercise that often springs to mind when thinking about mindfulness. But if you prefer to keep active, yoga may be better suited and those that enjoy getting creative can find colouring or other artistic projects just as relaxing.

5 tips for practising mindfulness

1. Switch off the electronics

Electronics provide numerous distractions. If you’re someone that is always looking at your phone or has music playing in the background, mindfulness exercises allow you to put down electronics for a short period. With the opportunity to connect with people at our fingertips, it’s not surprising that it can be difficult to focus on what’s happening now in your space only. Taking some time away from gadgets, even if it’s just five minutes, could be just what you need.

2. Start small when it comes to meditation

If you’re not used to it, you can get frustrated with mediation. Perhaps you’re annoyed at yourself because your thoughts keep drifting to worries or you can’t sit still. But it’s something that defeats the object of mindfulness! Start small when it comes to meditation, even just a few minutes clearing your mind can help you reset. Don’t worry if your thoughts drift either, it’s natural. Instead, acknowledge them, being mindful of why they’re coming to your attention, and try to let go.

3. Focus on what’s happening now

If you’re typically a multi-tasker, mindfulness can help slow you down in a good way. Even when we’re trying to focus on a project at hand, it’s easy to slip into thinking about past experiences and worrying about what the future will bring. Mindfulness aims to bring you back to the present and allow you to focus on what’s happening now. It’s a step that can help shut out concerns and worries that may not be useful when you look at the task objectively.

4. Focus on the positive and practice gratitude

Part of mindfulness is being grateful for what you already have. Amid hectic lifestyles, it can be easy to overlook the positive things that are already in your life, both big and small. Taking some time to think about them can deliver more confidence, improve your mood and allow you to focus on priorities. Some people prefer to write down what they’re grateful for, like a journal, but just pausing from time to time to appreciate the good things in life can be just as effective.

5. Enjoy just doing ‘nothing’

Finally, enjoy the time you set aside for being mindful. In our day-to-day lives, we’re often busy and focused on numerous things at once. Some people can feel guilty when they’re doing ‘nothing’, but sitting down and just being can be just as useful. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, it can provide you some time to focus on yourself and rest. Rather than seeing meditation or mindfulness activities as a waste of time, enjoy the feeling to get the most out of it.

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libertas2019Mindfulness: How to reduce stress and anxiety

DIY projects that could boost the value of your home

by libertas2019 on May 19, 2020

With more time indoors, Brits have been turning to DIY during the pandemic. It’s perfect for filling the time but, choose the right project, and it could add value to your home too, and it doesn’t have to be a huge renovation project. So, where should you be investing your time?

1. Refresh the garden

Summer is almost here, and people will be hoping to spend more time in the garden. Did you know an attractive outdoor space could boost the value of your home by as much as 10%?

If you’re not confident with DIY, even simple tasks of making sure the garden is neat, fences are freshly painted, and the space looks inviting can help. For those wanting to take on a project, laying a patio area or decking can help make a garden part of a home’s living space.

2. Think about your kerb appeal

It’s not just the back garden that you should think about if you’re hoping to raise the value of your home. How your property looks to those walking past matters too.

The front of your home is usually the first image that appears on estate agents’ websites and gives an impression of what the rest of the home will look like. Spending a bit of money on painting the front door and making your front garden or driveway attractive can be valuable. If you are planning to sell in the future, it can help you grab attention from the beginning and boost your asking price.

3. Update the kitchen fixtures

We all know that investing in a new kitchen can add thousands to the price of property. A modern kitchen can work wonders when it comes to how long a property takes to sell. But installing an entire kitchen is ambitious for the average DIY enthusiast.

However, you can give a kitchen a new lease of life with a few small tasks. Updating dated or tired fixtures can lift the whole room and, in some cases, painting cabinets can make them look almost as good as new.

4. Add storage

Ample storage is something potential homebuyers look for, especially if they’re hoping to purchase a family home. It’s an area where many houses fall short. If your home doesn’t have much in the way of storage, you may want to think about where you can add it and the appeal it would have to prospective buyers.

DIY projects such as adding floating shelving in the living room or installing bathroom cabinets can help people see how their possessions would neatly fit into your home.

5. Modernise light fixtures

Old fashion lighting can date a whole room, whilst harsh lighting can highlight flaws too. If you’re comfortable and have the knowledge to deal with electrics, modernising light fixtures can help you update every room in the house if needed. Whilst fluorescent lights have been popular in the past, softer options are now more in style. Choose a contemporary fixture to bring a room up to date.

6. Add a fresh lick of paint

Painted walls can become marked and dull over time without us even realising. If you’ve got time on your hands for a project, this can really help add value to your home with little financial investment. Where plaster has cracked or chipped away, take the time to fill these in. Then add a fresh lick of paint to cover marks and brighten up spaces. It’s a step that can add value by appealing to buyers that want to be able to move straight in without undertaking any DIY themselves.

If you’re hoping to sell soon, keep in mind what buyers will be looking for. Neutral colours that offer a ‘blank canvas’ for prospective buyers to put their stamp on are ideal.

7. Update internal doors

Much like your front door adding kerb appeal, your interior doors set the scene for the rooms and can make all the difference when potential buyers are looking through photos and viewing in person. If you really want to update the look of rooms, installing fresh doors may be an option. But, in many cases, a fresh coat of paint or varnish, along with replacing handles, can have just as much of an impact.

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libertas2019DIY projects that could boost the value of your home

Lockdown checklist: 6 financial steps to take during the pandemic

by libertas2019 on May 19, 2020

If you’ve been putting off reviewing your finances, the lockdown is the perfect opportunity to complete some tasks that could help make sure your finances and plans remain on track. With potentially more time on your hands, here are seven things to do during the stay at home period.

1. Review your will and Power of Attorney

It’s estimated that more than half of UK adults don’t have a will in place and even more haven’t established a Power of Attorney. These two legal documents are vital for ensuring your wishes are carried out. Even if you do have both these in place, take some time during lockdown to review them.

A will is the only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out when you pass away. If you already have a will, you can write a new one or add a codicil to make amendments if your wishes have changed. It’s generally a good idea to review your will following life events and every five years.

A Power of Attorney gives someone you trust the power to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. Losing the mental or physical capacity to make your own decisions isn’t something anyone wants to think about, but a Power of Attorney is important. There are two types, one covering health and wealth decisions and the other covering finances, you should have both in place.

2. Update your pension expression of wishes

Did you know your pension benefits aren’t usually covered by your will? Instead, you should complete an expression of wishes with each pension provider, stating who you’d like to benefit from your pension savings if you pass away. As pensions do not form part of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes and are likely to be one of your largest saving pots, they’re a valuable asset to consider as part of legacy planning.

3. Find out if you have any ‘lost’ pensions

Over the years you may have accumulated several pensions as you switch jobs. If the pension is relatively small or the employment was from some time ago, it’s easy for pensions to become ‘lost’. Luckily, the government has a service that can help you find lost pensions and start taking them into account when it comes to retirement planning. You can find the contact details for workplace and personal pension schemes here.

4. Check your National Insurance record

It’s simple to check your National Insurance record, you can do so here. This tracks how many full years of National Insurance you’ve paid, as well as any National Insurance credits you’ve received, such as when taking time out of employment to raise children or care for someone. Why is this important? You need to have 35 qualifying years on your record to be eligible for the full State Pension when you reach retirement age. If you have gaps, it may be possible to pay voluntary contributions. The sooner you know there’s a gap, the better position you’re in to make the right decision for you.

5. Evaluate financial protection

If you already have financial protection in place, now is a good time to review the policies. As circumstances and priorities change, the policies that are right for us change too.

Whether you have an income protection policy, critical illness cover or life insurance, you should take some time to understand what each policy covers and whether they remain appropriate for you. Life events may mean that your current protection needs to be updated. These events could include starting a family, paying off your mortgage or starting a new job.

If you don’t currently have any sort of financial protection in place, it’s worth considering what would happen if your income suddenly stopped, you were diagnosed with a critical illness or the position your family would be left in if you were to pass away. It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but doing so can help you put steps in place to safeguard your and your family’s future.

6. Consider making gifts now

The current situation has placed a lot of people under pressure financially. Whilst your finances may be secure, your loved ones may not be in the same position and you may want to provide some support.

If this is the case, making use of the gifting allowance can make sense. Gifts are classed as Potentially Exempt Transfers when given. This means they can be considered part of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes if you die within seven years of them being received. However, some gifts are considered immediately outside of your estate. This includes the gifting allowance. Each tax year, you can gift up to £3,000 to loved ones, which can be carried forward a year if unused, under this rule.

Other gifts that are immediately exempt from Inheritance Tax include those that are given from your disposable income.

During these times of uncertainty, we know that you may be worried about your finances and long-term plans. We’re still here for you, please get in touch if you have any queries about the above checklist or other aspects of your financial plan.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing or estate planning.

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libertas2019Lockdown checklist: 6 financial steps to take during the pandemic

Dividends and coronavirus: Will your income be affected?

by libertas2019 on May 19, 2020

As businesses have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, some have decided to cut dividends and regulators are adding pressure for others to follow suit. This may leave a hole in your income if you rely on dividends.

According to reports from The Times, investors have suffered a dividend cut of at least £600 million as some of the UK’s biggest businesses aim to conserve cash during the coronavirus pandemic. A wide range of business sectors has been impacted by the virus and resulting lockdown, leading to profits tumbling. As a result, firms have taken steps to hold cash as a buffer and, in some cases, regulators have stepped in. The UK banking regulator, for example, wants banks to suspend dividends temporarily. Some businesses are also using the government’s scheme to furlough staff, therefore taking money off the taxpayer, leading to questions around whether these firms should continue to make payouts to shareholders.

Why does this affect investors?

If you’re investing in growth stocks with a long-term plan, the recent market volatility isn’t likely to have a significant impact on your goals overall. However, it’s a different story if you rely on dividends to top-up your income.

A dividend is the distribution of a portion of the company’s earnings paid to shareholders. Dividends are managed by the company’s board of directors and must be approved by shareholders through their voting rights. Dividends are typically paid in cash, but can also be issued as shares, and may be issued at regular intervals.

As a result, dividend-paying companies may be used as part of an income investment portfolio. These typically involve investing in well-established companies that no longer need to reinvest the majority of profits back into the business to reach goals. As a result, high growth businesses typically don’t pay out dividends.

For the most part, once a company has established dividends, investors expect this to continue, but that doesn’t mean they will. As even established firms face uncertainty in light of the pandemic and more are choosing to either freeze or suspend dividends in the short term.

Whilst historically dividends have tended to be less volatile than the stock market itself, this doesn’t mean they are a ‘safe’ investment. Investing for income, including dividend-paying companies, still comes with risks that need to be considered.

So, if dividends make up a portion of your income, what can you do?

1. Reduce outgoings

If your income has been affected, the first thing to do is understand what it means for your finances in the short term. If there is a shortfall in covering essential outgoings, there are currently government-backed schemes in place to support households, including mortgage holidays. Where possible, it may be necessary to reduce outgoings temporarily to match the reduction in income.

2. Use your emergency fund

Everyone should have a cash emergency fund they can fall back on should their income drop. Ideally, this should be easily accessible and have enough to pay for three to six months of outgoings. Often clients can feel reluctant to access this money they’ve put away for a rainy day, but it’s times like these that you’ve been saving for.

3. Create an income from other assets

If your income from dividend-paying stocks has fallen, you could build an income stream from other assets that you hold. What’s possible and whether or not it’s the right decision for you will depend on a variety of factors. If this is something you’d like to discuss, please get in touch with us.

4. Keep your investment plans in mind

If dividends have been reduced or halted altogether, you may be tempted to dump the stocks and look at alternatives. However, keep the bigger picture in mind.

Given the current situation, it’s likely many dividend-paying companies are in a similar position for the time being. A reduction in dividends can be a prudent move and ensure sustainability, therefore protecting your dividend income over the long term. If you’re worried about how secure a firm is, research why the changes to dividends have been made. A statement is often made available on the firm’s website. This may be able to provide you with some reassurance that the changes are temporary.

5. Speak to us

We’re here to help ease concerns you have about your financial situation and what it means for your plans. This includes a reduction in dividend income. Whether you want to understand what it means in the short term or are considering making investment changes due to this, please get in touch with us.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

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libertas2019Dividends and coronavirus: Will your income be affected?

Is now the time to invest?

by libertas2019 on May 19, 2020

Global stock markets have suffered due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and you may have heard suggestions that now is the ‘perfect time to buy’. After all, in an ideal world, you want to buy when stock prices are low and sell at a high. However, it’s not as straightforward as that and there’s no ‘perfect’ time that suits everyone.

No one knows what is around the corner. Even professional investors are unlikely to have considered the impact a pandemic would have when making decisions in 2019. So, it’s impossible to know what’s coming in the coming weeks and months. Whilst some commentators argue an economic crash is coming, others state the UK economy will begin to pick up once the lockdown measures are lifted.

Whilst it can be tempting to act on these comments when it comes to investing, market dips shouldn’t be at the centre of your decisions. The volatility and numerous factors that have an influence mean it can lead to decisions that may not be best for you.

So, when is the right time to invest? That depends on your personal circumstances and goals. These should always be at the centre of your investment plans and influence when to increase your portfolio.

5 factors influencing the ‘right’ time to invest for you

1. Investment goals

What do you hope to achieve when investing? We all want returns when we invest money but it’s important to think about what you intend to use those gains for. Your aspirations should be at the heart of all financial decisions, including investment ones. Investment goals will influence the risk profile and time frame of investments too.

2. Time frame

How long money will remain invested is crucial to set out investment plans. You may be certain that stock markets have hit a low and will rise over the coming months, but if your investment time frame is just a couple of years, you probably shouldn’t invest. This is because investment markets experience volatility and investing with a short-term perspective may not give you enough time for the peaks and troughs to smooth out. As a result, the time frame should dictate whether investing at all is right for your plans and how much risk to take if you do. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t invest with a time frame of fewer than five years in mind.

3. Existing assets

What other investment products and assets do you hold? If a large portion of your assets is already held in stocks and shares, it may not be prudent to invest further. An investment portfolio should be well-balanced and diversified across a wide range of products, this can help reduce short-term volatility experienced and manage risk. Your asset allocation needs to be carefully considered when asking if now is the right time to invest, pouring more money into the stock markets can significantly change your exposure to risk and volatility.

4. Risk profile

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to investing. One of the areas that should be tailored to you is the amount of risk you take. All investments involve some level of risk, but this varies significantly between investment options. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a risk profile that matches you, from the investment time frame and overall financial situation to your attitude to risk. Investing in stocks simply because some sources claim it’s the ‘perfect’ time could mean making decisions that don’t consider your risk profile.

5. Wider financial plans

Investing isn’t something that should be looked at alone either, your overall plans and aspirations need to be factored in too. Would it make more sense for you to pay off your mortgage or invest? Do you need to build up a financial safety net before increasing investments? Or would it make sense to contribute further to your pension if investment goals are tied to retirement? Looking at the bigger picture can help you create a financial plan that provides a blueprint for your aspirations.

Amid the market uncertainty, it’s natural to have questions about your investments. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like to discuss any aspect of your investment portfolio and plans.

Please note: The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

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libertas2019Is now the time to invest?

5 tips for keeping pensions on track during the pandemic

by libertas2019 on May 19, 2020

For most of us, pensions are invested with the hopes of delivering returns over the long term and it’s something we plan to pay into over our working lives. But the current pandemic may have impacted on your plans and the current value of your pension.

If you’re worried about the impact of coronavirus on your pension, you’re not alone. Research from Aegon found that many pension savers are anxious about their retirement savings. Perhaps unsurprisingly, older generations that will have more saved into a pension and maybe nearer to retirement are the most concerned. The survey found:

  • A third (33%) of 18 to 34-year-olds checked the performance of their investments in March, amid significant market volatility
  • This compared to 53% of pension savers aged between 55 and 64

This divide was also reflected in who was paying attention to market movements. Some 72% of the older group were doing so, compared to 44% of younger savers. This is despite younger generations being more likely to take this time to make one-off investments, which 28% have done compared to just 10% of those approaching retirement.

For all generations, there is a risk that rash decisions will have a long-term impact. For those still building up their pension savings, this could include halting contributions as worries about job and financial security become a concern. For those accessing their pension, failing to factor in market downturns if taking withdrawals could also have an impact on long-term value.

So, what can you do to keep your pension on track?

1. Maintain contributions

Given the current economic uncertainty, workers still paying into their pension may consider reducing or pausing their pension contributions. However, due to the effects of compounding even a relatively short break from making pension contributions can have a long-term impact. Keep in mind your own contributions will benefit from tax relief and, if you’re employed, contributions from your employer too. As a result, by halting your own contributions, you’re effectively giving up this ‘free money’.

If you find you can’t continue to make contributions, be sure that you understand the long-term impact and what it could mean for your retirement.

2. Don’t make rash financial decisions

With bold headlines and falling values, you may be tempted to make adjustments to your investments or make larger withdrawals from your pension to keep it ‘safe’. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a pension is a long-term investment that should have considered the impact short-term volatility would have. Keep this in mind if you’re thinking about making a knee-jerk reaction to the current market movements.

Making rash decisions is something the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has warned about. Yvonne Braun, Director of Policy, Long-Term Savings and Protection at ABI, said: “Rushed financial decisions are rarely the right ones, even at this worrying and uncertain time. Lockdown will not last forever but the decisions you make today about your pension could impact on your standard of living for years to come.

“Now, more than ever, it is important to think longer term, consider your options and seek advice and guidance before making any decisions.”

3. Review your portfolio

Whilst the media has focussed on the fall stocks have experienced, for many pension savers, this isn’t all your portfolio is made up of. Your portfolio is likely to contain a mix of assets, which can help cushion the fall seen on global markets. You may have seen that the FTSE fell 30% due to coronavirus, but it’s unlikely the fall your pension has experienced is this high. In addition, markets have started to recover, they haven’t reached the levels they were at earlier in the year, but the fall isn’t as significant as it was.

If you’re worried about reading headline figures, looking at your own portfolio is likely to show the impact of volatility isn’t as bad as you first imagined. It can help put worries into perspective.

4. Assess withdrawals if you’re accessing your pension

A dip in the value of pension investments isn’t usually something to worry about if retirement is some way off. If, however, your pension is in drawdown and you’re already making withdrawals, it’s worth assessing the impact these will have. As you’ll need to sell off more assets to receive the same income as you’d have done at the beginning of the year, this can deplete your retirement savings quicker. Where possible, temporarily stopping or reducing withdrawals can help your pension go further. Please contact us if you’re accessing your pension flexibly and want to discuss the rate of withdrawal.

5. Speak to your financial planner

As your financial planner, we’re here to offer you reassurance and advice when you need it. Speaking to us about pension concerns you may have can help you understand the long-term impact of the current situation and create a solution where one is needed. If you’re worried about your pension, or any other aspect of your finances, please get in touch.

Please note: A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available. Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits.

The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.

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libertas20195 tips for keeping pensions on track during the pandemic

Disclaimer: The information provided in our website blogs is accurate and up-to-date at the time of writing. However, please be aware that legislative changes and updates may occur after the publication date, which could potentially impact the accuracy of the information provided. We encourage readers to verify the current status of laws, regulations, and guidelines relevant to their specific circumstances. We do not assume any responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions that may arise due to changes in legislation or other factors beyond our control.

If you would like any clarification, or have any questions, please get in touch.

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