The economic impact of a Pingdemic
As we inch closer towards normality in our everyday lives, It seems everyone is either planning to or is taking a holiday this month, however, now a new threat looms poised to scupper plans – a Pingdemic! The same government track and trace technology that once optimised and rolled out allowed us to keep a metaphorical lid on the number of knock-on exposures to Covid-19 has, now that most of us are double-jabbed and behaving sensibly, proven to be, in the opinions of some, too overbearing.
In the week to 14th July, over 600,000 people in the UK were told by the NHS Covid-19 app to self-isolate, a number so high that it threatened to disrupt food and fuel supplies, leaving British business leaders agitated about the impact on their staffing and access to products and services. An impact further exacerbated by the existing problems caused by Brexit and a shortage of lorry drivers.
Pictures of empty supermarket shelves quickly spread on social media and news websites, forcing the government to accept shortages were becoming an issue. Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy confirming the government were “very concerned about some developments”.
By the following Thursday, Boris Johnson backed an emergency plan to avoid further disruption to UK supplies. Measures included rolling out a testing regime to as many as 500 food-related workplaces so that contacts who would otherwise be self-isolating can instead take daily tests. Jeremy Hunt, former health secretary, said the self-isolation rule should be scrapped immediately for people who had been double jabbed, warning: “Otherwise we risk losing social consent.”
Figures from the health department show the number of people using the NHS Test and Trace app to register at pubs, shops and other venues is continuing to fall. The fall suggests more people may have deactivated or deleted the app to avoid being put into isolation if they came close to someone who later tested positive for the virus.
With children returning to schools in September and fears of a third wave of the virus circulating we’ll likely see more strategies put in place to balance economic impact and public health. Let’s hope that the holiday you might be considering will still be on the cards!
Bereavement benefit changes for cohabiting couples
In July, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, Baroness Stedman-Scott set out plans to extend bereavement support to cohabiting couples with children. Under the plans, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Support Payments will be extended to surviving cohabiting partners with children who were living with their partner at the time of death where previously a surviving parent could only claim the Financial support if they had been married or in a civil partnership at the time of their spouse or civil partner’s death.
The change is estimated to extend the right to claim to more than 22,000 families, totalling an additional £320 million in support for bereaved children over the next five years. Once approved by Parliament, the changes will apply retrospectively from 30 August 2018, with any backdated payments being made as lump sums.
Baroness Stedman-Scott summarised; “The death of a loved one is devastating and can also come with significant financial implications.” The additional support will be a lifeline to many families during difficult times.
Deadline set for early pension access
As the government sets out plans to raise the minimum access age to Pensions from 55 to 57, Savers looking for early access to their Pension pot may need to act by 2023 to maintain early access.
The current rules to the defined contribution Pension pots allow savers to take their Pension savings as they wish from age 55. However, the government has now confirmed this “normal minimum Pension age” (NMPA) will raise to 57 by April 2028, at which point the state Pension will also rise from 66 to 67 in line with life expectancy increases.
Those predicted to be most impacted by the change are those born after April 6, 1973, who are aged 48 and younger. They will have to wait an extra two years to take either a lump sum or income from their Pension. To mitigate this, the government is allowing savers who take action by 2023 to keep to the current NMPA rules provided they transfer pots to a scheme where the 55 years Pension age is built into the scheme rules.
Investing in brand
Back in April, the Investment house Standard Life Aberdeen announced its new name – Abrdn. Chief Executive Stephen Bird commented on the rebranding exercise; “Our new brand Abrdn builds on our heritage and is modern, dynamic and, most importantly, engaging for all of our client and customer channels”. However, the reaction outside the walls of Abrdn has been less than positive.
The reason for the change? The Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management Company (based in Edinburgh!), was formed in 2017 and earlier in the year decided to sell the 196-year-old Standard Life name for £60m. This left the company with a fund management arm, known as Aberdeen Standard Investments, a Financial-Planning arm, named 1825, and a discretionary Investment-management arm, known as Aberdeen Standard Capital. A rebrand was likely the plan to tie all these companies together under one new banner.
However, the name change has been criticised for leading to potential confusion amongst Investors. Laith Khalaf, financial analyst at AJ Bell, flagged the point that the firm having to explain how to pronounce the new name would “not be lost on Financial Advisers up and down the country”.
The vowel removal itself from the Aberdeen name to Abrdn aligns the company with a trend amongst several start-up tech focused Businesses, the likes of Flickr and Tumblr. The internet has been awash with commentary, largely poking fun at the name – one using a still from the popular television show ‘Countdown’ requesting “More vowels please”. Wired magazine took the jibes further, summing the change up as “rlly stpd”.
Regardless of your thoughts on the name, it’s a bold move to turn your back on a name with such strong heritage and recognition. It will be interesting to see if the Abrdn brand ages as well as it’s predecessor.
Taxing times for the young saver
We’re real advocates of teaching strong Financial habits at a young age. Good Financial habits established early on in a career will set plans in motion for a strong foundation for the future. As such, it’s a concern to many to hear rumours that the government may be looking to cut higher rate Tax relief on Pensions in order to pay off some of the huge Covid-19 related debts accumulated.
Tax relief is currently paid on Pension contributions at the highest rate of Income Tax a person pays. This translates to basic rate Taxpayers getting 20 per cent Pension Tax relief, higher rate Taxpayers able to claim 40 per cent and additional rate Taxpayers getting 45 per cent. If younger higher rate Taxpayers were to lose out on the 40% they would lose out on both the higher rate contributions and any Investment growth that might come with it.
Whilst the government is yet to confirm or deny the rumours of the above, any changes to the levels of relief are likely to disincentivise younger generations from building their Pension pots now for the future. It’s here where we as advisers have a place to help people understand their options and separate fact from fiction and fear, and the reason why we host our annual ‘next generation’ workshops.
Top three cash ISAs
Please check the terms and conditions before opening any account. If in doubt consult with your Financial Adviser directly as the above are for information only.
Source: Moneysavingexpert.com 13.07.2021.