Friday, 30 September 2011

What will the new £50 be like

The new £50 being issued on 2nd November will have the Industrial Revolution heroes Boulton and Watt on the reverse as the Bank of England explains.

But what else?

It'll be the same size as the existing £50 note.

It will have extra security features. The Bank is keeping mum on these. But each note tends to have something novel. The Adam Smith £20 of 4 years ago had a "see-through register", a series of coloured irregular shapes printed on the front and back which form the £ symbol if you look through the note.

So expect more bumpy lettering, very small lettering,  a metallic thread, watermarks and holographic images, plus something extra.

The Bank wants the new fifties to be more available and accepted in shops, hence the noise about extra security.

They had to take 300,000 counterfeit banknotes out of circulation last year.

There weren't significantly more forgeries of fifties than other notes. The problem is that fifties are worth so much more so traders are ultra-careful.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The tricks scamsters use to find you

My report on the rip-offs perpetrated on the elderly and disabled by some doorstep traders might raise this question in some minds: how do they know who to target and which doors to knock on?

Well here are some answers...

1. They look for telltale signs outside the house, such as grab rails or walking sticks.

2. They look at the electoral roll for names from a bygone era, such as Vera, Frank or May. Then they visit or phone.

3. They trade lists of likely names - suckers lists - with co-conspirators in the pub.

4. Some leave symbols outside houses to indicate to other scamsters whether the occupant is worth a try - bit like these. It could be a mark on the gatepost or a wall indicating that there is a single female inside, or a wealthy person or a good prospect.

Scary, isn't it?

What it means is that vulnerable people need to take special care not to let anyone in whom they don't know.

Relatives and friends should take note and help.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Rogue debt firms lose licences

The Office of Fair Trading has revealed that 62 debt management firms have lost their licences in the last year, after a crackdown on rogue operators.

Some fee-charging firms have been criticised for misleading customers about their charges and for giving incompetent advice.

Others have been told to stop cold calling customers or pretending that they are charities or from the public sector.

They have to be licensed under the Consumer Credit Act in order to offer their services to people who have serious debt problems.

The 62 have had their licences taken away, been refused licences or surrendered them to the OFT.

The action comes after the watchdog issued warnings to 129 firms last September.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Sharp losses for savers and pensioners who depend on shares

The yo-yoing stockmarket is wreaking havoc with the savings of millions of people.

A typical pensioner retiring today on a personal pension will get 14% less than he or she would have received at the beginning of January.

A small investor who had put away money in a tax-free shares ISA has seen the value of the investment drop by 12%.

Figures complied for the BBC today show the impact of gyrating share prices on savers who have hitched their wagon to shares.

A 65 year-old who had saved £100,000 in a personal pension pot would use the money to buy a retirement annuity, a guaranteed income for life.

But the pot has dropped in value to £91,840 since the start of the year. So the prospective annuity income has fallen from £6,497 to £5,571, a cut of 14% in 9 months.

More than 400,000 buy annuities each year.

A saver who held £10,000 in a shares ISA is likely to have seen its value slip to £8,777, based on the average value of unit trusts which invest in a basket of shares.

HMRC tells me that 3.4 million investors subcribed for stocks and shares ISAs last year.

The figures come from pension experts, Hargreaves Lansdown, and the savings information group, Moneyfacts.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Help if the energy bill is a problem

Scottish & Southern is bringing in its prices rises from today. Eon's price hikes came in yesterday and npower's arrive on 1st October. Scottish Power and British Gas tariffs have already gone up.

The CCCS (Consumer Credit Counselling Service) says that a third of people with debt problems are also in fuel poverty - they're struggling to pay their bills.

If you're having trouble paying for gas and electricity, here are some places to go to for help:

Home Heat Helpline 0800 336699

CCCS Debt Remedy

My Money Steps

British Gas, Scottish Gas Trust

Other British Gas help
And check with your supplier for help, if it's another one.

Winter Fuel Payment

Cold Weather Payment

Clegg on gold

This is what Nick Clegg just said about City investment funds needing to give up on gold and put their money (i.e. people's pension money and savings) in big infrastructure projects instead:

"I expect Lord Green* and his team to be as active in making sure that funds in this country which have got significant resources don't just either sit on the money or invest it - for the sake of argument - in safe assets like gold and explain to them why infrastructure investment is a sensible thing for them to do for a return on their own funds.

*Trade and Investment Minister

Friday, 2 September 2011

Illiogical tax break will discourage giving

The country's leading tax body has branded government plans to encourage charitable giving in legacies as "arbitrary, complex and illogical".

The plans, announced in this year's budget, would give a tax discount to people who give 10% or more of their estates to charity.

Currently, any money and other assets above a threshold of £325,000 are taxed at 40%. Qualifying charitable givers would be charged a lower rate of 36% from April next year.

But the Chartered Institute of Taxation has protested that the proposals are complicated, capricious and counterproductive.

Its tax experts are worried that the new system would discourage would-be givers from handing money to charity via regular giving or in their wills.

Instead they recommend that any charitable gift in a legacy receives an automatic 11% tax perk for the charity.

Shoppers avoid plastic splurge


Debt racked up on credit cards fell to its lowest since 2004 in July, though the total figure still stands at an eye-watering £59.8bn or £960 for every man, woman and child in the UK.

Bankers say that shoppers are using their cards more than before to take advantage of perks on offer, but they are trying to avoid adding to their debts.

The perks include up to 56 days of interest free credit, insurance benefits and the possibility of earning cash back on purchases.

Household budgets have been drained by the jump in gas and electricity prices and families are fearful of the outlook for jobs and the economy.

In that climate, cards are being used mainly as a means of payment rather than as a borrowing option.

The British Bankers Association said the number of purchases was up 4% in July to 170m, at an average value of £65 a time.