Facing up to a retirement savings shortfall

When it comes to saving, a lot of people have good intentions. We might plan to squirrel away money into a savings account or make savvy investments, all with the intention of ensuring that we have an emergency fund in place.

Unfortunately, the actual process of saving isn’t always so easy; emergencies can deplete our funds, or we may simply not have enough disposable income to save effectively.  This means that savings aren’t always there when we need them, and it can be troubling to face a hole in our finances with nothing to fill the gap.

Retirees can feel this issue particularly acutely if they need savings to supplement their monthly income. Whether this income is from pensions or other sources, the fact remains that if savings are needed to keep topping up the pot, there may be problems when the fund runs dry.

Alternatively, pensioners may find that they simply haven’t saved enough to meet their needs. Either way, the concern is that many people with these issues may bury their head in the sand rather than seeking a solution.

If you’re retired and worried that you might be running your savings down too quickly, or you’re currently working but concerned you might not be putting aside enough money each month, then this is probably sounding a little too close to home.

Could your property bring you peace of mind?

Facing up to the fact that you’re having a savings shortfall, though sometimes uncomfortable, is an important first step towards finding a solution.

One such solution is equity release – a process which allows you to release some of the cash that is tied up in your home. Available to eligible applicants aged 55-95, equity release can be used to take a lump sum as well as, if desired, additional smaller amounts through use of a drawdown function. The most popular form of equity release is a lifetime mortgage, which is secured against your home.

Last year, the Financial Times suggested that the UK’s retirement savings may be falling short by around £11 billion each year, a concerning figure which suggests that people need to act sooner rather than later. Deciding that it’s time to take action is a good first step, but then it’s time to start fully investigating the available options.

Equity release will reduce the value of your estate and may affect your entitlement to means-tested benefits. This means that it is important to be aware that there are other options too – such as downsizing – although, of course, this would mean leaving your current home.

If you’re considering equity release it is recommended that you read ‘is it right for you?’ carefully.

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Shining a light on the murky world of mattress buying

I recently found myself stumbling around a large, out-of-town homewares store, looking for somewhere to sleep. It wasn’t just because the store wore me out, but because I had entered the mindboggling world of mattress shopping!

When I read that we spend 25 years of our lives sleeping, I thought we’d better make those years as comfy as possible, and started to consider buying a new mattress. I hadn’t realised just how complicated this was going to be. Faced with multiple material options, pushy salespeople and surprisingly frequent ‘sale of the century’ offers, I left the shop feeling more confused than when I walked in, minus a mattress.

So I did what I always do when I’m looking for a really good deal, but don’t want to brave the sales, I settled down in the lounge with my laptop, and here’s what I learnt:

Don’t believe the sale sign

Just because a big red sign makes you think you’re getting a once-in-a-lifetime bargain, think twice. Often mattress retailers will run almost permanent ‘sales’ on stock, and although you feel like you’re getting a good deal, in fact they’ve just reduced their mark-up from 200% to 100%!

It seems that the only way to really get a transparently priced mattress is by cutting out these middle men (meaning the mattress shops and salespeople) entirely, and buying your mattress online.

For example, mattress retailer Bruno doesn’t even sell in shops, simply because they want to offer their mattresses for the fairest price possible. They design and produce the mattresses, sell them through their website and deliver them directly to customers, which means they can keep their prices 30 – 40% lower than high street retailers.

Know your materials in advance

If you do some basic preparation before you start shopping you can save yourself time and money. There are so many choices when it comes to mattress materials, so consider how you actually like your bed to feel before you begin to browse.

Do you really like the feeling of sinking into memory foam (which can be an expensive option) or does it just sound like a trendy choice? Perhaps you prefer the springy, fresh feeling of natural latex.

Are you happiest in a firm, supportive bed or do you like to sleep on a softer, squidgy surface? If you have an idea of what you’re looking for, you won’t risk falling into a trap of false promises and end up paying the price.

Convenience pays off

Don’t feel like you need to spend hours slogging around shops because you think you need to lie on 10 mattresses before you find the perfect one.

Online brands like Bruno understand that you can’t choose a bed based on a 5 minute lie down, and will give you a 101-night home trial, so you can test the mattress in the comfort of your own bedroom.

Add to that free delivery, a free returns policy if you decide to return the mattress within the trial period and a 10 year guarantee, and all the potential risk-factors of making an expensive online purchase are erased.

Also, forget trying to squeeze a 6ft mattress up a spiral staircase and keep an eye open for brands that deliver their mattress rolled up an in box – you can’t get much more convenient than that!

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First-Time Mortgage Advice: 7 Super Ways to Save

Getting onto the property ladder is rarely simple. Mortgages for first-time buyers, for example, require commitment and saving, much like so many other aspects of owning a property. However, with some smart budgeting and utilising government schemes, it is possible to save for your first mortgage and have the joy and benefits of owning your own home.

As it can be such a precarious thing to keep track of, some first-time mortgage advice is always helpful, so here are seven smart ways to save for your first mortgage that any soon-to-be homeowner should stick to.

 

  1. Budget and Start Saving Straight Away

You need to be committed to wanting a mortgage. This means holding back on any other large purchases, such as a car or even a holiday, unless absolutely necessary. Look at your expenses to see what could easily be cut down on, or eliminated altogether. Budgeting is crucial when it comes to saving for a mortgage; limiting those simple luxuries such as hair appointments and those regular Friday night drinks can make a big difference overall. It’s important to note that you need at least 5% of the property value for a deposit.

However, putting down up to 25% will give you more flexibility on mortgages and property. Aim for an amount closer to 25% in your budget and you’re more likely to save a strong amount of money to get you started.

 

  1. Use a Help to Buy ISA

If you’re saving for a mortgage and not already using the Help to Buy ISA, you need to do so right now.

There are a number of banks and building societies that offer the ISA, which is specifically for mortgages for first-time buyers. The government will boost your savings up to 25%, with a maximum of £3,000. To receive the full £3000, you will need to have saved £12000. The scheme can make a huge difference when saving for a mortgage and, as money-saving expert Martin Lewis says, “it’s a no-brainer.”

 

  1. Repay any Outstanding Debt

Any mortgage provider will look at whether you have any outstanding debt such as overdrafts, payday loans, credit and store cards. Your mortgage will be the biggest loan you ever take out, so removing those other debts first will help you immensely and demonstrate to providers that you are responsible for paying loans back. As a new homeowner, eliminating other debt before you get your mortgage will also make it easier to budget and keep on top of mortgage repayments.

 

  1. Check Your Credit Report

Any lender will look at your credit report and see the strength of it as a key factor in what they offer you, so checking this yourself first should be a priority. You can get a free credit report from a number of trustworthy websites. Find out if you have a high credit score or a low credit score and see how you can improve or maintain this.

 

  1. Have a Price in Mind

Property prices are wildly different depending on where in the country you want to buy and what kind of property it is. London house prices can differ massively, based on which area you’re looking at. It’s important to have an area in mind, as this will help you determine how much money you need to save for a deposit. Once you decide where you want to move to, you can budget accordingly and figure out how long it will take you to save.

You may find some great deals on house prices because a lot of renovation work is needed. While getting a smaller mortgage for a property like this might be easier, bear in mind that you’ll then need money to renovate the property.

 

  1. Buy Together

Buying a property with another person is a great way to double your savings for a deposit. For many couples, investing in a mortgage together is a big step and can help considerably with getting onto the property ladder. Buying with a friend is another viable option. For both friends and couples, it’s important to have a thorough discussion beforehand and be clear about the investment in case any disputes occur.

 

  1. Get Some First-Time Mortgage Advice

Mortgages for first-time buyers can certainly feel overwhelming. There are not only a variety of lenders, but also different types of mortgage repayment schemes and other additional fees such as stamp duty and surveyors. Opting for some first-time mortgage advice from an independent mortgage advisor can help immensely. You’ll be able to talk through which options are available and what works best for you and your finances.

 

Scott Farrell is the director of Rite Mortgages, offering independent mortgage advice to first-time buyers and plenty more. Scott and the team can help secure mortgages for first-time buyers with bad credit scores, freelance workers and many other situations.