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September 21, 2013

The ins and outs of the actual volatility of your financial asset or investment

Financial investmentIn a perfect world, investments would constantly go up at a predictable and measurable rate, unaffected by variables or unwanted outside influences. Unfortunately, though, the world is far from perfect and the actual volatility of a financial asset or investment is subject to a myriad of influences. Some are welcome, some not so, but one thing is certain, over time the value of an investment such as a piece of jewellery or a fine work of art will change. This in turn will have a direct bearing on the type of insurance you will need to take out to protect that asset – and how much it will cost you.

Educating clients about risk

For insurance brokers, there is now more of a need to educate clients about the risks involved in protecting their assets. Charles Hamilton-Stubber of Aon Private Clients sums it up: “Investment volatility has meant families are placing more emphasis on protecting their tangible assets. In turn, the role of the insurance broker has become key to insulating wealth by educating and boosting understanding on tackling risks. As confidence has been lost in some elements of the financial services, insurance brokers are in a strong position to respond and offer effective advice on protecting wealth.”

What this translates as is that as we lose faith in perhaps what were seen as greater risk/return options before the financial crisis hit, the shift is more towards what are regarded as more ‘stable’ investments, such as fine art. For those who manage larger private insurance programmes (such as those with annual premiums in excess of £40,000 [or $66,000]), one of the best ways to risk assess is through the use of a ‘risk audit’.

Risk audits

Risk audits are a process of reviewing expenditure on insurance (which includes tangible assets such as property or fine art, liabilities and personal wellbeing), cross referencing them with their current insurance portfolio to find out if the existing arrangements are adequate and then finally offering practical solutions and advice in how to maximise coverage whilst minimising risk.

In recent years, the size and complexity of insurable assets amongst wealthier clients has changed. However, there may still be a disparity between the level of cover provided by existing insurance and the true worth of the assets. In addition, the increased risk to a client’s wellbeing (particularly if they travel extensively in what can be regarded as ‘high risk’ areas) could mean that their existing insurance is insufficient.

So it is up to the broker to ensure that their client is kept fully informed of the potential for their insurance to struggle to keep up with the volatility in value of an investment. It also needs to be pointed out to the client that there may be gaps or even overlaps in coverage, especially if policies have been taken out with different insurers. In this instance, the client could end up paying far more in premiums than they need to.

It’s also key to read the small print. While this may seem like generic advice, in some cases the wording of a policy may be outdated or even inappropriate for the risk being insured. Clarity is key, and so the overlying advice has to be to check those policies on a regular basis, especially if circumstances change, to ensure that they are current, offer the best coverage and that the client is actually getting what they’re paying for.

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September 3, 2013

Which is it to be? Quick Loan or Credit Card?

quick-cashFor a long time now, we have become very used to living off credit. This is unfortunate as we may find ourselves out of our depth, having totted up a huge bill and struggling to make the repayments on a monthly basis. And the trouble is it is just too easy to do. Credit card companies are continually offering us card after card and, being only human, particularly if we find ourselves short of cash one month; it takes just a few minutes to apply. OK so our immediate cash flow problems are resolved but what about the bigger picture? Maybe it is time to take a fresh look at our borrowings before our total debt is larger than we can manage.

But if it is not to be credit card, or even bank overdraft, what exactly are the options? Agreed that it is sometimes impossible to manage on our salary alone, particularly when unexpected debts knock our carefully planned budget for six. On paper, it may all look rosy. Our income is in excess of our expenditure and we should even be able to save £50 a month. But like most well-made plans, it doesn’t always work out like that. The £50 gets swallowed up by sundry expenses like lunchtime snacks and trips to the supermarket. The end result is no savings, so that when the car breaks down or the bike needs a service, the funds just aren’t there to cover the cost.

As we can see, credit cards can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. So how about looking for something different that will not land us with long term, ever increasing debts? An internet search for ‘payday loan’ will bring up the name Wonga. But if you have never heard of Wonga or ‘payday loans’ then you can be excused for wondering what on earth this is all about. It’s a very simple process. Unlike credit cards and similar types of borrowing which let us borrow large amounts and pay back over extended periods, payday loans have to be paid back, in full, within 28 days or less. At first glance you may think that this is not so good. After all, with a credit card you can pay it back over years can’t you? But think again. The longer you borrow the money for the more it costs you. A payday loan can work out cheaper as there is no option to spread the loan over a longer period.

Added to that, a Payday Loan truly is fast and can be in your account within minutes. Once you have repaid it in full, the debt is gone. Wiped out. No horrific huge sum of debt stockpiling into the future. No worrying about monthly repayments. It really is worth thinking carefully before you take out another credit card to shuffle your debt from one card to another. Once you have gotten used to the new way of dealing with your money shortages, you should find it refreshingly simple and easy to use. Bye-bye credit cards!

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September 1, 2013

Is the church the answer to challenge pay day loans?

Its payday loanIn the UK the Archbishop of the Church of England has struck out at pay day lenders calling them “morally wrong”. Unfortunately after bashing the pay day loan industry it transpired that the Church had invested over $7 billion of its pension funds in a company which had then supported a pay day lender. Indirectly therefore the Church had invested in a pay day lender! The very industry it regarded as sinful. It seems they were suitably embarrassed.

In response to the Archbishop’s attack the pay day lender in question, Wonga, who is also a pay day loan provider in Canada (see www.Wonga.ca), created and released a very clever, tongue in cheek, advertisement based on the 10 commandments – the Wonga version is the 10 commitments. The aim of the advert is to better educate people when interpreting the Church’s comments about pay day lenders. It sets out the promises the company makes to its borrowers and highlights the fact Wonga is a responsible lender. Probably the Church is a little unhappy that the debate and the new advertising campaign has certainly given the lender even more publicity – the adverts have of course been reported upon by the media thus resulting in free advertising and increased publicity for the company.

Further, far from sounding like the loan shark the Church has tried to portray pay day lenders as, the Wonga advert pretty much agrees with what the Church has had to say on the issue of pay day lending. The lender stated it was transparent about the price of its loans, carried out thorough credit checks and froze interest after two months to protect defaulting customers. It also said that it welcomed competition.

The pay day loan industry in the UK is not regulated like it is in Canada. Many politicians, charities and other organisations are calling for regulation but do not have the solution – the Archbishop is at least trying to push forward an idea. He is proposing that Credit Unions work from church premises to offer similar loans at lower interest rates – his idea is to push pay day lenders out of the market. This certainly sounds like a challenge. For a start he wants to find church members to volunteer as staff at the branches. This may be a big hurdle in terms of attracting customers. The average church goer probably does not reflect the average pay day loan customer. No one wants to be judged when taking out a loan.

A recent study indicated that the average age of a church goer was 61. Anglican leaders have warned that the Church of England will cease to exist in 20 years because elderly worshippers will die. As a result of this the Church presently has an urgent national recruitment drive to attract more members.

Just recently the Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham stated that teachers should not illustrate math lessons with examples of “profit and loss”, or encourage children to save in order to buy bikes or toys Instead, lessons should focus on the math involved in giving donations to charity, saving for an overseas project, or even “tithing” – giving 10 per cent of one’s income to the Church.

When the Church is making statements like this you have to wonder whether it is the Credit Union/pay day loan “solution” is one part of its necessary recruitment drive. Pay day loan providers want profit, the Church wants people in seats: both have their own agenda.

Although the Rt Rev Paul Butler might not think it important, educating children about profit and loss and savings is all part of money management. This is vital in today’s society – Surely it is better money management which will reduce the need and desire for pay day loans.

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