20 Tips From 20 Pensions Experts – How To Retire With A Good Pension: In association with Dam Good Pensions

By dam good pensions with iona bain

We would all love to have a DAM good pension when we retire, but how do we go about getting that pension pot we can be happy with? Well, here at DAM we decided the best way to find out would be to ask the experts. And that we did…

We asked some of the leading pension journalists, bloggers and industry-insiders to give one tip each for how to retire with a good pension and here are their nuggets of wisdom below…

Feng Shui Money Tree 8x10 mixed media by StarkovaGallery on Etsy, $40.00

StarkovaGallery on Etsy.com

“Pay your national insurance contributions, work hard and save into a workplace pension as much as you can. The rest is up to your provider and the markets!”

Henry Tapper, The Pensions Plowman, @henryhtapper

“Contribute, contribute, contribute. Whatever you’re paying towards your pension, it’s probably not enough. As a rough guide; remember those generous, final-salary based pensions your parents had? They ended up costing about a third of their salaries – a lot more than the current 8% minimum.”

Mark Cobley, Pensions Editor at Financial News, @fanfaronade

“Spend less, save more. The wealthy pensioner is the average man who focused on saving 10% of what he earned every day for a long time.”

Robert Gardner, Co-CEO of Redington, @robertjgardner

“Start saving for your pension as early as possible. The extra years of contributing can make a huge difference to your final pension pot, even if your investing has a few hiccups along the way.”

John Fitzsimons, Editor of LoveMoney.com, @johnthejourno

“It’s a false economy not to pay for independent financial advice. Seek a trusted, reliable IFA with superior retirement planning knowledge to advise you on contributions, provider and, when the time comes, how to draw your retirement income.”

Gill Wadsworth, Freelance Financial Journalist, @gillwadsworth

“Start early and make sure that you increase your pension contribution with every pay rise that you get.”

The largest piggybank on the block

Kimberly Green on Pinterest

Helen Morrissey, Editor of Retirement Planner, @pensionshelen

“Find out the maximum matching contribution your employer will put in to your pension pot, and then save at that level. Investment returns are just the side show, what really makes the difference over the long term are the contributions.”

Sam Brodbeck, Assistant Editor at Engaged Investor & Pensions Insight, @pensionssam

“Get to grips with your company pension. Check how much you’re paying in – are you happy with where your money is being invested? Most people in a money purchase company scheme are in the ‘default’ fund, but this may be too cautious for some and many schemes offer a selection of funds.”

Rupert Jones, Deputy Editor of The Guardian’s Money pages, @rupert_jones

“Keep active, eat your greens and enjoy what you do. Working longer through your life will guarantee a better pension.”

Alistair McQueen, Pensions & Investments Policy Manager at Aviva, @pensionsmcqueen

“To retire with a good pension, one must be realistic above all else – How much will be needed in retirement and how much must be saved, and over what period of time, to achieve that? In short, what does ‘good’ look like for the individual and what steps are they taking to realise their goal?

Simon Kew, Director of Pensions at Jackal Advisory, @pensionsjackal

“To get a good pension, work for the Civil Service or local government! Otherwise get a good pensions adviser!”

David Trenner, Technical Director at Intelligent Pensions, @davidtrenner1

“Set financial goals for a range of time horizons. Saving for retirement doesn’t happen in isolation. One needs to balance short and medium term retirement objectives with the need to save for one’s retirement.”

Pretty Life Girls

Stephen Huppert, Partner at Deloitte Australia, @stephenhuppert 

“If what you are saving is not hurting it’s likely that you will be disappointed with the outcome.”

Robert Reid, Readers Editor at Money Marketing, @reidremoney

“Start a pension before you think you need to!”

Tim Boles, CEO of Equilibrium Pensions Limited, @timcboles

“Start early and take advantage of compounding. Also, make good use of higher rate tax relief if you’re able, as it’s looking like this benefit might be taken away soon.”

Matthew Bird, Investment Enthusiast and Blogger, @mattbird55

“My one tip would be that whilst it is understandable for all the media headlines about pensions to lead to confusion or scepticism about them, not to let that lead to apathy or inaction about your own retirement planning, as that can be the most costly mistake of all. As the saying goes, time is money!”

Phil Netherwood, Owner of Advice About Money, @adviceaddsvalue

“Don’t limit yourself to pensions. An Isa can be an equally effective – and arguably more flexible – way of building up a decent income to support you in retirement.”

Cherry Reynard, Freelance Financial Journalist, @creynard0654

“Be realistic, if you want to spend a third of your life at leisure, you’ll have to save like crazy whilst you’re working.”

Patrick Bloomfield, Partner and Actuary at Hymans Robertson, @patrickpensions

“Start making contributions as young as possible & contribute as much as you can, even if that means starting low & increasing over time.”

Fiona Cowie, Director of Essential HR, @hrandreward

“Start early, save more when you get a pay rise and cut out the daily cappuccinos – every little helps!”

Stephanie Hawthorne, Editor at Pensions World, @pensionsworld

And here are a couple of bonus tips (Because we love to overdeliver)!

“Don’t intend to save for your future, start doing it now. And remember, your house is your home, not an investment portfolio.”

Pádraig Floyd, Financial Journalist, @gogetemfloyd

“Don’t put it off till tomorrow. This means taking immediate control of your finances so you know exactly what money is coming in and what money is going out. Understand the fundamental importance of discipline in money management, and exercise it every week when your pay packet comes in. Being aware of your budget, sticking to it without fail and setting aside money for tomorrow will reap huge rewards.”

Iona Bain, Financial Journalist at Young Money Blog, @ionayoungmoney

- See more at: http://www.damgoodpensions.com/blog/20-tips-from-pension-experts-retire-with-good-pension/#sthash.uc2T34Ud.dpuf

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Playing family fortunes

In her latest column for fa, iona bain looks at why families are happy to let their wealth cascade down the generations

One of the most significant outcomes in the lottery of life has to be the family we are born into. A savvy and attentive parent – all the better if there are two – can give an instant, highly potent advantage in this world. Throw in a couple of wise, wealthy grandparents and you have well and truly lucked out.

Dream parents and grandparents do not just offer up role models for solid money management – they also support us until we can support ourselves. In other words, they make good with the dosh when we really need it, even as we progress into adulthood.

Top Christmas TV from 2012 - Royle Family

I do not know how many of my 20-something friends could have stayed afloat, let alone started to fulfil their potential and lay the foundations for a bright future, if their families had not thrown them a financial lifeline or two. We are all aware of the conundrum facing first-time buyers, many of whom cannot save for a mighty deposit because they are tethered to grossly high rent. We know the job market has not been kind to graduates and school leavers since the recession took hold. It hardly needs stating that starter wages are not commensurate with the cost of living once taxes, bills and tuition fee debt is accounted for.

Little wonder that many members of the older generation do what they can to ensure these hurdles do not floor the talented young people that they know and love. An acquaintance of mine paid a modest amount of rent to stay at home for four years, only to be presented with all the cash she ever paid (plus a bit extra from her parents) on her 26th birthday. Imagine her surprise and delight when she was told she could get her first home deposit with all the money she had saved. Another young guy is pulling out all the stops to find a job that pays him more than the dole and is renting a grotty flat in my hometown of Edinburgh – he would be forced to live on £9 a week after bills and housing costs were it not for financial support from his grandparents.

We are not talking about mollycoddling or handouts for spoilt brats here; the majority of young consumers want to be self-sufficient more than anything else. We feel an uneasy combination of gratitude and guilt when family members promise to help us through university, give us their old car or loan money on terms and conditions that could fit onto a postage stamp.

But, to be fair, we did not choose to be born and certainly not into this economic era in which young people have really drawn the short straw. Is it too much to expect some financial assistance as we find our way through this mess? Besides, the former universities minister, David Willetts, is right to point out in his book, The Pinch, how a supportive approach is in the babyboomers’ own interests. He even mentions a popular US bumper sticker that says: “Be nice to your kids – they will choose your nursing home.”

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Special report: Will Scotland be better off going solo? PART II

IONA BAIN

In the concluding part of this special report on Scottish independence, the Young Money Blog looks at the potential implications of a yes vote for Scotland’s pensioners – current AND future (yep, that includes us young folks!)

Burning questions about pensions in an independent ­Scotland have yet to be answered on what is proving to be a crucial battleground on the eve of the referendum.

Scotland Independence Scottish Flag Nail Art

These aren’t my hands, in case you were wondering…

In a survey by Glasgow-based Martin Aitken Financial Services, 60 per cent of 170 clients said their greatest concern, out of all the issues surrounding Scottish independence, was the “personal financial implications” and the future of the state pension.

The Scottish Government has not elaborated on the tax incentives it would introduce to encourage long-term saving.

Nor has it confirmed it will copy the Coalition Government by allowing Scots to have unfettered access to their pensions at minimal tax rates.

The policy, announced in this year’s Budget, has already boosted nationwide levels of retirement saving even before its introduction next April, according to research published by the consultancy LCP last month.

The SNP has also yet to offer free guidance for every worker reaching retirement, another of the Treasury’s much-discussed pension reforms.

But it has vowed to improve free advice at retirement as part of its Financial Capability programme, and to work with Scottish companies to develop alternatives to the much-maligned annuity.

In the event of a Yes vote, the Scottish Government has promised a new range of regulators to help protect private pension buyers and employees who will continue to be automatically enrolled into workplace pensions.

These would include Scottish versions of the Pensions Regulator, the Financial Ombudsman and the Financial Conduct Authority. It says 27 independent EU countries have their own regulators.

The Pension Protection Fund, however, may or may not be replicated north of the border.

Stairway Edinburgh, Scotland

Decisions on how to cover risks faced by Scottish pension holders could be fraught with difficulty, the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) argues.

In a paper published earlier this year, it stated: “There is uncertainty in the short term about which schemes would be overseen by which body, what would happen to Scottish schemes that have already entered the UK pension protection fund in the short term, and how any schemes in the PPF that may be identified as cross-border following independence will be separated.”

The NAPF claims that unpicking the current regulatory and compensation structure “would be extremely difficult and would require careful management over a long period of time,” leading to substantial costs.

“Ultimately, these costs may have to be passed on to pension-scheme members, eroding the value of their pension savings.”

Furthermore, a Scottish equivalent of NEST, the state-backed pension scheme for employers of any size, may not give users value for money, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland has suggested.

This is because the country’s smaller number of pension savers will still be required to pay “fixed costs relating to the initial set-up and continuing operation” of such a scheme.

Investment giant Blackrock would prefer a new currency for an independent Scotland but has warned of “added complexities” should pension schemes have to accept contributions in two separate currencies.

Scotland.  Iona it's beautiful and I wonder if is still there a wonderful bakery shop selling very good bread.

Alasdair MacDougall, director of Martin Aitken Financial Services, said uncertainty was the principal cause of the negative findings in the client survey.

“That causes major problems if people think there is no plan B when it comes to a currency union – and there is a real risk that migration of financial brains and institutions down south could have a significant impact on the quality of financial services up here.”

Another issue for occupational pension scheme members in defined benefit schemes comes in the form of an unexpected U-turn from the European Commission. Cross-border pension schemes will still be required to be fully funded at all times after the EU decided against scrapping the current regulations earlier this year.

Joanne Segars of the NAPF said: “The European Commission had been expected to relax these special cross-border requirements, but it has disappointed many observers by leaving this part of the pensions directive unreformed.

“The knock-on effect of this is that schemes with members both north and south of the Border would become much more expensive to run if Scotland were to vote for independence.”

The Scottish Government says: “In terms of rights and accrued entitlements to private pensions, there will be no changes on independence.”

It adds: “Scotland and the UK will work with the EU to put in place the measures needed to deliver a smooth transition to fully funded pensions.”

There is more certainty on state pensions in an independent Scotland. SNP ministers would maintain the “triple lock” reform initiated by their Westminster counterparts last year, guaranteeing a state pension rise in line with earnings or inflation, or at the rate of 2.5 per cent, whichever is greatest.

An independent Scotland will also give a higher flat-rate pension than the UK, £160, by 2016/17 and continue to offer savings credit.

But there is still no word on what the state pension age would be. The level has been raised to 66 from 2020 and 67 from 2036 by the UK Treasury, making much-needed savings.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE HERALD SEPTEMBER 2014, COPYRIGHT IONA BAIN ©

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Special report: Will Scotland be better off by going solo? PART I

IONA BAIN

in the first of a two part series, the young money blog scrutinises the financial ramifications of a yes vote in the independence referendum – today, we look at taxes and savings before moving onto pensions later this week

Uncertainty over the personal-finance ramifications of an independent Scotland is keeping some individuals and small-business owners awake at night, a Glasgow advisory firm has claimed in the run-up to the referendum vote…this special report looks at the financial ramifications of a yes vote

As questions arise about future access to tax privileges and products currently available UK-wide, a survey by Martin Aitken Financial Services found two thirds of 170 clients expressing worries over their finances in a future Scottish state.

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

The Glasgow-based tax and advisory firm said nearly 65 per cent of clients and contacts interviewed said worries over higher business and personal taxes were “keeping them awake at night” in the run-up to the ­referendum. More than 70 per cent of clients polled in the survey said they were concerned about their personal wealth in an independent Scotland.

The SNP has long pledged to use devolved tax powers, granted by the Treasury regardless of the referendum’s outcome, to suit the nation’s needs. The Yes campaign says: “For the first time ever there will be a guarantee that taxes will be set by a government that has the support of the people of Scotland.”

Alasdair MacDougall, director of Martin Aitken, commented: “People, businesses and markets can deal with bad news but what they do not like is uncertainty.

“A number of our clients live and work in England as well as Scotland, and many have put a moratorium on any business north of the Border at present. For instance, investment clients in London who may have previously had commercial-property interests in Scotland are buying nothing here at the moment.”

The snapshot comes as experts disagree about whether Scots could pick and choose jurisdictions to house their savings nest eggs. Fund supermarket Hargreaves Lansdown has previously argued that savers could exploit different tax environments in the UK and Scotland by weighing up which one has “preferential investment terms” compared to the other.

Scotland Flag Christmas Tree Ornaments

The Scottish government has said it would allow cross-border financial transactions to take place. However, National Savings and Investments, the Treasury-backed provider of the popular Premium Bonds and savings certificates, has confirmed that Scottish customers would not be able to take out any new products post-independence unless they hold an English bank account.

Even if Scottish customers met that criteria, NS&I could still turn them away; it shut down 2,700 US savings accounts this summer after an American tax clampdown made administration costs “disproportionate”. The independence White Paper said the creation of a Scottish NS&I would not be an “early priority” in a low-interest-rate environment.

Some Scottish savers may not mourn the loss of flimsy returns on NS&I accounts and the low odds of winning the Premium Bond’s £1 million jackpot. But all could miss out on the UK’s recently-improved Isa allowance of £15,000 in tax years to come, said David Welsh, tax and trust solicitor at Turcan Connell in Edinburgh. “Given that the Isa allowance is designed to shield savings from income tax and capital gains tax, savers could only live in official UK tax territory to benefit.”

Jeffrey Mushens, technical director at the Tax Incentivised Savings Association, said: “The government has said it would honour existing tax-free products held by Scots post-independence but only UK residents are eligible for Isas, so would the Scots be treated any differently? EU law does not permit preferential treatment in this way.”

Jubilee interior

Mr Mushens also argued that a Scottish government may have difficulty in identifying those who have taken out Isas with English firms, as HM Revenue and Customs would not hand over “sensitive information” about taxpayers that easily.

He added: “An alternative ­Scottish HMRC would have to be established if it wishes to support tax-free savings allowances and set up a “Sisa”. But it will take a long time to build the systems – a proposed timeframe of 18 months post-independence is delusional.”

English residents in Scotland and cross-border workers could also face a squeeze on their personal tax allowance in the event of independence. The Treasury is consulting on plans, originally proposed in this year’s Budget, to restrict the personal allowance ­- currently £10,000 for all those born after 1948 – for non-UK residents if a significant proportion of their income is derived “overseas”.

Ronnie Ludwig, tax expert at Saffrey Champness in Edinburgh, said: “There could also be an impact for expat citizens who have chosen to live abroad, such as retirees. Unless a very high percentage of their income is derived from the UK, they could be caught in the net. They may find themselves having to rearrange their affairs in response to the new measures.”

Mr Welsh said: “This is where the issue of tax residency would become complicated. If, for example, your family home is in Berwick but you work in Edinburgh – not an uncommon scenario – then it becomes uncertain as to which tax treatment you would receive.

“The situation is similar to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, with many living on one side and working on the other. Each of the separate jurisdictions would have to look at residency rules to determine where your main home is and whether you are resident there.”

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE HERALD SEPTEMBER 2014, COPYRIGHT IONA BAIN ©

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Thirty unless it’s super dirty: my tip for the #Thriftyfamily campaign

IONA BAIN

As part of Scottish Friendly’s #Thriftyfamily campaign, I’ve been asked to share some of my choicest moneysaving tips – we’re going to focus on a super easy way to cut energy bills, plus five other helpful strategies

Laundry porn for the girls…

smeg washing machine - smeg you so smart, putting the sink with the washing machine, and so pretty is pastel too

And here’s one for the guys…

This is littarly the coolest washing machine EVER! #neon #want

These are some of the coolest washing machines ever. But (ironically) my post today is all hot hot hot…specifically, why do they make washing machines with ridiculously hot settings?

You know what I’m talking about: a 90 degree setting for all you people who must also have a time machine that takes you back to the 70s – when people worked down coal mines.

Unless you happen to be working or living in particularly dirty conditions, it is so not necessary to wash your clothes on such a high heat.

Why not make it your ambition to wash all clothes and linen on a 30 degree wash over the next month? You can save quite a bit on your utility bills and be an ecological hero to boot.

After all, keeping our homes cosy this winter will get a lot harder once the inevitable round of energy price hikes kicks in. The average family has seen costs of gas and electricity go up by 6 per cent, a chilling rise that’s driven many to switch off the heating altogether.

But don’t resort to drastic action if you can help it. As well as turning down your washing machine, here are 5 sensible ways to cut those soaring bills.

1  It’s pointless to have the central heating blasting away when nobody is at home. Make sure your timer only switches itself on when you need it to.  But always keep some heating on if you’re away from home in winter – burst pipes will be far more costly in the long run.

2  When you are in the house, turn down your thermostat one degree – keeping the temperature below 20 degrees can chop £55 off your heating bills a year. Pop on a cardigan or jumper if the temperature isn’t warm enough. Heating accounts for nearly half of all our energy costs so layer up to save a few pounds.   

3  You may have missed the boat on previous offers of free insulation from big energy companies. But it could be still be worth investing in. At a cost of £300, it should pay for itself in two years, since loft insulation slices about £175 off bills and cavity wall insulation another £125.

4  Put reflector panels behind your radiators. These silver sheets radiate heat back into your rooms and could shave 20% off your bills a year.

5  If you love a hot bath, make it a weekly, not daily, treat – and a five-minute shower would save you up to £20 a year on bills. Splash out on an energy-efficient showerhead – these are cheap to buy, yet save you around £75 a year.

And here’s one more extra tip for good measure:

IF THE WEATHER IS STILL FAIR, MAKE THE MOST OF IT!

Why don’t you share your money saving tips and be in with a chance of winning £100? Check out Scottish Friendly for more details and the latest money saving tips from Louie Spence!

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Why things could get a whole lot worse for London’s first time buyers

 

By Iona Bain

 

Where We Live A4 print - LIMITED EDITION in blue | Amy Blackwell

PIC from http://www.pinterest.com/TiffGrantRiley/

If you thought London’s house prices were already out of reach for first time buyers, things could get a whole lot worse.

The Building Societies Association reckons that new lending caps brought in by the Bank of England will “seriously affect first time buyers in London and the South East” – and not in a good way.

In a stark warning published today, the chief executive of the BSA, Robin Fieth, argued that a recently-introduced restriction on high loan-to-income lending will mean younger buyers will have to wait much longer to get a mortgage in the country’s housing hotspots.

He said the level of high-to-income lending (whereby a building society or bank gives you a loan that is worth 4.5 per cent or more than your earnings) is “low” at present. However, he still advocates that smaller lenders should be allowed to judge when to stop this lending, which many fear is risky and could sow the seeds for another housing crisis, based on a fixed number of loans rather than a flat percentage. (The BOE, or rather its Financial Policy Committee, has brought in a flat rate of 15 per cent).

It also urging the FPC to introduce measures that would allow it to take a raincheck on this controversial policy in another 18 months, withdrawing it if “market conditions” improve.

Mr Fieth said: “This is the first time that macro-prudential tools have been used to control the housing market and the actual effects are an unknown quantity. Of course, affordability is crucial and banks and building societies should only lend what a customer can reasonably repay. However, our concern is the effect these measures will have on first time buyers in and around the capital.”

Get the lowdown on the intractable problems facing first time buyers all over the country, particularly below the M25, as well as possible solutions for helping young people to save up for a deposit.

Also, why it’s the housing crisis, not immigration, that’s holding back young workers

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Is financial education receiving enough government support north of the border?

IONA BAIN

FEO at work in school

Pic: Stewart Ivory Foundation

A flagship financial education scheme in Scotland that was under threat of closure this summer has received a much-needed lifeline after government funding failed to materialise.

The Stewart Ivory Foundation, which delivers workshops on financial management to 15,000 young Scots, was due to run out of money in July 2014 but the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments has stepped in, providing a cash injection worth £45,000 as part of a three year sponsorship deal.

I reported on the lack of government support for Stewart Ivory and other pioneering financial education schemes back in February 2013 for the Herald.

It’s a relief that the CISI has intervened on this occasion, making it possible for schools to open their doors to Stewart Ivory’s team of volunteers.

But it’s also disappointing that the Scottish government did not put its money where its money was and pledge the necessary funds to keep these schemes going.

Financial education has supposedly been a lynchpin of the Scottish curriculum since 2008, but a little known study conducted by the Financial Education Partnership found that lessons flounder unless schools put a designated teacher or even department in charge of this subject.

It found 40 per cent of schools had nobody overseeing financial education when it ran a pilot of workshops in 2012, with the majority of volunteers – 71 per cent – experiencing problems when they visited students. Nearly one-third of schools didn’t have the right equipment to host the sessions.

To find out more, click here.

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The Bank of Nan and Grandad steps up to the plate as term time looms


NEWSFLASH – IONA BAIN

Pic: American National Association of Broadcasters

The Bank of Nan and Grandad is fast becoming an essential port of call for cash-strapped young people who would otherwise struggle to pay for their university experience.

Research from Saga, the nation’s champion of pensioners, found that the UK’s elders are contributing a collective £16bn towards their grandchildren’s higher education – far more than five years ago.

Grandparents typically earmarked £1000 for this milestone back in 2009 but this has now gone up to an average of £6,777.

More than a third of nannas and grandpas are happy to fund university education in this country, with Saga suggesting that older Brits were happy to let their wealth “cascade down the generations” if it ensured that the younger generation can afford tuition fees and the rising cost of living on campus.

Andrew Strong, chief executive of Saga Personal Finance, said: “The billions that Britain’s grandparents put aside for grandchildren shows both how hard they have worked and saved all their lives and also how lucky teenagers are now to have such generous relatives.

“These days, it pays for the over 50s to be savvy savers and intelligent investors, if they are to continue this generous support. Allowing wealth to cascade down the generations, seeing how their money supports their kith and kin, is the very heart of what it means to be a modern grandparent.”

For more on the financial ties between the generations, click here

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Another victim of intergenerational warfare speaks out; inspiring words for the downtrodden young

On Thursday 14th August, newspaper readers found themselves wondering whether 20 somethings represent the “complacent generation”, thanks to an article which criticised the fantastical mentality of young bloggers.

It was yet another futile missive in the phoney intergenerational war, which I have long criticised, but I felt immensely sorry for Hannah Vickers, the unwitting subject of this newest tirade against the yoof of today. She is far from complacent, entitled or lazy – she is an shining example of how young people are overcoming the financial adversity imposed upon them with panache. Rather than mount a defence in her honour, here she is in her own words, explaining some of the challenges facing our generation and why it is wrongheaded to criticise our earnest optimism. This is reproduced with permission from her charming blog Away With The Fairies.

HANNAH VICKERS

I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but today an article went live on the Daily Mail (both online and in print), featuring yours truly. Yes, you heard right, for some bizarre reason a week ago I agreed to be interviewed (and photographed) for the Daily Fail, as the majority of the internet-dwelling population like to call it. Why? Predominantly for the blog exposure, if I’m honest, but also because I wanted to expel some myths about twenty-somethings ‘having it all’. Why I thought the Daily Mail was the right place to do that, I’ll never know.
The article is about people my age expecting more out of life by now, simply put. After writing
this post a few weeks ago I felt it the perfect opportunity to paint a wider picture for people – to let everyone know how our generation is feeling. I’m an honest person, and I always write honestly on this blog – that’s why I deem it successful. I wrote that blog post, as I write every blog post, so that my readers can relate and perhaps find solace in the fact they might not be alone in feeling as I did when I wrote the post – like a work in progress.

Of course, the lovely people (can you sense my sarcasm?) at the Daily Mail took it upon themselves to turn my words into something all the more sinister – as they do the majority of their articles – deeming me a self-entitled brat with a head full of fantasies, who expects the world handed to her on a plate. A girl who wants the get-famous-quick lifestyle of the reality stars which the Daily Mail so often promotes (or rips to shreds), but doesn’t want to work for it. Although I like to think the majority of my readers know me well enough to recognise that this is, quite frankly, a whole load of rubbish, I still felt the need to address a few things, and write a response of sorts. Not because I feel I have something to prove, but because I am most definitely not the type of person to sit in silence when I’m bad-mouthed, by anyone – including hideous tabloids like the Mail.

First of all – I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, and as such I have worked damn hard to get me on that path. After completing my GCSEs and A-levels, I went on to study for three years to get myself a degree in English, that I’m actually incredibly proud of. Whilst studying at uni I worked in a shop part-time to pay my way whilst gaining experience in the beauty industry – the industry I wanted to write about. I also spent months of my life interning at newspapers and magazines, staying late every night and all the time working for zilch – nada. I saved money so that I could move down to London whilst interning, and whilst doing all of this I also wrote my blog.

Now, readers of the Daily Mail might think my blog is a silly, insignificant place on the internet where I drone on about blushes and mascaras, but to me it’s something I’ve built up over years of hard work, that has given me a considerable amount of recognition and has actually been extremely worthwhile in terms of giving me internships, and, would you believe it, even jobs. It has given me the opportunity to work with dozens upon dozens of incredible brands, which has given me further exposure. More than anything, it’s been a platform for my writing – which you can think what you like about – but unlike the Daily Mail, every single word I’ve ever written on this blog has been the truth. I don’t spin lies to get a good story – I write honestly and I know for a fact that is what makes my blog appealing to my readers – they trust me, which is something tabloids like the Mail will never be able to achieve.

Blogs might not be the be-all and end-all, but anyone who thinks that they are not worthwhile is most definitely misinformed. Blogging has changed the landscape of publishing – and maybe that’s why journalists at the Mail are quaking in their boots – they know that bloggers do have power. Whilst some people might think we spend our days flouncing around doing nothing, a whole lot of hard work goes into running a blog. Whilst scrolling through the comments on the article I noticed a couple of people stating that blogging is never going to be a full-time job – well how wrong you are. I know dozens of bloggers who do it full-time, and make a great deal more than you’d think. They get to go on press trips, as would journalists, and get to try new products before anyone else. They work with huge brands on national campaigns and this wasn’t all handed on a plate to them – it’s down to years of hard work. Blogging takes time – it’s not just a case of sitting down and tap-tapping at a keyboard. It takes research, trialling products, hours of photography and editing, proof-reading, promotion through social media… It isn’t easy, and it definitely isn’t for the lazy.
I don’t expect the world handed to me on a plate. Whilst I do dream about having a certain lifestyle, I also recognise that not everything I want may be achievable. I also know fine well that nobody on this earth gets anywhere without putting in hard work. I’m a big believer that you can be the brightest spark on the planet, but if you don’t put work in, you won’t get anywhere. I don’t think the Daily Mail wanted to paint that picture of me, though. It wasn’t a good enough story.


I started my blog because I wanted to pursue a career as a writer and I was told (by magazines, tutors and the like) that writing a blog would be a huge starting point. With the death of print looming around the corner, I think we all need to recognise that online media is taking over, and thus blogs will always be at the forefront of that. That doesn’t mean bloggers are better than anyone else – but it most definitely does not make us lazy.

Whilst the readers of the Daily Mail might not understand the concept that people actually pursue careers in social media and blogging, I hope that my readers do. I also hope you all understand that I am not a self-entitled schmuck who expects the world without putting any effort in – I’m just a hard-working girl who likes to dream, but also understands that my dreams might be somewhat unreachable at times. I don’t think anyone has the right to dampen a person’s dreams however – and luckily, the Daily Mail hasn’t dampened mine.

ALL PICTURES AND WORDS COURTESY OF HANNAH VICKERS AT http://www.awaywiththefairiesblog.com/

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The problem with moneysaving apps

While some moneysaving apps can be genuinely handy, others might encourage you to spend unnecessarily or change your shopping habits. I examine the pitfalls of these downloads and point you towards (in my humble opinion) genuinely helpful apps.

By Iona Bain

Are you one of Britain’s 36 million app downloaders? If so, chances are you may be a devotee of the moneysaving app, helping you to spot bargains, compare products, collect loyalty points and generally become an all-round tip top consumer.  

In theory, nobody could fault it. Handy, ingenious, right there in your pocket to help you save money at the flick of a button (or rather the swipe of a screen). 

Moreover, most of these apps are free, so surely they are worth a download when nearly everything has a price these days?

Perhaps so. Any tools in the moneysaving armoury should generally be welcomed. My gripe is that many of these apps look far better than they actually are. Some don’t actually save you that much money or time while some could be subtly changing your consumer habits – and not for the better.

Pic from www.myfamilyclub.co.uk

Take the Orange Wednesdays app. Regularly lauded as one of the best ‘money saving’ apps on the market, you have to step back and realise that only Orange customers could, in fact, take advantage of ‘2for1’ cinema tickets on Wednesdays. This app doesn’t offer much beyond the basic texting tool available to all Orange customers before the smartphone came along, besides interesting reviews for cinephiles. Besides, you shouldn’t plump for an Orange contract just to take advantage of this deal. It isn’t unique on the market (Vodaphone and O2 offer similar reward schemes for their customers for days out and pop concerts) and contracts have to offer all-round good value, depending on how much you use your phone and what you need in terms of minutes, texts and data usage.

Another pitfall of moneysaving apps is that you may splash out unnecessarily or only use certain shops just to take advantage of discounts/cashback. Rather than saving your money, you could end up committing a sin of consumerism – being perpetually swayed by discounts rather than getting underlying value in the long-term.

Splashing out rather than saving

Two of the most popular apps around are Vouchercloud and Quidco. Vouchercloud points you in the direction of retail partners who offer exclusive discounts and deals in your local area. Just request the voucher from your smartphone and it’s delivered to your screen.

I’d be lying if I said that Vouchercloud hasn’t been a godsend in the past when I’ve been on a night out with friends and decided to get 15 per cent off or 2 for 1 at at your standard restaurant chain. For those occasions, it’s got to be worth a download.

http://retaildesignblog.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Nandos-restaurant-by-BuckleyGrayYeoman-Dundee.jpg

Pic from retaildesignblog.net

Quidco works in a similar way but it also gives you cashback – 25p at most – when you shop in certain stores. When you first discover discount vouchers and cashback, you feel like you’re genuinely saving a few quid. But if you hadn’t been alerted to 10% off at a certain restaurant, or 20% off at a local beauty salon, would you honestly have intended to spend money on meals or manicures? Let’s face it, it would never normally cross my mind to have a seven course dinner, with portions that wouldn’t feed a gerbil on a diet, at a pricey restaurant that desperately needs my custom, or to have ravenous fish nibble away at my flaky tootsies in a harshly lit basement somewhere.

I exaggerate for comedic effect, dear reader, but we’ve all been there, haven’t we! The internet is awash with horror stories about misunderstandings and shoddy service on the back of these deals. Beware the false bargain!

The way to avoid this pitfall is to use the app (or website) ONLY when you’re making a purchase anyway, just to see if you could shave a few pounds off the total cost. 

When it comes to Quidco, there is no harm in checking the app when you’re using high street stores as a matter of course. Just ask yourself how many times you’re going to frequent B & Q, Homebase, Carphone Warehouse and the other partners it has signed up before you put too much time or expectation by it. It only works if you’re shopping regularly in these stores anyway, since the cashback of 25p per shop (at most!) is not reason enough to shop at these retailers instead of their competitors. This is especially the case when talking about big-ticket purchases – your mobile contract and DIY items – at these stores. What’s more, Quidco retain the first £5 of your cashback earned anyway, so you’d have to do this an awful lot to make it cost-effective!

By all means, have these apps on standby (like I do) for must-have purchases but be wary of splashing out for the sake of a meagre saving. See my previous blog on how certain websites in this field have provided links to payday loan companies.

When loyalty doesn’t pay

Two apps that are also overrated are the Nectar and Tesco Clubcard apps. You scan your phone at the supermarket till to get Nectar or Clubcard points. The former applies to shopping in Sainsburys, Homebase and BP, the latter only works for Tesco – and only the main tills at the main supermarkets, not the Express stores, Tesco petrol stations or at self-service and basket tills. So you’ll have to carry the physical Clubcard anyway if you’re using the scheme already.

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Pic from @JulieMcCaffrey on Twitter

Another advantage of the Clubcard is that it offers ‘exclusive discounts’ with partner retailers – but these are much the same as the deals offered by Vouchercloud, which doesn’t require the same loyalty that Tesco’s app does.

Of course, these are handy for those who are already signed up to the Nectar or Clubcard schemes. But don’t let this sway you into shopping at one store only. Don’t forget that Aldi and Lidl have their own apps, and while they do not offer an exclusive discounts for App users, its worth browsing their special offers in any event.

Any savvy consumer will only really save money by shopping around and NOT letting discount schemes sway their decision. 

And now for the good news

CookIt (available on Apple and Android handsets) can save you time, food AND money. The app will find recipes based on food you have in your cupboard – simply enter the ingredients you have and the app will suggest a tasty meal you could make. 

Another handy download is Onavo. It saves on your smartphone data usage –up to 80% – by rerouting your online activities through its server and sending it back in a compressed form. Considering the high charges you face if you go over your monthly data limit, smartphone users who surf the web will find this essential – it may even allow them to go on a cheaper contract with lower usage.

Finally, Red Laser allows you to compare prices on the shop floor – just scan barcodes or QR codes using your camera phone (or enter them manually) and the app will search thousands of local and online retailers for the best prices and check that products are in stock.

Let me know what your favourite moneysaving app is below or email ionabain[at]hotmail.com

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Filed under Bargain hunting, Consumer Affairs, Mobiles, Shopping, Technology