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The nights are drawing in and it can affect our mood. If you’re suffering from the winter blues, there are some things you can do to improve your outlook.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes known as winter depression, is a type of depression that comes and goes with a seasonal pattern. It’s usually linked to the darker days of winter. Symptoms include feeling lethargic, sleeping for longer and craving carbohydrates. Even if you’re not affected by SAD, it’s common to experience these symptoms more during the colder months.

This year, winter is set to be even tougher. Lockdown and social distancing means some of the activities we’d usually do to lift our mood are no longer possible. A quarter of the general population says lockdown measures have left them feeling lonely and isolated, according to LV=.

Creating a plan to improve your mood this winter can help you head into 2021 with a positive outlook even if lockdown persists. Be sure to include these areas in your plan.

1. Eat a healthy diet

Winter can lead to us reaching for unhealthy, stodgy food. While comforting, foods that are high in fat, carbs and sugar can leave us feeling worse once our blood sugar levels drop. They might provide an energy boost at first, but in the long run they can lead to you feeling more tired and irritable.

Instead, make sure your meals and snacks include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Picking food that’s packed with vitamins, minerals and proteins can restore energy levels for longer.

2. Make sure you get some sun

It might be cold but plan some time outdoors to increase sun exposure. Even ten minutes a day can help you feel better. It’s thought that exposure to sunlight increases the release of a hormone called serotonin, associated with feeling calmer and boosting your mood. A few minutes in the garden can give you a sunnier disposition.

Sun exposure is also linked to vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D can leave you feeling tired, worsening the effect of the winter blues. Stepping outside and vitamin D-rich food, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and some mushrooms, can help.

When you can’t get outdoors, one tech option is light therapy. These lights, which come in a variety of designs including desk lamps, give off a very bright light. It’s thought that by mimicking the sunlight, they can also encourage the production of serotonin.

3. Boost endorphins with exercise

Getting your heart pumping releases the feel-good hormone endorphins. These hormones are linked to relieving stress and pain, and even produce a feeling of euphoria.

Making exercise part of your everyday routine throughout the winter months can help you beat the winter blues and ensure you stay healthy too. What’s not to like? Find an exercise that you enjoy doing, whether that’s going for a run, taking an online Zumba class or getting on a bike.

If you can get outdoors to exercise, even better!

4. Keep track of your sleep

Winter can mean we spend more time in bed, but are you getting a good night’s sleep? If you’re feeling tired and lethargic throughout the day, keeping track of your sleeping pattern can help.

Ideally, you should get around eight hours of sleep a night. If you struggle to fall asleep or are restless during the night, creating a routine that lets your body know it’s time to sleep can help. Switching off screens and doing something that helps you to relax before bed can mean you drift off quicker. You should also think about your bedroom and creating a space where you switch off and unwind.

5. Make time for friends and family

Planning time with family and friends has never been more important. With social distancing restrictions, the chances of bumping into someone or having a quick catch up while out are far lower. But social activities are essential for improving our mood.

So, proactively make time for those you enjoy spending time with. Heading to a park or other open space, in line with social distancing rules, or even planning a digital get together, might not be your usual routine but it can help you remain connected until things get back to normal.

6. Give meditation a try

The LV= research found that more people are feeling anxious and stressed.  Four in ten said they worry about the pandemic and feared a second wave of Covid-19. With both health and economic concerns weighing on peoples’ mind, it’s not surprising that some may be feeling anxious about the future.

Trying relaxation and meditation exercises can help you focus and feel calmer. Even ten minutes in the morning can improve your mood for the rest of the day. There are plenty of different techniques to try, so find one that suits you.

7. Plan indoor activities

When we’re stuck indoors, it’s easy to slump in front of the TV with a boxset. But, while fine at times, it’s a routine that can harm your mental health if you don’t mix it up with other activities.

Try planning days at home as you would plan for a day out. Think of activities that get your brain working and mean you step away from the screen for a while. From a good book to trying your hand at a new craft, there are plenty of options. If you want to get your family involved, board games and cards a great way to pass the time.

The days are getting darker and chillier and you may have plans to stay inside where it’s cosy. But getting out and about can boost your mood, plus frost and beautiful winter-flowering plants mean a walk can be magical this time of year.

The National Trust boasts some stunning gardens that are just as beautiful to explore in winter as they are in the spring and summer. So, pull on your walking boots, winter coat and gloves to visit these gardens.

1. Bodnant Garden, Conwy

Bodnant Garden showcases nearly 50 plants and includes a specifically designed winter garden, guaranteeing colour even during the winter season. But what really sets this garden apart is the backdrop of Snowdonia. The stunning national park, the largest in Wales, is worth exploring at any time of the year, but is well worth a visit when there’s frost or even snow on the ground.

2. Ham House and Garden, Richmond-upon-Thames

Ham House and Garden is a 17th century treasure trove that’s filled with history. In fact, you can join an online audio tour as your stroll around the paths, introducing you to the garden as well as telling you about its history, including the 400-year-old Kitchen Garden. This venue is also home to one of the National Trust’s Silent Spaces. These summerhouses are the perfect place to sit and enjoy the peacefulness of the garden.

3. Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge

Anglesey Abbey features a long, narrow winter garden that is specifically designed to look beautiful at this time of the year with plenty of colour and scent. The garden features many trees, including the Killarney Strawberry tree, which will display strawberry-like fruit in December and Himalayan Silver Birch, known for their dramatic white trunks.

4. Hardwick Hall, Chesterfield

Exploring Hardwick Hall is a must at any time of the year, but during winter the hall and gardens with mature trees can seem even more impressive than when everything is in full bloom. The garden’s high walls can help keep some of the chilly winds away while you stroll along the paths to find yew topiary, winter-flowering honeysuckle and much more. From January, you can also take in a winter garden talk on certain days.

5. Dunham Massey, Cheshire

The Dunham Massey winter garden is the largest of its kind in the UK. Filled with winter flowers, striking silver birches and colourful berries, it’ll brighten up any winter day. At seven acres, there are plenty of paths to wander along. The garden officially opened in 2009 and aims to retain its historic woodland feel while still ensuring there are points of interest throughout winter.

6. Sissinghurst Castle, Cranbrook

When establishing the garden at Sissinghurst in the 1930s, the aim was to create an outdoor space that had something of interest throughout most of the year. As a result, it’s a great place to head to enjoy the colder season too. The woodland area is a great place to explore in winter. You can enjoy guided tours of the South Cottage, and the still standing tower is where famous author, Vita Sackville-West’s writing room was located.

7. Powis Castle, Welshpool

Explore 17th century terraces at Powis Castle, nestled between the picturesque Long Mountain and Breidden Hills. You can really appreciate the geometry and structure of the garden once summer ends. The formal Edwardian garden will take you on a path between 100-year-old apple trees and towering yew hedges. The medieval castle rising above the garden makes it even more impressive.

8. Buckland Abbey, Yelverton

If you’re looking for a walk that takes you through beautiful natural views, Buckland Abbey is ideal. The site boasts three marked paths that will take you through glorious woodland and alongside a river. Be sure to put on your wellies though, the routes can get muddy at this time of the year. The abbey gardens are worth walking around too, offering views across the valley and a glance of what gardens in the Tudor era may have looked like.

There are plenty of other National Trust gardens to take in this winter and you can find out more on the organisation’s website. Keep in mind that some gardens and heritage buildings operate reduced opening hours in the winter and may be affected by Covid-19 restrictions, so be sure to check first.

When you think of your childhood home, what technology did it boast? While we don’t think too much about how homes change from year to year, tech and gadgets do influence our personal spaces and how we use them.

It wasn’t too long ago that it was unheard of to have a computer in your home, let alone laptops, mobiles, and tablets too. As the pace of new technology speeds up, homes over the next decade could include far more tech than they do already, smart devices are already used in some homes. Throughout the 2020s, expect this to become commonplace.

These technology trends could be working their way into your home in the next few years.

Smart appliances will connect to make your life easier

Technology has already transformed household chores, but products coming to the market will take it one step further.

You can already purchase appliances that connect to the Internet, but these are set to become far more prevalent. Imagine walking into the kitchen to find a cup of tea (just the way you like it) ready for you or a heating system that automatically knows when it should turn on and off.

These devices won’t just follow pre-defined commands, they’ll learn from you too. The idea is that the more you use them, the more convenient they will become as they learn your preferences.

Your mobile will become a remote for your home

Mobiles are already an important piece of tech, many of us would be lost without ours. This decade, expect it to become even more essential to your life.

Intuitive apps will allow your mobile to act as a single remote for your home. It’ll link to smart appliances, control your lights, monitor your security system and much more. You’ll be able to control everything without having to move – just be careful not to misplace your phone!

Energy efficiency will become more important

Climate change risk means that energy efficiency will become an important topic over the next decade. Technology is already playing a role in this, with smart meters rolled out across the country. However, energy-efficient technology and the means to track consumption will become more commonplace.

Your car might tell you when it needs filling up or the oil changing. Or you’ll be able to access information on the energy consumptions, cost, and carbon footprint for every appliance in your home. With more information at your fingertips, you’ll know which appliance could benefit from an upgrade and be more mindful of energy use.

Entertainment hubs to use throughout your home

How we receive entertainment in our homes has changed enormously in the last decade. You’re now just as likely to stream TV shows through subscription services as you are to tune in to the BBC. At the moment, you have to sign in on every device and use a variety of apps to find what you want.

A centralised entertainment hub will make it easier to pull all these different services together. You’ll be able to find something to watch, listen to and learn about, all from a single place anywhere in your home and on any device.

Health sensors will become the norm

There are already some health sensors available and frequently used, like exercise trackers. However, these will slowly become part of your home, letting you know when you’re ill or should visit a doctor.

If that seems like science fiction, it’s closer than you think. In Japan, there are already toilets that will perform a urinalysis and will alert users to a range of red flags, including when they’re at risk of developing diabetes. It might be some time before technology of this level is in every home, but it shows the direction we’re progressing.

For the elderly living alone, smart health sensors could help them strike the right balance between security and independence, alerting loved ones when they need support or there’s an emergency.

Home security systems will need upgrading

Technology has already influenced home security. With systems linked to your phone, you can control alarms, camera and more, even using it to see inside your home when you’re out. But one of the drawbacks to increased technology in homes is that the devices you use can, in themselves, pose  a security risk and more of your information is online. As a result, the security we have for our home and possessions will need to be upgraded to mitigate cybersecurity risks.

It should come as no surprise that we believe financial advice adds real value to the lives of our clients. While the financial benefits of advice are often discussed, the value it can add in terms of wellbeing is sometimes overlooked, but is just as valuable.

The improvements to wellbeing that financial advice can offer can be difficult to assess. After all, every client will have differing goals, priorities and challenges. New research from Royal London has measured how professional financial advice can support emotional wellbeing.

Financial advice helps people feel in control and confident

The research found that the vast majority of the 17 million people who seek financial advice in the UK benefit from a positive experience. Overall, it helps people to feel confident, in control of their finances and gain peace of mind. Clients rated three key areas that highlight the positive impact of a relationship with a financial adviser:

  • Quality of advice and expertise (82%)
  • Communication style (81%)
  • Trustworthiness (81%)

One of the important ways the report found advice is adding value is through understanding of financial matters.

When searching for financial products or information, you’re often confronted with jargon and complex terms. Even when you have a good handle on your financial situation this can be daunting, making it difficult to know what’s right for you. Besides, products, legislation and regulation frequently change and keeping up to date can be challenging if it’s not part of your day-to-day role.

Those receiving advice feel up to three times more confident in their understanding of products and their finances than those who haven’t worked with an adviser. Some 23% of non-advised individuals said they would not know where to start when asked about life insurance, compared to just 7% of those taking financial advice.

The financial decisions you make have a long-lasting impact and it’s important to understand products and your options. We’re here to explain to clients how different products work, as well as outlining the pros and cons with their situation in mind. It means clients can have confidence in not only their plans but also their financial knowledge.

The benefits of preparing for the unexpected

When people first approach a financial adviser it’s often to seek advice on something they know is going to happen or would like to happen. For example, planning for retirement or setting up an investment portfolio to create an income.

However, an important part of creating a financial plan is to look beyond this to plan for the long-term, including the unexpected. As a result, financial planning can improve financial resilience and ensure you’re better prepared for an unexpected shock, such as redundancy or illness.

It’s a step that boosts emotional wellbeing. Some 63% of clients said they felt secure and stable, as opposed to 48% who did not receive advice. The report highlighted how it can have an impact on emotions too. Four in ten (41%) of those that do not take financial advice said they feel anxious about their household finances, compared to three in ten (32%) who receive advice.

Protection products in particular improved financial and emotional wellbeing. These insurance products pay out under certain circumstances and should align with your priorities and concerns. For instance, life insurance can provide peace of mind that your family will be financially secure should you pass away, while income protection can provide an income if you’re unable to work due to illness. Clients who received advice on protection said it helped them feel more prepared and less worried about the future.

Unsurprisingly, the Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced how planning for the unexpected can be valuable. With millions of employees seeing their income fall and facing redundancy, 35% said they felt anxious about their financial situation. This has led to 65% saying they’ve come to appreciate the value of being more prepared for life-shocks that may be outside of their control.

On average, financial advice clients are £47,000 better off

While the emotional benefits of advice are important, the financial benefits are too. After all, financial freedom can help you to achieve goals and feel more confident about your future.

The report also covers previous research conducted by the International Longevity Centre UK.  It found that customers who took financial advice were on average £47,000 better off. Those who fostered a long-term relationship with their adviser were up to 50% better off than those who received one-off financial advice.

Tom Dunbar, Intermediary Distributions Director at Royal London, said: “We have long suspected that the benefits of advice go far beyond financial gains alone and our research confirms that individuals who have received advice are more likely to feel confident about the future, and less likely to feel anxious or worried.

“It’s easy to see why clients turned to financial advisers when the pandemic struck. But advice is most powerful – and most rewarding – when it goes beyond a one-off meeting. An ongoing relationship with an adviser amplifies the emotional, as well as the financial, benefits.”

Please contact us if you’d like to arrange a meeting to discuss how financial advice can help you and improve your wellbeing.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

We know that investments come with risk and the value of your investments can fall. With risk linked to potential rewards, it can be difficult to know how much risk is appropriate for you.

When we make financial decisions, lots of factors can influence what you decide. This may include emotional factors or bias, which can lead to you taking too much or too little risk for your circumstances. So, how do you balance risk and reward when investing?

How are risk and reward linked?

As a general rule, the more risk you take the higher the potential returns. However, this comes with a higher risk of investment values falling and potentially losing your money.

Investments are usually placed on a sliding scale of risk to show you where they fall. When you invest through a fund, for example, it will have a ‘risk rating’ to help you select investments that suit you. The table below shows how different investments may be categorised on a scale of one (lowest risk) to ten (highest risk).

While higher risk generally means higher potential returns, that doesn’t mean you should choose these investments. In many cases, a high-risk investment portfolio isn’t suitable for the average investor. Creating a risk profile can help you understand the level of risk that is appropriate for you.

What affects the level of risk you should take?

There’s no one size fits all solution to the level of risk you should take. It needs to consider you and your financial circumstances, including:

  • Your investment goals. Your goal should be at the heart of your investment decisions. They can have a large impact on the level of risk you feel comfortable taking. If you’re investing for your child’s or grandchild’s future, you may want to take a more conservative approach. If, on the other hand, you’re investing to create extra income for a retirement that will already be comfortable, you may be willing to take more risk.
  • The investment timeframe. As a general rule of thumb, the longer you plan to invest for, the greater amount of risk you can afford to take. So, if you’re starting your career and investing for retirement, you’re in a better position to take more risk. This is because over a longer timeframe there’s more opportunity to recover from dips in the market.
  • The other assets you hold. You can’t consider investment risk without looking at your wider financial circumstances. If you’re taking a high level of risk with other assets, lower risk in your investment portfolio may make sense. In the same way that a portfolio needs to be balanced, so does the level of risk you’re taking across all your assets.
  • Your capacity for loss. If the value of your investments were to fall, how would it impact your plans? If it could seriously affect your plans, a lower level of risk is likely to be advisable. If investments falling in value would leave you in a financially vulnerable position, you should look at alternatives first.
  • Your overall attitude to risk. Finally, how you feel about investment risk is important. You need to feel comfortable with the investment decisions made. However, bias can have an impact and can lead to investors taking too much or too little risk. This is where a financial planner can help. We’re here to explain the options and why we recommend certain investments. With more information and someone to talk to, you can invest with confidence.

Remember the basics of investing

Whatever your risk profile, the basic lessons of investing still apply. Keep these three in mind when making investment decisions.

  1. Invest for long-term goals: If you have a short-term goal in mind, investing probably isn’t appropriate for you. Ideally, you should invest with a minimum five-year timeframe. This provides an opportunity to smooth out the peaks and troughs to hopefully deliver returns over the long term.
  2. Don’t focus on short-term fluctuations: It can be easy to focus on daily market movements, but it’s more important to look at the bigger picture. Focusing on the short-term movements can make it tempting to deviate from your plan by buying or selling. Instead, have faith in your long-term plan and remember, it’s time in the market not timing the market.
  3. Diversify: All investment portfolios should invest in a range of assets and sectors. This helps to spread the risk of your investments. When one area of your portfolio is performing poorly, another can help balance this. Even when your risk profile is ‘high’ diversifying is important.

If you’d like to talk to us about your risk profile, investments, and long-term financial plans, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Each November, Talk Money Week takes place. It aims to get the nation talking about managing money, from discussing pocket money with children to chatting about pensions.

Money can be a taboo subject, even among families. But talking openly about money, financial goals and aspirations can help different generations make better decisions. Making talking about money part of your normal family routine beyond the awareness week can have far-reaching benefits.

When you created your financial plan, you may have involved a partner, but most people don’t include their wider family. Yet, for many reasons, financial planning as a family can make sense.

1. Your goals may include your family and legacy

For many people, goals involve family in some way.

You may want to help pay for your grandchildren’s school fees now, or ensure you leave an inheritance that financially secures their future. Openly discussing what you intend to leave as a legacy, for instance, can help all of the family to plan more effectively.

Firstly, take some time to think about your personal goals. This can help you create a list of priorities when talking about a financial plan. You may intend to offer monetary support, but securing your own future is just as important.

2. Find out what their goals are

Do you know what your family hopes to achieve or what their concerns are?

You may have an idea about the aspirations and worries of loved ones, but sometimes you need a frank discussion to really understand each other. You may find there are more effective ways you can lend support if that’s your goal.

Many younger generations, for instance, are struggling to purchase a property or manage day-to-day finances due to stagnating wage growth. If you had planned to leave an inheritance, passing on wealth now may be more effective. A house deposit or a lump sum to pay off a mortgage could help reduce the outgoings of children or grandchildren. It’s a step that can improve their financial security and wellbeing both now and in the long term.

It’s also an opportunity for them to discuss what might happen in the future with you. For example, are you worried about the cost and support you’d receive if you needed care? Having a chat with family can help you create a solution and put your mind at ease. It may be something they’ve already thought about. By involving loved ones in a financial planning discussion about care, you can create a plan that suits all of you.

3. Reduce costs

Working together can help reduce costs and get the most out of your money.

Understanding the potential impact of Inheritance Tax is just one way you can make your money go further. If your estate could be liable for Inheritance Tax, there are things you can do now to reduce or eliminate the cost but this requires a proactive approach. Strategies to mitigate Inheritance Tax include giving away some of your wealth during your lifetime and setting up a trust for family.

There are ways you could save money now by pooling resources too. Take investing for example, if several family members are paying for investment fees and advice, bringing this together can save money and lead to better returns.

Personal goals and challenges must be considered in these scenarios, as well as understanding who has ownership of assets. Please contact us if this is something you’d like to discuss.

Making family financial planning suit you

If you want to involve family in your financial plan, there are numerous ways you can do so. You should think about what you want to achieve and how involved you’d like your family to be.

On one hand, making time to have a simple conversation about money and long-term goals may be enough. This can help you see how goals may align and where you may want to offer support. On the other hand, you can work together with a financial planner as a family if you’d like to create a more comprehensive plan that includes several adults and generations.

Striking the right balance is important when involving family members in your financial plans. If you’d like to discuss how you could consider wider family goals, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax or estate planning.

 

Taking ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors into consideration is a growing trend among investors. But what does it mean and why would you look at these areas when making investment decisions?

Our latest guide explains the basics of ESG investing. According to the Investment Association, 26% of all UK assets use ESG factors in some way, though the depth varies. As a result, it’s gradually being incorporated into more investment strategies. [click to continue…]

Since our last update stock markets have continued their impressive recovery in value from the lows of the first quarter. This growth has particularly been in sectors that saw a surge in demand during global lockdowns, such as technology stocks. However, there have been some areas of significant losses, such as the travel and leisure industries, which have suffered greatly from the restrictions.

Our Investment Model Portfolios have mostly performed well over the previous quarter, with holdings in government bonds, which we increased earlier in the year, providing valuable protection against falls.

The future is still highly uncertain, with COVID cases in the UK still rising and further lockdown measures being introduced on a frequent basis, five vaccine trials taking place, and the US election taking place early in November.

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Back in July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a second range of measures designed to protect the economy through the Covid-19 pandemic.

His next update was scheduled to be the Autumn Budget in the coming weeks. However, given the newly imposed Covid-19 restrictions and economic uncertainty, the Budget has been cancelled.

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Every year as the summer holidays come to a close, ‘back to school’ slogans and tips for getting children ready to head back to full-time education spring up everywhere.

This year though, some children will be going back after having nearly six months off school due to the pandemic. Even if you’ve stuck to a strict home-schooling routine throughout lockdown, they may need to adjust to it. Many children are likely to be excited to see their friends again and even getting stuck into traditional lessons. But there may be some reservations and nervousness. Not only may they be joining a new class, having a new teacher and needing to get back into the routine, but the way schools operate is going to be different too. [click to continue…]