Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Richard Harvey, for one
This article was first published in August 2013
IFAs of mature years will recall that back in the ‘80s there was a Sunday afternoon TV quiz programme based on darts called ‘Bullseye’. It achieved hitherto unscaled peaks of naffdom, and made today’s shows such as ‘Big Brother’ look like paragons of sophistication.
Its most toe-curling moment usually came when an unsuccessful contestant was consoled by host Jim Bowen, who would invite him to “come over ‘ere and see what you could have won”. The curtains would swish back to reveal the top prize, which was often a speedboat. (Quite what someone who lived in a semi in Darlington wanted with one of those baffled me).
Take Your Pick
Now, just like those crestfallen contestants, thousands of savers are contemplating what might have been after having their pockets picked by shady salespeople who are preying on those desperate to beat today’s niggardly returns.
Corporate bonds, peer-to-peer lending websites and permanent interest-bearing shares can sound as appealing to the saver as that speedboat to a ‘Bullseye’ contestant – particularly since dizzying pre-tax returns of up to 9% are being bandied about.
Going For Gold
Even cautious investors can be tempted to put some of their nest egg into fringe banks offering a smidge above the High Street rates. The trouble is, some of these are registered abroad, so if they do go belly up, the saver can end up as disappointed as a ‘Bulllseye’ loser at the realisation they may not be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Take It Or Leave It
Even some of the banks that are protected have absolutely no compunction in holding onto your cash for another year if you don’t read the small print and claim your savings smack on the day it’s due to be redeemed, as I discovered to my personal cost.
Notwithstanding long and anguished phone calls to the bank’s call-centre, I was locked in for a further 12 months without any interest at all which, to put it mildly, severely strained Anglo-Indian relations in my household.
The Weakest Link
Meanwhile, the Revenue is on the trail of some 400 call-centres whose salespeople are offering to ‘liberate’ a proportion of the pension pots racked up by those aged under 55, providing the pot is transferred to their scheme. What they don’t tell punters is that after tax penalties and fees they are as likely to receive a decent windfall as Len McCluskey is to vote Tory at the next general election.
So next time you have a review meeting with clients, you could start by alerting them to the fact that there’s a lot of mini-Madoffs out there, promising returns that are “super, smashing, great” – to quote the ineffable Jim Bowen.
Leaving you to put your arm round their shoulder and say: “Come over ‘ere and see what you could have won”………
I’ve just read that the UK’s national debt has now reached £1,185,300,000,000.
I bet Bank of England governor Mark Carney wishes he’d never left Canada.