Are we really seeing things or is income protection insurance really the headline piece in the Sunday Times Money section this weekend? As welcome as this is in principle, (articles on income protection are a rare occurrence), the content of Kate Palmer’s article is concerning. The headline “Why Covid stress or a miscarriage could stop you getting insurance” gives you the general idea. The detail looks at how income protection insurers are using the wide range of terms around the subject of mental health issues to restrict access to these hugely important and valuable policies for individuals who may unwittingly have strayed into the territory covered. The article gives examples where insurance was declined to individuals who had as little as a one-off therapy session to help deal with a miscarriage. There’s plenty of detail – if you want to know more, you know where to look.
Further into the Money section, there’s a rather dominant double page spread entitled “Seven reasons why this lockdown will be different for your finances”. It covers areas such as mortgage ‘ ‘holiday’, not paying down debt as much, not saving as much etc. As advisers, there is little here that you don’t already know – so we’ll spare you the detail here.
Over at the Financial Mail on Sunday, Jeff Prestridge is on the campaign trail to protect consumers’ access to cash and to protect the UK’s high streets as a consequence of the ever decreasing numbers of cash machines and bank branches. In essence, the nub of it is about how many people would struggle to cope in a cashless society and therefore proposals such as allowing businesses to provide cashback facilities without the need to make a purchase should help.
Also at the MoS, Rachel Rickard Straus reports on a worrying decline in pension saving due to the impact of Covid. She highlights a report from Scottish Widows which is due for release this week which shows that more than 5.5million workers have cut or completely stopped their pension contributions due to Covid-19 – and where women are particularly at risk.
Finally, like many of the non-financial pages there is some analysis in the MoS of what a Biden Presidency might mean for people’s finances in the UK. Although it was written before the result was called late on Saturday afternoon, it highlights some investment sectors which might benefit such as green energy, and those which might suffer such as oil company shares.
The Money section of Sunday’s Telegraph provided a run down on the Lockdown 2 “survival guide for pensions’ savers”. According to figures compiled for Telegraph Money by Quilter, savers in their 50s found nearly £20,000 knocked off the value of a £100,000 “defined contribution’ pension pot when the stock market dipped to its low point in March. Although the average retirement fund recovered by the end of October with minimal losses when taken across the whole year, some Telegraph readers reported six-figure losses this year with their investments failing to bounce back. Quoting one 62 year old retired individual who has lost more than £110,000 from his carefully self-invested personal pension and Isa account (that he had planned to last until he was 90) he said “It means I have to die at 85 now if I don’t want to run out of money”. With that in mind the Telegraph moved to offer options to help protect your savings. Quilter’s Jon Greer advises to ‘stay invested and avoid panic’ giving time for these funds to recover. Pensioners should also avoid taking out large sums while markets are depressed because these ‘disproportionately reduce the pot’s overall size’ and can erode savings. If regular withdrawals are the norm, they should consider reducing their income to protect the longevity of their savings. Mr Greer also added that those who want to restore the value of their pension should consider topping it up. Finally anyone about to retire might consider staying in employment for longer or phasing in retirement gradually. It’s clear from all the sage advice that many of the over 45s have had to reassess their best made plans throughout this year, and many more will continue to do so for some time yet.
And finally, the FT revealed Scottish Widows will dump £440m of company holdings that fail ESG tests. The leading UK pensions provider will pursue one of the most far-reaching exclusions policy adopted in the industry; it will cover investment, life and pension funds sold to clients as well as its own investments.
The Scottish Widows ESG policy will excluded up to 0.3% of the £170bn funds under management. The pension provider also plans to apply the exclusions to external pooled funds run by third-party managers.
Elsewhere in the FT; HSBC insiders buy into mini-rally as the banks reliance on Hong Kong and China appears to be an asset. The article does state, ‘talk of a recovery is probably a bit rich, given the lender’s market value is up from just 0.37 to 0.44 times’ net assets.’ However sentiment is rising among shareholders as the outlook is better than expected. Asia accounted for all group level profits in the period, and HSBC looks less exposed to negative interest rates as Natwest and Lloyds.