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Deck the halls

… avoiding car boot sales as well as suffering the perils of moving house

Bah humbug. Somewhere near the summit of things I loathe with a manic passion are boot fairs. I’ve recently experienced what I vow will be my last, and will die in a ditch (sorry Boris) before ever attending another.

We’re just moving house (another one high on the loathe list), and it was Lady H’s idea that we should get up at stupid o’clock on a Sunday, load up the car with a quarter of a century’s worth of toot, and drive off to the local Grand Junkathon.

We spent six hours being mercilessly beaten down by bargain hunters, who insisted, for instance, that a Stuart crystal decanter was outrageously priced at five quid, while Auntie Vi’s novelty Christmas bobble hats weren’t worth more than 50p (hard to disagree with that).

The most popular items were old suitcases, snapped up by enthusiastic Romanians, presumably on the basis that once we left the EU, they’d be on the first flight back to Bucharest.

Sadly, the boot fair yielded a miserable £25 (actually, £15 once we’d deducted the pitch fee) which probably says more about the desirability of the stuff we were flogging than the retail tastes of the punters.

Moving on up

But back to the house move. After 25 years living in a 17th century cottage, for whom the word ‘moneypit’ was invented, and with retirement a glimmer on the horizon, the prospect of living in a brand new apartment appealed mightily.

Better still, thanks to equity release, dumping the remains of our mortgage would leave us free to steadily work our way through the collateral. Although I’m sure you’ll understand that’s not what we’ve admitted to the family.

Horses for courses

Meanwhile, Santa came early and in a highly unusual guise this year, bearing not tins of Cadbury’s Roses or ‘Cliff’s Christmas Hits’, but instead a rather large wodge of wonga from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.

Now I know that the FSCS can be a sensitive subject for many advisers who will be quite within their rights to feel a touch miffed about the rather huge levies incurred as part of the regulatory authorisation process. For yours truly however, it was the welcome denouement of a long battle over ten years to recoup a chunk of our pension pot which had been inexplicably ploughed by our (then) adviser into a series of Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes. You may well remember them – whizz-bang ‘opportunities’ like sunshine holiday complexes and carbon credits.

UCIS were quickly identified as high risk investments by the sharper personal fi nance editors, but by then it was too late – we had discovered to our cost that the acronym UCIS actually stood for Unbelievably Crap Illiquid Scams. Certainly not for investors like me, who has the word ‘cautious’ tattooed across my forehead. Ok, so there may well have been some investors who would embrace the level of risk that such investments involved as a trade-off for the chance to make spectacular returns. We were most definitely not in that camp.

Of course, you’ll be more than aware that the rules have now changed in terms of the promotion of such schemes and to whom they are aimed at – and I’m very relieved that is the case. But I’m pleased to report a happy ending in our case. Thanks to dogged persistence we finally got most of our money back in late October and I’m glad that we stuck with it.

May your New Year be as financially rewarding. And avoid boot fairs at all costs.

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