New incentive to help quit smoking could make you a millionaire

Many people are already aware of the financial costs of maintaining a smoking habit; cigarette prices continue to rise in an attempt by the government to cease the nations smoking habit, alongside other attempts to cease the UK’s smoking culture.

A new incentive could have arrived from finance and investment author Paul Claireaux, who has provided a case study that shows quitting cigarettes and investing the money elsewhere could make you a small fortune.

Should a smoker choose to quit while they are still young (a 20-year-old was used as an example in the study) and invest the typical cost of a packet of cigarettes (£7.60) into a work-based pension fund every day, their pension at their retirement could be huge; £530,000 by the age of 55 or £935,865 by the age of 65.

This projection uses a basic rate tax payer as an example, thus they would receive 20% income tax relief on top of their pension. This means a higher rate tax payer could receive even more.

The study also assumes the employee has access to a defined-contribution pension, which would involve the company paying 60% or more on matched basis earnings. This kind of scheme is available across some companies, but usually not to all members of staff.

If you do not already smoke, there are other ways to get involved with this initiative. Calculating the cost of a daily coffee, weekend take away or other such frivolities could then be invested within a pension.

Mr Claireux has said: “Many employers are more generous than these basic auto-enrolment schemes. In which case, employees will be able to build some wonderful pension funds.

“Some employers who are not already offering good DC pension schemes may restrict their pension input to the bare minimum of 3% and some will take advantage of the staged introduction of auto-enrolment – keeping their contributions to a minimum until obliged to pay more.”

This means even reducing the amount smoked per day – from switching from a 20 pack to a 10 pack – the savings can still be significant. They may be half of the above projection, but it’s still a huge saving that will correlate with many work pension schemes.

Created by ECigarette Direct

The Libor Scandal: RBS facing fine of £390m

The Royal Bank of Scotland has been in the spotlight this month, after a fine was issued for the bank’s role in the Libor rate-fixing scandal.

The London inter-bank lending rate, or Libor, is one of the most important interest rates in the world of finance. It dictates the average rate at which London-based banks lend money to each other. It supports financial contracts and loans of up to trillions of pounds.

In 2005, it was banking giant Barclays that came under fire after evidence was uncovered that proved the bank had attempted to manipulate the Libor dollar rates, following requests to do so from other banks.

Representatives and employees of the large banks talked over the phone and on instant messaging programs, nudging each other in an often jocular fashion to change the lending rates accordingly.

Following the recession in 2007 and the liquidation of Northern Rock, Barclays further manipulated Libor to make it look as though the bank’s credit quality was in a much better state than it was.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (or RBS), while not to the same level as Barclays, continued to manipulate their Libor. In 2011, four employees were sacked for their roles in the scandal.

According to the BBC, RBS has been fined a total of £390 million for its Libor-fixing activities.

It is expected that the fines will not be recovered from tax payer’s money, despite the fact that RBS is 81% owned by the tax payer. The £300 million now owed to US authorities thanks to the fine will be recovered from previous bankers’ bonuses and their future bonuses.

RBS has admitted that its own internal investigations led to 21 employees receiving disciplinary action or facing firing.

Thanks to the agreement of RBS to settle at an early point in the investigation into the Libor rate fixing, the bank was granted a 30% discount on part of the total fine.

A spokesman from spread betting and Forex trading experts City Index said of the scandal: “The Libor scandal has been a hindrance on the sector and RBS especially considering how long the firm has been in negotiations with regulators over a fine settlement.

“The fact that they have now reached an agreement is a double positive for shareholders in that it draws a line under the situation and the fact that the fine is less than expected.”

The RBS fine follows a huge government bailout in 2008, when RBS was on the very verge of collapse.

Necessary Family Income Risen 16% Above Inflation

Since the beginning of the recession the earnings the average family needs to maintain a minimum lifestyle has risen 16% above inflation, claims a recent report. The research, recently published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shows that families need more money than ever to maintain a socially acceptable standard of living.

The report – which is an update on the foundation’s 2008 report – was conducted by interviewing hundreds of people in the UK about their finances and what they consider necessary expenses. A Large part of the inflation-busting increase, it was found, came from the rising costs of transport, utility bills and childcare. Findings suggest that whilst most are aware that times are tough and costs were rising the real-term income of many working families was falling, in many cases due to tax credit cuts.

It also found that whereas a single person now required a gross income of £16,400 per year to meet their minimum expectations, a family of two adults and two children required an income of £36,800 per year (before tax).

What was interesting is that despite the growing hardship people are facing, their expectations have not fundamentally changed since the last report was carried out in 2008.

People in urban areas (excluding London) still considered a car as an essential item, whereas a computer and the internet are now accepted as a necessity for those of working age with children. People’s expectations had fallen in relation to eating out and what constituted an acceptable budget for Christmas and birthday presents.

Most still found that a one week holiday was a necessity, although most accepted that break did not have to be abroad and for those with children a one week self-catering holiday in a resort like Haven or Butlins would be sufficient.

It is clear that whilst the financial situation for many families is difficult, attitudes towards what constitutes as a ‘necessity’ are also changing in line with many aspects of modern life.

This post was brought to you by Your Debt, a debt management company based in Glasgow, Scotland. They specialise in providing debt solutions for people in employment, offering a wide range of products and services as well as free confidential advice.

Gunnebo agrees disposal of Chubb Malaysia interest to Sime Darby Energy

Swedish security solutions group Gunnebo AB (STO:GUNN) said on Thursday it had agreed to sell-off its 30% stake in Chubb Malaysia to Sime Darby Energy Sdn Bhd, the owner of the other 70% in the physical security products provider.

Under the terms of the transaction, Sime Darby Energy will get €2m ($2.5m) for its interest in Chubb Malaysia and it expects the disposal to bring it a small capital gain, it said.

Commenting on the sale, Gunnebo’s president and CEO Per Borgvall said the Swedish group has plans to set up it own sales company in Malaysia in the near future, as it sees the market very interesting for physical security, entrance control and cash handling services.
It will also continue a business relationship with Chubb Malaysia, which supplies Gunnebo with safes, the CEO explained.

The deal is expected to wrap up sometime in September 2012, after securing regulatory approvals.

Chubb Malaysia supplies security products to banks and financial institutions, government facilities, commercial and industrial entities and high-risk retail businesses such as goldsmiths and jewellers shops.

Gunnebo designs, makes and sells security products covering segments Bank Security and Cash Handling, Entrance Control and Secure Storage. It also offers product-related and standalone services to its customers.

Find the Right Credit Card For You

The credit-card market is full of different offers and attractions to tempt in customers. And while it may seem simplest just to take the first card offered to you by your bank, there are often better offers out there to suit your circumstances, including specialised products to match specific requirements.

Compare What’s Available

Go to Money Supermarket to review the current range of cards available and see what the deals are. You can filter the best buys using different criteria, such as lowest interest rate, special offers and other factors that may be of interest to you. One thing you’ll notice is that some cards are designed for specific purposes.

Cashback Cards

These are ideal for people who pay off their balance in full every month and never accrue interest. Basically, every time you spend on one of these cards you receive a small amount of cash back on that purchase. It can be anything from 0.25% to 3% for a limited period.

Just check the terms and conditions carefully. Some cashback cards will offer the cash back at a lower percentage for the duration of the card’s use, while others will offer higher rates but for shorter promotional periods.

If you’re likely to buy a lot over a short period (and pay the balance off in full), such as in the run up to Christmas, during a holiday or to do up a house you’re moving into, the higher rate for the shorter timeframe may be ideal for you. Check if there are any maximum cashback limits and then compare the best cashback cards across the market.

Balance-Transfer Cards

These cards are for people who already have a credit balance and who are paying high amounts of interest on it. These balances may be held across a number of cards at different interest rates. The balance-transfer card allows you to switch all your existing balances on to one single card, making it easier to manage.

The interest rate may then be 0% for a promotional period of up to a year or even more in some cases, or it may be a low-rate ‘life of balance’ card which allows you to pay off the balance in stages, with interest accruing at a manageable rate. Just be very careful not to buy additional things with this card, as the promotional rate won’t apply to new spending.

Reward Cards

These are often affiliated to supermarkets with points schemes, airlines with frequent-flyer miles or other benefits that you can accrue simply by doing your spending on that credit card. These are useful if you’ll use the benefits but check that the underlying offer is genuinely competitive.

Charity Cards

These cards offer a small percentage of your spending as a donation to the sponsored charity. Check the small print very carefully, though and work out whether it’s the right way to donate for you or whether you’d be better using a low interest rate regular card and donating your money personally. Always work out the underlying costs and charges.


Consistency is the Key to Successful Forex Trading

The Forex market is in a constant state of flux. Its liquidity is the very thing that helps Forex traders turn profits when they get it right. It may be difficult to consider that in such a volatile market, consistency is the key to successful trading. How can you remain consistent when the market appears to do the unexpected on a daily basis? The fact is that all the indicators in the world will not tell you what the market will do. As a result, new traders should be wary of becoming frustrated with what they believe the market should do.

The first lesson any Forex trader should learn is that this unpredictable market is impossible to forecast for the majority of the time. Any consistencies, trends or indicators you spot are simply patterns that increase the probability of you trading successfully on the Forex market and do not guarantee the direction the market will take. Consequently, you should expect consistency from your trading strategy not from the market itself.

The key is to focus on consistency not profits and to go into the Forex trading market with realistic expectations. Patience is another necessity when learning how to trade Forex. Opportunities arise every day but that does not mean you should act on every single one. Focus on your trade plan and the opportunities you feel are most favourable and manageable for the time and experience you have.

Your trading plan should be consistent. If you trade to your plan consistently, you are more likely to learn how to progress as well as avoid your emotions influencing your decision. A string of losing trades may have nothing to do with the profitability or effectiveness of your trading strategy.

You should stick with your trading strategy through good and bad times. Each trade is independent from the last. Just because you have had a string of winning trades does not mean your next trade will follow suit. Control the risk and only trade when signals align. A consistent approach to price is important too. Indicators can tell you about what has happened before and together may allude to future movements, but the price must be your sole focus.

Become consistent in all aspects of your trading plan, only trading when probabilities are clearly on your side. Whether through thorough testing, record keeping or monitoring, your trade decisions should always be made to your satisfaction whether they end in profit or loss.

Where will you be next year?

It’s hard to predict the future, but the past is already set in stone – there for us to review whenever we want to. When you look back, it’s easy to see how your decisions worked out: you can see which ones you regret, which ones really paid off and which ones didn’t really make much of a difference.

With that in mind, says a press release from financial solutions company Think Money, a thorough review of the last 12 months can be an excellent planning tool when it comes to figuring out your financial approach for 2012.

There are many ways to do that. Some people use budget planners; others make a point of keeping receipts and invoices; still others take a ‘combination’ approach to reviewing their finances.

However you choose to look back at 2011’s financial decisions, the important thing is that you learn from them. If you see any indications that you could have handled your finances better last year, how can you apply that understanding to this year? How can you make sure you learn from any mistakes you’ve made, rather than running the risk of repeating them?

Turning to debt problems specifically, the press release stresses the importance of taking the right approach to budgeting and debt management. One thing that can help here is getting some professional debt advice. A debt adviser can help you go over your finances and suggest ways of tackling any issues you’re facing – and the sooner you face up to those issues and find out what guidance a professional can offer you, the less time your problems should have to turn into something worse.

Finally, some generic advice. Whatever situation someone’s in, setting up direct debits can be a good way to make sure payments are made on time, avoiding the late payment charges and possible damage to their credit rating which could otherwise ensue.

As for people who feel they’re comfortably in control of their finances, it helps to bear in mind that no-one knows what the future will bring. You may have spare money on a monthly basis today, but that could change, however unappealing that thought may be. One tried-and-tested way of preparing for the future is to put money aside whenever possible, creating a ‘safety net’ that could make all the difference if your finances take a turn for the worse further down the line.


‘Loans’ dominate consumer online searches

Five of the ten most queried search terms used by UK consumers to find personal finance products online in January, were loan-related. This is according to the latest quarterly research, ‘Retail Banking- January 2011, by independent search marketing specialist and technology firm Greenlight.

According to the report, there were 2.7 million retail finance-related searches conducted online. This was a 700,000 increase when compared with October 2010.

Most queried terms

Mortgages were the most popular subsector and accounted for 35% of searches (951,000), up 71% on October totals. The term ‘Mortgage calculator’ was the most queried, making up 13% (368,000) of all retail finance-related searches, almost double October levels.

33% of all searches were for loans. Whilst fewer in volume when compared to those for mortgages, the terms ‘Loans’, ‘Payday loans’, Loan calculator’, ‘Student loans’ and ‘Personal loans’ accounted for five of the ten most searched for terms used by UK consumers to source personal finance products, online.

Totalling 49,500, the keyword ‘ISA’ accounted for 10% of all searches related to bank accounts in January. This was an 83% rise on October’s 27,000.

‘Credit cards’, was the most popular search term used to find credit and debit card offerings online. It was queried135,000 times (a 74,500 increase on October levels), accounting for 38% of the 352,000 searches related to this sub-sector.

Most visible sites

Greenlight determined the 60 most visible websites in natural and paid search in this sector.

MoneySupermarket was the most visible website in natural search, achieving 68% visibility. Halifax followed and replaced MoneySavingExpert in second place. It attained a 38% share of voice, an 11% increase on the previous quarter.

MoneySupermarket was also the most visible advertiser in paid search. It achieved a 51% share of voice – 7% less than the previous quarter. Santander, whose visibility increased by 19%, made gains and replaced FirstDirect to take second place, with 33% share of voice.

Most social and interactive

Social media sites are becoming a very important source for companies to gain consumers.

LloydsTSB replaced MoneySupermarket as the most followed brand in Greenlight’s social media league table. Since October, it has seen a huge increase in the number of Facebook fans (by more than 59,000).

uSwitch was the most interactive brand, cumulatively posting 280 posts and tweets.

With nearly 11% of marketing budgets expected to be devoted to social media in 2011 (source: eMarketer), Greenlight advises firms to connect and build relationships with those speaking to them as engagement is key to building social media optimisation.

Consolidation loans

Only one in six of us plan for the future

Standard Life has found that people in the UK live for the moment rather than the long term, with more than one in six (17%) failing to plan their finances at all, according to recent research from the savings and investments company.

The research, which looks into the UK’s fascination with living for now, finds that almost half of Brits (45%) only plan their finances just a year ahead, or less, with only a fifth of them (22%) planning up to five years into the future. Alarmingly, only one in six people (16%) plan more than six years ahead which underlines the real necessity for the UK to start addressing their long term savings plan. Doing this is critical if they are to be financially secure, achieve their future goals and live the lifestyle they want.

Of the UK regions, it was found that those from London were the top financial planners, with one in six (17%) planning six years or more ahead. In contrast, those from Scotland came out as the least likely to make long term financial plans, with only one in ten (11%) planning more than six years ahead.

To find out more about the nation’s attitudes to planning for the future, Standard Life is launching a UK-wide poll and prize draw and linking up with boutique hotel specialist Entrants have to vote on which prize they would prefer; a short break this year with accommodation from, or a holiday of a lifetime in five years. The results will show whether people in the UK favour instant gratification or greater long term rewards. This issue of desiring instant gratification presents an on-going challenge for the UK because people are living longer and their financial security cannot be guaranteed. It represents a huge challenge for providers and advisers who are keen to help consumers plan ahead so they can look to the future with confidence and optimism.

Bruce Kelsall, group and UK marketing director at Standard Life, said: “The growth in our ageing population has created a dramatic need to shift from a culture of spending to one of saving. People are completely comfortable making financial plans for a summer holiday; planning and investing in your future is no different. You may have to finance your lifestyle up to the age of 90 or even longer and while planning for this eventuality is essential, it needn’t be stressful. Even the smallest actions now can have a dramatic effect on your long term finances.”

“Windsor Power” is in action around the world

After Kate and William’s wonderfully traditional and glamorous Royal Wedding, “Windsor Power” is in action around the world.

Prince William to Catherine Middleton’s spectacular Royal event delivered hundreds of millions of pounds in extra revenue for memorabilia manufacturers, and a major tourism boost for the British capital. Across the world, millions still come to understand Britain through the medium of monarchy.

The literature, culture, history, commerce and politics of the U.K. receive a remarkable global airing thanks to the unquenchable human interest in monarchy. For families, of whatever creed or color, are naturally drawn to the stories of other families.
Traditionally British history has stories of princes locked in the tower; wives beheaded; sisters imprisoned and great kingship built on the effective display of martial valour.
But today, it’s all different, the modern monarchy represents is “soft power”.

Part of the Windsor Family’s function now is the selling of Britain abroad. Alongside the BBC, the Commonwealth, the English language, our diplomatic corps, the modern monarchy is as much about trying to maximize the U.K.’s global leverage as any constitutional process.