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10 of the most popular toys on Santa’s list this Christmas

It’s the season for giving. If you’re buying Christmas presents for children this year, there are huge piles of toys to wade your way through. Whether you’re purchasing for your own children or not, it can be difficult to know what they really want, and which gifts will get used. If you need some inspiration, here are 10 of the toys that are set to appear on letters to Santa this year.

1. Scalextric Batman vs Superman

For young racers, Scalextric is a great option. The racing toy has featured on Christmas lists for decades and the new partnership with the Justice League means it's ready to engage with a whole new generation. The track can be put together in multiple ways, providing numerous racecourses to navigate, including two loop-the-loops. With two cars racing, it’s a great way for children, and even adults, to play together with a bit of a competitive edge. The only question is, will you play as Batman or Superman?

2. My 1st Wooden Train Set

For younger children, this classic wooden train from John Lewis can help children explore their imagination without the flashing lights and noise that many modern toys boast. The set comes with a traditional jigsaw track, so children can build different shapes and it can be added to at a later date. It also comes with three carriages, a magnetic pulley to load items, and even a train conductor. The wooden components are sturdy and long-lasting, even when young children are exploring through play.

3. GraviTrax PRO Starter Set

GraviTrax is the latest version of the traditional marble run game. Suitable for children aged eight and up, it lets them build innovative tracks that can develop creativity and critical thinking. This starter pack comes with 149 elements, including walls, pillars, and balconies, which let children build their own vertical 3D structures. Other sets from GraviTrax can be combined to create even more elaborate designs. The packs come with blueprints to get the ball rolling, but there are hundreds of ways to put the components together.

4. PAW Patrol Mighty Lookout Tower

After the release of the PAW Patrol movie this year, it’s not surprising that Ryder and his crew of search and rescue dogs are popular this Christmas. The latest release, the Mighty Lookout Tower, stands at 2 and 3/4-feet tall, giving adventurers the perfect vantage point to look out across the bay. Suitable for children aged 3 and up, it is perfect for fans of the show, with space to store Mighty Pup vehicles and other figurines they may already have. The tower includes an elevator, zip line and even a working telescope to keep an eye out for trouble.

5. Toniebox

The Toniebox is an audio system for children. It’s a box with simple controls and no bright screens, which makes it perfect for story time. It’s designed for children to use independently from the age of three to immerse themselves in stories and audio adventures. Simply place a Tonie character on the speaker to play associated music and stories. Each box comes with an initial character but there are more to collect. From Beethoven for Kids and classics like Robinson Crusoe to modern well-known characters like the Gruffalo and Disney’s Moana, there are plenty of stories to explore.

6. Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Grow the Fun Garden Kitchen

For budding gardeners and chefs, this play garden kitchen will provide hours of entertainment. On one side, there’s a home garden and a kitchen on the other. Toddlers and young children can plant, pick, prepare, and serve their delicious creations to you. It’s a great way to introduce different foods and healthy eating, as well as learning more about colours, shapes, and more. There are more than 30 play pieces, including food, as well as colourful lights and music to keep children entertained as they go about their work.

7. Lego Elf Clubhouse

Lego is a brand that features on the Christmas list every year, and this year is no different. For 2021, one of the most popular sets has a very festive theme. The Elf Clubhouse is where Santa’s elves spend their time cooking waffles and wrapping presents. Of course, there’s a decorated Christmas tree, Christmas lights, and a sleigh too. It can be mixed with other Lego toys and sets to create an even bigger masterpiece or let a child’s imagination run wild.

8. Kaloo My First Doll

Kaloo dolls are the perfect first doll. They’re made from soft materials, so they’re suitable for any age. Whether they are being used to cuddle at night or play with during the day, they’re an excellent addition to toy boxes. There’s a range of different dolls, each with a unique look to choose from.

9. Play-Doh Kitchen Creations Rising Cake Oven Playset

If after watching the Great British Bake Off, you’ve got a young baker on your hands, this Play-Doh set could be perfect. As well as Play-Doh, it includes accessories like a mixing bowl, piping syringe, and decorating tools. It also comes with a play oven that lets you see the “cake dough” rising when you turn a handle. There are countless opportunities for children to create cakes and put their own stamp on their bakes. 

10. SmartGame Squirrels Go Nuts!

This gift will provide hours of puzzles, can you help the squirrels get ready for winter? This is a sliding game that has 60 challenges to test your skills. It’s a game that can help develop logic, problem-solving and planning skills. It guarantees plenty of fun and comes with a compact case, making it the ideal toy to take when travelling too.

What does rising inflation mean for mortgage holders?

Inflation in 2021 is expected to hit 4%. Inflation means the cost of living will rise and, for mortgage holders, knock-on effects could mean the cost of a mortgage becomes higher.

From grocery shopping to electronic goods, prices are rising. The Bank of England now expects UK inflation to rise above 4% by the end of the year, double its 2% target. There are numerous reasons for inflation rising, including shortages caused by temporary factory closures due to the pandemic.

Families across the UK are likely to find their day-to-day spending on both essential and non-essential items rise. But if you’re paying a mortgage, steps taken to limit the impact of inflation could have a knock-on effect too.

One of the ways the Bank of England can tackle inflation if it’s rising too quickly is to increase interest rates. A rise in interest rates could affect how much your mortgage repayments are and the long-term cost of borrowing.

Could your monthly mortgage repayments rise?

Interest rates have been low for more than a decade. For mortgage borrowers, it means a mortgage has been cheaper. So, how would an interest rate rise have an impact?

Let’s say you owe £200,000 on a repayment mortgage you’re paying over 20 years. The table below shows how changing interest rates could have an impact on your monthly outgoings.

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Source: Money Saving Expert

Over the full mortgage term, an interest rate increase can mean the total cost of borrowing is far higher.

In the above scenario, a mortgage holder with a 3% interest rate would pay £66,169 in interest over 20 years. If the interest rate increased to 6%, the total cost of borrowing reaches £143,946. If interest rates begin to climb, it could affect your monthly repayments and total cost.

If the Bank of England increases interest rates, it will have an immediate impact on some mortgage holders.

A tracker-rate mortgage follows the Bank of England’s base rate. So, mortgage holders would see their monthly outgoings increase straight away. A variable mortgage rate follows the lender’s interest rate, which will often follow rises and falls set by the Bank of England. If you have a variable-rate mortgage, your repayments are also likely to rise if an interest rate hike is announced.

Those with a fixed-term mortgage will not be affected immediately. A fixed-term mortgage means your interest rate is fixed for a defined period, often 2, 3, 5 or 10 years. While you wouldn’t be affected straightaway, when your current deal ends and you look for a new mortgage, you could find interest rates are no longer as competitive.

While interest rates could rise in the coming months, it’s important to note that the Bank of England is unlikely to make steep increases. A gradual approach to rising interest rates to pre-2008 levels is far more likely. Reviewing your mortgage now and assessing the impact a rise could have on your outgoings can provide you with more confidence about the future.

Is it time to choose a fixed-rate mortgage?

If interest rates are likely to rise, it can be tempting to switch to a fixed-rate mortgage now. There are pros and cons to choosing a fixed-rate interest mortgage that you should weigh up.

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If your mortgage deal has not yet come to an end, you should also keep in mind that you could face an additional fee if you switch early.

Remember, the interest rate isn’t the only thing you should consider when applying for a mortgage either. Other areas, such as the flexibility to overpay, can be just as important depending on your circumstances.If your mortgage deal has not yet come to an end, you should also keep in mind that you could face an additional fee if you switch early.

Choosing a mortgage and finding the best interest rate for you can be time-consuming and complex, so give us a call for our guidance throughout the process.

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

35 million Brits want their funeral to be a celebration. Here’s how to set out your wishes

Thinking about passing away and leaving loved ones behind can be incredibly difficult. While it can be challenging, many Brits have thought about what their preferences would be, and millions want their loved ones to celebrate their life.

According to a survey from Co-op Funeralcare, a third of Brits feel like funerals, in general, are too sombre and should be more uplifting. So, it’s not surprising that an estimated 35 million would prefer their funeral to be a celebration of life. This could cover a variety of areas including attire, with a fifth of people saying they’d prefer mourners to wear bright colours, rather than the traditional black.

If you have clear ideas about what you’d want, it’s important to set out your wishes for loved ones. There’s more than one way to do this.

1. Have a conversation with loved ones

Conversations about death with loved ones can be difficult. However, conversations with loved ones can help them understand what your preference would be and your reasons behind them. It’s a step that can mean your wishes are more likely to be followed.

It can help loved ones too. At a time when they’re grieving, having an idea about what you would want can help them to make decisions.

2. Write your wishes in your will

When you’re writing or reviewing your will, you can also set out your wishes. This could be whether you’d prefer a burial or a cremation, or even details like the attire you’d like guests to wear. Again, it’s a step that can provide loved ones with guidance when they’re making arrangements for you.

It’s important to note that while you can set out funeral wishes in a will, they are not legally binding.

3. Choose a funeral plan

If you want more control over your funeral, choosing a funeral plan could help you. A funeral plan is a way to pre-arrange the funeral you want. What’s covered will vary between providers and there will usually be several different options to consider. A plan could include details like flowers, catering, and other aspects that are important to you. The more comprehensive packages cost more but will give you more flexibility and control.

A funeral plan also means you’ll pay for the costs during your lifetime. It can reduce the financial stress that family members may experience, and give you peace of mind. In some cases, if you pass away before the full costs are met, the provider will cover it; in others, your family will have to make up the shortfall.

Make provisions to ensure your wishes are carried out

If a funeral plan isn’t right for you, it may be worth making provisions to pay for a funeral. It can take some of the pressure off your loved ones and ensure there is enough to carry out your wishes. According to a British Seniors report, the average cost of a funeral between 2016 and 2021 was £5,531. Your choices will have an impact and the report found some funerals cost £7,500 or more.

Worryingly, 38% of people said they struggled to cope with the extra financial strain of a funeral. This figure rose to 46% for a burial. Around one in three turned to some form of borrowing to fund a funeral. If you want to make sure the cost of your funeral is taken care of for your family, you do have options. Among them are:

  1. Taking out a life insurance policy: A life insurance policy that runs for the rest of your life will pay out a lump sum to your beneficiary when you pass away. This money can then be used to fund funeral costs and provide financial security to loved ones.
  2. Paying from your estate: You also set money aside within your estate, for example, in a savings account. This provides you with flexibility as you can use the savings to provide a financial safety net during your life too. Your bank should release funds from your account when they’re presented with an itemised account from the funeral director and a copy of a death certificate. However, in some cases, loved ones may have to wait for the probate process to conclude.

Setting your affairs in order

If your funeral wishes are something you’re thinking about, it’s also an opportunity to make sure your affairs are in order. Does your will accurately reflect your wishes? If you need to consider Inheritance Tax, have you taken steps to reduce the bill? We can help provide peace of mind about your estate and long-term goals.

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 estate planning.

How a life insurance policy could help you preserve an inheritance for loved ones

If Inheritance Tax (IHT) is a concern for you, taking out a life insurance policy could mean your estate passes to loved ones intact. With some careful planning, a life insurance payout can cover your IHT liability and ensure assets are passed on to your loved ones.

Planning what will happen after your death isn’t easy, but being proactive is important and can help ensure your assets are passed on effectively.

£2.7 billion paid in IHT between April and August 2021

According to figures from HMRC, between April and August 2021, £2.7 billion was collected in IHT. The figure is around £0.7 billion higher than the same period in 2020. Most families don’t need to worry about IHT, but with a standard rate of 40%, it’s important to understand if your estate could be liable.

For the 2021/22 tax year, the threshold for paying IHT is £325,000. If the total value of all your assets is under this threshold, known as the “nil-rate band”, no IHT will be due. If you’re leaving your main home to children or grandchildren, you can also make use of the residence nil-rate band. For the 2021/22 tax year, this is £175,000. In effect, this means most people can pass on £500,000 before IHT is due.

It’s important to note you can pass on assets free from IHT to your spouse or civil partner. You can also pass on unused nil-rate band or residence nil-rate band allowances. So, if you’re planning as a couple, you could pass on up to £1 million of assets to loved ones jointly without worrying about IHT.

The nil-rate band and residence nil-rate band are now frozen until 2026. During this time, it’s likely that the value of assets, from your home to investments, will rise. As a result, more families will need to consider the impact of IHT on their estate. When estate planning, you need to consider how the value of your assets could change over the long term.

How does life insurance protect your estate?

A life insurance policy doesn’t reduce the amount of IHT due. Instead, it provides your loved ones with a way to pay the bill.

If you pass away during the term of a life insurance policy, it will pay out a lump sum to your loved ones. This sum can then be used to pay an IHT bill, ensuring your assets are passed on intact. It can provide you with peace of mind and ensure loved ones aren’t worrying about an IHT bill while grieving.

When using a life insurance policy to pay for an IHT bill, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • The policy must be written in trust. Otherwise, the payout could form part of your estate and increase an IHT bill. By placing the policy in a trust, you can remove it from your estate.
  • As you want the policy to pay out on your death, you should choose a whole-of-life life insurance policy.
  • You can choose how much you want the policy to pay out. You should take some time to understand the value of your estate and how much IHT will be due. Keep in mind that the value of assets can change over time.

There are other steps you can take to manage an IHT bill, but a life insurance policy could be right for you.

With this option, you’ll retain control of your assets. You can keep and enjoy your assets to use during your lifetime. This means you don’t have to gift certain assets or place them in a trust. It’s an option that can provide you with more flexibility to use your wealth as your wish during your lifetime while still knowing you can pass it on to loved ones.

If a life insurance policy could help you, keep in mind that you will need to pay the policy premiums for the rest of your life. How much the premiums are will depend on a range of factors, including your health and lifestyle, as well as the level of cover you need. You should shop around to find a deal that is right for you and offers a competitive rate.

Building an estate plan that matches your goals

Whether a life insurance policy is right for you, or if other steps could help you pass on your estate efficiently, we’re here to help. Please contact us to discuss your estate plan and the impact Inheritance Tax could have.

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 estate planning or tax planning.

What is the new care cap, and could it benefit you?

Accessing and paying for care have become big issues. As more people reach old age, more people will inevitably need some level of support as they get older. Now, the government has taken steps to fund social care and limit the cost to individuals.

So, how does the new care cap work and who will benefit from it?

Social care reform: A National Insurance hike and care cap

In September 2021, the government announced some key changes to social care and how it’s funded.

Among the changes is a National Insurance (NI) hike. NI contributions will increase by 1.25 percentage points from April 2022 to allow the government to invest more in health and care. From 2023, the Health and Social Care Levy will be a separate contribution.

The government estimates the new levy will lead to a record £36 billion invested in the health and care system over the next three years. Some of this will go towards helping the NHS tackle Covid backlogs, as well as reforming adult social care.

Most individuals need to pay for at least a portion of their care costs should they need support. According to Which?, the average weekly cost of residential care was £681 in England in 2019/20. This figure increased to £979 a week if nursing care was required. Over a year, that would lead to bills of £35,412 and £50,908 respectively.

You may have heard from family and friends, or even in the news, of people needing to sell their home or other assets to fund their later-life care. As a result, you may be worried about the future.

The government has now introduced a care cap. From 2023, no one will pay more than £86,000 for the care they need for daily tasks. It said the reform will end “unpredictable and catastrophic care costs” to make the system fairer. However, the cap isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

What does the cap cover, and who will benefit?

Crucially, the cap will cover care costs only. It will not cover daily living costs, such as accommodation, energy bills, or food.

For care home residents, it can be difficult to understand how much of their current fees go towards care, as bills are not usually itemised. However, the Telegraph reports that a typical person in residential care costing £1,100 a week can expect just £350 of this to go towards care.

In this scenario, just £18,000 of a total £60,000 annual bill would contribute towards the cap. As a result, the person would only start to receive government support after five years, while during this time they would have spent £210,000 of their own money on non-care items.

In addition, few care home residents will survive long enough to reach the cap. As care is often a last resort or only used when an individual needs round-the-clock care, half of people do not survive longer than a year after they move into a care home.

The care cap could benefit those who remain in care for several years. However, they will still need to be aware of how they’ll pay for non-care costs, whether from their assets or income.

60% are considering an alternative to care homes

It’s not just the cost of care homes that worries people. Some 60% of UK adults, the equivalent of 31.6 million people, said they worry about moving into a care home after seeing how Covid-19 spread in them, according to an LV= survey. This number increased to 65% among the over-55s.

Around the same proportion (61%) said they’d prefer to stay in their own home.

While this can seem like a cheaper option, it does still come with costs. You may need to adapt your home to make it suitable for your needs or need a carer to visit regularly to lend support, even if family can help. These costs can still add up to thousands of pounds every year and it’s important to understand how you’d pay for them and the impact it could have on your income.

No one wants to think about becoming ill or needing more support in old age. But by making a plan and setting aside some of your money to fund it if needed, you can have greater confidence in your future. Being proactive can also mean you have more choices. For example, having your own care fund to draw on may mean you’re able to choose a care home that’s close to loved ones and has facilities you’ll enjoy.

If you haven’t thought about your care preference or how to use your assets if you need care, please contact us. We’ll help you put a plan in place that can deliver peace of mind.

Please note: This article is for information only. Please do not act based on anything you might read in this article. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.

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