It is always a good idea to seek professional advice when making key financial decisions. Unless your affairs are very complicated, you will probably need to consult one of the 'general practitioners' of the chartered accountancy profession.
ICAEW Chartered Accountants can help you make important tax savings and plan for the future. They are expert at dealing with personal and family finances and you can find them on your local high street or even working from home. You will also find local offices of larger accountancy firms in towns and cities across the country.
Always remember to check for the title 'chartered accountant' when looking for help with your personal or family finances. Legally, anyone can call themselves an ‘accountant’ – they don’t need any qualifications, training or experience. Would you trust just anyone with your affairs?
If you are having trouble paying off debts or even find that your situation is deteriorating, the world can be a difficult and lonely place, especially if you are being regularly chased for payment. Sometimes, the problem has crept up on you, or you were doing fine until you lost your job and have been out of work for a while.
What can you do to protect your family? Take out a loan consolidating all your debts? Surely one loan is easier to handle than several? Are you contemplating selling your remaining assets, including the house, as you’ve fallen behind with the mortgage? A professional advisor can help pick through the problems and find solutions. Taking advice as early as possible often leads to a better outcome, and you need never face these problems alone.
What happens to the wealth of a person who does not leave a will? What if their will cannot be found? Who does the remaining wealth go to? What happens if a person leaves their wealth to a partner who has died before them?
These questions frequently arise because people put off making a will or do not update it when their circumstances change. And what about leaving a donation to a charity you value or have been involved with? Don’t delay. Talk to somebody qualified to help you ‘put your affairs in order’.
Do you have any ‘rainy day money’? If so, do you have enough? What happens if you lose your job – can you meet your commitments? Is all your wealth invested in your house? Are you adequately insured? What about your dependents? What would happen to your family if you were incapacitated? Are you expecting your children to go to university and, if so, would you want to support them? What about when they leave home and want to buy a house? Will they call on ‘the bank of mum and dad’?
Whatever your stage of life, these are questions that need to be addressed. A skilled financial adviser can help you explore your options and make intelligent decisions.
It is often difficult to envisage retiring when you are in your thirties or forties. But it’s worth seriously considering the fact that the longer you are able to save for retirement, the lower the amounts you will need to set aside.
Retirement is a ‘life event’ encouraged by the government through tax incentives, though these reliefs have been reduced in recent years. In reality, the definition of retirement is changing all the time as the population ages and traditional perceptions are challenged. What role can insurances play? Should you save through life assurance as well as a pension, or will either suffice? A professional adviser can simplify the choices and offer advice tailored to your particular circumstances.
Many people are comfortable with completing their own tax return. If your sources of income are relatively straightforward – arising from employment and some deposit account interest, for example – you will generally run into few difficulties. However, if your tax affairs are more complex you may be overpaying tax and not be aware of the fact.
If you need significant tax planning because of an inheritance, wish to pass wealth on to relatives, or make charitable gifts, you will undoubtedly need professional advice. The UK tax system is one of the most complex in the world. Sometimes, taking steps to avoid or reduce one tax can result in greater liabilities on others. It is well worth trusting a professional to help make the tax situation clear.