Spectator money

No, I Don’t Want To Sponsor You

The Metropolitan policeman who spent a week crawling the London Marathon wearing a gorilla costume captured my imagination and my admiration. When he crossed the finish line and beat his chest, I silently cheered. Tom Harrison, who goes by ‘Mr Gorilla’, swapped between crawling on his hands and knees and on his hands and feet to save his blistered knees. He raised some $50,000 for the Gorilla Organisation, which protects gorillas. It can’t have been fun. He earned every penny. I rarely feel that way about people who ask me to sponsor them for runs, walks, hikes, cycle races, and climbs. Why should I contribute to a charity not of

Credit cards: don’t be fooled by long balance transfer deals

If you’re looking for a balance transfer credit card deal, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll save the most money by plumping for the card that comes with the longest interest-free period. Such cards usually charge a fee for switching your debt and can render the deal far less cost effective. The longest interest-free balance transfer period available at the time of writing is 42 months[1], as offered by both the MBNA Platinum 42 Month Balance Transfer Credit Card Visa and nuba Transfer Credit Card MasterCard. But these cards come with transfer fees of 2.79 and 3.29 per cent respectively. On a balance of £4,000, that would cost the cardholder

House prices are…staying pretty much the same

Depending on which way you look at it, today’s house price data from Halifax is either good or bad news. Taken one way it paints a gloomy picture, with house price growth continuing to slow. According to the lender, in the year to May house price inflation dropped to 3.3 per cent, down from 3.8 per cent in the year to April. However, a different interpretation is more positive. The statistics also reveal that UK house prices increased for the first time in five months in May, thanks to historically low mortgage rates and a shortage of available properties. Halifax says that the average house price rose by 0.4 per

Overlooking the childfree is a mistake

Politicians fight over lots of different issues in general election campaigns, but one theme is a constant: they all try to appeal to ‘hard-working families’, by which they seem to mean mum, dad and a couple of kids. It’s well-intentioned, I’m sure. But I’m equally sure I can’t be the only non-parent who finds it a teeny bit grating. Not that I begrudge nuclear families any help that might coming their way. What I resent is the implication that just because I haven’t given birth, I’m somehow not counted among the ranks of deserving, diligent citizens. The stereotype that we all live in identikit units of mum, dad and two

Political tinkering has turned pensions into a quagmire

It is not usually feasible to put the great and good of the financial services industry together in a room and get them to agree on anything. Typically, they squabble like alley cats, arguing about everything on and off the agenda, even  the state of the weather. Occasionally, blows are traded. Yet a few days ago, I witnessed something of a financial miracle taking place in a swanky restaurant (1 Lombard Street) in the heart of the City of London. Fourteen individuals, representing different areas of the pensions industry, actually agreeing on a pensions agenda that the next government should follow. I was taken aback as I chewed furiously away

Should we thank Brexit for ‘borderless banking’?

From Brexit and Grexit to Trump and Scottish (near) independence, the way we think about our place in the world is changing. In the UK and further afield these issues have shone a light on the fact that we live in a global, multicultural melting pot – with ties to friends, family and colleagues around the planet. The way we manage our money is changing, too. Regulation, rebuilding trust, teenage hackers and woefully outdated technology have kept our favourite high street banks busy recently. You probably haven’t ditched your current account yet or tried out a new alternative like Starling or Atom Bank, but you might soon. After no new

Lenders punish borrowers who slip onto standard variable rates

When you’ve been writing about money for a while, a few key phrases crop up again and again. But of all the useful words employed in the world of consumer finance, ‘shop around’ is by far the most popular. ‘Make sure to shop around’ never goes out of fashion, and for good reason. It applies to pretty much every financial product there is, from bank accounts, saving plans and life cover to car insurance, ISAs and mortgages. It’s that last one I want to concentrate on today. New research from Trussle, an online mortgage broker, has found that the UK’s six biggest mortgage lenders are penalising customers who slip onto their Standard

Five simple ways to beat soaring car insurance premiums

The average annual car insurance bill is expected to hit a record high of £800 this month, according to comparison website comparethemarket. The cost has increased by around £200 over the past two years thanks to factors including the soaring cost to the industry of dealing with whiplash claims. And from today, the government is forcing insurers to make bigger payouts for serious personal injury compensation to ensure they’re not eroded by inflation – a measure that is expected to add £15 on to all insurance policies. Yet despite the rapidly rising cost of car insurance, drivers are turning their backs on the easiest way to make significant savings by

People paying the highest rate of tax now at record level

A record number of people are now paying the highest rate of tax thanks to wage inflation and the reduction in pensions tax relief. That’s according to figures from HM Revenue & Customs. While the proportion of people paying the 45 per cent additional rate is still small compared to the overall number of income tax payers (just 1.2 per cent), it is nonetheless a 10 per cent increase on the previous year. It also represents a 54 per cent rise since the tax band was introduced. HMRC says that, by the end of this financial year, an estimated 364,000 people will be paying the 45p rate of tax on income

Leaseholders are now glorified tenants

Ah, home ownership. It’s the holy grail of living arrangements, isn’t it? No more nasty landlords and money-grabbing letting agents. Now you’re king or queen of the castle and you can install a hot tub in the garden, paint a Banksy-style mural on the wall, and finally get the canine friend you’ve always wanted. Or can you? If you buy a leasehold property you’re likely to find you’re bound by as many, if not more, rules than you were as a tenant. And if you think the rip-off fees stopped when you bought your home, think again: letting agents are mere amateurs compared to unscrupulous freeholders and the equally dodgy

Food inflation means bigger bills for shoppers

Ah, butter. Salted, unsalted, English, French, garlic, spreadable, straight from the fridge – just thinking about the many forms of butter make me salivate. Then there’s what to pair it with – crumpets, teacakes, toast, jacket potatoes. The list goes on and on. So it comes as a blow to learn that butter is selling at record prices. Forget those low fat and faddy diets, butter is now a ‘big trend globally’. That’s according to Michael Oakes, a dairy farmer and spokesman for the National Farmers’ Union. He told Radio 5 live this morning that one major driver is the decision by McDonalds to use butter in it products again, eschewing

Every little helps: living near a supermarket could boost the price of your home

There are three supermarkets in the small market town where I live. That’s three major chains serving just 14,000 people, not to mention another five within a four-mile radius. So when Sainsbury’s lodged planning permission to build a fourth outlet within spitting distance of the existing shops, local people had had enough. Objections were launched and Sainsbury’s withdrew its bid. Now I’m wondering if the people of my Northern town made a mistake. According to new research from Lloyds Bank, homes located close to a Sainsbury’s are likely to command around £26,000 more than other properties. Of course, that’s a national average and, given house prices in the North, homes

Personal finance: where do the political parties stand?

It hardly seems possible – where does the time go? – but the general election takes place next week. Following the suspension of electioneering after the atrocity in Manchester, the political parties have returned to the campaign trail with all kinds of promises designed to lure the electorate to their respective sides. As far as personal finance is concerned, there’s a myriad of key pledges. Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell, takes a closer look at the Tories and Labour. Conservatives ·        Raise the personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020 ·        Increase the higher rate tax threshold to £50,000 by 2020 ·        Increase the Living wage – currently set at

The political parties are not being honest about their tax and spending plans

After the atrocity in Manchester on Monday night, campaigning for the general election resumes today. With just a fortnight to go before voting, the parties have a lot of ground to cover, not least their plans for the economy. I don’t suppose either Labour or the Conservatives will thank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) for its report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, published this morning. In it, the IFS points the finger at both parties, saying the Tories don’t have many new details on spending, while Labour’s tax increase and spending plans won’t work. It’s pretty damning stuff. Essentially, the think tank is saying that neither party is being

Economic growth revised down as inflation puts squeeze on consumer spending

Is Brexit finally starting to bite? New figures released this morning show that consumer spending increased at the slowest pace since the end of 2014, forcing down the official economic growth rate to 0.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year. The news surprised economists and analysts. According to Reuters, only one of 42 expected this. Nevertheless, the data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is down from an initial estimate of 0.3 per cent. In the final quarter of 2016, there was a rise of 0.7 per cent. Neil Wilson, senior analyst at EXT Capital, said: ‘The rather ugly set of growth figures suggest that post-Brexit resilience may not

How to finance home improvements with a mortgage

A property should have two bathrooms for every three bedrooms to maximise its value and desirability. That’s according to 70 per cent of real estate experts from across the UK who were quizzed by Direct Line Home Insurance. On average, they estimated an extra bathroom could add just under 7 per cent to the £174,340 average value of a three-bed property – a boost of almost £12,000. Of course, the figures change significantly depending on where in the country the home is located. For example, the extra bathroom could add £26,485 to the value in London but just £5,967 in Liverpool. With the average cost of installing a new bathroom

Don’t let cyber criminals steal your money – take steps to protect your finances

It’s the modern malaise: online fraud. In a world where so many of our transactions happen over the internet, it’s little wonder that fraudsters have descended on the web in droves. The latest statistics paint a bleak picture. According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 11.5 million incidents of crime relating to computer misuse and fraud offences in 2016. That’s cybercrime on an unprecedented level. Now new research suggests that more than one in ten Britons have had to cancel a credit or debit card in the past year due to online fraud. Comparethemarket.com says this reveals a worsening state of affairs, with the number of people cancelling cards

Housing is escalating up the political agenda

As we ready ourselves for what has become an annual pilgrimage to the polling booths, in terms of finance there is little doubt that housing is taking centre stage in this election. This was not always the case. It’s true that if you look back to newspaper coverage of the housing crisis in the late 1940s and 1950s, post-World War Two, some of the articles could be reproduced word for word in tomorrow’s nationals. But in the 1980s and 90s, back when the structural undersupply of new homes was just getting truly entrenched, housing didn’t seem quite so important. This is one of the reasons why it is escalating back