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Month: February 2018

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Driving in ice and snow

The winter months can make driving more dangerous in many ways, but two elements you need to be particularly cautious of whilst driving are ice and snow. To decrease your risk of an accident or damaging your car, follow our tips to stay safe when driving in these slippery conditions.

Plan before your journey:

  • Check weather forecasts and traffics updates so you know what to expect and can be fully prepared.
  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and your car has a fully kitted emergency kit. Click here, for our breakdown survival guide.
  • Choose a route using main roads where possible as the surface is often better and they are more likely to be gritted.
  • Keep clear of secondary roads and high ground, as they are exposed more directly to weather extremes.

 

Vehicle checks before your journey:

  • Tyres: Cold weather can cause tyre pressure to decrease, which affects traction and makes driving conditions more dangerous. Make sure the tyre pressure of your wheels matches the manufacturer’s specifications (found in the manual or on the door pillar). Tyre depth should be around 3mm.
  • Windows: Use a screen scraper or de-icer to clear your windows for full visibility. Do not use boiling hot water on your windscreen as you risk cracking the glass. Check your wipers are functioning fully, and filled with screen wash.
  • Heater: Learn how the heater in car works, not just to keep yourself warm but also to effectively clear any mist or condensation from your windows, allowing better visibility.
  • Coolant: If the weather is very cold, you should check your car’s coolant, or antifreeze, levels.  This makes sure your engine doesn’t freeze or overheat. For more details on correct usage of coolant click here.
  • Lights: Ensure all lights are working and clean, to optimise their performance.
  • Fuel: It is a good idea to keep plenty of fuel in the tank during winter months especially when you may end up having to re-route due to bad road conditions from ice, snow, flooding or fallen debris.
  • Snow and ice cover: If ice is on your windows, be sure to remove all of it and not just small areas for you to look through. If there is snow on your roof, you should clear all of it off before you drive. Otherwise it can become dislodged when your car moves, obscuring visibility in parts of your windscreen.
  • Ground clearance: Check the ground clearance of your car, which is the distance between the road and the lowest part of your vehicle. The less ground clearance your car has, the more careful you will need to be when driving over ice and snow to avoid scraping the chassis (base) of your car.
  • Wheel drive: Front-wheel drive vehicles handle ice and snow better than rear-wheel drive vehicles, because the engine weight is sitting over the front wheels, giving them more grip. It is important to know which one your car is. Rear-wheel drive cars can skid and slide more easily. To alleviate this, you can carry some weight in your boot, as it will put additional weight on the back tyres, giving them better grip on the road.

 

If your car skids:

You need to know whether your vehicle has ABS (Anti-Lock Braking Systems) or not in case you get into a skid, because your course of action will differ depending on if you have it or not.

Remember: ABS does not guarantee a shorter stopping distance in a car.

Vehicles with ABS

Vehicles without ABS

The ABS begins working as soon as you ‘step’ on the brake. Follow these steps:

 

1.     Step on brake pedal,
2.     Stay on brake pedal,
3.     Steer around the obstacle.
 

Don’t slam on the brakes, but pump them by lifting your foot off and on repeatedly. You are essentially acting as an ABS does by doing this.
On icy surfaces, a little bit of steering goes a long way so to avoid head on collisions, do not sharply turn your wheels around a hazard Steer between the pumps that you make on the brake. To avoid an obstruction, you can apply the steering when you have the brake pedal released
Look to where you want to go, and not at what you are trying to avoid. If you look at the obstruction, you will automatically begin to steer in that direction If your car has traction control (TCS/TC) turn it on.


Important:
If you get into a skid and your car begins to spin, steer gently into the direction of the spin to help your car straighten up.

 

Safe driving when en route:

  • Keep your lights on at all time, including during the day
  • Take off in second gear so you avoid wheel spin
  • Drive in the highest gear possible, and at a very slow speed when on flat ground
  • Accelerate and brake very gently and gradually to avoid your car skidding
  • When driving downhill, use 3rd or 4th gear. When turning a corner use a lower gear
  • If your car is an automatic, take a look at the manual override function. This will enable you to select the right gear to avoid braking as it can lead to skidding.
  • In icy and snowy conditions, stopping distance can be increased ten fold so keep this in mind. When stationery in traffic, be sure to leave a distance of at least one car length between you and the car in front.
  • When approaching traffic lights, begin to slow down early. Your brake lights will indicate you are doing so, giving good warning to traffic behind you and allowing them to do the same. Slowing down with just your gears won’t give the driver behind you any warning and could cause a collision.
  • Do not overtake on icy or snowy roads.
  • Be particularly careful of roads in shaded areas, either by trees or buildings. It is in these areas that black ice can often be found, as sunlight cannot reach them.
  • It is better to try avoiding a skid completely than trying to manoeuvre your way through one. If braking, steer and accelerate smoothly and you will greatly reduce the risk of skidding.

 

Keep the following winter survival kit in your car at all times:

 

✓High-vis vests

✓Reflective warning triangles

✓Cones

✓Ice scraper

✓Small shovel

✓Jump leads

✓Torch

✓AA Batteries

✓First-aid kit

✓Multi-tool and window breaker

✓Antifreeze

✓Clothing (scarves, hats & gloves)

✓High energy snacks

 

It’s easy to become frustrated and impatient when driving in difficult conditions. Remember to keep an eye on your driving; anger, frustration and impatience won’t get you to your destination any faster. Slow and steady wins the race or, in this case, gets you there safely.

Now that it gets dark so much earlier, click here to read our tips for safe driving in the dark.

Reference: www.aviva.ie

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Grey matters: Demystifying pensions

Pensions can seem complicated, but they don’t have to be. People have common questions when starting to plan their pension and at Zurich we like to help with simple yet informative answers.

Putting a little aside today could help you live an active and enjoyable life when you retire. There is more than one way to enjoy your retirement and there is more than one type of pension. We can help you choose the one that is right for you, but most importantly, you have full control when it comes to deciding how your pension is invested – after all, it’s your money. With tax relief, employer contributions and optional lump sum payments, you may be able to save more than you think.

When choosing a pension having all the information you need is key. By answering some common questions we hope this helps explain pensions and how they work.

1. How does a pension work?

Each payday, each year or as often a you like, you save some money into a retirement fund. Your fund is put away and invested and is encouraged to grow over time so that when you finally decide to retire you’ll have enough saved to live out your life, happily. Essentially, a pension is a way of saving for the long term. But its different for two reasons: tax and time.

When you save money in a pension you may get tax relief on it, so the real cost could be less than you might think. Secondly, any returns you earn on your investment are reinvested over-and-over. Of course it all depends on how your investment performs but even a small amount saved in a pension when you are young could become very large by the time you retire.

2. How much do I need to save for my retirement?

How much you put into your pension pot depends on the type of lifestyle you would like to have and the length of time you will spend in retirement. Obviously, no one knows exactly how long they will live for and therefore how long their pension will need to last for. One thing we do know is that the sooner you start a pension, the bigger it should grow.

Due to better health for an ageing population, life expectancy is increasing. Most of us can now look forward to around 30 years in retirement, which is great news. How you support yourself financially during those years is the big question. It is important when planning your retirement to ensure you have built up a substantial pension fund by the time you retire.

3. How is my money invested?

A key factor in helping you grow your retirement fund is the investment return you could earn on your pension contributions. Any contributions you make into a pension will be invested in a fund, with a view to growing your money. Where your money is invested and how much risk you are prepared to accept is completely up to you. However, a general rule of thumb is the further you are from your retirement, the more adventurous you can be with your investment choice. An expert such as a financial broker or advisor will be able to help you work out what investment choice might best suit you. Zurich Life offers you access to a wide range of investment funds and choices – from very low risk options such as cash funds, medium risk options like multi-asset or managed funds, and higher risk options such as equity and property funds.

4. How does the tax relief work?

Saving for your retirement is down to you, but to encourage you to save for you future, you will receive valuable support from the government in the form of tax relief. It’s one of the most compelling reasons to save through a pension. Other forms of savings, like bank accounts or savings plans, do not attract such generous incentives.

Every contribution you make to a pension plan receives tax relief based on the rate of income tax you pay (most of us pay income tax at a rate of either 20% or 40%).

5. If I have my own pension will I still be entitled to the State pension?

You can still have your own pension and receive the State pension as long as you meet the criteria. To qualify for the contributory State pension you must have started paying social insurance before reaching 56 years of age. You must have paid at least 520 full rate social insurance contributions and have a yearly average of at least 48 paid and/or credited full rate contributions from the year you started insurable employment until you reach 66 years of age. If you don’t have the above then you must have a yearly average of at least 10 paid and/or credited full rate contributions from the year you started insurable employment to the end of the contribution year before you reach the age of 66.

6. Is it too late for me to save for my pension?

Planning for retirement is an important step to take, and it’s never too soon or too late to start planning your pension, which will help you to have the lifestyle and financial stability you desire in your retirement.

Although it’s never too late to start saving for your retirement, obviously the sooner you start the better. Regardless of your age, whether you’re self-employed or an employee, we’ve created pension plans for all circumstances. See which pension is right for you.

7. When can I access my pension savings?

In Ireland, tax relief is given for saving for retirement, therefore withdrawing your funds ahead of time is not encouraged and is often only allowed if there is a case of ill-health, such as that caused by a long-term disability. If this is the case and you are experiencing a serious illness, then you can access your personal pension at any age. Otherwise, if you want to access your pension early, you must wait until you’re 50 to draw it down if you are in an occupational pension scheme and you must be 60 if you have a PRSA (50 if you’re an employee and leaving service) or a retirement annuity pension.

8. What are my options at retirement?

After you have taken your retirement tax free, cash lump sum you can choose between an annuity and/or an Approved Retirement Fund (ARF). An annuity is whereby on retirement you receive a regular income for the rest of your life. Annuities may be more suited to people who wish to avoid potential risks such as stock market volatility, and would prefer a guaranteed income for their retirement.

There are several choices you need to make when purchasing an annuity: A single life annuity is payable for the rest of your life only. With a joint life annuity, a percentage of your pension is payable to your spouse after you die. If you choose to include a guaranteed period, your pension will be payable for a minimum of the guaranteed period, even if you die during that time. A level annuity means payment of the annuity remains the same throughout your life and an escalating annuity means payment of the annuity increases at a fixed rate each year.

An ARF is a personal retirement fund where you can keep your money invested after retirement. You can withdraw from it regularly to give yourself an income, which will be subject to income tax, PRSI (up to age 66) and USC. Any money left in the fund after your death can be left to your next of kin.

There are certain restrictions to investing in an ARF. A Financial Advisor will help guide you on the option that might best suit you.

9. Defined benefit vs defined contribution

Company pensions can generally be categorised as being either defined benefit or defined contribution. A defined benefit pension plan (DB) sets out the specific benefit that will be paid to a retiree. This calculation takes into account factors such as the number of years an employee has worked and their salary, which then dictates the pension and/or lump sum that will be paid on retirement.

A defined contribution pension (DC) is an accumulation of funds that makes up a person’s pension pot. A person contributes a portion of their salary to a pension scheme. Ideally, although not always, their employer also contributes and these contributions are invested in a fund in order to provide retirement benefits. There is tax relief on this type of pension and the benefits at retirement will depend on a number of different factors such as the contribution levels, how the investment fund performs, plan charges and fees and the annuity rates available when you retire.

The main difference between a defined benefit scheme and a defined contribution scheme is that the former promises a specific income and the latter depends on factors such as the amount you pay into the pension and the fund’s investment performance.

10. What are the fees associated with my pension?

There are different sets of fees depending on the type of pension you take out and which organisation you hold your pension with. The Pension Authority advises that consumers get to know the typical charges that can apply. These might include entry fees, contribution charges or bid/offer spreads, annual management charges (AMC), policy charges/per member fees, switching charges and Pension Authority fees.

11. Do I need to speak to a financial broker or advisor?

We know talking about pensions won’t get your pulse racing. And of course, you’d rather be living your life than worrying about your retirement. But we also know that the sooner you deal with it, the better off you’ll be come retirement.

As this is your money and your future, it’s always advisable to speak to a financial advisor. You can call us on 018298500 to arrange an appointment with one of the IPF team.

The information contained herein is based on Zurich Life’s understanding of current Revenue practice as at November 2017 and may change in the future.

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