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7 reasons why home insurance should be your top priority

Here are a few reasons as to why home insurance is a must-have thing and how it can help one to avoid a huge financial setback in the event of any mishap.

When you buy home insurance online or offline, make sure you opt for the policy offering the best cover.

A home is not merely a structure made of cement and bricks, it is a space filled with emotions. People earn for their lifetime and give everything to build a place where they could live comfortably with their family.

You gave your all to have a home of your own, but do you have any backup plan to protect the same?

There are few things which we as a human do not have control over, and to protect the ‘humble abode’ that you have instituted with the years of constant dedication and hard work, home insurance should be your top priority.

However, the irony is, people see it as an unwanted expense, but in fact, it is not. Let us check out some legitimate reasons as to why house or home insurance is a must-have thing and how it can help you avoid a huge financial setback in the event of any mishap.

1. Natural Disasters

As mentioned earlier, there are few things which are beyond our control, and natural disasters aka “Acts of God” are one of them. It can strike anytime, and anywhere. Remember the recent floods of Kerala, Uttarakhand and Mumbai that affected millions of lives with deaths, injuries, and destroyed homes. People witnessed houses and assets getting destroyed in front of their eyes and had to use their hard-earned savings to rebuild homes. It was a traumatic and emotional experience for them.

Therefore, to protect yourself and your family against “Acts of God” such as landslides, floods, earthquakes, cyclones, etc., it is important for you to buy a home insurance plan.

2. Man-made Disasters

No doubt we live in a technology dominating society where we have the latest and fanciest of safety measures, such as CCTV security and gated communities, but we cannot rely on them completely for our security, can we?

Man-made disasters such as riots, strikes, robberies, terrorism, thefts, etc., are a real risk and still prevalent. And this makes for a strong reason for you to have a proper home insurance plan. However, some insurers may not cover for the losses due to all these risks, but you can ask them for extra protection in the form of riders.

3. Protection for the Contents Within

Home insurance not just covers your house, but also the contents within. Things like electronics, furniture, jewelry, light fixtures, antique items, valuable home appliances, etc., are also covered under a home insurance policy. However, the scope of coverage might vary as per your preferences. In case of any damage or theft, you will get compensation for the same or even get them replaced with the new ones. So when choosing a home insurance plan, you can actually opt for the things that you want to get cover for along with your home insurance.

4. Not Expensive

For many, home insurance may seem like an unnecessary expense but a few know that it comes at a fairly low premium rates, which may be cost lesser than a rupee per day. And in return, home insurance buyers get significant benefits. Further, you get the flexibility to increase or decrease the premium amount as per your affordability by simply adding or removing the items to be insured under the policy.

5. Protection against Lawsuits

What if you incidentally damage someone else’s property owing to the spread of fire? You will be in a legal hassle. But, home insurance can save you from such hassles by covering the cost for the damage caused to another property due to any incident. Not only this, it also covers the cost for the medical expenses of the visitor or guest injured in your property during that event.

6. Coverage for Rent

If in case you experience a loss due to fire perils, and it makes your home inhabitable, be it owing to natural disaster or manmade circumstance, you may have to find a temporary accommodation until your home gets reconstructed. In that case, your insurer pays for your rent. So, being a responsible individual, it is always wise to be prepared for the worst, and home insurance ensures financial support in such situations.

7. Peace of Mind

You cannot deny the fact that for most people, home insurance actually sounds like a certain expense for an uncertain reason. However, the peace of mind offered by home insurance is more than anything that money can actually buy for you.

So, it does not matter whether you own a villa or an apartment, once you buy home insurance for it, you get the luxury of peace of mind because you know that you are prepared for the worse.

Buying home insurance is indeed a proactive step you take to protect your home from unforeseen dangers. It signifies what extent you can go to protect your home. Moreover, home insurance is the right policy to provide protection from uncertainties not only to homeowners but to tenants as well. However, when you buy home insurance online or offline, make sure you opt for the policy offering the best cover.

(By Subrata Mondal, Executive Vice President at IFFCO Tokio General Insurance Company )

Reference: www.financialexpress.com

Date: 18/02/2019

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Retirement Planning Seminar 21/09/2018, Westbury Hotel, Dublin

Many thanks to all who attended our recent Retirement Planning Seminar in the Westbury Hotel and to our panel of speakers who provided useful information on the night.

To date, IPF have held 20 Seminars around the country for Public Sector employees.  We have had over 2,000 attendees in total to these seminars.

These events prove to massively popular and are always oversubscribed.

Our next Seminar will be in The Kingsley Hotel in Cork City on the 5th October 2018. Those interested in attending should book their places as soon as possible through sarah.connolly@ipf.ie.

 

Here is the usual agenda for the seminar:

“Retirement Planning and how your benefits work”  Claire Hanrahan, Financial Advisor

“Keeping Safe in Retirement” Sgt. Dean Kerins, Crime Prevention Officer, An Garda Siochana

“General medical guidelines for over 60’s”  Dr. Rita Galimberti, Consultant, Femplus Womens Health Clinic

“Taxation; Essential information for you pre and post retirement”  Ray McGovern, Chartered Accountant, McGovern & Associates

“Investing in a Challenging World” Stephen Dixon, New Ireland Assurance

“Active Retirement and managing your newfound free time”  Pat Murphy, Planning Consultant, Retirement & Life Planning

 

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Death and taxes: what it costs to inherit the family home

It’s something that frustrates, enrages and outrages in equal measure: inheritance taxes on the family home. For many people, having paid down a mortgage with after-tax income throughout their lives, leaving a legacy of a substantial tax bill for their children feels akin to double taxation.

And yet, despite the outrage, most of us are shockingly ignorant about just how Ireland’s inheritance tax regime works. A recent survey from Irish Life, for example, revealed that while a quarter of over 65-year-olds expect to leave estates of more than €500,000, half of adults think their family home is exempt from inheritance tax.

Unfortunately, for many families leaving homes valued at Dublin prices, having to write a large cheque to the Revenue Commissioners in the aftermath of a death can come as an unwelcome, and sometimes unaffordable, surprise.

So what do you need to know about death taxes on the family home in Ireland?

How to inherit – tax free

It is possible to transfer property to someone else – without incurring a tax bill – in a number of ways. Firstly, inheritance tax doesn’t apply if the value of the property falls within the tax-free thresholds.

“For the vast majority of people that would be the case, particularly outside Dublin, where properties wouldn’t hit the exempt thresholds,” says Darragh McCarthy, head of private client services at EY.*

This means, for example, that a property worth €400,000, shared by two children, won’t incur a tax bill, as the transfer to each is within the parent-to-child thresholds (€310,000).

Similarly, if five nieces and nephews inherit a house worth €162,500, no liability will apply, as it’s again within the thresholds (€32,500), while if you inherit a share in a property from someone who isn’t related to you, and it isn’t worth more than €16,250, again there will be no bill.

Should you go over these thresholds, however, tax at a rate of 33 per cent will arise – even on the family home. A property worth €600,000 inherited by one child will incur a tax bill of €95,700.

“Although many people intend to leave significant amounts to their children and grandchildren when they die, most of them are unaware that those family members could be liable for a very substantial tax bill on those inheritances,” says Kate Connor, protection manager with Irish Life.

For example, a property worth €600,000 inherited by one child will incur a tax bill of €95,700 (33 per cent of €600,000-€310,000), while a property worth €100,000 left by someone with whom you have no recognisable relationship with will incur a bill of €27,637 (33 per cent of €100,000-€16,250).

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, no tax is liable on asset transfers, which means that a family home or investment property can be transferred with no tax liabilities.

Remember, however, that it only refers to legally recognised partnerships; common law partnerships are not recognised by the Revenue Commissioners, which means that even if a couple have been together for 60 years, should one of them die, there will probably be a tax bill to settle. Yes, their life insurance may in fact pay off the mortgage on the property, but the surviving spouse will still incur a tax bill on the transfer of this property to their estate.

Any special cases?

Another way of passing on a property tax-free is to avail of the so-called dwelling house exemption – but its use has been restricted.

Used by thousands of people to pass on properties to their children, free of tax, the dwelling home relief was once a very popular tax exemption. However, its use was tightened significantly from December 25th, 2016.

“In practice it doesn’t have wide application,” says McCarthy. “I wouldn’t expect to see it much into the future.”

But it might still be of use to some.

The key criteria that now allow someone to inherit a property tax-free is that the property must have been the “only or main home” of the person who died. In addition, and this is where it gets tricky, is that the person inheriting must now have also lived in this property as their main residence for the three years prior to the transfer. Other requirements mean that to inherit tax-free, they cannot have an interest in any other property, and they must also stay in the house for six years after the transfer.

But there are some ways of getting around some of these points.

First of all, the three-year rule as well as staying in the property for six years subsequently does not apply where people are aged over 65.

Moreover, people can avoid this requirement in a number of ways. Firstly, if they sell the property they’ve inherited and invest all of the proceeds in another property, the relief stands. It also stands if the successor has to move either somewhere else in Ireland, or abroad, for work reasons.

Another quirk is that even if the owner of the property goes into a nursing home in the final years of their life, the person inheriting can still avail of the relief if they were living in the house.

Wait until death?

For many families, a discussion about what happens in the event of the parents’ death never really happens until after the fact.

Others, however, are more proactive, and may wish to downsize – particularly at a time of a housing crisis when children may be eyeing up enviously their parents’ home.

But according to McCarthy, while each case will be different, transferring the family home during your lifetime can be more expensive than waiting until your death. This is because Irish stamp duty applies to lifetime gifts to property, which would not apply to inheritances on death. This means, for example, that the transfer of a house worth €500,000 would incur stamp duty of €5,000, while a property worth €2 million would incur duty of €40,000 – enough perhaps to make you think twice. And the rate of duty on investment properties is 6 per cent.

And of course, if the parents pay the stamp duty on behalf of a child, this could give rise to a capital acquisitions tax (CAT) liability.

One way to deal with the transfer of investment properties would be to house them in a company structure, as the company cash could then potentially be used to settle CAT charges. As a related point, McCarthy advises families at the early stage of property investment to consider co-investing, as in the event of the deaths of the parents, the children’s CAT liabilities will be restricted to the deceased’s share rather than the entire portfolio.

There can definitely be a sting in the tail for individuals who have foreign property, as they can often completely ignore foreign estate issues

And be careful also of other implications when considering a transfer during your lifetime. While a parent can sell a home to a child at a discounted price, the difference between the sale price and the market value will be considered to be a “gift” by the Revenue Commissioners, and will thus attract CAT if the child has already exhausted their tax-free threshold.

A nifty way to approach this, says McCarthy, is to make use of the €3,000 annual small gifts exemption (unchanged since 2003, it should be noted, and thus ripe for an increase).

If the property exchange was funded via a “loan” from the parent, for example, the parents could then, potentially, pay off the loan to the order of €6,000 a year without a CAT bill arising – of course, depending on the size of the shortfall, this could take some time to pay off in this manner.

Another consideration is if capital gains tax (CGT) and CAT both arise, you can use the CGT you have paid as a credit against the CAT. In the context of the family home, this is unlikely to apply, as it won’t be subject to CGT, but may be appropriate for investment properties.

If so, McCarthy warns that the “sequence” of transfer/sale of assets is very important to maximise tax efficiency.

For example, in such cases he suggests that it can be more efficient to transfer the family home in the first instance and use up the thresholds, and then subsequent gifts that would give rise to CGT would be made after these thresholds are exhausted.

Finally, we’ve spoken so far of Irish-based properties – but property abroad can cause further challenges. Not something people think much about, perhaps, when buying a place in the sun.

“There can definitely be a sting in the tail for individuals who have foreign property, as they can often completely ignore foreign estate issues,” says McCarthy.

Settling a bill

Given people’s general ignorance of potential inheritance tax liabilities, it’s helpful to learn that the Revenue Commissioners are willing to receive CAT bills in instalments. It’s less helpful, however, to learn that they’ll charge you an arm and a leg – 8 per cent interest – on such an agreement.

“This is something we’d like to see reduced,” says McCarthy, although he adds that “at least it prevents a forced-sale scenario”.

You could also consider starting to save for any potential CAT bills now, as the Revenue still allows two tax-efficient savings schemes to enable you to do this.

Section 72 policies, for example, cover the cost of settling an inheritance tax bill in the event of your death and, crucially, don’t incur a tax liability themselves. They allow you to save towards a life assurance policy, with the proceeds going to pay off an expected inheritance tax bill. The key advantage is that the proceeds of the policy is not subject to CAT. However, there are some downsides – they’re expensive (expect to pay about €218 a month for €100,000 of cover); they need careful planning to ensure they match the tax owed; they have no cash-in value; and they need to be taken out early to be worthwhile.

You could also consider a section 73 savings plan. Again Revenue-approved, this allows you to gift the proceeds of this plan to your estate to meet any tax bills – and again, this gift is not liable to inheritance tax. Moreover, you can choose to keep the funds yourself if you so wish. However, they again need careful thought and can be expensive.

THE TAX-FREE THRESHOLDS

Between spouses  All tax free
Group A (parent to child) €310,000
Group B (relatives such as nieces and nephews) €32,500
Group C (stranger) €16,250

 

Fiona Reddan, irishtimes.ie

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Financial Advice for people in their 20’s

Build a budget

Set up a budget with three sections: essentials, savings, and social. Start allocating money to your essentials first, like rent, utilities, food, transport and loan repayments.

Next, allocate something — no matter how small — to savings. Your first priority should be an emergency fund, and you should think about your own situation (job security, health benefits at work, your personal support system) to determine a comfortable amount.

With the essentials and some savings covered, you can spend the rest however you please. Remember to update your budget periodically, since your financial picture will inevitably change.

 

Start an AVC

Retirement may seem like a long way away yet, but the earlier you start contributing to your pension, the more options you will create for yourself in the future.

IPFs Additional Voluntary Contribution Scheme for Public Sector employees offers the following benefits:

Full tax relief on contributions at your top rate
Tax-free growth on your savings
A wide range of investment options

Potential AVC Fund Value (€20 gross per week, €12 from take home pay) *

*Assumes 3% growth & higher rate tax payer. Unit prices may fall aswell as rise

It might make sense for you to save some tax now and begin to build a supplementary pot of money for your retirement.

A meeting with a Financial Advisor can help you identify your priorities and build a Financial Plan. To arrange an appointment, you can call 01 8298500 or email sarah.connolly@ipf.ie.

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Cabinet agrees bill to allow public servants to work until 70

Public servants recruited before 1 April 2004 face mandatory retirement at 65

The Government has agreed the text of new legislation that will allow thousands of public servants work until they are 70 years of age.

As people are living longer and are in better health, many public servants want to work for longer, but they cannot because of a mandatory retirement age of 65 for those recruited before 2004.

Today, the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe brought the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Bill 2018 for approval by his Cabinet colleagues.

The bill provides for an increase to age 70 in the compulsory retirement age for most public servants recruited before 1 April 2004.

This group of public servants currently has a compulsory retirement age of 65.

Public Servants recruited after 1 April 2004 are not affected by the changes agreed today as they either already have a retirement age of 70, as they are Single Pension Scheme members, or they have no compulsory retirement age as they were recruited between 1 April 2004 and 31 December 2012.

On 5 December last, the Government agreed that the compulsory retirement age of most public servants recruited before 1 April 2004 should be increased to age 70.

Today the necessary legislation for this change was agreed.

 

The bill is on the priority list of legislation to be published and it is expected to be published in the coming days.

While the new proposal will allow most public sector employees to work up to 70 years of age, they will be still be free to retire at the minimum retirement age if they so wish.

The bill provides for the amendment of all relevant public service pension schemes so that these schemes will allow members to accrue pension benefits on their service between the age of 65 and 70.

It is understood that there is widespread political support for this measure and a Government spokeswoman said: “Staff interests have been consulted and are anxious to have the legislation enacted.”

Reporter, RTÉ Political Staff

Reference: www.rte.ie

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Why Irish 20-somethings have it so tough financially

A guide to the financial issues facing young people and what they can do about them
Tue, May 8, 2018, 06:00, Fiona Reddan, www.irishtimes.com

It has become much more difficult for today’s 20-somethings to buy their first home.

“Generation rent”, the “lost generation”, or wasters who throw away their money on avocado toast: accurate descriptions of today’s 20-somethings or media hyperbole? The truth, perhaps, is somewhere in between.

Eoin Magee, a financial adviser with Prosperous Financial Planning, has buckets of sympathy for this age cohort. “I’d say people in their 20s have been dealt the worst cards possible,” he says, “It’s a very difficult environment to be starting out your life in.”

Magee points to the lower salaries of many 20-somethings as being a key challenge.

“When they came out of college, jobs weren’t freely or readily available, so they took whatever job they could get, but started on a lower salary than they would have otherwise done.
So while someone could have previously expected to start on 30,000, they might have started on €25,000. “And you don’t make up that gap again,” says Magee.
At the same time, house prices and rents started running away from them.

“They have got caught in a perfect storm,” he says, noting that the generation behind them might have it a bit easier. They will have auto-enrolment in their favour for one, which will help with retirement planning, and perhaps a different view of the property market.

“People in their 20s, they’ve seen house prices being decimated, so they may not work hard to save a deposit because they have a different perception of what normality is,” he notes.
But just because things are tough doesn’t mean 20-somethings should shy away from doing what they can to make their own circumstances that little bit better. The huge advantage 20-somethings have is their age though this only works in their favour if they take some steps now. So what are the typical mistakes you might make?

Not paying yourself first
How you establish your savings habits in your 20s is going to have a huge impact on your future financial health. Do you put whatever you’ve left over at the end of the month into a separate savings account? Or do you just leave whatever is left resting in your current account?
Maybe you’ve agreed a savings plan with a parent, whereby you cough up some rent and they save on your behalf. Whatever approach you take, the critical point is that this money goes into your savings when you get paid – and not at the end of the month when your accounts may have been decimated.
Magee suggests you target a figure of 20 per cent of your income, including pension savings.
“My priority is that you start to build a savings pot and you’re very disciplined in doing so,” he says, noting that this will then give you options, and can be allocated to a deposit on a house, or a masters, or whatever financial goals you may have.

Going the other route of planning a budget and trying to live by it over the month can prove challenging.
“I don’t believe in budgets” says Magee, likening them to a calorie-controlled diet – and we all know how well they work for most of us. Yes, we’re good for five days of the week and then splurge and ruin all our progress.

Relying too much on deposits
But if how you save is important, so too is where your money is saved. With savings rates on the floor – and nearly underneath it – earning less than 0.5 per cent a year can make saving an almost joyless experience.
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“You can’t save for more than five years in a bank account, as you won’t even beat inflation,” advises Magee, saying if you don’t invest in a well-diversified equity portfolio, “you’re going to have to save harder”. And that may be just too much for people already strapped for cash.
Moreover learning about investing, funds, shares, exchange-traded funds, etc, at a young age – even if you make the occasional mis-step – will undoubtedly improve your financial health over time.

Not talking to friends/family about money
One of the best financial resources you have is the people that you know. Carty gives example of people locking their savings away in notice accounts so they can’t access them – with one 20-something taking it so far as to put their savings in a credit union 20km away so it’ll be difficult to withdraw.
Magee has another tip for parents and live-at-home children alike; parents could charge the market rent to their offspring – less any savings they contribute. So if it would cost them €500 to rent a room, charge them €300 if they can put away €200 a month, and so on.
However, Carty notes that while 20-somethings might share their life on social media, they can still be shy when it comes to talking about money.
“It’s a bit of misnomer that they share so much,” he says.
But try and shrug this off as you’ll pick up some great tips long the way.

Thinking pensions are for later on
OK, so your 20s may not be the time to get in deep with pensions. But if you can do one thing, make sure you’re maximising contributions from your employer. If they match your contributions, try and put in the most you can to get the maximum contribution from them. It’s (almost) free money.
Not planning to buy a home – well in advance
As the resident financial planner on RTÉ’s Crowded House, which aims to help 20- and 30-somethings move out from home, Magee is keenly aware of the challenges facing today’s younger generation.

Whereas their predecessors may have bought their first home during this decade, it has become much more difficult for today’s 20-somethings to do so. A recent study from the UK-based thinktank Resolution Foundation found that about a third of millennials will never own their own home.
So if you want to be in the 66 per cent that do, it may require considered planning. “You may never want to buy a house; but you don’t want to wake up at 29 years of age and think ‘I definitely want to buy a house’ and have done nothing about it,” warns Magee.

Magee has crunched the numbers and found that it will take nine years for someone on the average income to save a deposit to buy the average house in Dublin, or seven years in Galway.
“So if you’re 21 years of age today, and if you’re not saving for a deposit for a house, you won’t be buying in your 20s,” he says.
Some 20-somethings are well ahead of the curve in this regard; Rory Carty, head of youth banking with Bank of Ireland, has fielded questions from second and third year college students about how they can save to buy.
“They are quite savvy and are saving quite early,” he says. And for people fearful of a preparatory chat with a lender about getting a mortgage, Carty says “don’t be”.
“People should come in and speak openly around their financial situation and get advice,” he says.
Thinking renting – and not saving – is viable
Maybe you’ll never own your own home; maybe you don’t want to. And don’t worry, never owning a home can be a legitimate financial decision. Look at the example of Germany, or France, where people are content to rent forever. Just 14 per cent of those living in Berlin, for example, own their own home.
However, years of experience have meant that these take a different view; yes they’re not forking out €4,000 to upgrade the boiler, but they are also aware that in retirement, unlike a homeowner, they will always have rent to pay on their home. So they take the money they would otherwise have spent on maintaining a property and save it for this eventuality.
And as Magee notes, while renting long-term can make sense, “you need absolute discipline for that”.
Spending what you don’t have
There are always temptations to spend more, but Magee is clear: “Don’t spend more than you earn”.
Given the proliferation of easy credit, such as through credit cards or car loans, urging us to upgrade our lifestyle, this can be more difficult than it sounds – particularly when it comes to the temptation of a shiny new (ish) car.

“There is no doubt that 20-year-olds are getting caught up with it ([extended purchase arrangements like] PCPs), and are driving better cars than they would have otherwise,” notes Magee.
He also cautions against saving, while you have a considerable balance on your credit card. Saving at 0.4 per cent while owing €1,000 on a credit card at 20 per cent, doesn’t make sense. If you use your savings to clear this debt, you can still fall back on the credit card should an emergency arise before you get a chance to rebuild your rainy day fund.

Allowing your lifestyle to inflate

This can be a major danger – or opportunity – to how your life is going to be. If you’ve just started work, you won’t be used to earning €400-€700 a week for example.
“So don’t get used to it,” Magee advises, urging 20-year-olds to try to put away 20 per cent of their net savings (this includes pension savings) each month. “And if you’ve never gotten used to spending a certain amount of money, you won’t miss it either. You’ll be just as content a person,” he says.
Not only that, but he wants you to bring this lesson with you through life.
“If you get a pay rise, don’t get used to it,” he says, cautioning against “lifestyle inflation”, whereby your lifestyle expands to fit your income. This is the biggest thing they can to help themselves financially,” he says of 20-somethings.

The challenges facing today’s 20-somethings

Soaring rents: Average Dublin city centre two-bed is €2,000
Priced out of the property market: Average age of first-time buyer 2006: 29 Average age today: 34
Unaffordability: Average house: average income 1995: 2.5 (national); 3 (Dublin) Average house: average income 2016: 4.7 (national); 6.6 (Dublin)

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5 a side Soccer Tournament in aid of St Michael’s House 23.03.2018

IPF hosted a 5-a-side Football Tournament in aid of St Michaels House last Friday 23rd March.

We would like to thank all the representatives from each of the Life Companies who their time to be involved and for all the donations made.

St Michaels House residents accept a cheque for €2,500

Tournament Winners Zurich Life

Player of the Tournament Ian Slattery

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Retirement Planning Seminars March 2018

This March, Irish Pensions & Finance hosted two Retirement Planning Seminars in The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo and The Westbury Hotel Dublin.

These Seminars were greatly received by the 300+ attendees.

Speakers covered topics such as Financial Planning, Health & Wellbeing and Safety in the Home.

We would like to thank all the speakers and attendees for their participation on the night.

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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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