Christmas Opening Hours

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Office Opening Hours – Christmas 2015

Our offices will be close at 5pm on Wednesday 23rd December and reopen at 9am on Monday 4th January 2016.

If there is an urgent matter that you need to discuss please leave a voicemail on 0289581500 or email [email protected] as they will be monitored periodically over the holidays.


Happy holidays to all our clients, friends and site visitors, we hope you have a great festive season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year


We hope you have a great and well earned break over the holidays but if you need us or this is the only chance you have to look at your finances here is when we are available.

P.S. As usual you can get a Saturday morning appointment on request.

Christmas Opening Times

What you need to know about the Autumn Statement 2014

Financial Planning, General, Investments, ISA, Pensions, Savings, Tax Planning
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What you need to know about the Autumn Statement 2014

On 3rd December 2014 George Osborne gave us his Annual Autumn Statement which for reasons best known to someone else is in December.  But that’s not important right now and if you’re like me it will be googled later.  Anyway here are some of the main points relevant to your personal financial planning broken down into relevant headings.


The income tax personal allowance will rise to £10,600 in April 2014 which is £100 higher than expected. The higher rate tax threshold will also increase to £42,385 in April, again £100 more than expected.

Anyone in receipt of Universal Credit will find their benefits frozen for the coming year.


The ISA limit has been raised to £15,240 in April.  The chancellor has also said that with immediate effect when the saver dies their spouse will inherit the ISA and be able to maintain its tax free status.  This could be very interesting for future IHT planning.


As expected the Chancellor announced that if you die prior to age 75 in receipt of a joint life annuity pension your dependents with receive the dependents income tax free.

This brings joint life annuities in line with flexi-access drawdown but there was no mention of final salary schemes dependents pensions so watch this space.

There were no changes to the tax relief through pensions either before or after age 75.

The single tier state pension is expected to start in April 2016 at £151.25 per week.


As usual the Government wants a headline maker in the Autumn Statement and this year it’s stamp duty.  The stamp duty system has been revamped from a stepped to a tiered charging system as show below.

[table width =”100%” style =”table-striped table-bordered table-hover” responsive =”true”] [table_head] [th_column]Purchase price[/th_column] [th_column]Stamp Duty[/th_column] [/table_head] [table_body] [table_row] [row_column]First £125,000[/row_column] [row_column]0%[/row_column] [/table_row] [table_row] [row_column]£125,001-£250,000[/row_column] [row_column]2%[/row_column] [/table_row] [table_row] [row_column]£250,001-£925,000[/row_column] [row_column]5%[/row_column] [/table_row] [table_row] [row_column]£925,001-£1.5m[/row_column] [row_column]10%[/row_column] [/table_row] [table_row] [row_column]£1.5m+[/row_column] [row_column]12%[/row_column] [/table_row] [/table_body] [/table]

For example if you buy a property for £275,000 you will pay a total of £3,750 in stamp duty which equates to 1.36%. Under the old regime you would have paid £8,250 at 3% on the whole lot.

Why I Hate New Year’s Resolutions

Financial Planning, General
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What a load of…

I hate New Year’s Resolutions and all the nonsense that comes with them. I don’t know exactly when I came to the conclusion that they are a load of nonsense but it is now ingrained deep within me. So much so that I don’t remember one I have ever made and certainly none that I have ever kept.

From my observations New Year’s Resolutions have mostly vague statements of intent, some grandiose notion that this year we will achieve everything we have ever dreamed. What a load of…

Stormtroopers New Years Resolutions


I have never been one to set New Year’s resolutions, growing up I noticed that they were mostly set by people wishing to lose weight or get fit. These have never been a concern for me, I have always been lucky in that I am sports daft and I have played football in one form or another since I was six years old. As an adult my weight has fluctuated by about a stone give or take a banana but I could always rely on preseason training to get rid of any turkey belly.

In the gym in January and February you will always see the usual influx of seasonal exercisers. People who would vow to lose weight and join the gym with good intentions of going every week. By the end of February most will have given up.

But New Year’s Resolutions and Financial Planning have a lot in common; they both involve setting a goal, designing a plan to achieve that goal and reviewing that plan on an annual basis.

So why do I hate New Year’s Resolutions?

That’s easy:

They’re too vague – I want to lose weight, get fit, pay off some debt or earn more money.  These are pure waffle in terms of a goal. A goal needs to have a specific measurable target – I want to lose 20 lbs, I want to run 3 times a week, I want to earn an extra £3,000 per annum.

It’s all in your head – New Year’s resolutions are rarely written down, this makes it is easy to lose track of your goals. According to research by the Dominican University in California you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals simply by writing them down.

They don’t come with a plan – A goal without a plan is simply a dream. Once you have a setback, New Year’s resolutions tend to get discarded.  Just look at how busy the gym is in January/February compared to later in the year. Goals and their respective plans should be reviewed and amended regularly.

What is the Alternative?

Get a plan by setting some SMART goals for life not just the New Year. SMART goals have been around for years now but just to clarify a SMART goal is:





Time Bound

Wishing for a comfortable retirement is too vague whereas aiming to retire on £25,000 per annum by the age of 60 is a specific goal.  Instead of aiming to reduce your debt you should be aiming to be debt free in 5 years.

These are goals that are specific, measureable and time bound. Your personal financial circumstance will dictate whether they are achievable and realistic but you get the picture.

I suppose then it’s not the setting of New Year’s Resolutions that I hate but the manner in which we tend to set these goals. So I invite you all not to create New Year’s resolutions but set smart goals for the next year and beyond. Commit them to paper and create a plan to achieve them.

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What Christmas Movies teach us about Personal Finance

Financial Planning, General
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Christmas Movies & Personal Finance

It’s that time of year again! We eat a lot, possibly drink a little too much and end up watching the same old Christmas movies as we do every year.  So, what can we learn about personal finance from these classic movies and their characters.

Merry Christmas

It’s A Wonderful Life

Despite dealing with some dark issues, It’s A Wonderful Life is the ultimate Christmas feel good movie.  In it, we are spun the tale of the suicidal George Bailey who faces jail and his business faces bankruptcy when his uncle misplaces $8,000 of the company money. An angel called Clarence turns George around when he teaches him how important he is to his family and the local community in his own inimitable way.

The Lesson:

Financial problems, debt and depression are very topical issues coming up to Christmas.  There can be a lot of pressure to spend an increasing sum of money on Christmas.  For some, this adds to their financial worries and can lead to ‘Christmas being put on the credit card’.

Pete Matthew of Meaningful Money has a very good podcast on the subject: Surviving Christmas with your finances intact that is worth listening to. In it, he explains the benefits of setting a budget for Christmas and sticking to it.  He explains how he and his wife put money aside each month throughout the year to pay for Christmas, to avoid that one-off “shock” expense and allow them to enjoy the seasonal festivities

Die Hard

Die Hard is a holiday staple in my house as John McClane (the legendary Bruce Willis) tears the Nakatomi Plaza apart when a band of thieves, led by the immense Alan Rickman rudely interrupt his wife’s Christmas work do.

The Lesson

During Christmas, like the rest of the year, it is essential to protect you and your family.  If the need for protection is from an imminent physical danger then by all means protect them at all costs.  However, in terms of personal finance you might want to consider an affordable budget to get appropriate insurance in place to protect your loved ones.


Elf tells the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), an orphan raised as one of Santa’s elves, before leaving the North Pole to find his real dad Walter Hobbs (James Caan).  Buddy then proceeds to wreak havoc on his Dad’s life and somehow eventually teaches Walter to re-evaluate his priorities.

The Lesson

There is a lesson to learn from Buddy’s dietary regime and the four main food groups “candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup”.

An unhealthy lifestyle is getting more expensive every year, with the cost of cigarettes and alcohol generally rising above the rate of inflation.  For most of us, if we cannot work due to ill health then our income will cease, we may depend on state benefits and potentially become a financial burden on our loved ones. That is unless we have some insurances in place and the cost of these insurances will often be significantly more expensive for people who do not take care of their health.

If you don’t look after your health it will inevitably affect your wealth.


In Gremlins Billy Peltzer gets an adorable pet Mogwai for Christmas from his dad and is given 3 very strict rules: Do not get it wet, do not feed it after midnight and do not put it in direct sunlight.  Unfortunately for Billy and the town of Kingston Falls, two of these rules are broken very quickly and everything goes pear shaped.

The Lesson

Unlike Billy’s half-baked inventor dad, most people will opt for a nice dog or cat.  They are easy to look after and fulfil most, if not all of the desired criteria in a pet. This is similar to personal financial planning, in that most people do not need complicated financial products that they don’t understand.  There are very few people that need anything more complicated that an ISA, pension and some appropriate insurances.

Remember, the devil is gremlins are in the detail.

The Muppets Christmas Carol

Now I could have chosen any version of Dickens’ classic tale but everyone loves The Muppets Christmas Carol, don’t they?  In this version Kermit and gang play second fiddle to Michael Caine’s excellent performance as the miserly Scrooge.  The usual Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future take Scrooge on a journey that teaches him the error of his ways.

The Lesson

While there are those who are comfortable and very good at managing their own finances, more can benefit from the advice of a third party.  Not many of us have Scrooge’s money but we can certainly lose sight of, or neglect to align our plans with our goals when managing our money.  A good financial planner can provide an independent advice service that aligns your finances with your life goals.

Let me know what you think of the post or simply what’s your favourite Christmas movie and what can we learn from it?

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What you need to know about the Autumn Statement 2013

Business, General, Help To Buy, Mortgages, Pensions, Savings
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What you need to know about the Autumn Statement 2013


The income tax personal allowance will rise to £10,000 in April 2014 as expected and will rise in line with inflation from 2015/16.  Inflation will be measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) in this context.

From April 2015, a new transferable tax allowance will be made available for married couples and civil partners who are basic rate taxpayers.  This will enable people to transfer £1,000 of their personal allowance to their respective partner.


A new welfare spending cap is to be introduced in 2014, although this will not include the cost of providing State pensions or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Those claiming benefits aged 18-21 will need to demonstrate basic English and Maths, take skills training or they will risk losing their benefits.

Benefit claimants who are out of work for longer than six months will have to start a traineeship; do work experience or a community work placement rather than risk losing their benefits.

Some change is always good


The Basic State Pension will rise by £2.95 per week in April 2014, meaning a single pensioner will now receive £113.10 per week.

Plans were announced to increase the state pension age to 68 in the mid-2030s and to 69 by the late-2040s, based on the latest life expectancy figures.

For those with sizeable pension pots there has been no change to the way GAD rates are calculated for Income Drawdown.

Savings & Investments

The Annual Allowance for Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) will rise to £11,880 in 2014/15 of which £5,940 can be invested in cash.

Junior ISAs and Child Trust Fund (CTF) limits will also increase to £3,840 per annum.

In a drive to encourage funds to locate in the UK, Exchange-Traded Fund (ETF) stamp duty will be abolished.  This could save investors 0.5% on domiciled ETFs next year.


It was announced that two more lenders, Aldermore and Virgin, are expected to join the Help to Buy scheme in December 2013.


From April 2015 employers will no longer have to pay employer National Insurance contributions for 16 to 21 year old employees, a potential saving of £500 for each employee on £12,000 per annum.

The business rate relief scheme for small businesses will be extended for a further year and end in April 2015. Additionally, the planned rate increase for all business premises will be capped at 2% from 2014.  A discount of £1,000 will be available for some small businesses and a 50% business rates discount will be available for those taking on vacant units.


Importantly for commuters the planned fuel duty rise next September of 2p a litre was cancelled, that’s as good as we can hope for in terms of fuel duty.

From April 2015 foreign residential property owners will pay capital gains tax (CGT) future gains on the sale of UK property.

We already mentioned the removal of stamp duty on the purchase of ETFs in the Savings & Investments section.

The Autumn Statement also contained a package of five measures to address tax avoidance and tax evasion.

It’s nice to be sociable

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Financial Planners on Social Media

Image by BirdBrian on Flickr

It’s nice to be sociable

From Acorns Financial Planning are ready to connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ through the links below.  We plan to share interesting and informative articles from the world of finance for individuals, small businesses and trustees.

If you have any questions or suggestions let us know and we’ll certainly blog about it (within reason of course).

Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn  | Google+

Financial Planning Northern Ireland

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What is Financial Planning?

Financial Planning is an ongoing process which involves setting goals around how you wish to spend the rest of your life and then helps you make clear financial decisions that can help you achieve your goals.

Good Financial Planning is not about simply buying products like an investment or a pension but aligning plans, new or old, with your life goals.

Your Financial Plan may be quite straight forward such as simply making sure that your family are protected if you were to fall ill or worse and you may feel comfortable building your own plan.  Of course we would always advocate the benefits of engaging the help of a good Financial Planner and for more complex financial requirements the need for quality financial planning becomes even greater.

At From Acorns Financial Planning we usually create a financial plan in four steps:

  1. Develop an understanding of your current financial situation and establish your life’s goals
  2. Analyse your current financial position & develop a plan for achieving your goals
  3. Implement an agreed plan to achieve your goals
  4. Review and make adjustments to your plan on an annual or bi-annual basis

Financial Planning involves establishing short, medium and long term goals. Estimating the cost of each of these goals and prioritising them so we can create a financial plan to achieve them. We know that life will throw a few spanners in the works and will build this into your plan.

At the end of the process you should have peace of mind that you and your family are on track for the future you desire.

From Acorns Financial Planning Ltd are based in Tyrone, Mid Ulster and provide a comprehensive Financial Planning service to both personal and business clients across Northern Ireland and the UK.