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Wealth Management

ANNUITY CHOICES IN RETIREMENT

By Gerard Visser, Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultant

As you approach retirement, one needs to decide the age you would like to retire at. More importantly, whether you can in fact retire with the available funds you have and if the income you will receive will sustain you for the rest of your life.

Before deciding to pay yourself an income at retirement, new legislation allows members who are part of an employer’s pension or provident fund to postpone their retirement, even though they have reached the normal retirement age of the fund. But why would you want to defer your retirement? You could have a part time job or contract work lined up for a couple of years and not need to make use of your funds yet or you might not have enough funds saved and need to defer in order to be able to retire more comfortably at a later age.

Once you have decided to start earning an income with your retirement funds, you have two options when it comes down to paying yourself an income at retirement – invest into a living annuity and make a drawdown or purchase a life annuity/fixed annuity.

A life annuity and living annuity might sound similar but they are completely different options and you need to make sure you understand both the available options and implications of your choice. You can move your funds from a living annuity to a life annuity but not the other way around, so once in a life annuity you cannot change your mind.

A living annuity gives you flexibility with regards to the income you can pay yourself, you have to choose a drawdown between 2.5% – 17.5% per year and most clients choose to be paid this income monthly. You need to set up portfolios with your financial advisor where the money for the living annuity will be invested. It is important to set the portfolios up correctly and according to your specific need as all investors differ; some enjoy conservative investments while others will still try to grow the capital as retirement is over a long term. You have to consider the sustainability of a living annuity and try stick to the recommended drawdowns as this not only has market risk (volatility of the markets) but the investor runs the risk of outliving their investment or depleting their capital which in turn has a direct impact on the amount of income you can pay yourself. Investing into a living annuity is the most flexible investment option when considering the two, as you can also change your income drawdown once a year. You can nominate beneficiaries for a living annuity, allowing legacy for the remaining capital in the investment.

Your second option would be to consider a life annuity/fixed annuity. Many clients are under the incorrect impression that this is a product no longer in use. However, life annuities are perfect for clients looking to guarantee their income for the rest of their lives. You have an agreement with an insurance company to “swop” your capital for monthly income payments the rest of your life. If you are married, your spouse would receive an income after your death. When receiving the quotes, you need to decide whether you would like a single or joint life annuity. A single life annuity only pays for as long as you live, while a joint life annuity will pay until the death of your spouse, so if either of you die the other will still receive an income. There is no longevity with life annuities, meaning that upon your death the insurance company retains the capital.

How can I ensure longevity or legacy to my heirs? To avoid losing out and having an insurer keep all your retirement savings, you can add guarantee terms to the life annuities. Guarantee terms protect you in the event of early death. If you added a guarantee term of 15 years and passed away at year five, your beneficiaries are still able to receive 10 more years of the fixed annuities income.

Life companies will offer variations of these different life annuities and these vary from company to company so it is worth finding out how they differ and exactly what you are buying. You typically get the following types of fixed annuities: inflation linked annuity, fixed increase annuity, with profit annuity and a level annuity. The initial starting monthly income as well as future increases differ with all of them. 

Do not assume what you are currently putting away for retirement will be enough, visit a certified financial adviser and do the calculations to see where you stand. Do not wait till the last minute because saving and having enough money for retirement is your responsibility.

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Finance

GEOSPATIAL DATA VISUALISATION MAKES SENSE OF MASS OF COMMERCIAL PROPERTY INSURANCE DATA

Heikki Vesanto, Manager GIS Data Science, LexisNexis Risk Solutions UK & I

 

Like most areas of the general insurance market, data, analytics and technology are helping commercial property insurance providers make faster and more accurate decisions based on a holistic view of risk.  The big difference in commercial property (and to an extent home insurance) is that it is quite literally a picture or map of risk that’s being created – right down to an individual property outline – through the evolution of desktop based geospatial data visualisation tools.

Knowing that visual imagery is more intuitive and speeds up the ability to assess risk, data visualisation tools developed specifically for the insurance sector have become increasingly sophisticated.  They help make immediate sense of the huge and growing volume of data at the market’s disposal.

This data includes the characteristics of a property (floors, height, roof type etc.); its location; the individuals behind the business; the crime and environmental risks including near real-time data on flood and river flows direct from the Environment Agency plus customer and policy data held within an insurance providers’ own databases.

Heikki Vesanto

All this data can now be analysed, aggregated and visualised in map form for use within the insurance continuum – marketing, pricing, underwriting, claims. It reveals where exposures and accumulations exist in an instant and shows insurance providers where there is capacity to write more business.  Fundamentally, the inclusion of all this data allows insurance providers to more accurately price each risk upfront relative to its unique profile.

The demand for this level of insight is only set to grow as commercial insurance providers face changing risks on two fronts. The first is climate change and the cost of claims emanating from extreme weather events. Profitability in commercial property insurance is significantly affected by weather conditions and a recent report suggests commercial property insurance rates were up around 20% on average in Q3 2020[i].

The second is the shift in the use of commercial property space, partially caused by the pandemic.  Surveys suggest that the enforced exodus of workers from offices could be permanent for at least part of the week[ii].  Indeed, several banks across Europe have confirmed they will be closing branches and asking staff to work from home[iii].   There are also questions over the future of town centres which were already in decline before COVID-19.

Understanding which insured properties are vacant versus occupied in a flood, fire or a severe storm, knowing roads closed due to fallen trees, where flood water will flow or how a fire in one building could spread to another is now possible through the evolution of geospatial data visualisation tools such as LexisNexis® Map View, enabling complex property data to be quickly and easily understood and acted upon.

When a weather event occurs, insurance providers can look at a specific geographical region, a postcode, an address or a single property outline, pulling on a wide range of data including live feeds from the Environment Agency.  This means that rather than wait for an influx of claims to assess the exposure to a climate event, they can upload their policy and claims data to visualise the risks and exposure for a whole book of business. They can understand which policyholders could be impacted and where on the ground resources need to be located.

The flexibility of the tools offered today makes it easy to filter down to the risks most of interest, focus on one property for underwriting purposes or a whole block of properties in the path of a coming storm.

The use of ‘live’ data also means that Estimated Maximum Loss and Potential Maximum Loss can be calculated.

Risk can be assessed as needed or a constant monitor created for a whole commercial property portfolio. Looking at a whole portfolio alongside past claims may also help insurance providers price more accurately and understand how they could help mitigate future claims and potential losses.

As well as supporting underwriting, pricing and claims management, with this visual depiction of risk, insurance providers can easily identify areas where they can sell more business in large cities and automatically see where they have areas of high concentrations of Sums Insured for reinsurance calculations.

Insurance specific geospatial data visualisation tools are enabling the insurance market to utilise the increasing availability of ‘live’ and new data sources related to commercial property risks.  This is helping the market to price with pinpoint accuracy, manage their portfolio and get on the front foot when a weather event hits to limit their losses and protect policyholders.

 

[i] https://www.artemis.bm/news/commercial-property-insurance-price-rises-accelerate-globally-in-q3/

[ii] https://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/london-office-market-collapses-amid-pandemic-deloitte-survey-finds/5109149.article

[iii] https://www.ft.com/content/a15f17d3-dc86-4030-85fe-74a29eb1fafa

 

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Top 10

A GUIDE TO HMO PROPERTY INVESTMENT

Many experienced property investors are turning their attention to HMOs and achieving much higher rental yields as a result. Find out what a HMO is, why they are so popular and how to finance these properties.

 

What is an HMO?

A property is considered to be a house in multiple occupation (HMO) if at least 3 tenants live there forming more than 1 ‘household’ and share facilities with other tenants.

HMOs can have a range of tenants such as students, professionals or for social housing.

 

Why are HMOs such a popular investment?

There’s no doubt that HMO properties are very popular with landlords, the main reason for this is the fact that the rental yield is much higher than with a standard single household type let.

HMOs are let on a ‘per room’ basis i.e. the rent generally covers the use of 1 lockable bedroom and use of the shared facilities such as the kitchen and bathroom. This is in contrast to a single let whereby the rent covers the whole property.

As an HMO has scope for multiple tenants, if a tenant was to move out or to stop paying rent for any reason, there will likely be other tenants still making payments. For a landlord, this can help cash flow, especially if the property is mortgaged.

This isn’t the case with a single let, meaning there can be a greater risk of rental voids. As the demand for affordable housing grows, so does the popularity of HMO style investments to landlords.

 

Are there any drawbacks of HMO property investment?

Like most property investments, there can of course be drawbacks when investing in an HMO.

The main factor when considering investing in HMOs is the interest rate of the mortgage. As this is a more specialised area of investment you may need a special HMO mortgage product, this almost certainly means the interest rate will be higher than with a standard buy to let. As HMO rental income is higher compared to a buy to let, there is still a good profit to be made even if you are paying a higher interest rate.

As there are multiple tenants this can mean multiple tenancy agreements and a greater turnaround of people moving in and out. As such HMOs can be more time consuming to manage compared to a single let.

You must also consider the start-up costs when buying a property to let as an HMO. As each room is let individually, you must consider the fire regulations and things such as waste disposal and planning regulations.

 

What finance is available for HMO properties?

As HMO’s have become more popular the number of lenders offering HMO mortgages has increased, this means a greater choice of products. Interest rates and deposit requirements vary depending on both the property type and the applicant’s profile.

A seasoned landlord generally needs to put down a deposit of 25% whereas a first-time buyer would be expected to pay a 35% deposit. A low-value property or a property with a large number of bedrooms may require a larger deposit, even if you are an experienced landlord.

As with any mortgage, there are other factors to be taken into account such as credit history and personal earned income.

 

What should I look for in a potential property?

When considering properties, there are important factors that need to be taken into account to make sure your property investment is successful.

The location should be researched to make sure there is a good demand for HMO properties in the area, if it’s near a university, hospital or near a large town or city you would expect demand to be high, it is worth speaking to a local letting agent to confirm this.

If the area is already flooded with HMO properties the local authority may impose an Article 4 Restriction. This restriction means you cannot simply convert a property to an HMO, you must apply to the local authority for approval.

Another thing to look for is the size of the rooms, depending on the number of tenants you have, the bedrooms and shared areas have to be a certain minimum size. It is easier to buy a property that is already set up and running as an HMO although you may pay a premium for this.

 

What are the key considerations before moving forward?

HMO’s can certainly be a good investment but you should weigh up the pros and cons compared to other types of lets.

You should also compare buying the property in your personal name compared to buying through a limited company. A good accountant will be able to provide advice on the tax implications involved in each route.

Due to the work involved in running the property, it may be worth using a local letting agent to manage the property for you, they will look after the property and deal with tenants, although you will have to pay for the service.

When looking for a suitable mortgage it is worth speaking with a specialist HMO mortgage broker who fully understands the market. Again, there may be a fee to pay for the service but this will often save you money in the long run.

 

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