High income wasted on a slack budget: Maria Scott on a prizewinning adviser who shows why big earners need discipline

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The Independent Online
THE Robertson household has an income of pounds 50,000 and all the trappings of a comfortable lifestyle, including a cottage in France and a portfolio of shares.

Both Mr and Mrs Robertson work for the same financial institution. He earns pounds 30,000 a year ( pounds 7,000 from bonuses) and she earns pounds 20,000 ( pounds 3,000 in bonuses).

But with two teenage children at private schools demanding pounds 7,000 of fees a year, plus pounds 1,050 of monthly mortgage payments on a pounds 160,000 home loan, and other debts of pounds 10,000, the Robertsons are actually quite strapped for cash.

A closer examination reveals other flaws in their financial arrangements. Disaster could be looming if they were to become ill or unemployed, since there is no insurance to cover repayments on their various debts. Neither would be entitled to any income from their employer if they were off work for more than a year.

If either died, the survivor could be in real difficulty, since they have no life insurance to repay their mortgage.

Even if no disaster strikes, they could find themselves financially stretched for years to come since both children will go to university.

The Robertsons are fictitious. Their situation was one of 10 case studies in a competition to find the Independent Financial Adviser of the Year in the financial advisers' trade newspaper, Money Week.

A strategy drawn up for the Robertsons won the title for Joanna Stone, an adviser with Murray Noble.

Mrs Stone decided that the Robertsons' financial priorities should be to reorganise their budget so that more money is coming in; arrange life insurance; insurance to replace their income in the event of long-term illness, disability, or redundancy; sell shares to pay off credit card debts, and top up their company pensions.

To supplement their income the Robertsons could let a room in their house. This could generate income of nearly pounds 50 a week, tax-free under the Government's new rent-a-room scheme. They could also let the house in France for pounds 4,000 a year.

The next priority was arranging more life insurance by taking out a mortgage-protection policy for cover of pounds 160,000 at a monthly cost of pounds 50; taking out a level term assurance policy on Mr Robertson's life for pounds 120,000, costing pounds 54 a month, and a similar contract on Mrs Robertson's life for pounds 108,000, costing pounds 24 a month.

Mrs Stone calculated that her suggestions could save the Robertsons pounds 200 a month.

Joanna Stone studied law at Leicester University before joining Murray Noble in 1983. Initially she worked as a personal assistant to one of the directors. Later she worked for a firm of accountants before moving back to Murray Noble five months ago.

Murray Noble charges pounds 75 an hour for its services, but people can pay an annual retainer of pounds 60, pounds 150 or pounds 400 depending on the complexity of their affairs. If the firm earns commission it will rebate any surplus, over the fee, to the client.

Hinton & Wild, which specialises in advising elderly people on home income plans, has won the Independent Financial Adviser 1993 award sponsored by IFA Promotion, the organisation that promotes financial advice. Nominations for the award came from members of the public.

(Photograph omitted)

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