Q I'm getting married at the beginning of June and have just started to make the arrangements. I'm not a young bride but have never been married before so it is extremely important to me that everything goes well. However, I am beginning to worry that there are a whole raft of things that could go wrong. We've already been on the point of booking a reception venue only to hear rumours that the business was in financial trouble. Thankfully we escaped in time but it has given me nightmares. We're not badly off but couldn't afford to lose a lot of money on the day. What can we do to protect ourselves?
A There are lots of things that can go wrong and it seems you've already conjured up all the possible disasters without any help from me. It's not only the venue that might go bust but the wedding dress retailer or the florist could shut up shop, the rings might go missing in the post or the photographer's camera break down. It seems to me you need to buy peace of mind. As soon as you start committing any money to this project think about insurance.
You'll need to do some research to find the policy that's right for you. There's a huge variation in those available and what they cover. For example you probably want a policy that will cover the costs of your event if it has to be cancelled. If your wedding is costing you £20,000 you don't want to discover that you'll only be entitled to £5,000 for cancellation in some circumstances. It's not just the venue going bankrupt that might lead to cancellation. Will the policy pay out if you have to cancel because you lose your job or one of your family gets ill?
Most policies won't cover all of the costs of rearranging and some won't pay out if the caterers don't deliver the food you agreed on, so check the small print carefully.
Don't forget that if you have lots of presents stacked up in your home your usual level of contents insurance may not be enough so you might want to increase that cover too. And what about travel insurance if you're going away on honeymoon?
Make a list of all the things you want to be covered and shop around until you find the cover that best fits your needs. If you type "wedding insurance" into a search engine you'll find a whole array of sites and comparison sites offering all levels of cover.
I hope all goes terrifically well, you have no reason to claim and you have a great day.
Q I've had a letter from the pension service telling me that I won't get my state pension until 2020. I was expecting to get it much sooner but, because I was born after 6 December 1953, I have to wait. I hadn't realised that I would be affected by changes in the rules and was planning to retire in a couple of years' time. How can I find out what I'm entitled to and whether there's anything else I will be able to claim? Will I just have to keep on working until 2020?
A The rule changes affect men and women who reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2010. Part of the changes means that instead of being able to retire at 60, over the next few years women's state pension age will increase until it matches that of men. The other part of the changes means that everyone's state pension age is going up from 65 to 66 by October 2020 (and later to 67 and then 68), so you are caught out on both counts, having to wait six years longer than you expected.
Don't forget though that that is just the age at which you become entitled to a state pension. If you can afford to you can stop work at any time you like. If you don't want to stop work you can claim your state pension or defer it and carry on working much longer. If you delay claiming your state pension you may get more money each month at a later date.
The first thing is to find out how much you will be entitled to when you do reach state pension age. You can do that by asking for a pension forecast at www.directgov.uk/pensionforecast or call 0845 3000168.
If you have ever paid into an employer's pension you may be able to claim that much earlier than your state pension. Contact the employer to find out when you can claim. If you have old work or personal pensions that you have lost track of, the pension tracing service can help at www.direct.gov.uk/ pensiontracing or call 0845 6002537.
In the end you may have to work longer than you wanted but at least you will have a better idea of what your financial future holds.
Q I am seeking some guidance regarding a share of a fairly small inheritance which I will soon come into. My mother died and left her assets to be shared equally between my sister and me. Aside from a share of her small liquid savings, the majority of my inheritance will come from our mother's bungalow, which we expect to fetch around £110k, the proceeds to be equally divided. Ideally, I would like to buy a small apartment but, as I live in a prosperous northern Italian town, this would be impossible on my capital share. Could your experts offer some advice as to the options open to me to get the best return on this capital amount, or part of it?
A The very short answer to your question is "no". I am sorry, but only people in the UK who are registered by the Financial Services Authority have a licence to give financial advice. You need to talk to several advisers, preferably recommended by someone you trust, and choose one you get on with, feel you can work with and whose suggestions suit your needs. Ask each how their fee structure works, don't go with anyone who tries to persuade you to take more risk than you want to and remember "if it sounds too good to be true it probably is".
Anyone giving you investment advice will want to look in detail at your current income, any pensions you can expect when you retire, what you want from the money such as income or capital growth, where you want to invest it and how much risk you are prepared to take with your money.
Many people with little savings want to keep their money safe and accept that their money isn't likely to earn them a big return. Others are willing to take more risk in the hope of getting a better return. A good financial adviser will help you get the best outcome. Sorry we can't do that for you.