Wealth Check: He bought the home – now for the cushions
Successful as a first-time buyer, Robert Threlfall is seeking the best way to save to secure his finances. By Harriet Meyer
Sunday 22 June 2008
Robert Threlfall, 25, has grabbed the first rung of the property ladder and is now concentrating on building up his savings for a comfortable future.
"The current financial turmoil is making me nervous," he says. "And while I might own my home, I don't have a specific focus for any savings I make, which perhaps I should."
At present, Robert earns £25,000 a year as an architectural assistant, and lives in a one-bedroom flat bought in August last year for £175,000 in the Kemp Town area of Brighton.
He pays around £500 a month for his 25-year £85,000 repayment mortgage, which is on a three-year fixed rate at 4.75 per cent with Nationwide. While he is aware of his luck in securing a good mortgage deal before lenders hiked their rates, he is anxious that he bought at the height of the market.
"Hopefully, as I intend to stay in the property for at least five years, any losses in value will be recouped, so I'm trying not to worry too much about this," says Robert. "And it's in central Brighton, which is a great location, so it should be fairly resilient to falling house prices."
For short-term savings, he keeps £2,000 in a high- interest Halifax current account paying 5 per cent. "I did have an individual savings account [ISA] but decided to use this one instead. My salary is paid directly into it and I start earning decent interest on it straight away."
He also likes to take a punt on the stock market, using a Halifax online share dealing account, which has £2,000 in it at the moment. "I reckon I can potentially make much better gains than in a savings account by playing the market," Robert explains, "although I admit the present conditions are making it tricky to produce a profit."
Despite having worked full-time for around 10 months since he graduated, he has so far chosen not to join his company pension scheme. "But I will try and start paying into it this year."
For protection needs, he pays £11 a month for £85,000 of life cover over 25 years with insurer Bright Grey.
Considering his low mortgage rate, and the fact he has no plans to take on any further debt, Robert is in a good financial position, agree our panel of independent financial advisers (IFAs). But he is right to question his savings strategy, which needs fine-tuning to give the greatest potential for growth over the long term.
Robert's Halifax deal pays 5 per cent a year on balances up to £2,500. While this makes it very competitive in the current account market, it fails to impress as a savings account, since far higher rates are available.
"Also, as a basic-rate taxpayer, he is earning just 4 per cent on any money in this account," says Mike Pendergast from IFA Zen Financial Services.
Calculating how much he can afford to save each month, and putting this into a cash individual savings account, would be wiser. "It will get him into the savings habit, and interest will accumulate free of income tax," says Mr Pendergast.
For example, Egg is currently paying 6.05 per cent on its cash ISA, on a minimum investment of just £1.
For greater long-term growth, he could also save up to £3,600 a year in a stocks and shares ISA.
Danny Cox from IFA Hargreaves Lansdown suggests picking unit trusts from the equity income sector, and recommends Invesco Perpetual Income and Artemis Income as solid funds with good management in place. "A unit trust will typically have between 20 and 100 different underlying shares, meaning that the investment is well spread."
Robert enjoys dipping his toe in the stock market already, with his share dealing account, but he might achieve better returns by investing in a unit trust, which can be bought with little or no upfront charge by using a using a fund supermarket, adds Mr Cox.
However, as a basic-rate taxpayer he is not liable to any additional tax on share dividends, so if he is determined to continue dealing, he is in a good position.
Robert should be relatively unconcerned about the falling property market, agree the advisers.
"He has a high level of equity in his flat, which will act as a buffer in case of further falls, and he plans to remain there for some time," says Dennis Hall of IFA Yellowtail Financial Planning.
And he has managed to secure a great mortgage deal at a rate of 4.75 per cent, which is almost two percentage points lower than the majority of the cheapest deals now on offer. With more than another two years on this rate, Robert should be able to ride out the credit squeeze.
"However, he should make sure to plan for a possible rise in his rate when he comes to remortgage at the end of the term – or he could face a nasty shock," says Mr Pendergast.
To wipe out his home loan as quickly as possible, Robert could set a goal of making regular overpayments. On a standard mortgage, he will typically be allowed to pay off an extra 10 per cent of the loan sum each year.
The sooner Robert begins to contribute to a pension scheme, the better. It is those contributions made in the early years that make the most difference to a pension pot, stress the advisers, because of the effect of compound growth.
"The contributions he makes will attract tax relief, so every £100 he saves will cost him just £80," explains Mr Cox.
Additionally, if his company pays into the scheme on his behalf, Robert is in effect turning down a pay rise by failing to take advantage of this.
As a single person with no dependants, Robert's life insurance is unnecessary, says Mr Hall. A more beneficial form of cover would be income protection, which can replace a salary and meet mortgage repayments in the event that he is unable to work due to sickness or disability.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage
Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Five Questions: Changes to car tax discs
Less than half of Brits carry country's £1.5tn debt burden
A student's guide to financial survival: You don't have to drown in debt at university
Misleading websites banned for tricking people into paying for ‘free’ government services
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
- 1 Thailand beach murders: Thai PM suggests 'attractive' female tourists cannot expect to be safe wearing bikinis
- 2 Scottish independence: What you shouldn't tweet about if you want to avoid jail today
- 3 Scottish independence: Five reasons Salmond is secretly hoping for a 'No' vote
- 4 Isis plan to 'behead random member of the public' in Sydney thwarted by Australian police
- 5 Scottish independence: Andy Murray backs Yes campaign in eleventh hour decision
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
iJobs Money & Business
£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...
To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...
Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...
Day In a Page
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000