Wealth Check: Three tough decisions for a brighter future

Harriet Warburton, 32, bought her own home in Oxford five years ago. She has a PhD in animal welfare and works for a government research funding agency.

Her financial concerns are, first, that her five-year discount mortgage deal with Halifax expires this month. Should she remortgage and, to what deal? She is attracted by offset mortgages.

Second, Harriet is about to get a pay rise. She'd like to put the extra money (£100 a month) into savings - but what vehicle?

Finally, should Harriet move the pension savings she built up with a previous employer into her current employer's scheme?

We asked three independent advisers for suggestions: Anna Bowes, of Chase de Vere, David Hollingworth, of London & Country Mortgages, and Philippa Gee, of Torquil Clark.


Harriet needs to act quickly, says David Hollingworth. From March she will pay Halifax's standard variable rate of 6.5 per cent, a third above the cheapest deals.

Harriet faces two key decisions. The first is whether to remortgage to another discounted variable rate, or go for fixed. The debate is finely balanced - fixing will give certainty, but a discount could prove marginally cheaper if base rates fall.

The second decision is whether to stick with Halifax. Rivals may be cheaper but there will be more costs in switching.

Some lenders offer fee-free mortgages - with a slightly higher interest rate. She must look at charges and interest over the period of the deal. On smaller mortgages, the fee-free option can be good value.

Finally, Hollingworth says offset mortgages, where borrowers hold savings in the same account as the loan to cut the debt and the interest, work well for some. But offset rates tend to be higher, and as Harriet has a small amount of savings, she won't get much benefit.


Philippa Gee would like Harriet to move her £2,500 savings away from Woolwich, because of its low interest rates. A cash individual savings account (ISA) would be tax-free. Halifax Direct pays 5 per cent.

Gee suggests Northern Rock's Tracker Online for Harriet's pay-rise cash. It pays 5.01 per cent, falling to 4.3 per cent after six months, when Harriet might want to switch. Or, Newcastle Building Society's Online account pays 4.9 per cent a year.

Anna Bowes suggests using the Woolwich cash for emergencies, though she also recommends a cash ISA - or the stock market for part of her savings.

In addition, she suggests Jupiter Merlin Growth, New Star's Tactical, or an ethical fund.


Bowes thinks Harriet should leave her Universities Scheme pension savings where they are. The scheme is good value and the amount Harriet has is relatively small - unlikely to be worth transferring.

Harriet says she would like to stop work between the ages of 50 and 55 - Bowes thinks this is unrealistic, unless she is able to commit more savings to her pension plans.


All the advisers are concerned that Harriet has not insured herself properly. Bowes thinks she can save money on her existing life insurance plan, held with her mortgage provider. Gee says Harriet must check whether her employer offers decent benefits in the event of her being unable to work due to ill-health. If not, good income protection or critical illness insurance could be very important.

Case notes

Personal: Harriet is a manager at a government research funding agency.

Income: £24,000 a year.

Property: Owns her own home in Oxford. Discounted-rate deal with Halifax due to end this month.

Pension: Member of scheme at work, deferred member of University Superannuation Scheme.

Savings: £2,500 with Woolwich earning 3.06 per cent. £100 premium bonds.

Monthly expenditure: Disposable income of around £1,500 all spent on bills and general living expenses.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

    £50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

    Loren Hughes: Financial Accountant

    £45,000 - £55,000: Loren Hughes: Are you looking for a new opportunity that wi...

    Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

    Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor