Buying big ticket items from abroad, and how to get them home for cheap

There are many reasons why you might want to make a big purchase overseas and need to arrange safe and reliable transportation to get the item home.

It could be that a luxury indulgence or a potentially lucrative investment catches your eye while you are on holiday, or you could be deliberately searching for a unique item such as a classic car that you can only find abroad.

Whatever the reason, it is important to adopt a cautious approach when buying expensive items in a foreign country and to make sure your possessions and finances are protected.

Read on to find out more about some of the popular reasons for making big purchases overseas and some of the finer points of the process.

Special buys and bargains

One of the main motivations for buying a significant item abroad is to get hold of something that is rare or unavailable at home.

A good example is cars. People with a passion for classic American automobiles or Japanese sports cars, for instance, may not be able to find that next big investment in the UK.

Auto Trader points out that purchasing a vehicle abroad and importing it can also offer good value for money and help buyers beat waiting lists at home.

The possibility of bagging bargains is another attractive aspect of buying expensive items overseas. In a Christmas shopping guide published in November last year, the Post Office revealed that designer clothing labels are up to 61 per cent cheaper in American cities than in the UK.

Britons shopping in the US can also find savings of up to a third on potentially expensive products such as toys, electrical goods and fashion accessories, according to the research.

Staying safe

It is essential to be cautious and ensure the proper protections and assurances are in place when making any big purchase, but it is particularly important to take a careful approach when buying overseas.

Firstly, make sure you are 100 per cent certain about the product you are buying. Do some research beforehand and make sure that you have a good inspection of the item, looking for any relevant trademarks or signs of certification, before money changes hands.

It is also crucial to ensure you are dealing with a reputable seller. Don’t be sucked in to making an impulse buy if you are not entirely certain about the individual or organisation you are buying from. Try to get some guarantees from local authorities or previous customers.

Paying with a credit card and getting an itemised receipt are strongly advised, as this ensures that you have a detailed record of your purchase.

Transferring cash and arranging delivery

Once you have done your research and are happy to go ahead with the deal, it could prove beneficial to use an international transfer service to ensure you have enough cash available for the transaction.

This approach offers a number of advantages, such as exchange rates that are up to four per cent better than those available with banks, no commission charges and the support of a dedicated currency dealer.

Transactions are available to destinations all over the world, from countries in Europe to more far-flung nations like Japan, the US and South Africa.

Another logistical concern to bear in mind is the possibility of having your purchase delivered home, which will be necessary if it is too large, heavy or fragile to transport yourself.

The website Independent Traveler points out that you will need to choose between having the merchant arrange shipping – which may not be an option with smaller sellers – or sending it personally.

You will want to take precautions to guarantee the safety of your goods, such as taking out dedicated insurance. If you are overseeing delivery yourself, ensure the item is securely packed and that the box is properly labelled with details of the contents.

The retirement age is rising – are we ready to deal with it?

The retirement age is rising – are we ready to deal with it?

By 2020 both men and women will be expected to work until the age of 66 before they can collect their state pension. Money and retirement are intrinsically linked, and the two topics have never been so prevalent in the national psyche since the government unveiled its plan to deal with the issue.

For years women have been able to retire at 60 and men at 65, so while this is a small increase for men it represents quite a drastic rise for women.

And the news isn’t going down well. A recent study by Engage Mutual found that the majority of British adults preferred to retire at 60 – which means women are happy with the current system and men would prefer their state pension to be brought forward by five years.

The findings are from a study of 1,500 adults aged 50 and over, which considered their financial, emotional and recreational needs.

Why is the retirement age rising?

Like a lot of other countries, the UK’s population is living longer. As life expectancy increases it means more people are drawing state pensions for longer, which is putting an unprecedented financial strain on the Treasury. That’s why, in 2012, the coalition announced that they would start to link state pension age with life expectancy – which could see today’s 20-year olds working well into their 70s.

Are we prepared to work longer?

Of course, when we prefer to retire is something personal to each and every one of us, however there are signs that we are prepared to work longer. Earlier this year, the number of people aged 65 and over in employment reached one million for the first time.

One in five of those surveyed by Engage Mutual said that they had no problem working past the age of 65. Eighty per cent of them said they still had plenty to offer the workplace, while 71 per cent enjoyed the companionship of their work colleagues and 41 per cent admitted they weren’t looking forward to retirement.

Why do we want to retire at 60?

The main reasons for wanting to retire at 60 are social. Broadly speaking, we want to retire at an age when we’re still reasonably active, both physically and mentally, so we can spend time with grandchildren, enjoy good health, travel abroad and spend our hard-earned savings. The worry is that if we retire later, we won’t be able to have fun with the family and do the things we’ve been saving up for all our working lives.

However, more than 90 per cent surveyed felt that being in your 50s and 60s is still young.

Retirement concerns

Retiring earlier would obviously have financial implications. Unsurprisingly, 60 per cent of those surveyed worry about being able to afford to live, while 54 per cent worry about how they will pay unexpected bills and costs.

Working to a later age could be the answer to building a better pension and securing your future for the extra year’s we’re living.

Find out if you’re ready for retirement by taking Engage Mutual’s light-hearted quiz: Are you ready to retire?

Don’t Give Up Hope Just Yet in Your Financial Struggle

There are thousands of college aged individuals, young adults, adults with families, and even the elderly who are all struggling to get by and tend to live paycheck to paycheck. And as the cost of living continues to rise, it doesn’t seem this form of “barely getting by” will change for many any time soon.

If you find yourself or someone you know in a financial rut, keep in mind that there are still a good amount of alternatives that can be used and efficiently implemented to make the required amount of extra income needed to make a financially suitable living. Such alternatives consist of, but are not limited to: getting a short term loan like auto title loans, taking up a second job, getting a revolving line of credit, having a yard sale in your neighborhood, moonlighting, selling items online, etc. Some, none, or even all of these scenarios may or may not be possible for someone but the good news remains, there are still plausible alternatives.
Auto title loans: Auto title loans are short term loans that may be perfect for those who own their own vehicle and may not have a good enough credit score to get a more traditional loan. Loan amounts generally range from $500 up to half of the vehicle’s total value.
Second job: Taking a second job requires a lot of time and effort to go into making it worthwhile, but if you can find a part-time job that doesn’t interfere with your current occupation this is a great way to get a head start efficiently.
Revolving line of credit: A revolving line of credit is a specific type of credit that doesn’t have an exact fixed amount of payments, as opposed to an installment credit. If you’re still not too sure what a revolving line of credit consist of, take a look at several companies that do offer it to make your own opinion.
Yard Sale: Selling unwanted items that may be taking up space around your home is one of the oldest, but still extremely efficient methods to earn extra money. BONUS: you get to get rid of a lot of clutter that may be lying around your home.
Moonlighting: Moonlighting is similar to taking up a second job but it really involves using a skill that you have in order to make a profit. Giving guitar lessons for example is a perfect and profitable type of moonlighting case.
Sell items online: There are many sources available online to sell your unwanted items for a fair price, sometimes for well more than what you thought the item was worth. Such sources like eBay and Craigslist have all proven successful for people worldwide.


Attention Students! Stretch your budget

Attention Students! Stretch your budget

Everyone knows that students are a broke bunch. I remember eating rice for days on end in my student digs since I couldn’t afford anything else. However, according to a report, students are becoming more frugal than ever.

Annual living costs came in at £9,500 a year, down from £11,000. It’s the first time in 3 years that this has fallen.

Food and travel were the main things that fell by the wayside – grocery shopping dropped by 3% and transport spending fell to £75 from £116.

Obviously the cost of living is rising – therefore modern day students are cutting back even more on their spending.

Here are some tips I used to stretch my budget when I was at uni:

When looking for somewhere to rent, don’t pay letting agents a registration fee. Legally they can only charge for services such as credit reference checks when they’ve found you a place.

Make sure your deposit is protected. Landlords can no longer keep your deposit in their own account and must place your deposit within the tenancy deposit scheme within 30 of receiving it. You should get full details of where your deposit has been registered.

Make sure the inventory is accurate. Sure it’s time consuming, but you’ll thank your lucky stars you checked when you come to move out and you’re being charge £20 for a missing serving spoon which was never there in the first place.

Remember, students don’t pay council tax. Also, check whether your belongings are covered on their insurance policy as ‘contents outside the home’ before buying your own contents insurance.

Shop around. Student specials are everywhere, from bank accounts to broadband providers.

Do a bulk buy at the start of term at a cash and carry or suchlike for items like laundry detergent, toilet roll and tinned food.

Join a cash back website – make money back on anything you buy online.

I think the majority of my cash went on drinking when I was at uni. Throw parties at home and tell everyone to bring their own drink – it’s a much cheaper way of having a great night with friends.

Top 3 Most Challenging Jobs When Working In Finance

Challenging Jobs When Working In Finance

Many employers are having trouble finding strong candidates for jobs in the financial sector.

The positions that some financial recruiters have identified as the hardest and most competitive to fill include controllers (including hedge fund controllers), tax managers, fund and senior-level accountants and valuation analysts. So what are these roles, and how can you be considered for them?

Controllers keep the company’s financial planning, debt financing and budget management organised. Controllers work for banks, corporations and governments. To become a controller requires an MBA degree with a concentration in finance or accounting. . Also, most employers like controllers to have five to 10 years of experience in senior-level finance or accounting positions.

Tax managers oversee tax reporting and planning. Making sure tax returns are completed and accurate in order to reduce the tax obligations of an organisation, they must also ensure that their companies adhere to tax laws.

To get started on the path to this career, consider an Accounting undergraduate degree. Although you will also need CPA accreditation, an undergraduate degree is the first step to landing this prestigious role.

The same goes for accountants. Accountants examine financial trends, operations and costs.

Managers are generally looking for people who have accounting degrees in addition to a minimum of two to five years of work experience and preferably a CPA. If you start off with an undergrad degree, you’re on the right track for a competitive position in accounting. These include account managers, senior accountants and fund account managers.  For these high-level positions, companies have the money to pay salaries ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions of pounds. With such large amounts of money at stake, the jobs are notoriously difficult to land. Bolster your chances of landing the job by following these three tips:Network – use social networking to your advantage. Sign up to twitter feeds, face book pages and anything else related to the industry you want to work in.

  1. Network – use social networking to your advantage. Sign up to twitter feeds, face book pages and anything else related to the industry you want to work in.
  2. Get Qualified – Many of the jobs require a CPA. Once you’ve got this, you’re well on your way,
  3. Develop communication skills – if there is a speaking club or debate team near you, join up and brush up on your communication skills. This will look impressive on your CV.

Privatisation of Royal mail – Shares sale!

Royal mail sale!

Hundreds of thousands of pounds are set to be splashed out in an advertising campaign to urge the public to buy shares in royal mail.

Royal mail is being prepared to float on the stock market for an estimated £3 billion. Although official refused to confirm the cost of the advertising campaign, funded by public money, it is rumoured to be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Apparently, there is no special privilege being given to the royal mail campaign. Those who remember the ‘tell Sid’ campaign of the 1980’s, advertising the privatisation of British gas, may beg to differ.

Even though two thirds of the population are against privatisation (67% according to a yougov survey poll), taxpayers money is still set to be splashed out on the deeply unpopular privatisation.

What do you think? Are you for or against the privatisation of royal mail? Would you buy shares? Are you happy with the cash being spent on the advertising?

Don’t live on the breadline when you retire in the UK

Don’t live on the breadline when you retire in the UK

Did you know that nearly one million British pensioners are still working? Sure, maybe they enjoy their jobs – but more likely, they can’t afford to retire.

The gap between how much people save and the amount they expect to live on when they retire differs by an average £50,000 for every person of working age. And this gap is only going to get bigger.

We are living longer, which means our retirement savings have to last longer.

So, how do you avoid running out of money when you retire?

There is a simple answer – Plan. Plan for your financial future while you’re still at work. Pensions are one of the most tax efficient ways to invest for retirement. Only you can decide how much to save, but as a general rule if you want to retire at 65, as I do, you should divide your current age by 2. Contribute this percentage of your earnings to your retirement fund every year.

The sooner you begin to contribute to your pension, the less you’ll have to contribute each month.

If you already have a pension, that’s great news. But there are factors that can affect your pension, namely how much you save, how early you start and the performance of your investments.

You may not have realised it but your pension contributions are actually invested. The better the investments perform, the more the money pot is going to grow – although there is no guarantee – investments can fall in value as well as rise.

For example, a 35 year old with a £20,000 pension would have the following fund available at age 65 depending on the strength of his investments.

5% investment growth – £55,270 pension

7% investment growth – £97,347 pension

9% investment growth – £169,669 pension

Just 2% difference in investment growth can mean a different of over £70,000. Get your papers from your bottom draw and have a good look over your pension – you might be able to improve its performance and therefore be looking at a bigger sum when you retire.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

Recently I have lent money to friends and family to cover essential bills. And according to a study done by O2, I’m not alone.

More than £2.6 billion was paid out in casual loans to family and friends last year. Mixing family and friends with money can turn sour. Sure, helping out your nearest and dearest by lending them money when they’re in a financial mess is a natural thing to do, and I’m not advocating that you should stop.

What I am saying is to be careful. Lay down the ground rules.

Both parties should lay down some ground rules before borrowing or lending money. For instance, how much is the loan, how much should be repaid, and when should it be repaid? Write this down so there are no ‘he said, she said’ arguments later on. Make sure you also discuss a contingency plan. What would happen if the borrower lost their job, or became ill? What about if the lender needs the money back more quickly than first thought? Discuss what would happen in these situations.

If the loan is for a large amount of money, consider lending on a more formal basis. Write down the agreements on the loan and then both parties can go to a solicitor who will witness the signing of a document.

Try using the new website Payumi if it’s a small amount you’re lending, which will remind friends of the dates to repay and let them pay with a debit card, credit card or PayPal.

If you need to borrow money, there are other ways to try first if you’re determined not to borrow from family members and friends, or if you want to avoid there being any possibility of fallout.

If it’s a small business loan you require, try a peer – to – peer lender. These lenders help borrowers get decent rates and more flexible terms than high street lenders.

Credit Unions are run as co-operatives – by the members for the members. They will also provide loans, although you may have to be a member for a certain amount of time before a loan is available.

High street loans are still worth considering now that interest rates have fallen so dramatically. I appreciate this is not an option if you don’t have a high credit rating though.

Lend to your family and friends and help them out by all means – but do it carefully.


Minimum £5 spend a thing of the past?

Minimum £5 spend a thing of the past?

Ever been to a small shop and read a sign declaring that you need to spend at least £5 to pay by debit card? My paper shop charges 50p for paying by debit card even if you meet the £5 minimum.  Most of these shops don’t accept credit cards either. But do you know why this is?

Every time a transaction is made, retailers have to pay a fee to whichever bank supplies the card. Currently, shop owners pay around 0.9% for credit card transactions, meaning that for smaller businesses the fees associated with paying by card are too high.

The European Union wants to change this and cap the fees at 0.3% of each transaction for credit cards, and 0.2% for debit cards. The EU also wants to ban surcharges – increasingly popular now at several merchants. Travel agents and airlines are one of the biggest culprits of surcharges; paying ‘administration fees’ when booking air tickets online can cost as much as £30.

So this sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?

I fear the likelihood is that retailers won’t pass on these savings to the consumer, instead keeping that extra cash for themselves. These plans would reduce retailers’ outgoings by an estimated £2.4 billion. But how are the banks going to make back the money that they will lose from the planned strategy?

One way that is suggested is for banks to charge customers for opening a current account. Alternatively, a charge may be made for acquiring cards. A study published in July 2013 by the University of Essex and European Economics estimated that we could pay £11 for debit cards and £25 for credit cards.

What do you think? Will retailers pass their savings on to us? Or will we pay the same amount in stores, only to be hit by charges for obtaining a card in the first place?


Help to buy set to die?

The new help to buy scheme is due to launch next year and it’s not without its critics.

The scheme will allow buyers with a deposit of 5% to buy a house more easily – the government will under-write the risk of lending to buyers with less equity.

Raising a deposit is a house buyer’s nightmare, as few can save 10% of a house price along with stamp duty fees and solicitors costs. Help to buy hopes to give an answer to this problem. But the scheme is widely criticised.

The most widely held belief is that the scheme will push property prices higher and be a danger to the economy.

Personally, I think the critics are mistaken.

House prices are rising anyway – demand outweighs supply.

To address this, the government could build more houses, although on a crowded island with green belts and planning restrictions, this is much easier said than done. Another way of addressing the problem would be to curtail demand – hence, the help to buy scheme should not be available.

However, even if the help to buy scheme didn’t come in fruition, house prices will still rise. House prices in England have been rising steadily since 2007 and show no signs of slowing. The rise in prices is largely due to a number of buy – to – let investors. The sector is booming, with mortgage rates low and rental rates high.

Meanwhile, potential first times buyers are denied a mortgage, forcing them to rent. As rents increase, it becomes even harder to save for a deposit – so it’s a vicious circle.

If the government capped rates of rent, investors might stop piling their money into buy – to – let properties. One easy way to stabilise rents is to kill demand for rental properties – this is where the help – to – buy scheme comes in.

Based on current savings it would take the average tenant 23 years to save the necessary deposit for a home, according to a study by Scottish widows. Based on the average property prices, a 5% deposit equates to more than £8,000. It’s not the sort of money that most people having sitting in their back pockets.

Of course, the government still needs to address the supply issue and build more homes, but its private landlords that have driven house prices for the last decade.

I think that giving people a helping hand onto the property ladder could help the market by reducing demand for rental properties and therefore driving down the profit for landlords. What do you think?

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