Economy

Our guide to mortgages

by Madaline Dunn

Deciding to get a mortgage can be an extremely exciting move. That said, it’s not without its complications, and people can feel a little bit bewildered by the process. A recent study by Paymentshield found that over half of adults (52%) aged 18-34 have a poor understanding of the mortgage process. The study also found that 32% of 35 to 44-year olds have a similar lack of understanding.

That said, it’s important to make sure that you’re all clued up when it comes to mortgages so that you get the best deal possible.

It has been widely reported that there’s currently an ongoing price war in the mortgage market, with some lenders offering super-low rates. For example, HSBC and TSB recently unveiled mortgage rates below 1%, with an interest rate of just 0.94%. However, when being drawn in by low rates, it’s important to make sure you’re not caught out by other fees.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through some of the basics of the mortgage market. This article will explain:

  • The different types of mortgage rates
  • How to access the better rates
  • Initiatives for first-time buyers
  • Best rated mortgage lenders
  • How to choose the right mortgage for you

The different types of mortgages

There are two types of mortgages out there:

Fixed-rate mortgages: This kind of mortgage will see you pay a fixed rate for a set period of time, usually from between two to ten years.

Variable-rate mortgages: This kind of mortgage is not fixed at a set price, can vary from month to month, and comes in a few different forms.

  • Tracker mortgages: This type of variable mortgage follows or ‘tracks’ a specific index, typically the Bank of England’s base rate, for a set period.
  • Discounted rate mortgages: This type of variable mortgage is set below the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR) for a defined period of time.
  • Capped rate mortgages: This type of mortgage is also variable, meaning it can go up or down, but a cap is placed on the level it can rise.

How to access the better rates

When looking to secure the best mortgage rates out there, several factors can improve your chances.

A good credit score is a big factor taken into consideration when lenders make a decision. A low credit score indicates that a borrower may be less financially reliable and more likely to default on payments in the eyes of a lender. Likewise, a high score indicates more stability and less risk.

However, it’s not the be-all and end-all if your credit rating isn’t the highest it can be. You can boost your score. This can be done by making sure you reliably make payments, keeping your credit utilisation low, and building your credit history.

To get the best deal on your mortgage, you must also compare deals. While you may think that you’ve found a good deal, without shopping around, you may miss out. There are lots of comparison websites out there that can help you with your search.

Another good tip for securing a good rate is to try and pay a large deposit if you can afford it. This will show the lender that you are less of a risk credit-wise and lead to lower interest rates.

Initiatives for first-time buyers

There are some schemes to help those buying a home for the first time to make the process a little smoother.

The First Homes scheme was introduced to create more affordable housing and offers homes at a discount of 30% compared to the market price.

The 95% Mortgage Scheme was introduced in the Spring Budget 2021 and allows individuals to borrow up to 95% of a property’s purchase price and secure a mortgage with just a 5% deposit.

Best rated mortgage lenders

In the UK, there are lots of mortgage lenders to choose from, over one-hundred in fact. Some of the biggest lenders include The Lloyds Banking Group, Nationwide Building Society, and Royal Bank of Scotland.

Trussle found, when comparing customer satisfaction, the mortgage lenders that scored the highest included Bank of Ireland, Post Office, and Aldermore.

Those that scored the highest regarding the fastest approval of new mortgage submissions included Halifax, BM Solutions, and HSBC.

Choosing the right mortgage for you

Each person will be looking for different things when choosing a mortgage; for example, you could be buying a house for the first time, remortgaging, moving house or even buying to let.  As a result, one size does not fit all.

Mortgage comparison websites are your friend here, and it’s also worth reaching out to a mortgage broker for advice. After all, choosing a mortgage is a life-changing and important decision that will affect you and your finances for years to come.

Moneyfacts, an independent money comparison website, lists that for home-movers, some of the lowest rates are currently offered by NatWest and RBS, which both have a rate of 1.04% for the first two years before returning to 3.59%. Both also have product fees of £995.00.

The lowest three year fixed rate for home-movers comes from Virgin Money, which offers a rate of 2.15%, before reverting back to 4.34% and has a product fee of £995.00.

First-time buyers, meanwhile, can secure one of the lowest rates from First Direct, which offers 2.69% fixed for two years, when it reverts to 3.54%. There is a £490.00 product fee.

NatWest also offers a low rate, at a fixed rate of 2.69%, before returning to 3.59%, with product fees of £995.00.

The lowest five-year fixed rate for first-time buyers can also be found at First Direct at 3.14%, which reverts back to 3.54% after five years.

For those looking to buy-to-let, The Mortgage Works offers a rate of 1.19% for two years before reverting to a 4.74% variable. This mortgage has a 2.00% advance.

Another mortgage with a low rate comes from Virgin Money, which has a rate of 1.48%, for two years before returning to a 4.54% variable, with an arrangement fee of £1995.

Virgin Money also offers the lowest 3-year fixed buy-to-let deal, with a rate of 1.71%, which reverts to a 4.54% variable. It has an arrangement fee of 4.54% Variable.

It’s worth noting that just because these providers offer the lowest rates doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the best deals. When making a decision, it’s important to factor in total product fees, incentives and the full costs. Rates are also constantly changing, so it’s best to review the charts regularly before settling.

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Wednesday, July 28th, 2021 Mortgages No Comments

None of the content on this website, including blog posts, comments, or responses to user comments, is offered as financial advice. Figures used are for illustrative purposes only.

A guide from inflation to stagflation

by Madaline Dunn

The world of economics can sometimes appear inaccessible and confusing; that said, some particular terms are important to understand. Inflation, deflation, hyperinflation and stagflation all affect the cost of living, impacting the price of food, transport and electricity, as well as savings accounts and investments.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll walk you through:

  • What inflation and deflation mean
  • What stagflation means
  • Examples of hyperinflation through the ages
  • How to guard yourself against the impacts of inflation

What are inflation and deflation?

Inflation can be defined as the rate at which prices rise and generally applies to goods and services. It can increase depending on various factors, including an increase in production cost or a surge in demand for a product. Each month the Office of National Statistics (ONS) releases its measure of inflation through the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

An example of how inflation works is as follows: If an avocado costs £1 initially and the following year its price increases to £1.03, this means inflation has increased its price by 3%.

Britain’s inflation rate recently jumped to 2.5%, up from 2.1% in June 2021, which is the highest in nearly three years. Unfortunately, the Bank of England expects that it could reach 3% by the end of the year.

Deflation, meanwhile, refers to when the rate of inflation becomes negative. While this may appear to be a good thing, in the world of economics, it’s usually considered to be problematic. Common causes of deflation include:

  • Technological advancements
  • Lower production costs
  • Decreased confidence in the economy
  • An increase in unemployment

What is stagflation?

This term is pretty self-explanatory and refers to an economic situation whereby levels of unemployment are high, economic growth stagnates, and interest rates are also high. The UK was hit hard by stagflation back in the 1970s, caused in part by the OPEC oil crisis. That said, it is a rare occurrence economically.

Hyperinflation through the ages

While inflation can significantly impact the economy and make life a lot more expensive, hyperinflation takes this to the next level. It occurs when prices rise at a rate over 50% a month.

While also rare, hyperinflation has occurred numerous times throughout history. The worst example of hyperinflation occurred in Hungary in 1946, where prices doubled every 15.6 hours. Meanwhile, hyperinflation in Weimar Germany reached rates of over 30,000% per month. Elsewhere, in January 1994, Yugoslavia’s inflation reached 313 million percent. During this time, prices doubled every 34 hours!

Guarding yourself against inflation

Understandably, talk about inflation can prick people’s ears and cause concern. However, there are methods that you can use to protect yourself against the effects of inflation.

When faced with inflation, it’s a good idea to use the savings you have to reduce your debt, whether that’s credit card debt or an overdraft. Of course, you shouldn’t deplete all of your savings in this way; it’s always wise to have an emergency fund.

That being said, if you notice you have an excess of savings, it can be beneficial to invest a portion of your surplus. Here, investment in equities is a good move.

Equally, ensuring that you maximise your tax efficiency is an effective way to guard yourself against inflation. ISAs are great here and allow you to save and grow investments free of tax.

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Monday, July 19th, 2021 Economy No Comments

The best credit card deals out there in 2021

by Madaline Dunn

When it comes to the world of credit cards, there are lots of benefits. A credit card helps boost your credit rating, offers you protection and freebies, and gives you some financial wriggle room.

That said, it can be hard to know where to start, and often people have lots of burning questions that need answering. It’s also important to stay informed about charges and fees.

At The Salary Calculator, we’ll make sure that you’re up-to-date with all the latest credit card deals out there in 2021. Keep reading to find out more.

Reasons you could benefit from a credit card

To some, credit cards can seem intimidating, and many believe it only leads to debt, but they can be helpful in some circumstances. Credit cards can help you with your finances and assist you with building a good credit report. If your credit is in the red, and you’re looking to make a big investment like a house or car, a credit card can push it into the green.

Some credit cards also enable free borrowing and purchase protection, as well as offering reward deals so that you can earn free money too.

That said, it’s important to be aware that you shouldn’t rely on credit cards to borrow money, especially if you don’t have the funds for repayments. Plus, when the interest-free period ends, you can be faced with some pretty significant charges. Credit cards also have varying levels of APR, which refers to the rate at which you’ll be charged for borrowing. So, make sure you don’t get caught out by the small print!

Santander All in One Credit Card

Arguably, the biggest plus of this credit card offer is that cardholders can benefit from 26 months interest-free on balance transfers. Other benefits include a 0.5% cashback on all purchases and no foreign transaction fees.

However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and the card does have a £3 monthly charge, which works out to £36 a year. Another disadvantage of this card is that you will also be charged transaction fees if you withdraw money – interest applies here too. Moreover, it has an APR of 23.7%.

To be eligible for this card, you must have an income of at least £7,500 a year and be 18 or over.

Aqua Advance Credit Card

This card is excellent for people who are looking to build credit and requires no credit rating. It has an initial APR of 34.9%, but customers who stick with this card will be rewarded through staggered APR reduction. After 12 months, if you keep up with payments and stay within your limit, your rate could be reduced by 5% each year. This means that the APR can go as low as 19.9%.

This card also offers access to the Aqua Credit Checker, allowing you to view your credit rating and its improvement.

Other benefits include credit limits of between £250-£1,200 and no extra charges for purchasing abroad.

To be eligible for this card, you must fulfil a specific criterion. Applicants must be over 18 with a permanent address. Additionally, you must have a current UK bank or building society account and must not have been registered as bankrupt in the last 18 months. Equally, you cannot have any ongoing bankruptcy proceedings against you.

Finally, eligibility also depends on not receiving a County Court Judgement (CCJ) in the past 12 months. You also cannot already have an Aqua card or have an Aqua, marbles, opus, Fluid card taken out in the last 12 months.

American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card 

This is a great card for those looking to get a little more bang for their buck with no annual fee. It offers a 5% cashback on all purchases up to £100 for the first three months. This does, however, decrease over time.

That said, it’s important to note that you need to spend £3000 or more to access cashback offers, and unfortunately, it’s not available for those with a bad credit history. It has an APR of 22.2%,

To be a successful applicant for this card, you must be aged 18 or over and have a clean slate regarding debt. Applicants must also have a permanent UK address and a current UK bank or building society account.

M&S Shopping Plus Credit Card

For those looking for a credit card to spread the cost of large purchases, this is the perfect one for you. With no annual fee, it also boasts a 20-month interest-free period of new purchases. That’s right, no interest at all for 20 months! Accompanying this, the card also offers cardholders an 18-month interest-free period for balance transfers. That said, this only applies within the first 90 days. Also, remember if you opt for this card, you must pay off your balance before the interest-free period ends.

As with everything, there are pros and cons to this card, and the reward points you earn through this card are only available in the form of M&S vouchers. So, this isn’t necessarily a great deal for everyone. It also has an APR of 21.9%.

Eligibility for this card requires that applicants are over the age of 18 and UK residents.

Barclaycard Rewards Credit Card

This is a great travel card for those who want to earn as they spend abroad. With a 0% foreign transaction fee and no annual fee, this is a pretty attractive deal. This card also offers 0.25% cashback on all spending and savings on live events with Barclaycard Entertainment.

However, compared with other credit cards, a 0.25% cashback rate isn’t the best deal and it does not offer a balance transfer option. It also has a 22.9% APR variable.

Applicants must be aged 21 or over, have a personal income of £20,000 or above, and have had a permanent UK address for at least two years. Those looking to get in on this deal must also have at least four years of managing credit, make payments on time and be able to afford repayments.

Lastly, applicants must not have had Individual Voluntary Agreements, CCJs, and must not have declared bankruptcy in the last six years.

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Monday, July 5th, 2021 Economy, Savings No Comments

Furlough extension

by Admin

In September I added the then-newly-announced Job Support Scheme to the calculator, and last month I updated it with the revised employer and government contribution levels – however, just before it was due to start on 1st November, the chancellor announced that the already-running furlough scheme would be extended, first until December and then until the end of March. This is in place of the proposed Job Support Scheme.

It is not yet clear whether the Job Support Scheme will return at the end of March, or if furlough will be extended further, or if some other scheme will be in place. With Covid-19, the future is even harder than usual to predict. For now, I will leave the Job Support Scheme details on the calculator, so you can see what the effects of it might be if it were to be reintroduced. You can of course continue to use the calculator as before to work out the impact of furlough. If it becomes clear that the Job Support Scheme will not be returning, or if it is too confusing for people, I will remove it from the site.

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What the SEISS extension means for you

by Admin

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In the early stages of lockdown, the government announced support for sole traders in the form of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, or SEISS.

Just a month after its announcement, 2 million claims were made, totalling £6.1 billion in government support. And now, with a second grant opening in August 2020, a number of sole traders are set to benefit from further financial assistance.

We’ve asked Mike Parkes from GoSimpleTax to explain the terms and help you claim.

How does SEISS work?

The scheme is available to all self-employed individuals that have been adversely affected by COVID-19. This is provided that they:

  • Earn the majority of their income through self-employment
  • Have average annual trading profits of less than £50,000
  • Have filed a tax return for the 2018/19 tax year
  • Have traded during the 2019/20 tax year and intend to continue trading in 2020/21

To determine whether or not you were affected by COVID-19, any of the following must apply:

  • Government orders have meant that your trade or industry had to close or be restricted in such a way that your trade closed – or is otherwise adversely affected
  • You cannot organise your work, or your workplace, to allow staff to work safely
  • Your staff or customers are no longer able to purchase from you due to restrictions
  • Social distancing has meant that you are not able to safely serve customers
  • You’ve had contracts cancelled as a result of COVID-19
  • You have either had to care for others since lockdown or have been self-isolating

The first grant ended on 13th July 2020, and claimants could receive either £7,500 or 80% of their average monthly profits over the 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 tax years (whichever is the lower amount). Applications for the second grant will open on 17th August 2020, but you must have confirmed by 14th July 2020 that you have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

Why is there a phase two?

While the government set a three-month cap on the support, it has since been agreed that  COVID-19 is still impacting the earnings of some sole traders. As a result, it is necessary for them to receive another grant in order to stay afloat.

It will also help to support those who may not have initially been affected by lockdown (and so did not claim the first grant) but have subsequently suffered a loss of business.

What’s the difference? 

The differences between phase one and two are limited, although the second grant will be worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits. It’ll still be paid out in a single instalment that covers three months’ worth of profits, but will be capped at £6,750 total – almost £1,000 less than the phase one grant.

Additionally, you can only claim the second grant if your business was adversely affected on or after 14th July.

Can I continue working and still claim? 

Yes, you can continue to work as long as you intend to continue trading in 2020/21 in the self-employed role you’re claiming for. You can even take up other employment if necessary, provided that the SEISS payments still cover the majority of your income. HMRC will not penalise you for topping up your income with a little additional earnings to sustain your household.

Phase two will have a deadline of 19th October 2020. You can find out more about it on the GOV.UK site. If you are still losing out on income or opportunities to earn, we massively recommend you claim the second grant. This is unprecedented levels of government support and could make the difference between staying afloat or falling behind.

About GoSimpleTax

Right now, you can’t afford to be careless with your Self Assessment tax return. And with GoSimpleTax’s free trial, you don’t need to be. Their cloud-based software enables you to take stock of your earnings in real time, meaning you can get a complete overview of your tax obligations for the year. Once you’re certain all your affairs are in order, upgrade your account for just £46 and file your tax return with complete confidence.

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Wednesday, August 5th, 2020 Economy, Jobs No Comments

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