Bucket List

Two weeks ago I returned from my Route 66 adventure!

It was everything I expected and more.

It’s also opened up the conversation at Magenta about bucket lists and fulfilling your life. We are keen to advocate work life balance and living the life you love!

This trip was something I’ve always wanted to do. So, this year, without any study on the horizon and Magenta now set up and running well, it seemed like the right time!

Since I’ve been back everyone has asked me what was my favourite thing. It’s taken me a while to reflect on it all and I can’t possibly narrow this down to 1 thing, so here are my top 5!

  1. Chicago – the city is amazing and I only scratched the surface. I love all city trips… the art, culture, food and hustle and bustle and this was no exception!
  2. Springfield – Illinois. This is a lovely town with great character – the home place of Abraham Lincoln. We had a lovely boutique hotel, fabulous Italian food and a crazy taxi man.
  3. Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wow! The old town is beautiful and such a different feel! New Mexico was ruled by the Spanish for a time, then Mexico & now falls under the USA. So it’s architecture and style is Spanish / Mexican and I loved all the little shops and it was so lovely and warm!
  4. Grand Canyon – as you imagine it will be, but vaster, quieter, calmer and more beautiful.
  5. Spending two weeks with my parents. Even though we fell out over directions, moody when we were tired and snappy when hungry. The laughs at taking selfies, picnics in the car, having our fortunes from the crazy machine, drinking cocktails in Vegas and talking about our memories and beloved family. How amazing to share this trip with them. Its cheesy – but true.

You can read more about Magenta’s bucket lists on our Blog at http://www.magentafp.com

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Get your kicks on Route 66!


Next week, I will be starting the trip of a lifetime. Travelling over 2000 miles on the historic Route 66, my parents and I will cover off 8 US states and go through 4 different times zones – eek!

We start in Chicago and end in Las Vegas, both cities I have wanted to visit for a long time. In between, we make overnight stops in the 8 states we travel through and have so many things to see I don’t know even where we will start.

The thing I am most looking forward to is being in Chicago and seeing ‘Cloud Gate’ the sculpture by Anish Kapoor, the Ozark Mountains in Missouri, driving our convertible on the second leg and, of course, the Grand Canyon and Arizona. There’s plenty more in-between!

The USA has seen some extreme weather this week, Tornados in Texas and severe flooding in Missouri, but I am hoping it will have all calmed down for our trip. The forecast looks good, so I’ve packed the shorts! But if anyone has any insider knowledge of issues on my route, do let me know!

At Magenta, we often talk about having a bucket list and looking to pursue those dreams in your lifetime, after all we only get one shot at it…… Well, this was one on my list, so I can’t wait to start.

I’ve brought a new camera and selfie stick to document our adventure and I hope to get some new cowboy boots along the way!

First up in Chicago…. some American pancakes for breakfast I think….

More soon…

I am sorry this is the first blog in over 4 months. Work and life is busy, but I will try and update my blog when I get back and share some of the experience.

 

Get some Hygge in your life!

My latest read has been “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking. He is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. What a great job!

Anyway, I’ve always thought that Hygge or ‘Hooga’ was just about having less clutter and stuff – which any of you who know me and have been to my house will agree – is not really me!

Us Betts ladies love nic-nacs, books, ceramics, plants, Christmas decorations, art and photos. We can’t help ourselves! So, when I started the book I wanted this concept of Hygge, to be more than about that.

I’ve not been disappointed! The book has some great ideas about Hygge being about an atmosphere and experience, and just being with the people we love.

“A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.”
(Page 6  – The Little book of Hygge)

I wanted to focus this blog on some chapters at the latter end of the book, that really got me thinking – about the dimensions of Hygge.

Whilst Hygge can be an intangible and abstract concept, this is the idea that we can also use all our senses to detect Hygge – our Happiness. Wiking introduces the idea that Hygge has a taste, a sound, a smell and a texture and that we should be able to see Hygge all around us and that this should make us happy.

So, I have thought about the things that give me a happy experience, feel at home, safe, loved ….. My Hyggelig things….

The taste of Hygge – “Is almost always familiar, sweet and comforting”

My Hygge food is a Croissant. They are warm, flakey, delicious. I like them with jam or lemoncurd. But also, my Granny used to love them and now I have them when I’m with family.

The sound of Hygge – “many sounds can be Hyggelige… Any sounds of a safe environment”

My Hygge sound in country music. I just love it. It calms me and I can’t help but sing along. Life seems better with a little Dolly.

The smell of Hygge – “something that provokes strong feelings of security and comfort”

My Hygge smell is incense. It reminds me of the German ‘smoking’ man mum and dad have, who comes out at Christmas and burns incense cones. It reminds me of family time at Christmas and lazy days together doing jigsaws and eating too much.

What does Hygge feel like? – “the rustic, organic surface of something imperfect or something that has or will be affected by age”

My ‘thing’ that I think feels Hygge is drinking from a hand made mug. Not mass produced, crafted by someone’s hands and fingers. Tea tastes better. I feel better. They make a living.

Seeing Hygge – “Hygge is very much about light. Too bright is not Hyggeligt. But Hygge is also very much about taking you time”

This one I think is the hardest. In my life everything happens quite fast and I’m usually multitasking. However, a few weeks ago I was at mum and dad’s and I woke up and looked out my old bedroom window. The sunrise was beautiful and then I saw a fox!…. Quietly running across the back field. I watched him until he disappeared into the undergrowth and watched the sun come up too. That was quite Hygge.

Finally, the sixth sense of Hygge:

Hygge is about feeling safe. Hence Hygge is an indicator that you trust the ones you are with and where you are. Hygge can be tasted, heard, smelled, touched and seen. But, most importantly, Hygge is felt.”

So, thankfully, to have some Hygge in my life I don’t have to throw out half my stuff!

I think Hygge is about being comfortable…with yourself, with your surroundings and with others.

Reminiscing, sharing, entertaining, having good relationships with family, friends, pets, spending time by yourself, lighting candles, dimming the lights, reading, laughing…. Eating croissants! They are all ways to increase your Hygge!

So let’s have more Hygge this Christmas everyone! Focus on the things that matter, make you happy and comfortable.

Xx

p.s. I won’t get to blog again until the New Year, so Merry Christmas one and all.

Happy Vibes

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This weekend was meant to be a quiet one… but it didn’t turn out like that, although I did have a lie in on Saturday and Basil gave me lots of head butts and nose bops!

Even though it turned busy – it was full of lovely stuff.  I saw friends who I don’t see that often and tried to catch up on everything – but that’s near impossible! I saw my godchildren for giggles and Basil and I had visitors on Sunday, some who he was more comfortable with than others (children move a bit quick for his liking).

Jackson also turned one this weekend – where has that time gone? I didn’t see him, but Grandma and Grandad Betts visited him and I sent a video of me singing happy birthday. He had lots of gifts, visitors and fun.

So, I sat on the sofa last night, reflecting on my weekend and just how proud I am of all my friends and family.

Many of my friends are going through tough times. You don’t realise how hard it is until you see them for a short time and even then, only hear snippets of their concerns and the things they are dealing with.

Money problems, elderly family issues, disagreements with parents or partners, health problems, new jobs, courses and juggling the children. To be honest it all is pretty exhausting and any one of them I would have excused if they wanted to wear their pj’s all day and not bother to meet up. I think together we could probably write a soap opera!

Yet each one of them this weekend still made an effort to find the time to talk, visit, share, support and be positive and smile!

One of my friends text me after we met, saying she had meant to say how much she has enjoyed this blog and my positive outlook! That made me proud – so thank you for saying it!

But to be honest, its easy when you have lots of wonderful, inspiring, strong friends, colleagues and family around you. Each of you inspire me in different ways and I am super happy and proud to have you all in my life. I am so lucky!

Here’s a few special messages:

Happy birthday Jackson! And to mummy Geraldine, I am so so proud of everything you have done this year and you really have risen to the challenge.

Well done Becca for passing your driving test – love the new wheels! If I was a cat I would have *proud ears* right now!

Ruth – hearing you speak about the new job with excitement, despite the week you had and everything that was thrown at you, was wonderful and inspiring!

Cerian – juggling two young children, work, snails with 100’s of babies, money, and family stress – you are doing so so well!! Stay positive!

And everyone else – thank you for being happy, loving and supportive.

This year I am not making resolutions….

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Christmas this year is making me happy and yet melancholy at the same time. I miss family who are no longer with us and I have been thinking a lot about those I know who are having a tough time. I have friends & family who are grieving from losing loved ones and some for who just things are not going too great, at home, work, you name it.

Then there are some really good things to look forward to in 2016, like new babies coming, weddings to attend and my new office, which is almost ready!

2015 has been a busy and exciting year for me. Here some of the highlights I can think of (in no particular order!):

  1. I fulfilled one of last year’s resolutions and learnt to crochet.
  2. We remodelled my front garden so that I have not had to cut any grass this year!
  3. I had a brilliant reunion with old friends at Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, where we reminisced and giggled, as well as discussing how our lives have changed over the past 10 years.
  4. I left one job and joined another, with exciting and new opportunities and experiences, working with a team who are genuine and hardworking.
  5. I was shortlisted for the Certified Financial Planner professional of the year award.
  6. Basil has lived with me for over a year and is now a lovely, funny, sweet natured cat.
  7. Jackson was born and I became a ‘real’ Auntie for the first time. I am so proud of Geraldine and the wonderful mum she has become.
  8. My brother, Oliver, proposed to his girlfriend and there will be a fabulous Anglo-Sikh wedding in 2016. I get to have two outfits.
  9. My family have spent another year being healthy and happy and long may it continue.

So, as 2016 approaches we will no doubt all spend some time looking back to the past, but more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes.

Last year I decided not to give myself unrealistic resolutions and set only a couple. They were, to enjoy work and stress less and to learn to crochet. I gave up on the exercise more, eat better – as that’s just a given and something we know we should all do anyway.

I have managed to achieve both of these resolutions, although the ‘less stress’ takes work each day, as it’s easy to let things get too much.

I have read that most people fail to achieve the resolutions they set at New Year. Either they forget, get distracted, or give up. Year after year people set the same resolutions but don’t quite get there. Is that because we make these things too huge and unachievable?

I have been thinking that instead we should look at it like setting a goal at any other time of the year and maybe we shouldn’t make such a big deal out of it.

Goals / aims / ambitions are important in life. They help us to function every day. Be it setting goals and planning for your finances, or for a specific event like a wedding or party, get the note pad out and start your plan. It will make you happier!

Here are some important reasons for setting goals.

  1. It’s how we get things done – we set ourselves tasks/goals every single day. To eat, get dressed, get to work.
  2. They can make us feel good – we get satisfaction and happiness by aiming for a target / goal.
  3. It’s how our brain works. Most other creatures work on instinct, humans take action based on planning.
  4. Goals mean clarity – they provide vision and direction so that we don’t waste resources (time, money or energy).
  5. Goals can measure progress and give us purpose.
  6. Goals keep us connected to others. Common goals / interests are the foundation block of families, friends and colleagues.

So, what will 2016 bring for you?

For me it shows signs of being a great year. I am happy at work and home and we will be able to work at the new office. I’m Bridesmaid for my friend Becca and Oliver’s Sikh-Anglo wedding will be wonderful.

So this year I have decided I am not setting resolutions, but rather things I want to do more or less of. Here is my list so far:

goals

Finally, my New Year wish is that Basil will sit on my lap.

Best wishes for Christmas and 2016 and have fun!

 

 

Keeping it in the family – pensions technical post

pension reform

As a planner, I’ve always liked pensions. However, it’s true… they are confusing and are not helped by the Government changing the rules all the time!

The latest pension changes – known in the industry as ‘pension reform’ – that came into place from April 2015 – means that everyone should be using them more and trying, at least a little, to understand them better.

This is because, thanks to the changes, pensions can now be passed down from generation to generation and this should be very attractive to lots of people.

So… I’m going to try to explain in simply terms how pensions can be used to pass wealth, tax efficiently, to the future generations – and keep more wealth in the family, rather than HMRC’s hands.

Tax and pensions

Before the new rules there were already good reasons for using pensions:

Tax relief on way in + tax-free growth =

greater pension pot and better lifestyle in retirement

These still remain positive planning reasons for using pensions but now, pensions are even better!

 Passing down wealth

  • The new rules will allow holders of flexible pensions (but not members of Defined Benefit plans) to nominate an individual to inherit their remaining pension fund.
  • This can be anyone at any age and is no longer restricted to ‘dependents’.
  • This means adult children (who may have long since left home and have families of their own) can now benefit and don’t have to wait until their own pension years to access the money.
  • Beneficiaries can continue to have the advantages of tax-free investment returns and, potentially for some beneficiaries, tax-free withdrawals.

On and on…

  • The ability to pass on and on pension wealth does not stop with one generation.
  • The first nominated beneficiary can nominate their own successor who will take over the fund following their death.
  • This will allow accumulated pension wealth to cascade down the generations, whilst continuing to enjoy the tax freedoms that the pension wrapper will provide.

TECHNICAL BIT: The Age 75 rule and income tax

  •  If the original member dies after age 75, any withdrawals will be taxed at the beneficiary’s marginal rate of Income Tax.
  • If death occurs before age 75, the nominated beneficiary has a pot of money they can access at any time completely tax-free.
  • In either case, the funds are outside the beneficiary’s estate for Inheritance Tax while they remain within the pension and will continue to enjoy tax-free growth.

Tax rate determined by age at last death

Each time a pension fund is inherited, the tax rate will be reset by the age at death of the last beneficiary / owner.

For example:

Mary, a widow, dies age 82 and had nominated her son Oliver to receive her pension. As Mary died after age 75, Oliver is taxable at his marginal rate on any income withdrawals. This could mean he pays 45% income tax (highest rate).

Sadly, Oliver dies age 65. He leaves the remaining fund to his daughter Simone. Simone can take withdrawals from her successor’s pension account tax-free as Oliver died before 75.

Review review review

The death benefit rules changes mean that for those looking to pass on any remaining pension funds on death to their family a review of the current plan is required.

This means revisiting existing death benefit nominations to ensure they continue to do what you want. Under the new rules, the scheme administrator cannot pay out a nominee’s pension drawdown if there’s an existing dependent (or an existing nomination in place that says something different).

Don’t forget that a nomination doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It’s possible to nominate a number of different beneficiaries and to perhaps skip a generation with some of the fund.

It’s also important to check that the current pension provider can allow what you want to do. Just because the legislation allows, doesn’t mean everyone will be able to in the contract they hold.

For the purposes of this blog and to keep it simple I have just referred to a ‘pension’. However, it should be noted that this ‘pension’ will need to be a Flexi Access Drawdown Pension. In addition, all of this type of planning relies on the existing pension arrangement being able to offer the nominees’ and successors’ drawdown accounts.

You will need financial advice to establish the correct pension contract / vehicle to use and some existing providers may be unable to provide this as an option.

Make sure you seek advice and #planitwell – call me on 07974 329864 for more information.