Demystifying Pensions

Carl Hobbins, Financial Adviser

The majority of people spend their whole working life allowing their employer to deduct income from their pay packet and in turn pay this money into a ‘default’ pension scheme, along with some employer contributions. The minimum employer contribution under current employment law is 3% of pensionable earnings, along with a minimum 5% from you, as the employee. This is fantastic, as at least 3% of your pension contributions aren’t even made by you. Some employers pay more into employees’ pension schemes and some even offer ‘matching contributions’ whereby the more the employee pays into their pension scheme, the more the employer will too.


People spend whole careers with the peace of mind that they have a ‘pension’. As a qualified Financial Adviser, I often ask friends, family members and clients alike, what type of pension do you have? Where are your pension monies invested? Who manages the pension fund? What’s your risk appetite when choosing your pension investments? Typically, and understandably, there are some blank faces to these questions with the usual response being “I’ve got several pensions. One from my employment with X company, then I moved to Y company and now I think I have a current pension with Z company”.


I also meet equally as many self-employed clients, many of whom have that typical entrepreneurial spirit that led them down the self-employed path in the first place. “I’ll just buy a buy-to-let property later down the line and use that income for my retirement”. “I’ll sell my business in the future”. “I can’t afford the contributions right now, so I’ll do it when I’m earning more”. These are the same types of clients I see later in life when often, none of this panned out. If those regular pension contributions had started many years earlier, they would have gone a long way by now.


A pension is a tax efficient wrapper. Think of a pension wrapper as a ‘vehicle’ to store your retirement savings in. But what sits under the bonnet of that vehicle is the underlying investment (the engine of the vehicle) that your cash is exchanged for each month/year. The underlying investment is pivotal in your retirement savings journey. It is very easy to obtain a pension, but it gets trickier when deciding where and how to invest the money within it. Have you ever received professional advice as to where your pension monies are invested and if it’s the most suitable strategy for your personal financial plan? Do you even have a financial plan?


When advising clients, I like to think of myself as a life planner. How can I effectively advise a client before understanding what’s important to them and their family and what their end goals are? I can then recommend a personalised financial plan for them, having established their attitude to financial risk, their capacity and need to take risk and the time horizon for their investment. Once we have a bespoke financial plan, we can then finally move onto the actual financial solutions that are most suitable for them. We need to understand your very individual circumstances and aspirations to be able to advise you properly.


I meet many clients later in their working life who approach me to ask, how much is enough in order for me to retire? How long will my money last? Will my money run out? Can I afford to retire early? I take the same view of pension planning as with anything else in life; always start with the end in mind. Getting solid financial advice earlier in your life puts you in the driving seat for the journey ahead, gives you peace of mind along the way and results in eventual financial independence.


Contact me today on 0121 323 2070 to discuss your financial future.

Welcoming Ashley Reeves to Four Oaks FS!

Ashley Reeves Financial Adviser

We are delighted to announce that Ashley Reeves has joined our team of advisers at Four Oaks Financial Services.  After deciding to study for his Level 4 Diploma and passing in 2019, he is now taking the plunge into his first advisory role.

Before joining us, Ashley spent the last 10 years working as a sales manager. He feels that his background in customer services, along with his BA (Hons) in Banking and Finance and his recent studies will stand him in good stead for his new adventure.

Ashley offers advice on savings and investments, pensions, mortgages, and protection. His experience from friends, family and colleagues in the past has led him to believe that, generally, people don’t have enough knowledge about their own financial situation and what possibilities exist for them. He would like to use his expertise to help his clients get the best from their circumstances.

Ashley says “Joining Four Oaks was really a no-brainer. After a speculative phone call to see if they were looking to take on any new advisors, the process of going through compliance and training ready to get started has been a pleasure. The whole team at Four Oaks have been incredibly helpful and supportive. I can’t wait to get out there, meeting clients and making their money work harder for them”.

Away from financial services, Ashley enjoys walking his miniature schnauzer with his girlfriend and, also the odd round of golf. His search for a hole in one continues……

Welcome to the team, Ashley!

Essentially Mortgages and Essentially Wealth Magazines December 2021

Check out our latest quarterly magazines with lots of tips on getting the best deals tailor made for you!

Essentially Mortgages Nov 21 looks at how lockdown may have worked in your favour and also explains some of the confusing jargon that can be used when deciding which mortgage is best for you!

Essentially Wealth Nov 21 has tips on self-care for the self employed and when to consider making an ‘early inheritance gift’ to loved ones.



Pension Planning at 40… – What have I learnt reaching this milestone?

Matt Rogers, Financial Adviser

When is the best time to start saving for your future?

As Financial Advisers, this is a question we will be asked by our clients. In short, it is never too late to invest in your future however, the younger you start the better.

Having recently turned 40, this is quite a poignant subject for me personally. It doesn’t seem five minutes ago since my 30th birthday and in another ten years’ time, I will be at an age where I could potentially be looking at accessing my pension within the next five to ten years.

When I was a young adult in my first full time job, my father tried to instil in me the importance of paying into a workplace pension. At the time I thought ‘why the rush’? I have another forty plus years before I need to think about retirement. However, this was one of the best lessons I learnt and has always stayed with me.

Worryingly, many individuals are most probably of the same mindset that I was in back in my early twenties as in fact one in five Britons say they have no form of private or workplace pension. – (according to a recent survey by comparison site – Source Financial Mail on Sunday 02/10/21


Being financially independent in later life makes life easier for both you and your family.

The ideal time to start paying into a pension is between the ages of 20 – 40 years old. Even small contributions into a pension can make a huge difference as any money that is put aside early has time to snowball into something much bigger.

If you pay the money into your pension yourself, or if it is taken by your employer from your pay packet, you automatically get 20% tax back from the government as an additional deposit into your pension pot.

If you are a higher-rate tax payer you can claim an additional 20%, while top-rate tax payers can claim an additional 25%.

If you are self-employed, you would need to set up your own private pension but you are still able to benefit from tax relief on contributions. However, only around 15% of the 5 million self employed people in the UK are currently saving into a private pension. (Source: Financial Mail on Sunday 2/10/21)

In addition to tax relief on pension contributions, the pension fund benefits from tax-free growth just like an ISA.

Don’t wait to start your pension – The cost of delaying!

If your present age is 30, with a retirement age of 65, by starting to pay now, you could receive a pension:

  • 31% higher than if you waited 5 years and made the same monthly payments
  • 76% higher than if you waited 10 years and made the same monthly payments
  • 21% higher than if you waited 5 years and made the same single payment
  • 47% higher than if you waited 10 years and made the same single payment

These figures are based on a Stakeholder Pension and assume a yearly investment growth rate of 5% with fund charges of 1% each year.

Tax rules can change. The value of an investment is not guaranteed and can go up as well as down depending on investment performance (and currency exchange rates where a fund invests overseas). You could get back less than you invested.

Source – Cost of Pension Delay Calculator – Scottish Widows

Many people in their 50’s think they have left it too late to invest into a pension when in fact, this is not the case. The fact that you can take money out of your pension from the age of 55 means that once you reach your 50’s and 60’s, you don’t need to lock your money away for decades to benefit from the tax advantages.

If you’ve reached your 60’s with no money set aside for your retirement, you’re not alone. Around 17% of those aged 55 and above admit to having no pension investments. (Source – Financial Mail on Sunday 02/10/21).

However, there are steps that you can take. Check that you have no pensions that you have forgotten about from former employers. It’s important that the performance and allocation of these investments are reviewed regularly as new funds may be available that offer greater growth potential.

Older pension policies potentially have higher fund charges and if your attitude to risk has changed, the funds may need to be moved to investments that better meet your needs and may benefit from lower fund charges.

Make sure that you are receiving the full state pension to which you are entitled. You may be able to top up your state pension by making voluntary contributions.

So, what can you do to start saving for your future now?

The easiest way and one which I still do now is by setting up a direct debit. By setting up a direct debit to go into a pension, you effectively ‘pay yourself first’ by looking after your future self before spending on other outgoings.

The one thing I would like you to take away from reading this is that it’s never too late to start saving for your future and it is part of my job as a Financial Adviser to help you plan and achieve your retirement goals and objectives.

It doesn’t matter if you have left building a nest egg until now, the important thing is to not put it off any longer.

Helping Vulnerable Clients

Karen Hagan, Financial Adviser

As a Financial Adviser I am sometimes asked to help clients who are in the later stages of their lives.

Often such clients can be considered vulnerable.  This means I have a responsibility to ensure extra care and support is offered so that people are given the right advice in a way that they understand, trust and value.

Vulnerability can take a number of different forms and practically anyone at any time can be in need of this extra care and support. It is really not just about age, though that is of course a potential factor.

Some other examples of vulnerability indicators are:

            • serious health issues,
            • divorce,
            • redundancy,
            • retirement,
            • bereavement,
            • or simply a lack of financial experience.

Working in an empathetic and considerate way with clients is something that ALL financial advisers should practise – not just me!  But often older, potentially vulnerable women choose to work with a female financial adviser, so perhaps I have more experience than some advisers in helping people with areas of vulnerability.

This is why I am studying a course on Vulnerable Clients with the Chartered Insurance Institute. The course is really helping me further in understanding the needs of people in vulnerable circumstances, and my duties and responsibilities towards them when I am giving them advice.

One example of the extra care I take is to offer for my vulnerable clients to be accompanied at meetings. They may have a power of attorney or a trusted family member, whom I would always encourage to attend.

Sometimes clients prefer to have shorter meetings to ensure each stage of the advice process is understood.  On the other hand, it’s particularly important that I give my vulnerable clients plenty of time and space to ask as many questions as they need.

If this strikes a chord with you, and you feel that I can be of service to you or to other members of your family, please do get in touch and I will be happy to have an exploratory discussion to see how I can help.


Plan for the worst…But still plan for the best!

Financial Adviser Sutton Coldfield
Andy Robinson, Financial Adviser

Clients often think of Four Oaks Financial Services Ltd when they want to make an investment, or plan for retirement and want pension advice, in general, planning for the good times in life and looking ahead in a positive manner.
However, it’s just as important to plan for the worst that life could throw at you, to minimise the impact that unwanted events have on your best made plans for a happy future. Without the right protection in place, you or your family could lose your home, and in the case of a business owner, control of your business too.

Protecting your family and business is my speciality. It’s a role I love to provide, which gives me enormous satisfaction knowing that you have peace of mind, in that you have done the best you can to protect those that you love and care for, and that a potentially devastating event will not be compounded by the financial ruin of your family.
Part of my service to you is to have the conversations with you that we’ve all been guilty of ignoring and putting off because we’re busy, and ‘it’ll never happen to me’. Clients tell me that I work in a very sensitive way, but still get to know what it is that’s really important to you, which enables me to recommend the right cover that’s in your best interests every time.

Your cover could be only 3-steps away:
1. Our journey starts with an initial complimentary review of your current situation, to find out more about you, and to see how I can best help you. Also, and most importantly, for you to decide if you’d like me to work for you. You have nothing to lose.
2. I will then research the options available to us, you will then receive a letter from me, recapping on your scenario and explaining the reasons and rationale for the cover we are recommending.
3. The final stage is to make the application with a short telephone appointment to cover any lifestyle and health questions with one of my expert colleagues.

Estate Preservation & Inheritance Tax planning:
‘Keeping it in the family’. Our service to you ensures your desired legacies and business interests are properly protected from the tax man, liquidators, and or people that fall outside the family bloodline such as children’s former and future partners.
In conjunction with our legal specialists, we offer a complimentary will review, they can advise upon your will and if required, arrange Power of Attorney, both for property and finance matters as well as health and welfare.
Will Writing and Powers of Attorney are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and do not form part of the Quilter proposition. They are offered in our own right and Quilter Financial Planning can accept no responsibility for this area of advice.

Business protection:
If you are a director or have partners in your business, allow me to ask you one question:
Q: What could happen if a director or partner dies, or is unable to work due to a serious illness?
A: The spouse of the deceased could inherit, and benefit from their business Income, Shareholding, Dividend payments, and voting rights of the deceased spouse.

Business protection provides 3 main benefits:
1. Maintaining Control of your business: = Shareholder protection & Business loan protection.
2. Protecting profitability: = Keyperson cover.
3. Looking after your staff: = Death in service benefits.

I can provide you with appropriate protection and arrange the associated agreements that provide peace of mind in the event of the above.
This is an arrangement that is fair to all parties, the surviving business owners, and the family of the deceased.
It leaves you to retain control of your business whilst the spouse of the deceased receives immediate payment of the pre agreed value of their interest of the business.

Working with Four Oaks Financial Ltd not only gives you a one stop shop to the best providers in the market place for protection, you also gain access to the expertise of my colleagues who specialise in investments, pensions and mortgages.
I offer a complimentary business protection review to all; you don’t even have to be a client of Four Oaks Financial Services Ltd to benefit. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain, or retain.

Martin’s Big Birthday!

We had another celebration at Four Oaks FS this week!

Our Director, Martin Ward, is celebrating a big birthday on Sunday 15th August.

With all the staff gathered in Reception, Martin was greeted by a rather tuneful rendition of Happy Birthday and presented with a cake, card and several presents by Olivia, one of our fantastic Admin Team, in recognition of all our affection for our great boss!

Happy Birthday Martin! Have a fabulous birthday from all your Four Oaks Family!

Afternoon Tea at Fairlawns Hotel

After a difficult 12 months and a year of virtual contact we were finally able to join together for a lovely afternoon full of laughter and socialising!
It was lovely to see all the Advisers and Staff together but may have been too much for baby Isaac Whittaker!

Thanks to our Director, Martin Ward, for a great afternoon!






Helen Wilson Joins Our Financial Adviser Team

We are delighted to announce that Helen Wilson has joined our Financial Adviser team. Helen is a fully qualified Financial Adviser and has been providing financial advice for 27 years. She began her career at Nationwide Building Society and then joined a smaller family financial adviser practice, and this is how we got to know each other.

Four Oaks Financial Services worked alongside Helen on some more complex pensions cases, until Helen was herself qualified to undertake this work. When a retirement caused the family practice to wind-down Helen called us and we were incredibly pleased to welcome her aboard.

Helen is qualified in all aspects of financial planning including Investment planning, mortgages and financial protection, pensions advice and retirement planning. She is also qualified to advise on Defined Benefits Pensions, which are complex pension cases.  Not all advisers are qualified to do this type of work.

For Helen, the best aspect of being a Financial Adviser is meeting clients and the long-term relationships that develop. She loves helping people to achieve their dreams and being an Adviser for 27 years means in some cases Helen advises multiple generations of the same family.

When she is not giving financial advice, Helen enjoys walking the family dogs, a Labrador and a Spaniel, the theatre, especially the ballet, and travelling.