New year, same old story
Over the last six years, I have oft lamented that we live in ‘interesting times’, and this doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.
The chaos of last September’s mini-budget and yet another change of leadership at Downing Street, the ongoing war in Ukraine, supposed spy balloons being shot down by the US Air Force, and the rise of AI chatbots all mean it’s been another ‘interesting’ period.
In terms of GoddardFry delivering the high quality, efficient service we aim for, it’s been ‘interesting’ here too, with providers continuing to deliver poor service and challenges in recruiting, training, and retaining skilled staff.
That being said, we start 2023 in a much stronger position than in 2022, and we continue to work hard, develop our business, and continue to provide for our clients, their families, and their interests.
A rising tide lifts all bears
Global financial markets have been recovering over the past six months after experiencing one of the worst bear markets in recent history.
A bear market is characterised by a prolonged period of declining prices, typically defined as a 20% drop in the value of a market index such as the S&P 500 or FTSE 100.
The bear market of 2020 was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, then compounded by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. These two events resulted in a decline of over 30% in the value of the S&P 500 from its peak in February 2020 to its bottom in March 2022.
However, since then, the markets have rebounded, driven by unprecedented monetary policy, a swath of fiscal stimulus from Western governments, and progress in vaccine development and distribution.
As of February 2023, the S&P 500 has recovered to a level higher than pre-pandemic levels, up over 50% from its lows in March 2020, but not all markets have followed suit.
While the markets have made a strong recovery, it is essential to note that this process is not always linear and that there may be bumps along the way. It is also important to remember that bear markets are a normal part of the market cycle and typically last between one and three years.
So, yes, global financial markets have recovered over the past six months, but there is still a long way to go to reach the highs of pre-pandemic levels. While bear markets can be difficult, it is important to remember that they are a normal part of the market cycle. A recovery will take place, and we just can’t say when with a great deal of certainty.
For some, this is a prime time to invest before a real rebound occurs. For others, a time to be cautious and see how this plays out. You can probably guess where I stand on this.
Making a racket about protection
No one likes to think about the worst happening but burying your head in the sand is not a great strategy.
Life and critical illness cover is a crucial aspect of financial planning, providing peace of mind and security for you, your family, your business, and your employees. This type of insurance protects you against unexpected events, such as serious illnesses, life-changing conditions, or loss of life, that could impact your financial stability.
As peace of mind can be bought for less than the cost of a mobile phone contract, it’s a worthwhile consideration.
For individuals, life insurance helps ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of financially if you were to pass away. Critical illness insurance provides a lump sum payment if you are diagnosed with a covered critical illness, such as cancer, heart attack or stroke, to help you pay for medical expenses, lifestyle changes, and other costs associated with a serious illness.
Having adequate life and critical illness cover is essential for protecting against financial hardships, such as loss of income, medical bills, and other unexpected expenses. With this type of coverage, you can have peace of mind knowing that you, your family, and your business are protected.
For businesses, life and critical illness insurance for employees can help attract and retain top talent by providing financial security for their families. It also helps protect the business against losing key personnel, which could impact productivity and stability.
On that subject, life insurance also plays a vital role in shareholder protection for small and medium-sized businesses. Shareholders in these types of businesses often invest their life savings and put their financial future on the line. In the event of a shareholder’s death or critical illness, the remaining shareholders may be forced to buy out the deceased or ill shareholder’s shares. This can put a significant financial burden on the remaining shareholders and could even lead to the collapse of the business.
Life and critical illness insurance helps to ensure business continuity by providing a way for the deceased or ill shareholder’s shares to be sold without putting a financial strain on the remaining shareholders. This helps to maintain the business’s stability and protects the shareholders’ families by ensuring that they receive fair value for their shares.
Let’s give you a quick example;
Jack and Jill run Tumbling After Limited, a successful children’s activity business. But if Jack or Jill were to pass away, Gretel and Hansel, Jack and Jill’s respective partners, might not want to or even be equipped to run a business. It’s a far more likely scenario that both Jack and Jill, as shareholders, would have cover in place that would allow the survivor(s) to buy out their late business partners family and take over.
If this article has raised any questions or concerns, please get in touch, and our team will be there to discuss your situation, any existing plans, your objectives and help deliver a solution.
Not all rate on the Western Front
The dramatic increase in interest rates since December 2021 has been a massive shock for borrowers who have spent a decade with ultra-low rates and incredible stability.
According to the ONS;
“More than 1.4 million households in the UK are facing the prospect of interest rate rises when they renew their fixed-rate mortgages in 2023.
The majority of fixed-rate mortgages in the UK (57%) coming up for renewal in 2023 were fixed at interest rates below 2%. Those deals due to mature through 2024 will be from two-year fixed rate deals made in 2022 and five-year fixed rate deals made in 2019, when mortgage rates were generally higher than 2%.”
These recent changes, including the September 2022 mini-budget and interest rate increases, have made it even more challenging for individuals to find the right mortgage solution. In light of these developments, it has become increasingly important to seek the guidance of an independent mortgage adviser.
⮚ Expert Advice: Independent mortgage advisers have a deep understanding of the mortgage market and the latest changes and trends. They can help you navigate mortgage options, interest rates, and related terms and steer you towards the best solution for your specific needs.
⮚ Wide Range of Options: Independent mortgage advisers have access to a wide range of mortgage products from different lenders, including those that may not be available through traditional channels. This gives you a more comprehensive range of options to choose from and allows you to find the best solution for your needs.
⮚ Tailored Recommendations: Independent mortgage advisers understand that everyone’s financial situation is unique. They take the time to understand your specific circumstances, goals, and financial position and make recommendations tailored to your needs.
⮚ Time-Saving: The mortgage application process can be time-consuming, especially in a rapidly changing market. An independent mortgage adviser can handle the entire process for you, from researching options to submitting applications and negotiating with lenders, saving you time and stress.
⮚ Cost-Effective: Independent mortgage advisers are paid a fee for their services, which is usually a percentage of the mortgage amount. However, this fee is often outweighed by the savings you can make on the mortgage interest rate.
In recent years, interest rates have increased significantly after a decade of standing still.
The Bank of England base rate increased from 0.75% in August 2019 to 4.0% in February 2023. This too, has impacted mortgage interest rates, affecting the cost of borrowing and the affordability of homes.
We now have rates under 4% for a five-year fixed rate for the first time since September. Knowing where to look and what is available to which clients is even more of an art than it was before.
So working with an independent mortgage adviser in today’s market can be an intelligent decision. They can provide expert advice, access to a broader range of options, tailored recommendations, and save you time and money in the process.
⮚ Update! We are now able to assist our clients with their home insurance needs! When was the last time you reviewed your cover?
Rise of the Machines
If you haven’t heard about the AI chatbot revolution, and ChatGPT in particular, then you must have been busy, as it’s been making headlines for months now.
Why should you care? Google’s bungled demo of its own AI tool ‘Bard’ knocked $100 billion dollars off its share value. If that doesn’t demonstrate the scale of excitement around this tech trend and how much conviction investors have in its importance, then I don’t know what will!
In case you aren’t one of the 100 million plus users that have been playing with ChatGPT since its launch in November, when I asked the chatbot the following – “Write a short article on the rise of AI and how this could revolutionise our work and our lives. Mention some of the ChatGPT alternatives” – here’s what ChatGPT came up with:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has come a long way since its inception and has already made a significant impact on our lives. From virtual assistants to chatbots, AI is transforming the way we interact with technology. The rise of AI has the potential to revolutionise our work and personal lives in unprecedented ways.
One of the most significant benefits of AI is that it can automate repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time for humans to focus on more creative and strategic work. In industries such as finance, healthcare, and customer service, AI algorithms can process vast amounts of data and make decisions at a speed that would be impossible for a human. This can lead to increased efficiency and accuracy in these industries.
Another area where AI is making an impact is in the development of new technologies such as self-driving cars, drones, and smart homes. These technologies are set to change the way we live and work, making our lives easier and more convenient.
One of the most popular AI-powered tools is OpenAI’s language model, ChatGPT. This tool uses advanced natural language processing to understand and respond to human language, making it an excellent option for businesses looking to automate customer service or for individuals looking for a virtual assistant.
Other AI language models include GPT-3 from OpenAI, BERT from Google, and XLNet from Carnegie Mellon University. These models are used in various applications, from language translation to sentiment analysis and recommendation systems.
In conclusion, the rise of AI has the potential to revolutionise our lives in many ways. Whether it’s automating tasks, making our lives more convenient, or providing us with virtual assistants, AI has the potential to transform our world and make our lives easier and more efficient.
This isn’t perfect. First of all, it uses American English spelling and grammar. Secondly, it failed to mention many of the best-known alternatives to ChatGPT, like WriteSonic, Chinchilla, and Bloom – even if it did mention some competitors, as instructed.
However, the fact that a digital tool can produce a largely accurate copy on a subject in seconds is exciting. Outside of finance, I have a keen interest in emerging technology – especially if it can save me time and money.
GoddardFry has been experimenting with this technology to see how it can assist us in delivering more information in less time, and hopefully, the benefits will be manifested in the material you receive from us in the future.
But don’t think that you’ll soon be seeing automated responses to every email, every query, and every request, and the end of the personal human touch. That day might come, but we’re certainly not there yet!
Despite a rocky time for the UK, as we look to be the only country in the G7 group of major economies that might be in or entering a recession, there is a lot to be optimistic about.
We might not have life-changing robot butlers, but technology continues to augment what we can do and continues to make our lives easier. Markets seem to be recovering and reacting positively to the fact that the hit to the global economy from the war in Ukraine is less than feared.
And we may have reached a stronger and more stable period in British politics. We can live in hope.
As a general reminder, if you do want to speak to us, then please get in touch on one of the below;