I am 79, a little forgetful and going through a painful divorce. This has shattered my confidence and I need help.

17 July 2019

Question by Richard

I am getting long in the tooth at 79, a little forgetful and I am going through a painful divorce. This has shattered my confidence and I need help. The end result is that, folowing pension sharing (as yet not finalised), I am likely to have a much reduced pension (around £16k net). We had to sell and divide the house and I am sitting on c.£210,000. Whilst I was getting pensions pre-divorce of over £27,500 net, the reduction to c.£16,000 is going to be very hard to adjust to, though I appreciate there are folks getting less. At present I am living with a new partner who has a house and is happy to see me as a permanent feature. A friend with a successful finance track record has strongly suggested that I put the £210,000 into ETF fund ISF-L (which basically tracks the FTSE 100), use my ISA allowance and draw down on it over an estimated lifetime of 15-20 years, using the calculator at http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/retirement-withdrawal-calculator.html. My alternative idea was to buy a holiday let cottage in the West Country, but my friend points out that this can be quite hard work, expensive in maintenance, management and booking fees and just as volatile for capital value as the stock market. Do you have an opinion, please? I am finding it very difficult to make a decision. The stock market seems dangerously high at the end of 2017.

Answered by Holly Mackay

I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a horrible time and I really hope things work out well with your new partner and you get over the trauma of the divorce. Let me try and help as best as I can in this forum.

I do suggest that you try and find a local financial adviser to talk to. You need to make the money you have work well for you – you should be able to find someone for a ‘sense check’ discussion for a few hours which will probably cost you about £200 an hour, but be a good investment. You can also try the Government’s free help service The Pensions Advisory Service. They will be very good on the pensions facts but they can’t give you individual advice on where to invest. Worth a call though to ask all those technical pensions questions to?

With the £210,000 you need to work out what your timeframes are and what you want the money to do. The benefits of an ISA is that you can stick £20,000 into it this tax year and the gains are largely tax free. And the money is accessible.

The fund your friend suggested is what we call a ‘tracker’ fund from the world’s largest fund manager. It mirrors the FTSE 100 as you say. This can be a very good foundation but it doesn’t spread your risk around enough. You’re totally exposed to the rather uncertain UK future! So you should have money invested elsewhere too or all your eggs are in one basket.

If I were you I would have a look at Vanguard. They make funds like the one your friend suggested. But they will also do all the blending of various regions for you. So you don’t have to worry. Search for their LifeStrategy range and have a look at their website. It’s cheap and they will manage the money on your behalf, removing lots of decisions which you don’t sound like you want to make right now. You just have to pick how much ‘spice’ you want. No spice means very little upside. Lots of investment risk will boost returns but it will be a bumpy old ride. The LifeStrategy 60% is the most popular fund – have a read about that.

Now this doesn’t address your need for income. You can also invest in some funds called Equity Income funds which aim to pay you out a regular income, which could boost your pension. Look at the UK Income funds on Hargreaves Lansdown’s Wealth 150 list. As one example, the Artemis Income fund is always popular and has paid out about 3.7% of income a year. So you could split your money into 2 and have a longer-term pot with Vanguard which you just leave alone and a shorter-term income pot with Hargreaves?

Holiday lets are (in my experience) time-consuming and not that lucrative unless you are prepared to put a lot of time into it. And taps leak. And things fall down. And it’s tricky! You sound like you need an easier time in 2018 so I’d be careful with this option.

Finally yes I think the stock market is very high. But we just don’t know what the future holds. It will come off its highs at some point I have no doubt. But I don’t know when. With the 15-20 years timeframes you mention, you can ride out the ups and downs. It maybe leave yourself enough in cash to mean you wont need to sell down any investments for a few years if things do stumble. Leave a cash buffer which will tide you over when the markets are having an ugly year. The best easy access account is paying about 1.3% today. NS and I have an income bond paying 1% and they’re as safe as it gets.

Good luck. I hope this helps. I can’t give you specific personalised advice as I don’t know enough about your circumstances. I do recommend you look for an adviser even if it’s for a sense-check meeting. I hope 2018 brings you better luck.

Answered by

Holly Mackay

Founder and CEO of Boring Money

I’ve worked in investment markets for over 20 years. I started out at Merrill Lynch Investment Management and worked at a few big names before setting up my first business in 2008.