Monday, 31 December 2018

Should I Invest in an ISA?

ISA’s or in full, Individual Savings Accounts have been for many years an essential tool for saving tax-free both in cash and stocks and shares. Many banks and building societies offered better rates for ISA’s to attract the longer term saver and keep them as customers.

However, times change and since the banking crisis, we all know that interest rates fell to incredibly low levels or even in some cases zero interest on our savings.

There have been other changes too that now affect our decisions, not least that every basic rate taxpayer can receive up to £1,000 in interest tax-free each year. The majority of savers here in the UK can perhaps only dream of getting anything in excess of that amount in a year from their savings. ISA’s have varied over the years as to how much you can save each year, but it now stands at 2018/19 tax year at £20,000.

Higher rate taxpayers don’t have this allowance so the way they will choose their savings accounts will be different.

There are also special ISA’s that have a lower investment limit, such as Lifetime ISA’s which is currently £4,000 and Help to Buy ISA’s at £3,400. These ISA’s though do have something added which is a 25% top up from the Government to encourage you to save. The rules don’t allow you to contribute to other cash ISA’s in the same tax year if you take one of these out bit of course if this is going to help you but your first home that 25% bonus is worth considering.

Standard cash ISA’s

If you are not likely to pay any tax on your savings or saving for your first home, the best account for you is one that is going to pay the most interest whether that is an ISA or not. For higher rate taxpayers you will need to calculate the interest you would receive from comparable accounts and take the tax into account as to which would be the best for you.

Stocks and Shares ISA's

For stocks and shares ISA’s it is not possible to compare returns for the future but you might wish to carefully look at how well the funds have been performing, comparing like with like. For example, if you are looking at low/medium risk UK fund don’t compare past returns against a higher risk Asia fund.

ISA’s today do have a place, however, it has to be said that it might be quite likely that by regularly opening new accounts and getting introductory offers, other savings accounts can be better whether you are a standard or higher rate taxpayer. It pays to shop around, do your research and basic maths.

Friday, 21 December 2018

Visit Hillbrush

Visit Hillbrush, Visitor Centre, Museum and Restaurant Mere Wiltshire

I am always looking for interesting places to visit and was pleased to discover Hillbrush, Mere in Wiltshire.

Hillbrush - Brush Manufacturers

Hillbrush is a brush manufacturer established in the lovely little town of Mere in 1922. They have recently built a new factory and visitor centre, which includes a restaurant, quality gift shop, artisan coffee bar and museum. There is also a south facing terrace where on a day with good weather you can eat outside and dogs are welcome in this area. Admission is free and there is free parking and free charging for electric cars.

Perhaps we all take brushes for granted but they are a vital part of everyday life and every home must contain dozens of different types of brushes for many different purposes. Stop and think for a moment as to how many you might have! The visitor area and museum will show you some of the types of brushes we use and how they are made today and in the past.

It's encouraging to see that a manufacturing business in the UK is doing well and has not been relocated to China or some other distant part of the world. The company founded by Fred and Bill Coward in 1922 has grown over the years and although originally they specialised in the production of dairy and agricultural brushes soon moved into making sweeping brushes. Many of the streets in the UK were then being swept clean by brushes made by Hillbrush in Mere. Today, Hillbrush manufacture many specialist brushes for the food production and catering industry.

Hillbrush Brush Factory and Visitor Centre Mere Wiltshire

With the building of the new factory, I think that it was a really good idea to open the restaurant and visitor centre. The food in the restaurant is locally sourced and is of excellent quality. The restaurant has a 5 Star Food Hygiene rating which you might have guessed if you visited without seeing that fact in print. The staff are very well trained, enthusiastic and a pleasure to be served by.

Visit Hillbrush restaurant mere wiltshireI really enjoyed eating here and the food is well presented and good value. There are options for vegetarians, gluten-free and a kids menu. What did I eat? For me it was the Somerset Beef Burger in a Brioche Bun with French Fries and Coleslaw, followed by Warm Chocolate Brownie and Ice Cream. It was excellent! Here is a link to the restaurant page on the website so you can take a look at what Visit Hillbrush is offering customers to whet your appetite.

I hope that you will take a trip to Visit Hillbrush when you are in the area, it's not far from the A303 passing through Wiltshire so makes an ideal resting point if you take the Mere turn off. Hillbrush is also close to The National Trust's Stourhead House & Gardens which is a beautiful place to visit. For more information here is a link to a post that I have written. Click here.

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