Don't panic on finances – advice

Don't panic on finances – advice

THE PUBLIC are being advised no to panic over their investments and pensions as the knock-on effects of the coronavirus pandemic affect stock markets across the globe.

The spread of coronavirus is causing many big financial worries for people, on top of health concerns.

For consumers who are concerned about their immediate financial situation, getting help early could be key, so it’s important to talk to your provider sooner rather than later. Free-to-use debt help charities may also be able to help. You may find there’s more help out there than you realised.

Many banks and building societies have announced the extra help that they will offer to customers with coronavirus.

Several lenders have said this could include mortgage payment holidays for homeowners, or people with other types of debt for certain periods of time, while they get back on their feet.

Some savings providers will also allow people to break out of fixed-term savings accounts without facing penalties, if customers affected by coronavirus are urgently in need of cash.

Meanwhile, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has a set up a phone helpline to support businesses and self-employed people concerned about not being able to pay their tax due to coronavirus – 0800 0159 559.

Nathan Long, a senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says savers should think about the longer term.

“It’s important to look past short-term fluctuations when saving for long-term targets like retirement, even though fresh news could see more variation in your pension value,” says Long.

“Holding your nerve is the biggest challenge facing those with at least 10 years to retirement. It can be painful seeing your pension fall in value, but it could actually be a good time to make a lump sum top up and buy into the market at lower prices.

“Of course, the value of your pension may still fall lower in the short term, but it should be worthwhile when retirement comes around.”

Long does say those who are closer to retirement may find themselves more vulnerable to stock market falls.

“The first step is to be brave and check how your pension is faring,” says Long. “Many pension plans actually start de-risking your investments as you approach the retirement age you’ve set, which could mean your pension has fallen less than you’ve feared.”

Meanwhile, Citizens Advice is warning people to beware of scammers preying on those affected – so be cautious if you’re contacted by someone offering to act for you to recover your money.

Former pensions minister Ros Altmann called for emergency measures to help stabilise pension schemes and avoid losses to scammers.

She said all pension transfers should be put on hold for a suggested period of six months.

Baroness Altmann said “wild market movements” as coronavirus spreads make it hard to understand what underlying investments are worth – and could lead to current valuations potentially being unreliable.

Consumers are being advised not to cancel direct debits for services such as gym membership and pay TV during the coronavirus lockdown period.

Experts from personal finance website have urged the public to speak to their service providers and negotiate a discount rather than trying to cancel services.

Many customers are feeling the pinch financially and thousands are expected to give their finances an overhaul during the coming weeks and cancel any direct debits they feel they no longer need.

But experts from The Money Pig said that rather than just cancel direct debits with their banks customers should speak directly with their suppliers to see if they are prepared to offer discounts during this difficult period.

They said that speaking to providers was also essential to ensure they don’t fall foul of any penalties or early cancellation charges which may be incurred by cancelling the direct debit.

A spokesman for the Money Pig said services such as gyms and pay per view sports channels were particularly under pressure with so many sports events currently postponed.