The Financial News You Need To Know With Sarah Pennells – September 7 2016

The plastic fiver is coming!

From Tuesday you’ll be able to pay with plastic and cash at the same time(!), as the Bank of England releases the new plastic £5 note. It’s the first time the bank has produced a plastic banknote, although other countries have had plastic notes for some time.

So, what’s the new banknote like and how long can you spend your existing notes for? Here’s my guide to five things you need to know about the new fiver.

  1. The new fiver is made of polymer, which is a kind of thin plastic. The notes feel similar to paper and are flexible, just like ordinary, paper notes.
  2. The new £5 has an image of Winston Churchill on the back. It’s also got lots more security features to make it harder to forge.
  3. Polymer £5 notes are washable (although it’s not recommended!) and will last much longer as they’re almost impossible to tear.
  4. Scottish banks will be issuing plastic £5 notes between September and November (there are three commercial banks in Scotland that can issue notes, rather than one bank as is the case in England and Wales).
  5. You’ll be able to use your old (English) fivers until May 2017. After that, if you find any paper £5 notes you’ll have to take or post them back to the Bank of England. Existing Scottish notes can continue to be used for as long as you have them.

DID YOU KNOW? If you damage a Bank of England banknote or put it through the wash, you have to fill in a special form and send off the damaged note to get repaid. The bank will normally pay you as long as it receives at least half the damaged note. You won’t get a new note, but will be paid directly into your bank account.

Lifetime ISAs from next April

You might think we have enough ISAs (the very idea!) but the government is going to launch a new one next April. The Lifetime ISA is due to be introduced on April 6th and it’s kind of a hybrid between the Help to Buy ISA and a pension. Here’s how it will work:

  1. You’ll be able to take out a Lifetime ISA if you’re aged between 18 and 40 and you can pay into it up until your 50th
  2. You can pay in up to £4,000 a year and get a government bonus on this of up to £1,000. So, The maximum you’ll be able to pay in over its lifetime would be £128,000, with the government contributing a maximum of £32,000.
  3. The government is considering whether to let you pay in more than £4,000 a year, although you wouldn’t get a bonus on these payments.
  4. As with ordinary ISAs, the money you take out of your Lifetime ISA will be tax free.
  5. You can take money out of your Lifetime ISA after the first 12 months. If you don’t use it to buy a home, you’ll have to leave your money where it is until your 60th then you can withdraw the rest (or leave it where it is, if you prefer).
  6. Money you pay into your Lifetime ISA is part of your overall ISA limit (which is currently £15,240) not on top of it.

Students and graduates being targeted by online scams

One in three victims of job scams are either university students or have graduated within the last year. That’s according to a survey of 10,000 people. The job site that carried out the research found that almost half of those who’d been targeted (46.7%) had lost money, with some students and graduates losing over £2,500.

Their tips for avoiding the scammers include:

  1. Not replying to personal email addresses (e.g. hotmail or gmail ones).
  2. Being sceptical if you’re offered an unrealistic salary.
  3. Not accepting a job offer without an interview – it’s just not what most employers do!

Gender pay gap? No! Gender pricing gap

New research shows women pay almost a third more for supermarket own brand ‘gendered’ toiletries than men do.

Some toiletries are unisex but the Fawcett Society, which carried out the research, compared the prices of toiletries that were aimed at women (often with white or pink packaging) compared to those aimed at men (with, you’ve guessed it, typically black or blue packaging).

It found women could be charged between 22% and 56% more for a basket of toiletries. I covered this issue in my Share Radio Women and Money programme on Saturday and was told about designer socks where women pay more than double the price that men do (even though women generally have smaller feet than men so …um…less fabric). Hmm.

The Fawcett Society is calling for supermarkets to stop dual pricing on products aimed at women and men..but until then, my tip is to use the cheaper option when you can.

£500 from your pension – tax free – for advice

The government wants to let people take up to £500 from their pension tax free, before they’re 55, and use it to pay for advice about their pension. Under the current rules you can’t generally take money out of your pension before you’re 55, except if you’re very ill.

Under the government’s plans, your pension company would be able to pay the money directly from your pension to your adviser and the government is considering whether you should be able to do this more than once.  The pensions advice allowance is due to come in from next April.