Soap stars' financial fiascos
Life throws up lots of events that trigger the need for reliable financial advice. And in Walford and Wetherfield it seems they happen more often than anywhere else.
The lives of the residents are exhausting: no sooner does a marriage end in a bitter divorce, but a train crashes into the local shop or a pub goes up in smoke.
Aside from a colossal need for the emergency services, it seems there's a desperate need for solid financial advice among the nation's favourite soaplands.
In Walford, in particular, demand for inheritance tax planning must be through the roof. A quick look at the fictional area's official population statistics - as listed by Wikipedia - reveal there have been 20 murders, 16 traffic fatalities and around 30 other premature deaths since 1985.
And with soaring house price growth in the capital, Dan Clayden, who runs Devon-based IFA firm Clayden Associates, says Walford residents have even more reason to think about their future finances - seeing as the average London house price has now exceeded the £325,000 nil- rate band threshold for inheritance tax.
He says: "While the Land Registry's house price index shows that the average property price in the UK is currently just over £164,650, the average house price in London is just over £389,000, so perhaps some of the property-owning residents of Albert Square such as Phil Mitchell, Janine Butcher or Ian Beale might be looking for some inheritance tax planning advice, too."
Even the younger members of the various soaplands who have yet to get on the ladder could do with a bit of advice. Andrew Morgan, an IFA at NOW Financial Solutions in South Manchester, believes Corrie bad boy David Platt and his wife Kylie are a couple in need of urgent financial help.
The plot thickens
At the time of writing, Kylie lives with David's mum, Gail, with her two children, Max and Lily. She's chucked David out for nearly killing his brother, Nick. Up until now, David has been working in his gran's hairdressing salon while Kylie is a stay-at-home mum. The family are no strangers to high drama - having survived an attempted murder.
Morgan imagines how his first meeting with them might go: "I'd be facing an uphill challenge in attempting to have this couple take grown-up financial responsibility. First on my agenda would be wills. Have they arranged these? Who would they like to look after the children if they both died would be my next question. 'Definitely not Nick', I can imagine David retorting.
"Eventually, we'd probably agree to have a local solicitor arrange wills with guardians included. I'd then recommend they consider insurance, namely life cover, which would pay a monthly income to each other if one of them passed away.
"I can just see David looking disturbingly pleased to hear how much we could insure Kylie for. Keep away from the top of those stairs, Kylie - David has form."
The next meeting of the day would be just over the road to see Peter Barlow, a former gambler and betting shop owner, who's engaged to factory boss, Carla.
"Peter in some ways would be the ultimate in nightmare clients. Peter has a personal pension but now wants me to invest in ultra high-risk funds. Sometimes you have to save clients from themselves and this is one of those moments. After a heated discussion, Peter now appreciates that we're not into gambling client money and agrees to invest in the appropriate risk-rated portfolio."
Back to Walford, and Jaskarn Pawar, a financial planner at Northampton-based Investor Profile, says his ideal soap clients would be the Square's Alfie and Roxy – landlords of the infamous Queen Vic – at least they were at the time of writing!
"I think they could really benefit from some goal-setting and saving. I would picture them aiming to live out their days in Spain, owning a café serving full English breakfasts, watching the sun set every evening, happy in the knowledge that they met an adviser who encouraged them to save towards their goals."
Interestingly, he also thinks Phil Mitchell would make a decent client. "He seems to always take the advice of his solicitor when he needs to – after a bit of shouting, of course. Plus, he always seems to have a bit put aside in his living room safe, which suggests he understands the principle of saving.
He always makes the best of his assets, understanding that they generate income for him, which he then uses to further his financial position.
"Actually, Phil is starting to sound like a little student of cash management. However, the big problem would be the anti-money laundering rules. He probably wouldn't get very far in the planning process once I asked him for some evidence, like source of wealth."
Pawar would also love to have Walford's B&B landlady Kim Fox as a client. "I would probably call her financial plan ‘that investment fing, init'. She has a nice business that seems to do well, so we could certainly help her tuck some of that money away for a rainy day, which in EastEnders is surely just around the corner."
However, not all advisers envisage rich pickings from soap residents. Dan Clayden explains: "The vast majority of the characters in the soaps seem to have either an extremely unstable income, work cash-in-hand or make their money from the proceeds of crime. The amount of time they spend in the Rovers Return or Queen Vic also means it's unlikely they'd have much disposable income left for paying fees. So my advice to other advisers would be to steer well clear and concentrate on the characters of Casualty or Holby instead!"
The tax levied on the total value of your estate after you die. IHT has to be paid by the beneficiaries of your estate before they can receive any of the money from it. The money can’t be taken from the value of the estate _– it has to be paid before any money can be released. There is an IHT threshold – known as the “nil-rate band” – below which no tax is levied (£325,000 in 2011/12). Any amount above the nil-rate band is subject to tax at 40%. If your estate totals £600,000, there is no tax on the first £325,000; however your estate will pay 40% tax on the remaining £275,000, a total of £110,000. Prudent tax planning can reduce your IHT liability, so always consult a specialist solicitor.
A financial adviser who is not tied to any financial services company (such as a bank or insurance company) and is authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). They can advise on financial products to suit your circumstances. All IFAs have to give consumers the choice of paying by fees or commission and have to explain which would best suit the customer in that particular instance. Also, if commission is paid either by the client or the financial service provider recommended by the IFA, the IFA must disclose what that commission is.