‘Sharp rise in internet banking for the over 55s’

December 13, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Internet banking has proved phenomenally popular since its introduction. What have been most surprising, however, are the benefits to the over 55s. Indeed, it has been revealed that over 3.6 billion people over the age of 55 have started online banking since 2006.

Despite the conventional view that the elderly tend to be the one of the most technophobic groups, they are now becoming more confident about using the internet. In fact, recent studies have shown that this age group now makes up almost 30% of all net users. It is clear that internet banking is convenient for them, especially for those with limited mobility or more free time.

The results come from the The Association of Payment Clearing Services (Apacs), which has said that between the years 2001 and 2006, the number of people in this age group who used internet banking shot up dramatically by 350% – much more than the 175% total rise in adults using Internet banking. Though young people still generally dominate the internet banking scene, the majority of new internet bankers are the elderly due to the ease in which they can operate their accounts.

As Sarah Quinn from Apacs said: "As a group they have come to embrace the ease and efficiency that online banking offers." Similarly, Nick Staib, an e-marketing manager at HSBC, has said that elderly people originally only started using the internet to contact family and send email, but now they are growing more confident with the easy systems offered by internet banking services.

Apacs has also noted that the increase in internet banking has had adverse effects on telephone banking. Even though around 16 million people still use the phone to manage some of their banking, there has been a drop of about one million since online banking was introduced. It is easy to see why: internet banking is much more convenient, costs less and displays account information in a way that is practically impossible to get using a phone.

It must be noted, however, that online banking also carries a much higher risk of fraud. People who are new to it must make sure their accounts are secure, for example by never storing passwords on the computer and learning how to spot scam emails. It has been shown that, although older people are a lot more wary when using the internet and likely to read more information before carrying out any action, they are less technologically aware than younger users and are therefore at a higher risk.

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‘How to take care of your finances when moving abroad’

December 7, 2007 at 2:23 am

Moving abroad can be stressful enough without having to think about how you will manage or replace your bank account, so it is important to know a few things beforehand to make the financial move a little easier when the physical move happens.

If you plan to stay in your chosen country permanently or for quite some time, it is important to open a bank account in your new country. This will enable you to access your money easily without having to rely on internet banking. It will also be the most convenient way of receiving new wages or paying bills for which using any other system would be much more difficult.

Opening a new local account is also one of the best ways of guaranteeing you don’t lose any money due to a volatile exchange rate. For example, suppose you are moving to a European country, it is strongly urged that you transfer all your assets and savings into a euro-denominated account. Otherwise, any daily interest you acquire can be wiped out because of the exchange rate which flits about all the time. Even if you find that the bank account in your new country gives less interest, chances are it will still be more than what is left after you try and rely on funds from home.

Also, you can take advantage of a special currency exchange rate if you end up transferring regular amounts of money from British bank accounts (such as pensions), so make sure you look into them to cut down any excess transfer charges you may incur. For example, the popular foreign exchange specialist HIFX allows you to fix a singular exchange rate for up to 2 years in order to make the process easier and more controlled. They also claim to give better exchange rates than your usual bank.

For those who are only moving for a short period of time, it is strongly advised that you set up internet banking, as you will not be able to access a local branch quickly and you will need to keep track of your income and expenditure at all times.

Bank accounts aside, there are also other things to consider. For example, if you normally get a pension, you should look into how much of a difference moving abroad will make – usually there should be no problem as most people are eligible to claim their UK state pension if they move abroad to anywhere within the European Union.

A potentially bigger issue you may face is the tax regulations in your new country. Taxation of expats can be a complex issue. You will usually be required to carry on paying UK taxes as long as you are classified as a resident and this will be charged if you spend over 183 days in the country, or your visits average 91 days or more a year over 4 years. If you choose to become a non-resident to avoid tax issues, it is not so simple as you will then have to pay taxes in your new country.

It is important to make sure that you have extra money on hand for unanticipated costs, especially while you are still getting used to the new laws and services. Pay a visit to your financial advisor before leaving and explain what you are planning; they should be able to answer questions you may have and will know first hand what your financial situation is and will be able to advise you on what steps to take.

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