Child Savings and Investment Plans – it’s never too early to start saving or investing!

In an uncertain economic climate more and more parents are taking steps to ensure their children are given extra financial protection. As your children grow, your family will face expenses both expected and unexpected, from school and university fees to medical bills. Creating a savings or investment plan ahead of time could mean you’ll be able to see you and your children through these eventualities with a minimum of stress.

What do I need from my savings or investment plan?

Before you choose a savings or investment plan for your children, you should consider what your goals are. If you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to select the plan which works best for your family.  A savings or investment plan for your children can be used for a range of options, including:

  • School fee planning – If you’re planning to opt for private education for your children, typical fees are around £3,500 a term. Depending on what kind of private education your child receives, you’ll need to prepare for the financial burden. Unexpected costs, such as sports, field trips and uniforms can add to the cost.

  • University costs planning – University tuition is becoming more expensive every year – from September universities will be able to charge up to £9,000 a year in fees. On top of academic fees, your child may face the additional cost of living and maintenance – especially if they choose to move away from home. Investing before your child goes to university may prove to be a huge help when the costs eventually hit.

  • Reducing inheritance tax – If you want to reduce the sting of an inheritance tax on your estate and give your child or grandchild the best possible start, investing in a savings or investment plan, such as a junior ISA, may be right for you as the money will be passed on to your beneficiaries free from tax. Tax-free means free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and tax law may change in future. Both cash and stocks and shares JISAs are available. Please remember that with stock market investments, your investment can fall as well as rise and you might not get back as much as you have paid in.

What are my options?

When it comes to finding the plan that’s going to work best for you and your children, make sure you’re aware of your options. Some of these are listed below but you should take time to research further options that are available to suit your needs. The internet is a good source of free information. You can also contact a financial adviser, although there may be a charge for providing such advice and they should confirm any cost beforehand.

  • Junior ISAs – If you have a long time to go before school or university begins, a JISA may appeal to you. The ‘JISA’ is for children under the age of 18. There are limits on how much you can deposit in a JISA – £3,600 each tax year. You can make regular monthly deposits or lump sum payments into the plan. The lump sum your child will receive when they turn 18 will be tax-free. Tax-free means free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and tax law may change in future. Both cash and stocks and shares JISAs are available. Please remember that with stock market investments, your investment can fall as well as rise and you might not get back as much as you have paid in.

  • National Savings Bonds – The Children’s Bonus Bond, offered by National Savings & Investments, is backed by the government and provides a way of saving securely for your child. The bonds offer a fixed rate of tax-free interest for five years and even deliver a bonus at the end if you hold onto them for the full term. Tax-free means the fund your plan invests in grows free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and tax law may change in future.  They can be cashed in early, but no interest is earned if cashed in within first year. Since the interest and payment are guaranteed, this may be a good option if you have a precise idea of what you’re saving for.

  • Tax Exempt Savings Plans: you’re able to invest up to £25 per month in tax exempt savings plans for children. Tax-free means free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Be aware – tax treatment is based on individual circumstances and the levels of taxation may change in the future. If the child accesses the plan before a certain time, usually 10 years, tax payments may be due. As with all stock market investments they might not get back as much as you have paid in.

Being aware of every approach to saving or investing for your child’s future is the first and best step to ensuring they have the head start you want for them.

Author: Jill Mackay, Scottish Friendly

Scottish Friendly has provided no advice in relation to these plans. If you are in any doubt as to whether a plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial advisor for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting www.unbiased.co.uk Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.

Handy monitor to move around with you

We are at the stage now where the girls will often go off to their bedroom on their own or are happy to play in the garden for a short period without me having to be there and this is marvellous for me as it means I needn’t drop what I’m doing to have to go with them. However there is always that thought at the back of my mind, will they fight? hurt themselves? Are they up to mischief? In danger? and before I know it I have stopped what I’m doing and gone to have a look just for peace of mind!

Kidcam is the perfect solution, it’s like an advanced baby monitor! Storage Options have launched a new range of easy to use ‘Baby Cam’ monitors that can be used in the car, the home and even the garden.

They sent us a KidCam to review and we’re really impressed!

There are two small cameras to set up and both can be seen on the same monitor at the same time. Each camera has a suction pad so can be moved from room to room without leaving marks on the walls or furniture and there are also a couple of wall brackets for placing in a permanent position too. Take a look at this –

KidCam is a two-camera system designed for older, more adventurous children, and is ideal for keeping an eye on several of the ‘little ones’ at once. Equipped with two wireless cameras and a split-screen 4.3” companion screen, KidCam allows mums and dads to see and hear their children from any room in the house and even the garden, providing constant reassurance at a range of up to 100 metres, even at night time.

I love the versatility of this product, it’s rechargeable and can be taken on holidays or when staying away from home. It does mean I can get on with my ironing whilst they play in the garden which I don’t have a direct view of so this product will allow them to have a little more ‘freedom’ and me to be able to get on with the tiresome chores of housework freeing up time to spend with my girls later maybe to make some more biscuits? The Kidcam retails at £159.99 and I can see us using this for a long time to come, money worth investing when it’s your child’s safety at hand!

They also have a couple of other products which are  really interesting and helpful with baby sitting and child minding

using suction to 'stick' on the wardrobe

BabyCam Car is a specialist baby back seat monitoring system, developed to help parents avoid the potentially-dangerous need to turn around and check on their children whilst driving – a habit, which according to research,  puts them at a much higher risk of having a car accident. Working much like a Sat Nav, parents simply attach a compact wireless camera to the side rear window to get a clear view of their baby and to transmit a high-quality video picture to a display attached to their windscreen. The system is extremely easy to use and comes equipped with a host of useful features including night vision, a built in rechargeable battery with four hour life, as well as versatile window suction mounts.

BabyCam Nursery is designed for the home, and is equipped with wireless camera and a large 7”, full-colour companion screen allowing mums and dads to see, hear and even talk to their baby from any room across the home, giving them constant reassurance that the baby is safe and well. Either portable or wall-mounted, the monitor is extremely easy to use and set up, and is equipped with a soothing night light function.

Check out Storage Options for more information on their products.

Riverview Infant SchoolIt’s weird that the girls were only 3 in the summer and yet we’re already looking into the start of their school career. Next September they will go into Reception class and we have until January 14th to choose our first, second and third choices.

I went on a visit to my first choice school last Thursday and was very impressed, 10 laptops per class, an interactive white board in every class which I saw in action and actually wanted to have a go at myself. There were outside areas for each class, an ‘eco garden’ and a lovely feel to the school that made me wish (for a fleeting second) that I was back there again.

The deputy head took us around and I was far too lively asking far too many questions but were they the right ones? What should I be looking for in the school that will give my girls their first step in the education system? I don’t know about you but I feel this is a huge responsibility and I’d like to think I’m getting it right first time round, I like every other parent out there would like to think I’m giving them the best possible start in life and with the postcode lottery I’m all fingers crossed that we get two places at the above school which is walking distance from our home.

Luckily on my Butlins day out in London the other week one of the other Mum Ambassador is also an Early Education Expert – who better to put my thoughts too? Her name is Rachel and she blogs over at Right From The Start Have a look at her helpful tips she kindly pulled together for me below

Looking for a school

  1. League tables will only give an indication of academic performance and don’t give a true picture of the school , similarly don’t take an Ofsted inspection as the only deciding factor – always visit the school and get a feel for whether it is right for your child.
  2. Remember all children are different what is a ‘good school’ for one may not be for another.  Think about factors such as is there enough outdoor space if your child is active, is the class size very large if you have a timid child etc.
  3. Talk to other parents .
  4. Make a list of the most important elements of a school for your child, we all have different criteria and try to pick the one that has the closest match.
  5. Look at a wide range of schools, many schools in affluent areas are good but some are only good because they serve more affluent families.  Some of the best teachers choose to teach in inner city challenging schools as they want to make a difference and love the challenge.  Don’t rule them out because they are traditionally seen as ‘less good’ you may be surprised at the rich and exciting learning experiences they offer.

Good Questions to Ask on your visit

  • What have you done in recent years to improve  the school ?  Look for detailed descriptions rather than talking about aesthetics or meeting targets.  A good school will be open and say that they are continually reviewing what they do for the benefit of the children.  We have found that ….. so we…….and the results have been …….
  • How do you decide what you will teach the children?   Do the school follow topics and if so do they stay the same each year or do the children’s interests help to decide?  Is learning the same for each child or does it take into account strengths, preferences , learning styles etc.
  • How do you encourage children to be well behaved?  What are the values of the school regarding behaviour, is it important that they sit still and listen well, is politeness and kindness to others  rewarded, are children encouraged to take responsibility etc.
  • How will my child be stretched if they are bright or supported if they are struggling?
  • How will I know how my child is doing?   Expect more than a few parent’s evenings – does it feel as if the school values your input?
  • How long have the staff been here?  In my experience a school  with a high turnover of staff usually means that the staff are dissatisfied with the way in which it is run (this is not always the case as you may have predominantly female staff of childbearing age  who are on maternity).  On the other foot sometimes a large number of staff that have been there for 20+ years  can mean that teaching is a little old fashioned and lacking in new inspirational ideas. Again this is a generalisation as I have worked with some inspirational experienced teachers who have taught in the same school for most of their career – if you meet one their passion for teaching will be immediately evident.

I have four children and I have been pregnant seven times, my first pregnancies were back in the late 80’s and there was no internet in homes back then my only font of knowledge was from a book, a Dr Miriam Stoppard book. That was my bible throughout both gestations. I was excited and wanted to know more. In fact, one book wasn’t enough for me and by the time I lived back in the UK and was expecting twins in 2oo8 I had four books and a number of websites at hand with forums where I could go and talk to other women in the same position, who would ‘understand’ what I was feeling and be able to reply accordingly.

From the moment you discover you’re pregnant you step into a world of The Unknown, everything that is about to happen to you will be new and although many women go through a similar experience no two pregnancies are ever the same. Even mothers with handfuls of pregnancies behind them say each pregnancy was different to the last.

It can be quite daunting and this very fact can actually add a notion of fear of what lies ahead. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about!

With the majority of us being on various social media networks today we have a lot of information at our fingertips and as we all know the internet can be a frightening place in the search for information; you can come across some very scary sites and that slight tummy twinge you felt earlier all of a sudden gets blown totally out of proportion leading to panic.

That’s why sites like Pregnancy.co.uk are so helpful. Home grown and complete, from trying to conceive through to labour and beyond this site welcomes you in and puts your mind at ease from the word go. An ovulation calendar for those who want to find the most significant moment to go for it and a week by week account of every change in the baby, pregnancy symptoms, feelings, emotions and facts.

There are forums to join where you can meet people and swap notes. I still have friends I made in my forums many moons ago and maybe we’re not chatting as much as we were back then but we’re still in touch with Facebook comments which is so lovely.

If you’ve stumbled upon my blog via a Twin Pregnancy search then you may be pleased to know I’m getting my twin pregnancy diary together with information as I lived it and turning it into a downloadable E-book but in the meantime here’s my twin c-section birth story and here are my twin pregnancy books I read last time round and if you’re looking for a forum to join to put your mind at ease whilst being pregnant then hop over to pregnancy.co.uk

preschool ELCTomorrow I shall be setting an alarm *raised eyebrows* I haven’t done that since my London commuting days four years ago having had the luxury of saying bye to loved one as he gets out of bed to start his day and rolling back over for another five minutes, half an hour or a very rare hour sometimes before my little ladies call out to me but tomorrow it’s our first day at preschool. Monday morning 9 am and the session finishes at 12pm.

I’m nervous, I hardly slept last night with worrying about how to introduce them as nonchantly as possible without them breaking down and causing mayhem on day 1. You see, it’s just been me and the girls for so long now that in their first three years if they haven’t been with me they’ve been with daddy. This was a needs must situation having no babysitters or family help and it’s worked fine for us, we have no complaints BUT I have noticed over the past year that whenever we walk into an unfamiliar room with them they panic, turn to me already crying and worried saying ‘No, mummy, let’s go back home.’ They get over it after a while, a bit of cuddling and talking to whoever I’m with and slowly they start to feel more at ease and will eventually run off and play quite happily. Alice, to be fair, is probably the worse of the two and Bessie on seeing her sister must think ‘Crying? I’m up for some of that!’ and joins in too. We do make a very noisy arrival these days :)

Many people, my sister in law who is a preschool teacher especially, have advised me to be firm and to walk away assuring me that in a question of minutes the child will have settled down but how do I do that with both clinging to my legs and Alice trembling like a leaf? It makes me feel harsh on her to be honest. Will I be crying too as I walk away? Wrenched away from my screaming babies? Will I be encouraged to leave, to stay? I have no idea.

This is one of those moments when I wish we’d had that extra cash to be able to afford a couple of mornings preschool to get them used to the idea but we didn’t so here I am with my dilemma that I put before you.

I compare back to the early days of Tommy and Megan but it was very different, they grew up in a busy, bustling hotel and were used to strangers talking to them from the word go. Tommy took to asilo very quickly and Megan didn’t even give me the pleasure of looking back for me on her first day so excited was she to get started!

So here I will muddle through my Sunday today with this big thought draining me all day. Four weeks ago I did a vlog called 28 sleeps to preschool, I was looking forward to some treasured Me Time at long last, I am still looking forward to having that time but I don’t want to dump and run. I’d like my girls to settle in and get the best they possibly can from this one year only of fun time. Next year they’ll be in reception. I’d like them to realise they can be happy if I’m not there for a few hours and they can do so many more things there than I allow at home (still cannot face the painting sessions at home!)

If you are a family member or a friend of mine and I haven’t returned your message, call or email, I will be getting round to it, I’ve just been so tied up this week and getting myself in knots that time has slipped by, bear with me and I’ll be back soon, if you have some helpful advice, please let me know, in the meantime I’m off to get clothes ironed and bags packed ready for the morrow….my babies are growing up and I’ve got to be ready.