Archive for March, 2011

Is my money protected?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

I have just read a report explaining the rules about ISAs, which is generally well written and clear.  But under the heading ‘Is my money protected?‘ the article explains:
Yes, you’re protected under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). If you have a cash ISA with a provider that becomes insolvent, you will be able to claim compensation for the first £85,000. For investments, the limit is slightly lower at £50,000.

An earlier paragraph in the article had explained that the value of investments may go down, as well as up, but if a reader homes in on the heading ‘Is my money protected?‘ the risk element may escape their understanding and there is a danger they might believe that their investment in a stocks and shares ISA is protected from a fall in value, which it most certainly isn’t.

There is a tendency for people to believe what they want to hear.  Writing concise explanations for people with no prior knowledge is fraught with danger.  So, too, is reading concise explanations with no prior knowledge.

Small business records

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Accounting records for a small business can be very simple, but we see so many variations on the theme that conspire to complicate things.  A simple cash book is often all that is needed, supplemented by creditors and debtors at the accounting period end.  A properly reconciled cash book makes the world of difference to the time necessary to prepare the accounts, but it is a rare breed.  Having a cash book that is added-up is sometimes a novelty.  Further reconciliation with the figures produced for VAT purposes is yet another hazard.

We have devised a spreadsheet that attempts to overcome all the obstacles and to encourage full completion of the record, including the elusive analysis, and reconciliation with the bank account(s).  It also provides figures for the VAT  returns.  It is cashbook based and does not provide ledgers to control debtors and creditors.

We have clients who have taken to the system like ducks to water.  They encounter the odd reconciliation problem, which is resolved by a quick review and exchange of files, but generally it is time saving for them and certainly time saving for us at the year end.  At any intermediate time of the year the record and results can be reviewed with some confidence.

Check out the web site and see a demo version of the file.  There are no instructions.  The sheets are protected to prevent overwriting critical formulas and to allow input where input is required.  We are pleased to talk through the operation of the various pages if necessary.

Another ‘ism’ gone wrong

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

The ECJ’s decision that it is unlawful for insurance companies to discriminate between men and women is surely an example of  the hazards of good intentions.   There may be many circumstances where it is relevant not to discriminate, but it cannot apply universally.

If men are more likely, statistically, to be involved in an accident, why shouldn’t their insurance premiums be higher than a similar policy for a woman?  Insurance is surely a matter of statistics.  This decision is like forcing a bookmaker to give the same odds for a three legged donkey as for a thoroughbred stallion.  (Not that I’m comparing women with donkeys or men with thoroughbred stallions – or vice versa) – nor am I condoning gambling.

Don’t give little Jimmy a doll for his birthday, don’t buy Lucy a train set (unless they specifically ask for one) and don’t make judgements that pretend everyone is the same – we’re not.

Life really is a bitch

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Bella, one of our Red Setters, has just had an operation to remove a brain tumour.  On the positive side, they found a brain.

How much should we spend on keeping our pets alive?  Without insurance, many life-saving treatments would be out of the question for many, if not, most people.  Even with insurance, not all costs are covered.  So how much is reasonable?  Animals rely entirely on us.  They are not protected by laws against euthanasia.

Nothing, except death, is certain.  Bella’s life might be extended for 2-3 years, it might only be for six months. Should that matter?

We have taken the view that where there is some scope for optimism that she has the prospect of a good quality of life, for a reasonable time, without undue stress from the treatment, we have a responsibility to do what we can, but in the certain knowledge that we shall eventually be responsible for her death.

And I thought Bella was the bitch!

The off-side trap

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

A few years ago I attended French (and Spanish) classes. It is not apparent.  To say that I am not fluent in either language would be an absurd understatement. The classes often entailed discussions, either in small groups or pairs, about a contrived situation. Usually, even if it had been an English class, I would have found it difficult to carry on a conversation.  ‘La douche ne marche pas’  is one of the more memorable phrases compiled in the midst of panic.  You will understand, therefore, why le Blog has ne marched pas for some time.  Lack of inspiration or imagination is the problem.

Working in tax, dealing with HMRC, seeing clients, should provide more than enough material – but alas.

Then along comes football – again.  Not so much the game, but the sidelines.  ‘What does a woman know about the off-side rule?’ is what I said when watching the Liverpool game.  A few moments earlier my son had been trying to explain it to his (Irish) girlfriend.  Now if that isn’t material for humour, I don’t know what is.  Except in today’s world, it probably  comes under the headings of sexism and racism.

I had not the slightest thought that an official running the line in a first class football match didn’t know the rules.  It was humour.  Stereotyping has always been the source of much humour – the mother-in-law, women drivers, women reading maps and many more.  Women do figure largely in the list (and not without good cause).

Oh for the good old days.  Days without central heating, when you went to bed on a freezing winter’s night either with a hot water bottle and the danger of getting chill blains, or without a hot water bottle and the danger of frost bite.  The good old days, before the advent of political correctness.  Beware! these ‘isms’ will be the death, not just of humour, but of free speech and much more if left unchecked.  Men should not lose their jobs because of a bit of harmless banter.   Give me chill blains or frost bite any day.

It’s good to see the makers of satnavs still have a sense of humour – using a woman’s voice to give directions – that is funny.