From tax to buzz cuts, things to do during self-isolation

There is no doubt, these are very challenging times for the whole country, but no more so than for YOU, our doctors and medics who are working incredibly long hours on the frontline fighting Corona’s hold over all of us. For which we send our heartfelt gratitude. 

But what about those of you at home self-isolating?7 things to do during self-isolation

Being stuck at home without the normal rhythm and goals can be detrimental to our mental wellbeing. Keeping occupied and away from the constant COVID-19 news could help you ‘switch focus’ if only for a few hours! 

7 jobs to tick off ‘that list’ while we live through isolation & lockdown

We all have ‘that list’. You know the one – it’s filled with jobs your organised brain knows you need to do yet the real ‘you’, either by design or otherwise, never seem to make time for. So how about tackling some of them while you can?

1. Get your Will done.

Why does this one stubbornly remain on the list? I think it’s a combination of poor timing, uncertainty about the costs, and possibly fear! Being employed in the medical profession the subject of illness and bereavement is never far away, so thinking about what you would want to happen to your wealth if the unimaginable were to happen can be an uncomfortable process.

I can, however, guarantee the peace and calm of knowing you have looked after everyone if the worst happens is something very special. For this reason, I encourage you to push through the discomfort and get started. You can do it from home and it is not very expensive. One firm in the Black Country is offering NHS personnel a free will writing service. It might also be worth looking around online at your local solicitors. For more information on writing a will from home go to Legal and Medical Wills.

2. Power of Attorney

Not unrelated to number 1, although this is something we often see only being considered when it’s too late. Discussing what would happen if we lose the ability to make decisions for ourselves is very uncomfortable. However, if this happens to you either suddenly through injury, accident or something like a stroke, or possibly more gradually because of a disease such as dementia, you need to know who will be making key decisions on your behalf. 

There are two types of Power of Attorney to consider: one for finance and property, and another for health and welfare. A Finance and Property power of attorney appoints someone to make all your financial decisions for you and act in your interest.

The Health and Welfare version allows an individual to make decisions over your healthcare and medical treatments, as well as deal with any health and social care staff. It is often assumed if you suddenly became ill and unable to make such decisions the responsibility for this would automatically fall to your family. It isn’t the case! Your next of kin would have to apply to the courts to become your ‘deputy’. This is a lengthy, slow and expensive process.

So who needs to consider doing this? 

Basically, anyone over 18. You don’t have to be unwell to decide who you want to act for you if you are not able to act for yourself. It costs £82 to register each Power of Attorney (in England and Wales – it’s £79 in Scotland, £151 in Northern Ireland). If you get a solicitor involved, you have their time to factor in too. But it is something to consider very carefully. For more information: Managing your affairs and enduring power of attorney >.

3. Check your utility provider

This one is so easy to do but so many of us don’t do it, despite Martin Lewis repeatedly nagging! Put aside just 15 minutes or so and run a comparison. Your last bill should show your usage. The headlines shout of saving hundreds of pounds a year through switching. Mine was a similar sum but even if it’s less it’s better to have the money in your pocket rather than the energy companies! 

4. Check your life insurances, critical illness, and income protection policies

Do you know what protection you actually hold? If so, when did you last review them to check they would cover your current mortgage and family needs? If you aren’t sure what you do have I would recommend contacting the adviser, or company you set them up with as they will be able to help. 

Those of you who have diligently arranged protection policies in years gone by shouldn’t be complacent. Policies can easily become out of date or ill-fitting to your current circumstances. Don’t forget if you are a member of the NHS pension scheme you get some protection benefits built-in. 

If you want to look at an important area of protection just get in touch. Don’t forget if you opted out of the NHS pension you will no longer qualify for Death-in-service. Locums also frequently do not qualify for Death-in-service but the NHS is looking at potentially covering locums as an interim measure.

5. Get your self-assessment tax return done early

This one can never be done too soon – get this job done and out of the way. I roped my children into the receipt sorting bit. I paid them in chocolate for their trouble, and it kept us all busy for a while. They even actually asked some questions about how this whole ‘tax’ business worked. Dare I say it, it was fun! But then I guess the household of a financial adviser may be a little different from the norm in terms of such things.

The Government has given additional time for the self-assessment payments on accounts this year due to coronavirus. If you were due to make the additional payment on account by 31 July 2020 you do not need to pay this until 31 January 2021. Although you still need to submit your actual tax returns on the usual deadlines so use this time to get ahead of the game and sort out your 2019/20 tax return now.

6. If you recently moved house make sure you have notified everyone…especially National Savings!

National Savings may reward you with some money that could not be traced, so this has to be a must! For more details: Do I have any unclaimed prizes?

Fear not if you have no idea of the account number or maybe you want to check for an elderly relative? Even if you don’t know your holder’s number or account number, you can phone NS&I on 08085 007 007 or write and ask for a replacement bond record to be sent to you. You should give as much detail as you can, for example; your full name, address details, when and where you bought your premium bonds and how much they’re worth, if at all possible. 

If all else fails you can use NS&I’s tracing service or the My Lost Account website. The latter can also track down lost bank and building society accounts through this website, so it’s a useful one to remember.

7. On a lighter note…..haircuts for the whole family

Proceed with caution… the internet is already filled with videos of unplanned number 1 gradient buzz cuts. With 2 teenage daughters and an increasingly fluffy spaniel in my house, I fear I shall be braving a Youtube video or two and give it a go myself! You never know I may just be a natural and save a small fortune in the future. We can but hope!  

One last serious note

Really think about using your self-isolation time wisely and organise those projects we all put on the back burner!

Stay safe out there, and thank you again doctors, medics and all NHS staff – you are all amazing. 

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