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2019 ended up a year where markets exceeded expectations. Stock markets rebounded in January and by Easter, the majority of losses from the last quarter in 2018 had been recouped. The markets fell again in May due to weak manufacturing data. October saw positive returns due to US & China trade talks and later due to positive manufacturing data from the Eurozone. Markets continued to be led by the US stock market with US equities hitting record highs in the last quarter of 2019. The UK market was the worst performing of the major markets having been affected by Brexit, however, still ended up in the positive territory. Eurozone bonds and fixed interest markets were lifted but under performed alongside equities. Commodities finished up positive and oil recovered. Slowing economic growth, trade tensions and Brexit all provided plenty to worry about but the last 12 months have still provided good returns.

The outlook for 2020 remains challenging but positive. Positive outcomes from global trade disputes, a managed Brexit and economic growth will all help returns in 2020. On the negative side, these could be affected by the US election, a mismanaged Brexit and further trade disputes. So back to the unknown! We remain positive but cautious. Equities may still out perform other asset classes but returns may be a lower basis for a higher level of risk.


As the General Election has been called we have seen a number of issues have been hitting the headlines. One important issue is the matter of retirement age and the State retirement pension. Having increased the age at which you can start to receive a State pension from 65 to 66 in 2014, has resulted in thousands of 65-year-olds having to sign onto the Jobseeker’s Benefit to bridge the gap. The maximum weekly payment under Jobseekers’ Benefit is €203 and that only lasts nine months. After that, the payment is means tested. With the State pension, you can receive up to €248.30 a week, this is a difference of €45.30 a week or more than €2,350 a year. By not being able to access the State pension, a retiree is losing almost a fifth of the income they would expect. The pension age is set to increase to 67 in 2021, and 68 in 2028 under the same plan. In addition, many people object to being obliged to apply for unemployment welfare payments. They have worked all their lives without needing to rely on welfare and do not see why they should be forced to do so now instead of receiving a pension for which they have been paying PRSI all their working lives. In contrast, the public sector workers who retire before the State pension age are paid a supplementary government pension. This inequality needs to be addressed. Whether the Government can afford to roll back the increased pension age remains to be seen. For now, Ireland has a relatively young population. However, it is set to change. By 2030, the population aged 80 or above will increase by as much as 94% from current levels, according to an ESRI study published in 2017. Right now, around one in 10 of the people living in Ireland is over the age of sixty-five with the State pension increasing by €1 billion every 5 years.  So while the different parties are coming out with their various solutions to this problem, the answer will require a lot of thought and planning, not just a quick fix to avail of the ‘grey-vote’ in February.


Interest rates on mortgages taken by Irish customers were lower in November than at the beginning of last year but the rates stood at more than double the eurozone average. Over the past few years, fixed rates have become increasingly common in Ireland, with over 70% of new mortgages here now fixed. This compares to over 80% in the euro zone.

Ulster Bank has introduced a new ten-year fixed mortgage rate, while it is also reducing its “High-Value” five-year fixed rate to the lowest single mortgage rate on the market. New and existing customers can avail of its new ten-year fixed rate of 2.95% for home movers, mortgage switchers and first time buyers who have a loan-to-value of up to 80%. Up until recently, very few lenders offered the option of a fixed rate for longer than five or seven years. But Ulster Bank now joins Haven, KBC, Bank of Ireland and AIB in offering mortgage customers the choice of a fixed rate over 10 years. Ulster Bank is introducing a new, ten-year fixed mortgage rate, while it is also reducing its “High-Value” five-year fixed rate to the lowest single mortgage rate on the market.

The Irish Association of Mortgage Advisors has estimated that eight out of ten mortgage holders are on a standard variable rate. These borrowers could make significant savings by taking independent advice and switching their mortgages. Research has shown that borrowers feel that this is a long process that may not be worthwhile. However, this can be very straightforward and very worthwhile when you consider the huge savings to be made.


This time of year we always remind our clients of the importance of reviewing your protection policies regularly to ensure that these still fit your requirements and provide value for money. Please feel free to give us a call if you would like us to review these on your behalf. We can also offer discounts on the various types of mortgage services so it is always worthwhile having a chat.