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  • Where do the new property millionaires live – apart from London?

    The UK’s supply of homes worth more than £1m is growing fast. It now has 29,000 more than it did last year, according to new figures. But where are these homes, and who’s living in them? Mark Churchill takes a look at some of perhaps surprising findings of this research from Santander – and asks where you would buy if you had £1m or more to spend on a house – or even a flat.

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    Fashion fans: will you wear next season’s price increases?

    The era of cheap fashion could be at an end. Forecasts say that the price of clothes is set to go up by at least 5% in the years to come. That’s the biggest annual rise since 1986. Why are they set to go up? How will that change our buying habits? Will we spend more, or will we stop buying? Mark Churchill considers the issues.

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    Are you feeling confident?

    …about the economy, about your job, about your finances?
     
    We ask, because according to a new survey from Nielsen and the British Retail Consortium, we’re not feeling as confident as we were. UK consumer confidence, it says, fell for the first time in a year over the last three months.
     
    So what are we feeling unconfident about? Jobs, money and debt. Some 39% of those who responded to the survey said the state of the economy was their first or second biggest concern. Then 19% are worried about debt, 16% about job security and 16% about increasing fuel prices. Rising utility bills is the main concern for 15%.
     
    So if you’re one of the worriers, I’ve got five ways to boost your financial confidence…

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    Life Insurance – is it a shocking waste of money?

    Life insurance is confusing, isn’t it? Not as straightforward as car or home insurance, it seems to come in more varieties and be all a bit bamboozling.
     
    Now there’s an ASDA Over 50s life insurance advert on the TV, which promises you’ll “never pay more for cover than it’ll pay out, so I’ll never be out of pocket”. I’m not over 50 but I must say, the thought had never occurred to me. Is it possible to lose money on life insurance?
     
    A friend of mine certainly thinks so. He’s convinced he’s lost money on life insurance and has now decided not to have any at all (a positive decision, not the usual apathy).
     
    Then again, how many other ways are there to pay off your mortgage in one go, and get tens of thousands in a cash windfall? Surely it’s not always a waste of money?

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    Make your escape from Standard Variable Rates

    Are you still on your mortgage lender’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR)?
     
    (Hint: if they’ve not written to you about a rate change in the last year, you probably are!)
     
    For some borrowers, it’s been a comfortable place to be for the last year, but for others, changes in the market mean you’re potentially wasting your hard-earned cash each month by not switching to a better deal. Around three out of every four borrowers on SVRs are free to switch mortgage. If that’s you, you could rake in savings of £1,058 per year. Is this you?

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    What would you force banks to change?

    Cheaper overdrafts? More lenient charges? Less infuriating branching times?
     
    What do you expect high street banks to change for us, in return for the nearly £1trillion taxpayers provided to bail them out?
     
    The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, says that a key test of the new coalition government will be forcing banks to change their practices and create a better deal for the customer.
     
    Is it the big bonuses that you really mind? Or is it really because the banks are rebuilding their balance sheets at our expense?

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