Numerous changes come into effect this year that will affect your personal finances.
This March, we’ll find out exactly how much we’ll pay for our water charges when they kick in – the energy regulator, the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), is expected to tell householders how much they’ll pay for their water that month. So the days of running the tap willy nilly, or having water sprinklers spray your lawn during the hot summer months, will come to an end soon.
Water charges are set to kick in between October and December 2014, with the first bills arriving through letter boxes in 2015. Irish Water, a subsidiary of Bord Gais, will start to take over the responsibility for delivering water to homes from local authorities in early 2014.
About a year ago, the previous head of Bord Gais, John Mullins, suggested water charges could be anything between €100 and €400 a year.
Whatever prices are unveiled this March, water charges will be yet another strain on householders who also have to pay the full whack of the property tax in 2014.
BANK CHARGES AND RETREATS
With Danske Bank and ACC Bank pulling out of the Irish market, Irish consumers won’t have much chance to shop around banks in the new year – unless a new entrant jumps in. The flight of the two overseas banks further erodes competition and consumer choice in Irish banking, which in turn could push up the cost of bank charges – and make it more expensive for people to get current accounts, mortgages, overdrafts and other loans.
The departure of Danske Bank and ACC Bank has also triggered fears that other overseas banks could follow suit. Speculation that the British banking group Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) could pull the plug on Ulster Bank has been rife over the last year, not least since November 2013, when RBS announced its group-wide review of the British banking group. This review will be complete in February.
Like other parts of the RBS banking group, Ulster Bank will be included in this review. When announcing the review, RBS boss Ross McEwan said that Ulster Bank was an “important business for the whole island of Ireland” while Ulster Bank itself said it was “business as usual for the bank”. However, we will have to wait until February to find out what kind of future it has here.
THE WAIT FOR THE STATE PENSION
Anyone who reaches the age of 65 next year will have to wait another year before they're entitled to the state pension.
Once new year is rung in in 2014, the state retirement age increases from 65 to 66. Many workers who had been due to step down from their jobs at the age 65 may no longer be able to afford to do so in 2014 – unless they're getting a nice private pension.
Bosses around the country will no doubt be swamped with applications from workers seeking to increase the retirement age set out in their contract.
FREE GP CARE FOR CHILDREN
All eyes will be on Health Minister James Reilly to see if he can deliver on his promise to give free GP care to children under the age of six. As a trip to the doctor could easily set you back between €55 and €60, any parents with sickly young children should be a few bob better off in 2014.
The new scheme is being introduced in the midst of a major review of the medical card scheme, where hundreds of thousands of card holders face losing their cards. With doctors groups warning that the withdrawal of medical cards has caused chaos, and Dr Reilly backtracking on his original €113m savings target for the medical card scheme, the introduction of free GP care for young children is unlikely to go smoothly in the new year.