Stabilise first then invest
Before you consider investing in any type of market you need to take a good look at your current situation. Investing for the future is a priority but clearing up potentially bad situations in the present is just as important.
Assess your liabilities, you should do this once each year. It is important to know what is outstanding and what the time horizon to clear it is.
If you’ve set aside some money to invest, but you have outstanding debts, you are better off cleaning up the debt first!
Next, look at what you are paying out each month, and get rid of expenses that are not necessary. For instance, high interest credit cards are not necessary. Pay them off and get rid of them. If you have high interest outstanding loans, pay them off as well.
If nothing else, exchange the high interest credit card for one with lower interest and refinance high interest loans with loans that are lower interest. You may have to use some of your investment funds to take care of these matters, but in the long run, you will see that this is the wisest course of action.
Get yourself into good financial shape – and then enhance your financial situation with sound investments.
It doesn’t make sense to start investing funds if your bank balance is always running low or if you are struggling to pay your monthly bills. Your investment monies will be better spent to rectify adverse financial issues that affect you each day.
Reasons To Invest
Have a think about how different our lives are compared to our parents or grandparents….. How often do we travel? How used to our luxuries in life are we? Well guess what ……. this all costs money and as we are all going to retire at some point it might be a good idea to start thinking about that cost now!
This is why investing has become increasingly important over the years. Gone are the days of relying on the state to look after you in your golden years, and I’m pretty sure leaving your cash in the bank isn’t going to get the results you need either.
Times are changing and more and more people want to insure their futures, and they already know that if they are depending on state benefits, and in some instances company pension schemes, that they may be in for a rude awakening when they no longer have the ability to earn a steady income.
Investing is the answer to the unknowns of the future.
You may have been saving money in a low interest savings account over the years. Now, you want to see that money grow at a faster pace. Perhaps you’ve inherited money or realised some other type of windfall, and you need a way to make that money grow. Again, investing is the answer.
Investing is also a way of attaining the things that you want, such as a new home, a university education for your children, or the longest holiday of your life………… retirement.
Of course, your financial goals will determine what type of investing you do.
If you want or need to make a lot of money fast, you will be more interested in higher risk investing, which will hopefully give you a larger return in a shorter amount of time. If you are saving for something in the far off future, such as retirement, you would want to make safer investments that grow over a longer period of time.
The overall purpose in investing is to create wealth and security, over a period of time. It is important to remember that you will not always be able to earn an income… you will eventually want to retire.
You cannot rely on the state system to finance what you want to do, and as we have seen with Enron, you cannot necessarily depend on your company’s pension scheme either. So, again, investing is the key to insuring your own financial future, but you must make smart investments.
Dealing with volatility
Market volatility has become a common discussion with all of my clients. Whether they are seasoned investors or new to the investment game, volatility is an area that is now at the forefront of their minds when looking to invest their hard earned savings. To a large percentage of people their only understanding or awareness of a volatile market comes through the media, who we all know love to sensationalise every story at every opportunity.
What is a volatile market? By definition a volatile market is where unpredictable and vigorous changes occur in the price within the stock markets. It is necessary for some movement within the market in order to sell commodities, however a volatile market can represent the most risk to investors.
If you’re not in the “daily trading” game, and are investing for the medium to long term then it’s not always wise to listen to all the hype and speculation in the media. It may be a wiser decision to focus on the fundamentals behind why you invested in the first place, and stick to those fundamentals. Two key areas to focus on are your personal emotions and your attitude to risk.
In volatile times emotions play a significant role in investing decisions. Many investors feel the short term variances in the returns of their investments much more than the average return over the medium term of their investments, even though the decision to invest was a medium term one. Rationally, investors know that markets cannot keep going up indefinitely. Irrationally, we are surprised when markets decline.
It is a challenge to look beyond the short-term variances and focus on the long-term averages. The greatest challenge may be in deciding to stay invested during a volatile market. History has shown us that it is important to stay invested in good and bad market environments. During periods of high consumer confidence stock prices peak and during periods of low consumer confidence stock prices can come under pressure. Historically, returns trended in the opposite direction of past consumer confidence data. When confidence is low it has been the time to buy or hold. Of course, no one can predict the bottom or guarantee future returns. But as history has shown, the best decision may be to stay invested even during volatile markets.
During these emotional and challenging times it is easy to be fearful and/or negative so let’s turn to the wise advice of one of the world’s best investors, the late Sir John Templeton:
“Don’t be fearful or negative too often. For 100 years optimists have carried the day in U.S. stocks. Even in the dark ’70s, many professional money managers—and many individual investors too—made money in stocks, especially those of smaller companies…There will, of course, be corrections, perhaps even crashes. But, over time, our studies indicate stocks do go up…and up…and up”
So do you invest or watch from the sidelines? When markets become volatile, a lot of people try to guess when stocks will bottom out. In the meantime, they often park their investments in cash. But just as many investors are slow to recognize a retreating stock market, many also fail to see an upward trend in the market until after they have missed opportunities for gains. Missing out on these opportunities can take a big bite out of your returns.
Whilst dealing with the emotional side of investing it would be worth evaluating your risk tolerance. Many clients attitude to risk will change over time, this may be due to age, personal circumstances or just added awareness to how the markets move. Each and every one of us has their own individual risk tolerance that should not be ignored when considering making any type of investment. Your investments should always be aligned to your level of risk even if that means making drastic / strategic changes to your portfolio as times change.
Determining one’s risk tolerance involves several different things, and there are different ways to look at how you should look at the risk you need to take. First, you need to know how much money you have to invest, what your investment and financial goals are and what time horizon is involved. Then you need to consider the actual risk you are prepared to take. One simple question can help determine your attitude to risk, however a more detailed discussion should take place to really ascertain your tolerance level and to compile a suitable portfolio.
The one question….. If you invested in the stock market and you watched the movement of that stock daily and saw that it was dropping slightly, what would you do, sell out or let your money ride?
If you have a low tolerance for risk, you would want to sell out… if you have a high tolerance, you would let your money ride and see what happens. This is not based on what your financial goals are, it is based on how you feel about your money! Your risk tolerance should always be based on what your financial goals are and how you feel about the possibility of losing your money. It’s all tied in together, it’s emotional.
So a few pointers to help you through the volatility.
Review your portfolio. Is it as diversified as you think it is? Is it still a suitable match with your goals and risk tolerance?
Tune out the noise and gain a longer term perspective. Numerous media sources are dedicated to reporting investment news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Do you really need to be glued to it? While the media provide a valuable service, they typically offer a very short-term outlook. To put your own investment plan in a longer term perspective, and bolster your confidence, you may want to look at how different types of portfolios have performed over time. Interestingly, while stocks may be more volatile, they’ve still outperformed income oriented investments (such as bonds) over longer time periods.
Believe Your Beliefs and Doubt Your Doubts. There are no real secrets to managing volatility. Most investors already know that the best way to navigate a choppy market is to have a good long-term plan and a well-diversified portfolio but sticking to these fundamental beliefs is sometimes easier said than done. When put to the test, you sometimes begin doubting your beliefs and believing your doubts, which can lead to short-term moves that divert you from your long term goals.
Prior to working with any clients I insist on completing a personal detailed risk tolerance questionnaire. This will tell us exactly what your attitude to risk is and a suitable portfolio can be devised to suit you individually. If you are interested in investing or saving for the future, get in touch to discuss the opportunities available and just as importantly the risks associated. If you already have an investment portfolio and feel that it was never risk rated against your own risk tolerance then let me know, I am happy to discuss further and go through the questionnaire to ensure that what you have already done is suitable for your circumstances.
It is never too early to start planning your financial future
During conversations with many of my clients, I hear the expression “I wish I had done something sooner” so often, that I thought I should put pen to paper.
All too often in our younger years we race through the nitty-gritty details of our finances and neglect to focus on crucial “future proofing” in the process. During our 20’s we tend to spend, spend, spend. In our 30’s we try to save, but this is the decade when most of us purchase property and start a family so that makes saving for the future difficult. In our 40’s we’re still paying the mortgage and raising our children so inevitably it is difficult to put money aside to provide for your financial future.
But if you adopt a marathon approach to money (as opposed to a sprint – see my article on this topic), it can allow you to take a more holistic look at your overall financial picture and see how decisions that you make in your 20s and 30s can impact your 40s, 50s and into your retirement years.
It doesn’t matter how old you are, being financially healthy boils down to two things. The level of debt you have and the level of savings/investments you have. The only real difference is how you approach both subjects, as this will change with age.
Tips for during your 20’s
This is the best time to lay the foundations for a bright financial future. Try creating a budget and track your expenses. Keep evaluating over a few months to ensure it’s realistic. This may seem pretty basic but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t track their expenses. This is the best time to do it, your finances are likely to be a lot simpler now than they will ever be!
- Debt – Loans and Cards
It’s easy to think that making the minimal payments and delaying paying them off, to save more, is a good idea, but this strategy rarely works. The more you make the more you tend to spend, so getting round to clearing off these debts never comes any closer.
But now is the time to break the cycle of credit card debt or loans for good!
- Start an Emergency Fund
While you’re busy paying off your debt, don’t forget that you should always try to have a “savings buffer” in the bank. To help accomplish this goal you should transfer funds straight from your “day to day” account into a deposit account. One where you aren’t likely to get access through an ATM which reduces the temptation to spend it on a whim. Ideally, you should aim to have three times your monthly take-home pay saved up in your emergency fund.
- Contemplate Your Future – Retirement
At this point in your life, retirement is far off, but it is important to start saving as early as you can. Even small amounts can make a big difference over time, thanks to the effect of compound interest. Start saving a small percentage of your salary now to reap the rewards later in life. See my articles on compound interest and retirement planning to see the difference it can make.
Tips for during your 30’s
During this decade, your financial goals are likely to get a bit more complicated. Some people will still be paying off credit card debt and loans, whilst still working on the “emergency account”. So what’s the secret to juggling it all?
Rather than focusing on one goal you should be looking at the biggest of your goals, even if there are three or four.
- Continue Reducing Debt
If you’re still paying off your credit card balances then considering consolidating onto one card with an attractive interest free period should be your first task. Failing that you need to concentrate on the card with the highest interest rate and reduce the balance ASAP. The most important thing to consider with debt is the interest rate. If you have low interest rates (I’d be surprised) then there’s no major rush to pay them off, as you could manage the repayments and contribute to other financial goals at the same time. If your interest rates are quite high then the priority is to clear these debts down.
- Planning For Kids
Little ones may also be entering the picture, or becoming a frequent conversation. Once this is a part of your life you’ll start thinking about the cost implications as well. Setting aside a small amount of funds now to cater for the ever increasing costs of bringing up a child will reduce the financial stress later down the line. If you have grand plans for them to attend university, potentially in another country, then knowing these costs and planning for these costs should be part of your overall financial planning.
- Assess Your Insurance
The thing that most people forget. Big life events such as getting married, having kids and/or buying a house are all trigger points for reassessing what insurance you have in place and more crucially what insurance you should have in place. If you have dependents, having sufficient Life cover is paramount. Other considerations should be disability, critical illness and even income protection
- Start that Retirement Plan.
It’s time to stop just thinking about setting up what you call a Pension Pot, it’s time to take action! Starting now makes it an achievable goal, leaving it on the back burner because you’re still too young to think about retiring is going to come back and haunt you later in life.
Tips for during your 40’s
This is the decade where you need to make sure you’re on top of your money. At this point in your life, the ideal scenario would be to have cleared any debts and to have a nice healthy emergency fund sitting in a deposit account.
- Retirement Savings – Priority
During your 40s it’s critical to understand how much you should be saving for retirement and to analyse what you may already have in place to cater for this. In my opinion it’s now that you need to start putting your financial future/retirement ahead of any other financial goals or “needs”.
- Focus Your Investments
Although you may not have paid much attention to “wealth management” in your 30s, you’ve probably started accumulating some wealth by your 40s. Evaluate this wealth and ensure that there is a purpose or goal behind the investments you have made. Each goal will have a different time horizon and potentially you will have a different risk tolerance on each goal. The further away the goal is, the more you can afford to take a “riskier” option.
- Enjoy Your Wealth
It’s about getting the balance right. Hopefully you’ve worked hard and things are stable from a financial point of view. You need to remember to enjoy life today as well as planning for the future. As long as important financial goals are being met there is no harm is splashing out on that dream holiday, and enjoying it whilst you can.
Tips for during your 50’s.
You may find yourself being pulled in different directions from a financial point of view. Maybe the children still require financial support, maybe your parents require more support than before? The key thing to remember is to put your financial security first, and yes I know that sounds a bit tough…….. You still have your retirement to consider and probably a mortgage that you’d like to pay off before retirement age.
- Revisit Your Savings and Investing Goals
Your 50’s are prime time to fully prepare for retirement, whether it’s five years away or fifteen. At this point you should be working as hard as possible to ensure you reach your required amount. This means that careful management of your assets is even more critical now. It’s time to focus on changing from a growth portfolio to a combined growth, income and more importantly a preservation portfolio. What I’m saying here is it’s time to really analyse the level of risk within your asset basket.
- Prioritise – Your Future vs Your Children’s Future (It’s a tough one….)
During their 50’s a lot of clients struggle with figuring out how much they can afford to keep supporting a grown child, especially when they’re out there earning themselves. The bottom line is that although it can be tough you have to continue to put yourself first. The day of retirement is only ever getting closer and unless your planning has been disciplined there’s a possibility you may need to work longer than anticipated, or accept less in your pocket than you hoped for. You are number 1…….
- Retirement Decisions and considerations
You should begin to revisit your estate planning, your last will and testament, power of attorney if you feel necessary and confirm that your beneficiaries on any insurance policies or investment accounts are all valid.
Once you’ve covered off the administration part then I’d suggest you sit back and look forward to the biggest holiday of your life……..have a great time!!!
The REAL effect of inflation
On a day-to-day basis, inflation isn’t necessarily something you spend a lot of time thinking about. However, occasionally, you might find yourself asking – what exactly is inflation? And how does it affect me?.
Inflation is simply a sustained increase in the overall price for goods and services which is measured as an annual percentage increase.
As inflation rises, every pound or euro you own purchases a smaller percentage of these goods or services.
The real value of a pound or euro does not stay constant when there is inflation. When inflation goes up, there is a decline in the purchasing power of your money. For example, if the inflation rate is 2% annually, then theoretically a £100 item will cost £102 in a year’s time and £121.90 in 10 years time.
After inflation, your money can’t buy the same goods it could beforehand.
When inflation is at low levels it is easy to overlook the adverse effect it has on your capital and the income it produces. Regardless of how things look today, the likelihood is that the price of all the goods we buy and services we use will be higher in the future.
Inflation does not reduce the monetary value of your capital, a pound is still a pound and a euro is still a euro, but it reduces the “real” value. It erodes the spending power of your money, potentially affecting your standard of living.
The chart below details the effect of inflation over a 15 year period, 1998 to 2013. It is easy to see that leaving money exposed to inflation risk and not attempting to beat it and achieve higher growth is a no win situation.
Many clients will say that investing is a risk (see my alternative article to risk), and of course there is always an element of risk but leaving your money in a low rate bank account, open to inflation risk, is surely the riskiest option…….you can’t win !!!
If you had left your money open to the effects of inflation between 1998 and 2013 then it would have lost 35% of its purchasing power.
As statistics prove we are living longer now which means that we can look forward to a longer retirement period therefore the impact that inflation will have on your finances needs to become a prime consideration.
Each and every one of us has our own risk tolerance which should not be ignored when considering making any type of investment. Any good financial planner knows this and they should make the effort to help you determine what your risk tolerance is.
Then, based on this information, they should help you to build a portfolio that is aligned to your level of risk.
Determining one’s risk tolerance is based on several different criteria and there are different ways to look at how you should assess the risk you need to take. Firstly, you need to know how much money you have to invest, what your investment and financial goals are and what time horizon is involved. Then you need to consider the actual risk you are prepared to take.
Due to the emotional aspect of investing, there are various ways to look at it.
Let’s say you plan to retire in ten years and you’ve not saved a single penny/cent towards it. You could view this in two ways:
- You need a higher risk tolerance because you will need to do some aggressive investing in order to reach your financial goal.
- You may consider that as retirement is looming, you do not want to take unnecessary risks. If the markets were to crash it would affect your situation, therefore a more balanced portfolio (lower risk tolerance) would be better suited.
On the other side of the coin, if you are in your early twenties and want to start investing for your retirement now, you could share the same views.
- You should have a higher risk tolerance because you are young enough to ride out any market turmoil, maybe restructuring to a more cautious profile nearer the end goal.
- You should take a lower risk level and be happy with lower gains (potentially) but the end result will achieve what you require. You can afford to watch your money grow slowly over time.
There are more factors to consider in determining your tolerance.
For instance, if you invested in the stock market and you watched the movement of that stock daily and saw that it was dropping slightly, what would you do?
Would you sell out or would you let your money ride? If you have a low tolerance for risk, you would want to sell out… if you have a high tolerance, you would let your money ride and see what happens.
This is not based on what your financial goals are. This tolerance is based on how you feel about your money!
Again, a good Financial Planner should help you determine the level of risk that you are comfortable with and help you choose your investments accordingly.
Your risk tolerance should be based on what your financial goals are and how you feel about the possibility of losing your money. It’s all tied in together, it’s emotional.
Prior to working with any clients I insist on completing a detailed risk tolerance questionnaire. This will tell me exactly what your attitude to risk is and a suitable portfolio can be devised to suit you individually.
If you are interested in investing or saving for the future then get in touch to discuss the opportunities available and, just as importantly, the risks associated.
If you already have an investment portfolio and feel that it was never rated against your own risk tolerance then let me know. I am happy to discuss further and go through the questionnaire to ensure that what you have already done is suited to your circumstances.
This article is for information only and should not be considered as advice.
This article is written by Chris Webb The Spectrum IFA Group
More on risk and investing in different assets
How are you at managing your Finances ?
As the old saying “Practice Makes Perfect” seems to suggest, we are bound to improve at everything over time. However, there is something about “money” that just appears to get the better of us. Nowadays, we only need to look at the level of debt defaults to see that this is an area where most of us just don’t seem to be making much progress or improvement.
Here are just a few reasons why people, in general, do not successfully manage their finances:
- They have never been able to predict what the market will do next. However, this doesn’t deter them from trying to predict the markets!.
- They’re thrilled that the credit card they’re paying 22% interest on offers 1% cash back!
- They think dollar-cost averaging is boring without realizing that the purpose of investing isn’t to minimize boredom.
- They try to keep up with friends and family without realizing that friends and family are actually in debt.
- They think €1 million is a glamorously large amount of money when, actually, it’s what most people will need as a minimum in retirement!.
- They associate all of their financial successes with skill and all of their financial failures with bad luck.
- Their perception of financial history extends back about five years. This leads them to believe that bonds, for example, are safe and that the average recession is as bad as the recession of 2008.
- They don’t realise that the single most important skill in Finance is control over your emotions.
- They say they’ll take risks when others are fearful but then they seek the foetal position when the market falls by 2%.
- They think they’re too young to start saving for retirement when realistically every day that passes makes compound interest a little less effective.
- Even if their investment is over a period of 20 years, they get stressed when the market has a bad day.
- They size up the potential of investments based on past returns.
- They use a doctor to manage their health, an accountant to manage their taxes, a plumber to fix their plumbing. Then, with no experience in the financial market, they go about their own investments all by themselves.
- They don’t realize that the financial “expert” giving advice on TV doesn’t know their personal circumstances, goals or risk tolerance.
- They think the stock market is too risky because it’s volatile, without realizing that the biggest risk they face isn’t volatility. The biggest risk is not growing their assets sufficiently over the next several decades.
- When planning for retirement, they don’t realize that their life expectancy might be 90 years or more.
- They work so hard trying to make money that they don’t have time to think about or plan their finances, especially for those days when work will no longer take up all their time.
You may read this, identify a few points that relate to your own position and now find yourself asking “What can I do about it though?”
Without doubt the answer to that question is to seek professional advice so speak to a qualified and regulated Financial Planner. They will be able to analyse your position from both an investment and an emotional perspective, ensuring that your plan of action is tailored to you as an individual.
You should expect a detailed consultation process and only after this process has been completed can the correct advice be presented, ensuring you avoid the pitfalls detailed above.
The steps to the consultation process are as follows:
- A full and thorough financial health check on your current and future situation including the completion of a Financial Review questionnaire.
- Identifying areas of strengths and weaknesses in your financial planning and understanding your specific goals.
- Designing a strategy to help ensure your financial aspirations are met. Also reviewing any existing portfolio’s to ensure they are working effectively and efficiently.
- Once your strategy has been finalised, a full financial report based on your Financial Review will be provided to you along with a concise recommendation.
- Ongoing consultations consisting of regular monitoring of your selected strategy and face to face meetings to ensure that your financial goals are achieved.
To explore all of your options and to discuss how this consultation process can benefit you please contact your local Spectrum IFA Group consultant.
QROPS Pension Transfer
If you ever worked in the UK, no matter what your nationality, the chances are you were enrolled in a private pension scheme. The UK government continues to tweak legislative changes affecting the expat’s ability to move this pension offshore. On the surface, these changes appear to limit transfer options, but in reality they have strengthened the legal framework offering expats continuing advantages.
When you leave the UK, if you have a Final Salary pension, then your fund remains valid but is deferred and any increases will usually be limited to inflation until you reach retirement age. The pension income you then receive is taxable in the UK no matter where you are based in the world, you may be entitled to a tax credit if there is a Double Taxation Treaty in the country you reside. Once you die the pension will continue in the form of a spouse’s pension if you are married; otherwise it will cease. When your spouse dies, all benefit payments come to an end.
With a personal pension, if you take any part of your fund and then die before you fully retire, a lump sum can be paid to your spouse. Although this is exempt from inheritance tax there is a special lump sum benefits charge, also known as “death tax”, payable on the remaining fund. This is at the rate of 55% of the benefit amount, although the recent budget changes have advised that this is likely to be reduced in the near future.
In April 2006 Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) introduced pension ‘A’ day. This liberalised UK private pensions and allowed people leaving the UK to transfer them overseas, often to a new employer. In doing this the UK complied with European legislation which allows all citizens the freedom of movement of their capital. Thus ‘Qualified Recognized Overseas Pension Schemes’ (QROPS) were born.
QROPS are not necessarily the right thing in every single case. In order to decide whether it would be advantageous to transfer your pension or leave it in the UK, with the intention of drawing the benefits in retirement, please contact me so that I can carry out a personalised evaluation. There may be compelling arguments, outside of the evaluation alone, which are often overlooked and may affect you in the future.
One of these is that a large number of UK schemes are currently in deficit to the point that they will be unable to pay future projected benefits. This would mean that even though it looks as though there are arguments to leave your UK pension in situ it may actually be wiser to transfer it.
In order for you to make the best decision you need professional advice on what would be the best solution for you. This will entail seeking details of the current UK schemes, including transfer values, the types of benefits payable to you and options going forward when you get to a retirement date and when you die.
I have detailed below some advantages & disadvantages of a QROPS pension transfer, using the jurisdiction of Malta as a reference point.
1. Lump Sum Benefits
If you transfer your benefits under the QROPS provisions to a Malta provider, in accordance with the rules of this jurisdiction, you may be able to take a pension commencement lump sum of up to 30% (unless you have already taken this lump sum from the UK pension). Under the current HMR&C (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) rules to qualify for the lump sum option you must be age 55 or over. Your remaining fund is then used to generate an income without having to purchase an annuity. The 30% pension commencement lump sum is only available once you have spent 5 full consecutive tax years outside of the UK (in terms of tax residence), if you are within the first 5 years, we strongly advise you to limit the pension commencement lump sum to 25%.
2. No Liability to UK Tax on Pension Income
A non UK resident drawing a UK pension remains subject to UK tax on the income, unless he or she resides in a country that has a Double Tax Treaty (DTT) with the UK, which contains an article on pensions that exempts the pension from UK income tax. Transferring under the QROPS provisions ensures that, if tax is due on pension income, it will only be taxable in the country of your residence.
3. No Requirement to Purchase an Annuity
There is no longer a requirement to ever purchase an annuity with either your UK pension or in the event you make a transfer under the QROPS provisions.
Whilst the UK Government changed its pension rules in April 2011 so that you can now delay taking your pension indefinitely, in the event of your death after age 75 you are treated as if you had already taken benefits (whether or not you have actually done so) and there would be a 55% tax charge on the funds paid out to heirs. With a Malta QROPS there is still no need to purchase an annuity, however you must start to draw an income from age 70. The Pension commencement Lump Sum must be taken by this age or the option to take it after this age is lost.
4. Secure Your UK Pension Pot
Some defined benefit schemes in the UK are in deficit. Since the deficit forms part of the balance sheet of the company, this can present a huge risk to your pension fund. Transferring your UK benefits under the QROPS provisions could enable you to have full control of these funds without worrying about the financial situation of your previous employer.
5. Ability to Leave Remaining Fund to Heirs
Standard UK pension legislation significantly restricts the member’s ability to leave the pension fund to their heirs on death, except if death occurs before age 75 and no benefits have been paid to the member. Otherwise if a member has started to draw benefits prior to age 75, the remaining fund can still be paid as a lump sum to heirs, but less a tax charge equal to 55% of the lump sum (increased in April 2011 from 35%). If the member dies after age 75, then the tax charge remains at 55% (reduced in April 2011 from 82%) whether or not the member has received any benefits.
A transfer under the QROPS provisions will allow the member to leave lump sums without deduction of tax to heirs as can be seen more easily from the table below.
|Age||Benefits from Pension||Tax On Death|
|55+||PCLS & Income**||55%|
|55+||No PCLS, No Income***||0%|
|75+||PCLS, Income or nothing||55%|
QROPS – Malta
|Age||Benefits from Pension||Tax On Death|
|55+||PCLS & Income**||0%|
|55+||No PCLS, No Income***||0%|
|75+||PCLS, Income or nothing||0%|
PCLS – (Pension Commencement Lump Sum)
This table is based on the aim of paying out the remainder of the pension fund as a lump sum death benefit. There may however be other options than providing a lump sum death benefit.
*This is based on the remaining lump sum being paid out as a death benefit. A spouse could transfer the pension into their name and continue the income drawdown.
**There is an option of phased drawdown where you could take part of your PCLS allowance and part income. The remaining portion of the fund that you have not taken the PCLS or income from could continue to be paid out with no tax up to the age of 75.
***There will be no tax up to the age of 75 if you have not taken any benefits from your plan.
A standard UK pension will usually only be invested and pay benefits in Sterling, which means the member runs an exchange rate risk in respect of pension income, in addition to incurring charges in converting the pension payments to the currency of their country of residence.
A transfer under the QROPS provisions means that the pension payments can be made in the local currency, thus potentially eliminating exchange rate risk
7. Lifetime Allowance Charge (LTA)
This is a restriction on the total permitted value of an individual’s total accrued fund value in UK registered pensions, currently £1.5m. Those who exceed this value face a potential tax liability of 55% on the excess funds on retirement at any time when there is a “benefit crystallisation event” that exceeds the LTA. A benefit crystallisation event is any event which results in benefits being paid to, or on behalf of, the member and so includes transfer values paid to another pension scheme, as well as retirement benefits.
The UK Government have advised that the LTA will be reduced to £1.25m from 6 April 2014. (This was reduced in 2012 from £1.8m to £1.5m).
There is no LTA within a QROPS so transferring larger plans to a QROPS may not be caught in this reduction in the future. Careful planning will be needed with your adviser if you are close to the limit in the UK.
If you have a pension(s) with a combined transfer value of less than £50,000 then the charges may be prohibitive.
2. Loss of Protected Rights
A transfer under the QROPS provisions may result in the loss of certain protected rights, including Guaranteed Annuity Rates, Guaranteed Minimum Pension, a protected enhanced lump sum, or rights accrued under a defined benefit scheme. (These are shown in the section “Analysis of Your Existing Pensions”).
3. Returning to the UK
If you return to the UK, then the QROPS administrator will have to report this ‘event to HMRC and the pension scheme will become subject to UK pension regulations again.
If it is your intention to return to the UK in the near future then a transfer under the QROPS provisions is usually inappropriate.
Retirement Planning – Is it a marathon or a sprint?
As an independent advisor I assist my clients with all aspects of their financial planning but by far the majority of enquiries I receive are from people in their 40’s and 50’s who are suddenly panicking about their retirement savings.
Quite often, this is the first time they have considered it and as yet have set aside very little for what is going to be the longest holiday of their lives.
At the same time, I have this conversation with much younger generations, people in their 20’s or 30’s, and encourage them to save diligently for retirement now and not later in life. Typically what they want to know is how much they actually need to save so that they can make the decision to retire at a time when they CHOOSE.
The people in their 40’s and 50’sobviously spent the majority of their adult life not saving for retirement. This gave them more free money in their 20’s and 30’s than people who were already saving for retirement, and possibly indulged themselves more.
The knock on effect of this is how much they NEED to save now to afford the lifestyle they desire in retirement. When you look at the numbers it is startling to see the difference between saving early or leaving it until it’s probably too late.
A select few argue that you are better off starting later in life and enjoying your younger years whilst you can, the majority will agree that they should have started earlier and planned consistently without any major impact on their lifestyle.
Detailed below are the numbers, you can decide yourself which way looks more favourable.
For this example let’s start with a young adult – twenty years old. They are looking for an annual income of €50,000 when they choose to retire at the age of 65. To ensure they have this €50,000 ongoing and not depleting all assets you will need an asset basket of around €1,000,000. This is based on having that asset basket invested and generating 5% net return per annum.
So, we already know that you are looking for €1,000,000 set aside for retirement at age 65 and let’s say you have a balanced investment portfolio that will return 7% a year.
• If you start investing at age 20, you’ll need to put aside about €265 a month to reach this goal.
• From age 25, you’ll need to set aside about €380 a month to reach this goal. (you don’t save anything from ages 20 to 25)
• From age 30, you’ll need to set aside about €555 a month to reach this goal. (you don’t save anything from ages 20 to 30)
• From age 35, you’ll need to set aside about €815 a month to reach this goal. (you don’t save anything from ages 20 to 35)
• From age 40, you’ll need to set aside about €1,230 a month to reach this goal. (you don’t save anything from ages 20 to 40)
• From age 45, you’ll need to set aside about €1,925 a month to reach this goal. (you don’t save anything from ages 20 to 45)
• From age 50, you’ll need to set aside about €3,150 a month to reach this goal. (you don’t save anything from ages 20 to 50.
As you go through these numbers you are probably thinking that the amounts to save early on were quite manageable, but when you got to age 50, you’re thinking it’s impossible.
So now you are aware of the numbers you can decide what the easiest option is, planning early or leaving it late.
The main point I want you to consider is that you can ignore the chance to plan early and forego the retirement savings until a later date but catching up later on can be incredibly punishing, even impossible.
So my advice to everyone I meet is to start saving for retirement right now, no matter how old you are. Even if you can’t save very much, start by saving something.
Further examples using the same 7% investment portfolio: • If you just save €100 per month starting at age 20 that would equate to over €380,000 at the age of 65. • If you start saving €300 per month at the age of 30 that would equate to over €540,000 at the age of 65
Something IS always better than nothing. Start with a smaller, more comfortable amount, and increase it as and when you can. Reviewing the amount in line with salary increases is the most effective way to do this.
Compound Interest “The Eighth Wonder of the World”
None other than Albert Einstein described this amazing fact about finance, compound interest, as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”.
So, what is compound interest and why is it so important?
Compound interest is, quite literally, a form of free money… and it is free money that grows over and over again. The example detailed below explains how……..
Imagine that you invested €1,000 today and that whatever you invested it in went up by 10% this year. In this case you would have €1,100 one year later, made up from your original sum, plus €100 of interest or return on investment.
Now comes the Compound Interest: Assume you reinvested that €1,100 for another year and achieved 10% again. The following year you would have €1,210. This time you have made €110 of interest simply because the 10% interest is paid on the new balance not the original investment. Essentially, €10 of that interest is free money.
It is the interest you have been paid on your interest or, put another way, the return on your return.
At first glance this may not seem particularly exciting but over time the effect is incredibly powerful. Let’s look more closely at some examples to see just how:
The power of compounding
Let us say you decided to start investing some of your surplus income. For the sake of the argument, you wanted to invest €1,000 each year.
These might seem like numbers to small to make a difference but are they?
The two tables below detail the difference between non compound interest and compound interest.
I have illustrated at 5%, 7% and 9% growth annually, realistic expected rates of return.
These return figures are on top of your original investment !
|Year No.||Annual Invested
||Total Invested||Return 5%
||Total Invested||Return 5%
We can immediately see a meaningful difference between what the saver has managed to achieve after a year versus the investor. Of far more interest is what happens over a number of years.
It is clear to see the big difference between keeping your money in a savings account and investing your money, potentially life changing, even if the amounts you start with are what you describe as “small”. Imagine, the impact can be huge depending on the amount you choose to save.
Just imagine the difference if you were saving €5000 per annum or if you transferred the cash savings you hold now and not later in life.
When Compound Interest works against you…….
It is just as important to understand that if you borrow money, the power of compounding hits you in reverse:
Over time you end up paying more and more to whoever you are borrowing from.
Luke Johnson, the man behind the Pizza Express Chain and ex Chairman of Channel 4 refers to this as “…the gruesome mathematics of leverage in reverse.” This is why you must eliminate debt and get invested as soon as you can. We all know that the majority of debt is expensive. It is challenging to make a 15-20% return on your investments but almost certain you will pay at least this on your debt.
So we can see from the power of compound interest that if you can achieve a half decent return on your money, even a relatively small amount can become a very large amount in time…
This is probably the most important thing you will ever learn about money.