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Compound interest – The Eighth Wonder of the World

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Interest rates, Investments
This article is published on: 2nd May 2017

02.05.17

Albert Einstein reportedly said it. “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it. He who doesn’t, pays it.

Regardless of whether Einstein uttered these exact words, the essence of his statement is still immensely powerful and cannot be disputed. For anyone who wants to build lasting wealth, understanding and harnessing the power of compound interest is essential. So, what is compound interest? Well, it is the exponential increase in the value of an investment. Or, more simply put, it is the interest that you earn on your interest.

For the more visual of you, imagine, if you will, building the bottom part of a snowman. It starts with a snowball (or initial investment). You roll it around in the snow and it slowly gets bigger (interest on the investment). A slow and monotonous process until something wonderful becomes apparent – the snowball not only gets bigger and bigger, but at a faster and faster rate (interest on the interest).

Compound interest - The Eighth Wonder of the World

Put another way, let’s say that you invest €100,000 at (just to keep the maths simple) 10% interest per year. After the first year, you would have earned €10,000 of interest, with your total investment now worth €110,000. After the second year, your 10% annual return would have earned you another €11,000, giving you a total of €121,000. Year three would see your investment rise to €133,100. Over time this growth accelerates, meaning that you would double your initial investment in approximately seven years, simply by harnessing the power of compound interest. Sounds pretty easy, yes? So, why don’t more people do it? Well, for two main reasons, in my experience:

The key requirement for generating compound interest is time – the longer you leave your money to grow, the more pronounced and positive the outcome. Modern times have encouraged us to expect immediate rewards. For many, being told that it will take a good few years to see significant returns on their investments can be demotivating.

Another common reason is “it’s a bad time right now.” In the 1970s we experienced record breaking levels of inflation, in the 1980s Black Monday brought the biggest stock market crash since the 1920s. The 1990s saw a period of sustained recession. Currently, there are many economies around the world that are still recovering from the financial crisis of 2008, almost ten years on. Yet the stock market performs over time and continues to do so. The timing of an investment is far less important than the time that is allowed for it to deliver.

Essentially, having a long term investment strategy – allowing growth to be achieved over time – provides the best possible opportunity to achieve financial security for you and your loved ones in later years. With compound interest, the old Chinese proverb holds true. “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now.”

Time to Review Your Final Salary Pension

By Craig Welsh - Topics: Belgium, BREXIT, Netherlands, Pensions, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 27th October 2016

27.10.16

Final Salary pension schemes, also known as Defined Benefit schemes, have long been viewed as a gold-plated route to a comfortable retirement. In the past, many advisers, including ourselves, would have been sceptical about people transferring out of such a scheme. However, there have been huge changes in UK pensions legislation and there are likely to be further changes ahead. The key question here is; will these schemes be able to provide the benefits they have promised over the next 20+ years?

Why Review Now?

In many cases, it may still be best advice to leave the pension where it is. And a transfer out requires highly specialised and regulated advice. However, there are many compelling reasons why a review makes sense.

Record high transfer values
UK gilt yields are at an all-time low and this has pushed up transfer values to be an all-time high; some transfer values have increased by over 30% in the last 12 months. Many clients are quite surprised to learn their scheme which projects an income of GBP 10,000 per annum in retirement offers a transfer value of over GBP 330,000!

Scheme Deficits
Actuaries Hyman Robertson now calculate the total deficits on remaining final salary pension schemes as £1 trillion.

TATA Steel/BHS
Recent examples show that very large deficits cause several problems. No one wants to purchase these struggling companies as the pension deficits are too big a burden to take on. Could the Government be forced to change the laws to allow schemes to reduce benefits? A reduction in the benefits will reduce the deficits and make the companies more attractive to purchasers. There is a strong argument that saving thousands of jobs is in the national interest, if that just means trimming down some of these “gold plated benefits”.

Pension Protection Fund (PPF)
This fund has been set up to help pension schemes that do get into financial trouble. Two points are key. Firstly, it is not guaranteed by the Government and secondly, the remaining final salary schemes must pay large premiums (a levy) to the PPF to fund the liabilities of insolvent schemes. As more schemes fall into the PPF there would be fewer remaining schemes that must share the burden of this cost. Their premium costs will increase as there will be fewer remaining schemes to fund the PPF levy.

It is possible that the PPF will end up with the same problems as the final salary schemes; i.e. they won’t have the money to pay the “promises” for pensioners. Additionally, the PPF will most likely have to reduce the benefits they pay out.

Pension Changes Already in Place
Inflationary increases have already been permitted to change from Retail Prices Index (RPI) to Consumer Prices Index (CPI). This change looks reasonably small, but over a lifetime this could
reduce the benefits by between 25% and 30%.

In April 2015, unfunded Public Sector pension schemes have removed the ability to transfer out, so schemes for nurses, firemen, military personnel, civil service workers etc. are no longer transferable. Now these are blocked, it will be easier to make changes to reduce the benefits and no one can respond by transferring out.

When this rule change was being discussed the authorities also wanted to block the transfer of funded non-public sector schemes, i.e. most corporate final salary schemes. There is therefore a risk that transfers from all final salary schemes could be blocked or gated.

Autumn Statement (Budget)
This is expected on 23 November 2016. Could the Government make any further changes to Pension rules? When Public sector pensions were blocked, there was a small time window to transfer. People who review their pensions now may at least have time to consider options.

Could Brexit end the ability to transfer pensions away from the UK? This is still unknown, but pensions are often a soft target of government taxation ‘raids’.

Reasons Why Schemes Are In Difficulty

Ageing population. People now expect to live around 27 years in retirement. When these schemes commenced the average number of years in retirement was 13 years.

Lower Investment Returns. As schemes have become underfunded, they have invested more conservatively. Average exposure to equities (shares) is now around 33%, whereas in 2006 the average equity content was 61%.

Benefits were too generous. In simple terms, many of the final salary schemes were too good. In 2016, if you became a member of a 1/60th scheme then your company would need to add 50% of your salary to make sure the benefits can be paid. Clearly this is unrealistic.

What Could Change?

·       An end to the ability to transfer out of such schemes

·       An increase to the Pension Age, perhaps in line with the increase of the State Pension

·       Reduction of Inflation increases, (already started as many now increase by CPI instead of RPI)

·       Reduction of Spouse’s benefit

·       Increase of contributions from current members

·       Lower starting income

What Are The Alternatives?

QROPS schemes have proven very popular in recent years as they offer expats excellent flexibility. While a QROPS is not the only alternative, and each individual case needs properly reviewed by a suitably qualified adviser, the benefits are clear;

·       The ability to pass the pension fund on to heirs

·       The option to change currency

·       You can access the benefits flexibly via income drawdown (can vary the income you take)

·       Wide investment choice to suit your risk profile.

At The Spectrum IFA Group, your locally-based adviser will work together with our internal Pensions Review team and conduct a full analysis of your current arrangements.

The Spectrum IFA Group Expands in Holland and Belgium

By Spectrum-IFA - Topics: Belgium, Netherlands, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 26th March 2014

26.03.14

The Spectrum IFA Group are delighted to announce that David Elkan has joined the office in Holland.

David has worked in Financial Services for the past 26 years covering all aspects of financial planning and investment advice. Initially working within a large offshore brokerage in South East Asia, David then setup his own business in 2002 advising expat clients worldwide.

Commenting on this recent appointment, The Spectrum IFA Group’s CEO, Michael Lodhi commented “We are delighted to welcome David into the team to advice clients in Holland and Belgium. His appointment underpins The Spectrum IFA Group’s commitment to extend our range of services and advisers in Europe and to provide expatriates with a wide range of specialist financial advice”.

The group has been rapidly expanding within Europe over the past few years and this is the third new appointment for The Spectrum IFA Group within the month of March. Michael continues to say, “It is clear that our services are badly needed by the expatriate community in Europe and we are committed to providing this much needed professional advice”.