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Investing in turbulent times

By Sue Regan - Topics: BREXIT, Elections, sterling, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 12th January 2017

12.01.17

In the words of Bob Dylan….The Times They Are a-Changin’

Well, 2016 certainly saw its fair share of change on a global scale, both politically and economically. A few notable events in the year’s calendar being:

  • A slump in Chinese economic growth and heavy selling-off of stock causing its stock market to close for 3 days in January and wider global market turbulence
  • The oil price crash early in the year which, although a welcome bonus at the petrol pumps, had a largely negative effect on the global economy which now relies far more on emerging economies that are oil and commodity rich than it did 15 or 25 years ago – the last periods of ultra low oil prices
  • Interest rates are at an all time low and could go even lower, even though inflation is on the up. Whilst this is a good thing if you are a borrower, it’s not good news for savers
  • BREXIT – as well as the political chaos left in its wake the vote to leave the EU sent sterling into a downward spiral taking it to its lowest level against the US dollar in over 30 years. Although the UK stock market rallied initially because UK exports looked cheap, and the fall of the pound against the Euro has been a little softer, it has dramatically reduced the income for anyone transferring their pensions from sterling to euros
  • Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election took most by surprise, but the president-elect continues to defy expectations. Contrary to the predictions of many experts, stock markets have rallied strongly since his victory, with the three major US indices reaching record highs while the dollar has soared. What effect this will have on the longer term outlook for the US and the rest of the world is yet to be seen but a hike in US interest rates now seems very likely

Sometimes change is positive and sometimes it is negative. When things appear to be bad it is often tempting to allow emotion to intervene and bad investment decisions can be made. To say that the future is uncertain is an understatement, but when is the future ever certain? As the old adage goes “the only things certain in life are death and taxes”. During times of increased uncertainty, it feels “safe” to leave your hard earned cash to sit in a bank account where it won’t be affected by market falls and “at least it will earn a bit of interest” – and that is very often the case BUT that isn’t to say that it won’t lose any value. With interest rates at an all time low and inflation on the rise you don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that if the rate of inflation is higher than the rate of interest your cash is earning then the real value of your capital is falling, not to mention the Income tax payable on savings interest. The thing most investors want above all else is to grow their capital.

Market timing is difficult at best – even the professionals can get it wrong. Every market cycle has days when it rises and days when it falls, known as market volatility. The herd instinct as well as our emotions can sometimes lead us to buy when markets are on the rise or, as is often the case, when they are at a peak, and sell when they are low. Often a few good days account for a large part of the total return on an investment but trying to predict when these days will be is virtually impossible. By staying in the market you ensure that your investments will benefit from the good days.

The key to reducing market volatility is diversification. Although it does not guarantee against loss, diversification is the most important component to achieving your long-term financial goals whilst minimising risk. A well diversified portfolio will include investments across a broad range of asset classes (e.g. cash, bonds, property and equities) and investing in several different industries; sectors; geographical regions; and incorporating different fund managers.

Good portfolio managers will monitor and analyse closely the changes and trends going on in all aspects of the investment universe and will find opportunities even when things are generally perceived to be “bad”. Choosing the right fund manager(s) to manage your money is crucial. Although The Spectrum IFA Group is completely independent and is free to recommend any and all investment providers out there – we don’t. We place huge importance on our rigorous selection process before adding a fund to our Preferred Funds List, considering such things as the strength and security of the fund house; its regulatory environment; the experience and track record of the fund manager(s); the team and resources available; the investment process and the fund mandate. After undertaking the detailed selection process our specialist Investment Committee put together a comprehensive list of funds and investments to suit different risk profiles, time horizons and financial objectives.

Financial Review

It is at times like this that people need financial advice more than ever. If you would like to have a confidential discussion about your situation, or any other aspect of retirement or inheritance planning, you can contact me by e-mail at sue.regan@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 67 24 90 95 to make an appointment. We adopt a highly-personalised approach to expat financial planning. We are here for the long term, and will continue to guide you through all types of financial issues. The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter at www.spectrum-ifa.com/spectrum-ifa-client-charter/

The Spectrum IFA Group representing Expats in the ‘Exiting the EU Select Committee’

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, EU Select committee, europe-news, Italy, Spectrum-IFA Group, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 2nd January 2017

02.01.17

Gareth Horsfall from The Spectrum IFA Group in Rome, Italy, will be one of four UK citizens living in the EU who will be representing us at the House of Commons, Westminster, in the ‘Exiting the EU Select committee’, which will be broadcast live on the BBC Parliament and also streamed live over the internet on January 18th between 9am and 12pm. GMT

What is this?

The ‘UK Exiting the EU Committee’ (consisting of 20 MP’s) is appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Exiting the European Union and matters falling within the responsibilities of associated public bodies.

Why have I been considered as a witness?

I have been involved with a few people in Italy who have been taking a very active part in working behind the scenes to try and safeguard our present rights as UK citizens residing in Europe.  A couple of these people thought that because of my particular situation: Italian wife, Italian child, providing financial advice to, mostly, British people living in Italy, being the legal representative of an Italian Ltd company and passporting my UK qualifications into Italy on an equivalence basis, that I might be a good candidate to sit before the select committee and explain the problems that I will face when the UK exits from the EU. I agreed!

It is also an opportunity to explain some of the problems that you will also be facing.

This will be quite an experience and an opportunity for me at the same time. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little overwhelming. However, there are human and economic rights that I feel we must make an effort to try and retain as part of the UK divorce from the EU. On that basis I was willing to put myself forward.

So with this in mind, I would invite you to write to me at gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com and let me know what your worries are about the UK’s exit from the EU. I will read everything before I leave next Tuesday (I may not get chance to reply to everyone, but thank you in advance for any views/opinions you have) and I will use whatever information I can to present a strong case for everyone in Italy and all other British citizens living in Europe.

Time to Unite……

….and Wish me luck!

Brexit, US Election & Exchange Rates

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: BREXIT, Currencies, France, sterling, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 7th November 2016

07.11.16

There are so many things that I could write about this month and it’s difficult to choose one above the others. So a quick summary of what’s topical might help.

BREXIT

What an interesting conundrum that the UK government is faced with now! Actually not just the government, but the MPs who personally wanted to remain in – or leave – the EU, before the Referendum took place, but represent constituencies that voted in a different way to those MPs personally want.

Will MPs put their personal feeling aside and vote according to what their constituents want? Would this effectively change the result of the Referendum. At the very least, MPs should ensure that their constituents are provided with sufficient information on all of the issues that can arise if the UK leaves the EU. Constituents can then make an informed decision, if given the opportunity to express their opinion to their MP.

It’s interesting that the Court’s decision was based on the argument that the government cannot use executive powers to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty because it would effectively mean overturning an act of Parliament. However, Parliament is sovereign – it can create laws and only Parliament can take these away, not the government. The interesting word here is “sovereign” because this is exactly what the Brexitiers want to get back from the EU.

It’s well known that Theresa May still wants to push forward with triggering Article 50 by the end of March 2017. However, unless the government wins its appeal against the Court’s decision, she may not get her wish.

Despite the ‘certainty’ in law of the Court’s decision, the result creates more uncertainty at this point, as to whether or not Article 50 will ever be invoked. This is likely to continue to create pressure on Sterling (more on this below), and market volatility, until such time as when the process has either been completed or dropped altogether.

On the bright side, if MPs are to debate the terms of what the UK should negotiate from its withdrawal from the EU, before Article 50 is invoked, perhaps we may have some idea of what the outcome of a Brexit may look like. However, it’s a ‘catch 22 situation’, as the EU will not negotiate terms with the UK until Article 50 is invoked and so there is no guarantee that the UK will get what it wants – whatever the outcome of the Parliamentary debates.

So Brexit may not now mean Brexit, but at the very least, it may be further away than we thought.

US Presidential Election

I am writing this article a few days before the election. It seems that both candidates may have skeletons in their closet – Clinton with her emails and Trump with his tax returns. During the last few days, Trump went ahead in the polls and now Clinton has pipped ahead again. In reality, the polls are too close to call and the last time that I wrote that was just before the EU Referendum. Look what happened there!

Markets are beginning to price in the possibility of a Trump win. If it becomes a reality, there is likely to be a large sell-off in US equities (and it can’t be ruled out that this may ripple through to other markets). This is contrary to what would usually happen after a Republican victory, but then, Trump has contrarian views to those of the normal Republican policies.

However, as markets begin to reflect on positive tax changes and the looser regulatory environment that Trump supports, we might see a V-shaped turn, perhaps a repeat of what happened after the Brexit vote.

If the odds continue to move against Clinton in the final days approaching the election, the markets are likely to move further downwards. However, if the outcome is a Clinton win, then it could bring with it a bounce back in markets.

Longer-term market views of a Clinton win are positive, but not so for a Trump win. There is a high possibility that his anti-trade policies with the rest of the world would cause a large slowdown in growth. Unlike the UK that wishes to close its borders to immigrants, but still wants to trade with the world, Trump seems to be determined to curtail imports through a variety of policies, all of which are within the power of a president, with or without the support of Congress. As a result, a Trump trade-led recession could even tip Europe back into full-blown recession, which would likely precipitate a serious European banking crisis, something which is already a concern. Additionally, the effect on emerging markets could be very negative.

By the time you read this article, we may know the results, or will do shortly after. In the meantime, I am very much hoping that the American people do the right thing on the day.

Sterling Exchange Rate

Can it get worse? Well yes, it can and yes, I think it will. I would not be surprised to see Sterling reach parity with the Euro and lately, I have started to think that it could go even lower. Unfortunately, the downward pressure on Sterling is likely to continue until Brexit is over

If you are retired and receiving UK pensions, then you will be feeling the difference. Even with the little bounce back after the Court’s decision, Sterling has still fallen around 16% since the day following the EU Referendum and around 25% over the last year – so in other words, that’s 25% reduction in your pension income. If you also have investment income in Sterling, this means that your capital has to earn 25% more than it did a year ago, just to maintain the same rate of return relative to Euro. Even worse, your Sterling capital has lost 25% of its value in Euro terms.

Sterling is undervalued and there is no doubt that it will eventually rise from the ashes. But when and what do people do in the meantime?

If you are using a bank to transfer Sterling to Euros, you are likely to be receiving a very poor rate of exchange. Hence, it is worth looking at using a forex company for your currency transfers, as the exchange rate that the companies offer is usually higher than the banks. If you do not already have an account with a forex company and you would like to know more about this, please contact me. Even if you already have an account, it can be worth shopping around and we can refer you to a reputable company.

If you are lucky enough to have some capital in Euros already, it might be worthwhile using this, in lieu of your normal Sterling source of income, or at least for part of your income needs. However, everyone’s situation is different and so it is very important to take advice before doing this to make sure that your longer-term objectives are not put at risk.

Financial Review

It is at times like this that people need financial advice, more than ever. Hence, if you would like to have a confidential discussion about your situation, or any other aspect of retirement or inheritance planning, you can contact me by e-mail at daphne.foulkes@spectrum-ifa.com or by telephone on 04 68 20 30 17 to make an appointment. Alternatively, if you are in Limoux, call by our office at 2 Place du Général Leclerc, 11300 Limoux, to see if an adviser is available immediately for an initial discussion.

The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of pensions, investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter.

The Brexit or Invoking the Law of Unintended Consequence.

By David Hattersley - Topics: BREXIT, spain, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 28th October 2016

28.10.16

Since the Brexit vote most news has been about potential Trade deals, and Sterling’s fall. However it perhaps has gone unnoticed, that from a variety of differing scenarios with outcomes by no means certain, a Constitutional crisis could be gathering steam.

It all stems back to the European Referendum Act 2015, that didn’t consider the variety of outcomes and was legally non binding. In addition, the power of the Royal Prerogative that was curbed when King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215 is being used by the Government, and in essence his successor Theresa May, to make or break treaties with other countries including the EU, in this case invoking Article 50 without the need for it to be passed into law via an Act of Parliament.

Critics of this say that the 1972 Act (based on the UK joining the Common Market) ceded power from the UK Parliament and allowed EU law to pass into UK law. This gave the British people protection under a new constitution based on EU law (based on Napoleonic Law). The UK has never had a written constitution that protects it citizens and gives them certain rights. It is being argued by a variety of bodies via legal challenges against the PM for using the Royal Prerogative to take away rights bestowed to Parliament. Some go as far to say “enforced removal” of citizenship rights from 65 million people would be “completely unprecedented “in modern democracy. Expat campaigners are also arguing that the “rights enjoyed by British citizens beyond these shores are so fundamental that legislation is required to take them away”.

The legal challenge has been mounted to the process of withdrawing the UK from the EU without a vote in Parliament and is going to the High Court, to be heard within the next two weeks. If the government lose due to Judges imposing their will (note unelected!), it would then be ironic for this eventually being heard by the European Court of Justice, the UK’s next step .

If the UK government win this current legal challenge on the basis “ Respecting the outcome of the referendum and giving effect to the will and the decision of the people “, that too could lead to further challenges for whom the right to vote was taken away i.e. a large percentage of Ex Pats and those Europeans citizens in the UK.

Additionally, working on that basis could give credence to Scottish Independence should they have a 2nd referendum and vote to remain in Europe. The same could be said of Northern Ireland, which has its own Parliament as well, and perhaps even Gibraltarians, as they overwhelmingly voted to remain.

The other major crisis in the making is the “Great Repeal Bill” debate that is due to be put to the House next year. A number of scenarios could occur. Many M.P.’s supported remain and the government still has deep divisions within its ranks. With only a majority of 10 seats in the House, a loss could force a vote of confidence, an early election, and a greatly disenchanted and potentially a disenfranchised electorate that voted to leave.

If they win then it passes to the House of Lords, who overwhelmingly wished to remain in the EU, and should they vote against it, take note Leave campaigners, an unelected body voting against the wishes of the majority!!

The Law of Unintended Consequence reigns supreme, or quite simply chaos. It makes Spain’s recent political turmoil insignificant, and I wonder how many of those that voted to leave or indeed did not vote at all, would have wanted these potential outcomes.

What would be even more ironic would be that the UK Government, in its current format, with many of the Ministers that supported the Leave campaign in positions of power, having to go to the European Court of Justice to overrule either singularly or both the UK Judges or the House of Lords to push through the Brexit, whilst at the same time preside over the breakup of the Union.

Should you consider transferring your Final Salary Pension?

By Daphne Foulkes - Topics: BREXIT, France, Pensions, Spectrum-IFA Group, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 28th October 2016

28.10.16

A big question and something that raised a lot of interest at our recent Tour de Finance event that took place at the Domaine Gayda. There have been a number of recent changes within the UK economy and the UK pension world that make a review of any pension(s) essential for those living or planning to live outside the UK.

Final Salary pension schemes (also referred to as Defined Benefit schemes) have long been viewed as a gold plated route to a comfortable retirement. However, there is wide opinion now that there are likely to be large changes ahead in the pension industry. The key question is will these schemes really be able to provide the promised benefits over the next 20+ years?

Why Review now?

Record high transfer values

The calculation of transfer values from these types of scheme is complex. One of the factors that determines how much the pension scheme has to pay to transfer a Member’ benefits is gilt yields, which are at an all-time low. This has resulted in transfer values to be at an all-time high and we are finding that some transfer values have increased by over 30% in the last 12 months.

Scheme Deficits
Actuaries Hyman Robertson now calculate the total deficits on the remaining UK final salary pension schemes as £1 Trillion! Since the employers are ultimately responsible for funding the cost of the pension benefits, unless they have very deep pockets, this puts the security of the benefits at risk.

TATA Steel/BHS
The final salary pension schemes of these two companies have been in the news. These recent examples show that the very large deficits of their final salary pension schemes cause a number of problems; in particular 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 the schemes that do get into financial trouble, but two points are key. Firstly, it is not guaranteed by the Government and secondly the remaining final salary schemes have to pay large premiums (a levy) to the PPF in order to fund the insolvent schemes. As more schemes fall into the PPF, there are less remaining schemes that have to share the burden of this cost. Their premium costs will increase, as there will be less remaining schemes to fund the PPF levy.

It is likely the PPF will end up with the same problems as the remaining final salary schemes, as it is unlikely to have the money to pay the “promises” for the pensioners. Additionally, the PPF will most likely have to reduce the benefits they pay out.

Pension changes that have already happened
Inflationary increases have already been allowed 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 for transfers, so schemes for nurses, firemen, army personnel, civil service workers etc. can no longer transfer their pensions. Now these are blocked, it will be easier to make changes to reduce the benefits and no one is able to respond by transferring out of the schemes.

When this rule was being considered the authorities also wanted to block the transfer of funded schemes, i.e. most final salary schemes that are available. This could come back onto the discussion table in the future.

Autumn Statement (Budget)
This is on 23 November 2016. Could the Government make any further changes to UK pension rules? When Public Sector pensions were blocked, there was a small window of time to transfer. However, most people couldn’t get their transfer values in time as the demand was so high. 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?

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
Investment returns have not been as high as expected. Also there has been a very large reduction in the amount invested in equities in final salary schemes; this is now around 33%, but in 2006, the average equity content was 61.1%.

Benefits were too good
Simply, many of the final salary schemes were ‘too good’. In 2009, around 24% of employees’ salaries was needed to fully fund final salary schemes that provided the standard level of benefit of 1/60th for each year of pensionable service. In 2016, that rate is now 50%! Clearly, it is unrealistic to expect an employer to meet the liability.

What could happen in the Future?

  • An end to the ability to transfer out of all final salary schemes?
  • Increase 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?

Act now! Review your pensions.

It does no harm at all to at least have a review of your pensions. In fact, it is prudent to do so. At The Spectrum IFA Group, we carry out a full transfer analysis, which is in accordance with the UK Financial Conduct Authority rules, before making any recommendation to transfer pension benefits. Doing nothing at all can often be an expensive mistake.

The above outline is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action on the subject of pensions, investment of financial assets or on the mitigation of taxes.

The Spectrum IFA Group advisers do not charge any fees directly to clients for their time or for advice given, as can be seen from our Client Charter .

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 113th Le Tour de Finance event at Domaine Gayda

By Derek Winsland - Topics: BREXIT, Le Tour de Finance, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 25th October 2016

25.10.16

On Friday 7th October, 62 invited guests attended the 113th Le Tour de Finance event, once again staged in the beautiful setting of Domaine Gayda, in Brugairolles in the Aude. This is the seventh time The Spectrum IFA Group has returned to Domaine Gayda, and after the presentations guests were able to sample some of the wines produced there.

On arrival, guests were treated to coffee and pastries before listening to six presentations on a range of financial subjects including Assurance Vie, Pensions, Financial Markets and Currency Exchange and French Tax issues. The presentations were delivered by industry professionals and commenced with a presentation by Michael Lodhi CEO of The Spectrum Group who immediately drew the attention of the attendees by addressing the issue uppermost in the guests’ minds, that of the EU Referendum result and how it would impact the expat community. Michael then went on to highlight the other main theme of the day, that of the state of the UK pensions industry, scheme deficits and the options open to pension members.

Michael then made way for Jeremy Ferguson of SEB Life International who spoke about Assurance Vie, its tax advantages in France both for income and inheritance tax, and demonstrated the product’s flexibility in adapting to changes in the policy-holder’s circumstances. This is always a popular presentation, and didn’t disappoint.

Following Jeremy, we heard a presentation on the current situation in the financial markets delivered by Robert Walker from Rathbones, who shared the ‘house’ view on the impact of Brexit on the investment markets, and on the value of the pound. Of particular interest were his views on where the true value of the pound lies and the timescales before those values are likely to be restored.

Following Robert came a short presentation by George Forsyth of Prudential who presented the Prudential International Assurance Vie and how it differs from the SEB Life International contract. Majoring on the strength of Prudential’s investment funds and how this allows the returns to be smoothed out, rather than suffer the periodical fluctuations of the investment markets, George was able to convey the view that the volatility in global markets can be successfully managed without causing the investor sleepless nights.

There was a noticeable sitting up in seats when the next speaker stood up to speak – Paul Foreman from Momentum Pensions. Speaking about the developments in pensions brought about by last year’s change in legislation, it was clear this was a subject of great importance to the attendees. There is clear concern being expressed currently and this was confirmed to us in feedback received after the event. Paul delivered a highly informative presentation that inevitably raised more questions than answers, but an opportunity to ask those questions came over lunch.

Pippa Maile of Currencies Direct then delivered a typically entertaining presentation on the different transaction opportunities available through the Currencies Direct online portal. Once again this was of particular interest to the room.

Finally, guests were introduced to Rachel Thomas-Bonnet whose company Perfide Albion provides help and support in a whole range of aspects to ex-pats, ranging from help with property purchase, entering the French healthcare system and (noticeably more reluctantly) re-registering your car in France. Rachel also helps with completion of tax returns, and through her work with Notaires coupled with her legal training she has built up a reputation as the go-to person for all aspects legal. It was clear that Rachel was a popular speaker by the comments made by the attendees and the number of people who made a bee-line for Rachel over lunch.

The presentations were then wound up by Michael Lodhi who invited all to stay and enjoy the lunch provided by Domaine Gayda and to sample some of its wines.

To all of us there, it was evident that the guests had found all the presentations highly informative and of value to them. Once again, a very successful Tour de Finance.

Dread and Brexit

By John Hayward - Topics: BREXIT, Costa Blanca, Inheritance Tax, spain, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 24th October 2016

24.10.16

Fear causes thousands to hold off making decisions pre-Brexit

Uncertainty over what will happen once the UK has left the European Union has led people to make one important decision. Not do anything until it happens. This means delaying actions for around two and a half years. This could be a really disappointing, if not dangerous, decision to make. As much as we intend being around in two and a half years, there is no guarantee we will be. Who knew two and a half years ago what was going to happen next week?

Brexit is another event in our lives. None of us, not even the politicians, know exactly what is going to happen but you can plan for all eventualities. If there is a full-on Brexit, then you need to be in a position whereby your money is not exposed to future monetary restrictions. You need to do this BEFORE the shutters come down. Waiting two and a half years may be too long and too late.

If there is a “soft” Brexit, as I suspect there will be, with deals being done over a gin and tonic in Le Chien et Le Canard, it will still be important that your investments are recognised as being tax compliant in the country you live in. It will also be important that any financial planning advice you are receiving is coming from a company registered in your country. Some financial advisers in Spain are allowed to operate using a UK licence because the UK is in the EU. The professional indemnity insurance which they (may) have could become invalid.

Another change likely to cause a big problem post-Brexit is Spanish inheritance tax. UK inheritors are benefiting from Spanish rules introduced in 2014. These rules only apply to EU residents. Therefore, it is now time to look at how to distribute wealth in readiness for these changes.

Interest rates are low and will stay that way for some time to come, probably for at least two and a half years. The pound has collapsed in value meaning that income in euro terms has reduced dramatically. Banks have little or nothing to offer. We can help you with this NOW. We do not charge for a chat, or even for investigating what you have. We tick all the boxes regarding licences and compliance and we live in Spain.

 

Will BREXIT have an effect on your Pension Plans?

By Susan Worthington - Topics: BREXIT, Defined benefit pension scheme, Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, Mallorca, Pensions, QROPS, spain, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 20th October 2016

20.10.16

 
Brexit could have an effect on your Pension whether it is a Private Plan or Final Salary Scheme that is waiting to be paid. There are many various pension plans these are just two examples

Do you have a Private Frozen Pension in the UK?

Pensions are driven by HMRC ruling not EU Membership and a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes) which allows you to transfer your pension overseas. This option may not be available in the future as there is talk that HMRC may pull the plug, make restrictions or even insert transfer tax.

Do you have a Final Salary Pension Scheme in the UK?

There have been a number of recent changes within the UK economy and UK pension world that make a review of any pension(s) essential for those living or planning to live outside the UK.
Final Salary pension schemes (also referred to as Defined Benefit schemes) have long been viewed as a gold plated route to a comfortable retirement, however there are likely to be large changes ahead in the pension industry. The key question is; will these schemes really be able to provide the promised benefits over the next 20+ years?

Why Review now?

Record high transfer values

  • Gilt rates are at an all-time low. This has caused transfer values to be at an all-time high, some transfer values have increased by over 30% in the last 12 months.

TATA Steel/BHS

  • Recent examples show that very large deficits in pension schemes cause a number of problems, in particular 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

Pension Protection Fund (PPF)

  • This fund has been set up to help the 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 have to pay large premiums (a levy) to the PPF in order to fund the insolvent schemes. As more schemes fall into the PPF there are less remaining schemes that have to share the burden of this cost.
  • It is likely the PPF will end up with the same problems as the final salary schemes, they won’t have the money to pay the “promises” for the pensioners
  • In April 2015 unfunded Public Sector pension schemes have removed the ability for transfers, so schemes for nurses, firemen, army personnel, civil service workers etc. can no longer transfer their pensions. Now these are blocked, it will be easier to make changes to reduce the benefits and no one is able to respond by transferring out of the scheme

Autumn Statement (Budget)

  • This is on 23 November 2016. Could the Government make any further changes to Pension rules? When Public sector pensions were blocked there was a small window of time to transfer, however most people couldn’t get their transfer values in time as the demand was so high. People who review their pensions now may at least have time to consider options

What could happen in the Future?

  • An end to the ability to transfer out of such schemes
  • Increase 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

Act now! Review your pensions

Susan Worthington of The Spectrum IFA Group has been giving investment advice here in Mallorca and Menorca since 1994.
If you wish to have a chat with Susan about any frozen or paid-up pension.
Contact: susan.worthington@spectrum-ifa.com or telephone 670 308987.

For Brexiteers and Remainers alike

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: BREXIT, Euro, europe-news, Italy, Uncategorised, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 17th October 2016

17.10.16

It was only a matter of time before I got onto the subject of Brexit once again. I have been trying to avoid it like the plague and certainly will refrain from offering any views in this article.

However, I do want to inform you about some very important developments for UK citizens who are living in Italy.

Since Brexit, it has become apparent that whatever stance you took at the vote, that UK citizens living in Italy may very well lose the right to universal access to healthcare, pensions, the right to acquire citizenship and running a business. Equally we may lose the right to freely move across other European states and we will almost certainly, the ways things are presently moving, lose the right of permanent residence in Italy without a permesso di soggiorno.

I am certainly worried about all the UK negotiations with the EU and whether you voted for Brexit or not and/or if you are a resident in Italy or intend to be, then they will surely affect you. One way of getting round this is to try and attain cittadinanza, (you can find out how , HERE. The page is in Italian!) if you are eligible. The other way is for us to try and get our rights as UK citizens, who are already living in and resident in Italy, recognised by either the UK and/or Italy.

In France, Spain, Belgium and Germany there are big movements afoot by politically inclined and connected individuals who are writing to their respective EU states and negotiating with them on behalf of all UK citizens already living in these countries and the rest of the EU.

Here is a little of what they say:

Brexit should not have a retrospective effect on individuals. UK citizens currently resident in the EU and EU citizens currently resident in the UK should be expressly treated as continuing to have the same rights as they had before Brexit. This is not confined to a right of continued residence but extends to all related rights such as the acquisition of citizenship, the right to continue to work or run a business, the right to healthcare, pensions etc.

These citizens from both sides of the Channel all made their decisions on where to live and work in genuine and reasonable reliance on the UK’s membership of the EU. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that membership, it cannot be right for millions of people to have their lives turned upside down when that could easily be avoided by a mutual agreement that the status quo prior to Brexit should continue to apply to this group.

Rumblings in Italy

I am happy to say that, in Italy, there is now a similar group of people who are campaigning to represent UK citizens in Italy. They are a UK/Italian solicitor based in Rome, retired barristers and journalists who are aiming to gather recognition in the UK, and in Italy, at a political level and fight to retain EU rights for UK citizens living in Italy.

The subject of this E-zine is to spread the word of this to as many British people living in Italy, or intending on moving to Italy, as possible.

They have a Facebook group. If you are interested in ongoing developments they will be posted regularly on their page. You can ‘Like’ it from the link below. And don’t forget to send this link to as many other UK citizens living in Italy, as you know.

www.facebook.com/UKcitizensinItaly/

(If you are unable to join this group, or do not use Facebook, then you can register your presence with the group at their email address: britsinitaly@gmail.com. You may also contact them if you have any specific skills or contacts, or want to get involved in some way).

The group is closely affiliated with www.britsineurope.org who are a group of UK citizens living in Berlin and who are fostering co-ordination between the various groups around Europe.

It would appear that this group of people in Italy are the ONLY group which is actively campaigning in Italy and ideally it should stay this way. A lot of the campaigning will have to be directed at the Italian government and we all know what a headache that can be. One focal point will be a useful way of making contact with you, when required, and also informing the group of any hurdles you may be facing already, or start to face, as a result of Brexit.

The group is an open group, subscription free, and welcomes any ideas, comments or information you might be able to offer.

Please spread this onto as many UK citizens in Italy as you may know and ask them to sign up to the Facebook page, if they have the possibility to do so. Otherwise I will, as usual, be updating you with ongoing developments here. I am in regular contact with the group of individuals mentioned above and will aim to send out messages when necessary, alongside my usual ramblings.

This has been more of a public service notification than one of my usual E-zines but I hope you are reassured that there are people out there who have the ability and connections to try and make our life easier in Italy, depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.