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What type of recovery do we foresee?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 29th June 2020

29.06.20

The days are long and sunny and lots of people are looking forward to beginning their life in France! June is a very busy month here in France because with the school holidays starting on 1st July and lasting until the end of August, June is the last few weeks to get everything done before most people go on holiday.

June has felt like a very busy month for me, with lots of meetings with future clients on the telephone, Zoom meetings and webinars. On 12th June I attended the Tilney Women’s Panel Event hosted by Tilney with guest speakers Emma Sterland (Tilney), Zahra Pabani (Irwin Mitchell LLP), Marcie Shaoul (Rolling Stone Coaching) and Charlotte Broadbent (Charlotte Loves), which was a great way to end the week listening to other women’s experiences of lockdown. Then, on 17th June, I took part in a seminar examining financial planning solutions for American expatriates, which was very interesting.

I finally got back on the road again on 18th June to visit a few clients, which was lovely. Whilst the weather wasn’t as great as I might have hoped, I was very happy to see the in-real-life faces of my clients, whilst keeping a respectable social distance during the meetings.

zoom Katriona Murray

During what has become a monthly Zoom meeting with colleagues this month, we were joined by Rob Walker from Rathbones who gave us an interesting view on the three possible scenarios that Rathbones are envisaging:

1) that there will a V shaped recovery
2) that there will be a progressive recovery but no second wave of the virus
3) that there will be a second wave and a second lockdown.

When asked to vote on which of these three scenarios seemed the most likely, about half of us suggested the second scenario and the other half opted for the third scenario. Rob told us that there has been a bias towards “stay at home stocks” with Amazon and eBay doing very well, if not for any other reason than people could not get to the supermarket during the lockdown so tended to favour ordering online. Cleaning products stocks have done very well as one can imagine. National Grid has also done very well and in addition is increasing its attention on renewable energy, which is unsurprising given widespread and growing interest in Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) investing. Then there are the “Go back to work” sectors, such as retail, commercial property and tourism, which can only thrive if people do in fact go back to work.

In a possible indication of what lies ahead, Berkshire Hathaway (the company founded by renowned and highly successful investor Warren Buffet) has massively sold its holdings in airline companies. If a vaccine is found then these companies will see a rebound, but given the timing for a workable approved vaccine, this may not happen any time soon. Whilst US tech stocks are doing very well and have done very well during lockdown, Rob’s position is “Be defensive. This is no time to be heroic”.

Katriona Murray work revolution

There is no consensus on the way forward. The question is, do we want to go back to working the way we did before? For many workers going to work involves lengthy commutes on packed trains and buses, whereas the last few months have shown that many

of us can do our jobs from the comfort of our homes.

If this is a work revolution and companies decide to change their business models and allow employees to work more from home, what will be the consequences for commercial property ?

During the second part of the year the focus is going to be on Brexit and the US elections. Donald Trump is desperate to be re-elected. However, has the BLM movement hurt his chances? Will this encourage black voters to go out and vote to put Joe Biden in the Whitehouse? And in the UK, once the situation with Covid19 improves, the focus will be back on Brexit and what kind of deal the Prime Minister can agree with the European Union, if at all. The next six months are going to be interesting.

In France, a month after lockdown restrictions started being eased, the number of cases in the south west of the country still remains low. Schools have gone back with so far very few consequences.

Whilst July is a summer month, I will continue to work as normal (new normal). My children will continue to go to a holiday club two days a week. Like many of you, I am waiting to see whether a trip back to the UK to visit family will be possible in August which will determine our summer plans. I will not do a newsletter at the end of July but will probably do one at the end of August/beginning of September.

So for now, I wish you all a pleasant summer and look forward to getting back on the road to see even more clients in September!

Inheritance Planning & French Residency

By Occitanie - Topics: France, Inheritance Tax, Moving to France, Succession Planning, Tax, Wills
This article is published on: 9th June 2020

09.06.20

Welcome to ‘Spectrum in Occitanie, Finance in Focus’.

The Covid-19 pandemic still dominates the news and will inevitably remain at the forefront of our thoughts for some time. Last month we focused on the financial consequences of this virus and we may well return to this subject in future editions. However, in this issue we are going to focus on the very important, and often neglected, subject of Wills and Inheritance Planning. Succession laws in France differ significantly from those in the UK and careful planning is required to mitigate French inheritance tax.

As a reminder, we are Sue Regan, Rob Hesketh, Derek Winsland and Philip Oxley. Together we form Spectrum’s team in the Occitanie.

As touched on in last month’s Newsletter, now is probably a good time to revisit the subject of inheritance planning – an integral part of any financial planning review.

Despite the importance of making sure one’s affairs are in order for the inevitability of our demise, very few people actively seek advice in this area and, as a result, are unaware of the potential difficulties ahead for their families and heirs, not to mention potential tax bills which can be quite substantial for certain classes of beneficiary. With some sensible planning you could save your intended beneficiaries a great deal of stress and dramatically reduce their inheritance tax bill.

The basic rule is, if you are resident in France, you are considered also to be domiciled in France for inheritance purposes and your worldwide estate becomes taxable in France, where the tax rates depend upon the relationship to your beneficiaries.

Fortunately, there is no inheritance tax between spouses and the allowance between a parent and a child is reasonably generous, currently €100,000 per child, per parent. For anything left to other beneficiaries, the allowances are considerably less. In particular, for step-children and other non-related beneficiaries, the allowance is only €1,594 and the tax rate on anything above that is an eye-watering 60%!

There are strict rules on succession and children are considered to be ‘protected heirs’ and so are entitled to inherit a proportion of each of their parent’s estates. For example, if you have one child, the proportion is 50% of the deceased parent’s estate; two children, one-third each; and if you have three or more children, then three-quarters of your estate must be divided equally between them.

You are free to pass on the rest of your estate (the disposable part) to whoever you wish through a French will and, in the absence of making a will, if you have a surviving spouse, he/she would be entitled to 25% of your estate.

You may also be considered domiciled in your ‘home country’ and if so, this could cause some confusion, since your home country may also have the right to charge succession taxes on your death. However, France has a number of Double Taxation Treaties (DTT) with other countries covering inheritance. In such a case, the DTT will set out the rules that apply (basically, ‘which’ country has the right to tax ‘what’ assets).

For example, the 1963 DTT between France and the UK specifies that the deceased’s total estate will be devolved and taxed in accordance with the person’s place of residence at the time of death, with the exception of any property assets that are sited in the other country.

moving-to-france

Therefore, for a UK national who is resident in France, who has retained a property in the UK (and does not own any other property outside of France), the situation would be that:

  • any French property, plus his/her total financial assets, would be taxed in accordance with French law; and
  • the UK property would be taxed in accordance with UK law, although in theory, the French notaire can take this asset into account when considering the fair distribution of all other assets to any ‘protected heirs’ ie. children

If a DTT covering inheritance does not exist between France and the other country, with which the French resident person has an interest, this could result in double taxation, if the ‘home’ country also has the right to tax the person’s estate. Hence, when people become French resident, there are usually two issues:

  • how to protect the survivor; and
  • how to mitigate the potential French inheritance taxes for other beneficiaries

Protecting the survivor
There are various ways in which you can protect your spouse:

European Succession Regulation No. 650/2012
Many of you will no doubt have heard about the EU Succession Regulations that came into effect in 2015 whereby the default situation is that it is the law of your place of habitual residence that applies to your estate. However, you can elect for the inheritance law of your country of nationality to apply to your estate by specifying this in a French will. This is effectively one way of getting around the issue of ‘protected heirs’ for some expats living in France.

Adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime or family pact
There are other tried and tested French structures available to fully protect the rights of a spouse, that don’t rely on the notaire having an understanding of the succession laws of other countries.

You could choose to have the marriage regime of ‘communauté universelle avec une clause d’attribution intégrale au conjoint survivant’. Under this marriage regime, all assets are owned within a ‘community pot’ and on the death of the first person, those community assets are transferred to the survivor without any attribution of half of the assets to the deceased’s estate.

However, adopting a ‘community pot’ marriage regime would not be suitable for families with step-children. This sort of arrangement could be subject to a legal challenge by the survivor’s step-children as they could miss out on their inheritance due to the fact that there is no blood relationship with the step-parent.

In this situation, a family pact (pacte de famille) could be the solution, whereby families agree in advance who will inherit and when. Of course, this would only really work where there is an amicable relationship between parents and children, as the children are effectively waiving all or some of their right to inherit.

There are a number of other ways in which you can arrange your affairs to protect the survivor, depending on your individual circumstances, and we would always recommend that you discuss succession planning in detail with a notaire experienced in these matters.

Mitigation of inheritance tax
On whichever planning you decide, it is important to remember that the French inheritance tax rules will still apply. So, even though you have the freedom to decide who inherits your estate, this will not reduce the potential inheritance tax liability on your beneficiaries, which, as mentioned above, could potentially be very high for a step-child. Hence, there will still be a need to shelter financial assets from French inheritance taxes.

By far and away the most popular vehicle in France for sheltering your hard-earned savings from inheritance tax is the Assurance Vie. The assurance vie is considered to be outside of your estate for tax purposes and comes with its own inheritance allowances, in addition to the standard aIllowance for other assets. If you invest in an assurance vie before the age of 70 you can name as many beneficiaires as you like, regardless of whether they are family or not, and each beneficiary can inherit up to €152,500, tax-free. The rate of tax on the next €700,000 is limited to 20% – potentially making a huge saving for remoter relatives or step-children.

Let’s look at a simple example of the inheritance tax position of a married couple with two children, comparing the IHT position with and without investing in assurance vie:

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO DOWNLOAD PDF

It is clear to see from this example that by wrapping their medium to long term savings in an assurance vie, this couple have saved each child €30,500 in IHT.

Of course, the more beneficiaries nominated, for example grandchildren, siblings, etc, the greater the IHT saving overall. Beneficiaries can be changed or added to the assurance vie at any time. Remember, also, that beneficiary nominations are not restricted to family members, so, whoever you nominate gets the same allowance.

The inheritance allowance on premiums paid to assurance vie after age 70 are less attractive at €30,500 of the premium (capital investment) plus the growth on the capital shared between all named beneficiaries, and the remaining capital invested is taxed in accordance with the standard IHT bands.

Nevertheless, an assurance vie is still a worthwhile investment after the age of 70 as, in addition to the inheritance tax benefits, assurance vie offers personal tax efficiencies to the investor such as gross roll-up of income and gains whilst funds remain in the policy and an annual income tax allowance of €4,600, or €9,200 for a couple, after 8 years.

So, in order to ensure that your inheritance wishes are carried out, some planning may be required and there are investment opportunities to mitigate the IHT for your chosen beneficiaries.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss your particular circumstances.

The Spectrum IFA Group – Occitainie
occitainie@spectrum-ifa.com

Who wants to be a millionaire?

By Victoria Lewis - Topics: Financial Planning, France, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 3rd June 2020

03.06.20

Some people are prepared to cheat in order to become a millionaire. Charles Ingram famously cheated on the UK television game show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ and was subsequently found guilty along with his wife and friend who coughed during the programme to indicate the correct answers.

Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm sung ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ in the film High Society. Frank Sinatra was certainly a multi-millionaire even though he sang that he didn’t want to be!

Incidentally, the word millionaire was apparently first used in French in 1719 to describe speculators in the Mississippi Bubble who earned millions of livres in weeks before the bubble burst.

You may already be a millionaire or you may be planning to become one in the future through hard work, inheritance or good luck. Whatever your current financial situation, it is interesting to consider the millionaire ‘secrets’ of how you can become one.

Of course, millionaires aren’t privy to knowledge and information that no one else has access to. The ‘secrets’ are simply sensible financial habits which we can all use.

Click the headings below to find out more:

  • Decide what you want in the future, set a target and stick to it

    Have you calculated when and how much money you need to retire? Perhaps you want your children/grandchildren to have a university education – have you calculated how much this will cost?
  • Shift your focus from spending to investing

    Most millionaires take advice from investment professionals – tax advisers, lawyers, financial planners and asset managers. Don’t be afraid of them; use them.
  • The 24-hour rule

    If you can’t resist spending, apply this rule that many millionaires use. Even if you can afford an expensive purchase, give it a day’s time before actually making the decision. Impulsive shopping occurs from an emotional trigger and is often unnecessary. Do you want it or do you need it?
  • Set a budget (yes, even the rich have a budget!)

    Look at your monthly bank statement and categorise everything into the following groups:
    Essentials, Personal and Savings. Generally speaking, the split should be 50%, 30% and 20%.

    Living essentials – allocate 50% for monthly expenses such as mortgage/rent, transport, utilities, food etc.

    Personal spending – allocate 30% of your income for holidays, entertainment, shopping, hobbies – anything that makes you happy.

    Savings – 20% of your earned income should go straight into an investment or savings account.

    If your own allocations are different, analyse why and consider how changes could be made.

  • Cash over credit

    We are living in a near cashless society and credit cards are easy to come by, but this environment is not advisable for people who struggle to keep within their budget. Many millionaires prefer cash over a card for this reason.
  • Control

    People who are good at saving and investing are generally also good at controlling their urge to spend. Many people have completed a Dry January or a Meat Free Monday, how about trying a regular ‘no spending’ day – call it Frugal Friday!
  • Bills first, the rest later

    Most banks offer the facility to choose the date you want your regular standing orders to be paid. Choose the day after your income/pension is paid in, so you know exactly how much is left for everything else.
  • Invest in something that makes you happy

    This could be a classic car, a piece of art, perhaps you have a hobby that you enjoy investing in. Happiness can also be found in the investment arena, as more and more investors are choosing ethical or socially responsible funds. These are funds that have positive social impacts or are involved in climate change solutions. You can now express your values in the financial world.
  • Invest in services that save you time

    Many millionaires don’t hesitate in paying for services that save their time – food deliveries and laundry services for example. The same can be said for investment research – a financial advisory firm will do that for you.

For more detailed information on these financial habits, please contact me on
M: 06 62 50 70 21 or email Victoria.lewis@spectrum-ifa.com

There’s only two things you can be certain of in life…

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: France, Tax, tax advice, Tax Efficient Savings, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 2nd June 2020

02.06.20

In France they have an expression “En mai fait ce qui te plait” which translated means that in May you do as you please. Well clearly this year we haven’t been able to do exactly as we please but we have been allowed a bit more freedom since the end of lockdown on 11th May. I haven’t yet felt the need to take advantage of this new found liberty, but as the children returned to school under acceptable conditions at the end of last week our work/home/school routine is set to change.

May is also tax season. Whilst you can get online to do your tax return in April, I personally have always preferred to do it on 1st May and during the month of May I notice an increase in client enquiries. Even though, in my previous role as a tax adviser, I used to do several hundred tax returns for our English speaking clients, I still find myself getting nervous when I do our annual tax return. There are so many bits of information that need to be assembled and I want to make sure that I have all the income, expenses and tax reductions properly entered before I finally press send.

French Tax Changes 2019

May is a good time to think about not only your tax but also your taxable income. When I worked in the accountancy firm, my colleagues and I didn’t have time to think about whether a client was paying TOO much tax or not. We just took the information provided and entered the figures in the boxes. When I joined Spectrum I realised that, as a financial adviser, I could take the time to sit down and do a full financial review with my clients to look into whether it made sense for them to be paying so much tax. One thing that comes to mind is UK ISAs and investment portfolios.

They are not tax efficient in France and a real headache for anyone or their tax adviser to have to work out. It took hours of entering in each dividend, interest and capital gain. You can still own a well diversified, multi asset portfolio within an assurance vie wrapper and save time and money when it comes to completing your tax return.

If you haven’t done your tax return then there is still time to do so. You can get our free tax guide HERE. In 2020, all households must do their tax returns online if they have internet access at home. If not they can submit a paper return. You have until 4th June if your live in Departments 1-19 or if you are non-resident, 8th June for Departments 20-54 and 11th June for Departments 55 to 974/976.

As regards the markets, global share prices have recovered strongly over recent weeks, with many investors encouraged by central bank interventions, including ongoing financial support and stimulus for individuals and companies. The prospect of successful vaccine development and the easing of lockdown restrictions have also fuelled optimism. Some of this investor enthusiasm, and expectations of a rapid economic recovery, may well be misplaced, but short term stock market direction is of course impossible to forecast.

There is almost certainly more economic difficulty ahead, but there will in time be a recovery (the only question is timing) and, as always, it is important to take the long term view. For now, our priority should be to ensure that our investments and pensions continue to be well managed regardless of the difficult economic circumstances.

In the words of Julian Chillingworth, Chief Investment Officer of Rathbones, one of Spectrum’s approved multi-asset fund managers,
“We think it’s important that investors concentrate on understanding which businesses can survive this current crisis and quickly return to generating meaningful profits and paying dividends. This is where we are concentrating our research efforts, generating ideas for our investment managers to use in portfolios as we work our way through this crisis.”

May has been a busy month with Zoom meetings with colleagues, friends and family and telephone meetings with clients and prospects. However as lockdown has now ended and my children are back at school (for at least two days a week), I will be tentatively making a few face to face meetings in June if my clients so wish whilst taking all the necessary protection measures.

If you want to speak to me about any financial matters or you know of anyone who, having moved to France, would benefit from learning more about managing finances in France, please do get in touch.

The Spectrum IFA Group and Blackden Financial join forces

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Spectrum-IFA Group, Switzerland
This article is published on: 26th May 2020

26.05.20

One of Europe’s leading expatriate advisory companies today announced the acquisition of a 50% shareholding in Geneva based financial planners Blackden Financial, the transaction having been concluded on Friday following discussions which began last year.

The move forms part of Spectrum’s ongoing strategic growth in Europe and expands its existing Swiss operation based in Lausanne. Blackden’s name, office and personnel will be retained.

Spectrum, established in 2003, specialises in financial planning for English speaking expatriates across Europe, operating from twelve regional offices in France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg. Blackden (also founded in 2003) operates exclusively in Switzerland from its central Geneva premises, providing investment, pension and savings solutions to a predominantly high net worth expatriate client base.

Spectrum Director, Chris Tagg, commented “Having observed Blackden Financial’s success over many years, we recognise the team’s disciplined advice process, high professional standards and commitment to long term client service. We are pleased to be investing in a company, and in people, knowing that the essential features of good business practice are already in place. We look forward to continuing the growth of our expatriate financial planning services across Switzerland.”

“The stake in Blackden allows Spectrum to further develop its Swiss based expatriate investment and tax planning capabilities, whilst giving Blackden access to locally compliant solutions in some of Spectrum’s EU markets including France, Italy and Spain.”

Chris Marriott, founder and CEO of Blackden, added “Having specialised in advising Swiss based expats for the last 17 years, we are delighted to complete this deal, which complements and strengthens our presence locally, and look forward to Spectrum’s involvement in the next phase of our business development.”

Michael Lodhi, Spectrum’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder said “I have known Chris Marriott for more than 15 years, we were instrumental in the creation of The Federation of European Independent Financial Advisers (FEIFA) and I am delighted that we can now work together on a commercial basis.”

State Pension Benefits

By John Lansley - Topics: EU Pension Transfer, France, Pensions, Retirement, State Pensions After BREXIT, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 22nd May 2020

22.05.20

If you have moved from one country to another, while it may be comparatively easy to obtain tax advice in order to help you plan your finances, it can be very difficult to find out how your State Retirement Pension will be affected, and this has become more uncertain as a result of Brexit.

This article aims to shed some light on the issue.

I retired in the UK and moved abroad
Let’s start with something easy – if you have already retired and moved to France, Spain or another EU country, the chances are you will only have a State Pension from the UK. With Brexit in mind, as long as you are legally resident in your new home country by the end of 2020, nothing will change and you will be entitled to the annual pension uplift indefinitely.

Coupled to this is your entitlement to healthcare, in that you will have a form S1 from the UK, which ensures you benefit from full care on an ongoing basis, and which in effect will be paid for by the UK Government.

If you have already left the UK but have not yet reached formal retirement age, as long as you are ‘legal’ in your adopted home before the end of 2020, you will receive the UK State Pension at retirement age and qualify for annual increases. You will also be entitled to a form S1.

Note that, if you have not regularised your situation in your adopted home by the end of 2020, the situation is uncertain, to say the least. You will be entitled to claim the UK State Pension when you reach retirement age, but the uplifts are only due for 3 years and, most importantly, form S1 will not be available; but the situation may change – the Brexit negotiations seem to have stalled due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and no one knows what the final agreement will look like, especially when it comes to freedom of movement and the rights of third country nationals.

defined-benefit-pensions

I left the UK 5 years ago at the age of 55 and have been self-employed in France for the last 5 years

Have you been making voluntary contributions to the UK scheme? Are you making contributions in France?

If you haven’t already done so, obtain a pension forecast from HMRC – use the gov.uk website, sign up for the Government Gateway access service, and check your National Insurance Contribution records, as well as your UK tax records. You’ll have to apply to contribute, using form CF83 attached to the booklet NI38, Social Security Abroad.

You will then be told what pension you can expect at your retirement age, and you can also see how many incomplete contribution years you have. It is generally good advice to continue to make voluntary contributions after leaving the UK (currently £795.60pa), but if you are currently self-employed, you will only have to pay at the Class 2 rate, £158.60pa for the current year.

You’ll receive details of how to make up the shortfall, by bank transfer or cheque for past years, and by direct debit for the future if you wish to see payments taken automatically. Importantly, you can also call to obtain advice concerning whether it would be worthwhile doing this, and how additional payments will increase your pension entitlement – it might take a while to get through, especially due to the current Coronavirus lockdown, but you should find the staff helpful when you do.

Also make sure you understand what your French contributions entitle you to and try to obtain a projection of your future pension in France. This might prove difficult at present, with offices closed or providing limited services.

Having worked in the UK, Italy and now in Spain, I want to claim my State Pension
The first thing to understand is that you should retire formally in the country you are currently living in, unless you haven’t made any pension contributions there – in which case you apply to the last country in which you contributed.

So, in this case, you approach the Spanish authorities and will have to provide details of all your employment and self-employment history. Spain will then check with each country concerned (the EU-wide scheme ensures this is possible – work history outside the EU means you may have to apply individually to those countries) and will calculate your entitlement.

They will do this by adding together the contribution years of each country and then applying this to their own pension rules. Don’t forget, official retirement age can vary in different countries, and some state pensions are more generous than others. A second calculation is made, whereby all the individual pension entitlements are worked out, and the totals added together. Then they will award you the higher of the two figures, and will handle payments to your bank account, obtaining reimbursements from the other countries involved, according to your previous contribution records.

So, you do not have to have the minimum contributions in each country you have worked in. Having said this, if you have done so, the chances are you will benefit from minimum pensions from each country, which will produce a higher figure than otherwise. But this system means it may well not be necessary to continue to make voluntary contributions as your combined contribution history is more than sufficient.

How is healthcare affected? Any other advantages?
The good news is that receiving your pension locally will mean that your access to the local healthcare system comes with it – no need for a form S1. So, any attempts by the UK to remove themselves from the S1 scheme will not affect you.

Receiving your total State Pension entitlement in Euros has to be a distinct advantage, as it removes exchange rate risk from your retirement income. So, although a pension from a former UK employer will have to be paid in Sterling (but see below), and is therefore at risk from a weakening Pound, at least your State Pension will be paid in the currency you spend.

10 TIPS FOR MANAGING YOUR FINANCES

Other financial planning tips?
Despite the UK government’s attempts to water down the ability to ‘export’ your UK private pensions using the QROPS arrangements, this is still

possible – but perhaps won’t be for much longer. So, obtain advice about whether such a move would be beneficial, as soon as possible.

Any savings or capital you have should be invested tax-efficiently and with the aim of protecting it against both inflation and exchange rate fluctuations. Stock Markets can fluctuate too, sometimes dramatically as we have seen, so be careful you understand the amount of risk your investments are exposed to, and seek help from a suitably qualified professional who will be able to help you over the long term.

The Spectrum IFA Group specialises in financial and retirement planning for English speaking expatriates in France, Spain and across Europe. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

Health, Wealth and Happiness

By Victoria Lewis - Topics: Financial Review, France, Inheritance Tax, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 12th April 2020

12.04.20

During the current lockdown in France, I have seen a noticeable increase in the number of my clients wishing to review the beneficiaries of their investments. This could have been prompted by the daily depressing news of covid-19 deaths around the world, or it could simply be because of the extra time available to get their financial plans in order – working through the ‘to do’ lists.

Whatever the driver behind these reviews, it is a responsible part of financial planning to think about how and to whom you wish your investments to be distributed after your passing.

Inheritance planning is a key feature of the well documented ‘assurance vie’ in France – a simple and efficient investment vehicle available to French tax residents. In the next article I will remind you of the assurance vie benefits.

For the moment, I will focus on the title of this ezine. As a Financial Advisor, I am clearly not in a position to advise you on health matters. But as it happens, during this covid-19 confinement period, my own personal health has come under review! With the extra time I now have as I am not travelling to see my clients face to face, I have been able to spend 20 mins every morning exercising via an online personal coach. I will to continue this when normal life resumes.

I am, of course, able to help you with your wealth matters; and it does matter. Perhaps during this time of global lockdown, we can all reflect on our financial plans. Should I change my spending habits? Could I afford to retire earlier than planned? How can I stay financially motivated given the financial and economic forecasts? We can all lose focus from time to time, but it’s a financial adviser’s role to help you keep focused and to bring your financial plans back on track.

Please use your spare time constructively – why not contact me for a review, either over the telephone or via a video call. We will discuss many different areas such as life insurance, pensions, savings and investments, inheritance and wills, mortgages and education fees. We do not charge you a fee for our discussions, our follow up work, our regular reviews or our reports and you are under no obligation to follow our advice. Simply put, if you agree with my recommendations and I then arrange for you for example, an assurance vie or a pension, we are then remunerated by the companies we recommended.

When the daily news is worrying, it is understandable to get absorbed about the here and now impact. We are, after all, thinking about things like the latest restrictions, food shopping and how to keep the family occupied. However, when it comes to your financial plans, it is really important to stay focused on your key objectives.

I believe that if you have your health, an abundance of family and friends, a plan for your wealth then happiness will naturally follow.

To discuss further, please contact me on 06 62 50 70 21 or email Victoria.lewis@spectrum-ifa.com

Guardianship for your Children

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: Financial Planning, France, Succession Planning
This article is published on: 11th April 2020

11.04.20

Being the mother of two small children and the aunty of several more, like many parents, the issue arose quite early of what would happen to my children if something were to happen to my husband and I and what would happen to my sisters’ children should something happen to them. Whilst I don’t need to make a will from an inheritance tax point of view, because I have two children with the same father (my husband) and French law states that my half of our assets would go to my children as bare owners (nu propriétaire) and my husband as beneficiary (usufruitier), I do need to make a will regarding my wishes for my children’s guardian.

The first question is a personal one. Who, in your family or friends, would be best placed to be able to raise your children, in the country you want them to be raised in, in their language, in the way you want them to be raised? Do(es) this person(s) have children of their own? There are a range of different questions that are all particular to your situation. If you intend to appoint someone to be a guardian, then you should talk to them about it and maybe, if possible, talk to your children about it.

The second issue is the legal aspect. There are two ways to appoint a guardian in France. Firstly, you can appoint them in your will, or you could appoint them using a special declaration. Either way a notary needs to be involved. If no guardian is appointed by the parents, under aged children will be put under the protection of the court. A “Family council” will be appointed by the Guardianship Court (Juge des tutelles). This Family Council, made up of a minimum of 4 people, will have the responsibility of appointing a guardian (if one hasn’t already been appointed) who can be a member of the family or someone outside the family. Even if a guardian has been appointed but this person is unable to either adequately care for the child or properly manage the child’s assets, the matter can be referred to the court and another family member can chose another guardian.

If a child loses one parent then it is the other parent who will have parental responsibility. This parent can either care for the child themselves or appoint a guardian, who can be a member of the family or a close friend. If the parent is unable or incapable of looking after the child, then another guardian can be appointed by the court.

The third aspect is the financial aspect. If something were to happen, would the guardian have the financial means to look after the child(ren)? One thing you can do is make sure you have life insurance (called death insurance in France) which will pay out a lump sum and/or an annuity to the children for the rest of their childhood. Often when you purchase a house there is loan insurance that will cover some or part of the value of the house upon death of one or both parents. However, it may not be convenient or possible for the child to be raised in the family home and property as an asset is difficult to manage. Other liquid assets can be kept in bank accounts like Livret As or LLDs, but large lump sums (like the proceeds of a house or the lump sum from insurance upon death) should be placed in an assurance vie in order to protect it from inflation.

Luckily it is uncommon that a young child would lose one or both parents, but it is something that plays in the back of the mind of many parents so it is better having things in place to decide, who, how and with what means someone would look after your child in the best possible way.

Investments, what should I be doing?

By Philip Oxley - Topics: France, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 6th April 2020

06.04.20

What’s been happening?
It’s been a very turbulent period over the past few weeks as Coronavirus has taken hold and the impact on the financial markets has been almost unparalleled. Oil is now cheaper per litre than milk or bottled water due to an “oil war” between Russia and Saudi Arabia leading to an oversupply of oil in the markets. In addition, with fewer people on the roads and most airlines grounded, storage facilities are believed to be only months, possibly weeks away from full capacity. Some speculate that the price of oil could fall to zero! Those assets deemed to be “safe havens” such as gold have provided some refuge but it is still trading lower today than it was towards the end of February.

Most of the major financial markets experienced falls of c. 30% during the end of February and into March and whilst there has been some recovery, there remains much volatility and it’s not clear yet that the bottom of this dip has been reached.

Meanwhile, every day there is news of companies cutting or suspending dividend payments to shareholders and as I write this the UK’s major lenders have all agreed to scrap pay-outs to shareholders during 2020 (after receiving a strongly worded letter from the Prudential Regulation Authority). The banks are also being asked to scrap bonuses to their executives.

Why? Well, this should provide the banks with a much needed, extra £8bn cushion as they face increased demands to provide financial support to individuals and businesses in the form of loans, mortgage holidays etc.

What should you be doing?
For those who are close to retirement age, I cannot overstate the importance of speaking to your financial advisor during these challenging times. Essentially, the closer you are to needing to draw a pension or access your investments, the bigger the impact this drop in the markets will have for you.

For those of working age with a pension scheme or schemes and/or savings invested in the markets what actions can you take? Fund managers have been working hard to mitigate the extreme movements in the markets and protect the value of the funds they manage, but there is no escaping that a significant “correction” has taken place. For those of you brave enough to look at the value of your pension fund/s, most will be facing a reduction in value in the region of 10-25%.

It is impossible to say that there will not be further falls, however history has shown that pulling your money out now (where this is an option) or re-calibrating your portfolio by moving out of equities and into bonds, gold, cash etc. is rarely the best course of action. Typically, these decisions are taken too late (when many of the falls in value have already taken place) and re-entry into the markets is typically made too late (missing out on some of the gains that will have already taken place). The result of this is to lock in the losses that have taken place. Remember, these are only paper losses at this stage, albeit painful to bear – and it is only once you move out of the assets or remove cash that a loss will be realised. Whilst it takes a steely resolve and not a little anxiety, it is nearly always better to stay invested and ride out the storm.

It is certainly a good time to review the balance of your investments in your pension scheme or Assurance Vie to ensure they still match your risk profile. But be careful about disproportionately moving out of equities at this stage, as this may hinder the growth of your portfolio as the markets return to growth.

What next?
Markets will recover as they have always have (think 2008 Financial Crisis or “Black Monday” in 1987) – it’s simply a case of when and there could be more volatility over the coming months before we see this happen. There are some early signs of green shoots in Asian markets, for example, factory data from China showing a sharp step up in activity in March.

But the news from many European counties and the US is grim. Most developed nations, and many others besides, will experience a sharp and deep recession. The hope remains that the decline in growth will be “V” shaped as opposed to “U” shaped, meaning the recession will be short-lived and the recovery quick and significant. This is not guaranteed however, and the length of the downturn will depend on many factors, perhaps the greatest being the spread and extent of Coronavirus cases over the coming months and the speed and size of response from governments and central banks.

So, is it a good time to invest? Possibly, but with caution and perhaps a “drip-feed” rather than an “all-in” approach. And as always, it’s better to have a financial advisor working alongside you to provide professional guidance in these matters.

Finally
On a personal note, apart from when I am out meeting clients, most of the time I work from home – from the end of our dining room table which is in a quiet room during the day. I occasionally remind my teenage children to be quiet at the times they are at home, particularly if I am on the phone speaking with a client. Yesterday, my 13 year old son, stuck his head around the door and said, “Could you guys keep the noise down please?“ My wife and I were discussing the challenges of on-line food shopping and he was in the next room on a live streamed lesson, so his request was perfectly reasonable. But times have certainly changed!

The coming months are going to be very challenging for us all. We are seeing the consequences of Coronavirus both in terms of the restrictions we all have on our way of life and more devastatingly on the lives lost across so many countries. At this time, the overriding focus for us all must be on the welfare and safety of ourselves, family, friends and neighbours. In addition, on top of these concerns, many people will become stretched financially.

As the French-born Etienne de Grellet said, “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now”.

There’s never been a more important time to speak with your IFA

By Alan Watson - Topics: Financial Review, France
This article is published on: 24th March 2020

24.03.20

I have a routine I have followed for many years. Every day, after walking the dog and eating breakfast, I get up to date on the markets, currency movements and global financial news. CNBC is my favourite, but things are changing and I now find it harder to concentrate with the worrying growth of people contracting COVID-19. It gets worse by the day. Northern Italy is barely three hours’ drive away which is nothing for today’s connected planet. But the tempting solution of ‘Bury your head in the sand; it will go away, it always does’, could cost a great deal in our current global situation. The answer is to take action and deal with it.

Over the past week, I have spoken via telephone and Skype with many of my clients. All of the conversations were intense and based around worries about what will happen next. Clearly, the need to protect what you have built up over the years and prepare for a potentially uncertain future is paramount.

One client quizzed me over the pros and cons of buying property in Lyon; we got into a deep conversation analysing all aspects, from the French property purchase costs to the insurance quotes (some were just too high; one was clearly sensible and produced by somebody who knew their business).

skype

Another Skype meeting demanded the analysis of the greatest market crashes, discussing the question, ‘Could we now be at the bottom?’. This client wanted not only the potential to buy into a rather cheap market, but also to gain the benefits of doing this via the French Assurance Vie: discounted markets plus serious tax advantages.

Other calls were long and varied in content, but all focused around ‘what if’ questions. Good old Brexit still keeps raising doubts and concerns and I always enjoy explaining how we have been confidently prepared for this roller coaster for years. We only deal with large and secure internationally minded companies who made their preparations years ago. Brexit is not and should not be a point of worry for Spectrum clients; flexibility is always our primary tactic.

Many of us are now sitting at home; working, but getting a little bored. I would suggest this is an ideal time to talk, to discuss everything, get your worries off your chest. Preparation reduces stress; this is what we do – and if last week’s conversations are anything to go by, I believe I did a pretty good job. If you would like to chat, contact me to arrange a call with the details below.