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Is your money safe under the matress?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: Assurance Vie, France, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 5th March 2021

05.03.21

March is my favourite month of the year, not least because I celebrate my birthday during this month and this year will be the end of my 4th decade. Traditionally it has always been a busy month because it is a great time for events and starting new projects. This month my colleagues and I will be attending another virtual property fair hosted by Your Overseas Home. The event we did last year was very good and lots of people were able to see our presentations and then chat to our advisers from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

By October 2021 I will have lived in France for 18 years continuously, but I first arrived for my Erasmus year in September 2001 making it 20 years since I started living in France. As you may know I am married to a Frenchman and I have adopted much of the French culture and way of life. But my husband and I have very different views in our attitude to risk and finances. My husband came from a farming background where money was hidden under the mattress, you only bought when you had the money and you insured everything that could be insured. My husband will take a 10 year extended guarantee on a toaster! I came from a background where it was common to use credit cards to fund Christmas and holidays and I went to university with a student loan.

What is the point of having money?

The idea that money is safe under the mattress or in the bank is no longer true. In France the traditional popular savings accounts such as the Livret A and LDD now only have an interest rate of 0.5%. The other misled belief that French assurance vie policy holders have is that Euro Funds are a good investment and a safe investment. Whilst it is true that Euro Funds are still one of the least risky investments after the traditional bank savings accounts, their performance continues to drop year after year. The average growth rate of the Euro Funds in 2020 is 1.2% which, once you deduct social charges (17.2%) and take into consideration inflation (0.5%), the net gain is only 0.5%. One of my own French assurance vie policies, which is 69% Euro Funds, has made an average of 1.6% over the seven years since it was created. The problem with French assurance vies is that they are not bespoke; they come with certain formulas, some that you can contribute to monthly, some that you cannot, and depending on your choice you cannot go lower than the prescribed amount in Euro Funds, no matter what your risk profile.

When I compare this with the range of product providers we can offer our clients and the choice of funds, the difference is astounding. Thank goodness that as English speakers we have access to better investment possibilities from as little as £20,000/€25,000. The average performance of my clients’ portfolios is around 3% after charges, with no social charges taken at source, and they have a lot of choice and flexibility regarding which funds they want and how much of that fund they want their investment to be in. They also have access to English speaking product providers, English speaking fund managers and their own English speaking financial adviser who is supported by the knowledge and experience of all of the Spectrum advisers.

I am fully integrated into French society and believe in adhering to many things about French society, but when it comes to finances there are differences between us that we cannot ignore so it is not in our best interest to invest in French financial products.

investing in tough times

The outlook this March is thankfully much better than last March. There is more good news for Prudential policy holders. At the end of February Prudential announced no changes to the Expected Growth Rate and upward Unit Price Adjustments in the PruFund Growth Sterling, PruFund Growth Euro and PruFund Cautious Euro funds.

For other funds and the markets in general the outlook is equally positive. “The combination of vaccine roll-out, substantial fiscal stimulus, and elevated consumer savings should drive a sharp recovery in economic and earnings growth,” said Ryan Hammond, a Goldman Sachs strategist, in a report this week.

Whilst mask-wearing and social distancing will still be necessary for some time to come, a lot of our friends and family members have been vaccinated, therefore reducing the risk to the most vulnerable. With the coming good weather, meetings and get togethers will be able to take place out of doors. As always, if clients are happy to arrange a face to face meeting, I look forward to seeing them for outside meetings in their lovely gardens. If however you prefer video meetings or phone calls that is also possible.

Wishing you all a bright, sunny and floral month of March!

Bitcoin in your investment portfolio – what is Bitcoin, how to use it and what it will do

By Barry Davys - Topics: Bitcoin, Blockchain, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 18th January 2021

18.01.21
Bitcoin in your investment portfolio

Love it or hate it seems to be the approach to Bitcoin. It will be the best investment ever or it is just a bubble controlled by the few people who can pull the strings, rumoured to be the Chinese.

Let’s start with “What is Bitcoin?”. Bitcoin is a piece of computer software with the ability to share pieces of the software with other people. Of course, the other people have to pay for their share of the software and the price varies according to supply and demand. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this. It worked for Bill Gates.

To get a better of understanding of Bitcoin it is worthwhile making that comparison with Microsoft. With Microsoft we know who owns the product, the products have set prices and perform a function that makes something happen, e.g. run our computer, allow us to write letters, make presentations and do our numbers on spreadsheets. Bitcoin has none of these attributes.

The way Bitcoin pricing works is much more like a commodity. If you go to Starbucks today and buy a coffee, let’s say you pay 4€. Next week you want a coffee. The same coffee now costs 5€. The coffee has not changed, only the price. The difference may be due to shortages, logistical difficulties during a pandemic, many more people wanting a Starbucks coffee, exchange rate movements etc. Bitcoin works in the same way. The price of Bitcoin is primarily set by demand as the supply is fixed. There are only so many Bitcoins in the World. At least you can do something nice with a coffee bean. Bitcoin’s primary purpose is just as something you can sell to someone else. It has no other purpose at the moment.

You would now have a valid point if you were to pull me up on this analysis. “You can use it to buy goods and services” is a fair comment to make, however, there is a ‘but’ that should follow that statement. Whilst the number of places you can use Bitcoin to make a purchase is increasing it is not widespread.

Bitcoin is super volatile, which is great on the way up and terrible when it falls after you have just bought it. Here are some important figures which tell you about Bitcoin’s volatility.

2009 – 2017 little price movement

Autumn 2017 the price rises

October 2017 $5,000

November 2017 $10,000

17th December 2017 $19,783

April 2018 $7,000

November 2018 $3,500

14th March 2020 $5,165

crypto currency

It has bounced again in recent weeks and is now at $40,714 as I write this article (9th Jan 2021). Institutional investors (fund managers, hedge funds etc) are now buying Bitcoin. Increased demand of a fixed supply commodity pushes up the price. Will this last? I do not know. Is it a bubble? Again, I do not know. However, what I do know is that institutional investors invest to a plan. They systematically take profits i.e. sell some of their holdings. They are disciplined. They manage risk by keeping a balance of different investments. Should these institutional investors take profits, other fund managers will follow and sell so as not to get caught out by a large price fall. Their careers depend on getting it right. The ability to feed their family depends on it. They analyse, have large teams doing research, watch and wait before buying and sound out other professional colleagues to ensure they sell in a timely manner. The field of behavioural finance has shown that as individual investors we use the part of our brain driven by emotion when making investment decisions, especially when there is a big price movement in an asset. This emotion based decision making often leads to poor decision making.

There is a body of opinion from Bitcoin exchanges and advocates that is putting forward the theory that Bitcoin is going to become a national currency in some countries and therefore the price is going to go ballistic (their phrase). It is unlikely that a non regulated, very volatile commodity will be used as a national currency.

Here is an example from me of the practical problems. A solicitor practice in Barcelona started to accept Bitcoin for settlement of their fees. It looked like a superb idea to show they were a forward-looking firm.

The problem comes with the volatility. Between issuing the invoice and payment by the client there is a delay. Having charged 1.03874 Bitcoins, for example, they had no idea how much they would get in the currency that would pay all the bills of the firm, such as their staff (Can we pay you in Bitcoins Mrs staff member? Ah, no!), electricity company etc. So having chosen 1.03874 Bitcoins as the fee because that would generate 4,000 in Euros, at the date of payment it could have been just €2,000 value. For this reason it is very unlikely that Bitcoin will become a national currency!

If you wish to invest in Bitcoins, it is worthwhile separating them from your primary investments. Bitcoins will then not influence your investment decisions on your main portfolio in the way that they might be if they are on the same investment platform. How much should you invest in Bitcoin? Set aside a percentage of your savings and only invest that much. Whether it is 1% or 10% will depend on your overall circumstances. However, with Bitcoin it is very worthwhile applying the rule that only invest what you can afford to lose. That way, if you lose it all it has not damaged your financial wellbeing. If it goes up 400% next week, you will be able to take some profit and perhaps spend your winnings on something frivolous.

Bitcoin profits will be taxed. Remember to put money aside from your winnings to pay tax. The amount of tax will depend on your country of residence. The annual declaration can be very difficult so keep track of all your transactions. A figure of 23% of the profit is a good guideline as the amount to put aside if you live in Spain.

investment idea

Practical Tip. A more mainstream alternative to investing in Bitcoin is the technology that Bitcoin is based on called blockchain. Blockchain has lots of uses and is good news. Uses include electronic voting in national elections, supply change management, payment systems, and anti-counterfeiting software. It can also allow companies to work together and share only what they need to for a specific project.

As an example of what is possible, there are also many Blockchain propositions for supply chain management for Covid 19 vaccines and contact tracing. For more information on blockchain, you could read “Blockchain Revolution” by Don and Alex Tapscott. You can already find many investments to include in your main portfolio such as ETFs and funds. For more information on these funds email barry.davys@spectrum-ifa.com

A final point on Bitcoin.  When someone sells a Bitcoin what does the buyer pay with? It is one of the major currencies. Sellers still want good old fashioned US dollars, Euros or Sterling when they part with their coin.  That tells us something!

Are you and your investments adapting to change?

By John Hayward - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, UK investments, UK Pensions, wealth management
This article is published on: 11th January 2021

11.01.21

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change

adapt your investments to the change

I didn’t write that and neither did Charles Darwin, even though many websites state that it is from Darwin´s Origin of Species. In a way, it doesn’t matter who wrote it. What is important is that it is not necessarily the strongest, or the most intelligent, who have survived this coronavirus. Many people have adapted their lives, with guidance, to avoid contracting the virus and/or passing it on in case they have it without knowing.

When lockdown took affect here on Friday 13th March 2020 panic was rife, which manifested itself through stockmarkets crashing across the world. If there is one thing that we have learnt about the human being, it is that he or she is likely to overreact in times of trouble. Toilet rolls, bleach, and selling off stocks and shares were the focus for many in March and April. Months later, it appears that we are not going to the loo so often, houses don´t need cleaning so regularly, and that the business world is in better shape than a lot of people realise.

I return to the “Darwin’s” theory, focusing on adaptation. Some companies were already struggling pre-Covid 19 (21st century companies with 20th century ideas), so the pandemic has accelerated their demise, whereas other companies have taken advantage of the online and digital world, made more prominent because of Covid-19, and have adapted to the demand created by Covid-19.

upward stockmarket trends

2020 was a pretty pathetic year for the British FTSE100 (Down 12%) compared to the US S&P500 (Up 18%). The FTSE100 is made up of companies from poor performing sectors, such as banks and oil, whereas the S&P500 includes technology, high quality consumer goods, and some healthcare stocks. Even then, there were some horror stories and it is the job of the wealth manager to navigate the investment storms.

Those who have used the services of The Spectrum IFA Group will have seen a significant increase in the value of their investments since March 2020. This has been down to expert wealth management on the part of the investment companies that we recommend. They have picked through the good and the bad to achieve positive results despite the political wrangling on both sides of the Atlantic and the effects of Covid-19.

Brexit

Brexit has gone (at last!). Boris Johnson has achieved what he wanted. We shall see where that leaves Britain and the consequences for those of us living in an EU country. We knew that there would be changes; deal or no deal. There will be more paperwork, more checks, more headaches, and less freedom. However, those with the desire to adapt, will. This adaptation should bring security, confidence, and an overall feeling of well-being.

So whether it was Darwin, Mrs Miggins from the cake shop, or the bloke down the tavern, who spoke of adaptation all those years ago, the important thing is to look forward, act responsibly, and ignore all the horrible and, at times, unnecessary press reports and local gossip. Not only will all the negatives affect your mental health but they could also impact your wealth. We are not doctors but we can perhaps help your wealth make you healthier.

2021 finances

Welcome to 2021

Contact me today to find out how we can help you make more from your money, protecting your income streams against inflation and low interest rates, or for any other financial and tax planning information, at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call or WhatsApp (+34) 618 204 731.

The recovery of stock markets cannot be ignored

By John Hayward - Topics: Inflation, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Spain, Stock Markets, wealth management
This article is published on: 15th October 2020

15.10.20

Apart from the uncertainty of whether or not you will still be able to use your UK bank account after 31st December 2020, there are plenty of other things going on to mess around with our lives such as Brexit, the US elections, coronavirus with its lockdown, and other global disasters. With all of these things happening, it is hardly surprising that people think that investing money in stocks and shares (equities) at a time like this is crazy.

However, we have what appears to be an illogical movement upwards in equities, especially noticeable in the USA. How can this be? They have Donald Trump! In the rest of the world, there have also been sharp upward movements since the coronavirus led crash in March 2020 (other than the UK and I will return to this later). The fact is that billions have been pumped into the global financial system to fend off another financial crisis. Some companies have fallen anyway but others have developed, or sprung up, which has led to a much prettier picture than the press would lead us, or even want us, to believe. Coronavirus and Trump seem to be the only stories pushed our way.
When there is financial stimulus, there are opportunities; not only to survive but to develop. Robert Walker of Rathbone Investment Management has this investment outlook.

“We can expect more monetary stimulus and support from central banks that have an enormous amount of unused capacity available for alleviating any renewed stress in financial conditions which is positive for equity markets. This should keep corporate borrowing costs low.

We do not believe therefore that this is a good time to reduce our long-term equity exposure, but economic and political uncertainty warrants cautious positioning and a bias towards high quality companies where we believe that earnings growth is still possible. We believe it is sensible to remain broadly invested but with a continued preference for growth and only high-quality cyclical companies that can benefit from a shift to a digital and more sustainable economy.

We believe high valuations of growth businesses are underpinned by the increasing scarcity of growth opportunities while interest rates and the returns on low risk assets are expected to stay low into the foreseeable future.”

is the economy in good shape

It is important to note Robert´s last few words regarding interest rates. They are not likely to increase in the short term, or possibly long term, if companies, at all levels, are trying to succeed to keep the economy in good shape. At the same time, inflation could increase which means any money “safely” on deposit in the bank is losing its spending power each year.

Let´s go back to my comments about the UK. Rather than me put my words to this, I will use Robert Walker´s more eloquent script.

“The difference in returns in the third quarter are stark, with US equities seeing a strong performance especially in the big technology companies while the UK’s FTSE 100 was -5% lower on a combination of Brexit and Covid-19 fears.”

“The poor performance of the UK since the referendum is well known, as is the high likelihood that leaving the EU with or without Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal will make the UK relatively worse off. Most independent economic researchers forecast that UK GDP, relative to current arrangements, will be between 3% and 6% worse off in seven to 10 years if the UK and EU sign a free trade agreement, the faltering prospect of which has seen the pound fall by 15-20% since 2015. As we write the likelihood of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is still too close to call.”

The knock on effect of this lack of confidence in the UK is reduced investment in that area and, therefore, from what we have seen, investing in the UK has not been top of investment managers’ agendas. My point here is that, when you look at the performance of the global economy, do not necessarily base it on the movement of the FTSE100. This could be, and ultimately has been, the undoing of many people who have been waiting for Brexit to go through before investing. Some now are even waiting for Covid-19 to go away, but I believe that they could be waiting a long time.

Here are a couple of graphs to illustrate my point. One is from 23rd June 2016, the date of the Brexit referendum, and the other is from the start of 2020. They include two of the funds that we use and compare them to the FTSE100 and an inflation index. Remember interest rates would be little more than a flat line on these charts.

equities and inflation
FTSE 100 and inflation

Being in the market before the vaccine is introduced

Timing the market (knowing exactly when to buy in and when to sell out) is nigh on impossible. Even experts do not get it right 100% of the time. However, one of the uncertain certainties is that there will be a vaccine for this coronavirus. The uncertain part is when. The important thing is that you are invested before it happens, because it is likely that financial markets will rise sharply when it is available.

stockmarkets have gone against the negative thought trend.

Of course, we know that there are other problems around the corner, as there always have been in the past. We make decisions based on our own experiences, calculating whether something is safe to do or it carries a higher risk. History has shown us on

many occasions, including through world wars, that in times of low confidence, or even panic, stockmarkets have gone against the negative thought trend.

Staying invested through the last 6 months has been really important. For those who have money in the bank, earning little or nothing, now is the time to consider making your money work for you and your family. With careful investment planning, through trusted and experienced investment managers, we can help make your future wealth more secure. We can evidence how people have “survived” this latest scary time with the opportunity to benefit in the future by the willingness to stay invested.

Invest when you have the money and disinvest when you need it
My final comment on this is actually one from another investment manager I spoke to recently. It is to do with why we have money and try to accumulate it. His extremely simple tip is to invest when you have the money and disinvest when you need it.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you make more from your money, protecting your income streams against inflation and low interest rates, or for any other financial and tax planning information, at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call or WhatsApp (+34) 618 204 731.

There is more to (investment) life than the FTSE100

By John Hayward - Topics: Costa Blanca, FTSE stock market, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Spain, Stock Markets
This article is published on: 2nd September 2020

02.09.20

Dependence on the UK stockmarket has damaged wealth

In the last 5 months, life has not been easy. We have all had to change our lifestyles to one extent or another and we don´t know exactly what lengths we will need to go to in order to remain safe. Hopefully the worst has passed and we can get back to thinking about our future in a positive way and not have to constantly worry about coronavirus.

Aside from the pain of having to wear a mask, in the last 5 months I have had concerns about work, I have learned new words and phrases linked to coronavirus, and I have obtained a new Spanish residence card. Certain things have not changed during this time. People read the same newspapers, watch the same television programmes, express their disdain for Donald Trump, and base their investment decisions on the performance of the FTSE100.

New investment trends

Whilst certain business sectors have suffered over the last few months, others have prospered and have a positive outlook. Technology has come to the fore, both in terms of purchasing goods and communication.

Investments and the FTSE100

Aside from the investment vehicle and the tax structure your investments and pension funds are held within, it is important that the investments themselves are well managed. Some people have held off investing through fear of coronavirus. There are also those who had previously delayed investment decisions until Brexit had been sorted out. The consequence of this has been that they have missed out on growth over the last 5 years, even with the downturn in March/April, as well as suffering from the real loss through inflation if they have left their cash in the bank.

Most UK nationals refer to the FTSE100 to find out what is happening with stockmarkets. This is mainly due to it being the one we, as followers of British financial news, are most familiar with. The FTSE100 has been lagging behind global stockmarkets in the last few months. However, the FTSE100, the index of the top 100 companies in the UK, only represents a small percentage of global stockmarkets. Almost 40% of the 100 are banks/financial, oil/energy and consumer staples which include retailers. All of these sectors have been hit by coronavirus. It is overweight in certain sectors and, although they are all big companies, their recent losses are reflected in the movement of the index. Banks especially have had a rough time. Therefore, it is far from being a stockmarket index which represents all global markets and sectors. I appreciate that it is an indicator, but it shouldn´t be used as a decision maker.

You will see from the chart below that by referring to, or even relying upon, the performance of the FTSE100 in order to make investment decisions could have been a mistake. It compares the FTSE100 with the US S&P500 and Nasdaq, and Japan´s Nikkei. The chart runs from the start of 2020. The FTSE100 is D, the blue line.

FTSE100 comparison

Not only has it been important to be aware of global stockmarket performance, but there are other sectors and assets to invest in. For example, gold, that was not immune to the panic in March, has shown itself to be in demand as a safe haven.

Gold prices

Well managed investment portfolios

I am pleased to say that all my invested clients are better off now than they were at the end of March. The most pleasing thing is that not only did they suffer relatively low falls in March but now many have made a complete recovery. We do not push people towards FTSE100 tracker funds. They may be cheaper but that is because there is little or no management. As is often the case, cheapest is not the best.

Conclusion

Active investment management has proven itself to be the best approach, certainly in problematic times. We recommend investment managers who are able to access global shares and other assets. They can buy and sell on a daily basis and not commit you to funds that can become restricted or illiquid. Many of my clients have been pleasantly surprised by the “bounce” of their investment value since March. The FTSE100 has struggled and it has been assumed that this is the case generally. They are also surprised how the United States stockmarkets, with all of the Trump and election issues, have done so well. At times there seems little or no correlation between day to day life and stockmarket performance. In fact, history has taught us that when there is panic and depression, stockmarkets tend to do well.

Over the next few weeks I shall be publishing more articles, so stay tuned:
• The expense of using your bank for insurances
• Life insurance for general living expenses and Spanish inheritance tax
• Currency exchange – your ‘free’ facility could be costing you thousands
• Applying for the new TIE – not compulsory for some but could be beneficial

With investments, there are plans that I can recommend that are clear to understand and tax efficient, and I explain the full details before you commit. The Spectrum IFA Group is not tied to any one company and I can offer you independent, impartial advice and guidance.

Contact me today to find out how I can help you make more from your money, protecting your income streams against inflation and low interest rates, or for any other financial and tax planning information, at john.hayward@spectrum-ifa.com or call or WhatsApp (+34) 618 204 731.

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!

Lockdown lessons learnt?

By David Hattersley - Topics: investment diversification, Investment Risk, Spain
This article is published on: 17th June 2020

17.06.20

Now as we enter phase 3,are we just beginning to get back to a different version of normality? We all have realised that we need to be around other human beings. Just going to a bar for a coffee with family,sitting outside, spending time talking with each other and people-watching has become a simple treasured pleasure as our world gets back on its feet.

LESSONS

Self -isolation & working from home.
An element of self discipline regarding work has had to take priority, but within limits as if we were at an office. Early research from New York has already shown the following:

a) People miss the interaction of an office environment that creates a positive energy and greater productivity, with the ability to expand upon and share ideas. Whilst Video Conferencing provides a two dimensional picture, it doesn’t pick up the nuances of a face to face physical meeting.

b) The morning rush hour can be a drag, it does provide time to set the day up with a sense of purpose. The evening journey creates a buffer to reflect on the day’s events or relax before you get home. Ensure that the family are aware of a disciplined time period whereby non work related issues have to be deferred until family time/free time. After all, working from home without the commute, will give you more family time and free time. Use it wisely, have breakfast and lunch with family, or more free time to carry out your own interests. Bucket Lists are no good if they aren’t followed through, or if you die before doing them.

c) Dress as if you are going to a physical meeting. One wouldn’t wear jeans or shorts to a meeting ! Learn to control technology and not let it control you, e.g. work e-mails should only be read during work-time. Avoid instant response, set time to consider and reflect on that response, but not in your downtime. Remember when you went on holiday and left your place of work for 2 weeks. Take time out to “Sharpen your blade”.

Environmental challenges

Environmental challenges.
The world is not ours by right.
With pollution in major urban areas falling rapidly, this a chance to re-evaluate our lives and the impact on our planet that we share with other forms of life. Living on the edge of a national protected park has given us the time to enjoy and observe the animals that co-exist with us, ranging

from the evening watering hole (drinking from the pool) to the raising of a variety of families of birds and mammals that return each year to breed, some of which we have never seen before e.g. a cockatiel. Dolphins now have begun to swim in our local harbours, wild boar are prevalent and discussions are under-way to reintroduce a mating couple of Iberian Lynx in our area. Speaking to a client in the UK, deer have appeared at the end of their garden.

As we have got used to only buy essentials, has this lead us to question consumerism? Do we really need to buy the latest gadget or fashion? Can we make do and mend? Repair and fix, rather than discard? In our own household, because we have strict recycling rules, why go to a shopping mall when we can “swap or gift”via a charity shop? We now use local facilities to support the small family businesses vs major groups e.g. the local hardware store. We now buy food that is locally sourced within Spain as much as possible, so in season food has become a key factor in our purchases.

Travel has also been bought into question. Having driven a Jeep V6 petrol engined car for many years (I never believed in diesel) I am now driving around in Skoda 1.2 petrol engine. There is a balance, a yin & yan: what needs to be addressed the social interaction vs unwarranted trips.So careful planning has to be considered. As for flying to the UK to see family is not something remotely worth thinking about, alternatives need to be considered. Travelling by car seems a more sensible approach because survival instinct kicks in. Plane/public Transport or your own personal self isolated vehicle!

I hope that in the biggest challenge that I have ever encountered throughout my career in financial services, I have met and satisfied my clients expectations of the service that I have provided in these difficult times.

balanced investments

But one word can sum up all the above…
BALANCED

It may seem ironic, but the fund managers we use endorse the same principals; they use their extensive collective resources and knowledge to create a number of funds and investments.

Even they are not sure of the short term future, so they are “hedging” their bets and not taking too much short term risk. Balance helps you to take advantage of opportunities, while limiting downside risk. If you would like to dsicuss how we can help improve the balance in your portfolio, please contact me for a meeting with my details outlined below.

What is the point of having money?

By Barry Davys - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Moving to Spain, Retire in Spain, Retirement, Spain
This article is published on: 14th June 2020

14.06.20

The point of having money is personal to you. Looking after your money should always start with your requirements. Your life has its own twists and turns. Your hopes and dreams are just that; YOUR hopes and dreams. How you feel about money is personal to you.

In this article I give you a framework for why you may want money. Once you have the framework, you can colour in the detail in a way that suits your requirements.

Knowing your answer to the question, ‘What’s the point of having money?’ is the starting point. Money, savings, investments, whichever you wish to call it, provides you with choice. The reason for having money is that it gives you one of three things; security, freedom or opportunity. Which choice you choose is up to you. The answer may be correct for you but different for your neighbour, even if you live next door in the same size house.

Security
Security means that you have enough money to be able to settle your debts, pay nursing fees if required, pay for medical treatment and perhaps be able to help the children to buy a house. People who want security often have a home free of mortgage; their little piece of heaven that they own.

debt free home

To settle on having security means you need capital. Often people choose not to take risk with their money because they want to be certain it is there if they need it. A fall in the stockmarket will not damage the security blanket of money in the bank. Your savings are just one big emergency fund. In these times of extremely low interest rates there are only a few places to get a little investment return for this option.

More and more, I see that this form of planning is undermined by long life expectancy and inflation. Hoarding the capital without making it work can lead to the erosion of the buying power of these savings. Sadly, insecurity comes after years in retirement when people realise that what they thought was enough money, is not.

freedom and lifestyle

Freedom
Freedom is gained when your savings are invested to provide you with sufficient income to live on, whether or not you continue to work.

To achieve this position depends on what lifestyle you have. The more flamboyant the lifestyle, the harder your money will need to work.

To achieve a feeling of freedom, money is required, and it needs to work hard. You yourself should feel in a “life is good” state of mind. Your money must be making money and it must later be able to provide you with income if you want or need it. Making money means that you need to invest in shares, bonds and perhaps some property (in addition to the home where you live). If you do not have the inclination or skill to do this yourself, you should work with a professional adviser or use funds. Some investments can provide you income now and others with capital growth. The growth parts will protect against inflation and can mean you can increase your income later.

Opportunity
Do you want your life to be full of opportunities? To be a space tourist? To ride a Harley Davidson to Lapland from Denmark like Steve Forbes (Forbes magazine) did, just to see the Northern Lights? Or both? What an opportunity that would be seeing the Northern Lights from earth AND then see them from space. Or to be one of the first investors in the company that makes the software for all the driverless cars in the world? As your world is a world of opportunity there are many, many more things that you can do with your life; most people will never ever get the opportunities you do.

invest in technology

To build this life takes more money. You may have sold a business, for example. Or received an inheritance. And this money will have to work hard for you. You may have some core holdings to give you a diversified portfolio, but you will also have to take some risks to make your money work hard enough to provide you with a life full of opportunities. Take more risk with your investments, but be able to withstand an investment that doesn’t perform well. In addition to the investments used by someone looking for freedom, you may also invest in a new business, for example. This takes skill to analyse the potential of investments and you will benefit by taking advice from qualified and experienced people.

Whether you need help with deciding on your choice or you wish to discuss how to execute your plan, please contact me for assistance. An understanding of your concerns when discussing your aims and choices together with the expertise to execute the plan for your benefit can make for a strong and trusting professional relationship.

The results are in…

By Chris Webb - Topics: Investment Risk, Moving to Spain, Spain, Tax, Tax Efficient Savings, Tax Relief, UK investments
This article is published on: 10th June 2020

10.06.20
Spectrum IFA Survey

I trust you are all safe and well and enjoying the additional bit of freedom that moving into Phase 1 has afforded us herein Spain. By the time you read this there is every chance we are into Phase 2 allowing even more freedom. It’s been a long haul for Madrid to get there and there are mixed feelings about how long it has taken…

Personally, I´d rather be safe than sorry, so whilst there have been frustrating times over the last few months, it is probably for the best. Recently I sent a survey out to my clients, who are based all over the community of Madrid. The survey was twofold:

Secondly, being in lockdown has given us all the time and opportunity to evaluate our personal situations. To address administrative tasks we had put on the back burner and to look at all aspects of our financial wellbeing, whether that be assessing emergency cash reserves, job security or even making sure an up to date will was in place.

The response to my survey was fantastic with many responses. Some just answered the questions but the majority also wrote additional comments, which gave a greater insight into their situation. It was interesting for me to read the results and compare the answers to how my family have felt and what we had looked at changing or updating.

Spectrum IFA Survey Results

I´d like to share some of the results from the survey, but I won’t detail all the questions as this Ezine would be never ending.

It might be beneficial for you to compare the data with your own situation or feelings.

1. Only 30% felt that lockdown was a struggle; the vast majority were not concerned by the restrictions.
2. 80% were comfortable with the transition to online communication, whether that be email or video calling.
3. 100% were concerned about their investments – completely natural when you were watching the fall out on the news.
4. 42% were concerned for their jobs.
5. 95% had sufficient emergency cash reserves to see them through – something we always encourage when dealing with our clients.
6. 50% had excess cash reserves sitting idle in the bank.
7. 62% believed that NOW was a great time to get invested and put more money into the markets. Of that number 55% proceeded and bought in at the discounted prices available.
8. 57% had an up to date will in place. Some admitting to doing it recently after my article titled “The Folder”.
9. 80% felt that their insurance policies were sufficient for their situation; however 40% of these people have requested further information and alternative quotes.

The results made for interesting reading and it was great to see that a lot of people had reviewed things and were keen to look at alternative options.

Tax in Spain and the UK

As a company we have a huge network of 3rd party companies that can assist our clients with all the points raised in the survey.

In Madrid I can recommend teams of lawyers who will offer a free initial

consultation and discounted rates, providing they come from me as a direct referral. This is great for anybody that needs to review their will – you can have the initial conversation at no cost and then pay for the will upon completion.I can recommend teams of accountants or gestors to assist with tax returns, inheritance, and other administrative issues.

During lockdown I also set up a collaboration with an expat insurance broker, which allows us to assist with health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, house insurance and more. The great thing about this relationship is that ALL quotations and policy documentation are in English. Whilst most of you will speak and understand Spanish perfectly well, there are times when something is easier “to get” when it’s in English.

If you want to review your insurances, or just obtain alternative quotes to compare with what you already have, get in touch – there is no charge for a quotation.

Do not delay reviewing your will, insurances, or investments.

Planning yesterday is better than today, which is better than tomorrow.

PS. If you did not receive the survey and want to complete it, send me an email and I´d be happy to share it with you.

Investing After a Stock Market Crash

By Chris Burke - Topics: investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, Stock Markets
This article is published on: 25th May 2020

25.05.20

The question on any investor’s lips at the moment is, ‘Will the stock markets crash again in the near future, say in the next 6 months?’ The main reason for this question is, even if the world starts to get back to normal after this pandemic, when furloughing and all the other methods that have helped people economically are finished, soon we shall see the realisation of the following:

  • Profound job losses and companies going out of business
  • Some entire sectors (e.g. aviation) taking years to recover, some even never recovering
  • Company results being published for the 2nd quarter of 2020, when they have been effectively shut the whole time. How will the markets react?
  • Unemployment at an all-time high
  • People losing their homes, unable to obtain mortgages

What’s really unclear here is, and this is the BIGGEST question, has all of this already been priced in to the stock markets? That is to say, have all these considerations and more been valued and taken into account by people buying and selling stocks?

50% of the reason why stock markets go up or down has nothing to do with the actual value of those stocks; it’s the perception of the people buying and selling that influences it. If people are optimistic and there is some bad news, the markets might not be affected by this. However, if people are worried/pessimistic and there is some small bad news, this could be ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’ sending the markets tumbling. So, what is the best approach to take when investing after a stock market crash?

upward stockmarket trends

The answer to this question depends on your risk/reward profile. If you are a more aggressive investor, then using all your allocated investment money in one go would probably be your choice. However, this equates for less than 20% of us; the most common approach

of people investing their money is balanced.

Most people understand that not being invested means you could miss out if the markets shoot up, but also, if they crash lower you would lose out. However, if you believe yourself to be aligned with the following criteria, then there is a strategy you can follow which statistically should give you more safety, with a lower chance of your money being negatively impacted at the beginning:

  • You are prepared for your money to be invested for the medium to long term (5 years plus)
  • You do not want access to this money for at least 5 years
  • You understand there could be some volatility during this period
  • You want your money to grow above inflation and actually increase in its value
  • You are a balanced investor, meaning you are prepared to invest with the knowledge that the value of your money will go down, as well as up

After every stock market crash, analysts try to label what kind of a recovery it is. Is it a ‘U’ shaped recovery, meaning a sharp drop, period of downturn and then a sharp upward recovery? Or is it a ‘W’, where there is a crash, then a recovery, then another crash followed again by a recovery? The truth is, each stock market crash is different; no two are the same. Each day it’s 50/50 whether the markets will be up or down. Therefore, taking this reasoning into focus, and wanting to limit any losses and maximise any gains, let’s look at this as if it’s a business opportunity.

If you were opening up a new business, and needed to borrow money to finance it, would you either:

  • Borrow all the money you needed in one go and spend it
  • Borrow some of the money you needed, review periodically and then borrow more as and when necessary
  • Borrow some of the money you needed, review periodically and have instant access to more when necessary

Whilst Option 1 could work for you, that money needs to have interest repaid on it, and if the business didn’t go well, that’s more money lost.

Option 2, as long as you don’t have any cash flow issues, could also work well, meaning you are repaying less money and only borrowing what you need as and when. If anything happened to the business you were not putting everything in.

Option 3 gives you the same as option 2, as well as having access to a cash injection instantly should the time arise.

crystal ball

These options are all a matter of opinion, but in relation to investing, there is no future knowledge of what the stock markets will do. What we do know for certain about investing is this:

  • Historically, inflation has doubled approximately every 24 years
  • Unless your money is keeping up with inflation, in real terms you are reducing the value of your money
  • There is hardly any interest being paid by bank accounts
  • One day you will stop working, and the only income you will have is what you have built up

Therefore, taking into account these main known points, it’s clear that money needs to be managed effectively but in a risk averse way as possible. To be able to minimise risk, and to try and gain on any stock market rises and minimise any falls, the safest short-term approach would be to ‘drip feed’ your investments. However, to make sure you don’t miss out on any upswings in the market, you need to have your investment money aligned in the following way:

Example – Investment value €250,000:
Starting with €50,000, add to this €20,000 per month moving forward until one of the following occurs:

  • You have invested all your money
  • There is a large enough stock market downturn

In this second scenario, you would then decide to add much more of your uninvested money immediately; depending on how much is left and the scale of the market drop.

By using this approach, if markets took a sudden upward turn your money is already partially invested to take advantage of any gains moving forward. However, and more importantly, if the stock markets took a sudden dive, you are limiting losses and are in a position where you can take advantage of lower prices.

financial review

As I stated above, no one knows exactly what will happen or when after a stock market crash, but by investing in tranches to make your money grow, this will give you some protection against a stock market crash in the near future, and even the ability to even take advantage of it.

Two last points I would add, and those are, even if stock markets crash again, after a recent previous crash, there is more likely of a quicker bounce back. And secondly, money invested over time is the safest way to achieve long term growth of your money and create that income for when that day finally comes when you are no longer working.

My job is to help people plan their finances, managing their money in as painless and risk-averse approach as possible, at all times having their best interests as our common goal. Don’t hesitate to contact me on the details below if you would like to discuss any of the points in this article or arrange a meeting with me.