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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.

7 Good Reasons to Retire in Andalucía

By Charles Hutchinson - Topics: Moving to Spain, Retirement, Spain
This article is published on: 13th June 2020

13.06.20

There is currently a noticeable increase in the number of enquiries to estate agents in this area from abroad, the majority of which are from the UK.

If you are looking ahead to retirement and wondering where you might like to live when the time comes, you should consider putting Andalucía somewhere at the top of your list.

Lifestyle
The Spanish lifestyle is one of the most open and friendly in the world where coastal areas, in particular Andalucía, are most welcoming. Locals are well aware that the international market is all important to the economy and growth of the region, bringing prosperity to what was once the poorest part of the country.

Culture
The region is littered with places of historical interest and beautiful world heritage sites. The Arts play an important role in life here with great classical concerts and popular music shows. Every town and village in Andalucía has at least two ferias (festivals) a year and talented street performers are found everywhere. Every city has important galleries and museums reflecting its historical artistic contributions to the world.

Climate
Andalucía enjoys one of the mildest climates in Europe, especially in coastal regions where temperatures are not as extreme as in the interior. Having said that, the climate in the interior is dry, making the upper and lower temperatures more tolerable. The climate, outdoor life, healthy Mediterranean diet and generally relaxed atmosphere of the region can be counted among the many reasons why Andalucía enjoys the highest life expectancy in Europe.

Cost of Living
The benign climate makes for reduced heating, food and clothing expenses. It encourages outdoor living through more months of the year than you might enjoy in northern Europe or parts of the US. Spain is one of the largest producers of fruit and vegetables in Europe with much of these coming from Huelva and Almería and not far away, Murcia which is known as the vegetable garden of Spain. Eating out can also be very inexpensive and extremely good. In coastal areas and a little further inland there is no shortage of good places to eat. Spain is also one of the most important wine producers of the world and Spanish wines have come a long way, standing alongside some of the best in the world.

Sports & Outdoor leisure
There is a large variety of sporting activities to be enjoyed here. Apart from a huge number of golf courses and tennis clubs, there are excellent beaches, water sports, Whale/Dolphin watching, etc. You can snow ski and water ski within two hours of each other. We have the highest ski resort in Spain. Trekking and rambling is a pure joy through spectacular scenery.

Health Care
The state health care system in Spain is excellent and some of the best doctors and specialists can be found in this country, especially in Andalucia for they too want to live a good lifestyle! Health Insurance, if you do not qualify for state health care, is cheap when compared to northern Europe and many countries farther afield.

Communications
The larger cities in the region are very well connected with Madrid and other main Spanish cities. There are excellent coach and train services which are a joy to experience. Coach travel is inexpensive and always provides the bonus of being able to enjoy the view. Train travel also offers you the chance to enjoy the scenery and if you want added comfort and speed, the AVE is an excellent example of high-speed train travel with one of the best networks in Europe, which has halved train travel time around many parts of the country. It also compares favourably against air travel if, for example, you are travelling to Madrid, as you will be taken right to the city centre and you do not have to be at the station two hours before departure.

Capital cities in Andalucía also provide excellent connections by air with direct flights to 129 European cities as well as to numerous destinations elsewhere in the world. If you have family and friends back home, in the US or somewhere in northern Europe there are plenty of options when it comes to getting back to see them or having them come over to Spain for visits.

moving-to-spain

Things to consider before moving here

  • You will need to decide where you want to live. This is best achieved by renting short term somewhere first. Consideration should be given to any medical care needs, sporting facilities, schools (if you a younger retiree) and convenient distances to an international airport
  • You will need to decide how much time you want to spend here and whether to become tax resident. This is where I can give you in depth assistance with residency, permits and tax advice
  • Regarding tax, we would need to review any existing investments you may have to ensure they are tax efficient here in Spain. UK tax efficient investments are usually not tax efficient here
  • We would need to review your income situation in retirement and how best to achieve the required level with the least tax
  • We can assist you with a choice of medical insurance, if needed. Wills might have to be adjusted and Spanish ones drawn up

Please remember that if you already have a UK Financial Adviser, they will not be qualified or knowledgeable to give advice here.
By the same token, if one of our clients moves back to the UK or another country, it is essential they contact a local adviser there.

WISH YOU WERE HERE?
CONTACT ME NOW FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Retire in Andalucía

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.

How much do I need for a comfortable retirement?

By Chris Webb - Topics: Madrid, QROPS, Retirement, Spain, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 18th March 2020

18.03.20

How much money will I need in retirement?

This is one of the most common questions I hear as a Financial Adviser in Madrid, Spain.

The answer to that question differs from person to person and the numbers I discuss with my clients vary massively. To some, having a quiet retirement with little requirements is the goal; others will want to continue playing golf and attend social events weekly. There is a huge difference in what you will need in your pocket with these different scenarios.

So, what do the experts think?
Researchers have calculated how much money a person needs per year in order to enjoy a comfortable retirement. The numbers were calculated by Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP), The Pensions & Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) and Retirement Living Standards (RLS). A report from Loughborough University and the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association aims to help people understand how much they will need for a minimum, moderate or comfortable quality of life once they retire.

In the UK a full state pension comes in at just over £8,500, but it’s the other savings you accrue over your working life that will make the difference in people’s post-work years.

Experts found that a single person will need about £10,200 a year to achieve the minimum living standard, £20,200 a year for moderate living standards and £33,000 a year for comfortable living standards. For couples, the minimum standard came in at £15,700, moderate was £29,100 and comfortable worked out as £47,500. The results are based on consultations with members of the public and consider what is needed in retirement for home DIY and maintenance, household and personal goods, holidays, food, transport, clothing and social engagements.

The new Retirement Living Standards describe three different standards of living with associated costs for each – all established by what the public considers realistic and relevant expectations. Associated costs are made up of household bills, food and drink, transport, holidays and leisure, clothing and personal and helping others. The standards cover a range of goods and services that are relevant to most people. These and other costs, such as tax on pension income, may need to be added depending on individual circumstances.

A series of profiles and infographics have been created on the PLSA website to help people calculate their own finances. The research for the Retirement Living Standards was adapted from the approach used to produce the Minimum Income Standard – a calculation of what the public thinks is an acceptable minimum standard of living. The data was gathered through 26 group discussions with around 250 members of the public already retired or approaching retirement, from a wide range of backgrounds. Expert views were taken into account for some areas, such as transport, energy usage and food costs.

The discussions set the parameters for how higher living standards should be described and defined. Through these discussions, three retirement living standards were agreed: minimum, moderate and comfortable.

The standards:
At a cost of £10,200 per year for a single person and £15,700 for a couple, the minimum lifestyle covers all your needs plus enough for some fun – including social participation and social occasions.

The moderate lifestyle (£20,200 a year for singles and £29,100 for couples) provides, in addition to the minimum lifestyle, more financial security and more flexibility.

At the comfortable level (£33,000 a year for singles and £47,500 for couples), retirees could enjoy some luxuries like regular beauty treatments, theatre trips and three weeks in Europe a year.

Breaking down the RLS:

House: Household utility bills, decorating and maintenance, furniture, cleaning supplies, lightbulbs, cooking utensils, appliances (e.g. fridge, washing machine), garden supplies, towels, bedding, gardener/cleaner/window cleaner & funeral plan.

Food and Drink: Household food shopping, eating out, beer & wine.

Transport: Car running costs, railcard/train travel & taxis.

Holidays and Leisure: TV, DVD player, laptop, printer, speakers, CDs, stationery supplies, TV license and subscriptions, internet, activities & holidays.

Clothing and Personal: Clothing, footwear, cosmetics, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving supplies, hair styling, beauty treatments, dentist, opticians, podiatry & minor first aid supplies.

Helping Others: Gifts, helping others (if applicable) & charitable donations

Planning early is key to getting your retirement plans in order. You can look up another of my articles here on this subject titled “It Is Never Too Early

Don’t delay your financial plans. For planning, yesterday is better than today, which is better than tomorrow. Contact me, Chris webb on 639 118 185 or chris.webb@spectrum-ifa.com if you want to discuss your own circumstances.

Sources:
Loughborough’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP).
Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA)
Retirement Living Standards (RLS)

How to retire like a pro!

By Chris Burke - Topics: Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, Spain
This article is published on: 24th May 2019

24.05.19

Over the years I’ve helped many clients prepare for retirement. To come up with the best solutions, there are several matters and concerns to consider that don’t automatically come to mind. Some people think they have carefully planned out their glory days, only to find out there were a few things they didn’t consider; not only on the financial side, but also on the every-day-life side of things. So, here are some of my top tips on retiring like a pro, enjoying life to the fullest and sleeping well at night.

Before going into all the financial ins and outs, stop to consider this: Where do you stand financially right now? And, what life goals or dreams do you have for the coming years? Remember, we want these years to be golden, not feel like walking on hot coals. So, starting with where you are and what you really want helps provide realistic focus.

When it comes to planning ahead for your post-work life, there are (for a great number of people) three main sources of cashflow which, when orchestrated carefully, can together ensure a comfortable retirement: company pension (or employer savings plan), social security and personal savings. For others – particularly the self-employed – retirement will entail savings, investments, assets and most likely continuing with your projects whilst learning to detach a bit. No matter which camp you lie in, knowing what you will receive from each source and then working out your monthly living budget will be is a great place to start for setting out what lifestyle you can plan.

After taking into account what monthly living allowance you will have, probably the most crucial thing on the “how to retire for dummies” list is devising and then maintaining a lifestyle you can afford. Practicing frugality whilst enjoying life is indeed a quality many fail at. It’s about knowing what you have to live on and living within those means. Being prudent with your finances does not mean being tight or ungenerous. As Coco Chanel said, “Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity.” And none of us want to be vulgar. We want to be financially prepared and savvy.

Outside of whatever your retirement plan is, it is also important to ensure you have set aside, in a separate account, an ample emergency backup supply. “Emergency” meaning for any one of a hundred things that might unexpectantly pop up and require a quick financial outlay. It will help you sleep better at night.

How to retire like a pro

Retirement isn’t always all sunshine and happy days. Many retirees struggle immensely with the sudden and somewhat shocking change of lifestyle. They go from being busy and surrounded by colleagues and friends, to being at home looking for a new purpose whilst trying not to step on the toes of their partner. For some, the extreme change of lifestyle and the thought of being on a continuous holiday can be scary and depressing. However, it should be thought of as a new opportunity to work on relationships, invest in travelling, both inward and outwards, and to learn new skills.

Nowadays, many post-retirees are creating projects to generate new income as well as keeping their minds sane and boosting their overall quality of life and health. This can also help to improve your self-worth and the relationships you hold dear. It doesn’t mean you have to work from 8 to 8. It can just be involvement in projects that help to provide a balanced life.

When it comes to retiring, there’s a dirty word we all must know and understand: inflation. As Sam Ewing said, “Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for a ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.” When we are working, salaries are supposed to keep up with inflation. However, when the salary stops and you’re living off savings, inflation is like an armed robber. There are now online inflation planners which can quickly calculate both pessimistic and optimistic inflation rates and help you formulate what to expect living, household and medical costs to be in future years.

Lastly, I would suggest having a pool of money that you leave untouched and allowed to grow, until you need it later in retirement to help offset increasing expenses. If you have income from property, this is great because it more or less keeps up with inflation rates. Otherwise, consider some inflation-protected security investments – a balanced mix of stocks, bonds, short-term investments, at different levels of risk and potential growth. Considering all options and forming a good plan is something I can help each client with.

Retirement doesn’t have to be scary. If you’d like to discuss any aspects of financial planning for your retirement, please email me for a complementary face to face meeting.

We are all living longer, and it’s not all good news

By Jeremy Ferguson - Topics: Financial Review, Inheritance Tax, Marbella, QROPS, Retirement, Saving, Spain
This article is published on: 5th February 2019

05.02.19

When it comes to the way in which we are leading our lives, the world in which we live has changed significantly over not that many years.

Do you remember starting the day off with a bowl of cornflakes smothered in processed sugar and full fat milk, followed by a couple of slices of white processed bread smothered in butter and marmalade (laden with sugar), then washing that down with a couple of cups of strong coffee before we rushed off to work? Then at work the stresses of the day were broken by coffee to keep you going, with a packet of sandwiches and a bag of crisps at lunch time. A sneaky stop off on the way home for a couple of pints for some, then dinner followed by bed. Sound familiar?

Through a combination of increased awareness of the dangers of processed food and sugars, non-stop articles and TV programmes warning us of health issues; people are becoming increasingly health conscious. Add to that the mass of personal trainers and nutritionists out there, and people nowadays are more active and much more aware when it comes to healthy eating and lifestyle.

If you are reading this, you probably made the decision to move to the south of Spain some years ago, and boy, how things have changed as a result. Longer days, constant sunshine, lovely salads, a relaxed life, and probably a lot more time spent outside walking, or for many, playing golf or tennis. Oh yes, and the big one, much less stress!

spectrum ifa retirement

This is all resulting in something that is causing massive issues around the Globe for all sorts of reasons. People are living longer and needing more medical help along the way, because, despite being generally healthier now, older people still have more health issues than younger people. With that comes an ever increasing stress on healthcare systems. The ageing population also means that the ratio between retirees and workers is swinging in a way that means less taxable income is there to help fund the ever increasing medical needs.

So, while it is great we are all living longer, and therefore having a longer and healthier retirement, how much attention are we paying to this fact with regards to financial health? The pension pot and savings pot we hope you have accumulated now has to last for an ever increasing length of time. Have you considered the need for adequate medical insurance before it is too late to be accepted as a client (because you are too old)? Inheritances may be left to you at a much later stage of your life, and when they are, they could also be smaller due to the fact your parents lived so much longer.

In summary, it is really very important to spend time considering all of these factors. How many of us actually look at this in detail, with an honest reality check regarding the years ahead?

One of the things I like to do with my clients is to make sure we look at the big picture, assessing what you have and how long it is likely to last. Should you be putting the brakes on the lifestyle just a bit for that added longevity financially, or are you being too cautious? It is amazing the amount of couples I meet who are being too careful with money. Or have you got it just about right?

What happens if inflation rises or falls, or the money you have invested loses value or, hopefully, makes more than you expected? Oh yes, and what happens to your income when exchange rates move?

It is always said that you cannot buy time, but strangely enough, most clients I meet here in Spain look a lot younger than they actually are, so in my view, they all seem to have managed to do just that, aided probably by all of the things we know are good about living here. So, if by talking we can remove a little more stress by getting all of those financial ducks in a row, then maybe you can cheat the grim reaper for a good many more years to come.

All this talk of a flat tax

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: Income Tax, Italy, Retirement, Tax, tax advice, Tax Relief
This article is published on: 8th June 2018

08.06.18

The current political environment in Italy is one which I find very interesting, notably in how it is perceived in foreign media and presented to us through the usual media outlets. In particular, I reference the constant use of the word ‘Populism’ and ‘Populist Government’. I confess that I had to have a quick look at the definition of populism before writing this Ezine and was interested in finding out that the exact defintion, according to Wikipedia, is:

‘Populism is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against a privileged elite’

I have a confession to make that if I can pick and choose only this broad defintion of Populism then I think I can fit myself into a part of the populist ideal. (Clearly it is more complicated than this but I am merely trying to make my point, and as a regular reader of my E-zine’s you will understand my usual approach!)

However, I think it is worth exploring the idea that the Lega and M5S coalition have put together of a flat tax. Although a flat tax for eveyone, no matter how rich or poor is completely obscene in my opinion the ‘flat tax’, proposals, which will launch at 20% for businesses as of July 1st 2018 and 15% – 20% on 1st Jan 2019 for individuals, assuming the Government holds together, actually make a lot of sense to me.

A radical reform of the Italian income tax system is about to take place, and one which is long overdue in my opinion. Not for any populist reasons, but for more practical reasons which I will expand on below.

The proposed flat tax regime
If you want to have a look at the Contratto per il Governo di Cambiamento, then you can do so HERE. It makes interesting reading, if not full of more blurb than actual facts at this stage. However, its a start.

So, going back to the issue of the flat tax. The proposal, soon to be put into force, is to reform the tax regime into 2 flat tax rates, namely 15% and 20%. This sounds very new and certainly will win a lot of those populist votes. But first let’s take a look at how income is currently spread in Italy and the following chart shows just who it would affect:

It’s quite interesting to note from this chart that 80% of the tax paying population of Italy earn up to €29000. The median declared income is €19000pa. Those may sound strange numbers but when you consider the current Italian tax rates (see chart below), you can start to form an idea that there is probably a little bit of fiddling of the figures. After €28000pa in reddito complessivo the tax rate jumps from 27% to 38%. With this in mind, the proposal of a flat tax could potentially bring in alot of, currently, undisclosed (let’s call it what it really is: ‘in nero’) money to the Government coffers.

A QUICK REMINDER OF ITALIAN INCOME TAX RATES
(IRPEF – Imposte sul reddito delle persona)

€0 – €15000  = 23%
€15000- €28000  = 27% (€3450 + 27% on the part over €15000)
€28000 – €55000  = 38% (€6960 + 38% on the part over €28000)
€55000 – €75000  = 41% (€17220 + 41% on the part over €55000)
over €75000  = 43% (€25420 + 43% on the over €75000)

How might it work in practice?
The new proposal is to have a flat tax of 15% on a combined ‘reddito famigliare’ of upto €80,000pa. If your ‘reddito famigliare’ is above €80,000pa then the flat tax rises to 20%.
A proposed maximum tax of €3000 would apply for every member of the family where they have a individual ‘redditto complessivo’ of no more than €35000pa. This would be limited to families where the ‘redditto famigliare’ is between €35,000- €50,000 pa.

In short, the most generous tax deductions are for those who have a ‘redditto famigliare’ between €40000 and €60000pa.

A straniero example……
This all sounds very exciting and some what overly generous for a country which has historically taxed its citizens up to the eyeballs. However, let’s use an average straniero example to see what difference it would make.

Let’s assume that we have a retired couple, with state pensions (€8000pa each) and private pensions of €18000 and €3000 respectively. They also own a property in their home country which generates a UK income of €8000pa (jointly owned). They have investments and savings, but for the purposes of this example they are not relevant as the proposed measures are for income tax only.

Under the current regime the income of each individual would be subject to taxation.

Spouse 1: €8000 + €3000 + €4000= Total €15000pa The tax rate applicable would be 23% therefore the tax would be €3450

For the purposes of this example I am not including any benefits, or credits that might be avaiable to any one individual or another

Spouse 2: €8000 + €18000 + €4000 = €30000pa Spouse 2 exceeds both band 1 and 2 and will enter the higher rate tax bracket creating a taxable liability of €7720

THE TOTAL INCOME TAX BILL WOULD BE: € 11170 per annum

Under the new proposals both spouse 1 and spouse 2 would pay a flat tax of 15% on their combined income , meaning a total tax bill of €6750

A SAVING OF €4420pa

Let’s take a breath and calm down for a moment
So, before we all start getting very excited we all know the Italian Government is not the most coherent at the best of times and we are in an unprecedented era. It may be that this proposal is watered down yet and we get a half way house offer, but I expect that simplification and lower tax rates are on the cards. In the end the country still has to balance the books and attract foreign investment. If they don’t have enough money coming into the Government coffers to keep the system running smoothly (for lack of a better word :0)) then the money will soon dry up and punitive tax rates will have to be imposed to reap that which has been lost.

My soap box moment
And so I move onto my favouritie part of this E-zine. My soap box moment. You see, I have been wanting to write this formally for a long time but never really had the opportunity to do so. I would go on record as saying that I am actually in favour of this radical overhaul of the Italian tax system and whilst I see this proposed flat tax regime as being a little unequally distributed, I do think its necessary and despite what the bankers, economists and bureaucrats tell us, I actually think it would be a good thing for Italy.

The entrepreneurial zone
I have always waxed lyrical that, what I like to call the entrepreneurial zone, in Italy, is completely dead. Any good economics book will tell you that 80% of employment and growth in a society comes from small to medium sized businesses. That is the shop that opens and gets so many customers that they need to employ a young person to manage the business in the mornings, or a new online business which grows rapidly and needs to employ 5 new people to manage operations. It’s worth repeating that 80% of growth in an economy and job growth comes from this area. Not the Vodafone’s of this world or the multitude of other multinational businesses that pop up on the high street. It’s the small businesses and one man bands that grow into medium sized firms that cumulatively turn over billions in revenue each year. This is real growth. And this is what Conte ( the new Prime Minister) talked about in his first address to Parliament when he said that he wanted Italy to grow its way out of debt and not have to impose more austerity. He is absolutely right. The economics speak for themselves.

Which brings me back to the entrepreneurial zone. This is the area which I think is the most important. To take a business from nothing: an idea, a start up, to revenue of €50,000 each year and onto €250,000 each year you need incentive. It is in the Governments’ interest to incentivize you because you are going to employ the people and pay the taxes that will contribute towards 80% of the running of that country. And from there you may have the skills to turn that business in a multi million euro revenue business employing hundreds of people and contributing back even more into the running of the society. The problem with Italy is that after €28000pa in revenue they effectively chop you off at the knees (the tax rates rise astronomically + there is the dreaded social security contributions to pay. INPS) and let you see if you can hobble along and survive whilst they come running after you to chop off your arms, and then take the rest. It’s like being chased by a mad axe man without your legs and seeing if you can hobble faster than he can catch up with you before he hacks the rest off. It just doesn’t work. In my opinion, this is one of the main problems in Italy and why I think both Di Maio and Salvini have got the right idea when it comes to taxation. (The rest of their policies are open to debate, although some of those also have a lot of merit!)).

I am reminded of the conversations I regularly have with clients who recount stories of their children who set up businesses in Italy and either struggle on barely being able to keep the businesses afloat and or eventually closing down. A young business needs all the revenue it can get in that ‘ entrepreneurial zone’, that area between €0 and €100,000 pa. If a business is going well most of that income is going to be re-invested anyway and used to employ people or purchase goods and services. Europe has to support Italy at this time and allow that zone to flourish and provide opportunities to young and old entrepreneurs alike.

So who is responsible for change
There is always a counter argument for every case and clearly in this case, given the cultural back drop to Italy’s tax collection issues there will be economists who will argue that if income tax revenue were to drop drastically by lowering rates so much then how will Italy, ‘The State’, balance its books, after all there is nothing to say that people will suddenly start declaring all their income because the tax rate is more favourable. That is why the proposed tax regime has to be followed by some hardline clampdowns on tax evasion. Otherwise, it just won’t work.

I am going to follow these proposals closely, and feed back to you, to keep you abreast of any legislation changes. (Watch out for the summer months as they like to slip new laws in whilst everyone is on holiday). I am completely in favour of a total overhaul of the Italian tax system and dispute what the media, economists, and supposed experts say (I sound like a Brexiteer). I think drastically cutting tax rates in Italy, whilst having a short term impact on Government revenue would attract foreign investment in droves ( I mean if you had the chance to set up a factory in Huddersfield or one in Umbria, which would you choose?), it could increase investment rapidly, create jobs, create subsidiary businesses servicing the bigger ones, incentivize larger business to relocate because of the tax rates and could create a new economic boom for Italy. That being said, if it isn’t put into place with some heavy Governmental supervision then it could all fall apart and Italy’s days in Europe would be numbered. And therein seems to be the folly of the whole idea. Europe, whilst I love the European project dearly, has not treated countries like Italy favourably and should it continue on its current path without allowing any kind of change and only implementing austerity, then the likelihood is that Italy would eventually decide to Italexit.

Government has to lead
Italy, like any government around the world has to take the lead in forcing through sensible change. The young business people I know who are barely making ends meet are never going to fully declare every euro they earn when they have families to feed, medical treatments to take care of and childrens schooling costs to pay. And given the choice of making a ‘few’ euros ‘in nero’ and being able to look after the family versus paying into a corrupt state which merely extracts the money from you by osmosis for its own nefarious means, the choice is simple. Most families, if not all, will take that risk. They just have to. Or they move abroad!

So I am in favour of Di Maio and Salvini’s tax plans. I hope they manage to find a solution that will help everyone, mainly the poor and the entrepreneurs who want to prosper but don’t have the ability to do so because of draconian tax measures which should have been ditched long ago. It won’t be an easy ride, but I hope it’s a success. And in the end, should it pay off it may just keep Europe together. Can you imagine Di Maio and Salvini going down in the history books as the saviours of Europe!

(You don’t need to write to tell me that my artistic licence has been abused in this article, just enjoy and let’s see what happens. I, for one, am moderately positive about the future if they can bring about positive change in the tax system in the way in which they are proposing to do).

Given the proposed changes in taxes in Italy, it will be an important time to take a look at your own tax and financial planning arrangements and make sure that they are as tax efficient as possible.

Retiring & income in retirement

By Derek Winsland - Topics: France, Pensions, QROPS, Retirement, State Pensions After BREXIT, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 8th June 2018

08.06.18

A major part of my role as a Financial Planner involves helping clients move towards retirement and advising those in retirement about the best and most tax-efficient way of generating their income once they stop work.

One question I’m often asked is how much money I should save to enable me to retire comfortably. A good question, it depends on what constitutes a comfortable retirement for that particular person. It’s generally quite a straightforward discussion: how much do you need now, and what will change as you approach retirement (mortgages redeemed, no more school or university fees, travel expenses to and from work for instance). Factor in extra expenses for pursuing hobbies, travelling etc. and we begin to build a picture of what retirement will look like and how long the active retirement period will last for.

In the UK, a Which? survey concluded that, in the UK at least, a couple entering retirement needed £26,000 a year to live comfortably. OK, that’s the UK and not necessarily representative of life here in France, but it is a basis for opening a discussion. The next consideration is to identify what the sources of income are – likely there will be an entitlement to UK state pension, possibly some French state pension and maybe rental income form letting out the old UK home, or Gites in France.

For those people actively thinking about and planning for retirement, it is also likely there will be some private pension provision, perhaps even membership of a final salary pension from time spent working for an old employer. And then there are the savings you’ve set aside for the day when you can put down those work tools, and say “That’s it, I’ve done my bit”.

But what income can I reasonably expect those savings to generate to supplement the other sources of income. The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries have ruminated over this question (well they would, wouldn’t they! I can imagine the topic of conversation going around the dinner table at their annual conference). The conclusion they’ve come to is (not surprisingly) based on the life expectancy of the retiree. Retiring at age 55, they believe you should draw down only 3% of your capital each year to ensure that your money doesn’t run out. This then rises to 3.5% if retiring at age 65. Other financial experts believe the figures could rise to 5% per year for a 65-year-old. This then assumes that your capital is invested to generate returns greater than the rate of inflation.

The options for the individual facing an income shortfall include:

    1. Increasing your savings
    1. Decreasing your retirement income expectation
    1. Delaying retirement
    1. Exploring alternative ways of investing available capital and pensions to obtain growth greater than inflation and certainly better than bank interest

A Financial Planner can draw up a future forecast using established assumptions for inflation, rates of investment return, the most tax efficient way of drawing down or generating income, using either life expectancy tables or any other age after discussing your family mortality history with you. This will give you your ‘number’, the amount of capital you’ll need to live comfortably.

The Office for National Statistics has recently launched an online tool on its website designed to tell you what your life expectancy is. If you’re curious, click here:

Once completed this Financial Plan should be implemented to address any recommendations for re-structuring the existing assets, and thereafter reviewed yearly, updating the investment returns achieved and the impact this has on the capital, checking any changes that need to be made to the assumptions and making any amendments that you want included. Long-lost pension funds will be identified, and the expected benefits brought into the plan, and again, any issues addressed. The move is towards handing the responsibility of retirement over to the retiree, so there is not a better time to consult a fully qualified financial planner.

If you have personal or financial circumstances that you feel may benefit from a financial planning review, please contact me direct on the number below. You can also contact me by email at derek.winsland@spectrum-ifa.com or call our office in Limoux to make an appointment. Alternatively, I conduct a drop-in clinic most Fridays (holidays excepting), when you can pop in to speak to me. Our office telephone number is 04 68 31 14 10.

New QROPS tax charge for 2017 – Will this change after BREXIT?

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Belgium, BREXIT, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, pension transfer, Pensions, Portugal, QROPS, Retirement, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 20th April 2018

20.04.18

In the Spring 2017 Budget, the UK government announced its intention to introduce a new 25% Overseas Transfer Charge (OTC) on QROPS transfers taking place on or after 9th March 2017. The HMRC Guidance indicates that the OTC will not be applied in the following situations:

  • the QROPS is in the European Union (EU) or EEA and the member is also resident in an EU or EEA country (not necessarily the same EU or EEA country);
  • the QROPS and the member is in the same country; or
  • the QROPS is an employer sponsored occupational pension scheme, overseas public service pension scheme or a pension scheme established by an International Organisation (for example, the United Nations, the EU, i.e. not just a multinational company), and the member is an employee of the entity to which the benefits are transferred to its pension scheme.

It is also intended that the above provisions will apply to transfers from one QROPS (or former QROPS) to another, if this is within five full tax years from the date of the original transfer of benefits from the UK pension scheme to the first QROPS arrangement.

Nevertheless, it is clear that taking professional regulated advice is essential. This includes if you have already transferred benefits to a QROPS and you are planning to move to another country of residence.

It is important to explore your options now while you still have the chance as who knows what changes will come with BREXIT. Contact you’re local adviser for a FREE consultation and to discuss your personal options

How Do I Find My Pension?

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Pensions, Retirement, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 19th April 2018

19.04.18

I have been asked this question, more than once. Some clients are embarrassed to ask. Others have simply lost sight of their pension for one reason or another and have no idea how to track it (or them) down.

Why am I telling you this? Well, recently the UK Government announced that there is over £400 million of lost pensions sitting with various pension and insurance companies in the UK – left behind by former employees who have either moved abroad, are unaware that they had a pension (it’s more common than you would think), or simply have not kept track of their pension. In fact, figures show that four out of five people will lose track of at least one pension over the course of a lifetime.

How can this happen?
It is surprisingly easy for people to lose track of their pension(s). Firstly, because people frequently move around for work. As the former Minister for Pensions, Baroness Ros Altmann said:

“People have had on average 11 jobs during their working life which can mean they have as many work place pensions to keep track of…”

That’s a lot of paperwork to keep on top of and to be fair, most people will only really think of their pensions when they are close to retirement. Which brings me to the second point.

We can and do lose contact with the companies which administer our pensions. The most common reason for this is that pension and insurance companies have merged, and hence brand names have disappeared. For example, a company called Phoenix Life owns more than 100 old pension funds. Its list includes schemes from Royal & Sun Alliance, Scottish Mutual, Alba Life, Pearl Assurance, Britannia Life and Scottish Provident. This invariably leads to a lot of frustrated people looking for their money. It will perhaps surprise you that neither the Association of British Insurers nor the Financial Conduct Authority have a comprehensive list of which company owns which funds.

OK, how can I track down my pension?
Glad you asked. We can help with that, of course. We would need as much information from you as possible which, depending on the type of pension, would include:

Personal Pension

  • The name and address of the pension scheme (you may find that this has changed)
  • The bank, building society or insurance company that recommended or sold the scheme
  • Policy/NI Number

Work Pension

  • The company you worked for and if they have changed names/address since you left
  • Dates you worked there
  • When you started contributing to the scheme and when you finished
  • Employee/NI number

Obviously, the more information that you can provide, the easier it will be to locate your money. However, we will work with what you’ve got to explore all possible options.

Some companies are more efficient and responsive than others when it comes to handling enquiries on historic pensions, even when the original policy documentation is available. It can take years to locate and recover lost funds. You can fight the battle yourself; or we can pursue on your behalf until we get a satisfactory outcome.

Another reason to review your work pension(s) is that transfer values for defined benefit, or final salary, schemes are at record highs. Depending on the company, valuations are higher than most people anticipate. For example, a pension projected to pay £8,000 per year could have a transfer value of over £285,000, well in excess the average house value in the UK!

I’ve got my pension(s). What next?
Depending on your age and circumstances, transferring an existing pension into a new scheme may be beneficial, including if you have more than one pension. Consolidating existing arrangements removes the need to monitor numerous pensions and, perhaps more importantly, allows you to optimise returns from a single, personalised investment strategy, often with greater flexibility over the timing and amount of payments and in your preferred currency.

Ahead of any potential transfer, the first step is to determine whether a transfer is in your best interests. A responsible adviser will always complete a detailed and objective review of your current position and plans. A transfer may not be appropriate, for a variety of reasons – for example if it means the loss of valuable guaranteed benefits – so it is essential to consult only a suitably authorised, qualified and experienced adviser. A proper assessment will enable you to make an informed decision on whether a transfer is best for you.

If you do proceed with a transfer, as part of the exercise you should also expect ongoing advice on matters such as investment performance and outlook, together with guidance on the suitability of the scheme following, or ahead of, a change in your circumstances.

For help with locating and reviewing your UK pension(s), please contact me either by email emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or phone: +32 494 90 71 72.