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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)

Being prepared for BREXIT in France

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: BREXIT, France, Pensions, QROPS, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 11th March 2020

11.03.20

On 31st January 2020, the UK left the EU. However, the real effects of Brexit, for those of us living in France, will not properly be felt until after the 31st December 2020 (what an interesting New Year’s Eve that will be!) and thereafter. Hopefully, by that time we will have a clearer idea of what our rights and responsibilities are. Until then there will still be much speculation and media noise, which may be just as confusing as it has been over the past four years.

One thing Brexit has established, from the very beginning, is that British citizens living in France, or planning to settle in France, need to get their affairs in order and decide where they would like to live for the foreseeable future. As British citizens we can always return to the UK if we so choose, but if we want to continue to live in France we must show that we have lived here continuously for the last five years or that we intend to continue living here in future.

The next few months are going to be very interesting and it is more than ever important for British citizens to consider some important financial changes.

Pensions after Brexit
In 2006, the UK introduced a law making it possible for UK private pension benefits to be transferred to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS), provided that the overseas scheme meets certain qualifying conditions.

For those pensions that can be transferred there are many benefits including:

  • No obligation to purchase an insurance company annuity, at any time
  • The potential to pass on the member’s remaining pension assets to nominated beneficiaries on death with minimal or no death duty payable. By comparison, currently a tax charge at the beneficiary’s marginal rate can be applied in the UK, where the member is over age 75 at death
  • A wider choice of acceptable investments offered, compared to UK pension plans
  • The underlying investments and income payments can be denominated in a choice of currencies, which can potentially reduce exchange rate risk
  • Potential to receive a larger amount of Pension Commencement Lump Sum compared to UK schemes
  • Depending upon the jurisdiction where the QROPS is set up, income payments may be made without the deduction of local taxes, meaning that income will only be taxed in accordance with the law of the jurisdiction where the member is resident

In 2017 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. This charge does not, however, apply where 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) and remains EU or EEA resident for the next five full UK tax years.

Many of those who work in the industry believe that after the transition period, it may no longer be possible for British citizens to transfer their pensions into an EU QROPS without incurring the 25% charge.

QROPS may not be suitable for everyone and much will depend upon the nature of the UK pension benefits being considered for transfer, as well as the person’s attitude to investment risk. Transferring a pension to a QROPS is not a decision that should be taken lightly nor in haste and proper financial advice with an experienced adviser is essential. Even when the decision has been made to transfer the pension it may take a good few months to complete, which is why, if you are even considering this possibility, it is important to contact a local adviser to explore what your options are.

Taxes after Brexit
As tax between the UK and France is determined by the Double Tax Treaty, this will not be affected by the fact that the UK has left the EU. However, whilst not directly taxed, a lot of UK income, such as UK rental income, is added to the taxable base and increases the tax margin of the French taxpayer. If you intend to live in France, you may want to consider whether it is really in your interest to hold onto UK assets.

It is possible to protect your capital investments in France and ensure that they can grow in a tax efficient environment by way of an Assurance Vie policy. French Assurance Vies or French approved foreign Assurance Vies offer valuable benefits when it comes to income tax, inheritance tax and estate planning. Foreign portfolios and bonds are not treated as Assurance Vies and any gain is subject to tax and social charges irrespective of whether this income is taken or whether it is brought into France. If you are French tax resident, you are taxable on your worldwide income in France. Proving that you are French tax resident will be an important factor for establishing the Right to Remain in France.

Being resident in France does not necessarily mean that all your assets have to be in France or have to be in euros. There are many opportunities for holding sterling based diversified portfolios in a tax efficient manner.
For anyone intending to live in France for the foreseeable future, be aware that today’s valuable financial planning opportunities are unlikely to remain beyond the short term (31st December 2020 could be an important date in this respect). Contact me, Katriona Murray, and I will be happy to arrange a meeting.

Living in Spain after BREXIT

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, BREXIT, National Insurance Contributions, Spain, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 7th January 2020

07.01.20

After the results from the UK’s General Election, it seems we are closer to Brexit than ever before, so are you prepared for it living in Spain?

Documentation to remain in Spain

There are many rumours among non-Spanish people of what you need to do to stay in Spain should Brexit happen. The response from the Council recently has been, should you hold a NIE and an Empadronamiento, you are proving you are resident in Spain, so for now these should suffice. However, if Brexit does go ahead, Spain could draw a ‘Stay in Spain’ line in the sand which would then need adhering to. In the worst case scenario, a renewable 90-day tourist visa would give you time to adhere to whatever the new rules are. Spain has said publicly it will reciprocate what the UK does, and the UK knows there are far more British people living in Spain than the other way around in the UK.

UK Private and Corporate Pensions

The current HMRC rules state that if you take advantage of moving your UK pension abroad it must be to either where you are resident OR in the EU (due to the UK being in the EU). If this is not the case, you would have to pay 25% tax on the pension amount. Therefore, it is very likely that as the UK would be leaving the EU, these rules would not be met and the 25% tax charge would start to apply to pension movements outside of the UK. This could be the last chance to evaluate whether it’s better for you to move your pension or not and take advantage of the potential benefits, including being outside of UK law and taxes.

National Insurance Contributions

If you were to start receiving your State pension now, you would approach the Spanish authorities and they would contact the UK for their part of the contribution, taking both into account. Before the UK joined the EU, you would contact each country individually and receive what they were due to pay you. If this becomes the case again, for many British people the UK part of their State pension would potentially be more important, as it is likely to be the bulk of what you receive. We don’t know how Spain will act with regard to state pension benefits to foreigners; therefore it would make sense to manage the UK element well if this is your largest subscription.

I recommend two things here; firstly check what you have in the UK so you know where you are. You can do that here:

www.gov.uk/check-national-insurance-record

You can contact the HMRC about contributing overseas voluntary contributions at a greatly discounted rate, from £11 a month: you can even buy ‘years’ to catch up:

www.gov.uk/voluntary-national-insurance-contributions/who-can-pay-voluntary-contributions

I have mentioned this in Newsletters before, but it really is a great thing to do, both mathematically and for peace of mind. Many people I meet living away from the UK have ‘broken’ years of contributions which is leaving themselves open to problems in retirement.

TIP: If you have an NI number, you do not necessarily have to be British to do this.

Investments/stocks/shares/savings

Time apportionment relief

Statistically, in 75% of British expat couples living abroad, at least one of them will return to live in the UK. It remains to be seen whether this changes if the UK leaves the EU, however, you can easily save yourself some serious tax if you have this in your plan of eventualities.

You can, in effect, give yourself 5% tax relief for every year you spend outside the UK by positioning your investments/savings correctly. Then, upon your return, you can take this tax relief when you are ready, such as in the following example:

Mr and Mrs Brown invested £200,000 ten years ago when they were living in Spain.
After this time, it is now worth £300,000
They returned to the UK and have been resident there for the last year (365 days)

They decide, after being back in the UK for 1 year (365 days) to cash in the investment, taking advantage of ‘Time Apportionment Relief’ which will be calculated the following way:

£100,000 (total gain)
multiplied by the number of days in the UK (365)
divided by total number of days the investments have been running i.e. 10 years (3650 days)

Resulting in a £10,000 chargeable gain (that is what you declare, not the tax you pay).

There are other potential tax savings as well, but they depend on other circumstances. If you have your savings/investments set up the right way you can take advantage of this.

If you have any questions or would like to book a financial review, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Brexit – What now?

By Katriona Murray-Platon - Topics: BREXIT, France, UK Pensions, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 18th December 2019

18.12.19

Some of you, like me, might have woken up on Friday and after hearing the election result felt utterly depressed. Irrespective of how the vote could or should have gone, or who you may have voted or wanted to vote for, this result will seriously affect the Brits living in Europe. Brexit is now more likely than ever, so what does this mean for us? Well luckily, there is someone who is somewhat of an expert on the matter, Professor Sébastien Platon, Professor in European Law at the University of Bordeaux and incidentally my husband! Over breakfast I asked him a few questions.

So, what now?
The British parliament must first pass the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, and then they have to agree on the Withdrawal Agreement itself. Given that the Conservatives now have a majority it is likely to be passed. Either later or at the same time, the European Parliament also has to agree on the withdrawal agreement. If all of this gets done by the 31st January, Brexit will happen as planned. If not, the UK will have to request ANOTHER extension which would have to be agreed by the other 27 member states.

During the transition period are all European rights maintained?
Apart from the right to vote and run as a candidate in EU elections and municipal elections, the right to participate in European citizens’ initiatives and the UK’s right to vote on EU laws, all rights, including the right to free movement, are maintained during the transition period.

Does a British citizen who has not yet settled in France still have the right to do so after 31st January?
Yes. Up until 31st December 2020 all British citizens can come and settle in the EU. After the transition period, those who have established residency in the EU and wish to bring their family members (spouses, partners, direct descendants under 21 or dependent, direct relatives in the ascending line) to live with them can still do so.

Can the transition period be extended?
Yes, if the UK and EU agree to extend the transition period. But, unlike the Brexit extensions, they cannot ask for an extension the night before the 31st December 2020. A decision has to be made before 1st July 2020 extending the transition period for up to 1 OR 2 years. British citizens would therefore have until the end of the transition period (or extended period) to settle in the EU.

What about healthcare?
During the transition period, the EU social security coordination rules will continue to apply. The British who reside in France (or any other member state) and are in the UK health system but not the French health system can continue to benefit from this health cover as normal. After the end of the transition period, these rules will continue to apply to:

• UK nationals subject to the legislation of a Member State at the end of the transition period,
• UK nationals who reside in a Member State while being subject to the legislation of the UK at the end of the transition period,
• UK nationals who pursue an activity as an employed or self-employed person in one or more Member States at the end of the transition period and who are subject to the legislation of the UK,
• Their family members and survivors
These persons will be covered as long as they continue, without interruption, to be in one of these situations involving both a Member State and the UK at the same time.

What about pensions?
For the persons I’ve just mentioned, the time worked in the UK will count towards an EU pension and inversely any time spent working in France would contribute towards entitlement for a UK pension should they wish to return to the UK when they retire.

Do we need to apply for cartes de séjour?
During the transition period you do not need them. After the transition period each member state has the right to require UK citizens to apply for a new residence status, the sole purpose of which is to verify whether the applicants meet the conditions set in the withdrawal agreement. If they do, they have a right to be granted the residence status and the document evidencing that status (which will NOT be a “carte de séjour”). The French administration cannot refuse this status if you meet the conditions. The deadline for submitting the application shall not be less than 6 months from the end of the transition period. The host State has to ensure that any administrative procedures for applications are “smooth, transparent and simple, and that any unnecessary burden are avoided” with applications being “short, simple, user friendly and adapted to the context of” the agreement. Only once the agreement has been ratified will we know if and how the French Government wants to proceed on the matter.

Whilst I do not agree with Brexit and wish things had happened differently, at least after four years of uncertainty there may now be some progress. The pound bounced back up on Friday and this election result is likely to have a positive impact on the markets and portfolios.

UK Pension transfer – most common questions asked

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, pension transfer, QROPS, Spain, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 8th November 2019

08.11.19

Without even mentioning the ‘Brexit’ word, if you have a private or company pension scheme in the UK but reside outside, it’s a good idea to understand what your options are in managing and having access to them. There are a handful of subjects I am regularly asked about regarding this:

UK pension currency
If you transfer your pension outside of the UK, it does NOT have to remain in sterling; all major currencies are usually available. It can also be changed at most times and be held in different currencies. Of course, at the moment this is an even more important thought process for your retirement savings.

Access to pensions
From age 55 you can have access to as much of your UK pension as you like, although bear in mind that in Spain pension money will be subject to personal income tax, after any allowances. Therefore, you might want to arrange this so as to not incur higher taxes (there are several ways to do this).

Pensions from a previous employer
These pensions are known as dormant or frozen, and at the very minimum you should know what you have, where they are and how they work. We help clients track these down, explain how they work, what your options are and start planning to make them either more ‘healthy’ or easier to access. Some pensions may have high charges, or the pension scheme could be financially in trouble. Having all this knowledge as well as the options available will help you make an informed decision.

Can I transfer any pensions I have myself?
In short, if you are abroad, no, since the process is complex and not easy to understand if you are not in the financial world. Also, HMRC won’t allow it unless you have received advice. We have clients with different levels of experience in finance and pensions, and we work alongside them all closely, giving them the knowledge to make their decisions and managing the process for them.

If they are UK pensions and you want to keep them in the UK, then yes, you can usually do this yourself depending on the value involved.

You cannot transfer a pension to another person, although there are ways you can pass it on effectively.

Pensions transfer charges
When overseas pension transfers were started many years ago, the costs were a lot higher than running a UK pension scheme, although the benefits were greater. Now, with increased competition from providers, the charges for moving and maintaining an overseas pension are a lot lower. However, this does depend on who you perform the transfer with and what advice you are given. I still come across clients where the charges are so high it is almost impossible for the pension to grow. There are ways of helping these people, but usually by then they have lost out on many years of growth, which is really frustrating as it didn’t need to be that way. It’s so important you work with a Financial Advisor who is working for you, at your pace and advising in your best interests, not theirs.

Selecting a Financial Advisor to work with when investigating moving a UK pension
There are several points/questions you should check when deciding whom to seek advice from. These are:

1) Recommendations, you cannot beat them. Does anyone you know work with a Financial Advisor and they are happy with them?
2) Does the Financial Advisor have the necessary qualifications to give you advice?
3) How are they remunerated? Ask them how much and when.
4) Do they have any long-standing clients you can speak to? If they do and you manage to speak to them, ask them specific questions so you know they are both genuine and how it worked for them.
5) Look into their eyes… meet them several times, get a feeling for them as a person, their morals and actions.
6) Research them on the internet, or ask around and see what’s said about them.

I do know clients who have done most of this and still not had a great experience. The only additional advice I can give is to look at the pensions and companies they are recommending. If you haven’t heard of them before or you don’t get the ‘spider sense’ that they purely have your best interests at heart, then look elsewhere. Remember, they are going to be looking after your retirement. For years I have helped people evaluate their pensions, and as well as looking to help new clients, the main reason I write these articles is to help people avoid potentially working with someone that doesn’t have their best interests at heart.

UK State Pension for Expats

By Antony Poole - Topics: Costa del Sol, Spain, State Pensions After BREXIT, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 20th September 2019

20.09.19

The UK Government on the 1st of September 2019 announced that the UK state pension paid to Brits retired in the EU will continue to benefit from triple-lock until 2023.

This means that until 2023 the state pension paid to EU expats will increase by the higher of either 2.5 per cent, average wage growth or the CPI rate of inflation every year. The current new state pension for those who retired after 6 April 2016 is £168.60 per week, or £8,767.20 a year. It means that those living in the EU will see their pensions increase by almost £220 a year until 2023.

The main issue is that this uplift is not given to all expats; it is given to expats in certain countries, but not others, including Australia and Canada. The UK is almost unique in the EU in distinguishing between pensioners who are living in the country and those that are not.

The move has now opened the threat of removing automatic increases that expat pensioners receive as a result of Britain’s EU membership. The cost of the uplift to EU expats is estimated by DWP to cost around £500 million per year, which is a worrying statistic.

The three year extension, regardless of a Brexit deal or not, gives a temporary boost but no long term certainty.

The effect on your income by the freezing of the state pension can be reduced through a tailored savings strategy. Should you like a confidential financial review to maximise your options please contact Antony Poole.

Taking a Lump Sum from your Pension when Resident in Spain

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Pension Lump Sums, Pensions, Spain, UK Pensions
This article is published on: 13th April 2019

13.04.19

*UPDATED 1st January 2020

There are conflicting stories on how much lump sum/one off amount can you take from your pension if resident in Spain and what the tax will be. Indeed, many people with UK pensions believe it is better to take their UK pension lump sum in the UK before (grey line here if they have already moved!) they move to Spain permanently, as they will pay less tax. Firstly, even if you have a UK pension but are resident in Spain, this has to be declared in Spain. Secondly, if you finished contributing before 2007 you actually can receive MORE tax relief in Spain than in the UK (dependent upon the pension you have and how you take it).

To clarify, in the UK you can currently take a 25% tax free amount from all your private pensions and anymore would then be taxable.

If resident in Spain, you have the right to take up to 100% of your personal pensions in one go (100% in capital), to receive part in capital and part through regular payments or to receive the whole amount through regular payments. If you receive an amount in capital (a whole or a part) then you can apply for a tax reduction of 40% of the amount received for any contributions you made prior to 2007. This option can only be applied once, so, if you have more than one pension plan, you have to receive all of them in the same tax year if you want to apply this reduction. To clarify, it is the value the contributions have accumulated to today that is tax exempt, not the amount of actual contributions made back then.

From January 2007 there is no tax exemption, zero. Therefore, any contributions made from this point receive no tax exemption, however if the contribution to the pension runs before and after this date the tax exemption is calculated the same way.

If you take the amount as a regular payment you will have to pay income tax as if you have received any other general taxable income (a salary for example). In both of these cases, the amount that is taxed (with or without the 40%) is subject to the general income tax rate.

Lump Sum Pension Tax in Spain Lump Sum

Total amount of pensions: £150,000
Amount to be taken in lump sum/one off: £50,000
Amount tax exempt in Spain: £20,000
Pension lump sum amount income taxable: £30,000 (added to your annual income tax band)


Now if we look at the UK example we shall see the difference:

Total amount of pensions: £150,000
Amount to be taken in lump sum: £50,000
Amount tax exempt in UK: £37,500
Pension lump sum amount income taxable: £13,000 (added to your annual income tax band)

 

However, in the following scenario the Spain example works more in your favour:

Lump Sum Pension Tax in Spain Lump Sum

Total amount of pensions: £100,000
Amount to be taken in lump sum/one off: £100,000
Amount tax exempt in Spain: £40,000
Pension lump sum amount income taxable: £60,000 (added to your annual income)

 

UK Example

Total amount of pensions: £100,000
Amount to be taken in lump sum/one off: £100,000
Amount tax exempt in Spain: £25,000
Pension lump sum amount income taxable: £75,000 (added to your annual income tax band)

Important points to note here are:
If you cash in your UK pension OVER 25% and are registered in the UK as a non resident, an emergency tax code is likely to be used up to 45% and you will have to claim back what is owed to you. Unless you are able to provide a P45 from the current tax year following withdrawal from employment and/or current pension plan,

or

The pension provider already holds a P45 or up to date cumulative tax code received from HMRC as the result of previous withdrawals from that pension plan, and can apply it.

If you take your UK pension as a 25% lump sum, this should be declared in Spain and would apply to the Spanish rules of 40% being tax exempt and the rest income taxable. You would therefore pay any tax owed in Spain.

Only the FIRST Lump Sum is tax exempt so it’s important to realise that and make sure you plan effectively.

Regular payments from your pension fall under income tax

From 2007 onwards there is NO tax exemption of this kind.

Top Tips For Your Pension Lump Sum/One Off
When taking your lump sum, take it in the year that is most tax efficient for you, such as when you have lower income from other sources.

Moving your pension outside the UK could give you more freedom, more choices and potentially less tax to pay in the long term (depending on your situation).

Source: Silvia Gabarró GM Tax Consultancy Barcelona

Does Qrops or transferring your UK Pension overseas work?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, pension transfer, Pensions, QROPS, Spain, UK Pensions, United Kingdom
This article is published on: 4th March 2019

04.03.19

Those people who have a UK private or company pension and are resident outside of the UK, more often than not have the choice to transfer their pension to a QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme), that is the process of moving your pension outside of the UK. However, what are the important points to note with this, how does it differ from having your pension in the UK and most importantly, does it actually work effectively?

For just over 10 years you have been able to move your pension outside of the UK. Over that time, I have seen mixed success at doing this, with the companies providing this service changing, fees in essence reducing and the options of managing this growing. What has also changed is the benefit of doing this, alongside the advice you receive. Unfortunately, I have come across many cases where this has not worked well, and the reasons are nearly all the same: bad advice was given by the financial adviser who put their clients is funds/pensions that were overpriced and expensive.

To summarise, the current key potential benefits of Qrops would be the first step to seeing if this could be the right choice for you:

  • Pension potentially outside of future UK law changes
  • Brexit and the impact it would have on being a British person living in Spain
  • Potentially side stepping an expected 25% tax charge for moving pensions after Brexit
  • Currency fluctuation (ability to change your pension to euros when convenient)
  • Portability – the ability to move your pension in the future if needed
  • Potentially reduced tax liability
  • Inheritance – potential reduction of tax to beneficiaries or potentially lower tax on death (depending on your country of residence)
  • Peace of mind
  • Closer personal management of your pension
  • Tax efficient (working alongside a local tax adviser) potentially

And what are the key points that might mean Qrops is not right for you:

  • Returning to live permanently in the UK in the next five years (or maybe longer)
  • Pensions total value under £60,000 (the charges would be, in my opinion, punitive)
  • A company scheme where the benefits outweigh transferring
  • In the near future, wanting to take most of the money from your pension
  • Not having your pension in a Qrops managed well and expensively

From the perspective of access to your money, there is currently not much difference to having a personal pension in the UK or a Qrops. With the rule changes a few years back, you can, in essence, get access to your UK pension from age 55 in the UK and as much as you like, just as in Qrops.

Where Qrops really can help is moving an asset away from the UK and any potential rule changes, which have been regular over the recent years (mainly worse for the person owning a private pension). Couple that with Brexit and a potential 25% tax charge, then having your pension outside the UK will give you peace of mind in knowing exactly what the pensions rules would be for you moving forward. Also, given the fact that if you did ever move back to the UK (statistics show that for a British couple, there is a 75% chance one of you will go back at some point), you can transfer it back with you (there could also be tax benefits of doing this) and with some pension companies no charge.

However, perhaps the most important question is, does it work? The simple answer is yes it can, BUT it has to be set up the right way, with the right company and if you are given the right advice for what your pension is invested in. Basically, it needs to be done for your benefit, not so that the adviser can earn as much commission as possible from your pension.

Whenever I take a new client on, I always ask them if they would like to speak to an existing client to see what their experiences were, which is what I would do when performing my own due diligence.

If you would like to talk through any pensions you have and what your options are, feel free to get in touch and know that you will be given good advice, whether you become a client or not.

G transferred her pension 4 years ago; it has grown significantly over that time. “Chris has always been consultative and there when we need him.”

J transferred his pension 6 years ago. “It has grown well over that time. Whenever I have needed money from my pension Chris has arranged this for me. I would recommend him for sure.”

C transferred her pension 5 years ago. “It has grown steadily in that time (I am a cautious investor) and since then my husband and I have asked Chris to help us with our other investments.”

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.

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.