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Investing in turbulent times

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

12.01.17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Review

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

French Tax Changes 2017

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Estate Planning, Exchange of Information, France, Income Tax, Inheritance Tax, Offshore Disclosures Facility, Tax, Uncategorised, wealth management, Wills
This article is published on: 3rd January 2017

03.01.17

During December, the following legislation has entered into force:

  • the Loi de Finances 2017
  • the Loi de Finances Rectificative 2016(I); and
  • the Loi de Financement de la Sécurité Sociale 2017

Shown below is a summary of our understanding of the principle changes.

INCOME TAX (Impôt sur le Revenu)

The barème scale, which is applicable to the taxation of income and gains from financial assets, has been revised as follows:

Income Tax Rate
Up to €9,710 0%
€9,711 to €26,818 14%
€26,819 to €71,898 30%
€71,899 to €152,260 41%
€152,261 and over 45%

The above will apply in 2017 in respect of the taxation of 2016 income and gains from financial assets.

Tax Reduction

A tax reduction of 20% will be granted when the income being accessed for taxation is less than €18,500 for single taxpayers, or €37,000 for a couple subject to joint taxation. These thresholds are increased by €3,700 for each additional dependant half-part in the household.

For single taxpayers with income between €18,500 and €20,500, and couples with income between €37,000 and €41,000 (plus in both cases any threshold increase for dependants), a tax reduction will still be granted, although this will be scaled down.

Prélèvement à la source de l’impôt sur le revenu

Currently, taxpayers complete an income tax declaration in May each year, in respect of income received in the previous year. From the beginning of the year, on-account payments of income tax are made, but pending the assessment of the declaration, these are based on the level of income received two years previously. In August, notifications of the actual income tax liability for the previous year are sent out and taxpayers are sent a bill for any underpayment or income tax for the previous year, or in rare situations, there may be a rebate due, typically in the situation where income has reduced, perhaps due to retirement or long-term disability.
Hence, at any time, there is a lag between the tax payments being made in respect of the income being assessed. Therefore, with the aim of closing this gap, France will move to a more modern system of collection of income tax, by taxing income as it arises. This reform will apply to the majority of regular income (including salaries, pensions, self-employed income and unfurnished property rental income), which will become subject to ‘on account’ withholding rates of tax from 1st January 2018.

Where the income is received from a third-party located in France, the organisation paying the income will deduct the tax at source, using the tax rate notified by the French tax authority. The advantage for the taxpayer is that the income tax deduction should more closely reflect the current income tax liability, based on the actual income being paid at the time of the tax deduction.

For income received from a source outside of France, the taxpayer will be required to make on-account monthly tax payments. The on-account amount payable will be set according to the taxpayer’s income in the previous year. However, if there is a strong variation in the current year’s income (compared to the previous year), it will be possible to request an interim adjustment to more accurately reflect the income actually being received, at the time of the payment of the tax.

Transitional payment arrangements will be put in place, as follows:

    • in 2017, taxpayers will pay tax on their 2016 income
    • in 2018, they will pay tax on their 2018 income, in 2019, they will pay tax on their 2019 income, and so on
    • in the second half of 2017, any third party in France making payments will be notified of the levy rate to be applied, which will be determined from 2016 revenues reported by the taxpayer in May 2017
    • from 1st January 2018, the levy rate will be applied to the income payments being made – and
    • the levy rate will then be amended in September each year to take into account any changes, following the income tax declaration made in the previous May

Taxpayers will still be required to make annual income tax declarations. However, what is clear from the transitional arrangements is that the income of 2017 that falls within the review will not actually be taxed; this is to avoid double taxation in 2018 (i.e. of the combination of 2017 and 2018 income). Therefore, to avoid any abuse of the reform, special provisions have been introduced so that taxpayers – who are able to do so – cannot artificially increase their income for the 2017 year.

Furthermore, exceptional non-recurring income received is excluded from the scope of the reform in 2017; this includes capital gains on financial assets and real estate, interest, dividends, stock options, bonus shares and pension taken in the form of cash (prestations de retraite servies sous forme de capital). Therefore, taxpayers will not be able to take advantage of the 2017 year to avoid paying tax on these types of income.

At the same time, the benefits of tax reductions and credits for 2017 will be maintained and allocated in full at the time of tax balancing in the summer of 2018, although for home care and child care, an advance partial tax credit is expected from February 2018. Charitable donations made in 2017, which are eligible for an income tax reduction, will also be taken into account in the balancing of August 2018.

WEALTH TAX (Impôt de Solidarité sur la Fortune)

There are no changes to wealth tax. Therefore, taxpayers with net assets of at least €1.3 million will continue to be subject to wealth tax on assets exceeding €800,000, as follows:

Fraction of Taxable Assets Tax Rate
Up to €800,000 0%
€800,001 to €1,300,000 0.50%
€1,300,001 to €2,570,000 0.70%
€2,570,001 to € 5,000,000 1%
€5,000,001 to €10,000,000 1.25%
Greater than €10,000,000 1.5%

 

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – Financial Assets (Plus Value Mobilières)

Gains arising from the disposal of financial assets continue to be added to other taxable income and then taxed in accordance with the progressive rates of tax outlined in the barème scale above.

However, the system of ‘taper relief’ still applies for the capital gains tax (but not for social contributions), in recognition of the period of ownership of any company shares, as follows:

  • 50% for a holding period from two years to less than eight years; and
  • 65% for a holding period of at least eight years

This relief also applies to gains arising from the sale of shares in ‘collective investments’, for example, investment funds and unit trusts, providing that at least 75% of the fund is invested in shares of companies.

In order to encourage investment in new small and medium enterprises, the higher allowances against capital gains for investments in such companies are also still provided, as follows:

  • 50% for a holding period from one year to less than four years;
  • 65% for a holding period from four years to less than eight years; and
  • 85% for a holding period of at least eight years

The above provisions apply in 2017 in respect of the taxation of gains made in 2016.

CAPITAL GAINS TAX – Property (Plus Value Immobilières)

Capital gains arising on the sale of a maison secondaire and on building land continue to be taxed at a fixed rate of 19%. However, a system of taper relief applies, as follows:

  • 6% for each year of ownership from the sixth year to the twenty-first year, inclusive; and;
  • 4% for the twenty-second year.

Thus, the gain will become free of capital gains tax after twenty-two years of ownership.

However, for social contributions (which remain at 15.5%), a different scale of taper relief applies, as follows:

  • 1.65% for each year of ownership from the sixth year to the twenty-first year, inclusive;
  • 1.6% for the twenty-second year; and
  • 9% for each year of ownership beyond the twenty-second year.

Thus, the gain will become free of social contributions after thirty years of ownership.

An additional tax continues to apply for a maison secondaire (but not on building land), when the gain exceeds €50,000, as follows:

Amount of Gain Tax Rate
€50,001 – €100,000 2%
€100,001 – €150,000 3%
€150,001 to €200,000 4%
€200,001 to €250,000 5%
€250,001 and over 6%

Where the gain is within the first €10,000 of the lower level of the band, a smoothing mechanism applies to reduce the amount of the tax liability.

The above taxes are also payable by non-residents selling a property or building land in France.

SOCIAL CHARGES (Prélèvements Sociaux)

As has been widely publicised, on 26th February 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that France could not apply social charges to ‘income from capital’, if the taxpayer is insured by another Member State of the EU/EEA or Switzerland. Income from capital includes investment income on financial assets and property rental income, as well as capital gains on financial assets and real estate.

Fundamental to this decision was the fact that the ECJ determined that France’s social charges had sufficient links with the financing of the country’s social security system and benefits. EU Regulations generally provide that people can only be insured by one Member State. Therefore, if the person is insured by another Member State, they cannot also be insured by France and thus, should not have to pay French social charges on income from capital.

On 27th July 2015, the Conseil d’Etat, which is France’s highest court, accepted the ECJ ruling, which paved the way for those people affected to reclaim social charges that had been paid in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This applied to all residents of any EU/EEA State and Switzerland, who had paid social charges on French property rental income and capital gains, but excluded residents outside of these territories.

However, to circumvent the ECJ ruling, France amended its Social Security Code. In doing so, it removed the direct link of social charges to specific social security benefits that fall under EU Regulations. The changes took effect from 1st January 2016.

Hence, if you are resident in France, social charges are applied to your worldwide investment income and gains. The current rate is 15.5% and the charges are also payable by non-residents on French property rental income and capital gains.

Whilst the French Constitutional Council validated the changes in the French Social Security law, it remains highly questionable under EU law. One hopes, therefore, that this may be censored again by the ECJ, at some point.

EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION UNDER COMMON REPORTING STANDARD:

As of December 2016, there are now already over 1,300 bilateral exchange relationships activated, with respect to more than 50 jurisdictions. Many jurisdictions have already been collecting information throughout 2016, which will be shared with other jurisdictions by September 2017.

However, there are many more jurisdictions that are committed to the OECD’s Common Reporting Standard (CRS) and so it is anticipated that more information exchange agreements will be activated during 2017.

In the EU, the CRS has been brought into effect through the EU Directive on Administrative Cooperation in the Field of Taxation, which was adopted in December 2014. The scope of information exchange is very broad, including investment income (e.g. bank interest and dividends), pensions, property rental income, capital gains from financial assets and real estate, life assurance products, employment income, directors’ fees, as well as account balances of financial assets.

No-one is exempt and therefore, it is essential that when French income tax returns are completed, taxpayers declare all income and gains – even if this is taxable in another country by virtue of a Double Taxation Treaty with France.

It is also obligatory to declare the existence of bank accounts and life assurance policies held outside of France. The penalties for not doing so are €1,500 per account or contract, which increases to €10,000 if this is held in an ‘uncooperative State’ that has not concluded an agreement with France to provide administrative assistance to exchange tax information. Furthermore, if the total value of the accounts and contracts not declared is at least €50,000, then the fine is increased to 5% of the value of the account/contract as at 31st December, if this is greater than €1,500 (€10,000 if in an uncooperative State).

2nd January 2017

This outline is provided for information purposes only. It does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group to take any particular action to mitigate the effects of any potential changes in French tax legislation.

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

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

02.01.17

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

What is this?

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

Why have I been considered as a witness?

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

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

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

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

Time to Unite……

….and Wish me luck!

Spectrum sponsor the DFAS event – Costa del Sol

By Charles Hutchinson - Topics: Costa del Sol, Events, Spain, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 16th December 2016

16.12.16

The Spectrum IFA Group again co-sponsored an excellent DFAS (Decorative & Fine Arts Society) lecture on 14th December at the San Roque Golf & Country Club on the Costa del Sol.  We were heartily represented by one of our local and long-serving Advisers, Charles Hutchinson, who attended along with our co-sponsors Richard Brown, Lewis Cohen and Harriette Collings from Tilney Bestinvest. Tilney Bestinvest also very kindly hosted a lunch afterwards for selected potential clients, the DFAS Chairman and the Lecturer.

The National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Society (NADFAS) is a leading Arts charity which opens up the world of the arts through a network of local societies (such as DFAS in Spain) and national events throughout the world.

With inspiring monthly lectures given by some of the country’s top experts, together with days of special interest, educational visits and cultural holidays, NADFAS is a great way to learn, have fun and make new and lasting friendships.

At this event, over 120 attendees were entertained by a talk on Dutch Genre Painting by Lynne Gibson who is one of the UK’s top experts in this field. She was excellent and kept the audience gripped and entertained with her knowledge and humour – especially the hidden saucy side to the art which she revealed to great effect!

The talk was followed by a drinks reception which included a free raffle for prizes including CH produced Champagne, mince pies and a lovely coffee table book on Dutch Genre Painting.  Tilney Bestinvest also supplied a wooden permanent calendar designed and beautifully crafted by Viscount Linley, the Queen’s nephew, which caused a further stir after their last year’s prize!

All in all, a great turnout and a very successful event at a wonderful venue.  The Spectrum IFA Group were very proud to be involved with such a fantastic organisation and we hope to have the opportunity to do so again.

[Gallery not found]

Should you cash in your final salary pension?

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Pensions, QROPS, Spain, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 14th December 2016

14.12.16

Potentially millions of people with defined benefit or Final Salary pensions have seen their transfer values shoot up in the last year.

A transfer value, also known as a CETV (cash equivalent transfer value) can be exchanged for giving up the future projected benefits for your pension. In effect, the company buys back the pension.

Over the last 18 months in particular these values have soared.

In many instances people are being offered tens of thousands of pounds more than a year ago with some even being incentivised by their Pension scheme to leave, with a bonus given for doing so. The main reason for this is that the pension company no longer wants the responsibility of having to pay the pension when you retire. Life expectancy in Europe now is 84/85 and in effect people are living longer, meaning the pension scheme has to pay you longer.

For someone with an annual pension income worth £20,000, it is not uncommon to be offered 30 times that amount – in other words, £600,000 in cash.

However this is not the right thing to do for everybody, and there can be significant disadvantages.

‘Unique Circumstances’

Many people have seen their pension transfer values doubled since two years ago, now making it very worthwhile to re-visit these and see what the best advice would be, given this growth in values.

What is a defined benefit pension and the difference between these and a Defined Contribution pension scheme?

Workers with defined benefit pensions know exactly how much they will receive in retirement. Such schemes are either based on a worker’s final salary, or on their career average earnings. Workers with defined contribution (DC) schemes save into a pension pot, which they then use to buy a retirement income. The size of the pot depends on stock market performance. The reason for the increase in transfer values is continuing low interest rates, and particularly low Gilt Rates. Gilts are bonds issued by the Government to raise money, and the rate/interest of these is a major factor used to help calculate a transfer value for a DB pension scheme.

Pension schemes depend heavily on bond yields for their income, and with yields at record lows, many are struggling to meet their commitments to pay future pensions. So they have been offering larger and larger sums to people who are prepared to give up their pension rights.

Transferring your DB/Final Salary pensions can offer a more flexible retirement income, the possibility of extra tax-free cash and upon death the remainder of the pension can be paid out to any beneficiary’s rather than paying a reduced income only to a spouse/dependent partner and then ending.

However, keeping a DB/Final Salary pension can also offer you certainties such as an income for life with Inflation protection, Risk-free income, which does not depend on the ups and downs of the stock market.

There are currently major uncertainties surrounding Brexit and the UK leaving the EU, particularly for those people living outside of the UK. With the almost constant review and changes of UK pensions laws/taxes and the fact that 90% of UK DB/Final Salary schemes are underfunded, it’s important you review your options and the right decision with your pension.

In all circumstances, you should talk to a professional and have your own pension/situation evaluated and see what the best advice there is for you.

The Importance of Protecting and Protecting What’s Important

By Pauline Bowden - Topics: Costa del Sol, Life Assurance, Spain, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 1st December 2016

01.12.16

Life Assurance is not the most popular of topics, as no-one wants to think about dying!

Most people have mortgages, loans, household bills, perhaps education fees, the payment of which is totally dependant on the income of the “bread winner”. Most Life Assurance policies are taken out to replace that income should the bread winner die or where there are children in a family to cover the life of the housewife/husband.

If your partner died, would you give up work to look after your children? A Life Assurance policy can provide the funds necessary to employ a carer/housekeeper.

Business partners too are financially dependant on each other. Should one of the partners in your company die, Life Assurance can provide a lump sum payment to buy the shares from the widow/er and help with the costs of finding new staff.

So, how much life cover do you need?

Employer schemes generally provide 4 times the annual salary but in order to provide sufficient capital to fully protect the financial future of a family, most Financial Advisers would recommend between 5 and 10 times the annual salary.

And how much will it cost?

The cost of Life Assurance varies according to age, medical history and family history etc. To find out more about this or other financial planning subjects call Pauline Bowden now on 95 289 0383 for a free confidential and personal consultation.

A case study on UK final salary pensions

By Michael Doyle - Topics: Defined benefit pension scheme, Final Salary Pension, final salary schemes, France, Luxembourg, Pensions, QROPS, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 28th November 2016

28.11.16

I was recently asked to review one of my client’s UK pensions.

He had what is known as a Defined Benefits Scheme – more commonly referred to as a Final Salary Scheme.

My client had lost touch with this scheme a few years back and the last update he had from them was in 2006. On this statement the scheme offered him a transfer value of approximately £52,928, otherwise he could remain in the scheme until he was 65 and have a pension commencement lump sum (PCLS) of c. £27,000 and an income of £4,700 per annum.

If he remained in the scheme and took the lump sum and income, in the event of his death there would be no lump sum paid to his beneficiaries although an income payment of around £3,000 per annum would have been paid until the 10th anniversary of his 65 birthday.

On completing a review of my client’s pension I found that the scheme would now offer a transfer value just in excess of £180,000. In transferring this to a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme (QROPS), I was able to offer my client an initial PCLS of £45,000. This still left him with a fund of £135,000. Assuming we can provide a rate of return of 3.5% after charges then the client can have the same income as with his Final Salary Scheme.

Assuming the client only draws down the same £27,000 that his UK pension offered then we would only have to provide returns of 3.07%.

In the end, the client chose the transfer because:

  1. In the event of his death after receiving the PCLS, the remaining funds could be passed on to his children.
  2. He only needed the PCLS and not the income at 65. This was not an option under the final salary scheme.
  3. He can control the level of income he needs going forward (subject to the returns in the funds he was invested in).

With annuity rates being very low at this time, final salary schemes are offering a much higher transfer value and this can be beneficial for both you and your beneficiaries.

To review your pension options today please contact me for a no obligation chat and free analysis on your personal situation.

The Western World’s Ageing Population

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: Uncategorised
This article is published on: 27th November 2016

27.11.16

There have been many studies about how, thanks to improved medicine and healthcare, our world population is ageing. The highest impact of this is on pensions and the burden on the governmental financial systems currently in place, which, as the baby boomers begin to reach retirement age, will soon be unable to support the necessary numbers.

Below are two graphics which illustrate this very effectively, beginning from the 1960s and going all the way up to 2060, to demonstrate in real terms how quickly this is happening. The situation in Europe is worse than that of the Americas; but on all three continents, at the current rate, the median age of the population will be over 40 almost everywhere by 2060.


President Trump “The brand and businessman”

By David Hattersley - Topics: Elections, Investments, Spain, Uncategorised
This article is published on: 15th November 2016

15.11.16

Firstly excuse the pun, but if one considers Donald Trump as a “brand” then he did one great job in getting elected as President of the USA. Somehow he sensed that the electorate had grown tired of the political elite and that the establishment needed to be changed and shaken up. That is common knowledge, after all Farage did it based on the cigarettes and beer outside a pub. The same applies to Margaret Thatcher.

Putting it into perspective though, others have gone on to challenge the established order in their respective business fields that then became global household names. The likes of Branson, Doug & Mary Perkins (Specsavers) , Michael O’Leary (Ryan Air) and James Dyson all challenged the status quo and vested elitist interests at the time, much to their dismay and their eventual demise. All the former have gone on to be recognized as global brands that have led a revolution in their fields in their own lifetimes.

In this respect President Trump has, forgive the pun, “out trumped” the recognized establishment in recognizing a true niche market that would follow him. He marketed a particular brand, appealing to a certain audience that felt that it had been left behind in the event of globalization and other ills.One now has to consider the impact on the rest of the world and its impact on investment. In his early days as President elect, he has already shown signs of an element of pragmatism, like a businessman would do towards the need to understand and temper the advertising campaign – for example, recognising what is good in Obamacare and what needs to be modified fiscally to make it a success.

It also depends on who he appoints as his “Board of Directors”, to help him carry through the reforms that are needed for his “New Company” will succeed. No doubt and hopefully, the same will apply to business in general, the need to negotiate where need be, to gain better terms, but at the same time realize the greater picture. He is after all now the CEO of the USA, and that needs to be understood first and foremost.The old order is being replaced, old perceptions will no longer be relevant, and that too can have an impact. As much as Thatcher-ism and Reaganomics changed the world, the Brexit and President Trump’s election will change it too. One has to follow that the old order has been overturned and that whilst the new company has just started, it too needs to act like a company, a far cry from the current political elite. It is almost that a revolution is taking place.

In relation to investments, this means change, but change brings opportunities. Realising this takes skill, and the selection of funds and managers that recognise that change, rather than following old ideas that are now outdated, need to be considered. At the moment though, one cannot take knee jerk reaction as the inauguration does not take place until January 2017, so investors need to keep an eye on the near future, whilst considering other investments that are unlikely to be affected by the above changes.

Brexit, US Election & Exchange Rates

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

07.11.16

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

BREXIT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Presidential Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sterling Exchange Rate

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

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

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

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

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

Financial Review

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

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

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