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Viewing posts categorised under: Wealth management

The tax and legal systems in France

By Spectrum IFA - Topics: France, Investments, Tax Efficient Savings, Tax in France, wealth management
This article is published on: 23rd July 2021

23.07.21

There are lots of reasons to love France …
… but the legal and tax systems aren’t high on that list!

How to manage wealth effectively, whilst minimizing administration, requires an experienced adviser with access to solutions purposefully built for the French marketplace, with due regard for t he local taxation and legal systems.

Because knowledge allows us to make better decisions, we invite you to watch the recent webinar with Quilter International.

The webinar considers financial planning options designed to help you keep more of your wealth for longer, ever mindful of the crossover with other countries, such as the UK.

As one of the leading providers of wealth management solutions, Quilter International works primarily with expatriates in around 40 countries, including France. Their speaker, David Denton, is a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society and Trust and Estate Practitioner, and has spent almost three decades in wealth management, training professional and lay audiences world-wide, on the subject of wealth preservation.

    The Spectrum IFA Group is committed to building long term client relationships. This form collects your name and contact details so we can contact you about this specific enquiry. For further information, please see our Privacy Policy.

    HOW TO INVEST – What are Stock Options?

    By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Investment Risk, Investments, Luxembourg, wealth management
    This article is published on: 11th March 2021

    11.03.21

    More and more people are accumulating new wealth through gaining stock options as part of their remuneration package. Whether you are fortunate to work for one of the 40% of start-ups that become profitable or work for a large established corporation, the potential financial gain can be life changing. Today, I want to talk to you about stock options and why you should understand what they mean to you.

    What are Stock Options?

    WHAT ARE STOCK OPTIONS?
    For any organisation you work for, you are likely to get a salary (unless you are volunteering) and, if you are lucky, stock options. Stock options make up a designated number of shares in a company and are designed to give you some measure of ownership in the organisation. They are the right, not obligation, to buy or sell a share at an agreed upon date and price (also known as the strike price). The idea being, if you own some of the company you are working for, then you are more committed to see the company grow, be profitable and stay with the company for a long time.

    WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?
    Stock options come from what is known as a stock option pool. These tend to be up to 20% of an organisation’s shares and these options are granted to employees and non-employees (typically investors). The initial owners start out with a certain number of shares in the company and effectively create new shares in the company by setting up a stock option pool.

    HOW DOES THIS WORK?
    This can be confusing, so for illustration purposes, I am going to use an example of a start-up called LIO that is today valued at 2,000,000€, has an initial share total of 5,000,000 and wants to create a stock option pool of 5% for its employees.

    With the creation of a stock option pool, LIO now has 5,250,000 shares. Given that the value of the company is 2,000,000€, that means that each share is worth 0.3809€. Now, let’s say that LIO wishes to give an employee, Avery, 1% of the company’s shares as part of their remuneration package. This means that today, Avery’s 52,500 shares would be worth approximately 20,000€.

    A few years into the future, LIO is bought and is valued at 20,000,000€. At this point, Avery decides to exercise his right to buy the shares. He would not have to pay the 3.809€ per share that they are now worth, but at the strike price of 0.3809€. Avery’s gain would be the difference between the two numbers multiplied by their shareholding, meaning that they would have made approximately 180,000€ thanks to the buyout.

    I have oversimplified things for the sake of illustration. However, this is what happens in essence, even in large, publicly traded companies.

    WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE BOUGHT SHARES?
    The technical term is vested. So, if you have done this and hold shares, then you may be liable to tax on those shares and we will see if we can work towards a solution for you. If you live in Belgium or Luxembourg, we can definitely help.

    This article is intended for general guidance only and is based on our understanding of Belgian tax law. It does not constitute advice or a recommendation from The Spectrum IFA Group.

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

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

    18.01.21
    Bitcoin in your investment portfolio

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

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

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

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

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

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

    2009 – 2017 little price movement

    Autumn 2017 the price rises

    October 2017 $5,000

    November 2017 $10,000

    17th December 2017 $19,783

    April 2018 $7,000

    November 2018 $3,500

    14th March 2020 $5,165

    crypto currency

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

    This is why it is beneficial to speak with a professional financial adviser who can be more analytical!

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

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

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

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

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

    investment idea

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

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

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

    Are you and your investments adapting to change?

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

    11.01.21

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

    adapt your investments to the change

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

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

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

    upward stockmarket trends

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

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

    Brexit

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

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

    2021 finances

    Welcome to 2021

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

    The recovery of stock markets cannot be ignored

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

    15.10.20

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

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

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

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

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

    is the economy in good shape

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

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

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

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

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

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

    equities and inflation
    FTSE 100 and inflation

    Being in the market before the vaccine is introduced

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

    stockmarkets have gone against the negative thought trend.

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

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

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

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

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

    Who wants to be a millionaire?

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

    03.06.20

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

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

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

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

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

    Click the headings below to find out more:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Cash over credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Swiss taxes and various deductions

    By Robbin Davies - Topics: Pillar 3a, Switzerland, Tax, wealth management
    This article is published on: 1st February 2020

    01.02.20

    This document is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute tax advice. The intention is to highlight that there are a number of financial planning opportunities available and that professional assistance in completing your tax-return is a very good idea. The Spectrum IFA Group can assist you with Pillar 3a tax-deductable savings, arrange a mortgage that is tax-optimised and help you with other forms of financial planning that are tax-efficient. We have certified accounting partners who speak English and will take care of your full tax return from 500 francs, including questions throughout the year.

    The calculation of tax throughout Switzerland is based on the net income of the taxpayer. As in most countries, there are several deductions that can be made on your tax declaration. These will, in turn, reduce your taxable income, and therefore the amount of tax you pay.

    Although deductions for the direct federal tax are the same throughout Switzerland, deductions at the cantonal and communal levels are regulated differently. Together with all local tax rates, there are frequently large differences between communes, and this should be borne in mind when deciding on where you wish to live, even in the same canton. Switzerland has been at the forefront of internet-based dissemination of information, and generally the relevant information on deductible amounts for your canton and commune can be found on the individual canton’s website, and frequently in English.

    Clearly, to claim any of the available reductions in tax-liability, the necessary and supporting paperwork must be submitted with the tax return.

    The following are the most important and frequently used, fully compliant and legal deductions.

    Work related expenses: Employed persons can deduct work related expenses such as the cost for commuting to work. As a rule, bus and train passes (up to a certain limit) and a flat amount for bicycles, mopeds and scooters are all included under commuting expenses. Under certain conditions, the kilometres driven to the workplace can be deducted when one is using a private vehicle, but there are usually limits both in minimum and maximum distances.

    Other work-related expenses include the cost for meals during the working day. Provided one cannot go home for lunch (i.e. there is a minimum distance from the place of work and the tax-payers domicile) these expenses can be deducted from income up to a certain maximum amount, which in turn varies from canton to canton. Additional deductions are also possible for shift or night work. For further work-related expenses such as the cost for work-specific clothing (such as suits), tools or other professional requirements there is a flat rate deduction. If the actual costs can be proven to be higher than the flat rate deduction (which would therefor require receipts to be attached with the tax declaration as supporting evidence) the tax-payer may often deduct the actual costs.

    Payments into a pillar 3a: Payments into pillar 3a accounts are tax deductible up to the maximum allowed amount for those residents in Switzerland who have a taxable income. For employees with an employer-provided pension plan, the maximum allowed amount for 2020/21 is 6,826 francs. Self- employed people, and those without an employer-provided pension plan, are allowed to contribute up to 20% of their net income, up to a maximum of 34,128 francs in 2020/21. These maximum allowable deductions are reviewed every 2 years in line with inflation. The tax savings resulting from paying into a pillar 3a are that the taxpayer’s gross income has been reduced by these amounts and are ergo “tax fee”.

    Bank vs. Insurance: It should be noted that there are two principal types of 3a. Those provided by banks, where there is no obligation to make a payment during any tax year, and those offered by insurance companies, where the contractual agreement is for a regular annual premium to be paid (this can be made monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually). The advantage of the bank 3a is that you are free to pay in or not, depending on your financial circumstances. One down-side is that there is no guarantee on the value of your policy at a later date, as it is always subject to the performance of the bank’s 3a funds. One of the great advantages of an insurance-driven product is that it comes with added life insurance, and also a guaranteed minimum performance and future minimum cash-in values. These insurance policies are also accepted for the amortisation of mortgage debt. On the downside, as there are certain charges taken out of the first annual premium at the very beginning, they should not be entered into without discussion with a qualified expert, and never to be taken for an anticipated term shorter than 5-7 years. Both types of product have federally-governed restrictions on accessing these funds before retirement age, although transfers to other retirement pots are permitted.

    Interest Payments: Interest – for example for mortgages or on loans – may be deducted from income. This would apply only to interest and not for repayment of principal used to reduce a loan (amortisation of a mortgage for example). Leasing costs on cars may only be deducted when the individual is classified as self-employed.

    Expenses due to illness and accidents: Certain expenses for medical services, which were not covered by your health insurance, can be approved as being tax deductible.

    Insurance premiums: Premiums for health, accident, life and pension insurance can often be deducted – up to a certain amount.

    Reclaiming withholding tax: When bank or savings account interest is credited, under some circumstances only 65% is credited. In this case the bank transfers 35% of the interest to the tax authorities. On providing the account numbers on the tax declaration, the withholding tax is reimbursed. Withholding tax is applied only to accounts for which the amount of interest exceeds 200 francs. In addition to interest from accounts, interest from other sources such as bonds (including medium-term notes), lottery winnings (starting at 50 francs) and dividend payments are subject to withholding tax, but can often be adjusted to the individual’s marginal tax rate.

    Contributions to political parties: Members of a political party may deduct contributions, up to a ceiling.

    Contributions to non-profit organisations: Donations to non-profit organisations can usually be deducted. Ask in advance.

    Disability costs: People with physical or mental disabilities can make certain deductions for additional expenses. Various organisations throughout Switzerland offer free consultation on this matter as to what might be covered, and at local communal level they are also able to give contact details.

    Alimony payments: Alimony payments for children and ex-partners can be deducted in full from gross income.

    Charitable donations: Provided the charity is Swiss-registered, the minimum donation is 200 francs, but you may make donations up to 20% of your income.

    Deduction for children: Generally a deduction can be made for every child who is under the age of 18, or at further education or still in their initial professional training up to age of 25.

    Finally, and this is a typically « Swiss » feature

    If you pre-pay your taxes you receive some interest: You can benefit from paying your taxes in advance. This is because the tax authorities pay interest on pre-paid tax payments. This interest is generally higher than the current low interest rates of banks. Clearly not everyone has sufficient liquidity to be able to cover a full year, but even agreeing to pay a partial sum in advance is a good way to make a little extra money.

    Understanding How Risk Affects Your Portfolio

    By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Investment Risk, Investments, wealth management
    This article is published on: 11th June 2019

    11.06.19

    A crucial step to achieving long term financial security is recognising the importance of (and the relationship between) investment risk and return. In practice, this means implementing an investment strategy which matches your personal objectives and risk profile.

    When I am speaking to clients about investing for the first time, they generally fall into two categories:

    • The Risk Averse
    • The Not So Risk Averse

    Normally, within the first two to three years, one category changes their mind and changes to the other. Can you guess which one?

    If you replied the risk averse becoming the not so risk averse, you would be right. This usually stems from clients becoming more comfortable with the idea of investing and the fact that taking risk can, when understood and applied properly, have a staggeringly positive effect on your portfolio.

    There are many different reasons as to why people invest and no two people will have exactly the same objectives. Risk is a necessary and constant feature of investing – share prices fall, economic and political conditions fluctuate and companies can become insolvent. Therefore, understanding your risk profile is an important consideration before you actually invest.

    Your risk profile is the relationship between your investment objective, risk tolerance and capacity for loss. As a result, you should be aware of your ability and willingness to accept risk and what level of risk might be required to meet your investment goals.

    Investment profiles broadly fall into one of the following three categories:

    Low Risk Profile
    People with a low risk profile wish to preserve their capital and understand that there is very little scope for significant capital growth. These portfolios are heavily weighted to investing in cash and bonds.

    Medium Risk Profile
    People with a medium risk profile understand that to achieve long term capital growth, some degree of investment risk is necessary. Portfolios for this category of investor are usually balanced between cash, bonds and shares (equities)/equity funds, with perhaps some exposure to property as well.

    High Risk Profile
    People with a high risk profile are those who are prepared to accept the possibilty of a significant drop in their portfolio values in order to maximise long term investment returns. Higher risk portfolios have a far greater weighting towards equities/equity funds and less exposure to bonds and cash.

    Different kinds of investment carry different levels of risk:

    Cash
    Cash or savings accounts are often regarded as ‘low risk’, yet, as the credit crisis of 2007 – 2008 showed, they are not ‘risk free’. Inflation will also reduce the value of cash savings if it is higher than the rate of interest being earned. At the time of writing, inflation in Belgium is just above 2% and the interest rate is 0%, which means that you are effectively paying your bank to hold your cash savings.

    Bonds
    Bonds or fixed interest securities are popular with many investors. If you invest in these instruments, you are essentially lending money to the issuer of the bond; usually a company or a government. In return, the issuer pays interest at regular intervals until the maturity date. The obvious benefit to the investor is regular income. However, there is a risk that the issuer may not be able to maintain interest payments and the capital value of the bond can fluctuate.

    Shares
    Although past performance is not a guide to future returns, historically the best long term investment performance is produced by equities or equity funds. The increased level of risk associated with equities is directly linked to the higher returns typically available from this type of asset.

    The price of a company’s shares trading on a stock market is a reflection of the company’s value as influenced by the demand (or lack thereof) from investors. Essentially, when you invest in a company you are buying part of that company and hence able to share in its profits. The converse is also true, so you could be exposed to operating losses and a fall in the company’s share price. The risks, therefore, can be high, especially if you own shares in only one or a handful of companies. Equity funds, run by professional managers and which usually invest in a range of companies, are a means of avoiding such concentrated risk.

    TYPES OF INVESTMENT RISKS

    There are several types of investment risk that the you can be exposed to if and when you decide to invest, and you should be aware of the possible effect on your portfolio before you start:

    Market Risk
    Also known as systematic risk, it means that the overall performance of financial markets directly affects the returns from specific shares/equites. Therefore, the value of your shares may go up or down in response to changes in market conditions. The underlying reason for a change in market direction might include a political event, such as Brexit, government policy (consider current US-China trade tensions) or a natural disaster.

    Unsystematic Risk
    This refers to the uncertainty in a company or industry investment, and unlike market risk, unsystematic risk applies to only a small number of assets. For example, a change in management, an organisation making a product recall, a change in regulation that could negatively affect a organisation’s sales, or even a newcomer to market with the ability to take away market share from the organisation you are investing in.

    Systemic Risk
    This is the possibility that an event at company level has the potential to cause severe instability or collapse to an entire industry of economy. It was a major contributor to the financial crisis of 2007 – 2008. Think back and you will remember the phrase that Company X ‘was too big to fail’. If it collapsed, then other companies in the industry, or the economy itself, could fail too.

    Currency Risk
    Investment options include shares/equities in a range of currencies. Changes in exchange rates can result in unpredictable gains and losses when foreign investments are converted from the foreign currency back into your base currency, from US dollars into Euros for example.

    Portfolio Construction Risk
    This is the possibility that, in constructing a portfolio, you have an inappropriate income/growth split, or that you fail to monitor and manage the portfolio in line with your investment objectives. There is also a risk that you select assets that are inconsistent with your risk profile.

    Interest Rate Risk
    Interest rate risk is the possibility that an investment held will decline in value as a direct result of changes in interest rates. For example, bond prices are usually negatively affected by interest rate rises.

    Concentration Risk
    This is the possibility that you over-invest in a particular asset, sector, industry or region, which removes valuable diversifaction from your portfolio.

    Opportunity Risk
    This is the risk of being ‘under-exposed’ to other types of investments that could potentially deliver better returns.

    Whether you are investing on a regular basis or have invested a lump sum, it is imperative to understand how risk, or your attitude to risk, can fundamentally affect the potential growth of your investment.

    Investing – Where do I start?

    By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Investments, wealth management
    This article is published on: 22nd March 2019

    22.03.19

    Receiving a lump sum payment can be exciting, as it is not often that we have the opportunity to spend or invest a large amount of money at one time. However, if you are investing for the first time, it can be an intimidating step to take. After all, not everyone knows the difference between a share, a bond or a fund and the financial markets can seem like running a gauntlet if you do not know what you are doing.

    Investing sensibly in stock-markets, rather than saving at the bank (particularly nowadays when you would be lucky to find interest rates above 1%), is an important means of achieving financial security, and, particularly over the long-term, returns are typically far higher than is achievable from holding cash.

    That’s not to say that it comes without risks. Indeed, every fund or investment comes with a disclaimer that past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and this statement is indeed true. However, past results can be useful when reviewing how the fund or investment performed during a financial crisis or when the markets were buoyant.

    MY CURRENT FINANCIAL SITUATION
    Before you invest, it is imperative to first assess your overall financial stability. It is not usually appropriate to invest if you are in debt, for instance. It is recommended that you undertake a review of your current financial situation with a financial professional. This should include looking at your household’s current net income, expenditure and any debt (it is advisable to pay off debts such a credit card balances before investing as the interest rates for borrowing are likely to be higher than the returns you could achieve by investing). As investing should be a medium to long-term strategy, it is also advisable that you have an emergency or ‘rainy day’ fund that you can use should you need it. As a general rule of thumb, you should have at least six months’ expenditure set aside for immediate access.

    HOW AND WHERE SHOULD I INVEST?
    Once we have reviewed your financial situation, the next step is to consider how and where to invest.

    There are two schools of thought when it comes to how to invest. Either take the plunge and invest the entire sum at once or drip the lump sum in on a phased basis until it is all invested. Investing the money all at once will give you the best chance of benefitting from compound returns. However, if the markets drop significantly soon after you have invested, you may regret it, at least for a while. Drip feeding a lump sum by splitting it into smaller amounts is called unit cost averaging, so-called because you are trickling in the money over time and averaging the ‘price’ at which you buy your chosen investment(s). Depending on who you speak to, you will be advised to proceed one way or the other, or perhaps a combination of both. It also depends on how much you are investing. It is unlikely that any amount under €100,000 would be invested on a phased basis.

    ADVANTAGES OF INVESTING THE ENTIRE LUMP SUM
    Despite the risk that accompanies investing the whole lump sum in one go, research has demonstrated that the majority of the time, ‘going all in’ will outperform unit cost averaging. This is because it exposes you to the markets sooner, giving you more time to take advantage of compound returns. Research by a global leader in fund management, Vanguard, showed using historical returns, and a hypothetical portfolio that consisted of 60% stocks and 40% bonds, that in the UK, US and Australia, going all in usually outperformed the unit cost averaging strategy. There were only a few short-term periods during the deepest 12 month downturns where this was not the case.

    Historically, markets have increased in value over time (which is great for growing wealth and making money) and Vanguard’s research showed that the lump sum strategy generated returns on average 2.39% higher than with drip feeding an investment in over twelve months. That does not sound like much, but when you take compounding into account, after just ten years the difference is quite staggering.

    The table below illustrates how global markets have performed historically. As you can see, the positive periods far outweigh the negative both in performance and duration.

    SOURCE: GFD, BLOOMBERG, GOLDMAN SACHS GLOBAL INVESTMENT RESEARCH

    Markets typically trend upwards, so in most cases, if you were to wait and contribute using a unit cost averaging strategy, the markets will rise before you can invest everything. This means that you will be buying at a higher cost and attaining lower returns.

    DRIP FEEDING MAY BE APPROPRIATE FOR SOME INVESTORS
    Behavioural psychologists have long known that, for most people, the pain of losing money hurts more than the pleasure of making money when it comes to investing. This is clearly seen when markets are down and people tend to panic into selling, instead of waiting out the downturn.

    Let’s say that you invested €100,000 and the next day, or week, your valuation dropped by 10%. What would your reaction be? Would you remain invested or take it all out as soon as possible? Someone who is risk averse or anxious about investing might prefer to invest via the drip in strategy to reduce any emotional discomfort that may arise from market volatility.

    BRANCH 23

    In Belgium, you have the opportunity to invest via what are known as Branch 21 and Branch 23 products. With Branch 21, you benefit from capital protection but usually a low return. With Branch 23, your capital can fluctuate in value but the prospects for growth are far greater than with Branch 21. Branch 23 is particularly tax efficient as you will not pay withholding tax on your returns, whereas there is withholding tax payable on interest from bank deposits, Branch 21 returns and on most directly-held mutual funds.

    For more information on Branch 23 and its benefits, please click here

    Tips in investing in tough times

    By Robin Beven - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
    This article is published on: 18th March 2019

    18.03.19

    When the economy slows down, it is inevitable share prices will take a hit. Such times are never comfortable, but there should be no need for investors to panic. Instead, they can offer an opportunity to review your portfolio and ensure it is positioned to weather any storms that might lie ahead.

    This does not mean you need to make sweeping changes – after all, weatherproofing your house against the winter doesn’t mean you tear it down and rebuild it from scratch. Instead, you make sensible, incremental changes that provide some additional strength. With that in mind, here are 10 practical tips to help you fight off the worst effects of difficult times.

    DIVERSIFY
    It is the basic number-one rule of investing but it can need reaffirming. Different asset classes perform well or poorly at different times. If your portfolio is exposed to a single asset class – for example, equities – its performance will follow the fortunes of the equity market and returns are likely to be volatile. However, if your portfolio contains a selection of different asset classes and is spread across different countries and regions of the world, the various elements can perform differently at different times – so if one is doing badly, another may well be performing better and so could help to compensate.

    LOOK BEYOND YOUR HOME MARKET
    With diversification in mind, perhaps you could start looking overseas for opportunities. A UK-focused portfolio might seem a sensible and conservative option for a UK-based investor. However, this strategy leaves you and your portfolio at the mercy of domestic sentiment. Other areas of the world may offer a more positive outlook or could simply be better placed to help you through any domestic downturn. You need to be aware of the different risks involved with different international markets but even a small step into, say, other developed western economies could help to diversify some of your risk.

    BE PREPARED TO ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES
    Your attitude during negative periods is as important as your portfolio’s structure. Economies simply cannot keep growing indefinitely and recessions are likely to happen every few years. Successful investors tend to be pragmatic and realistic – they invest for the long term and expect that, while there will be good times, there will also be some bad ones. A short-term downturn such as the 4th quarter 2018 should not be seen as a reason to panic.

    LOOK BEYOND THE ECONOMIC DATA
    Remember that economic data releases are backward-looking. At the start of a slowdown, figures will continue to appear positive, perhaps contradicting our everyday experiences, as old numbers remain in the calculation. Similarly, once economic growth begins to recover, it will take a while to be fully reflected in the new data. Headlines that scream “worst figures for 30 years” may confirm what we have just been through but do not necessarily reflect the prospects for tomorrow. What they often do, however, is fan the flames of investor uncertainty – not to mention sell newspapers.

    CASH IS NOT NECESSARILY KING
    During a recession, it may be very tempting to get out of the stockmarket and opt instead for the perceived safety of cash. However, this strategy can be risky. Stockmarkets are volatile, which means that, just as they can fall quickly, they can also recover quickly – perhaps with little or no warning. If you have decided that equities are the right asset class for you, then moving out of them when you have already suffered a loss could mean missing out when they finally begin to recover. Moreover, inflation can erode the purchasing power of cash over time so, while you can be assured you will not lose the face value of money when invested in cash, it is not actually a “risk-free” option.

    GO FOR QUALITY
    During recessions and stockmarket downturns, established, high-quality and financially strong companies tend to bear up better than their newer or more debt-laden peers. A tough environment helps to separate the wheat from the chaff and struggling companies may be forced to cut their dividends or release negative trading statements. Holding quality stocks, therefore, could help you ride out some of the storm. It is also worth noting that, if the equity market is falling across the board, this provides a great opportunity to pick up quality stocks at relatively cheap prices.

    ASSESS YOUR EXPOSURE TO SMALLER COMPANIES
    Historically, as an asset class, smaller companies have been worse affected during a recession. You therefore need to be sure of your attitude to risk before you decide to take any significant positions in them. When things are going well, smaller companies can offer the possibility of greater gains than their larger peers – but when things are going badly, the losses can also be much greater. If volatility makes you nervous or if your portfolio is relatively small, you could consider reducing your exposure to smaller companies and perhaps reinvest into some less adventurous choices.

    CHECK IF YOU ARE OVEREXPOSED
    Different industry sectors tend to perform well at different stages of the investment cycle. During an economic slowdown, some companies are less sensitive to the effects of that slowdown because demand remains largely unaffected – for example, companies in sectors such as food retailing, pharmaceuticals and utilities. Consequently, these tend to hold up better than, say, leisure companies and housebuilders, which depend on households having money to spare. It is usually worth holding onto high-quality companies, regardless of short-term hitches, but this might be a good time to ensure you are not overexposed to any one sector or region.

    THINK LONG TERM
    A recession is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth (as measured by gross domestic product or GDP). Six months in the average life of a portfolio, however, is hardly a great deal of time. Even if we allow for the negative behaviour of markets before and after the publication of these sets of data, six months is not long compared with, say, the 20-plus years over which we plan for our retirements. Interestingly, the figures tell us that with a couple both aged 65, there’s a 0% chance that one will live until 92! If your portfolio continues to meet your personal criteria and is well diversified, a recession should not cause you to change plans. Sometimes doing nothing can be the best course of action.

    THIS IS A FIRE DRILL – NOT A FIRE
    Remember the saying ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…’ by Rudyard Kipling? Market downturns are a great practical example of this maxim. A fire drill is a good thing – the fire might never actually occur but, if the worst happens, at least you can be confident you have taken all the appropriate precautions. The real trick is to make sure you plan your portfolio properly at the outset, with the help of an expert. Then, when a downturn strikes, you can stay calm and review your situation sensibly and with confidence, rather than be panicked into any radical and potentially non-profitable reactions.

    We hope you found the information in this guide useful and informative. If any of the points are of interest or you would like to discuss your own situation in more detail, please get in touch.