Why a Pension audit is vital for your wealth Part 1
I have been trained in the UK and have been specialising in Pensions since 1987. As well as keeping up to date with the subsequent (and numerous) changes in legislation, I also have a good understanding of the variety of pensions offered since then. In this article I am concentrating on Pre-Retirement Planning ie. those people that have yet to take their pensions. With ever changing careers in private industry and the end of the idea of “jobs and pensions for life”, which was part of the revolution in the late 70’s, most people acquire a number of pensions and different types of pensions over a period of 30 to 40 years. In some cases, they are not even aware of their entitlement, in particular, Defined Benefits Schemes to which the rules changed from the late 80’s (my Father in Law being a case in point who was not aware he was entitled to benefits under such a scheme until well into his retirement) and Contracting Out of SERPs plans.
Since the Finance Act of 2004 pensions have come under that legislation. The general wording of this legislation was “Pensions Simplification”. As advisers at the time, we knew full well that this would not be the case and we have been proven correct, with the subsequent attacks on pensions by a variety of governments seeking to raise revenue and reduce tax advantages at the same time.
Since moving here to Spain, I have come across many clients who were not aware of the benefits that they were entitled to. It has required a vast amount of work tracking down both providers and employers that no longer exist. In some instances it has proved to be fruitless, but others have benefited from plans that they are not aware of. That is the first stage of my role as a Financial Adviser, which is to question a potential client’s work history and seek full details. That however is the easy bit as the options available at retirement have been given greater flexibility, but the irony is that independent advice is hard to come by in the UK unless you are prepared to pay a fee on a time cost basis.
The first question is, do you plan to become tax resident in another European country? For those that plan to still maintain a home in the UK (even as a holiday home), that is further complicated by ever changing rules regarding residency in the UK vs tax residency in the chosen country.
What do you need to do before you leave the UK and become tax resident in an EU country? A simple question perhaps, but the tax free lump sum available in the UK now referred to as “Pension Commencement Lump Sum” or PCLS (one can see the tax free status of that being restricted in the future) is liable to be taxed certainly in France and Spain once you become tax resident. There are legitimate rules reducing this, but once again, these need advice. How does one therefore get your PCLS to take advantage of the current UK tax free status, without having to take the pension too? Perhaps you want to stagger your pension income as a result of continued part time work or “consultancy”. Many of my generation want to still work past normal retirement age, but at a slower pace.
Currency also has an impact, within the last 5 years the £ to the € has gone from 1.07 to 1.42 Euros. If one thinks that will be maintained, consider that in 2002 when the Euro was launched the £ to Euro was as high as £1 to 1.56 Euros. The impact to those that budgeted on that basis over the ensuing 8 years was detrimental to their wealth, so how does one hedge against currency fluctuation?
Does all your pension come from a UK source or have there been earnings and pension entitlements from overseas employment? Do you have a mixture of Final Salary schemes and personal money purchase pots? Is there a need to consolidate these, or treat each individual arrangement on its relative merits?
With recent legislation, trustees of Final Salary schemes (Defined Benefits), with the exception of transfers less than £30,000, now need the involvement of a fully qualified UK financial adviser who has passed his recent exams. This is all very laudable but how can that adviser be aware of the tax rules in your new country of residence? In any analysis carried out by a Spectrum Partner, it is vetted and checked by a Spectrum Fully Qualified Chartered Financial Planner, and if need be by a UK Financial adviser if part of your pots are as above. It is important to note that no UK Government funded pension eg. Civil Service can be transferred.
Then there is the reduction in the Lifetime Allowance, the passing of your pension pot to your chosen heirs and beneficiaries, the correct selection of good quality properly regulated funds and fund managers dependant on an individual needs, regular reviews as needs change, and the changes to the amount one can take on an annual basis due to recent pension flexibility rules. These are all areas that are vital to consider.
Even after the audit, and a decision to potentially transfer part or all of one’s pots, care needs to be taken in the selection of the QROP/SIPP Trustee and the jurisdiction that it comes under.
Having mentioned the above it may be in some cases that not all your pension pot should be considered for a transfer.
It may be beneficial to consider the purchase of a Lifetime Annuity from a UK provider as these have substantial tax advantages over pension payments in Spain. This will have to be carried out before one moves abroad on a permanent basis and, as stated earlier, for every potential client advice is given on a case by case basis.
In many cases, a lifetime of pension saving can result in funds being equal to or greater than the value of a property purchased abroad. Should one not take the same planning, care, advice and due diligence when planning your retirement for an income that may have to last 30 years? That is where we can be of help.