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Financial adviser in Portugal

By Mark Quinn - Topics: financial adviser Portugal, Financial Planning, Financial Review, Portugal
This article is published on: 19th April 2022

19.04.22

British expats, your financial adviser may well be a bandit!”, this was the title of a 2016 article by Jason Butler in the Financial Times. He painted a depressing picture of the state of the advisory market for expats and some of his key observations still hold today.

So what are some of the issues you need to be thinking about when you are seeking a Financial Adviser in Portugal?

Fees
One of the main points from the FT article was the importance of focusing on fees and charges. Butler states that unlike the UK, which abolished commission in 2012, many expat destinations suffer from “eyewatering expensive financial products laced with enormous commission payments”.

It is therefore important to have a clear understanding of what you are being or will be charged, and importantly that these are fully disclosed. This is something not all advisers have done and is fast becoming an issue for them as a result of the MIFID II directive which is forcing them to disclose their charges.

Qualifications
The other area of focus was on qualifications, with Butler citing a lack of qualifications in general. In fact, in Portugal, there is no minimum qualification requirement so in theory, anybody can set themselves up as ‘advisers’.

In the UK, the minimum standard to advise is ‘level 4’ but the gold standard is ‘level 6’, which is Chartered status. These higher qualifications are awarded by the CISI and CII (UK) and the average pass rate for the Chartered status examinations was just 56% in 2020.

You should also seek advisers who are tax qualified, or at the very least work with a firm or individual that is, and who fully understands cross-border issues. This is important given the relatively complex nature of expats’ financial affairs.

So, why might you need a financial adviser?
If you are considering setting up or reviewing a complex structure such as a pension or investment, looking to put inheritance and succession planning in place, or restructure your affairs for tax efficiency, you should seek professional advice so you do not end up with something that is unsuitable or has unforeseen negative implications.

Your adviser’s role is to help you achieve your objectives by advising you on the best course of action to take and if necessary, research the market to find suitable structures that can be tailored to your personal situation.

How to choose your adviser and advisory firm?
Firstly, you should shop around and meet with several advisers to discuss your circumstances. Advisers will usually offer an initial discussion free of charge and this will give you the opportunity to evaluate them, their firm and gauge if you can work together long term.

Some initial questions you should be considering are:

  • Is the firm regulated?
  • Are they able to offer impartial advice or are they restricted in what companies and products they can offer due to exclusivity agreements?
  • Do they have indemnity insurance?
  • Is the adviser qualified? If so, to what level?

You should also do your own research but bear in mind, some firms are known to remove any negative reviews from the internet.

What if you already have a financial adviser in Portugal?
David Blanchett, the head of retirement research for Morningstar Investment Management, wrote the following for the Wall Street Journal in February 2020, “the adviser-and advice-who was a good fit for you 10 years ago, may no longer be a good fit now. Even if you have no major complaints about the service you have been getting, it is a good idea to ‘shop around’ every few years. You may not realize that you are missing out on better advice or costs until you do a comparison. Conversely, you may reinforce that the adviser you have still is the best fit.”

Where am I resident and where should I be paying tax?

By Mark Quinn - Topics: non-habitual residency in Portugal, non-habitual resident, Portugal, Tax, tax advice, Tax in Portugal
This article is published on: 12th April 2022

12.04.22

There is a lot of confusion around the difference between residency, tax residency, Non-Habitual Residency and domicile so this week I will try and cut through this complexity.

Legal residence
Legal residence is the right to reside in a country. So, if you are an EU citizen, you have the automatic right to reside in any other EU country without the necessity for a visa. If you are coming from outside the EU, you must apply for a visa to establish your residency rights.

Legal residence is important as it determines how long you are allowed to spend in a country and your right to benefits such as healthcare and social security. Legal residence however does not impact or determine your tax status.

Tax residency
Generally, tax residency is determined by your physical presence in a country and Portugal, along with many other countries, uses the 183-day rule for determining tax residency.

Understanding your tax residency is important because it determines which country has the taxing right over you and can avoid double-taxation issues when you have links to more than one jurisdiction.

It is possible to have legal residence in Portugal, but not actually be a tax resident e.g. if you have the right to stay in Portugal but you do not spend enough time in Portugal in a given year to be considered tax resident.

Non-Habitual Residence (NHR)
NHR gives successful applicants a special tax status in Portugal for 10 years, but its name is somewhat misleading, as you must be a resident to apply for it.

‘Non-habitual’ actually refers to the requirement that you must not have been resident in Portugal in the 5 years prior to application, so it is aimed at attracting new people to Portugal.

where do i pay tax

Domicile
Domicile is something that is often confused with residence. It is a very complex area, but the very loose definition of domicile is ‘where you are considered to originate from’. It is a common-law concept and is most likely to be a consideration for British nationals, individuals married to British nationals, or those who are not British but either hold assets in the UK or spend a considerable amount of time in the UK.

Your domicile does not affect your income tax position in Portugal but it can have tax implications, most notably UK Inheritance Tax. (We will elaborate on domicile in next week’s article).

Myths

  • Many people are under the misconception that, as long as they are paying tax somewhere, they are meeting their obligations but it does not work that way. It is crucial you have a clear understanding of where you are resident to avoid being taxed in more than one jurisdiction
  • Registering yourself in Portugal does not automatically make you a tax resident. It is determined by your physical presence, so it is important to check your tax residency every tax year, as it could change
  • Your nationality or citizenship does not change by coming to live in Portugal and becoming resident, although you do have the option of applying for Portuguese citizenship after 5 years

Planning

  • Have a clear understanding of the tax residency rules of the country you are leaving. e.g. you can be tax resident in the UK by spending as little as 16 days there, or if leaving Spain a presumption of residence can remain if your family or your economic interests remain there
  • Prior to departing your current country of residence, utilise any remaining annual allowances and pension contributions, consider reorganising your affairs via inter-spouse transfers, and unwind any structures free of tax that may otherwise be taxed on arrival in Portugal
  • It may also be possible to create periods where you are not considered tax resident in any country or establish residency in another country prior to moving to Portugal for tax planning purposes

Mark Quinn is a Chartered Financial Planner with the Chartered Insurance Institute and Tax Adviser, qualifying with the Association of Tax Technicians.

Measuring investment performance

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 11th April 2022

11.04.22

There are several different ways of measuring your investment performance, and I will run through some simple tips to allow you to dig deeper into your portfolio.

Firstly, do not forget to factor in fees such as adviser and management fees and structure costs when looking at returns. I have seen the cost of some investments run as high as 4% p.a. through hidden commissions and explicit charges. These have been disguised by strong market performance over recent years, but are likely to be exposed if we experience leaner years in markets in the future.

Simple benchmarking
A simple and quick method of comparison is looking at interest rates on cash accounts. If your investment returns are generating the same returns as cash on deposit, why are you taking the market risk?

Similarly, take into account inflation. If you generate a 3% return and inflation is 2%, your net return is just 1%; is this what you thought you were achieving?

Lastly, look at what similar passive investments have done. These types of funds simply track a stock market index and are inexpensive. If you are paying a fund manager to outperform and add value by trying to achieve higher returns, have they done this?

Measuring investment performance

More in-depth methods

Market indices
A market index tracks the performance of a group of shares or other investments e.g. the S&P 500 index which tracks the performance of the largest 500 shares in America. They can be a useful barometer for the ‘health’ of an investment market as a whole but it is important to use them appropriately.

For example, you cannot meaningfully compare the performance of the S&P 500 index (100% shares) with a portfolio that consists only 40% of shares. Similarly if you are comparing a euro denominated portfolio with the US market which is denominated in dollars, then again this is not necessarily an appropriate comparison.

The downsides of using indices as a comparison are therefore addressed by the use of:

Peer group
A peer group allows you to compare investments that are similar in nature e.g. a specific class of investments or geographical region, and because you are comparing “like for like” it can be a more meaningful comparison tool.

Morningstar.com is a particularly useful tool in this respect and can guide investors with regard to an appropriate benchmark and peer group.

Quartile rankings
These are used to compare returns of investments in the same category over a period of time. Investments in the top 25% are assigned quartile rank 1, the next 25% quartile 2 etc.

They can be useful in tracking consistency – what is important is not the quartile ranking in any one period, but they allow you to track trends over multiple periods and time frames.

There is no one way, or right way, to compare performance and you will likely need to combine several measures to get a more accurate reflection of performance. Even more importantly, this should be done regularly to ensure you are doing all you can to achieve your financial goals. Finally, you should take into account the risk you are taking to achieve a set level of return, and this will be the focus of a future article.

If you would like to discuss your performance or how best to build your own portfolio of investments, please get in touch.

Planning for Non-Habitual Residence | Portugal

By Mark Quinn - Topics: non-habitual residency in Portugal, non-habitual resident, Portugal
This article is published on: 4th April 2022

04.04.22

The Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) scheme has been a great success in attracting new residents to Portugal seeking a favourable tax regime and is also the ‘icing on the cake’ for those moving to Portugal for lifestyle reasons.

NHR is a preferential tax status granted by the Portuguese government to new residents and lasts 10 years. I will not write about the specific benefits as we have produced a dedicated NHR guide which is available on our website. Rather, I wanted the focus of this article to be on the planning that is required because the benefits of NHR are not automatic; you have to plan to make the scheme work for your specific situation and objectives.

When talking with clients, I break down the planning required into three phases: prior to arrival, during the NHR period, and following the expiry of the NHR status.

The planning required before arriving in Portugal involves:

  • Utilising any tax breaks and exemptions in your home country. For example, in a UK context, you may wish to close any investments you have that work from a UK perspective but are not efficient in Portugal such as Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs). ISAs are tax free in the UK, but if you wait until you establish residency in Portugal to surrender, you are likely to incur unnecessary taxation
  • If you are relocating from countries such as the UAE or Singapore, you may wish to consider realising capital gains prior to departure
  • Considering taking advantage of your Pension Commencement Lump Sum entitlement (25% tax free cash) from pension schemes, as this is lost when you become a Portuguese resident
Planning for Non-Habitual Residence in Portugal

During the NHR period it is important to:

  • Maximise pension income opportunities as NHRs benefit from a flat tax rate of 10% as opposed to rates of 20%, 40% and 45% in the UK. There is even the argument that any pension schemes should be fully depleted during the 10 year window, although this does have to be balanced against the inheritance tax efficiency of retaining money within a pension scheme
  • Plan well in advance of the 10 year period and ideally look to establish structures that can be effective post NHR. If your position does not allow for immediate restructuring and is tax efficient under NHR but not post-NHR e.g. property portfolios, you should start reviewing your position again around years 7-8 of the NHR period to prepare for life after NHR
  • Review your affairs regularly to take account of personal, family or legislative changes
  • For those of you taking salaries or a combination of salary and dividends from companies in the UK, you may wish to re-weight the focus to a dividend only strategy

After the end of the NHR period, you become a standard Portuguese tax resident and will pay tax at the prevailing rates. The effectiveness of your position is determined by the planning you have implemented during the first two periods.

A few caveats for you to consider:

  • There are subtle nuances to the NHR scheme and international tax rules meaning that in some cases it may be in your best interest not to apply for the NHR regime
  • For those of you enjoying the 0% tax rate on pension income (which applied to NHRs prior to April 2020), the planning will differ
  • If you are a non-UK domicile, there are further issues and tax-saving opportunities to consider, and again, delicate planning is required in this area to ensure success

As always please seek advice early and as the only UK Tax Adviser and Chartered Financial Planner in Portugal, I can analyse your situation from both a UK context and Portuguese perspective.

Difficult questions your financial adviser may not want to answer

By Mark Quinn - Topics: financial adviser Portugal, Financial Planning, Financial Review, Portugal
This article is published on: 30th March 2022

30.03.22

I like being asked tough questions –

It shows that clients have a real grasp of the key issues involved, which is great. It forces me to regularly reconsider the advice I give, and to make sure it continues to be the very best and most cost-effective solution. Also, and speaking from bitter personal experience of poor, disjointed advice I received in an area on which I am not au fait (renovating my property), I truly believe that clients are in a much more powerful position if they are aware of all the salient facts and issues.

With that in mind, and to put you in the most powerful position in your existing adviser relationship, I would start by getting the answers to the following:

  • Are you truly impartial or are you restricted to only recommending certain structures and funds? I come across many clients with the same structure managed by the same investment manager. How can one structure and fund be the most appropriate for all clients with a wide variety of issues and situations?
  • What qualifications do you have to advise? When you visit a professional one assumes they are qualified and good at what they do. It is remarkable therefore that many ‘advisers’ operate in Portugal without qualifications, and some even purport themselves to be tax advisers who do not have any formal tax qualifications. Those coming from the UK may be aware that ‘Chartered Financial Planner’ is the gold standard for advising clients, and ‘level 4’ is the minimum level of qualification required to advise.
  • How much am I being charged? One of the most damaging issues to the performance of your portfolio are the charges that are being taken from your policy. Many times, these are ‘bundled’ or paid discreetly out of the back end of the product. Ask for an explicit breakdown in writing between each fund’s ‘Ongoing Fund Charge’, product/structure charges and the fees or commissions your adviser is taking, and from where.
  • Have you disclosed the full charges to me? If not, why not? This is a contentious issue for some firms at present as, due to an EU directive, they now have to inform clients if they have not disclosed the true costs of the investments that they have set up and managed for them; obviously leading to many disgruntled people and tainted trust in the advisory relationship.
  • What is my number? Does your adviser tell you how long your money will currently last and under what conditions? Do they paint of picture of different scenarios and how these would impact this projection? Or how you can tweak your planning to achieve your goals?
  • How much risk am I taking? People often focus and compare the returns they might achieve but neglect to consider the level of risk their adviser is taking with their money. For example, two portfolios can achieve 5% a year return, but fund 1 may be down 50% at any point during the year, and fund 2 just 10% – clearly these two are very different investments, with fund 2 being superior.
  • Is my fund outperforming a tracker fund? One chooses to invest in a fund if the manager has a proven ability to deliver attractive returns relative to the market, and for this you pay the fund manager a fee, typically around 1% per annum. But are they doing their job and is it worth the cost? A 0.5% reduction in fees may sound trivial, but I recently showed a client they could save in excess of £200,000 in fees over time.

If you would like an independent analysis of your position,
it would be our pleasure to help you
.

Moving to Portugal post Brexit | Visa options for UK nationals

By Mark Quinn - Topics: non-habitual residency in Portugal, non-habitual resident, Portugal, visa options portugal
This article is published on: 28th March 2022

28.03.22

Whether you are ‘for’ or ‘against’, Brexit has had a wide-ranging impact on our daily lives.

A major consequence has been to the rights of British nationals to move freely around Europe to travel, live and work; especially so for those with holiday homes who now find themselves limited to 90 days in every 180.

To be clear, if you are an EU citizen, you have the right to freedom of movement and can therefore come and go as you please. So, what are the options for those Brits lucky enough to be able to commit to a permanent move to Portugal? You will have to apply for a visa.

Portugal has made it fairly easy to qualify for a visa by offering several options, obviously wanting to continue to attract foreigners to boost investment in the country. The most common are the Golden Visa (residency by investment) and the D7 visa (residency by passive income).

Both visas allow non-EU/EEA or Swiss citizens and their families to live, study and work in Portugal and ultimately apply for permanent residence or Portuguese citizenship. They also allow access to the Portuguese healthcare and education system, as well as free access to the Schengen area, and are a gateway into the advantageous Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) tax scheme.

The key difference between the two programs comes down to one of cost versus flexibility.

Moving to Portugal

Validity
The Golden Visa (GV) is initially valid for 2 years. This can be renewed, and the renewal permits are valid for 3 years. After 5 years, you can apply for permanent residency or citizenship, or you can continue to renew the GV every 3 years. Your family can also obtain permits and the same benefits.

The D7 visa is valid for a stay of 4 months. After this, you apply for a D7 residence permit that will allow a stay of up to 2 years and this can be renewed for a further 3 years. After 5 years you can apply for permanent residence or citizenship. Your family can also obtain permits and the same benefits, assuming minimum criteria are met.

Minimum financial commitment
The GV has one of the lowest ‘residency by investment’ thresholds in Europe. There are many investment options, but the most commonly used is investment in real estate of at least €500,000. Changes at the start of 2022 restricted the location of the property purchase to low-density areas, excluding metropolitan and coastal areas such as Lisbon, Porto and much of the Algarve.

The D7 visa only requires the applicant to prove a minimum level of income equal to the Portuguese minimum wage. This can be in the form of dividends, rent, interest or pensions. If they are also supporting family, an additional 50% for a spouse and 30% for each child is required.

Minimum stay & tax dimension
The GV has a short minimum stay period in Portugal of only 7 days in the first year and 14 days in subsequent years. This is ideal for those who might not wish to trigger tax residency.

The D7 has a minimum stay of 6 months, therefore triggering tax residency.

If tax residency is triggered, you can apply for the NHR scheme which can result in substantial tax savings.

Cost of applications
Excluding 3rd party fees, the GV is approximately €5,900 for the main applicant and €5,400 per additional family member. Renewal is approximately €2,668 per person.

The D7 fees are much lower at approximately €255 per applicant and family member. Renewal is approximately €165 per applicant and family member.

Planning for Non-Habitual Residence in Portugal

By Mark Quinn - Topics: non-habitual residency in Portugal, non-habitual resident, Portugal
This article is published on: 21st March 2022

21.03.22

The Non-Habitual Residence (NHR) scheme has been a great success in attracting new residents to Portugal seeking a favourable tax regime and is also the ‘icing on the cake’ for those moving to Portugal for lifestyle reasons.

NHR is a preferential tax status granted by the Portuguese government to new residents and lasts 10 years. I will not write about the specific benefits as we have produced a dedicated NHR guide which is available on our website. Rather, I wanted the focus of this article to be on the planning that is required because the benefits of NHR are not automatic; you have to plan to make the scheme work for your specific situation and objectives.

When talking with clients, I break down the planning required into three phases: prior to arrival, during the NHR period, and following the expiry of the NHR status.

The planning required before arriving in Portugal involves:

  • Utilising any tax breaks and exemptions in your home country. For example, in a UK context, you may wish to close any investments you have that work from a UK perspective but are not efficient in Portugal such as Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs). ISAs are tax free in the UK, but if you wait until you establish residency in Portugal to surrender, you are likely to incur unnecessary taxation
  • If you are relocating from countries such as the UAE or Singapore, you may wish to consider realising capital gains prior to departure
  • Considering taking advantage of your Pension Commencement Lump Sum entitlement (25% tax free cash) from pension schemes, as this is lost when you become a Portuguese resident

During the NHR period it is important to:

  • Maximise pension income opportunities as NHRs benefit from a flat tax rate of 10% as opposed to rates of 20%, 40% and 45% in the UK. There is even the argument that any pension schemes should be fully depleted during the 10 year window, although this does have to be balanced against the inheritance tax efficiency of retaining money within a pension scheme
  • Plan well in advance of the 10 year period and ideally look to establish structures that can be effective post NHR. If your position does not allow for immediate restructuring and is tax efficient under NHR but not post-NHR e.g. property portfolios, you should start reviewing your position again around years 7-8 of the NHR period to prepare for life after NHR
  • Review your affairs regularly to take account of personal, family or legislative changes
  • For those of you taking salaries or a combination of salary and dividends from companies in the UK, you may wish to re-weight the focus to a dividend only strategy
Planning for Non-Habitual Residence in Portugal

After the end of the NHR period, you become a standard Portuguese tax resident and will pay tax at the prevailing rates. The effectiveness of your position is determined by the planning you have implemented during the first two periods.

A few caveats for you to consider:

  • There are subtle nuances to the NHR scheme and international tax rules meaning that in some cases it may be in your best interest not to apply for the NHR regime
  • For those of you enjoying the 0% tax rate on pension income (which applied to NHRs prior to April 2020), the planning will differ
  • If you are a non-UK domicile, there are further issues and tax-saving opportunities to consider, and again, delicate planning is required in this area to ensure success

As always please seek advice early and as the only UK Tax Adviser and Chartered Financial Planner in Portugal, I can analyse your situation from both a UK context and Portuguese perspective.

Investing as a resident of Portugal

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Investment Bonds, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 23rd February 2022

23.02.22

If you are relocating to Portugal (or if you are already resident here) it is important to carry out a review of your investments to make sure they will be tax-efficient in your new county of residence.

Just because your investments are tax-efficient in one country does not mean that the tax advantages will transfer to another county. There are various ways of investing as a Portuguese tax resident, including directly held stocks and shares, collective investments, trust and pension structures. One structure that is beneficial to use in Portugal, and which is used widely across Europe as a whole, is the investment bond.

The benefits of investment bonds

There are several benefits to using investment bonds:

  1. Tax deferral during accumulation phase – gains within an investment bond grow free of tax, known as ‘gross roll up’. This means you can benefit from compounding and tax is only payable when withdrawals are made i.e. the gains are realised
  2. Low effective tax rates when withdrawing funds from the policy – Only the growth element of any withdrawal is taxable, and further tax savings are available after 5 and 8 years. It is important to note that this preferential tax treatment is enjoyed if you are a Non-Habitual Resident or a standard Portuguese taxpayer
  3. Control of the timing of tax events – the bondholder can control the timing of any withdrawal which creates the taxable event. This can be done to coincide with low-income periods, for example
  4. Investment flexibility and diversification – as income and gains roll up free of tax within the structure, you are free to pursue any investment strategy without being constrained by the potential tax consequences of re-balancing or switching between strategies. Additionally, these structures can accommodate a wide range of currencies, asset classes and fund management styles, such as discretionary fund management, index trackers and self-management
  5. Simplification of tax reporting – You are only required to report and declare any income and gains when withdrawals are made. This makes local tax reporting very simple
  6. Portability – the investment bond structure is widely recognised in other jurisdictions so you do not necessarily have to surrender your investment if you relocate from Portugal
  7. Succession planning – investment bonds allow flexible and certain transfer of wealth to beneficiaries. This may not be possible with other investment types and the default “forced heirship” provisions under Portuguese law
  8. Inheritance tax savings – with the correct planning, holding wealth in an insurance bond could mitigate or even completely avoid UK inheritance for British domiciles
  9. Estate administration – in the event of death, the proceeds of the structure can be distributed seamlessly to your beneficiaries without the need for any formal probate process
investing as a resident in Portugal

At Spectrum, we can help analyse your options and if appropriate for you, advise on how to set up the optimum bond structure for you and your family, including:

  • How to set up the structure for maximum control and flexibility
  • Selection of a suitable provider and jurisdiction to hold your investment in, being cognizant of the relevant double tax treaty with Portugal
  • Which currency to hold the investment in and advise on the underlying fund choice
  • Consideration of trust options
  • Regular reviews of the structure and investment strategy on an ongoing basis in light of ongoing changes in taxation and investment markets

You can contact me using the form below to find out more on the services we offer and to arrange a free financial consultation.

*Mark Quinn is a Chartered Financial Planner with the Chartered Insurance Institute and Tax Adviser qualifying with the Association of Tax Technicians.

How do I make my cash work harder?

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Inflation, Portugal
This article is published on: 16th February 2022

16.02.22

This is a question I am asked almost daily, especially by those with cash on deposit in banks earning historically low levels of interest.

The problem
With inflation at elevated levels, the poor returns on offer by the banks are not just disappointing – they can be very damaging to the purchasing power of your money.

To illustrate just how damaging the effects of inflation can be, imagine we have a pot of £2m. If inflation is 2%, the pot would be worth £1,135,000 in 20 years’ time. With inflation at 5% over the same period, the pot is worth £717,000.

These levels of inflation might seem a distant concern, but the Bank of England expects inflation to reach 7% by spring 2022, and inflation remains at high levels across many developed countries.

What is the purpose of holding cash?

The main purpose of holding cash is for daily spending and as an emergency reserve that you can dip into at little or no notice. As such, there is not much else you can do but just accept the frustratingly low returns.

A financial planning rule of thumb is to hold at least 6 months of expenses in cash and this is in addition to any planned purchases. However, with the current uncertainty around Covid, there is an argument of increasing this to 12 months. Of course, this has to be determined on an individual basis but it is a good place to start planning.

For the cash that you do retain on deposit in the bank, give thought to:

  • where it is held – avoid blacklisted jurisdictions where any interest might be taxed at a punitive rate
  • level of protection – for example, the compensation scheme in Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man is £55,000 compared with £85,000 in the UK and €100,000 in the EU. This is per person and per institution, so ensure you are spreading your cash amongst unconnected banks
  • currency – if possible, try and match the currency of deposit with your expenditure to minimise currency conversion risk
 
Understanding inflation

How to protect against inflation
With any cash in excess of your set spending period and emergency fund, you should consider purchasing or holding assets that have demonstrated the ability to act as a hedge against inflation. These tend to be equities and commodities, specifically gold.

Equities are traditionally seen as an inflation hedge because they represent ownership of physical capital whose value is assumed to be independent of inflation i.e. a company can offset rising input costs by simply charging more for their product or service.

Commodities are basic goods or raw materials that are treated equally, irrespective of who produced them, for example, sugar, copper, coal, gold. Commodity prices usually rise when inflation does, so they are seen as good protection against inflation.

Gold, a commodity itself, has been a shelter during times of crisis for centuries as it is physical and has generally held its value. As such, it is often considered a hedge against inflation and can even be seen as an ‘alternative currency’, particularly in countries where the native currency is losing value.

Having said the above, investing raises a related issue which is that assets that protect against inflation typically come with more volatility. This means that you must ensure you carefully consider and monitor risk, are properly diversified and are investing in an appropriate manner for your circumstances. If you are not an experienced investor, it is best to seek qualified advice.

How we structure investment portfolios?
We can help clients create well-diversified investment portfolios to meet their financial goals that are appropriate for their circumstances.

Simply put, we can assist with advising on:

  1. Where to invest – choosing the right jurisdiction to hold your wealth for tax efficiency and security
  2. How to structure your investment – selecting the right investment vehicle for your needs
  3. Who to invest with – choosing the right financial institution(s) to entrust with your money
  4. What you should be investing in – building an investment portfolio to meet your needs and preferences e.g. income, growth, ethical considerations, currency choices, risk mitigation, proper diversification

If you would like to talk about any of the points mentioned above, please complete the form below or give me a call on +351 934 920 702

What is a good investment return?

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investments, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 11th February 2022

11.02.22

This was a question posed to me by a client recently. I was taken aback by the question as most clients (rightly or wrongly) tend to have fixed expectations about what a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ return is. It was an excellent question and I answered by saying that ‘good’ isn’t absolute; it is relative to the economic and financial environment in which we live.

For example, I remember walking into Cheltenham & Gloucester, Manchester in 1997 and opening a savings account and earning 7.5% per annum! Back then, the Bank of England base rate was 7.25%. If at the same time you were achieving a 7.5% pa return by investing in say, shares or gold, this would not be a ‘good’ rate of return because you would be taking much more risk to achieve the same return as that offered by the bank and only a few basis points above the base rate.

So, with the Bank of England interest rate currently sitting at 0.50% and the ECB base rate at a negative figure of -0.50%, a 4% or 5% pa return looks very attractive today, even though it would not have done in 1997.

Another factor we need to consider when assessing what a ‘good’ return means is the level of risk we take to achieve the return.

In constructing our portfolios at Spectrum, we always consider performance in the context of risk taken to achieve that return. For example, two funds can both achieve a 5% pa return but one fund may have fallen in value by 20% whereas another fund may be down just 5%. Clearly, the latter is a better fund.

We can analyse this in more detail by considering “scatter diagrams” which is an interesting way of looking beyond headline performance figures.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR A LARGER VIEW

This type of chart shows performance on the vertical axis and compares this with volatility on the horizontal axis, which is a measure of risk.

Ideally, we want a fund that is in the top left of the chart i.e. it has very low risk and a very high return. Unfortunately, we know that we cannot have our cake and eat it and in the real world we have to take risk to achieve return, but the important thing that these types of charts highlight is if you are taking risk and not being rewarded for it.

For example in the above chart, fund B (purple square on the far right) is taking a high level of risk relative to the other funds as it is the furthest right on the horizontal axis and it is achieving a high level of performance as it sits high up on the vertical axis. Now, looking at fund A (aqua square second from the right), it has achieved a higher level of performance than fund B but has experienced much less volatility. It is clearly a superior fund, achieving higher performance with less risk.

The other factors we must also take into account when considering what a ‘good’ return means are the cost of running the investment and the impact of taxation.

Ensure you consider all costs when assessing whether you are getting a good return or not. Each fund manager will charge a percentage ongoing fee, but do not forget to factor in transaction costs on buying and selling investments.

Often more damaging is the taxation. Are you paying capital gains tax on each transaction as it occurs? Could you roll this up instead and benefit from compounding? Or are the tax implications impacting the decisions you make as an investor?

For example, a buy-to-let property that offers an attractive gross yield of 6% per annum looks like a good return on the surface, but once ongoing costs and tax are factored in, your net yield could be much lower, at around 2-3%.

Lastly, when comparing investments, you must always do a like-for-like comparison. So when you are benchmarking your investment ensure it is against its peers, for example, there is no point in comparing the gross return of your buy-to-let property against a BP stock you hold.