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Wealth Management

ANNUITY CHOICES IN RETIREMENT

By Gerard Visser, Alexander Forbes Financial Planning Consultant

As you approach retirement, one needs to decide the age you would like to retire at. More importantly, whether you can in fact retire with the available funds you have and if the income you will receive will sustain you for the rest of your life.

Before deciding to pay yourself an income at retirement, new legislation allows members who are part of an employer’s pension or provident fund to postpone their retirement, even though they have reached the normal retirement age of the fund. But why would you want to defer your retirement? You could have a part time job or contract work lined up for a couple of years and not need to make use of your funds yet or you might not have enough funds saved and need to defer in order to be able to retire more comfortably at a later age.

Once you have decided to start earning an income with your retirement funds, you have two options when it comes down to paying yourself an income at retirement – invest into a living annuity and make a drawdown or purchase a life annuity/fixed annuity.

A life annuity and living annuity might sound similar but they are completely different options and you need to make sure you understand both the available options and implications of your choice. You can move your funds from a living annuity to a life annuity but not the other way around, so once in a life annuity you cannot change your mind.

A living annuity gives you flexibility with regards to the income you can pay yourself, you have to choose a drawdown between 2.5% – 17.5% per year and most clients choose to be paid this income monthly. You need to set up portfolios with your financial advisor where the money for the living annuity will be invested. It is important to set the portfolios up correctly and according to your specific need as all investors differ; some enjoy conservative investments while others will still try to grow the capital as retirement is over a long term. You have to consider the sustainability of a living annuity and try stick to the recommended drawdowns as this not only has market risk (volatility of the markets) but the investor runs the risk of outliving their investment or depleting their capital which in turn has a direct impact on the amount of income you can pay yourself. Investing into a living annuity is the most flexible investment option when considering the two, as you can also change your income drawdown once a year. You can nominate beneficiaries for a living annuity, allowing legacy for the remaining capital in the investment.

Your second option would be to consider a life annuity/fixed annuity. Many clients are under the incorrect impression that this is a product no longer in use. However, life annuities are perfect for clients looking to guarantee their income for the rest of their lives. You have an agreement with an insurance company to “swop” your capital for monthly income payments the rest of your life. If you are married, your spouse would receive an income after your death. When receiving the quotes, you need to decide whether you would like a single or joint life annuity. A single life annuity only pays for as long as you live, while a joint life annuity will pay until the death of your spouse, so if either of you die the other will still receive an income. There is no longevity with life annuities, meaning that upon your death the insurance company retains the capital.

How can I ensure longevity or legacy to my heirs? To avoid losing out and having an insurer keep all your retirement savings, you can add guarantee terms to the life annuities. Guarantee terms protect you in the event of early death. If you added a guarantee term of 15 years and passed away at year five, your beneficiaries are still able to receive 10 more years of the fixed annuities income.

Life companies will offer variations of these different life annuities and these vary from company to company so it is worth finding out how they differ and exactly what you are buying. You typically get the following types of fixed annuities: inflation linked annuity, fixed increase annuity, with profit annuity and a level annuity. The initial starting monthly income as well as future increases differ with all of them. 

Do not assume what you are currently putting away for retirement will be enough, visit a certified financial adviser and do the calculations to see where you stand. Do not wait till the last minute because saving and having enough money for retirement is your responsibility.

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Wealth Management

STOCK MARKET ANALYSTS DISCUSS HOW TO INVEST DURING A RECESSION

  • Online tool looks back at how world markets recovered after the last recession in 2008
  • Analysts take learnings from previous recessions to offer insight on how to invest during a period of instability
  • Certain areas of the stock market can increase in value during a recession

The economic crash due to Covid-19 is a unique event, however stock market experts have taken learnings from previous recessions to predict the stocks that may increase in value during this time.

IG Markets, Europe’s largest online derivatives trading provider, has taken learnings from previous recessions, using historical data and online tools such as Decade of Trade, which visualises world stock market trends over the 10 years since the 2008 crash, to provide predictions about the areas of the stock market to watch during an inevitable recession.

 

Stocks to watch during a recession

Under expansionary circumstances, stocks that have strong growth prospects such as healthcare and consumer staple sectors, for the future typically command lofty valuations and produce high returns, as investors bank on the company’s ability to generate more income as time progresses. This phenomenon typically results in high price to earnings (P/E) ratios like those currently present in some of the market-leading tech stocks.

In the event of an economic downturn, however, these profit-hopeful stocks are often discarded as investors align their income assumptions with slowing growth and lower consumer spending.

On the other hand, stocks with stable – but often more modest – income generation tend to be more insulated from dramatic stock shocks that frequently accompany recessionary periods. These stocks are known as “defensives” and, broadly speaking, include the utility, healthcare and consumer staple sectors. Given their profitability profiles, they become an important collection of stocks to keep an eye on when the broader market encounters a rough patch.

Consequently, a portfolio comprised entirely of equities is remarkably vulnerable in times of recession, particularly at the onset when losses are often steepest. With that in mind, it may prove beneficial to look outside of the equity market for some of the best recession-proof investments.

 

Gold can be an investment during a recession

XAU/USD is widely regarded as a safe haven asset for its stable store of value and tangibility. Further still, gold can act as an inflationary hedge, making it an attractive investment in times of recession and in periods of lower interest rates when inflation may threaten to take hold. Gold has demonstrated an almost innate ability to retain its value during contractionary periods, thus making it an attractive investment in times of uncertainty.

 

The US dollar: an attractive currency during recessions

Sharing similarities with gold, the US Dollar also boasts safe haven attributes. Due to its role as the world’s reserve currency and the backing of the world’s largest economy, the US Dollar is both incredibly liquid and sought after. Issued by the Federal Reserve, the Greenback is arguably the safest currency in the world and has become a quasi-currency of exchange in many nations where domestic currencies have had their purchasing power fall, due to inflationary pressures or other economic woes.

Consequently, holding US Dollars during periods of uncertainty or turmoil is often viewed as an attractive alternative to other assets. Evidenced in the Great Financial Crisis when the United States dragged the rest of the world into a global recession, the US Dollar surged almost 25% during 2007 to 2009 even as the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates to the floor.

The Dollar’s strength was largely owed to the fact that the Federal Reserve possessed ample liquidity and the US economy was soon in a position to recover while others were mired in recessions – some of which have never fully recovered.

Joshua Warner, Anaylst at IG Markets, said: “While there is a strong argument that a global health pandemic like Covid-19 has been on the radar of governments and institutions for decades, the lack of preparedness of most governments and businesses shows how unprecedented the current situation is.

“It is almost guaranteed that the UK will enter a recession in the coming months. The Bank of England (BoE) has said it is likely to be the sharpest one on record, while Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned it will be a ‘severe recession the likes of which we haven’t seen before’.”

Peter Hanks, Junior Analyst at Daily FX.com, said: “With the benefit of hindsight and the lessons of the three most recent recessions, it can be argued the best recession investments are not stocks at all, but rather assets that retain their value even as growth slips. Therefore, if equity exposure is a must-have in your portfolio, the US Dollar and gold should also be given consideration – particularly for the risk-averse investor or one who suspects an impending recession.”

 

To learn more about the stock market over the last 10 years to understand future trends, please visit: https://www.ig.com/uk/special-reports/decade-of-trade

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Wealth Management

SECURING THE EVIDENCE FOR VAT AND TAX

Filippa Jörnstedt, Senior Regulatory Counsel at Sovos

 

Businesses are almost entirely digital in their nature. With sophisticated technology now in the reach of most, the measurement and reporting of business transactions have transitioned from slow, manual processes to being automated, allowing finance teams room to breathe. However, alongside the positives of these advancements, there also comes a responsibility to understand the wide-ranging requirements of governments worldwide when it comes to financial transparency.

Recently, we’ve witnessed a shift towards more continuous transactional controls and reporting schemes carried out in real-time, as governments look to reduce their VAT gaps and discrepancies in their economies. Historically, the pressure was on businesses to report their own transaction data, but with the new formats being used, governments are beginning to take matters into their own hands. This makes logical sense, as there is far more complex real-time data being submitted by businesses that governments have access to.

Filippa Jörnstedt

The figurative stick that is VAT control reform is often introduced together with a carrot: removing the need to collate and submit periodic reports, such as VAT returns, to the tax authorities. Ideally, this means less pressure on businesses.  That is, until a problem surfaces, such as data being interpreted in the wrong way, or a dispute arising about the timing of a transaction. Often, these problems originate from reporting being mishandled or through the clearance of transaction data, so keeping a rigorously organised and in-depth record of financial information is imperative for businesses to avoid these problems. Aside from this, it allows them to substantiate any government reports and fix any issues. The difficult aspect, though, is how to build these archives in this way.

 

Digital paper trails

In previous iterations, financial employees were responsible for collating and archiving paper invoices, receipts and other data to provide evidence of their business activity. So, the process of archiving isn’t new, but it needs to reflect the digital times we find ourselves operating in. Simply put, this isn’t a manual task anymore, but many businesses have seemingly just moved to e-archiving without too much thought to just how crucial it is to get right. Modern tax authorities are asking for specific details behind each transaction, paying particularly close attention to time and date, so the archive cannot simply be moved to a digital filing drawer.

Looking at a recent example, India’s reporting requirements now involve invoice data to be sent to the authorities in real-time, for pre-approval and registration onto a state-operated platform.  The invoice will only be considered valid following the generation of a unique Invoice Reference Number by the same platform.

Looking at this from an audit perspective, if a business is later questioned on a transaction then they need to be able to quickly find the correct evidence of that particular transaction, as well as any government response message in relation to that transaction, or risk major fines. Alongside India, also countries closer to home such as Poland and Finland are shifting the way they operate with invoicing and reporting, following Italy’s successful system change last year.

And this is a clear trend; audits into business activity are only going to become more precise and closer to real-time as further governments see the benefits of adopting these methods of tax control. Real-time reporting and mandatory e-invoicing makes sense more widely as these systems have proven to be very effective at reducing VAT gaps, with evidence of this going back decades in areas of Latin America.

 

An authority shift

As outlined, with further countries adopting real-time reporting or variations of this, the tax authority is becoming more central to processes as they receive and gather details on VAT owed by businesses. Reporting in this way makes sense, but pressure on finance teams to keep incredibly detailed data-trails is more important than ever. Tax authorities are increasingly building rich data records of their own as they are receiving more and more granular data in real-time. As a result, the source-of-truth no longer primarily lies with the taxpayer’s financial records, but instead with the tax authority’s ledgers.

To keep pace with this, businesses can no longer simply file away invoices digitally, but also need to record as much data as possible to corroborate the authorities’ records of their transactions. By doing so, they are building an evidence base to be able to dispute any queries or wrong decisions to safeguard their activity. Keeping this front of mind will make the process of addressing any problems far easier than relying on old, less-detailed archives.

Throughout the EU, there are many variations in archiving laws that need to be adhered to. German requirements are set out in their GoBD principles, but in Italy the regulations are far more technical and detailed, reflecting their tax setup. This Italian model asks businesses to provide a documented description of their archives, an overview of its process, but also a delegation plan to show assigned responsibility for those processes. This isn’t an easy set of requirements, especially with laws frequently changing.

The whole aspect of archiving has long been important, but now the stakes are higher; it’s not simply a box-ticking exercise. A complacent, old-school approach to both invoice and transaction data archiving could now result in severe repercussions for businesses. A robust digital strategy is vital.

 

Managing archives to reflect the new normal

Digitalisation does have the benefit of taking some of the pressure off businesses, but this switch in data authority from the business to the tax authority doesn’t mean less work. Regardless of where information is stored, e-invoices must be now kept centrally and be available at any time for those that may need them. Storing these individually, including specific supporting transaction data will mean faster access to relevant evidence for any issues that may arise. Fortunately, technology is now available to do much of the heavy lifting.

To keep up with continually shifting regulation and, importantly, keep compliant with it, businesses must examine how they manage their transaction data and how to ensure their VAT evidence locker is fully stocked. Because legislation may change, but compliance is always compulsory.

 

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