Volatility likely in markets during the President’s first 100 days in office

26 Jan
January 26, 2017

With Donald Trump now immersed in his role as the 45th President of the United States, during the first 100 days of his presidency, investors should expect, and indeed capitalise on, the likely volatility in global financial markets.

This is the time when new administrations lay down their mark for their term of office. As such, volatility could arise from the degree of uncertainty reflected by a new CEO of the world’s largest economy.

With his campaign based on the need to ‘fix’ America, it’s now time for Trump to put his solutions into practice.

A section of the measures the President wants to introduce are sensible, supply-side measures. Things such as the reform of America’s tax system, including a review of the weighty tax incentives available to companies who use debt rather than equity to grow their businesses.

In addition, some of Mr Trump’s business deregulation could be championed, although this comes with the risk that regulations in favour of consumer health and selection could be forsaken, merely to protect political and business interests.

Furthermore, speaking of forecast growth this year, deVere Group’s International Investment Strategist, Tom Elliott comments:We can expect GDP growth of 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent in 2017, given a recent pick up in business confidence and the stimulus effect of Trump’s economic proposals.”

Indeed, investors should make the most of the forecast market volatility during Trump’s first 100 days, as it may bring about lucrative opportunities. There will be winners and losers in different sectors.  The key is choosing the right investments at the right time, of course.

 Investors can effectively capitalise on this volatility and sidestep potential risks, by maintaining a well-diversified portfolio – across sectors, asset classes and geographical regions, and seeking the help of a high-quality fund manager.

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Get financially fit for 2017

20 Jan
January 20, 2017

The start of a new year is the ideal time to establish new goals and stick to them.

Setting targets, reviewing your finances, devising a well-structured plan and focusing on reaching your objectives is the route to becoming financially fit and achieving success throughout the year.

Below are eight steps to help you reach financial fitness in 2017.

1. Take action

Don’t just talk about budgeting and planning your finances. Do it. Determine the reasons why you want to enhance your financial situation. Don’t wait around for overdrafts, unpaid bills or poor credit ratings to catch up with you. Do something about it today.

2. Determine your financial goals

Before you can start planning your financial future you need to establish your current position, your assets, and monthly income and expenditure.

Take sufficient time to think about your financial goals. They could include saving for your child’s education or a once-in-a-lifetime holiday; life goals such as marriage or starting your own business; or perhaps damage limitation goals, such as paying off credit card debt.

It’s important to establish achievable goals within an attainable timeframe and begin working towards your 2017 financial fitness regime.

3. Set out a budget and savings routine

To start with, it can be a good idea to monitor your monthly spending before working out a budget and regular savings habit.

Half of your budget should include your necessities; certain wants (30 per cent) and, crucially, savings for emergencies and the future (20 per cent). Don’t become disheartened should your necessities cover 70 per cent of your budget at present – this tends to be the norm.

Draw up a spread sheet reflecting your net income and estimated expenses, divided into: an “essential” category (living and working), such as mortgage or rent, electricity, rates, childcare, transport, groceries; a “niceties” category, including meals out, travel, entertainment; and a “can live without” section.
Adopt a savings routine by transferring your left-over income as a direct debit into a savings account. Start off with small amounts and increase these once you’ve adapted your lifestyle to your new spending pattern.
4. Mentor

When getting into shape financially, recruiting the help of a close friend, ideally one who is already financially fit, can help to guide you away from bad spending habits.

Even better, you could seek advice from a financial adviser to help you monitor your expenses and make smart financial decisions.

A financial adviser can help create a tailored financial plan and investment portfolio – an important step towards achieving financial security.

5. Eliminate debt

Toxic debt such as that of a credit card can sneak up on you and demolish your budget. If you begin by paying small amounts above the minimum payment per month, it could lessen your debt considerably and help you become debt free sooner than you think.

Put any extra money you can towards paying off debt. In addition, try and negotiate a better interest rate and, importantly, avoid the temptation of acquiring additional credit cards.

6. Drive yourself to save

Achieving financial fitness can require a total change in mentality. It’s crucial to move away from poor spending behaviour and transform your expenditure by eradicating unnecessary spending.

Get into the habit of saving. A good way to stay on track is to review your budget on a regular basis.

7. Reward yourself

Allocate a set amount ahead of time to treat yourself every so often, perhaps a weekend break away or a new gadget you’ve had your eye on. Much like if you’re trying to lose weight and allow yourself a treat once a week, it’s also important to incentivise yourself as part of a spending plan.

8. Track your spending

You’re now ready to put measures in place to follow a financially fit way of life. Make things easier by tracking your spending with mobile account apps and online banking.

In addition, talk to a financial adviser about your investment options. However, before you decide to invest, make sure you have a solid emergency fund, ideally at least three months’ monthly expenses, should the need arise. deVere proposes that you create a savings fund by setting aside a realistic amount every month for unexpected expenses.

In conclusion, financial fitness means financial freedom, and financial freedom brings peace of mind, leaving you free of money worries in the future.

Here’s to a financially fit 2017!

Brexit-battered pound could lead to millions in pension income moving overseas

28 Nov
November 28, 2016

The post-Brexit pound has led to a significant rise in the movement of British pensions out of the UK over the past five months.

Indeed, since the historic referendum, sterling has plummeted in value 14.5 per cent against the euro and 18 per cent against the dollar.

The pound has experienced immense volatility ever since, which is highly likely to continue as nothing is as yet set in stone regarding Britain’s future with Europe or the rest of the world.

As such, for Brits residing in the U.S., the falling value of the pound has had a major impact on those living off a fixed income from Britain, such as a British pension.  The cost of living rises and a percentage of their disposable income will have been eroded away.

Looking at the reported 1.3 million Brits living in the States, around 25 per cent of them are likely to have suffered an 18 per cent drop in their UK pension incomes post-Brexit. 

Consequently, in order to avoid the Brexit bite, individuals with a British pension are considering ways to protect their retirement incomes.

As a result, deVere has reported a 21 per cent increase in enquiries worldwide about transferring British pensions outside the UK, since the Leave campaign victory in June.

The majority of these enquiries have come from people who already reside outside Britain and those still in the UK with plans to retire overseas.

This substantial hike, in effect, represents hundreds of millions of pounds in retirement income leaving Britain as more and more people take action to shield their pensions by moving them into a secure, well-regulated jurisdiction outside of the UK.

One established way to help sidestep currency fluctuation problems, which, naturally, can significantly erode retirement income is to transfer your pensions into a QROPS, a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme.

One of the principal advantages of a QROPS is that people are able to select the currency they wish to receive their pension payments in.  As such, this avoids exchange rate fluctuation risks, providing a more consistent, secure and reliable financial situation for the holder.

Other QROPS advantages include enhanced flexibility and freedom; relieving UK income tax or indeed death charges of as much as 45 per cent; and, importantly, funds can be passed on to heirs on death – after non-UK residence of five years.

Furthermore, ahead of Theresa May’s pledge to trigger Article 50 before March 2017, and once Britain officially leaves the EU, I fully expect the surge in enquiries regarding overseas pension transfers to continue to thrive, and anticipate an even greater need for international advice from cross-border financial specialists.

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The Economist puts a Trump victory in Top-10 global risk list

07 Nov
November 7, 2016

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), victory for Donald Trump on November 8 poses a top-10 risk that could cause global economic disruption.

For the first time ever, a single politician is at the centre of the analysis firm’s ‘risk list’, due to the “political chaos and heightened security risk in the U.S.” that may result. 

Robert Powell, global risk briefing manager at EIU comments: “Although innate hostility within the Republican hierarchy towards Mr. Trump, combined with the inevitable virulent Democratic opposition, will see many of his more radical policies blocked in Congress, such internal bickering will also undermine the coherence of domestic and foreign policymaking.”

Indeed, the EIU states that a win for Trump could see the start of a trade war, damage trade with Mexico and be music to the ears of terrorist recruiters in the Middle East.

Mr Powell goes on to say that Donald Trump’s remarks on Muslims would be a gift to “potential recruiters who have long been trying to paint the U.S. as an anti-Muslim country. His rhetoric will certainly help that recruiting effort.”

Furthermore, the EIU warns of further grave risks to the global economy should Trump get to the White House. Mr Powell adds: “The prospects for a trade war are quite high. Why is a guy who has many of his goods made in China wanting to start a trade war in China?”

Mr Powell also remarks on Trump’s calls for a far more hard-hitting campaign against ISIS: “One of his extreme positions has been to invade Syria to wipe out ISIS.” 

It’s been reported that Trump has vowed to send up to 30,000 troops in to Syria for 12 months, which could cost up to $25 billion.

However, even if they seized all the oil fields and refineries – which go towards maintaining ISIS – to fund the military plans, “at current oil prices, if the U.S. actually stole the oil, it would only net about $500 million, at most,” said the EIU global risk briefing manager. 

Whilst a pre-election Trump comes in at number 6, here is the list of the EIU’s top-10 global risks this month:

·      A prolonged economic slump in China

·      The EU starts to crack due to internal and external pressures

·      The threat of a possible ‘Grexit’, despite a third bail-out last year

·      Currency depreciation and ongoing weakness in commodity prices culminating in serious implications for emerging-market corporates

·      The increasing threat of Jihadi terrorism destabilising the global economy

·      Donald Trump winning the November 8 election

·      Expansionism in China leading to an arms clash in the South China Sea

·      Surges in global growth next year with the rallying of emerging markets

·      Rising tide of political populism in the OECD leads to a retreat from globalisation

·      Future oil price shocks from a lack in investment in the oil sector

 As such, in the face of such volatility and uncertainty, the best way to mitigate risk and make the most of inevitable opportunities is to ensure that wealth portfolios are properly diversified.

Diversifying over asset class, sector and geographical region will reduce exposure to one particular class, so if that class isn’t performing as well, the others can hold up the portfolio and keep financial plans on track.

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Vote for Life is welcomed by British expats in the US

02 Nov
November 2, 2016

The British government has announced that British expatriates who permanently live overseas will be given a “vote for life” in British general elections.  This is something I wholeheartedly welcome.

The present 15-year limit is being ditched as part of plans to reinforce ties with British expats following the Brexit vote. 

British Prime Minister, Theresa May, confirmed earlier this month that the change will come into effect in time for the 2020 general election, following lengthy campaigns undertaken by groups and individuals.

One such campaign was organised by World War II veteran, Harry Schindler.  The 95-year old has been campaigning for expatriate rights for several years, and has since received a letter from Downing Street confirming the change in the vote.   

Mr Schindler said he was “pleased and grateful” to the Prime Minister for her commitment to introducing the vote for life.

Naturally, this is excellent news for the more than 800,000 British expatriates residing in the States. 

Regardless of their decision to move overseas, British citizens are a part of the country’s democracy, so it’s only right that they are allowed to vote, despite being out of the country for 15 years or more.

According to Chris Skidmore, the minister for the constitution: “Following the British people’s decision to leave the EU, we now need to strengthen ties with countries around the world and show the UK is an outward-facing nation.

“Our expat community has an important role to play in helping Britain expand international trade, especially given two-thirds of expats live outside the EU.”

Indeed, the majority of British expats here in the US maintain strong links to the UK, with many having a view to return in the future.

As such, this proposed ruling is a positive step in the right direction for British expatriates around the world.

 

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Maintaining a well-diversified portfolio is key, regardless of the election outcome

05 Oct
October 5, 2016

As the November election looms ever closer, many investors are entering panic mode at the inevitable change on the way, regardless of who ends up in the White House. 

A recent study carried out by Bankrate.com revealed that six in ten Americans view this Presidential election as the principal threat to the U.S. economy within the next six months.  Terrorism was in second place, followed by troubled overseas economies, a stock market drop, and an interest rate hike. 

Indeed, although any election-related event is likely to cause a rapid movement in the markets, there is a world of difference between being careful regarding your investments, and panicking.

Whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is elected, change will inevitably take place.  This election race has undoubtedly altered U.S. politics, which will inevitably affect how Americans generate and grow their wealth.

Should Trump be victorious, a negative jolt is likely in the financial markets, as a direct result of increased uncertainty.  A win for Trump would probably mean the Fed would hold off on another rate hike until next year, providing a short-term boost to stocks.  Over the longer-term, Trump in the White House would result in a more relaxed fiscal policy and tax cuts, thereby resulting in a demand uptick for the economy. 

However, Donald Trump does have certain contentious protectionist policies, that could hinder the growth of the economy. 

On the other hand, should Hillary Clinton win the keys to the White House, it is expected that the financial markets will breathe a sigh of relief and, in response, bounce immediately.   

Therefore, with such market-friendly stability and continuity, there will be a higher chance that the Fed will increase interest rates before the end of 2016.  Whilst this would be good news for Treasury bonds in the short-term, it’s not such good news for equities. 

In addition, a Clinton victory may also result in tax increases for America’s wealthier citizens, and a shift in global economic policy.

Although, any unease generated is more than likely to be alleviated by the markets’ overall sense of relief.

Nevertheless, there is still a strong divergence with regard to what the outcome of the election would mean for the economy. 

Looking at some of the figures, some 77 per cent of Democratic investors polled consider increasing the minimum wage would positively impact the economy, in comparison to 24 per cent of Republicans and 43 per cent of independents.

Moreover, a majority 72 per cent of Republicans believe that strict immigration policy would be an ally to the economy, compared to 35 per cent of Democrats and 52 per cent of independents. 

Indeed, 61 per cent of investors are of the opinion that if their favoured candidate wins, it will have a positive sway on the markets, whereas 64 per cent believe victory for the opposition would crush markets.  As such, nearly half of these investors are reducing their stock allocation, a quarter will abandon the stock market completely, and in general, investors are placing as much as 20 per cent of their holdings into cash.

This is precisely the type of panic investors are advised against.

Consequently, whilst the immediate outcome of the markets before or after the election cannot be controlled, investors can control their investment planning.

As such, having a well-diversified portfolio is crucial to be best-placed to make the most of the inevitable opportunities that surface, whilst simultaneously circumventing the risks.

Furthermore, investors should consult a specialist financial adviser to ensure they are completely aware of their tax liabilities and how they may change depending on the election result.   

Remaining attentive and steering clear of complacency is the key to maximising and safeguarding your finances.

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U.S. presidential candidates target expat voters in final weeks of campaign

26 Sep
September 26, 2016

With just hours to go until the first Clinton/Trump debate ahead of the November U.S. presidential election, both the Democratic and Republican campaigns are determinedly targeting expat American voters.

Both Clinton and Trump are hammering home their opposition to the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, the highly controversial law that requires every foreign financial institution all over the world to report American expatriate clients’ financial activities to the Internal Revenue Service.  The principal aim of FATCA is to combat tax evasion – however, critics insist that it will do little, if anything, to curb this serious, global issue.

That said, whilst the Republican Party is calling for FATCA to be abolished, many Democrats are reportedly in favour of a ‘same country exemption’.  This would mean both U.S. expats and FFIs would not be required to report to the IRS on accounts held outside the U.S. by Americans in the country in which they reside. 

However, the law would still target those with non-U.S. accounts in areas they don’t actually live.

Meanwhile, global campaigners have been organising fund-raising events aimed at unregistered U.S. expats, including a Democrats Abroad UK-sponsored comedy evening in London, and voting registration campaigns organised by global online campaigner, Avaaz.

As such, and as we’ve seen in previous elections, great importance is being place on the American expat vote. 

An estimated 8 million Americans reside overseas, and according to a report by Oxford University’s Rothermere American Institute, expatriates could play a key role in the November election.

Director of the Institute, Jay Sexton states: “Overseas votes were critical to putting George W Bush into the White House in 2000, and if things are tight, they could be just as important in the 2016 election too”.

Furthermore, American Citizens Abroad have written to both Clinton and Trump to determine their official standpoint on a total of eight fundamental issues regarding American expats.

As well as FATCA, these included, amongst others, their stance on the federal tax regime being changed to a residence-based system, and the proposed amendments to the Foreign Bank Account Reporting requirements, which have also caused great difficulty for expatriates.

Therefore, with both Clinton and Trump preparing for what could be, ‘the greatest political show on earth’, and in a virtual dead heat in the polls, their stance on FATCA and the importance placed on the expatriate vote may well swing the pendulum in their favour.

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Principal after-effects of a post-Brexit reality

12 Jul
July 12, 2016

As the realisation of the historic Brexit vote continues to sink in, the effects of Britain voting to leave the European Union are still rippling around the world.

The predominant message still being conveyed by finance experts is to ‘keep calm’ and not make any major panic-driven decisions as yet.  However, naturally, such a high degree of Brexit-linked uncertainty could lead to rash decision-making, that could be detrimental in future.

Pensions

Those individuals with a British pension residing in the U.S. could of course be affected by the Leave victory.

Indeed, UK pensions face a high level of risk, due to a combination of several factors coming together to negatively impact retirement savings.

deVere founder and CEO, Nigel Green says: “UK pensions face an unprecedented level of risk following the Brexit vote.  Those with UK pensions must be made aware that many of their hard earned savings are now in the eye of the perfect storm following the UK’s historic decision to leave the EU.”

The main factors that could seriously disrupt retirement ambitions are, firstly, gilt yields.  They have fallen substantially since the referendum result was announced, which has in turn driven up transfer values.

Although this is positive for those withdrawing funds from defined benefit schemes, large pay-outs place further pressure on the schemes.

In turn, should an increasing number of people look to transfer, the more probable it is the schemes will face cash flow problems and perhaps stop transfers completely.

In addition, dropping gilt yields will lead to an increase in pension deficits.  Latest reports suggest the UK’s pension deficit could soon reach a trillion GBP.  This, therefore, puts the survival of numerous company pension schemes into question.

QROPS

As a result of the increasing uncertainty, expats and those considering retiring outside the UK, have the option of transferring their pension into a secure, regulated jurisdiction outside the UK.

An established and ever more popular way of doing this is to transfer pensions into a Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme, or QROPS.

A major advantage of a QROPS is that individuals are able to select the currency they wish their pension to be paid in.  This removes exchange rate fluctuation risks, and provides the holder with a more stable, predictable financial situation.

Other QROPS advantages include enhanced flexibility and freedom; relieving UK income tax or indeed death charges of as much as 45 per cent; and, importantly, funds can be passed on to heirs on death – after non-UK residence of five years.

As Nigel Green was quoted as saying in the media recently: “We can fully expect demand for HMRC-recognised overseas pension transfers to be further boosted thanks to the UK’s decision to leave the EU.”

Pension taxation

An Autumn Budget will be looking to acquire savings – and the UK government will look no further than slashing pension tax relief.  The numbers are large.  Higher-rate tax relief on contributions costs £7bn, the pension tax-free lump sum costs £2.5bn, and national insurance exemption on pension contributions costs £13bn.

As such, individuals considering making pension contributions should do so sooner rather than later.

Market volatility

With the world continuing to settle into a post-Brexit realism, global markets have been see-sawing.

Such volatility is created on by the massive uncertainty triggered by Brexit.

Therefore, it is crucial that investors maintain a suitably diversified portfolio, balanced across geographical regions, asset classes and sectors, in order to best mitigate risks and take advantage of the inevitable opportunities.

Naturally, shrewd investors will be making the most of the upsides that such unpredictability brings, and the best way to do this is to seek sound, independent financial advice.

Demand

The international financial advisory sector should see considerable client demand-driven growth following the Brexit vote.

As we can expect more people to consider moving out of Britain, particularly before Britain brings Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty into play, these individuals and companies will require specialist financial advice, as all expats and international firms do.

Moreover, once Britain officially leaves the EU, the financial situations of those living and/or working overseas will inevitably become more complex.  As such, there will be an even greater requirement for international financial advice from cross-border specialists.

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Take action now to Fed-proof investments

01 Jun
June 1, 2016

It’s now time to start shielding investments from an interest rate hike, after the Fed’s last meeting revealed that “most participants” agreed it would be “appropriate” to raise rates in June if the economy continues to improve.

Indeed, a looming rate increase looks on the cards, having been suggested by numerous Federal Reserve officials.  They are – with the significant exception of Fed Chair, Janet Yellen that is – discussing the options and prudently setting out the case, almost as if they’re looking for permission from the markets.

However, even though FOMC members are now preparing for a hike, it’s my view that it will take place in September or even December, rather than next month.

They are sensibly opting for a long run-up so as to prepare investors, and help to circumvent fallout shocks and bombshells.

Undoubtedly, the surge of excitement surrounding the impending rate increase was sparked from stronger than predicted inflation data in April.  Although, wider economic data has not been strong this year, and April core inflation – barring inconsistent items such as energy – was only marginally over the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 per cent.

When it became evident that the Fed wasn’t going to increase rates as quickly as first thought – due to weaker economic data than predicted – stock markets and higher-risk bonds began their mid-Feb ral 

However, should there be a June hike – without more convincing evidence of a tighter labor market triggering a wage inflation problem – equities and credit markets will fall as U.S. borrowing rates rise.  This will then lead to the fear of the Fed’s determination to ‘normalize’ interest rates, regardless of the effect on the economy.

As such, investors will then be forced to pay the price for the Fed’s steadfastness to normalize rates, if it is undertaken before the economy is ready.  And, indeed, it isn’t ready, and the Fed knows that a hike is not yet justified.

Nevertheless, whatever date the Fed decides to increase rates, it will be in the near future.  So now is certainly the time to start cushioning investment portfolios, as higher rates will endanger economic growth and eradicate the risk of weak inflation.

Therefore, investors should ensure they have a well-balanced portfolio, perhaps including increased exposure to long dated Treasuries and other core government bond markets.   

They should also look into increasing exposure to stock markets in Europe and Japan as their exports will become more competitive as their currencies fall against the dollar

Essentially, it is crucial that investors stay ahead of the game in order to sidestep the risks and make the most of the inevitable opportunities.

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Race to the White House – what it means for the markets

12 May
May 12, 2016

Turning political convention on its head has helped propel Donald Trump forward at a, some might say, alarming rate.

And over the last few days, investors have taken notice as it has become clear that The Donald would not play by the usual financial markets rules either.  Moves including expressing his concerns over the prospect of dollar strengthening and proposing the idea of replacing Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve have forced investors to stand up and take note.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has, according to certain analysts, a better chance of victory in November.  Not a wild card like Trump, Clinton is viewed as a safer bet for corporate credit and equities.

As such, as the November presidential election looms ever closer, it becomes clearer that investors will have to maintain a laser-like focus on the 2016 campaign.

Consequently, what will the impact on the market be when the next President is elected?

Trump’s comments on a strong dollar have, undeniably, sparked concerns, telling CNBC: “While there are certain benefits, it sounds better to have a strong dollar than in actuality it is.” Should Trump continue to take a hard-line on currencies, countries such as Japan and Korea, who have a record of intervention in the past, could come under great pressure.

Indeed, fears over Trump’s treatment of China’s foreign-exchange policy is generating even greater insecurity.  Disquiets over an unpredictable China that could lead other factors, is at the forefront of the apprehension.

Conversely, Mrs Clinton has, up to now, avoided making any candid comments about weaker currency-seeking rival trading partners.

In the case of equities, Trump is widely considered to be a negative, as he is surrounded by more uncertainty.  However, both candidates are set to have a similar impact in the stock market, with the defence and infrastructure sectors due to gain, irrespective of the presidential winner.

Whilst Clinton is pressing for a $275 billion five-year plan to completely overhaul infrastructure, Trump is also planning to increase spending in this sector.

This will undoubtedly be good news for these stocks, as both candidates thrash it out as to who will be the stronger force.

In the case of healthcare, Obamacare is expected to continue under Clinton, whereas Trump has pledged to retract it.   As such, there will undeniably be reservations about its replacement, and the effect it could have on the sector.

In addition, both Trump and Clinton have suggested proposals that could completely restructure energy markets.

Trump’s plan to construct a wall along Mexico’s northern border, indeed charging Mexico for it, could irreparably harm US natural gas exports.  Clinton, however, claims she will introduce new regulations to radically limit fracking.

Furthermore, whoever wins the race, they will, without doubt, wish to bring in a form of immediate economic stimulus.

Mr Trump’s pledge to “do discounting” within the $14 trillion US government bond market, certainly got U.S. bond investors talking.

Some analysts, perhaps rightly, claim that Trump is ‘confused’ of the difference between the world’s biggest economy and a casino!

Nevertheless, as both the Republican convention in Cleveland and its Democratic counterpart in Philadelphia kick off in July, investors will, naturally, look to both candidates as they tackle a presidential race that has flouted all expectations.

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