Are you yet to draw on your pension and have one or more dormant, frozen pension pots from when you were employed or self-employed? If you have had a number of jobs during your career, you could have a series of separate pension plans which, while individually may not add up to much, you are relying on to provide you with an income during your retirement.
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HSBC and The Local Government Pension Scheme are the latest Defined Benefit Pension Schemes to cause upset and worry to thousands of soon-to-be retirees.
Firstly, HSBC has come under fire for cutting the pension payouts of its former staff by up to £2,500 a year, affecting 50,000 members who joined the company between 1975 and 1996. This group had opted to pay less national insurance (NI) contributions whilst working by “contracting out” of the former state pension scheme. This meant that HSBC also paid less NI contributions. In exchange for paying a lower rate, the bank agreed to pay staff a guaranteed minimum pension when they came to retire. Payment records were however not properly maintained leading pensioners to be either overpaid or underpaid. Numerous firms, including HSBC, had used this arrangement and when the errors were discovered, some began to cut pension payouts to compensate for the overpayment.
Pensions, whether private, workplace or state, are essential to the retirement planning of UK expats all over the world, whether they live as close to the UK as the Netherlands or Norway or as far away as Grand Cayman or the Grand Canyon.
However, around half a million British expats suffer a pensions shortfall of as much as £4,000 a year simply because they have chosen to live in a country or region without a reciprocal agreement with the UK and their pensions have been frozen.
Many of them feel it is unfair that they have no choice but to live on a lesser income or to take steps to redress the situation by consulting their expat financial advisers for inventive solutions. But, things may be about to change as MPs have created a parliamentary alliance to change the expat pensions law.
Few financial decisions are as important to an expat as the question of how and where they invest into a pension scheme.
This is why the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index is so useful in terms of assessing the adequacy, sustainability and integrity of different nations’ pension systems. The 10th edition of the index was recently published and makes for interesting reading from an expat pension perspective.
The top spot in the list of 34 national pension systems was gained by the Netherlands having scored 80.3 – just a tenth of a point ahead of last year’s winner, Denmark.
Being an expat has many potential benefits and opportunities, but residing abroad also brings with it certain complex financial considerations. In many ways these can be made all the more complicated if you also happen to have foreign husband or wife, particularly in regard to your expat pension planning.
Although in most situations having a foreign spouse is unlikely to affect their possible entitlement to your pension in the event of your death, there are many variables that you should consider as an essential part of your expat financial planning.
The Conservative Party has used its annual conference in Birmingham as an opportunity to reassure British citizens living in the EU of the future of their expat pensions.
Speaking at the event Ester McVey, the Secretary of state for the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) said, “We will ensure that people with UK pensions that have moved to the EU will have their pensions protected.
“We will provide a triple lock on people with UK pensions living in the European Union. We are delivering a private pension revolution, with more people than ever contributing to their pensions.”
Following on from last week’s blog on pension passporting, written by Rosemary Sheppard, Blacktower IFA in France, The Independent newspaper has now warned that British expats abroad could have their cash flow placed in peril by a no-deal Brexit.
While the talks around Brexit and expat pensions are certainly newsworthy, the reporting of pension payments becoming “illegal”, as stated in The Independent’s headline, is pretty implausible.
The story, published on July 25 2018, said the Association of British Insurers (ABI) had told parliament’s Exiting the European Union select committee of the “plausible” risk that payments from British bank accounts could become unviable.
I recently attended the British Embassy Outreach Meeting in Perigueux and as you can imagine there were a lot of disgruntled expats wanting answers that, frankly, aren’t really available right now. Understandably, for many living through the turmoil and uncertainty of Brexit, there is a lot to take into consideration and some may even be contemplating moving back to the UK.
One issue in particular piqued my interest as a gentleman had a letter from his UK pension company informing him that, post-Brexit, they may no longer be able to passport into the EU, which means that they may no longer be able to pay his pension payments directly into his French account.