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Question

I am getting divorced and, although I am working, by the time I retire I will not be entitled to a sufficient pension.
I would like a financial advisor to help me make the best decisions regarding the relatively small savings that I have, and where to save the money from now on (save, buy small property, funds, put under the mattress, etc).
All I find are companies that are trying to sell you funds, pension plans, etc. This is not what I need.
Other than trying to get advice from my bank, any recommendations?
Thank you

anon

Hi me71. Sorry to hear about your situation. I can't recommend a specific advisor, however in the immediate short term I would suggest a couple of things:

1) As it appears from your question that you currently have a pension scheme and are working, you should arrange to go and see your current pension provider to discuss your situation with them. In most circumstances, paying a little more every month into an existing pension scheme is by far the lowest cost, safest, most efficient and easiest way to save for a pension. It could also have tax advantages, and can typically be done very easily through your payroll. It will depend on your employer, the pension provider etc. but you should absolutely go and see / speak with them first before you do anything else.

2) This may sound a little flippant, but you should also invest €20-€50 in buying a couple of books on investment and then take the time to read and understand them. Even if that takes 3-6 months for you to do, the worst that can happen is that your money stays safe in the bank and you don't lose anything. On the other hand, you will then be a little better informed about what and how you can invest. Read up in particular on broad based low cost index funds that track the principle European stock market indices. These will be the lowest cost, and lowest risk equity investments that are possible. You can invest in these with small investments every month at extremely low cost without any sort of financial advisor ever taking commissions off you.

3) Also, although you have suggested that you don't want to ask your bank, they will be a good source of information. It doesn't do any harm to go and hear their proposals. You don't have to agree to them, but at least you'll have something to use as a "base line" if you then go and see other advisors.

Finally- as you appear to only have relatively small investments to make, you should try and avoid commission based advisors. You should try and find an advisor that charges you a one-off fee for their advice.

Also, see replies I made here some time ago: (They aren't exactly your situation, but do give you some idea what to avoid)
https://www.thebulletin.be/decent-financial-advisers-expats
https://www.thebulletin.be/financial-investment

Finally - as you're getting divorced, have you discussed your situation with whatever advisor / mediator you are using to sort out your divorce? They may well have helpful suggestions.

Oct 21, 2020 11:30
kasseistamper

Way back when, I wanted to make sure that I would have sufficient to live on when I retired.
I did what Anon suggests is the best thing to do; I increased my pension contributions as much as I could afford/was allowed. In the UK they are called AVCs (additional voluntary contributions). They reduce your tax liability at your highest marginal rate and you pay tax when you start to draw your pension so you cannot be worse off from a tax point of view.
The Belgian state pension (if you will be entitled) is reasonably generous - certainly far more so than the UK. You can get a pension forecast from both UK and Belgium - and I'm sure from other countries, too - though I don't know how far in advance. My wife got one from our mutuelle many years before her retirement age; I got one from the UK at least a couple of years in advance.
Financial advisors make their living by getting you to invest in what they recommend. If there are two similar options, they will recommend whichever is best for them. By all means listen to their advice; there is no obligation to accept it!
Your bank will also recommend their own products but, at least, they are not dependent on you to make a living.

Oct 21, 2020 15:44
me71

thank you for your thoughtful answers

Oct 21, 2020 18:43
Vira

Hi ME71,

Sorry to hear about the difficult situation.

I wanted to say that I agree with ANON: Beware what financial advisor you work with. My own experience has been horrible with money locked into a plan for many years and with lots of hidden fees. A complete disaster. This was in the UAE so not sure if this practice is allowed in Belgium.

But I also agree with ANON on the fact that learning to manage the basics on your own is totally doable and in fact essential if you don't want to be taken advantage of by advisors or banks.

For expats in general I recommend Andrew Hallam's book Millionaire Expat. Andrew is a math teacher who also shares how anyone can invest in a simple and effective way with index ETFs.

Index investing is probably the most efficient way to invest for the long term. Another book that is great for that is JL Collins' book The Simple Path To Wealth.

There is also a growing community in Belgium of people learning DIY index investing. You can find them on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/FIREBelgium/) and meetup (https://www.meetup.com/FIREBelgium/). The FB group is especially active and people there will definitely try to help you.

All the best,
Vira

Oct 21, 2020 23:36