Fri05262017

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This past weekend I opened up my brand new Panini FIFA World Cup Brazil Official Licensed Sticker Album and started opening up packs of stickers. It takes me back to those days in school looking to trade for the last stickers that were still missing just a few days ahead of the big event…

It’s a crazy exercise in many ways. I read somewhere on the Internet that people spend around €500 per album these days. I guess it partly depends on how many people you can trade with, on how fast you want to complete it, and on your disposable income. And there’s where the economy lesson kicks in.

Children today can earn valuable insight in how the economy works while finishing their album!

- They need to save their pocket money to purchase sticker packs (savings & investments)

- They need to search for bartering partners and develop negotiating skills to trade the necessary stickers (sale & purchase)

- They quickly understand that desired stickers (such as team insignias and super stars, or the last few to finish off the album) are often times harder to obtain and therefore also more “expensive”, being traded at 2 for 1 instead of 1 for 1 (supply & demand law)

I remember bringing different friends together because I had the sticker friend A wanted but I wanted the sticker of friend B, who in turn wanted a sticker that I didn’t have but friend A had. If there’s a will, there truly is always a way.

I expect I’ll spend my Easter holidays negotiating with my niece and nephew to complete the double sticker stadiums of the first pages of the album. I love bargaining with them – they’re ruthless! And if we’re still missing some in May, we’ll keep an eye out for the swap meets that are organised all around Luxembourg. Maybe I’ll see you there...

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The great thing of working for a large international institution is that the global Corporate Social Responsibility projects really make a difference - my favourite project must be ING Chances for Children. 

ING Chances for Children unites ING and UNICEF and since 2005 we work together to give children around the world a better chance. We believe education is a fundamental building block for the development of societies. Access to education can be life-changing and help to equalise opportunity, leading to economic growth and the development of a healthy society.

We chose to partner with UNICEF towards the fulfilment of a shared vision of providing a better future to disadvantaged children around the world, thus contributing to the 2nd Millennium Development Goal - Achieve universal primary education.

Since 2005, the total donations world-wide amount to over €26 million - an impressive amount, I think!

As ING Luxembourg over the years we have of course also participated with a number of internal and external actions. In 2013, we decided to donate 1 eurocent to UNICEF for each transaction that was made with an ING Luxembourg Visa card. This action was a great success and we were delighted to give UNICEF a cheque for €32,500.

As a result of this success, we decided to repeat the action in 2014. From this, it should be possible to raise enough funds to enable UNICEF to build a school with 3 classrooms including school equipment, sanitary facilities, a water pump and also cover labour and transportation costs.

To learn more about the project you can visit the Unicef website at www.unicef.lu/ingchancesforchildren.

And if you want to contribute, the only thing you need to do is get out your ING Luxembourg Visa card at every possible opportunity!

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By partnering with the Abbaye de Neumünster, ING Luxembourg is combining the best of both worlds!

ING Luxembourg recently announced that it is supporting the Cultural Centre and Abbey of Neumünster (CCRN) in Luxembourg-Grund. The partnership, which began on 1 January 2014, is over a two-year period and will strengthen links between two worlds: that of finance on the one hand and that of art and culture on the other.

At ING Luxembourg, we are absolutely delighted to be part of the exclusive group of partners of the Abbaye de Neumünster, a major and significant historical site of Luxembourg city. Enjoying a spectacular setting, this architectural ensemble that has experienced four centuries of turbulent history, is now devoted to cultural and artistic projects (music, theatre, dance, exhibitions) from around the world and is at the same time a wonderful place for large-scale events.

The buildings have served as an abbey, a military hospital and a prison - until as recently as 1980 - before it was completely renovated to now offer a series of buildings and rooms, from the Agora covered courtyard and the former cloisters, to the chapel, Nic Klecker and other function rooms, to the 250-seat Salle Robert Krieps theatre and its Brasserie and open-air courtyard. 

The CCRN hosts music concerts (from classic to jazz and rock), ballets, artistic performances, workshops and art exhibitions, and is also a place of both creation and welcome - it is open to the general public, the young public, to associations and to designers - as well as acting as a meeting-point for collaborations and co-productions.

Not only is ING Luxembourg associated with this pole of influence that is both cultural and artistic, which allows us to combine the world of finance with that of art and culture, we are also actively involved in contributing to its development as a cultural centre which has played a major part in Luxembourg city's history, as well as its future.

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Starting a business is one of those major life-defining moments we have, like buying a house/apartment or proposing to our loved one; all involve determination, commitment and hard work to make them succeed.
 
You may be an entrepreneur driven by innovation and want to try out a new idea, you may have a unique set of skills and business contacts and start out on your own, or you may take over a family business. Whatever the build-up and reason, you will have ideas of your own and you will be drawing up plans for different projects, or investing in intellectual capital, all to do with you becoming a future business manager.
 
Apart from knowing your business inside out, understanding your target market, having the connections and skills with which to secure your first contracts, and having all the paperwork completed and authorisations received, (and as if all of that weren’t enough!) you also need to have sound finances to make your business succeed. You need to ask yourself the right questions about setting up and managing a business; not only do you need to ensure you bring money in, you need to keep an eye on your costs and manage your cash flow. Having sound financial advice at this stage can be crucial – don’t be afraid to ask for help.
 
The main commercial company types in Luxembourg are an Sàrl (limited liability company) and an SA (public limited company). Get advice on which suits your business best as there are also implications on the capital required, i.e. €12,500 or €30,986.69 respectively. You will need to deposit the full capital amount into an (ING Luxembourg) blocked bank account in the name of the company, obtain a letter from the bank to confirm the capital is paid up and hand this to the notary so the company deeds can be finalised. Once this is done, and the notary paid, you will then have access to the capital again.
 
You should have a detailed financial plan done for at least the first year of operation; our advice is for you to engage a good accountant/fiduciary who can advise you on all aspects, including cash flow. The Luxembourg government also offers various financial aids to help new businesses. Once you meet the specific criteria you can take advantage of a start-up loan; first establishment savings premium; capital subsidy; bonus or interest; SNCI equipment credit… There is heaps of information online.
 
ING Luxembourg is the proud partner of many local projects. We’d be happy to discuss what financial aids are available and how to submit your applications to the various competent Ministries.

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We are currently in the middle of Luxembourg’s annual Autofestival and it seems the whole country is out to buy a new car.

On top of comparing all the brands and all the options comes the task of comparing the different ways to finance your new car. Banks are not the only ones to have special offers during the Autofestival; some car dealers offer leasing constructions and/or car loans as well.

Be sure to check all the solutions and make sure you take the one that is most suitable for you, either from a bank or from a car dealer.

Some ground rules for financing a car

1. Make a list and check all boxes: With the rush of the Autofestival we’re all thinking about the great prices of new cars and how to finance the price but a car generates more costs than just the price! Make an exhaustive list to ensure you know what the total financial burden is: registration costs, insurance, winter tyres, fuel consumption…

2. To borrow or not to borrow, that is the question: There are many advantages to buying a car with a lease or a loan: you can pay for it over time, interest rates are quite low at the moment and you might benefit from some tax advantages at the end of the year. On the other hand, car dealers sometimes give you a discount if you pay in cash. So if you saved up enough in advance, it might be worth it to ask your dealer about this. The “return” you get from you new car might be higher than the return your savings yield right now!

3. Compare what is comparable: Before the acquisition, make sure you compare under the same conditions. In the case of a car loan that will be mainly duration, rate and amount. Pay attention to the price and what it includes. There will be significant difference in the “financial packages” that banks and dealers offer. Whilst the latter may tease you with extras for your new car, banks might offer financial advantages such as special rates if you decide to bring some of your savings as collateral. Last, but not least, check if you have the possibility to reimburse your credit early. If yes, check if you will have to pay penalties or not.

4. Simulate your loan to avoid bad surprises: Ask for a simulation of the credit with all costs included, so the total price of your credit includes interests and possible other costs. Make sure you can face your monthly instalments with ease in case one month you have unforeseen additional expenses!

5. Check with whom you are doing business: Whether you get your loan from a financial institution or a car dealer, make sure it’s someone or an institution you can trust.

6. Save some euros: Even if you have decided to acquire a new car, it is always interesting to have it at the best price. So, do not hesitate to use your talent of negotiator and take some time to make the right decision. You often get a lower price during the second visit! If you possess a better offer then do not hesitate to show it, it may help to have a special discount or some extra features. If you are flexible, be aware that some colours are cheaper than other, e.g. green, yellow and even red cars are often cheaper than black, white and silver cars.

To conclude, be sure of your personal financial situation before acquiring a new car. Do not forget to inspect some aspects and compare wisely … you could be a happy and proud owner of a new car!

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Today I would like to share with you an article written by one of our portfolio managers: Richard Edwards...

Some of you may have come across the term SRI already and wondered what it meant. Others may be more familiar with the concept and have their own opinion about what it is.

SRI was originally associated with “Socially Responsible Investing” but the term has since evolved to cover the notion of sustainable development and so now we would more likely speak of “Sustainable and Responsible Investment”.

There is, however, no unified definition of what exactly is “SRI”. This can mainly be explained by the wide diversity of investors’ cultural backgrounds as well as their individual beliefs and motivations. When discussing SRI in a forum it would not be surprising to hear one, or more, of following terms being employed; “ethical”, “green”, “impact” and “clean”.

Despite what might appear to be a certain lack of clarity surrounding the definition of what is SRI, one thing is apparently becoming more certain. A recent study by Eurosif (the European Sustainable Investment Forum) has detailed the significant growth of responsible investment strategies since 2009. Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, this has been achieved in an era of ever-increasing austerity and a struggle to stimulate economic growth. In such an uncertain economic environment, maybe investors are turning more towards growth strategies that are green, sustainable and responsible.

At ING, we take a stand on ethical, social and environmental issues as well as promoting sustainable finance and aiming to mitigate the harm that may result from our activities. ING has implemented a clear Environmental and Social Risk (ESR) framework throughout its operations to avoid or minimize involvement in illegal, harmful or unethical practices. By continuously embedding environmental, social and ethical considerations into our core activities, we are striving to be an even better company tomorrow than we are today. ING believes that sustainability is more a journey than a destination – a continuous process in which changing circumstances are a given fact.

In 2009, ING launched “ING for Something Better”, an initiative that brings together our social and environmental initiatives into one format. The online platform can be found at: www.ingforsomethingbetter.com

It is also important that ING integrates environmental and social responsibility into its daily business practice and this is reflected in the fact that we offer sustainable products and services to our clients. At ING Luxembourg, one example of this approach is evident in the range of investment funds that is available to the client base. Since 2011 a category of funds has been created, under the title “Responsible, Lifestyle and Ecological”. The products selected for inclusion cover a wide range of investment strategies in order to try and satisfy the variety of criteria potential investors may use when looking for a “SRI” vehicle.

Tuesday, 07 January 2014 19:24

Barbara Daroca: Surviving the Sales

How to better start the year than by keeping control over your spending!

According to the latest IIS study on Savings, three out of four Luxembourg residents have a Financial New Year resolution for 2014 and this New Year’s resolution is most likely about “managing your money better by controlling the amount you spend.” (http://www.ing.lu/ING/PRESS_IIS_XMAS_20122013_EN )

At the same time, the Winter Sales have just started, so here are some tips to combine the two and get off to a good start in the new year.

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- Shop within your budget so you know in advance how much money you can spend during the sales;

- Try a cash-only diet: Several studies suggest that people are willing to spend more when using cards than when using cash;

- Make sure the price during the sales really is the lowest price. Shop around (also online) to see if you can find a better deal;

- Think about what you need before you hit the shops and ask yourself if you would have bought the item at full price;

- Make sure you are really happy with your sale item before you pay. Is it the right colour, does it really fit, do you really need it?

I wish you all a financially sound New Year!

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The build-up to the festive season is now underway: now that Thanksgiving in the United States is over, and particularly here in Luxembourg that we have just held the International Bazaar and St Nicolas arrived a few days ago, we can well and truly start the planning for the celebrations.

While our traditional meal with family may be on the 24th or 25th, whether we are having family here in the Grand Duchy or we are travelling abroad to be with family and friends, many of us have now started to plan the main meal, including baking the Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding, as well as ordering the Christmas Turkey and Ham, or Goose or....

And when Christmas is over, we then have New Year's Eve to look forward to; whether planning a party at our own place, or going out to celebrate with friends, or both!

To be able to do this and not freak out when the ATM won't let you withdraw any more, or your credit card limit has been hit, let me share with you a few tips that should help planning - both financially and otherwise - for the festivities ahead.

1. Celebrate with … the financial basics: A new shirt? A toast with Champagne? It can be delightful to splash out for special occasions but make sure it’s within reason. One of the best ways is to make a budget a year in advance, put money aside regularly, then enjoy the results of your effort on the big day. A solution for this year? Agree before to cut the amount to be spent on presents. While this might be a challenge globally, setting spending limits within a family or within a group of friends may help.

2. Celebrate with … an eye on your credit card: We spend on credit cards differently to the way we spend cash; the theory is that the physical pain we feel parting with physical cash is diminished when we swipe a credit card now and pay the bill later. With emotions (and temptation to spend) high during the festive season, it might pay to keep a closer eye on credit cards – or consider a cash-only diet to keep tight control on money.

3. Celebrate with … a gift list: Gift givers typically want to give a surprise present, while recipients want to receive what they asked for. So what's the solution? Recipients make a list of several possible gifts, perhaps covering a range of price points, and givers can chose from it. It actually brings back memories of letters to Santa.

4. Celebrate with… homemade gifts: You’ve made a batch of Christmas pies, handmade cards or a toy for a child. This do-it-yourself way of making gifts can be particularly satisfying, with the recipient often valuing the thought and time put into creating their present more than any monetary cost.

5. Celebrate with … doing something: A ticket to a concert or a holiday away could be a good way to celebrate the festive season. Many happiness economists argue that experiences (such as going to a show or on vacation) make people happier than objects (such as getting a new dinner set or coat). One example is the research paper Does consumption buy happiness? from the United States, which says part of the joy is – again – spending time with others.

And last, but definitely not least: Celebrate with … family first: Spending time with friends and family has been found to make us happy; time with loved ones could well add a happy boost to the festive season.

You can find all these tips as well as some others also on http://www.ezonomics.com

Monday, 25 November 2013 12:39

Barbara Daroca: Optimising your 2013 Taxes

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The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is actually quite simple: you can avoid paying a certain amount of tax by claiming specific tax allowances, etc., all completely legitimate, while tax evasion is succumbing to illegal activity to hide money to escape paying tax; here I will tell you about how to optimise your taxes, i.e. how to reduce the amount of tax you pay while putting your money to good use.

As the end of the calendar year, and tax year too, is drawing ever closer, you should be starting to think about gathering together the various documents required for your annual tax declaration you will be submitting next spring.

In order to benefit from all of the existing opportunities to reduce your taxes as much as possible, you will need to gather insurance certificates, bank account details and the like - these all concern existing situations. In addition, you may also want to look at other ways that you can initiate before the end of the year that will help you lower your tax obligation even further; there are many fiscal products on the market to help you optimise your tax obligations for this year - below are listed a few.

One such initiative is a Home Savings scheme where you make your money work for you, take advantage of a tax break and save for a home. This high-yielding low risk-free investment allows you to build up your savings while taking advantage of a tax break of up to €672 per member of your household and gaining access to a loan at a preferential rate when the savings period comes to an end.

A second initiative concerns a private pension. You can save taxes by putting money aside and grow your savings without having to make cutbacks today, and you also can stop worrying about managing for the future. In Luxembourg one way of doing this is by taking out some form of a pension insurance allowing you to deduct the money you set aside for your supplementary personal pension from your current tax, provided the statutory criteria are met.

Another initiative is to claim tax relief on personal loans. Are you looking to purchase a new car, replace your furniture, etc., on favourable terms as soon as possible? You can deduct from your taxable income up to €336 per household member in interest on your loan.

And fourthly, you can take advantage of a tax allowance for insurance premiums of €672 per household member. If a single premium is paid for the Debt Balance Insurance, the ceiling rises by €6,000 (doubles if you are taxed collectively), plus €1,200 for every dependent child in your household.

These are some of the ways in which you can prepare now while there is still time left, to optimise your taxation for 2013, during the current tax year. For further details on these fiscal products, contact your financial advisor or ask us at ING by visiting one of our branches, or by contacting our Customer Care, tel: 4499-2273 or by sending us an email: customercare@ing.lu.

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The holiday season is fast approaching and what is more convenient than doing our shopping whilst sitting comfortably on our couch at home?

While online shopping may indeed be fast and convenient, and we do not have to brave the wet and windy winter conditions outside, it pays to be aware of the associated risks. Just like when we go into a shop and pay by credit/debit card, where we are taught never to let the card out of our sight and not to divulge our PIN code, we need to take similar precautions when shopping online.

One of the easiest ways to protect oneself is by using sites that offer a system like Verified by Visa (3d secure) or similar. However, in general:

- Be careful with sites that look suspicious or unprofessional. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is!

- Always keep proof (receipts) of your transactions;

- Read all the small print before you purchase (it is too easy to click on "I have read and accept the terms and conditions" without actually reading them);

- Inform yourself about delivery costs before buying;

- Get the contact details of the webshop, in case you need to contact them about their service or their product;

- Before sending any credit card information over the Internet, check if the data is encrypted (the web address should start with "https");

- Keep your software and anti-virus programmes up-to-date;

- Use a prepaid (debit) card like the Visa CyberCard – it does not prevent fraud, but it helps in limiting the risks (the amount that can be used via these cards is limited) and you often have extra guarantees that come with your credit card.

Happy shopping!

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