The financial emigration COVID-19 double whammy

(Partner Content) The effects of the stock market crash and the rand’s depreciation on your retirement annuity in South Africa.

The financial emigration COVID-19 double whammy

If you are living overseas and still have a retirement annuity (RA) in South Africa, here are some things to consider:

1. How has your RA been affected?

The value of your investment in South Africa has been hammered due to the effects of COVID-19. Lockdowns across the worldwide economy have caused global stock markets to crash, which is exacerbated when converted back to the currency of your new home abroad. 

Here’s an example of how a South African living in Australia with an RA value of R500,000 before the pandemic crisis has been affected (the MSCI Index* is used to measure of the effect of the stock market crash on worldwide investments):

Pre-COVID-19Post-COVID-19 low (1 March)Post-COVID-19 current (22 April)
MSCI Index-34%-20%
RA value-26%-15%
Investment value500,000372,500425,000
Tax (on encashment)85,50062,55072,000
Withdrawal amount post-tax414,500309,950353,000
AUD/ZAR exchange rate10.0011.0012.00
AUD value41,45028,17729,417
Reduction in AUD value32%29%

Image provided by Sable

At the height of the stock market crash, just one month after the initial investment was worth R500,000, it effectively lost 32% in value after taking into consideration the effects of the market as well as rand depreciation. There was actually a lag in the depreciation in the rand against Australian Dollar, as the AUD was also very weak against most currencies initially. 

At the time of writing, the rand has been plagued by both the global and domestic economic problems and hence weakened even further against the AUD and most other currencies.

*The MSCI Index (Morgan Stanley Capital International Index) is a measurement of stock market performance in a particular area. Like other indexes, such as the Dow Jones Averages or the S&P 500, it tracks the performance of the stocks included in the index. It is a commonly used benchmark when asset managers compare the performance of their funds to how the market has performed, i.e. they either outperform or underperform the MSCI Index. Most RAs are subject to regulation 28 and as a result have a percentage of the invested funds in cash and bonds to mitigate the risk of equities in a downturn like now. For this example, the value of the RA has reduced by 75% of the performance of the MSCI, i.e. it has not been as badly affected as if it had been 100% invested in equities.

2. Should you still consider financial emigration? 

Yes, now more than ever. It’s worth considering getting yourself into a position to encash any investments remaining in South Africa, and if financial emigration is a requirement to get you into this position then you should consider doing it sooner rather than later. If you have an RA (or an inheritance), financial emigration may be your only option to get these funds out of South Africa. 

What many people are doing at the moment is starting the financial emigration process now (as it can take a few months to complete). Once this is complete, they can then decide when to start the encashment process of the RA. 

The RA does not have to be encashed immediately, and some people are waiting to see where the value of their RA is (whether this value can recover a bit – it will if the stock/equity markets recover), and what the currency exchange rate is when their financial emigration  is complete, before they decide to encash. You can even encash and then leave the funds in cash on deposit in South Africa until you’re ready to transfer (i.e. when the exchange rate is at a better level).

There are three steps to the process, and they can be independent of each other:

  • Process financial emigration (two- to three-month timeframe)
  • Encash – a function of the value of your investment (one- to two-month timeframe)
  • Transfer – when you like the exchange rate (immediate on instruction once funds have been encashed)

If you are over 55 years of age, have an RA under R247,000, and have a green bar-coded South African ID book, you don’t need to financially emigrate to encash the RA. If you have not made prior withdrawals, there is no tax deduction either.

Financial emigration is still the only way to get RA funds out of South Africa prior to reaching retirement age and in some cases the only way to receive inheritances from South African deceased estates. 

To discuss your personal situation, get in touch with us on +27 (0) 21 657 2133 or email us at We’d be happy to assess and help wherever possible.

Source : The South African More