All posts by financechicks

Amanda Cassar is a Financial Adviser and Director of her business Wealth Planning Partners, helping clients Australia wide with "The WPP Way: Secure, Build, Succeed." She believes in mindfulness, being present, gratitude, philanthropy and good old fashioned common sense when it comes to finances. She is also a mum to two, loves holidaying locally and abroad, drinking good wine, enjoying great food, doing a spot of scuba diving, gathering herbs from the vegie patch or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Proud supporter of The Hunger Project.

Your Super is too Important to Ignore

Superannuation is the one thing you could do for your financial future this year, that could make a big difference to your retirement income. But how much do you really need?

That’s the million dollar, half a million dollar…? question.

Everyone’s needs are different.  Unexpected expenses just crop up, life gets busy and none of us have any clue how long we will actually be in retirement.

Of course, we’d like to think that the safety net of the age pension will still be around in years to come, but just how generous the country can afford to be with this payment, and who will be eligible, is also unknown as this may change year to year.  Sadly, none of us have a crystal ball, and we know it isn’t a lot!

So what exactly are some of the big expenses in retirement we need to budget for?

  • Healthcare
  • Aged Care
  • Food and Beverages
  • Utilities
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Planned or unplanned expenses, i.e. a new car or home renovations

What major impacts could affect our superannuation?

  • How long you live
  • Your health
  • The rate of inflation
  • How much you earn on investments
  • Whether or not you have dependents – yes some retirees still have dependents!

It is wise to have a plan when it comes to your retirement income and a professional financial adviser can help you get a plan in place that is easy for you to manage now, and meets the needs of your ideal retirement.

If you want to start to get your super sorted this year, give me a call on 07 5593 0855.

5 Tips to manage with a Large Family

Take the pain out of managing your family’s finances.

Large families these days are often the exception rather than the rule.  But having said that, I do have a few friends who have decided that their families weren’t complete without four or more!

Taking care of household finances can be taxing for any family, but especially so if you have a large brood. With proper planning and budgeting tho, there’s no need to stress!

Here are some tips to help you effectively manage your family finances.

1.      Give them the once over

Sitting down as parents first and figuring out how much money is coming in and going out may help you gauge the state of your family’s finances. A clear picture of your household income and expenses could set you up to manage your cash flow better.  It’s vital to know your numbers and figuring out what your minimum cost to live is, is vital!

Then, depending on the age of your kids, include them in a family discussion about what it takes to make ends meet.  This doesn’t mean you need to burden them with your ‘we’re broke stories’ but can be great training in their financial literacy journey about what’s involved in running a household.

2.      Rein in the spending

Keeping expenses under control can be rather tough in a large household. But if you’re spending as much or more than you’re earning, you might want to consider limiting your family’s discretionary costs by buying only what you can afford.  This might mean curbing some extra-curricular activities or eating out.

Ask the kids for suggestions on what they’d like to do in place of other paid activities.  Maybe games days, puzzles, hiking, riding or picnics can substitute for movies and theme parks.  They might even surprise you with their ideas!

3.      Set financial goals

Setting financial goals as a family may help you work towards future aspirations instead of simply meeting current expenses. Whether it’s buying a bigger house or going on a dream holiday, having a financial goal may help your family set priorities and stay on track financially.  It also provides a common goal for everyone to work towards.

4.      Keep a budget

Keeping track of spending may help you to better manage your family’s finances. By working with a professional financial adviser, you could create a budget that factors in not only income and expenses, but also your financial obligations.  Some advisers may recommend an App that you can keep handy on your phone to track things daily if needed!

5.      Build up emergency and retirement funds

Unplanned expenses such as medical bills and replacing that poor burnt out washing machine, can put a dent in family finances. But, by growing your emergency fund to cover six months’ worth of expenses, you may be better positioned to handle unexpected events.

While it’s easy to neglect your own financial future when providing for your family, saving for retirement should not take second place. Keep in mind that the earlier you start saving, the better chance you have to grow a sufficient nest egg.

Working with an adviser

Managing finances for a big family need not be a painful exercise. By working alongside a financial adviser to keep track of your spending, and discussing money matters and setting financial goals as a family, handling household finances is a task you can achieve.

Checklist for new Parents

Congratulations on the arrival of your new little bundle!

If it’s your first, there’s a veritable litany of emotions going on… and yes, nothing will ever be the same again.  If it’s another new addition to your family, guess what?  Same applies!

But amongst the joy, happiness, sleepless nights, never ending nappies and the finding of a semblance of normality again, it’s easy to overlook some important things that need to be taken care of.  Here’s a few that you may want to work through…

1.  Add bub to your Medicare card.

You’ll need to complete a Newborn Child Declaration form (usually provided by the hospital) or complete a Medicare Enrollment form with supporting docs including proof of birth – and no, the stretch marks don’t count!

2. Add bub to your Health Insurance

If you have private health insurance, you’ll need to call your provider to let them know about your new addition.  They’ll let you know what’s needed to add baby to your cover.  It’s also a good time to review your levels of cover and see if you have what you need.  The couples cover that was just right for the two of you, likely wont cut it for boisterous toddlers.

3.  Review the Life Insurance!

It’s probably the last thing you want to think about, but reviewing your levels of cover is pretty important.  You may have previously taken care of debt with a bit left over for your partner, but now you have twenty years worth of health and education expenses to also account for should something happen to a parent.  Chat with an adviser if you’re unsure of how to work it all out.  Cover can be funded personally or via your superannuation plan – the options are worth considering, especially if there’s only one working for a period of time.

4.  Adjust the budget

If you haven’t already made adjustments for the loss or reduction of income, now is a really good time to review that.  With only one income or reduced cash flow it may be time to cut back on some expenses, but others will be going up.  Your fried brain may not want a reality check, but it could stop some reckless or unnecessary spending.  Babies don’t actually care if they have the latest cot or pram, but your budget should!  You may also be surprised at the level of love and hand-me-downs that head your way too.  And for those who ask what you need, be practical!  Nappies, wipes, consumables or a prepared meal all go a long way to helping out.  Family may even want to help and pitch in for the bigger ticket items.

5. Childcare expenses

At some stage, the new little love of your life will likely need care and it’s good to be prepared and know what’s on offer.  Are you happy with the services in your neighborhood?  Is family day care available?  Ask some parents with older kids in care and see if they’re happy with the centres they use… and try and get your head around the Centrelink offers if you’re eligible.

6. Education costs

And guess what, the expenses don’t stop when you’re out of childcare and heading to school.  Even if you choose state based education, you still need to fund books, uniforms, excursions, donations and tuck-shop treats.  It’s good to start stashing away for this early.

If you’re wanting a private education, you may need to put the future Prime Minister onto a waiting list from birth.  Starting to save for the costs early is vital.  Knowing what the fees are, and add ons can help you plan from now.

And do you want to mix it up?  Public school for the early years and private school later?  Who knew there was so much to prepare for?

7.  Estate Planning

And don’t forget the Will.  Chances are you might want to include the little people if something were to happen to you and your partner.  Speaking with a professional can be vital if your situation is a little complicated too.  If you’re no longer with the parent of your children but want to provide for them, make sure your Will takes care of your wishes.  That way, your voice from the grave will have a much greater chance of being heard… and acted on.  But then, there’s also assets that don’t go through the Will such as superannuation or your jointly owned family home, and you need to understand where these assets will end up too.  You also likely need to appoint a guardian for your wee bairns should something happen and that’s a decision that needs careful thought.

But don’t let it all overwhelm you.  One thing at a time and it’ll all get done… eventually.

In the meantime, enjoy every smile, treasure every cuddle and know that it’s completely ok to regularly fall apart.  Nobody else has it completely together either… despite what their Insta feed says.

Punch and Judy do Super Splitting

This one is for our Aussie readers and a great strategy for some couples to help manage their retirement savings.  If you’re an international reader, does your government offer something similar?  I’d love to hear how it’s done in your country.

A spouse contribution split can help reduce a member’s total superannuation (retirement savings) balance below a trigger point or, when used as an ongoing annual strategy, can help achieve a measure of account equalisation between spouses.  It can also be helpful to reduce a super balance where one spouse is somewhat older than another.

Firstly, to be eligible, the receiving spouse must be under 65 and, if over preservation age, not retired. (Where the receiving spouse turns 65 during the year of the split, action will need to take place before their birthday and is paid as a rollover super benefit.)

Too much jargon right?   So what does it look like?

Punch and Judy are married.  Punch is now the sole breadwinner as Judy wants to stay home for a couple of years while The Baby is still cute.  She’s not earning and her Super retirement savings will be impacted.

Punch is on a good wicket and gets a hefty amount paid into his Super fund by his employer.  Because Judy is amazing, and doing a brilliant job with their kid, Punch wants to make sure she’s not disadvantaged and chooses to split his super with her.

Punch has a sufficient account balance and as his boss has put in a $25,000 contribution, he can pass over up to 85% or $21,250 to Judy’s fund.  Happy wife, happy life!

Punch is a good partner, be like Punch… (ok, he’s usually a tosser, but this time he’s nice!)

Contributions splitting does not reduce the contributions originally made for the member for reporting and contribution caps purposes.

If you think Super Splitting could be beneficial for your family, it’s worth chatting with an adviser to find out more to find out the tips and traps and whether it’s right for you.

Five ways to Stick to your Resolutions

Did you set a financial goal for the New Calendar Year? Did you take steps to make it work?

Is your New Year’s Resolution now a dim, distant memory?  If you’re like most, chances are, it’s now in the too hard basket, life got in the road and you’ve really moved on…

But how can we boost our chances of sticking to our financial resolutions? Here are five practical tips to help you get back on track…

1. Was it an attainable goal?

It’s good to be ambitious, but you may have a better chance of sticking to your resolution if you have a smaller, and more reachable goals along the way.

Using the well-established and well-known SMART formula may help.  SMART stands for:

  • Specific – make your goal as clear as possible.
  • Measurable – specific goals are usually more measurable
  • Achievable – can you reach your goal in the foreseeable future
  • Relevant – do you really want this goal and you’re sure it would benefit you?
  • Time – set a timeline to achieving your target

2. Having a plan

Creating a plan that can help you take small but regular steps toward reaching your financial goal is vital. The key is to set specific milestones and a time frame for each. You may wish to talk to a friend who will keep you accountable, or your financial adviser about setting a plan for your financial situation and goal/s.

3. Announce it

Tell your family or friends about your resolution, or post it on social media. Shout it from the rooftops!  By making your resolution known, you may feel more responsible for sticking to it.

4. Track progress

Record and analyse your progress against milestones. Are you reaching those smaller goals along the way?  It could help to get your financial adviser to check your progress every so often.

5. Enjoy the process

Enjoying the process of reaching your goal may help you stick to your financial resolution. Give yourself a small reward or high-five every time you hit one of your milestones.

Whether you want to boost your savings, pay down debt or up your retirement fund, your financial adviser may be able to help you stay on track to achieve your resolution.  We’d be happy to be your accountability buddy!

Four ways to manage the rising cost of living

Be smart with your spending.

The increasing cost of goods and services is a reality most Australians have to deal with.  It’s certainly not getting any easier to ‘make ends meet.’  Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows that living expenses for employee households were up by 2% in September 2018 compared to just a year ago.1

But there’s no need for panic! By being organised and smart with your finances, you could manage rising costs without draining the savings… provided you have any!

1. Cut back on major expenses

Trimming your expenses is one of the easier ways to manage the high cost of living. But rather than taking a piece-meal approach, it may be more effective to cut back on some of the large drains on your earnings, such as food and transport costs.  Take those leftovers to work!  Compare the costs of major must haves like energy bills and be sure to review insurance expenses.  There’s many comparison sites, brokers and advisers who can help you get a better deal or ensure what you have is right for you.

2. Reduce lifestyle costs

It may be worth auditing your lifestyle costs to see if these too could decrease. While you don’t have to give up all the things you enjoy, cutting down on, for example, your overseas holidays or dining out could go a long way in reducing your costs.  Maybe instead of a meal out every week, you cut that to fortnightly.  Perhaps every second year you go off-shore rather than every year.  Check for those cheaper vouchers or groupon deals before heading out to the movies, shows or restaurants.

3. Create a budget

Having a budget and sticking to it may also help you minimise unnecessary expenses. As boring as it sounds, a budget tracks your weekly or monthly spending and may help ensure you have enough money to cover essentials, build up your savings and handle unexpected or increased costs. You may wish to consider working with a professional financial adviser or using software that links with your bank accounts to create a budget that factors in your income, expenses and financial obligations.

Knowing your numbers is vital to staying on top of it all.  Being frugal has a whole new lease of life – check out those dedicated to keeping on top of it all online.

4. Supplement your income

Increasing your income may be another way to ride out the rising cost of living.  Go ahead and ask for that pay rise!  You could take on extra work in your spare time or start a side hustle.  Perhaps you could become a private tutor in your field of expertise, rent out your spare room sometimes or pet sit.  Even selling old unused clothes, sporting equipment or items no longer needed could assist.

If you have enough savings on top of your contingency fund, you may want to invest to grow your capital and earn interest. Your financial adviser may recommend strategies to help you generate an income from your investments.

The high cost of living may affect your savings and lead to money-related stress. But if you’re smart about your finances, you can still keep your cost of living in check and remain financially secure.

 

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, September 2018, ‘Selected Living Cost Indexes, Australia’. Accessible at: 

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/PrimaryMainFeatures/6467.0?

Five financial moves to make in your 40’s

In your 40’s? Here’s 5 moves to make so you can get financially ahead.

Being in your 40’s can involve balancing many different responsibilities and it becomes easy to neglect your own financial well-being. But it’s not too late to secure your future. Here are 5 tips that may help you financially make the most of your 40’s.

1.      Create a plan

If you don’t have a financial plan, then it’s totally time to get one. Ensure that it’s based on your needs and priorities. By working with a professional adviser, you may be able to tailor a plan that can help you maximise your ability to save and invest.

2.      Grow savings

Your 40’s could be your peak earning years, so it may be a good idea to ramp up your savings and funnel some of your income into superannuation or investment accounts. Be sure to do your homework and consult with a professional financial adviser about your options and reducing debt.

3.      Check your superannuation

A quick super health check may help you optimise your retirement savings. For example, by choosing a different investment option or type of risk, you may be able to earn better returns on your super. If you have a few funds, consolidating your accounts may help save on fees. Again, seek advice from a professional adviser before acting as you may leave yourself open to losing some important benefits.

4.      Avoid lifestyle creep

People usually have a tendency to inflate their standard of living as they earn more and can then afford more things, such as a better car or house. While it’s natural to want the finer things in life, you’ll likely end up with little to no financial gain if your spending rises as quickly or more quickly, than your income. Try stick to your long-term financial goals and remember the big picture.  You lived on your income until you got the pay rise or bonus, so chances are, you still can, and stash the difference.

5.      Invest more

Your 40’s may be a good time to invest more – or diversify your investments – to help you grow your long-term savings.  Keep in mind that it’s important to choose instruments that suit your risk appetite and time horizon. Developing a strategy with your financial adviser might make it easier achieve the return required to reach your financial goals.