Category Archives: Insurance

Financial Things to do Before You Die

While it might not be as exciting a list as Bucket List inclusions like:

1. Head to Base Camp;

2. Dive the Great Barrier Reef;

3. Have a Champagne at the top of the Eiffel Tower;

4. Stay in a yurt in Mongolia;

5. or sleep in an Igloo under the Northern Lights… it’s definitely a very loving legacy to leave behind for those you care about.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to assist in unraveling affairs of those who instead leave behind a financial mess for their family to navigate.  On top of grief, it’s a bitter pill to swallow when your financial affairs have not been left ‘in order.’  I know I’ve covered this issue before, but it’s so important to have finalised.

And I understand, it’s not a popular question to ponder and is likely hard to imagine, but what if something were to happen to you? Would your loved ones be taken care of or would they face a tough financial future?  Do they know what your wishes are?  Do you even have your important documents sorted?

The greatest gift you can leave your family and loved ones, is having your affairs sorted out before you go.  Please don’t think of this as something morbid… it might seem like I’m backing up the hearse and asking you to smell the roses here… but this isn’t about you, I promise.

If you have made plans, do your loved ones know where to find them? Would they know what assets you have, what insurance policies are in place or how to access your superannuation or life insurance?  Have they met your trusted advisers and know who to get in touch with if something were to happen?  Have you kept them in touch with what your wishes are?

Here are some simple steps you can take to protect the important people in your life:

  • Consolidate your assets and sort your bank accounts out
  • Ensure your life insurance is adequate based on your current circumstances
  • Make sure beneficiaries have been nominated (where possible) on your superannuation and insurance policies
  • Chat with your partner about what you’d like to have happen in the event of the unexpected
  • Ensure your Will is current – circumstances can change quickly!
  • Have your arranged for an Enduring Power of Attorney or completed an Advanced Health Directive?
  • Make sure those who need to know are aware of where your important documents are stored

Not everything will pass through your estate, so it’s wise to ensure you understand what forms estate assets and what stays outside.

Work through the list steadily and once it’s done, make sure it’s reviewed regularly.  Your loved ones will be glad you did.

Get it Together!

There’s so many things that fall into the too hard basket!  Life is busy and there’s so many other priorities!  Just making it through each day and falling into bed at night is a good day’s work for a lot of people.

But, when a tragedy befalls someone near and dear to us, we often see the fallout when people don’t have their sh*t together.  I’m often approached for insurances or to update beneficiaries of a super fund prompted by the life events that happened to ‘someone else.’

So what are the main areas to ‘get on top of’ when it’s time to get your act together?

Here’s my top tips!

  • Make sure your Will is current and reflects your wishes
  • Ensure you have appointed Powers of Attorney – Enduring and Medical
  • Make sure beneficiaries are nominated on Superannuation & Insurance Policies
  • Consolidate those Superannuation funds that you have lying around – or keep them if they have vital insurances
  • Ensure assets are owned correctly and your bank accounts are in order
  • Check over your Insurance Policies – especially Life, TPD, Trauma and Income Protection – are the levels of cover enough?
  • Bring the people who’ll be involved in sorting out your Estate up to date with your wishes
  • Ensure tax returns are up to date and completed annually – personally and for your business entities
  • If you have a partner or family, make them aware of what you’d like to happen
  • Let a couple of different people know where your important documents are stored in the event of the unexpected

Life changes.  Partners can come and go, children grow up and live their own lives, grandchildren arrive and significant people can waltz in and out of our lives.  It may be hassle to work through the list, and yes, some of it may be costly, but if you truly love those you’re leaving behind, one of the best gifts you can leave, is to have your sh*t together.

You really don’t want the crazy ex to benefit from your estate when your gorgeous new partner will be left destitute because you didn’t take the time to update your paperwork!

So, set a date to every year, ensure everything is just how you want it.  It could be on a birthday, an anniversary or at the turn of the calendar or financial year.  Get each area finalised then run an annual check to make sure they still reflect what you’d like to happen when you’re not there to arrange it.

I’ll bet there’s a few people who’ll be very thankful you did.

 

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

Did you know that 3 in 5 households in Australia own a pet?  38% of us are dog owners, 29% have a cat, 12% fish, 12% birds and 9% some other animal like reptiles, bunnies (not for Queenslanders!) or guinea pigs.

Mostly, we love our furry friends for the companionship they give us – that undying love and having someone who actually wants to see us waiting at home every night!  Others buy to teach the kids responsibility and some to keep them fit and active.

But there’s plenty of good reasons why we don’t own pets as well!  Some don’t want the responsibility, others don’t have a home that’s suitable or aren’t allowed by their body corp.  But a very large reason comes down to cost!

Have you every had to weigh up the average cost of pet ownership to see if it’s for you, or don’t know where to start?

According to one source, the average cost of owing a dog annually is around $1,475 and a cat around $1,029.  Fish would be lucky to set us back $50, depending on how luxurious our tank is, and a bird around $115 per year.

Pet insurance is still in its infancy with only one in four dog owners having cover (costing approx. $293 p/a) and one in five cat owners taking out cover (approx. $246 p/a.)

Pet insurance isn’t always available if your furry friend is getting on in  years and some breeds are dearer than others to insure.  You’ll also need to check what’s covered as some  routine check-ups, desexing and dental may not be insured events.

Having three pets, I’d decided against pet insurance, but when my English Staffy did her patella in last year, needed medication and X-rays and then emergency desexing, the average costs went out the window!  Having said that, it certainly paid to shop around with one vet offering a service for $4,000 that another did for $1,200 – and very well thankfully!

The kids were not prepared to let their beloved dog suffer or be put down and were happy to pitch in to cover the costs.

So, if you’re counting the pennies, it’s definitely worth weighing up the costs before taking the plunge into being the resident human for your new fur love.  But if you adore your fur babies more than anything, cost is hardly likely to be a factor in your pet ownership adventures.

Sources: Pet Ownership in Australia 2016 (Animal Medicines Australia) and Pet Insurance Australia, 2015.

Top 5 Financial Tips

So it wasn’t that long ago that 2017 kicked in and you promised to get on top of your finances this year!  How’s that going for you now that we’re around six weeks in to the new calendar year?

You know what they say about “the best laid plans of mice and men” right?

If you want to break it down into a really easy to follow guide, I’ve got five top tips for you to help get on top of things over the rest of the year…

1. Set goals

Take charge of your financials this year by working out your goals, objectives and priorities and put a plan in place to reach them.  If you want to get rid of credit card debt, increase savings, pay off your mortgage more quickly or boost your superannuation savings, the MoneySmart site has tools to help you work out a plan.  Alternately, hooking up with a financial planner can help you work with a professional money coach to assist you to make it happen, articulate what you’d like to achieve, and give you someone to be accountable to.

2. Map with a budget

As any successful journey begins with a reliable map or an up to date GPS, the path to wealth starts with going back to basics and having an accurate budget.  The thought of doing a budget might make your eyes glaze over, but a budget helps you see where your money is being spent and where you can make changes that will help you build wealth. You can use MoneySmart’s simple money manager to create your budget.  I often recommend clients use it for their budgeting needs.  It’s online, simple to use and comes in a few different languages too.

3. Get a better deal

It’s good to regularly check and make sure you aren’t paying too much for your mortgage, investment or personal loans or insurance policies. Shopping around regularly for the best deals could save you thousands of dollars over the long term. Talk to your lender or mortgage broker about what they can offer.  Different banks have different deals, so they’ll search around for a better deal if they want to keep you as a customer. If they won’t help, feel free to shop around yourself and switch to another option or lender.

Before automatically renewing insurances, check whether your current insurer is giving you the best value for money. You might be able to get a better policy for a lower price or with better conditions.  Often it’s worth asking a broker or agent for help as they have access to different policies and can run comparisons for you based on what’s important to you.

4. Improve your knowledge

It’s long been acknowledged that “knowledge is power.”  Before you commit to any investment opportunity, make sure you understand the features, costs – upfront and ongoing, benefits to you, and all possible risks.  Does the investment fit in with your plan? Don’t invest in something you don’t understand, and “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

Forewarned if forearmed, so equip yourself with as much knowledge as possible. Subscribe to investment magazines, download popular books on the subject, follow experts on social media or if you still feel clueless, engage a financial adviser to assist.

5. Manage Risk

Investing wisely helps build your wealth for the future.  You’ve probably heard of the benefits of compounding interest, so the longer time frame you have, the better off you should be.  All investments involve an element of risk – and often, “higher the risk, the higher the potential return.” Before you invest any money, take the time to understand the risk versus return.  You need to work out your own personal style of investing.  Are you conservative?  balanced?  or an aggressive investor?  Often, we’ll have a different profile for different types of investment.  If you’re younger, you’re likely to have a much more aggressive approach with your superannuation than you would with funds being saved for a housing deposit.

You’ve probably heard “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”  This is what diversification is all about. By spreading money across different asset classes and industry sectors, you are less likely to be affected by a particular economic event, like a drop in real estate prices, a fall in the share market or in a particular industry or sector.

So work your way through these five tips.  I’d love to hear how they’ve helped you get on top of your finances!!

Traps with Default Life Cover in Super!

Many Aussies rely on their default cover in their superannuation to be ‘enough’ when things go wrong… if they give it much thought at all!

What a lot don’t realise though, is that cover can expire when an employer stops paying in to some funds, and that at age 65, cover may also cease altogether (especially if you plan to withdraw the funds at that stage!)

Another issue that many face, is that their cover is ‘unitised.’  This means that they may maintain a certain number of units of cover at a set cost per week, but these units decrease in value over time as you age, although premiums remain constant.

Premiums being deducted from super may be just what you need to have ‘some cover’ that doesn’t interfere with your cash flow too, but over time, the premiums also erode your retirement savings nest egg.

Relying solely on default insurance may leave you with nowhere near enough for your family’s needs, just when they need it most.

When thinking about how much is enough for your needs, many start with clearing debt as their main priority and this is hugely important.

Another vital area to consider is the level of income that the family will miss over the coming years.  e.g.  Put very simply, if you earn $50k per annum and have 20 years of working life left, there’s $1 million in income the family will never see (without any adjustments for inflation.)  Do you need to include this level of cover in your plans for future expenditure on school fees, retirement savings and more?  Maybe, or maybe not.

Working out ‘how much is enough?’ is vital, and chances are, you may well find there’s a gap with your default super settings.

Take the time to understand what you have, what you need and chat to a professional.  Advice is invaluable in arranging the most appropriate levels of cover for you.

Get your finances baby-ready

A pre-baby financial checklist can make all the difference to new mums, writes Sally Patten.

For the majority of women, having a baby is one of life’s magical moments. It is also a moment that brings new responsibilities, including those of the financial variety.

Ideally, planning for a baby in financial terms should start a year, or even two years, before birth to ensure there is enough money tucked away to cover maternity leave and that other arrangements, such as life insurance, are in place.

Being prepared will help mothers to revel in their newborns as they should.  “If you are stressed about money, the experience is not as enjoyable as it should be,” says Kellie Payne of RI Advice Group Caloundra.

In the early planning stages, it is important to investigate how much money you can expect to receive through work entitlements and the government’s parental-leave pay scheme. Taking into account your expected income, the amount of time you plan to take off, your current expenses and any additional expenses that come with having a baby will enable you to figure out what the shortfall might be and how much you need to save ahead of time.

“Be prepared for additional medical and pharmacy costs for both you and the baby,” warns Payne.

Adele Martin of Firefly Wealth recommends opening a separate bank account for parental expenses, or better still, put the money into a separate mortgage offset account.

Check your insurance levels

In the case of health insurance, not all contracts cover pregnancy and baby-related services and if you do need to raise your level of cover, a 12-month waiting period will typically apply.

If you want to be covered by private health insurance for pregnancy “you’ll need to be on a health cover that includes pregnancy at least three months before you start trying to fall pregnant”, warns health insurer nib health funds.

Having a child is also an ideal time to look at your life insurance, which may pay a sum of money in the event of death, and income-protection policies, which may pay a regular sum of money in the event of serious illness or injury. Both can be critical when there is a baby or child who will need providing for if something happens to you.

Finding the right life insurance and income-protection policies is no mean feat and advice is recommended.

Strategies for Life Queensland financial adviser Tanaya Bendall says in terms of income-protection policies, would-be mothers should consider whether the policy will pay an agreed amount without having to show proof of income.

Martin notes that many insurance companies won’t insure pregnant women after the last trimester because they are viewed as higher risk.

A convenient way to increase insurance levels may be through superannuation, because this won’t have any impact on your cash-flow levels.

Finally, Martin believes women should not ignore superannuation during this time. She suggests investigating whether they are eligible for various super contribution allowances, such as the government co-contribution and spouse contributions while they’re not working or working part-time.

How a baby changed Emily’s financial outlook

A lot changed for Emily Shields when she had her first child, not least her financial outlook.  The embryologist knew she did not want to go back to work full-time.

“I wanted to be able to spend that time with Evie. But it also makes you think about being able to provide for her,” says the 37-year-old.  “We were lucky when we were kids that we never had to want for anything, and I want to be able to provide that for Evie.”

Shields was in a fortunate position: her partner Sam could support them. He had just started his own financial-planning company when Evie was born, and Shields was able to take a year’s maternity leave from her position at one of Melbourne’s leading IVF clinics.

She extended this leave by becoming a home-based sales rep for a health and beauty company for six months.  Now back at work two-and-a-half days a week, Shields is pleased to have resumed her career, knowing Evie is well looked after.

“All I knew was that I didn’t want her going into childcare,” says Shields. “It’s been easy knowing she’s going to family and Sam’s aunt can work around us with times and dates.”

The immediate financial plan is to continue working part-time while keeping a long-held investment property “ticking over” until they are ready to buy a house.

“We’re quite happy with a public primary school but I’d like Evie to go to a private school for high school if we have the money.”

Case study: Natasha Hughes

This article is part of a series published in the Sydney Morning Heraldand The Age called Her Money, that aims to help women take control of their financial futures. This series has been created in partnership with ANZ.

Is Travel Insurance really necessary?

Travel is a whole lot of fun!  And as we know, it can also be a little expensive!  Sometimes, travel insurance may seem like that one last item that tips we scales and we say no, it’s too much!

But firstly, what does it even cover?

Typically, you’ll be protected for:-

  • Loss of luggage and personal items, like cameras and phones
  • Disruptions to travel plans, like flight cancellations
  • Theft of your goods, and most importantly…
  • Medical expenses from injury or illness.

If you’ve never had the privelege of being sick in the USA, I hope you never are.  Medical teatment in some countries can cost a fortune if you don’t have travel insurance! According to the National Business Group, you may be out of pocket up to $1,000,000 for a heart attack!

But, it’s also Buyer Beware!  Usually, you won’t be covered for extreme sports, pre-existing medical conditions, acts of terrorism and some natural disasters, loss or theft of unattended baggage, travel to areas where there is an official travel warning issued, financial failure of a provider or pregnancy related issues after around 22 weeks.  If you’re likely to be affected by any of these, take care!

Top Tips!

Usually, you’ll find out the cost of the cover pretty quickly, but be sure to enquire about the excess applicable to any claims; what’s included and what’s not; dollar limits for your more expensivce items and total values covered; what proof you need at claim time and how to contact you’re provider if you’re overseas.

Be honest when completing the forms.  You don’t want your claim denied because you failed to mention a health condition!

Once you’ve purchased cover you’re happy with and stashed the details, pack light and enjoy the flight!  And if you’re a frequent traveller, ask about a coporate or annual travel insurance plan

I’d never leave home without it!