Category Archives: Insurance

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!

Holiday Tips Time!

So, you’ve waited all year and finally it’s here! Your time off is sorted, bags are packed, and you’re ready to go! It’s holiday time!

Most people love their vacations and look forward to them for a long time. But instead of coming back to a maxed credit card, what are some ways you can ensure things run smoothly – and return home debt free, with great memories?

Usually, you’ve got a fair idea of when you can travel, where you’d like to go and how long for. With the internet now, it’s easy to work out how much everything will cost, far in advance.  Sites like TripAdvisor and Booking.com amongst many others mean you know what you’re getting, and just how much you’ll be paying.

It’s always a good idea if you can pay off all your travel, flights and accommodation prior to heading off to take advantage of lengthy booking time discounts, and also work out how much you’d like to have as a daily budget. If I’m heading to the USA, I like to average around $250 per day spending money, if it’s Asia, I’ll likely need a lot less. (This is to cover meals, transfers, sight-seeing and day-to-day activities outside of travel and accommodation costs.)

It’s then easier to work out your total spend based on your research. As an example, you might allow for the following if heading to Asia:
Flights $1,500
Accommodation $2,000
Spending Money $2,000
Total trip cost: $5,500

If you have a year to plan, this means you’ll need to set aside $106 per week. Break it down into how often you’re paid. If it’s fortnightly, that’ll be $212 per pay period.

This is also a great way to work out whether or not what you’d like to do is affordable. If you can’t take the appropriate amount each pay period out to cover costs, and still make ends meet, it’s time to rethink. Can you wait for happy hour or a sale on flights? Do you need to rethink your accommodation options or planned experiences? Should you go for a shorter amount of time? Or find somewhere else to head to altogether?

Also, if you’re going overseas, send your spending money to a Travel Money card where it can store your funds in the appropriate currency. Most banks offer this service, as do Virgin and other providers. Make sure the card is chipped too, so it’s accepted in more places and that you can take cash withdrawals of your funds at ATM’s when you’re on the move.

It’s also a great way to average out the ups and downs of currency fluctuations instead of waiting for ‘the right time’ to buy. Even if you’re travelling domestically, this is still a great way to keep funds segregated just for your holidays.

And if you’re someone who has to buy gifts and ‘stuff’ and often need to grab an extra suitcase before you head back, my top travel tip is to throw in a large vacuum storage bag. This way you can suck the air out of all your clothes, and leave room for those extra items, without the last minute cost of excess luggage or another new suitcase!  Most hotels are happy to supply the vacuum!

And never, ever leave home without your travel insurance! I hope you’ll never need it, but for the peace of mind, it’s totally worth it.

Why chat with an Adviser?

With only around 20% of Australians thinking it’s worthwhile seeking professional financial advice, it begs the question – ‘what’s in it for me?’  ‘Why would I see a financial adviser?’

And I can give you 6 pretty good answers to that question!

Firstly, seeing an adviser can help you set and achieve personal financial goals.  Sure, you can do that on your own… but do you?   Most of us fare much better when we share our goals and feel accountable to someone for achieving them.  But then, some never think to set financial goals or have a clue about achieving them.  This is where an adviser can provide much value.

Secondly, we can help you make the most of your money.  Chances are, if your like most you live first and save last… if there’s anything left over.  Advisers can assist with salary packaging, planning, tax minimisation and ensuring you get paid and get to save.

We also know a bit about Centrelink, and have helped some who didn’t even know that they were entitled to the Pension or an Allowance to be able to claim what they’re entitled to.

One of my favourites tho is assisting you to feel more in control of your financial situation.  Knowing that you’ve got a plan, someone to keep you on track and that each year you can see that you’re getting ahead, is priceless!

We all make mistakes, it’s a part of living and learning.  But some of them can be extremely expensive.  Being able to run business, investment and financial deals past an expert who knows their numbers can potentially save hundreds or even thousands of dollars in expensive mistakes!

And finally, we know all about protection.  Having a brilliant financial plan is no good if all that you’ve already worked so hard for isn’t protected.  Ensuring that your own life and the wellbeing of your loved ones is taken care of means real peace of mind.

Now, aren’t they 6 good reasons to make an appointment today?

 

Do you insure your biggest asset?

It’s a sad fact that most Australians are dangerously under-insured.  And It may just be high time you reviewed your levels of insurance protection!

Take the example of Matt.  He is a clean-living 53-year-old who exercises regularly, doesn’t smoke, enjoys a healthy diet and only indulges his love of good wine at the weekend.

Yet things changed suddenly for Matt last year when he awoke one night to find he couldn’t breathe. His wife called for an ambulance and he was rushed to hospital, where he was taken into life-saving surgery following a heart attack.

After waking from his operation, Matt was in shock. He knew there was a family history of heart disease, but had gone to great lengths to prevent the onset of the illness and had definitely not properly thought through how his family would cope without him.

During recovery, Matt reviewed the insurance component of his super and discovered that in the event of his death his family would receive just $300,000, which would barely pay off the mortgage. He hadn’t taken into account daily living expenses, car loans, and his daughters’ school fees, his wife’s low income or their inadequate savings.

Fortunately for Matt, his story is a positive one. Now in better health and back at work, he has spoken to a financial adviser and taken out additional life insurance, albeit at a significant premium following the heart attack. He and his adviser are looking into critical illness cover, which would pay out a lump sum should he suffer another sudden illness, although he’s likely to now have a coronary exclusion.

Unfortunately, in Australia, Matt’s story is not uncommon.  Surveys have shown Australia has much lower levels of insurance than other developed nations including the United States and United Kingdom [1]. The required level of life insurance is now about $680,000, while the typical default cover is around $258,000 – a significant gap [2].

Maybe it’s time to ask… could your family make ends meet if you were unable to work, suffered a serious illness or died? Here are some things you should consider:

  • Ongoing Mortgage or rent payments
  • Daily living expenses – food, bills, transport, utilities, insurances
  • Childcare, school and university fees, text books and accommodation
  • Other expenses – house repair costs, medical expenses, personal health & grooming, replacement of white and brown goods

Make an appointment with your financial adviser to discuss your insurance needs and ensure you are adequately covered, or call the team at Wealth Planning Partners to discuss your needs on 07 5593 0855.  They help clients Australia wide with their protection strategies.

 

[1] Lloyd’s Global Underinsurance Report 2016

[2] Rice Warner Underinsurance Research Report 2014

The Working Woman Juggle

As most women already know, there’s lots to juggle all at once. There’s our partner’s needs, the kids, maintaining the home and household, extended family, friends and fitting in the ‘me’ time.  And whilst some of this can be outsourced, in practice, it’s not always possible.

Which in turn, raises two major issues in life that need facing: Heath and Wealth.  If you’re healthy, efforts can be made to invest wisely.  If you’re unwell, here’s hoping you have adequate strategies in place.

Stress tends to pressure the adrenals into working overtime, producing cortisol and adrenalin.  That’s great if you’re trying to fight a huge spider, but on an ongoing basis, doesn’t do wonders for the internal organs.  Side effects can include high blood pressure which in turn raises other health risks.    The scary stats are that women have a 55% prevalence of cardiovascular disease (men 45%) and 5% burden of stroke (men 4%) and two thirds of all heart failure sufferers are female.  (Australia’s Health 2008)

And most women deal with stress by smoking and/or drinking.  Both of which also cause an increase in likelihood of cancer and organ damage.  Drug use is on the rise and it’s also difficult to maintain a great diet when eating on the run or at erratic hours,  and reaching for the comfort food or fast food.

Many women over 55 now have higher cholesterol than men and a greater incidence of diabetes mellitus.  Women also choose to put off child bearing to a later age, and unfortunately this in turn can lead to increased complications!

Who’d be a working woman??

Or the better question is… how can we reduce some of the stress??  Well, the top tips will come as no surprise, and take a little planning.

1. Ensure the diet is improved – even just increasing the fruit and veg and water intake can help.

2. Quit smoking.  You know why!

3. Decrease the amount of alcohol taken.  I’m up for a glass of bubbles as much as the next girl, but do ensure there’s a  couple of alcohol free days each week.

4. Time Management.  Take a look-see at each day and see if there isn’t just a better way of getting things done.  Can you delegate some tasks? Rearrange others? Have someone help out with the kids each week. Meal clubs and car pools can work wonders to free up time.

And for your own sake, please consider:  Life Insurance, Total & Permanent Disablement Cover, Trauma Protection and Disability Income Cover.

With such hugely active lifestyles now and associated risk factors, it’s vital that working girls have the products to provide an income stream or ability to pay down debts in the event of the unexpected.

Look after yourself!  You’re worth it!

WomanHappy