Category Archives: investing

Women & Superannuation

I’ve met plenty of people skeptical about our superannuation system over my years as a planner and I get it.  Believe me, I have to devote hours ever year to keeping up with the annual federal budget, managing legislative changes and getting my head around constantly changing tax and super laws.  It can be a drag!

It’s also true that we retire with about half the retirement savings of most men, and some women retire with no super at all!  But the reality is this, women live longer than men, making it even more essential that they accumulate enough superannuation to last them through retirement.

Having said that, women also face unique challenges when it comes to putting away retirement savings. Chances are, you’re still on lower pay than your male counterparts, you’ll take more time out of the workforce to raise the kids or care for your parents, and for those running a single-parent household, it can make it even more challenging to build a reasonable amount of super savings.

However, there are some simple strategies make it possible for women to overcome some of these hurdles, or make them less of an issue anyway…

Try and remember, that superannuation is actually your friend.  It is a very tax-effective way to save retirement. Your super fund pays a low rate of tax on contributions and investment earnings while growing your nest egg.  From age 60, you can withdraw your super tax-free.

Without any superannuation savings, many women are forced to rely solely on the age pension in their senior years.  Remember, the pension is designed as a safety net and won’t provide at all for a comfortable old age.  I’m not sure I could go back to a lifestyle that’s funded on around $23,000 per annum and you probably don’t want to either!

Firstly, don’t let your super funds get ‘lost.’  Try and ensure your funds are consolidated – this can help save on fees, but make sure you’re not losing valuable insurance coverage when doing so.  When possible, try to put extra away into super.  The ATO and website MyGov are making it easier than ever now to stay on top of your funds.

Affording an extra $20 – $50 per week now may not take food off the table but the additional money, plus years of compound interest will add up, and after all, your investing in your future self.  Sounds like a win to me!

Understand your fund and make sure your employer is putting your full entitlements in regularly on your behalf.  At the time of writing, this was 9.5% of your gross wage. Mostly now, we have super choice meaning that we’re able to choose the fund we want, and then check where your money is invested within the fund.  Is it in line with your investment profile?

To grow your fund, you’re often able to make pre-tax contributions (Salary Sacrifice) or even post-tax contributions where no tax is charged.  Depending on your circumstances, your partner may also be able to make contributions on your behalf and receive a tax offset for their efforts.

However you go about it, remember that you’re investing in your future and that superannuation is your money.  It certainly pays to be savvy with your super!  Sitting down with your financial adviser may reveal new and innovative ways you can make the most of your retirement savings!

How Budget 2017 may affect Small Businesses

The announcements in this update are proposals unless stated otherwise. These proposals need to successfully pass through Parliament before becoming law and may be subject to change during this process.

What’s in and what’s out!

• Small businesses with a turnover up to $10 million can write off expenditure up to $20,000 for a further year

• No changes to negative gearing or capital gains tax

• Depreciation deductions for plant and equipment on residential investment properties will be limited

• Accommodation and travel deductions for residential rental property will be disallowed

• An annual foreign worker levy of $1,200 or $1,800 will apply per worker per year on temporary work visas and a $3,000 or $5,000 one-off levy for those on a permanent skilled visa

• The Government will spend $75 billion in infrastructure funding and financing over the next 10 years

• A $472 million Regional Growth Fund will be established.

The main change for small businesses with aggregate annual turnover of less than $10 million was the extension of the ability to immediately deduct eligible assets costing less than $20,000 first used or installed ready for use by 30 June 2018. Certain assets are not eligible, for example horticultural plants and in-house software. Assets valued at $20,000 or more can continue to be placed in the small business simplified depreciation pool and depreciated at 15% in the first income year and 30% thereafter. The pool can also be immediately deducted if the balance is less than $20,000 over this period (including existing pools). From 1 July 2018, the thresholds for the immediate deduction of assets and the value of the pool will revert to $1,000. A major new levy on the five biggest banks with liabilities above $100 billion will raise $6.2 billion over the Budget forward estimates. It will not apply to additional Tier 1 capital and deposits of individuals, businesses and other entities protected by the Financial Claims Scheme. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will undertake a residential mortgage pricing inquiry until 30 June 2018 in conjunction with the levy.

Legislation to support a reduction in the company tax rate over 10 years starting on 1 July 2016 passed Parliament on 9 May 2017. The first companies to benefit were those with turnover of less than $10 million, which moved to the 27.5% rate on 1 July 2016. The tax rate for companies with annual turnover below $25 million will be 27.5% from 1 July 2017 and those with turnover of less than $50 million will be taxed at 27% from 1 July 2018. Legislation to support an increase in the tax offset for unincorporated small businesses over 10 years to 16% from 5% passed Parliament on 9 May 2017. This offset applies to the tax payable on the business income and it benefits unincorporated small businesses that do not receive a reduced company tax rate.

Housing and superannuation

Individuals will be able to make voluntary contributions to their superannuation accounts to help buy their first home from 1 July 2017. Generally, pre–tax contributions (personal deductible or salary sacrifice) of up to $15,000 per year and $30,000 in total can be made. First-home super saver scheme contributions must be made within the concessional contributions cap ($25,000 in 2017-18) and will be taxed at 15%. Contributions and deemed earnings can be withdrawn from 1 July 2018 and will be taxed at the member’s marginal rate less a 30% tax offset. Non-concessional contributions can also be made but will not benefit from the tax concessions apart from earnings being taxed at the concessional super rate of 15% and these will be tax-free when withdrawn.

Housing supply target

The States will be required to deliver on housing supply targets and reform their planning systems and a $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility will aim to remove infrastructure impediments to developing new homes. In Melbourne, Defence Department land at Maribyrnong will be released for a new suburb that could cater for 6,000 new homes. A new National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation will be established by 1 July 2018, to provide long-term, low-cost finance for more affordable rental housing. States and Territories will be encouraged to transfer stock to the community housing sector and managed Investment trusts will be allowed to develop and own affordable housing. The incentive for investors will include a capital gains tax discount of 60%, and direct deduction of welfare payments from tenants.

There are no changes to negative gearing, but tougher rules on foreign investment in residential real estate remove the main residence capital gains tax exemption and tighten compliance. An annual levy of at least $5,000 will also apply to all future foreign-owned properties that are vacant for at least six months each year. As well, developers also won’t be allowed to sell more than 50% of new developments to foreign investors.

Education and health care

This Budget will invest $18.6 billion in extra schools funding over the next 10 years, in accordance with the Gonski needs-based standard. Funding for each student across all sectors will grow at an average of 4.1% a year. However, university fees will rise by $2,000 to $3,600 for a four-year course and students will have to start paying back their debt when they earn more than $42,000 from July next year, down from the current level of $55,000. A 2.5% efficiency dividend will be applied to universities for the next two years. In health care, the Medicare levy will increase on 1 July 2019 by 0.5% to 2.5% of taxable income to help fund the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The Treasurer says all Australians have a role to play in supporting the disability scheme, even if they aren’t directly affected. The Budget lifts the freeze on the indexation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule and reinstates bulk billing for diagnostic imaging and pathology services. Hospital funding will increase by an additional $2.8 billion over four years and an additional $115 million will be spent on mental health initiatives. Another $1.4 billion will be spent on health research over the next four years.

What’s next?

Most changes must be legislated and passed through Parliament before they apply. If you think you may be impacted by some of the Budget’s proposed changes, you should consider seeking professional advice. A financial adviser can give you a clear understanding of where you stand and how you can manage your cash flow, super and investments in light of proposed changes.

Saving for the Kids’ Education

Preparing for higher education

Like most parents, you want your children to have the best education possible, yet school and university expenses and fees are undeniably costly. The money you spend on your kids’ education could be one of your family’s biggest expenses.  Depending on where you’re based, it may be right up there with your Mortgage repayments.

Not that many of us begrudge the spend, viewing it more of an investment in our children’s futures.

Some will need to decide whether 12 years of formal schooling will be undertaken in the private space or whether just the high school years will be funded.  Others are also happy to help with University costs and some allow Fee Help (formerly known as HECS) to pick up that tab.  Whatever you choose, there’s costs attached and it’s best to be prepared.

Once you’ve worked out your family’s preference, starting to save early will help your children have a high-quality learning experience.

It pays to do your homework.  Research what schools in your area charge each term so you have an understanding of what is required.  Will you need to move to be in the catchment area of your preferred school?  Do you know other parents or students of the school you can ask for testimonials about their experience there?  Do you need to register your child years in advance to get into your preferred school?  Knowing your costs early will give you greater time to save and help avoid disappointment.

The decision to send your children to public or private schools and then to university will determine just how much you need to put aside to start saving.  Despite your wishes, it’s also hard to know whether your children will want to go on to University until they’re some way into their academic career and begin to form some idea about what they’d like to do for a living.  Will a gap year needed to figured into the equation with money for travel?  Or will they fund that by working a part-time job from when they’re able.

What will you need?

As an example… if you send two children to private high school for six years each, which costs around $20,000 a year for each child, by the time they graduate you’ll have spent $240,000 on school fees. And that doesn’t take into account any extras like school uniforms, textbooks, trips and excursions, tutoring, extra-curricular activities, sporting clinics and the like.  This could see costs closer to $275,000 by the time they’re through.

If you only wish to save only for high-school years, you’ll have around 11 to 12 years to save for each child.  If the figures seem out of reach, you may need to rethink what you have to put aside, or review the schools your child will attend.

Public schools are much cheaper but there’s still no such thing as ‘free education.  There are extra fees for textbooks, uniforms, trips, stationery and school camps to pay for. These can easily add up around $1,000 per annum.

Trade Colleges are dearer than public schooling but for those looking to enter trade’s or take over dad’s business, these can be a great option for later high school years.  Often they’re around $4 – $7,000 and only two years is required.

The cost of going to university or college can also vary. If your child is eligible for HECS-HELP (a government loan available to tertiary students) they can choose to defer payment of university fees until they’re earning a living.  Entering the work force with large student loans may not be ideal, but in many cases is unavoidable.

Even if you (or they) aren’t paying upfront tuition fees, there’s still books, textbooks and materials, union and sports fees, lunches, accommodation and transport costs. Contact the university or college and find out how much each of these things will cost each semester, so you have an idea of how much money you will need to save.  And if you’re thinking ahead, don’t forget to allow for inflation too.

The earlier you start saving for your children’s education, the better. Education costs are usually a long-term goal that can take more than 5 years to achieve so stashing early is your best bet.

Then, once you’ve got a ballpark figure in mind to reach for, work out where you’ll put that money.  Are you happy with high interest, web based savings accounts and term deposits or want to invest in education funds or bonds for the longer term?  With interest rates at historical lows, it’s hard to find good returns on conservative styles of investments.

If there’s a top tip to getting set for education costs, it would be to research, plan, track and manage your savings goals on the go.  And be sure to review on at least a half yearly basis to make sure you’re on target.

My Top Financial Tip

If there’s one tip I’m constantly asked for, it’s what’s the best way to get on top of your finances?  And for me, that’s easy to answer – “Live Within Your Means!”  Good money management boils down to harnessing the cash flow and getting on top of debt – with the biggest gremlin being credit cards.

If the word ‘budget’ annoys you and has you running for the door, try ‘spending plan’ instead.  A budget/plan should be divided between fixed regular costs (those you MUST meet) and discretionary spending (the WANTS and nice to have stuff.)

Work out first what it costs for mortgage or rent payments, food, clothing, utility bills and loans.  This means you’ll have a much better idea of where you stand and how much you are spending on fun stuff like entertainment and non-essentials.

Losing the credit cards should be a top priority.  Learning that if you can’t afford it now, you can’t have it, is a great skill to take through life.  That’s not to say lay-buy or payment plans can’t work, but we need to move on from the ‘I want it now’ mentality.

Learn what you’re capable of when you’ve got less commitments like interest payments for items you’ve forgotten that you’ve even bought.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve with better spending and saving habits.

Did you know, that if you’re 25 and have a nest egg of around $5000 and you’re able to save $50 – $75 a week at around 7% average interest (compounding over the long-term) you could have yourself a cool $1 million by retirement at 65?  It might be a while off, but it does highlight the opportunity cost of spending around $200 to $300 a month on eating out, movies, drinks and ‘stuff.’  Add that to your compulsory super and that’s not a bad way to enjoy post-work life.

Most however don’t really start thinking about retirement until they’re 40 plus and suddenly realise they’re half way through their working life and have been wasting the ready for over 20 years.  It’s time to analyse those poor financial habits now!

Reducing debt and saving as much as possible is imperative if you want to maintain a certain standing of living both now, and when you retire, and living within your means makes life a lot easier.  Life without ongoing financial stresses also helps you sleep easier now. Chances are, the Centrelink age pension will be harder and harder to come by and eventually disappear.

It’s up to us to take charge of our financial future, and the sooner, the better.  Living within your means from now, is vital.  Are you?

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!!

What does a Brighter Financial Future Look like for You?

What lights your fire financially?  Everyone’s financial future looks different.

For some people, it might be as simple as being completely debt free.  Others couldn’t live without an annual holiday.  Many want the security of a small nest egg or emergency fund being available.  Others would love an investment property.  Whatever it means to you, a brighter financial future can start with a few small changes to how you currently deal with money. The key is usually to establish some good financial habits – no matter where you are right now.

What are some steps you can personally take towards a brighter financial future?   Most often, it starts with living within your means, or spending less than you earn.  I’ll outline a few options and suggest you try a couple to begin with and see what a difference it makes in your personal circumstances.

  1. Track your daily spending habits – get a receipt for everything you purchase and pop it on a spike or in a box for a month.  See what’s really going on with your spending!
  2. Begin a budget.  And before your eyes glaze over, there’s plenty of online calculators that can help you, so you don’t need to do it alone.  Try the ASIC MoneySmart option to kick things off.
  3. Review your spending habits – Do you have the best phone plan?  Are your insurances the best value for coverage and cost?  Are your bank accounts and fees cost effective?  Do you have a low cost loan and a good deal on your mortgage?  Can you cancel some subscriptions you no longer need? There’s lots of comparison sites now available to help!  Where can you cut back?
  4. Start clearing debt – work out what’s the highest interest rate across your various debts – quite often, it’s the credit card or personal loan.  Especially if the debt if not tax-deductible, work out a plan to bring it down more quickly.  Paying the minimum each month, you’ll never get rid of what you owe!  As one clears, cancel or reduce the facility and then start directing those funds towards the next debt.
  5. Is it time to start investing?  As your debt comes down and you no longer need to fund those large payments, can these be directed towards an investment portfolio?  Find out if you’re ready to start investing here.
  6. Take care of your future!  Have you given due care or attention to your retirement savings?  It’s easy to put it on the back burner thinking it’s so far off, but it is your money and needs to be nurtured.  Chances are, the Government’s pension plan will be less and less available over time, so taking care of number one should be higher on your list than it likely already is.  And the longer you have to go, the better compounding interest will work in your favour.

Hopefully, these tips will help set you on the way to a brighter financial future.  I’d love to know if you’ve tried one out and let me know how it’s worked for you!

When should I start Investing?

I’m often told, “when I have money, then I’ll come to see you…”

I take this to mean that most people really aren’t sure about why they should see an advisor or believe that they only help people  who have funds to invest.  Not always true!

So, if you’re someone who isn’t really sure about when to start, here’s a few questions you can ask yourself to see how you’re tracking…

  1.  Do you live within your means and spend less than you earn?
  2. Are your personal loan payments up to date and credit cards paid off monthly?
  3. Do you have an emergency fund for a rainy day?
  4. Are your personal protection plans in place, covering your life, health and income?
  5. Are your superannuation funds all consolidated and invested in line with your risk profile?
  6. Are you comfortably repaying debts like a mortgage and could still manage to do so if interest raise increased?
  7. Do you have a regular savings plan now?
  8. Is there a specific goal that you’d like to achieve with an investment plan?

If you can happily respond with a Yes! to all these areas, chances are you’re ready to roll!  If not, see where you can improve your current situation before taking the leap.

Investing for many women requires a bit of soul searching.  What’s the purpose of the investment?  Is it just long term growth?  To achieve a holiday goal?  Extra savings to supplement retirement income?  To save for your children’s education?  Is paying down debt a higher priority?  Often, these reasons or needs require different time frames for the investment and different levels of risk that you’re prepared to take.

Share market and property investments are typically viewed as long term investments (five to seven years plus) and for those with a more assertive or aggressive profile.  Cash, term deposits and fixed interst styles of investment often mean a shorter term need is to be met, where preservation of capital is paramount.

An adviser can help you articulate your goals and work out your risk profile.  Chances are, you may invest very differently with your superannuation savings than you would for that trip you’d like to take next year, amd each rqeuire a very different strategy.

If you’d like to find out your Risk Profile, drop me an email and I’d be happy to forward you a questionnaire to see where your levels of tolerance sit.