Category Archives: investing

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.

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?

 

Lessons from the Past

Some of us have challenges when we reach those big milestone ages of 30, 40, 50, 60 etc.

We put pressure on ourselves about what we should have achieved and how much we should have accomplished.  There are pressures from the media on how we should look, how much we should have in the bank, how many investment properties and should have, how many places we should have visited and sometimes,  when we don’t meet these cultural criteria, we suffer.

Others set out on a journey of adventure – 40 things by 40!  Suddenly, they’re jumping out of planes, dancing naked in the moonlight and splurging on holidays they’d never taken…  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

The truth is anything can happen, at any age and any time; and there are no set rules.  No-one says you need to be 65 kgs, have 2.2 kids, a dog, a station wagon, and a house with a white picket fence, a $10,000 emergency fund and budding portfolio.  (Thank goodness, my station wagon days are sooo over!  And I think my cat is my 0.2 of a child…)

Learn from your past and look forward to a beautiful future.  End of story.

Today, be mindful about what you have already done so far in your life.  Really.  Truly.  What can you acknowledge yourself for?  Age is completely irrelevant.

In the wise words of Rafiki, “Oh yes, the past can hurt, but you can either run from it, or learn from it.”  (Thank you, The Lion King.)

Have you collected amazing memories?  Made a beautiful family?  Learnt a skill you’d always wanted to?  Paid off your home?  Are you content with your life?  Is real wealth to you a cuddle from a loved one?  Does giving make you feel successful?

What cool lessons we’ve learned so far.  I wonder what else the future has in store?