Regaining financial control after a scam 

Regaining financial control after a scam 

A year before retirement, Tess’s superannuation plan was on track, and she was imagining her post-work life. With savings of $34,000 at the bank, she was looking to park it somewhere it could earn better interest while rates were rising.   Considering herself reasonably savvy with money, she began investigating her options.  After hearing about someone who’d made a fortune with cryptocurrency, Tess was intrigued and decided to look into it.   Tess researched crypto-companies and compared what was on offer. When eventually she made her decision, she believed she’d chosen the right investment – how wrong could she be!   Within hours Tess realised she’d been scammed.  Shocked and feeling ill, she reported it to ScamWatch, but over the following days the self-blame settled in.   How could she be so gullible? So naïve?  What was she thinking?! How could she have fallen for such an obvious fraud?   Who knew that financial shame was a thing? But there it was in the form of an empty bank account.  Deeply embarrassed, her financial security shattered, Tess lay awake every night berating herself; through her foolishness she’d lost all her cash savings! She became withdrawn, declined social events and refused to unburden herself, even to close friends.   Finally, in desperation, she decided to speak with a counsellor. Tess discovered organisations like Beyond Blue, ScamWatch and Lifeline offered advice and emotional support. She chose one that felt right for her.  Initially, it was difficult to open up and acknowledge her mistake, but the counsellor explained that part of her recovery was confronting her feelings head-on and realising that victims came from all cultures, backgrounds and levels of education. Feelings of humiliation and shame were normal, although unjustified, as the crooks were highly skilled criminals with access to the latest technology.  Heartened by the counsellor’s words, Tess learned to stop blaming herself and confided in her daughter Louise.  What a relief that was! Louise was gentle and supportive, and introduced Tess to her friend Jarrod, a financial adviser.  Throughout Jarrod’s career, he’d assisted innumerable people who’d fallen victim to scams. Most felt insecure and vulnerable, so his approach was to assist them with practical advice around getting their finances back on track.  He believed that Tess would benefit from a temporary, part-time job. She could rebuild her cash savings, and staying busy would distract her from her worries and help her move on.   When discussing her interests and skills, Tess mentioned she loved animals so Jarrod suggested she consider pet-minding or dog-walking, adding that he could setup the necessary insurance.  Then, Jarrod explained, that while her superannuation was on target, there was a difference between investing for retirement and investing for wealth.  Retirement investing was about saving to fund an income stream that met post-work lifestyle goals. Complying retirement funds offered tax advantages and focused on generating returns.   Conversely, investing for wealth involved accumulating assets beyond what is needed to provide retirement income.   For Tess, financial security was critical, so Jarrod considered her risk tolerance and structured a tax-efficient portfolio of growth assets to support capital appreciation and wealth accumulation.   It also meant that Tess could leave something behind for Louise – a legacy she hadn’t felt was important, until she realised how financially exposed the scam had left her.  Tess’s recovery wasn’t without its challenges. It took time and sacrifice, but along the way she developed a greater sense of independence and resilience.   She delayed retirement by a year, so she could recoup her lost savings and contribute the money from her new side hustle to her wealth portfolio.   In the end, Tess’s Dog Minding and Walking Service continued well after Tess’s retirement, for the sheer enjoyment she derived from hanging out with dogs.  The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.  

Avoid passing bad money habits on to your children

Avoid passing bad money habits on to your children

Generally speaking, we Australians are pretty financially savvy, that is, we understand the how and why of effectively managing our money. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean we’re actually putting that know-how into practise and making astute financial decisions.   According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the average Australian household debt has risen by 7.3% (over $260,000) in the 2021-2022 financial year. As of July 2023, Australians were paying $18.4 billion – that’s billion with a B – in credit card interest every year.  As parents, we’re role models, integral to shaping our children’s values and beliefs. Like little sponges, they absorb our behavioural patterns, pick up on signals and mimic our actions.  For us to replace bad money habits with good ones may be a big ask, particularly as they’ve evolved over the course of our lives. But the trouble is that kids are a cluey bunch, eager to learn from us, and not surprisingly, our money habits are among many characteristics we unintentionally pass onto them.  Of course, we all want the best for our children. But in this busy world, we’re pulled in so many directions at once that sometimes it’s all we can do to juggle our daily work, family, school and social lives. Who has time to consider the inadvertent messages we could be giving out?   Yet, when it comes to ensuring our children are equipped to build themselves a secure financial future, it’s worth the effort, right?   The table below shows a list of good and bad money habits that are commonly passed onto children.  Poor money habits  Good money habits Impulse buying We regularly make spur-of-the-moment purchases. Additionally, we tend to indulge our kids – we want them to be happy.  Impulsive or indulgent behaviour can inadvertently foster in children an attitude of instant gratification, normalising impulse buying.  Lead by example As a family, we discuss the difference between needs and wants. When we see something we want, we walk away and give ourselves a cooling off period to determine whether we genuinely need the item. We encourage our kids to wait for things they want, and suggest that delaying the purchase can lead to smarter choices and savings. When shopping we compare prices and identify items that offer better value.   Not budgeting  We don’t have a household budget, preferring to manage our money as it comes in. But even though we know what bills are due we often seem to have trouble getting the money together. Sometimes we run out of money before pay day.   Not budgeting can engender a culture of living pay-to-pay and children can grow up not understanding the importance of tracking spending and living within their means.  Family budgeting  We involve our children in creating and monitoring our household budget. We discuss decisions around allocating money for different purposes so that when our kids receive pocket money or gift money, they can practise budgeting by setting amounts aside for saving, spending, etc.  Credit card misuse  We rarely use cash; using a card is fast and convenient. Although occasionally we max the card out we make sure we pay off as much as we can every month. Some months, depending on expenses, we can’t manage the full balance. Cards, while useful, can cause children to perceive them as a source of unlimited money.  No free money  We have taught our children how to read our card statements. They know how to check purchases against receipts and understand how interest adds to the card balance. We involve our kids in making card payments and explain the consequences of not paying the full balance each month.  Not saving  We’ve never set up a structured savings plan so have little-to-no savings. We’d like to take a holiday or have a nestegg for emergencies but there never seems to be any money left over at the end of the pay cycle. Children seeing parents struggling to save may not learn the value of saving or setting goals.  Set goals, save We stick to our budget and always try to allocate a portion of income towards savings, and encourage our kids to do the same. We get them to set short-term goals like saving for a new toy or book, and long-term goals like an outing or a larger purchase, and then help them create a savings plan to achieve their goals. We make it fun by using a visual chart to track progress and when they reach their goal, we celebrate the achievement, making a special occasion out of buying the item or attending the event.  Failing to discuss  We never talk about money with our kids. They have a limited understanding of how money is earned and how we use it. Failing to discuss how money is earned can lead to children not grasping the concept of money as a finite resource, and appreciating its value. Widespread use of credit cards or taking cash from ATMs suggests that money is readily accessible.   Have the conversation  We have always been open with our kids about the household finances. We want them to understand that money needs to be earned, and if not used wisely and allocated appropriately, it can run out. We have also provided the opportunity for them to earn pocket money for doing age-appropriate household chores.  If we can make time to examine the way we view and use money, and replace poor habits with good ones, we can positively influence our kids by:  As parents we have a limited opportunity to equip our children with tools like, knowledge, confidence and forward planning skills – before they decide they know more than us!   So, by modelling good financial behaviour ourselves, we can instil the habits that will set our children up for a life of financial freedom.   I don’t know about you, but if I can achieve that, I’ll know that I’ve done what I can to enable the next generation to succeed and thrive.   What a legacy!  The information provided in this article is general in nature only…

Charting a course to financial recovery 

Charting a course to financial recovery 

Australian Bureau of Statistics, (ABS) figures indicate that between 2017-2018 and 2019-2020 total average household debt rose from $190,000 to $204,000.  That’s an increase of over 7% in two years!  The reasons why would make for an interesting study, however a more pressing question might be what can we do about it?   Combine high levels of debt with rising interest rates and a cost-of-living crisis, and it’s no surprise that Australian households are reaching out to Debt Management (DM) companies to help regain control of their finances.  DM companies are private organisations that can assist by:  Sometimes, DM companies repay your debts – to a specified limit – and you repay them under a single loan arrangement. Terms and payment amounts can be negotiated, offering a beacon of hope and a sense that you’re taking back control.  If this sounds like the perfect solution, remember that for every pro, there’s usually a con. For example:  While weighing the pros and cons of a DM service, here are a few do-it-yourself strategies for consideration.  Budgeting  Creating a budget is a 3-step process.  The government’s Moneysmart website lists easy ways of cutting back everyday spending.  Negotiating  Rather than customers defaulting, most banks and utilities companies prefer to negotiate repayment terms, sometimes even offering assistance programs.    The key is to reach out before it’s too late. Be upfront about your situation and willing to arrive at a mutually beneficial arrangement.   Remember, nobody wins when debts are not paid.  Government assistance  The Australian government provides a range of financial assistance packages and interest-free loans depending on circumstances. These include crisis payments for unexpected situations, and income support payments for cost of living expenses.  Of course there are conditions, but further information, including application criteria, is available from the MyGov website.   Financial counselling   Financial counsellors help you understand your financial position and assist you to navigate your way out of difficulty.  Some local communities offer free, or low-cost, financial literacy programs, aimed at providing education about money and debt reduction.  Everyone’s financial position is unique. There’s no one-size-fits-all, so it’s important that your action plan is specific to your needs and that you’re 100% comfortable with any decisions you make.  If you’re uncertain, seek the assistance of a qualified financial planner.   What’s crucial is that you do something; being proactive is empowering and sets you on the path to financial recovery.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.  

Building financial resilience 

Building financial resilience 

Resilience is the ability to quickly recover from setbacks, and while setbacks can come in many forms most of them will have a financial component. So what can you do to build financial resilience?  Expect the unexpected  Rarely do we get advance warning that something bad is about to happen to us, so the time to develop your resilience strategy is now. And while we don’t know the specifics, we can anticipate events that would throw our finances into disarray. A house burning down or a car being stolen. Not being able to work due to illness or injury. The death of a breadwinner or caregiver.   With some idea of the type of threat we face we may be able to insure against some of them. If you have taken out any type of insurance policy you’ve already made a start on your resilience plan.  Create buffers  You can’t insure against every possibility, but you can build financial buffers. This might simply be a savings account that you earmark as your emergency fund that you contribute to each payday. If your home loan offers a redraw facility you can also create a buffer by getting ahead on your mortgage repayments.   Buffers can be particularly important for retirees drawing a pension from their super fund. Redeeming growth assets for cash in order to make pension payments during a market downturn can lead to a depletion of capital and reduction in how long the money will last. By maintaining a cash buffer of, say, two year’s worth of pension payments, redemptions of growth assets can be deferred, giving time for the market to recover.  Cut costs  The Internet abounds with tips on how to cut costs and save money. In difficult economic times cost cutting can help you maintain your financial buffers and important insurances.   Key to cost cutting is tracking your income and expenditure and yes, that means doing a budget. Find the right budgeting app for you and this chore could actually be fun.  Invest in quality  There are many companies out there that have long track records of consistently pumping out profits and dividends. They may not be as exciting (i.e. volatile) as the latest techno fad stocks but when markets get the jitters these blue chip companies are more likely to maintain their value than the newcomers.  This is important. The more volatile a portfolio the more likely an investor is to sell down into a declining market. This turns paper losses into real ones, depriving the investor the opportunity to ride the market back up again.  The other key tool in creating resilient portfolios is diversification. Buying a range of investments both within and across the major asset classes is a fundamental strategy for managing portfolio volatility.  With a well-diversified portfolio of quality assets there is less need to regularly buy and sell individual investments. Unnecessary trading can create ‘tax drag’ where the realisation of even a marginal   capital gain triggers a capital gains tax event and consequent reduction in portfolio value.  Take advice  Building financial resilience can be a complicated process requiring an understanding of a range of issues that need to be balanced against one another and prioritised. Your financial planner is ideally placed to assist you in developing your own, personalised plan for financial resilience.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.  

Post Christmas Sales – A Survival Guide 

Post Christmas Sales – A Survival Guide 

We’ve all experienced it… the undeniable allure of post-Christmas sales.   No sooner has Christmas wrapped up for the year than the frenzy of Boxing Day Sales descends upon us.  Every store window beckons, and our inboxes overflow with promises of unbeatable discounts.  But before you indulge in some festive leftovers and make a beeline for the air-conditioned wonderland of sales, let’s take a moment to pause and ponder…   Is that shiny, discounted gadget truly a necessity?   Do those new outfits genuinely add value to your wardrobe?   Or might there be a wiser way to allocate your hard-earned money?  The Allure and Reality of Post-Christmas Sales  The holiday season often leaves our wallets feeling lighter than usual.   Australia’s festive spending reached an eye-watering $74.5 billion in 2022, marking an 8.6% increase from the previous year, according to the Australian Retailers Association.   And Boxing Day? A whopping $1.23 billion was spent in just 24 hours!   These figures aren’t just numbers; they paint a picture of our collective weakness for a good holiday sale.  But here’s the other side of the coin: while sales can offer genuine bargains, they also come with pitfalls. The risk of accumulating more debt is a very real reality for many shoppers, especially with credit cards already stretched thin from holiday shopping.   And let’s face it, impulse purchases can often lead to buyer’s remorse and an overstuffed home.  The Merits of Post-Christmas Sales  While the post-Christmas sales period often comes with warnings of overspending, it’s not all doom and gloom.  When approached with a well-thought-out strategy, these sales can be a great opportunity to secure essential items—be it electronics, clothing, or household goods—at a fraction of their original prices.   But how can one truly benefit without falling into the common traps? The key lies in being discerning.   With a bit of planning and restraint, the post-Christmas sales can be both enjoyable and economically rewarding.  Smart Money Moves Beyond Sales  It’s easy to forget about your bigger picture goals when there are neon signs screaming discounts of 50% OFF or more!  But remember, every dollar spent is a dollar less saved… or put towards those bigger picture goals.    Before you fall prey to the post-Christmas sales, consider these alternatives:  Save for a Rainy Day: Life is unpredictable. Having a safety net can make all the difference.  Debt Reduction: Free yourself from the burden of debt, by paying down your credit cards and/or any loans you have.   Invest: Think stocks, bonds, or other avenues to grow your wealth. (Hello Financial Freedom!)  Financial Goals: Would you rather a new outfit?  Or to be one step closer to that dream holiday, new car, or first home?    Post-Christmas sales can be both a treasure trove and a minefield. The choice is yours.   This festive season don’t succumb blindly to the allure of holiday sale discounts. Instead, either purchase your “need to have” items (remember, be discerning here!), or skip the sales completely and opt to put the money towards your financial goals!   Here’s to spending wisely, and a financially savvy new year!  The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.  

The challenges of being a Carer

The challenges of being a Carer

Caring for a loved one can be deeply fulfilling but brings its fair share of challenges too – as Laura discovered.   When her mother Shelly had a stroke, she didn’t require a nursing facility, but could no longer live alone.   Laura was working part-time while studying a Bachelor of Dental Surgery and dreaming of one day opening her own boutique dental practice. She assumed that moving home to care for Shelly wouldn’t greatly affect her career plans, and, in fact, giving up her rental accommodation would save money.  Unfortunately however, Shelly had had to quit work so the pair only had Laura’s wages to live on. Yet the bills kept coming in, and on top of everyday living costs, expenses such as medicines, transportation and modifications to the home soon added up.  Additionally, helping Shelly attend medical appointments and assisting with errands put Laura behind in her studies. Since Shelly’s condition was not going to improve, Laura deferred her course; telling friends she’d return later.  A great emotional weight settled on Laura’s shoulders as she automatically prioritised her mother’s day-to-day needs above her own.  As expected, Shelly’s condition worsened. Medical sessions often clashed with Laura’s work commitments leaving her no option but to give up her job as well.  While expecting to support her mum physically and emotionally, Laura wasn’t prepared for the financial hit.  Fortunately, the Australian government offers a range of financial assistance packages, such as:  Applicants must meet prescribed criteria and the amount of payment varies depending on the situation.  The Government website www.servicesaustralia.gov.au contains a wealth of information for carers, including eligibility criteria, entitlement estimation calculators and information on how to claim.  Shelly’s doctor provided program leaflets and additional details, and helped Laura gather the medical paperwork and other relevant documents.  For Laura, giving up her job impacted more than just her finances. Having already lost friends after too many declined invitations, she now lost her last source of social interaction.   Resigning herself to a life of care, Laura abandoned all thought of returning to university, along with her dreams for the future.  It was around this time that Laura discovered Carer Gateway www.carergateway.gov.au and Carers Australia www.carersaustralia.com.au.   These websites provided valuable carer resources, information and assistance services. While recognising that financial relief was crucial, their emphasis was on the relevance of self-care, urging carers not to underestimate the importance of their own well-being, particularly their physical and mental health.  Laura found a community of people who understood her situation, and a network of support groups, counselling services and respite programs encouraging carers to balance their care-giving responsibilities with their own needs.   One of Laura’s new friends suggested she seek legal advice around Powers of Attorney, and a financial adviser specialising in estate planning for both her own and Shelly’s peace of mind.  These days Laura says she feels the world opening up as the silence around caregiving is broken. With her mother’s illness, her life took an unexpected turn, yet it has expanded in other ways. Laura’s future is looking brighter; she has even enrolled in an online dental assistant course.  Not exactly what she’d originally planned, it’s nevertheless a pathway to her own future, and more than that, she’s daring to dream again.  The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.  

Roadmap to retiring young

Roadmap to retiring young

The dream of retiring young is one that captivates many peoples’ imaginations. The freedom to live life on your own terms, doing what you want, when you want is undeniably appealing, but is it attainable? We say yes! It doesn’t just happen, though. As with any goal, it takes planning and dedication along with a clear understanding of when and how you expect to achieve that goal. Early retirement, as a concept, means different things to different people. Therefore, the first step on the road to your early retirement is to be clear about what it will look like, starting with: With an understanding of what retirement means to you, you can begin the process of charting a course to achieving it. Develop a roadmap to early retirement by considering: Attaining any financial goal requires discipline. Coach yourself to say ‘no’ to indulgences in the present, remembering that with the right roadmap and financial know-how, you really can make your dream of early retirement come true. The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.  

Harvesting Financial Success

Harvesting Financial Success

Spring is the perfect time to rejuvenate your financial habits as well as your garden!  Here are 5 ways to set you, and your garden, up for success:  1. Plan your garden: Start with deciding what type of garden you want. In other words, get clear about what goals you want to achieve and by when. Once you have your list of goals prioritise them, so you know where to focus your efforts.  Tip: If a goal is large and will take some time to achieve, set yourself some smaller goals with shorter timeframes along the way.   2. Pull out the weeds: You don’t see garden designers on TV rushing in to plant a new garden without getting rid of the weeds first. In financial terms this is the same as eliminating bad debt. Bad debt is debt used to purchase things that don’t go up in value, like cars and household goods. Financing purchases with credit card debt (where the entire balance isn’t paid off each month), personal loans and perhaps ‘buy now, pay later’ facilities mean paying very high interest rates or late fees. Your total cost ends up much more than the original purchase price. These are your weeds – pull them out and don’t let them take hold again!  3. Prepare the soil: A key element to a flourishing garden is good soil. For us this is managing our cashflow. For many people our income is fairly consistent, so the focus is on managing outflows. Think of this as a spending plan not a budget. The ‘B’ word has a strong association with denial and, much like a diet, too much restriction can be counter-productive. Be honest when completing it as you need to know exactly where your cash is going. Your adviser can be a huge help with this. It’s an opportunity to look at your spending and think again about your goals. Is the enjoyment you get from three streaming services more than what you’ll get from achieving your goal? What do you want more?  Tip: Ways to reduce spending often require some planning. Taking lunch to work can save a heap of money. Too rushed to do it in the morning? Make something the night before – and remember to take it with you the next day!  4. Plant your garden: This is where things start to take shape! Gardens often start small so think of this as your initial investment which over time becomes larger and larger. In your financial life this is the power of compounding. To help those initial plants fill out your garden quicker you can add other small plants over time. This is known as dollar cost averaging or adding regularly to your initial investment to boost the effect of compounding.   5. Protect from pests: Your garden will appreciate some help to guard against pests and disease. In the same way it’s a good idea for you to protect your biggest asset – your ability to earn income. Income protection and other types of life insurance can protect you against unexpected events and prevent all the hard work you’ve put into your financial garden from unravelling.  Success requires commitment because, just like droughts which affect your garden, there will be times when reaching your goal seems hard going. Don’t abandon your dreams! With clear goals, elimination of bad debt, a realistic cashflow plan, disciplined regular saving and protection of your biggest asset, you’ll be harvesting rewards season after season!  The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.    

Building a Strong Foundation: Avoiding Mortgage Default

Building a Strong Foundation: Avoiding Mortgage Default

When building a home, it’s often said that the foundations are the most important part. Their primary purpose is to hold your house up – supporting the structure and preventing it from being affected by uneven ground. Similarly, when purchasing a home and financing it with a mortgage, your financial foundation is just as crucial. A solid financial foundation can help you avoid mortgage stress, loan default, or even eviction. Unfortunately, economic factors such as higher living expenses, interest rate hikes, or job loss can jeopardise your financial foundation. What is mortgage stress? Mortgage stress occurs when homeowners face difficulty meeting their mortgage repayments and their living expenses. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has developed a “Mortgage Affordability Indicator”, which applies a 30% mortgage repayment threshold based on a household’s income. Mortgage stress can cause immense strain on individuals and families and increase the risk of mortgage default. Defaulting on a home loan happens when borrowers cannot make repayments as per the agreed terms and conditions of the loan agreement. This situation may result in serious consequences, including eviction and mortgagee possession of the property by the lender. How to avoid mortgage stress and loan default 1. Know Your Financial Situation One of the most crucial steps to avoid mortgage default is having a clear understanding of your financial situation. By evaluating your income, expenses, and overall financial position, you can identify potential risks and understand what options are available to you. Tracking your income and expenses will help you to analyse your spending habits and identify areas where you can cut back or make adjustments to free up cash flow. This is also a great time to review your expenses and renegotiate with service providers. Reviewing your financial position may help you identify available options to assist in financial hardship. 2. Seek Professional Guidance A mortgage broker can help you assess your current loan terms and explore options for refinancing or loan modifications that better align with your financial circumstances. They can provide valuable advice and assist in negotiating more favourable terms with your lender. 3. Communicate with Your Lender If you anticipate difficulties in making your mortgage repayments, it is best to communicate proactively with your lender in advance. Most lenders have teams dedicated to supporting customers experiencing financial hardship. They may be able to offer temporary payment arrangements or alternative solutions to help you through a difficult period. Case Study: Consider the case of John and Sarah, a couple facing the risk of defaulting on their mortgage due to a sudden but temporary loss of income. To avoid this outcome, they took several steps: Reviewed their financial situation – John and Sarah underwent a complete review of their financial situation. They reviewed their expenses, paused or cut back on discretionary spending, and renegotiated with all of their utility and service providers. This freed up cash flow to allocate towards their home loan. They also identified that they were slightly ahead with their home loan repayments. Communicated with their lender – John and Sarah reached out to their lender to explore their loan repayment choices. Since they had made some progress in their payments, they were eligible for a repayment holiday. This option would allow them to pay less towards their home loan for the next six months. They had examined their financial situation and were confident that they could manage these reduced repayments, and this would give them six months to replace the lost income and get back on their feet. To prevent mortgage stress and default, it’s important to actively manage your finances and have a clear understanding of your financial situation. Though it can be tough, taking early action and being transparent with your lender can help you work together to overcome financial challenges and ensure the safety of your home. If you are facing any difficulties in making your mortgage payments, you can find helpful resources on the MoneySmart website: https://moneysmart.gov.au/. The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

Fixed rate mortgage expiring… Now what?

Fixed rate mortgage expiring… Now what?

If your fixed interest rate expiry is coming up, you might have started to think about what happens next and what action you need to take. Or you might be sticking your head in the sand and avoiding the topic entirely. Be warned! The worst thing you can do is take no action at all. If your fixed interest period is due to expire, then it’s time for a review of your finances – Revisit your budget A fixed rate expiry will mean a change to what is often one of our biggest expenses – the home loan repayment. In a rising interest rate environment, this likely means a bigger expense you will need to allow for. By revisiting your budget, you can make sure you can afford the new home loan repayment amount, or adjust your spending where needed. Know your financial situation Your financial situation is going to impact what options are available to you and what options might be best for you. If there’s been recent changes to your income position such as job loss, income reduction or maternity leave, for example, this may impact your ability to refinance your loan. As a result, you may have to stick with your current lender on terms you may not be happy with. If you have surplus cash flow that you want to use to reduce debt, a variable rate loan might be more appropriate so that you’re not as limited with the ability to make repayments. Alternatively, if cash flow is tight, you might appreciate the stability of a fixed rate loan, and knowing your repayment amounts won’t increase during the fixed rate period. By having a good understanding of your current financial position and future goals, you can determine what your needs are and what the best strategy is for you moving forward. Look at what the market is doing One of the main factors to consider when deciding between a fixed and variable interest rate is the current market. While no one has a crystal ball, it’s important to consider what is happening with the economy, housing markets and interest rates. Are interest rates trending up or down? And what might this mean for both fixed and variable interest rate loans? Get clear on your options When your fixed interest term expires, you will need to choose between either re-fixing your loan for a period or switching to a variable interest rate loan. This is also a good opportunity to review your existing loan provider against other loan providers, to ensure you are being offered a competitive rate. With your market research in hand, it’s time to call your existing lender to request a rate review. You can let them know you are considering refinancing your loan and want to know what the best they could offer is. It might be time to switch lenders if they’re not prepared to offer you a competitive rate.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

How to create a Debt Repayment Plan

How to create a Debt Repayment Plan

Debt can be overwhelming and stressful, but creating a plan to pay it off can help ease that burden. In Australia, household debt is on the rise, with the average household owing over $260,000 in 2021, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. If you’re struggling with debt, here are some tips and strategies for creating a debt repayment plan. Create a Budget The first step in creating a debt repayment plan is to create a budget. This will help you understand where your money is going and where you can cut back on expenses. List all of your income and expenses, including bills, rent or mortgage payments, groceries, and any other expenses. Once you have a clear picture of your finances, you can start to identify areas where you can save money. Prioritise High-Interest Debt If you have multiple debts, it’s important to prioritise the ones with the highest interest rates. These debts are costing you the most money in interest charges, so paying them off first will save you money in the long run. Make minimum payments on all of your debts, and put any extra money towards the one with the highest interest rate. Automate Payments Automating your debt payments can help ensure that you don’t miss any payments and incur late fees. Set up automatic payments for the minimum payments on all of your debts, and then add extra payments as you can afford them. This will also help you stay on track with your debt repayment plan. Choose a Repayment Strategy There are different methods of debt repayment, such as the snowball and avalanche methods. The snowball method involves paying off the smallest debt first, while the avalanche method involves paying off the debt with the highest interest rate first. Choose the method that works best for your situation, and stick to it. Case Study Let’s compare two scenarios to see how creating a debt repayment plan can make a difference. Scenario 1: Sarah has $10,000 in credit card debt, with an interest rate of 20%. She is making minimum payments of $200 per month, but is struggling to make progress on paying off the debt. Scenario 2: John has the same amount of credit card debt, but has created a debt repayment plan. He is making minimum payments of $200 per month, but has also cut back on expenses and is putting an extra $200 per month towards the debt. He is using the avalanche method, and has prioritised the credit card with the highest interest rate of 25%. After one year, Sarah will still have $8,360 in credit card debt, and will have paid $1,440 in interest charges. In contrast, John will have paid off $4,800 of his debt, and will have saved $1,200 in interest charges. Creating a debt repayment plan can make a big difference in your financial situation. By creating a budget, prioritising high-interest debt, automating payments, and choosing a repayment strategy, you can take control of your debt and work towards becoming debt-free. If you need help creating a debt repayment plan, speak with our advisers who can provide guidance and support.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

How to help your adult child buy their first home

How to help your adult child buy their first home

By Robert Goudie This savings strategy is about building a healthy deposit and allowing kids to learn about consistent, regular saving. The strategy will require patience to build a substantial deposit over several years. I also acknowledge that not all parents are able to help their children buy their first home. In my professional life as a personal financial adviser, I have seen many parents assist their children in purchasing their first home.  This has often been done with a lump sum. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t have the bonus of any tax efficiency or teaching children a regular savings habit to give them a sense of achievement. Purchasing a home can be difficult, especially as property prices have increased significantly in recent years. For many people, the high cost of housing (and living) has made it difficult to save a deposit for their first home, and even if they can do so, they may not be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments on a home that is within their budget.  Building a larger deposit can reduce the debt levels needed to buy their first home or even help them to buy in their preferred area. For parents with the financial capacity and want to help their children save for their first home without handing over a large lump sum, this strategy, combined with some patience, provides an effective way to build the deposit faster. (Please note: I would only recommend parents to do so that have met their own retirement financial goals and have the extra capacity to help out)  By subsiding your children’s income regularly, it can allow your child to start salary-sacrificing pre-tax dollars into superannuation – something that they normally couldn’t do without your help. Superannuation salary sacrifice Salary sacrificing is a way for employees in Australia to contribute part of their pre-tax salary into their superannuation account. This can be a tax-effective way to save for retirement because the contributions are taxed at a lower rate than your marginal tax rate. In Australia, the tax rate on contributions made through salary sacrifice is 15%. Contributions are made from your pre-tax salary, which means they are not taxed at the same rate as your income tax. This can be a significant saving if you are on a high marginal tax rate. For example, suppose you are on a marginal tax rate of 45% and were to salary sacrifice $10,000 into your superannuation account. In that case, you will pay $1,500 tax on those contributions (15% of $10,000). However, if you received that $10,000 as salary instead and then contributed it to your superannuation account after tax, you would pay $4,500 in tax (45% of $10,000). In this example, salary sacrificing would save you $3,000 in tax ($4,500 – $1,500). This can be a significant saving, especially over the long term.  However, it is important to note that there are limits on the amount you can salary sacrifice into your superannuation account each year. FHSSS In recent years, the Australian Government has implemented the First Home Superannuation Saver Scheme (FHSSS), allowing individuals to save for their first home inside their superannuation account. The policy was designed to help first-time home buyers save for a deposit more quickly by allowing them to make voluntary contributions to their superannuation account, which can then be withdrawn for a home deposit once certain conditions have been met. Under the FHSSS, individuals can apply to withdraw voluntary contributions of up to $15,000 from any one financial year from 2017 onwards, up to a total of $50,000 across all years. If you are in a couple, this is a combined $100,000.  Again, these contributions are taxed at a rate of 15%, which is generally lower than an individual’s marginal tax rate.  The money saved through the FHSSS can be withdrawn (less the 15% tax) for a home deposit once the individual has held their superannuation account for at least 12 months and met other specific eligibility requirements.  Note that superannuation contributions, including contributions made under the FHSSS, must still be within the standard annual caps for concessional super contributions. The FHSSS is one of several government initiatives aimed at helping Australians save for their first home and addresses housing affordability issues in the country. It is available to Australian citizens and permanent residents aged 18 and older who have not previously owned property in Australia and meet additional eligibility requirements. Let’s crunch the numbers Let’s assume a couple make a $14,705 contribution each into superannuation, earning $80,000 each per year, and continue this strategy for a full four years. We will first look at the amount saved in superannuation that can be used for a first home deposit and compare this saving with after-tax dollars outside the superannuation system.  After four years of salary sacrificing into superannuation and assuming no investment returns, you would have accumulated a combined $99,994. Compare this to saving after-tax dollars; you would have accumulated $77,054 in comparison. If a couple is lucky enough to have the ability to achieve the above, they would have saved $102,000, which is an extra $23,400 when compared to saving in after-tax dollars. Now let’s look at the amount of income that would need to be provided by those generous parents or grandparents to ensure that the household cash flow remains the same:  $15,000 less the marginal tax rate of 34.5% is $9,825 per person or $19,650 for a couple. Other thoughts Of course, many individuals and couples may already be actively saving for their first home deposit. Therefore, they may not need their generous relatives’ full support to achieve the above. Grandparents and parents can also choose to add a lump sum to help them at the time of purchase. It is worth noting that I have seen many clients take significant pleasure in helping their children and seeing the benefit of this assistance whilst they are still alive. However, as mentioned above, any gifting needs to ensure that generous relatives do not compromise…

Thriving in the ‘Gig Economy’

Thriving in the ‘Gig Economy’

If you’re a freelancer or contractor or maybe even a consultant then you’re part of the “gig economy”. Gone is the job for life, or even a job in the normal, employed meaning of the word. For you, work consists of short-term contracts or a series of one-off jobs. “Gigs” as the band down at the pub might put it. For some, gig work is a liberating choice that allows them to work their own hours, holiday when they like and work wherever they wish. For others it’s a necessity in a weak job market where under-employment and age discrimination is rife, and more companies choose to outsource specific tasks. Key to the gig economy is technology, be it an Uber app, Skype, crowdsourcing sites or just email and the Web. A study found that 4.1 million Australians had freelanced in 2014/15, and it’s a trend more likely to grow than diminish. So if you’re a “gig worker” what can you do to make the most of your situation? It’s business If you’re happy picking up the odd jobs that fall into your lap for a little extra money, that’s fine. But if you are looking to earn a full-time income then you’re in business and need to operate accordingly. To begin with, you need to know: Who your potential clients are; How to reach out to them; How to gain referrals; The processes you have to put into place to track your work, issue invoices, and make sure you get paid on time; How to meet your tax obligations. Protect yourself Depending on the work you do and the requirements of your clients you may need a range of insurances: Professional indemnity insurance – if there’s any chance a client could sue you in relation to the work you are engaged to complete. Public liability insurance – in case your work activities cause injury to a member of the public. Income protection insurance – you may be eligible for workers’ compensation insurance, but the rules vary from state to state, depend on your business structure, and only cover work-related injuries. Income protection insurance will also cover you against illness and non-work-related injuries. Life insurance – if you have dependents but little in the way of net assets. Think long term Can you build your business into something you can sell? If not, how will you fund your retirement? As a gig worker you’re unlikely to receive compulsory superannuation contributions, but you can (and should) make your own contributions. Personal contributions are tax deductible up to the annual concessional cap of $27,500. Get advice All state and territory governments have departments of business that offer a wealth of information and support for small businesses. Check out the help available in your state. And talk to your financial adviser. Aside from being able to look at your insurance, savings and super needs, your adviser may be an experienced small business operator, a potential mentor, and a valuable member of your network. Contact us today!   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

Three-Minute Financial Check-up

Three-Minute Financial Check-up

While the standard of living is constantly improving in Australia, economic disruptions, stagnant wage growth and continually increasing house prices are putting more and more people under financial stress. A recent report by the social research group, the Melbourne Institute, ‘Taking the Pulse of the Nation’, found one in three Australians reported being under financial stress. It found that those on fixed-term contracts and anyone self-employed were particularly vulnerable to feeling financial stress, as were people employed in the hospitality and IT sectors. There is nothing worse than that niggling feeling that you’re not in control of your financial situation or worse, the dread that you may not be able to meet your next home loan repayments or that you’ve maxed out your credit cards. For many people, it is simply that their lives are so busy they never have the time to focus on their financial position and so the constant pressure of earning money and paying bills can easily spin out of control. Just as all financial situations can be improved, so all financial problems can be resolved and the earlier you act, the better. Just the simple step of reaching out for help will make you feel better about your financial situation. So, it may be as simple as being unsure whether you will have sufficient savings in super to retire in the way you were hoping to, or it might be that you have created a debt mountain that you feel helpless to reduce. If you find yourself spending a large part of the day worrying about your finances, if you have trouble sleeping at night or if your financial position is causing repeated arguments between you and the people you care most about, it is important that you reach out for help. A good place to start is completing this Three-Minute Financial Check-Up. If you answer no to any of the questions on this list, you should make time to discuss your financial situation with a qualified financial adviser. They will be able to tell you just how serious your situation is and more, how you can take steps immediately to improve your financial position and help you get you back on track, so you do feel in control. Your Three Minute Financial Check-Up Action YES NO Do you pay all your credit cards off in full by their due date?     Do you sleep easy knowing all your bills will be paid when they fall due?     Do you have a budget, and do you stick to it?     Are you making all your loan repayments on time?     Do you know exactly how much your home loan is today?     Do you know what you would do if you lost your job tomorrow?     Are you confident about your children’s financial future?     Do you have life and total and permanent disability insurance in place?     Do you have income protection in place?     Do you know how much you have in super?     Are you and your partner in agreement about your finances?     Do you feel confident about your overall financial position?     The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

6 steps to a sustainable Christmas

6 steps to a sustainable Christmas

Just as the Grinch stole Christmas, excess spending can rob us all of yuletide happiness. Seasonal credit card splurges can create ballooning long term debt, while unnecessary consumption inevitably leads to a blow-out in rubbish bin waste. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia estimates $11 billion is spent on presents each year, including some 20 million unwanted gifts. At the same time, seasonal celebrations boost landfill rubbish by a massive 30 per cent. So, if you want to max out the ho, ho, ho in Christmas this year, think of applying more whoa, whoa, whoa to your spending and consumption ideas. Here are six simple tips Ebenezer Scrooge would be proud of: Ninety per cent of Australians claim to recycle something, sometimes. What better way to do this than to shop for presents in one of Australia’s 2,500 opportunity shops? Forget the old days of chipped crockery and stained used clothing. Op shops are full of trendy, mint condition items and are the perfect place to find something slightly offbeat or unusual for your loved one. Save on postage and reduce needless paper usage by sending clever and original e-Christmas cards. Head online to create your seasonal messages to email to friends and family. Many websites provide free cards, while others offer designer animated versions. Instead of giving a physical gift, give an experience such as tickets to a concert or a voucher to use at a favourite restaurant. Better still, why not gift something special of yourself by offering to cook a meal or provide free babysitting for a family member. Giving an experience rather than a physical gift also means you don’t need to waste precious paper by wrapping the present or spend money on postage getting it to that special someone. If you do give a physical present, think of some clever ways to wrap it, so you’re not adding to the 150,000 km of wrapping paper Australians needlessly use each year – that’s enough paper to circle the equator 4 times. Wrap your gift in a re-usable patterned tea towel or scarf, or better still, invest in some brightly patterned boxes to hold your present that can be recycled from one Christmas to the next. Stop for a moment and look around your home to see what you can re-use and turn into a gift. A great place to start is the garden. Many plants can be easily divided and, in doing so, will create new plants you can pot up in a re-usable pot to give away. Take time to plan your meals this season and, wherever possible, cut down on buying heavily packaged or processed foods. Instead, buy fresh foods that can be eaten without much cooking, re-used as leftovers, or frozen for later consumption. It’s estimated that ninety per cent of Australians discard some 25 per cent of all the food they buy during December – that’s food that has been needlessly produced only to end up in Australia’s landfills. What really matters is remembering how blessed we are to be enjoying the festive season in whatever way we can and being with the people we care about most.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

Being sensible with Buy Now Pay Later this silly season

Being sensible with Buy Now Pay Later this silly season

Move over debit and credit cards; consumers are flocking to Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) services. Afterpay, Zip Pay and several similar payment solutions allow shoppers to take home their goodies now while paying them off via a few weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments. There’s no interest payable as such, although fees are charged for late payments. A survey by Mozo reveals that 30% of Australian adults have one or more BNPL accounts and we’re not afraid to use them. Afterpay, our most popular BNPL service, achieved sales of $4.3 billion across Australia and New Zealand in the 2019 financial year, nearly double its sales of the previous year. With the nation set to splurge around $27 billion on Christmas, it’s a safe bet that plenty of that spend will be by BNPL. But with 60% of those surveyed by Mozo admitting that BNPL lead them to buy things that they wouldn’t have otherwise, it begs the question: how to use this payment option sensibly during the silly season? 1. Set your limits Make sure you have a budget for your Christmas spend, and use it to help resist the temptation of impulse purchases. 2. Track your spending Don’t just track your BNPL spending. Make sure you review credit and debit card purchases, too. Are you staying within budget across all your spending methods? 3. Avoid fees Around one third of BNPL users have missed at least one payment. While late fees may seem modest, they can add up. 4. Don’t repay BNPL loans with a credit card If you don’t pay off your entire credit card bill within the interest-free period, adding your BNPL repayments to the card may see you paying a high rate of interest on your purchases. Better to use a debit card or direct debit from your bank account, and making sure there’s enough money in the account to meet payments. 5. Avoid BNPL if you’re saving for a home loan Lenders may look at your use of BNPL as a sign that you don’t have significant savings and are living from payday to payday. The lower your debt, of all types, the easier it will be to get a mortgage. 6. Have a happy festive season Used wisely, BNPL can help you jingle your bells and put the merry in your Christmas. Just make sure you know what you’re signing up for and that you can meet all of the regular payments. Take care, and you’ll be able to enjoy the start of the New Year without a financial hangover. For further budgeting tips and financial advice, talk to us. We’re here to help.    The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice. 

The effect of rising inflation

The effect of rising inflation

The word ‘inflation’ doesn’t only dominate business news headlines but finds its way into general news reports too. So, what is inflation and how does it affect you? In simple terms, inflation signifies a rise in the price of goods and services, meaning you pay more for every purchase you make. Does the US influence Australia’s inflation rate? It is not a surprise that countries in today’s world are more connected than ever before. Therefore, a rise in US inflation rates will impact the Australian economy too. However, the degree and timing of its impact will vary. For example, a rise in labour costs in the US may have a limited impact on Australians; however, an increase in the price of iPhones or Nike shoes in the US will reflect in their price in Australia too. What will be the impact of rising US inflation on Australia’s economy? Interest rate movements made by the US Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) are closely monitored by central banks worldwide, including the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA). Over the past decade, many developed economies, including the US and Australia, have reduced interest rates to boost their economies. With rates rebounding from all-time lows there is an expectation that rates will continue increasing due to the strong performance of those economies. Quite often when the Fed increases its interest rate, Australia is quick to follow suit. The cost of borrowing funds will increase, leading to a rise in the inflation rate, making goods and services more expensive. Rising inflation rates can also negatively impact the Australian dollar, where one AUD buys less USD than it may have done previously. What will be the effect on investors? A rise in inflation affects investment markets negatively due to higher interest rates, volatility in the economy and uncertain share prices. For some investors, rising interest rates mean paying more interest on their home loan, which reduces their disposal income and, in turn reduces their capacity to invest. For retirees, an increase in the price of goods and services at a time of share market volatility can lead to having to sell more of their investment assets (potentially at a loss or reduced profit). Also, there could be uncertainty in dividend income, which many retirees often rely upon. Retiree investors will have fewer years to recover from a drop in their portfolios compared to younger investors. How should you prepare for a rise in inflation? It is important to first analyse your personal cashflow situation to understand where your money goes. Consider fixing at least part your home loan to limit your exposure to rising interest rates. Reconsider new personal loans, such as car loans. Do you need to take on new debt when interest rates are likely to increase? For the risk-taking investor, it can be tempting to invest more money into shares when prices are falling, but always consider averaging your position to avoid market timing risk. For investment purposes, consider having exposure in well established companies “blue chip stocks” vs riskier stock. Investors often find comfort knowing their funds are exposed to good quality companies with strong balance sheets. If the thought of rising inflation leaves you feeling unsettled, be sure to talk to a professional adviser. Your adviser will review your financial position, your ability to meet your financial obligations, as well as identify strategies to outpace inflation.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

4 fool-proof ways to keep on top of your credit cards

4 fool-proof ways to keep on top of your credit cards

Credit cards certainly make life easier – they are simple to use, accepted almost everywhere, and help you to buy what you want, when you want, particularly online. So much so that living close to the credit limit has become the norm for many people and spending can quickly get out of hand. To make sure your credit card works in your best interests, use these tips to stay on top of your debt. Routine is key We all know how easy it is to let things get away from us. Just like that power bill sitting at the bottom of the stack of mail on the bench or “accidentally” bingeing an entire Netflix season while the laundry piles up, we tend to postpone boring, albeit important, tasks. Create a routine, though, and you’ll complete these jobs simply out of habit. It can be as easy as setting a monthly reminder in your calendar to check that your credit card payments are up to date. Paying your credit card balance off in full each month, will help you avoid pesky interest fees. This handy tip will also help you avoid any late fees! Make use of technology If organisation skills are not your forte, why not take advantage of the many apps and services designed to help? ‘Mint’ is one of the many useful apps available that will organise your spending into categories, helping you ensure there is always cash to go towards your credit card repayments. Making use of automatic payments in your banking app can also be helpful. Payments will be made on time and best of all, once set up, you don’t have to lift a finger! Cash advances cost more When money is tight, people are forced to use their cards for cash advances (withdrawing cash) instead of just purchasing goods and services… and in doing so, are paying a high price for the privilege. Interest is charged immediately on a cash advance and at a higher rate than purchases. Even if you have an interest-free card, you will immediately start paying interest as soon as you withdraw cash using your card. If you must take cash off your card, repay it as quickly as possible. Emergency funds will save the day! You’ve probably heard about the importance of emergency funds, and with good reason! If we’ve learnt anything over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic it’s just how quickly things can change, particularly within our economy. So, whether it’s an increase in the cost of living or a rise in interest rates, it is vital to have a bit of spare cash handy. A good place to start is with an emergency fund calculator. It will consider your income, savings, and living expenses, and provide an estimate of how much spare cash you should be saving for a rainy day. Realistically, many of us couldn’t get by without our credit cards, but it is vital that we use them in a way that only provides a benefit to our lifestyle. The secret to credit card success — keep your spending responsible and pay the full balance off every month; otherwise, the only winners are the banks.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

“Tap and go” and then what?

“Tap and go” and then what?

Talk about hammering the plastic. In November 2021, Australia’s 13.2 million credit card accounts were used to make over 292 million transactions with a total value of $31.9 billion. Card holders who don’t pay their balances in full every month are currently paying interest on more than $18 billion worth of credit card debt. Interest rates range from 10% to 22% per annum so that adds up to billions of interest owing – and growing! It’s not just the easy money that cards provide; it’s the easy form of delivery via “tap and go” that’s pushing our debt to extraordinary levels. The quicker the transaction, the less thought or planning required. Pay now and think about it (and deal with it) later. Don’t become a statistic – here are some things to look out for plus a few tips. Traps Over 40% of credit card spending goes on groceries and utilities. While this isn’t a problem if you pay off your card balance in full each month, if you’re paying interest just so you can buy the necessities of life, it’s a real danger sign that you may be living beyond your means. Most credit limits are well beyond cardholder needs. On average, Australians only use about a third of their available credit limits each month. However, by giving you a higher credit limit card issuers hope temptation will get the better of you. If that means you can’t pay off your entire balance each month you’ll end up paying them lots of interest. Tips Financial institutions can only offer to increase your credit limit if you specifically ‘opt in’. This can be done in writing or over the phone. However, it’s prudent to withhold this permission to keep your limit under control. You can always apply for a once-off increase if you really need to. Switch to a reloadable (prepaid) credit card. Like a debit card it means you are using your own money with the added advantages that you can pre-set a limit on your spending and reduce the risks associated with buying online. Prepaid cards are available from banks, other financial institutions, and Australia Post. Make sure you check any fees and charges before buying one. If you sign up for a new card for an interest-free purchase, pay it off during the interest-free period then cancel the card before the renewal fee is automatically charged. There is no point paying an annual fee if you’re not going to use the card. And a myth Many people think that it is only lower income earners who are susceptible to the siren call of easy credit. But like the Sirens of Greek folklore themselves, it’s a myth. In fact, higher income earners also rack up huge balances on gold, platinum and diamond cards, and can experience real difficulty in paying them off. If your credit cards are more an enemy than a friend, a financial adviser will be able to suggest a range of solutions to get you back on track.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

What does it take to become a millionaire?

What does it take to become a millionaire?

There are three key components to a successful savings strategy. The first is some surplus cash; an amount of money you can regularly set aside in your quest to become a millionaire. Second, an investment return. This can be in the form of share dividends, interest income, rent from properties or a mix. You won’t be withdrawing any of these returns from your investment portfolio; you’ll reinvest the income so that you earn interest on your interest on your interest. This so called compounding of investment returns, when combined with the next ingredient, is what will really drive your growing wealth. That final ingredient? Time. So what might your path to millionaire status look like? Let’s say you’re in your 20s and you’re prepared to wait 40 years to achieve your goal. Plug the relevant numbers into the savings goals calculator at moneysmart.gov.au and it will tell you that, at an interest rate of 10% pa and starting with a $0 balance, you’ll need to save just $157 per month to hit your target, or around a cup of barista-brewed coffee a day. Your total contribution will be $75,360. The other $924,640 is from your investment returns. No wonder that some people view compounding returns as a form of magic. The benefits of starting early can’t be stressed enough. If you only have 20 years to devote to your get-rich plan, you’ll need to save $1,306 per month. If you can afford that you’ll still be a millionaire, but $313,440 of the total will be your hard-earned money. A real return Of course, a million dollars in 40 years time won’t have the same buying power as a million bucks today. You’ll also likely pay tax on at least some of your investment income and incur some investment management fees. After accounting for inflation, tax and fees, let’s say your real rate of return is 6% pa. This lifts the price of a ticket to the real millionaires club to $500 per month over 40 years. Going for growth With your timeframe and contribution rate settled you’ll need to design an investment portfolio that is likely to deliver your required return without taking on undue risk. With a long investment horizon, and particularly in periods of low interest rates, it’s appropriate to look to growth assets such as shares and property to provide the foundation of your portfolio. And don’t be daunted every time investment markets take a bit of a tumble. Instead see them as opportunities to pick up some bargains. A helping hand To make sure you make the most of your savings, understand investment issues and utilise the best tax structure talk to your financial adviser.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

Super in your 30s: It’s important to squeeze it in!

Super in your 30s: It’s important to squeeze it in!

If you are in your thirties, chances are life revolves around children and a mortgage. As much as we love our kids, the fact is they cost quite a lot. As for the mortgage, this is the age during which repayments are generally at their highest, relative to income. And on top of that, one parent is often not working, or working only part time. Even if children aren’t a factor, career building is paramount during this decade. Are you really expected to think about super at a time like this? Well, yes, there are a few things you need to pay attention to. Short-term plans As careers start to hit their strides, the thirties can be a time for earning a good income. If children are not yet in the picture, but are part of the future plan, then it’s an excellent idea to squirrel away and invest any spare cash to prepare for a drop in family income when Junior arrives. Just remember that any savings you want to access before retirement should not be invested in superannuation. Long-term comfort Don’t be alarmed, but by the time a 35-year-old couple today reaches retirement age in 32 years’ time, the effects of inflation could mean that they will need an income of about $164,287 per year to enjoy a ‘comfortable’ retirement. If you are on a 30% or higher marginal tax rate, willing to stash some cash for the long term, and would like to reduce your tax bill, then consider making salary sacrifice (pre-tax) contributions to super. For most people super contributions and earnings are taxed at 15%, so savings will grow faster in super than outside it. Growing the nest egg Even if you can’t make additional contributions right now there is one thing you can do to help achieve a comfortable retirement: ensure your super is invested in an appropriate portfolio. With decades to go until retirement, a portfolio with a higher proportion of shares, property and other growth assets is likely to out-perform one that is dominated by cash and fixed interest investments. But be mindful: the higher the return, the higher the associated risk. Another option for lower income earners to explore is the co-contribution. If you are eligible, and if you can afford to contribute up to $1,000 to your super, you could receive up to $500 from the government. Let your super pay for insurance For any young family, financial protection is crucial. The loss of or disablement of either parent would be disastrous. In most cases both parents should be covered by life and disability insurance. If this insurance is taken out through your superannuation fund the premiums are paid out of your accumulated super balance. While this means that your ultimate retirement benefit will be a bit less than if you took out insurance directly, it doesn’t impact on the current family budget. However, don’t just accept the amount of cover that many funds automatically provide. It may not be adequate for your needs. Whether it’s super, insurance, establishing investments or building your career, there’s a lot to think about when you’re thirty-something. It’s an ideal age to start some serious financial planning, so talk to a licensed financial adviser about putting a plan into place.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

Make this year a financially healthy one

Make this year a financially healthy one

Another year is over. Did you achieve everything you’d hoped? Are you better or worse off financially than you were this time last year? With a new year in front of you, what can you do to make the most of every moment? January to March Make a start by turning wishes into goals. Some might be long-term like becoming debt-free, saving a home deposit, or retiring in a few years’ time. What can you do this year to support those goals? Write it all down and give it a name. At the same time, don’t forget living for now. Prepare a month-by-month budget that makes room for the fun times – holidays and celebrations – as well as covering the necessities. Anticipate spikes in your spending. Do your car, home and life insurance premiums all seem to be due at the same time putting pressure on your cash flow? Investigate monthly premium payments or spreading renewal dates across the year. April to June It’s time to prepare for the end of financial year (EOFY). By June 30 you will want to have made any intended additional superannuation contributions (make sure you stay within relevant limits) and finalised donations to your favourite charities. Is there any other tax-deductible expenditure you can bring forward? June is also the month for EOFY sales – an opportunity to grab some bargains on early Christmas shopping and birthday gift purchases. Don’t forget to include these in your budget. July to September If you’re expecting a tax refund for the financial year just finished, lodge your tax return early. What are you going to do with the windfall? Whether you put it toward one of your goals or blow it on a big night out is up to you. Just make sure it’s part of the plan. With your tax return out of the way, the third quarter is a good time to start a bit of financial spring-cleaning. Review your super and savings, insurance and Will, loans and credit cards, Power of Attorney, and overall financial strategy. Is everything up to date? How’s your super doing? Would salary-sacrificing help? Can you consolidate debt or refinance at a lower rate? October to December Into the final quarter and how are you tracking? Are you ‘on plan’? Maybe the plan you came up with back in January wasn’t realistic. It’s not too late to adjust both your strategy and your expectations. If things are looking good, it’s important to stay focused. Christmas is looming with its temptations to over-spend. Once the turkey and plum pudding have settled, it’s time to review the year just gone and to give yourself a pat on the back for what you’ve achieved. Then take a deep breath, check your goals, and update the plan for the coming year.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

Building financial resilience

Building financial resilience

Resilience is the ability to quickly recover from setbacks, and while setbacks can come in many forms most of them will have a financial component. So what can you do to build financial resilience? Expect the unexpected Rarely do we get advance warning that something bad is about to happen to us, so the time to develop your resilience strategy is now. And while we don’t know the specifics, we can anticipate events that would throw our finances into disarray. A house burning down or a car being stolen. Not being able to work due to illness or injury. The death of a breadwinner or caregiver. With some idea of the type of threat we face we may be able to insure against some of them. If you have taken out any type of insurance policy you’ve already made a start on your resilience plan. Create buffers You can’t insure against every possibility, but you can build financial buffers. This might simply be a savings account that you earmark as your emergency fund that you contribute to each payday. If your home loan offers a redraw facility you can also create a buffer by getting ahead on your mortgage repayments. Buffers can be particularly important for retirees drawing a pension from their super fund. Redeeming growth assets for cash in order to make pension payments during a market downturn can lead to a depletion of capital and reduction in how long the money will last. By maintaining a cash buffer of, say, two year’s worth of pension payments, redemptions of growth assets can be deferred, giving time for the market to recover. Cut costs The Internet abounds with tips on how to cut costs and save money. In difficult economic times cost cutting can help you maintain your financial buffers and important insurances. Key to cost cutting is tracking your income and expenditure and yes, that means doing a budget. Find the right budgeting app for you and this chore could actually be fun. Invest in quality There are many companies out there that have long track records of consistently pumping out profits and dividends. They may not be as exciting (i.e. volatile) as the latest techno fad stocks but when markets get the jitters these blue chip companies are more likely to maintain their value than the newcomers. This is important. The more volatile a portfolio the more likely an investor is to sell down into a declining market. This turns paper losses into real ones, depriving the investor the opportunity to ride the market back up again. The other key tool in creating resilient portfolios is diversification. Buying a range of investments both within and across the major asset classes is a fundamental strategy for managing portfolio volatility. With a well-diversified portfolio of quality assets there is less need to regularly buy and sell individual investments. Unnecessary trading can create ‘tax drag’ where the realisation of even a marginal capital gain triggers a capital gains tax event and consequent reduction in portfolio value. Take advice Building financial resilience can be a complicated process requiring an understanding of a range of issues that need to be balanced against one another and prioritised. Your financial planner is ideally placed to assist you in developing your own, personalised plan for financial resilience.   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

When was the last time you paid cash?

When was the last time you paid cash?

Prior to COVID, we were steadily moving towards a cashless world. Post 2020, even the most resilient of us has made the leap to tap-and-go payments sooner than we expected. From the morning coffee to filling up the petrol tank, we wave that plastic with little thought to the impact on our account balances. In fairness to us, many retailers are now adopting the ‘no-cash please’ trading regime, but we Australians have a reputation for embracing technology and touchless shopping is no exception. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Australian household debt is currently sitting at around 210% of net disposable income. That places us fifth in the world, behind Denmark (257%), Norway (240%), Netherlands (236%) and Switzerland (223%). Compared with countries with spending habits similar to our own – the USA with (105%) and the UK (142%) – we’re quite high. If your debt level is pushing northwards of your preferred limit, here are a few ideas for getting, and staying, on track: – Pay your full card balance off every monthSure, it’s an oldie but a goodie. You know what you need to do; if your current balance is too high, pay more than the minimum amount. The first step in breaking the credit cycle is to get off it, which leads into our next point: – Create a realistic budgetThis will identify where your money is going and how much extra you can pay off your credit cards. The government’s Moneysmart website has a free budget planner to help you. Alternatively, chat with your financial planner and work with them to develop a payment strategy to get your debts under control, and stay that way. – Keep your tap-and-go receipts and reconcile them against your account each weekThis is one of the best ways to see exactly how much you’re shelling out, and on what. You’ll identify areas of unnecessary spending, and you’ll spot any errors or dodgy transactions. – Instead of a credit card for your touchless transactions, consider using a pre-paid cardAvailable from banks and other financial institutions – even Australia Post offers one – you load it with your own money and use it for in-person or online shopping. It’s just like a credit card but without the risk of getting into debt. – Consider your subscriptionsYou know, streaming services, magazines and memberships, etc. Many renew automatically and the first you’ll know about it is an unexpected – often expensive – transaction on your card. Do a stocktake to see what subscriptions you have and decide if you really need them. For those you no longer need, change your subscription settings so they don’t automatically renew. Don’t worry, they’ll alert you when the renewal is due in case you change your mind! We’re definitely living in an interesting time. Our lives have altered in ways we’d never have imagined and we Australians, in our typical way, are adapting to these ‘new-norms’. This is a good thing, just as long as we stay in control!   The information provided in this article is general in nature only and does not constitute personal financial advice.

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