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Archives for February 2018

Are You Under Insured?

Every so often we hear how Australians are under insured, and how income earners and their families experience financial hardship as a result of suffering from sickness, injury, long term disability or death. I’ve developed a quick guide to help you see if you’re at risk, and what you can do to rectify the problem.

1. Do you have insurance?

Recent statistics have shown that 83% of Australians say they have car insurance, and only 31% of those have income protection. Did you know that your income is your biggest asset?

For example, John is 35 years old, earning $80,000 per year and is married to Jane who is a stay at home mum. They have 2 young children, and have a $350,000 mortgage. Over a 15 year period (assuming a salary increase of 3.5% p.a.), John will have earnt over $1.5 million. Looking further in the future, by the time John looks to retire at age 65, he will have earned just over $4 million. How much is your car worth? How much is your house worth? Is it more than your accumulated income?

Many Australian’s don’t think twice about insuring their car or home, but struggle to see the importance of insuring themselves.

2. Where is your insurance held?

Is it held within superannuation, or is it personally owned? Many Australians have some form of insurance via their super fund, and may think that it is enough. But this is often not the case. Super funds offer various insurance benefits according to the fund design, and member eligibility criteria. The amount and type of insurance cover you have could be on a cost per unit basis, or a fixed amount depending on your age, occupation, etc. It is unlikely that the default cover offered via your super fund is appropriate for your specific circumstances.

You should be aware that there may be tax implications for holding insurance within your super fund.

Let’s go back to John. He holds $300,000 of Total & Permanent Disablement (TPD) cover inside his industry super fund, and goes to claim. Due to his age and other contributing factors, out of the total sum insured, he will need to pay almost $73,000 of tax. Leaving a payable amount of $227,000, this is not even enough to pay off his mortgage.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some super funds will decrease your insurance entitlement as you get older. So if you’re relying on the insurance in your super fund, it may not be enough to cover your needs.

3. How much is enough?

  • When calculating the required amount of Life and TPD insurance, there are a few things you will need to consider:
  • Repayment of debts
  • Funeral costs
  • A lump sum to allow for home and vehicle modifications
  • Future income expenditure. For example, costs of living, school fees, childcare, etc.
  • Allowances for tax implications

There are a number of ways to calculate your need for insurance. The best way, however, is to speak with one of our friendly Risk Advisors who can assist with some tailored recommendations.
If I were John’s adviser and he told me he didn’t have any life insurance, I would be asking him this one simple question: how will your family survive if you’re not around to provide?

Please note that the above has been provided as general advice, it has not taken into account your personal circumstances or goals. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today, one of our friendly advisers would love to speak with you.

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Are You Thinking Of Downsizing?

Many Australian retirees find they want a smaller home, or a home more suited to their empty-nest requirements. For some retirees, selling the family home can be a great way to release built-up equity to pay for retirement living expenses or in-home support that will allow them to stay at home longer.

Older Australians are the people targeted by the Government’s new policy to allow homeowners aged 65 years or over to downsize their family home and invest the surplus into their super. The downsizing and super contributions proposal was announced as part of the 2017/2018 Federal Budget (May 2017 Budget). The proposal became law on 13 December 2017.

From 1 July 2018, Australians aged 65 years or older will be able to make a non-concessional (after-tax) contribution into their super account of up to $300,000 from the sale proceeds of their family home if they have owned the property for at least 10 years. The legislated rules indicate that the property sold must be the person’s primary residence.

Couples will be able to contribute up to $300,000 each, giving a total contribution per couple of up to $600,000.

Any super contributions made using the new downsizing rules are in addition to any voluntary contributions made under the existing non-concessional (after-tax) contributions cap.
Although downsizing and contributing to super is an interesting idea, there are definitely some benefits and dangers – together with a few unknowns – to consider before taking the plunge.

Set out below are 10 important issues to consider before downsizing your home and contributing to your super account:

1. Opportunity to boost super balance

Retirees who have not had the opportunity to save sufficient funds for a comfortable retirement will be able to use the new downsizing cap to top up an inadequate super balance.

2. No ‘work test’ or age limit

The existing ‘work test’ for voluntary contributions made by those Australians aged 65-74 does not apply to downsizing contributions. Currently, people in this age group need to prove they worked in gainful employment for 40 hours within a 30-day period during the year to make a super contribution.

3. Retirement phase transfer balance cap remains in place

Australians making a downsizing contribution into their super account will still face a $1.6 million transfer balance cap on the amount of super savings they can move into tax-exempt retirement phase income streams. If a person has reached their $1.6 million transfer balance cap, then any downsizing contribution they make will need to remain in accumulation phase (and be subject to 15% tax on any earnings derived from the investments).

4. Contributions not subject to the $1.6 million Total Superannuation Balance restriction

Since 1 July 2017, an individual cannot make non-concessional (after-tax) contributions to a super account if they have a Total Superannuation Balance of $1.6 million or more. Individuals who have maxed out their opportunity to make non-concessional contributions to a super account will still be able to make a downsizing contribution as these contributions are exempt from the new $1.6 million Total Superannuation Balance limit.

5. No requirement to buy a new home

An individual making a downsizing contribution (from the sale of their principal place of residence) is not required to buy a new home after they sell their home.

6. You must submit a downsizing contribution form

Downsizing contributions will be invested within the super environment, which means such assets will be able to take advantage of the lower tax rate levied on investment returns within the super system. Earnings received on a super balance are only taxed at 15% (or are tax-exempt if rolled into a retirement income stream) rather than taxed at the person’s normal marginal tax rate.
Given the tax advantages, it’s worth noting that the ATO will be responsible for administering the scheme. Before accepting contributions under the downsizing scheme, super funds require verification on behalf of the ATO that downsizing contributions are from the sale of a family home owned for more than 10 years. An individual planning to make a downsizing contribution must provide his or her super fund with the special form before or at the time of making the downsizing contribution.

7. Contributions count toward Age Pension tests

The government has confirmed downsizing contributions will be counted for the assets and income tests used to determine eligibility for the Age Pension and DVA benefits. Downsizers will be moving money out of an exempt asset (their family home) into the non-exempt and assessable environment of their super fund.

8. Transfer and property costs limit surplus capital

The costs involved in selling a family home can be substantial due to high stamp duty and land taxes, therefore, people considering downsizing should carefully calculate this impact.
In addition, selling a large home and downsizing to a smaller property does not always release much excess capital (particularly in a capital city). Hence potential downsizers should check they will have sufficient funds left over for a worthwhile super contribution.

9. Timeframe (90 days) for contributing sale proceeds into super

The new downsizing law specifies that an individual hoping to take advantage of this measure must make the downsizing contribution within 90 days of receiving the sale proceeds (typically settlement day) from their family home before they are prohibited from making a downsizing contribution.

10. 90-day timeframe may give an opportunity to invest sale proceeds before contributing

The downsizing policy starts from 1 July 2018. The new laws don’t appear to preclude investing the sale proceeds or mixing the proceeds with other money in the period between settlement and making a super contribution.

Learn more about our personal financial planning, mortgage broking or self-managed super fund services. Please note that the above is prepared as general advice, it has not taken into consideration your personal circumstances or financial goals. For more tailored advice, please contact us today, one of our friendly advisers would love to speak with you.

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Is Bitcoin Really An Investment?

I’ve known ‘Joe’ for about a year. He’s a barista at one of my favourite local coffee shops. Most mornings our conversation doesn’t progress past the weather. However, last week, as he’s handing me my extra-shot cappuccino, Joe suddenly asks me, ‘Robert, I want to invest in Bitcoin. My mate bought some last year and quadrupled his money. What do you think, good idea?’
‘Joe’ I said, ‘Buy it if you want mate, but don’t call it an investment. Call it what it is, a punt.’

Bitcoin is like the money in your wallet, except it’s digital. It’s ‘digital money’. Encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of new units as well as verify transactions. Nobody controls it and nobody’s responsible for it.

Now, although I don’t really understand how Bitcoin works, I’m pretty sure that at some point in the future, we’ll all be using some form of ‘digital money’ to buy things. However, I don’t know whether that digital money will be Bitcoin or something else.

But here’s what I do know. When my barista starts asking me about buying Bitcoin as an investment, red flags start going off in the back of my head.

The price of this ‘investment’ has just exploded over the last few months, as Joe’s mate and thousands of others like him, started buying Bitcoin aided by the numerous means by which they can now do so. And of course, the mainstream and social media are now awash with reports of how individuals have struck it rich trading Bitcoin. Meanwhile, all this excitement is being fanned by ‘market analysts’ predicting that having just breached the $20,000 valuation, Bitcoin is on its way to $1 million by 2020.

I also know that the associated volatility in price of these ‘digital currencies’ is simply stomach churning. For Joe and his mates, that’s perhaps exactly what they’re seeking; an ‘investment’ that will pay off big time within a short time. They don’t know how it works, and probably care less. They’re not interested in a steady, reliable income stream over the longer term. Everyone else seems to making big money, and they just want in on that action.

So, what do I know? It sounds like a punt, and if that’s your thing, good luck! Just don’t call it an investment.

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Are You Experiencing Credit Card Stress?

By now, you would have received your credit card statement following the spending spree of Christmas, and the impulse purchases made during the Boxing Day/New Year’s sales. Maybe you overindulged in online shopping over the holiday period.

Credit cards offer a quick and convenient way to purchase goods and services; however, it may be more difficult to keep track of your spending when compared to using cash. If you have substantially increased your credit card balance, or reached your limit, you may be struggling to keep your repayments up to date within the interest-free period.

When paying via credit card we often believe that we will repay the balance within the interest-free days, but that may not always be the case! When you exceed the interest-free period, the purchase interest rate can be around 20% per annum or higher (22%+ p.a.) for a store card.

What are your options to get your credit card debt under control? Here are some alternatives to consider:

BALANCE TRANSFER CREDIT CARD

Most providers offer a balance transfer facility to attract new business. The debt from the existing card can be transferred to a new credit card which offers a reduced interest rate (as low as 0%), for a fixed period. The balance transfer rate can apply for 6 – 24 months depending on the provider; however, any additional spending will incur the standard interest rate of the new card. The key to this strategy is to be disciplined by not clocking up more debt, and to take advantage of the ‘honeymoon’ period to focus on repayments, and ensure that you clear your credit card balance on time. Once the balance transfer period has ended, the rate will default to the provider’s purchase interest rate, which may be higher than the rate on your old card! It is important to check if there are any balance transfer fees, and what other terms/conditions and charges will apply after the introductory period has ended.

LOAN CONSOLIDATION – PERSONAL LOAN

Obtaining a personal loan to consolidate the debt on your credit card(s) may be an option. Many providers offer the ability to consolidate several credit cards, with a lower fixed or variable interest rate, over a loan term of several years. Consolidating your debt should make it easier to manage your repayments, and you may be able to clear the debt earlier by paying more than the minimum amount.

REFINANCE/CONSOLIDATION – HOME LOAN

If you have sufficient equity in your home, you could consider refinancing your mortgage to consolidate your credit card debt. We are currently in a record low-interest rate environment, with some providers offering rates of >4% p.a. With or without credit card debt, if you haven’t reviewed your home loan for a few years, you may be paying too much on your current mortgage!
Consolidating credit card or personal loans into your home loan will allow you to clear these debts sooner if you have the ability to pay above the minimum home loan repayment.

There may be many issues to consider before consolidating debt, or deciding to refinance your home loan. Please contact one of our lending specialists to determine the costs and benefits, and to discuss your options.

Please note that the above has been provided as general advice. It has not taken into account your personal or financial circumstances. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today, one of our friendly advisers would love to speak with you.

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