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Archives for February 2020

Preventing financial stress on expecting parents

I can see how having children can be the most rewarding and life-fulfilling experience for parents. Spending time with my niece and nephew and seeing them grow gives me great joy and insight into parenthood.

Starting a family or a growing family brings a roller coaster of emotions and financial stress as parents assess the upcoming changes in their life and finances. I’ve recently met with a couple expecting their first child and they are confused about how to do this and what financial support is available to them. Additionally, while focus is on immediate income and expense needs, other financial considerations such as superannuation and insurance can get left behind.

Should planning for a baby start after conception?

From my experience expecting parents tend to focus on the cost of having children in the sense of preparing for the babies arrival, prams, cots etc. – and longer-term education costs. In reality though, the most significant cost of having children is the loss or reduction in employment income, during both the initial maternity/paternity leave and also via reduced working hours over the longer term.

From a planning point of view, it’s important for a couple thinking about starting a family to know what that future cash flow shortfall will look like. This will show how much a couple will require to save in cash before the baby is born in order to get through the child-raising year without having to drastically change their standard of living.

The government provides a range of financial support initially which can supplement or replace reduced cash flow. Note that this is only very short term and it is important to discuss with your partner what happens after these payments stop.

Parental Leave Pay

The government offers 18 weeks of minimum wage payments (currently $740.60 per week) to the main caregiver of a new baby.

To be eligible, the primary carer of the newborn must have worked 10 out of the 13 months before birth (or adoption) of the child and at a rate of least 330 hours over the 10 months (equivalent to approximately one day per week on average). Have individually earned less than $150,000 in the last financial year.

Don’t worry, dads or partners are not forgotten!

Dad and Partner pay

The government offers two weeks of minimum wage payments (currently $740.60 per week) to the dad or partner of the primary carer.

Any initial financial stress is generally forgotten by parents as the majority of conversations I’ve had with clients is about their child’s achievements. I’ve often heard how sleep-deprived new parents are once their baby is born and planning for the new one’s arrival by removing some of the financial stress will help a couple to focus on caring for the newborn.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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Credit Card 101

Credit cards have long been helping people pay for things they need or want. You may be very familiar with them or you may be a newbie in the world of credit who is contemplating applying for your first card. Effective utilisation or misuse of credit cards can make or break your financial well-being.

Before we go through the complexities of credit cards, you must first understand what credit is. Credit is the means to borrow money/access goods or services with the mutual understanding that you’ll pay later. Have you ever borrowed money from a friend for lunch or a colleague paid for your coffee because you left your wallet at home? That effectively is them giving you credit! Of course, with the intention and trust that you’ll pay them back later. We use credit all the time and credit cards are just one of many financial tools used to attain a set amount of credit, commonly via a licensed financial institution such as a bank.

One of the defining benefits of credit cards is the fees, charges and interest associated with using the card. Commonly there would be a fee to set-up the card which is generally charged annually, there are late payment and overdraw fees and also varying levels of interest depending on how you’ve spent the credit. There are often substantial fees associated with taking cash out using a credit card and in general, if you don’t pay off your card in full at the end of each month interest will be charged and backdated too!

Pros of credit cards

  • Easy to carry and use – Easily fit in your wallet, pocket or phone case!
  • Safer than cash – With the exception of contactless payments, it’s generally quite limited before you have to enter a pin for the purchase.
  • Buy now, pay later – Which is the one crucial benefit of a credit card. As of late, there have been a series of different options in the BNPL space but we’ll touch on that in a different session.
  • You’re protected – Fraud protection and monitoring are generally facilitated by the card provider and you’re generally not held liable if your card is stolen or misused.
  • Freebies! – Which to some is the one major benefit of using a credit card. Rewards and frequent flyer points are commonly associated with mid-top tier credit cards and the benefits can easily outweigh the associated fees if used correctly.

Cons of credit cards

  • High-interest payments – Credit card interest rates are applicable if you don’t clear the outstanding balance at the end of each month. These rates are generally much higher than a standard home loan or personal loan and it would be wise for any financial minded individual/family to avoid these payments at all costs.
  • The associated debt spiral – A common trap of the credit card is that you only have to miss one payment and interest will start to add up. Unless you pay off the FULL amount each month, interest will be charged on the FULL amount owing regardless if you’ve paid off half of the balance, 80% of the balance of 99% of the balance. If you get into the habit of not paying it off in full, your debt situation will quickly spiral out of control.
  • Additional fees – As well as interest there is generally annual fees, overdrawn fees or late payment fees. These can sting quite a bit and more importantly, you may have to pay interest on it!
  • Expensive to use abroad – Some cards are a bit friendlier and designed for travellers but most cards will charge excess fees when used in a different country than its origin. Often an additional 1-3% of fees on each purchase which can add up whenever you decide to go on a nice holiday!

To conclude, there are a ton of benefits in owning a credit card, such as flexibility with managing your cash flows and access to additional free benefits. But this can come at substantial a cost if not managed correctly and you can easily fall into financial stress if you get silly and spend on things that you cannot afford!

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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How interest rates affect asset prices

How the level of interest rates impacts the prices and value of assets has probably not been high on the topic list for discussion at most barbeques over this summer, however, there is an argument that they should be, due to the potentially greater effect on absolute return over the investment horizon.

Around the developed world, central banks have decreased interest rates in the hope this will provide a stimulus for economic growth and prosperity, since when money is cheap, folks will borrow and in Australia, folks have taken up the offering. This has led to people placing bets into the capital city residential property markets. The consequence of this has been the price appreciation of residential property in those markets which, unsurprisingly, always seems to be front and centre of discussion around the good ol’ BBQ.

Property prices have gone up, but how many people have mentioned that the value obtained by picking up a property at an elevated price has increased in the same proportion as the price paid for it? That perhaps depends on one’s perception of value, however, this demonstrates one-way low interest rates have affected asset prices.

In times like these, we need to remind ourselves that “if price is what you pay, then value is what you get.” Price is self-explanatory, the amount is advertised broadly and it forms the base on which your future return is calculated.  Value, however, is what something is truly worth or what you get out of owning the thing you bought. It follows that in order to maximise the prospects of a return on an investment, you always want to pay a lower price than the value you will receive from owning that asset.

So, how do interest rates exert influence on assets?

Primarily this happens through the use of the present value calculation which is a valuation method applied to an asset to determine the intrinsic value of it. Essentially this calculation is used to come up with how much in today’s dollars is $10 worth in ten years. We don’t need to go into the mathematics of the calculation here however, we need to be aware that if interest rates are high, we can invest a lower amount of money today in order to obtain $10 in ten years. Conversely, if interest rates are low, we have to invest a higher amount today in order to obtain $10 in ten years’ time.

To put this another way, when interest rates are low, the present value of a future $10 is high.  When interest rates are high, the present value of a future $10 is low. When coupling this mathematical concept with the fact many risk-averse investors have been pushed up the ‘risk curve’ in order to generate an income to support their lifestyle, you end up having asset prices elevated above their intrinsic value.  This is great for an existing owner looking to sell…not so great for a buyer.

Always remember, the higher the price you pay, the potential for a lower overall return…which should mean interest rates becoming something worth talking about around the barbie.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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