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Support Measures – COVID-19

Given the escalating numbers of COVID-19 cases in Australia, we have had to change our lifestyle very quickly to incorporate social distancing and more recently put up with state-wide lockdowns. The government has made a series of announcements on the 22nd of March 2020 which are designed to provide support to people impacted by the virus.

The new measures announced are predominantly in the area of Superannuation legislation and social security.

Summary of these measures;

  • Reduction in minimum pension
  • Early access to super benefits
  • Reduction in social security deeming rates for the incomes test

Reduction in minimum pension

Across the board, minimum pension drawdown rates for market linked income streams are reduced by 50% for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years. The aim of this measure is to support retirees who are not required to draw the current pension minimums and can reduce pension drawdowns to avoid selling investments in a depressed market.

This will not affect you if you need the current minimums to survive, already drawing above the minimum pension or currently drawing an income from a complying lifestyle pension.

Early Access to super benefits

Access to superannuation benefits will be opened up from mid-April. The temporary access allows affected individuals to access up to $10,000 in each of the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years for a maximum of $20,000 of tax-free superannuation withdrawals.

You must meet the following criteria’s to qualify;

  • You are unemployed
  • You are eligible to receive a JobSeeker Payment, Youth Allowance for job seekers, Parenting Payment, Special Benefit or Farm Household Allowance
  • On or after 1st of January 2020, you were made redundant or your working hours were reduced by 20% or more or if your businesses was suspended as a sole trader.

This is designed to be a last resort for those with no other means of attaining funds to meet their current living expenses.

However, this could be a huge trap for those who utilise the withdrawals by meeting the above conditions but do not actually require the funds. Younger Australians in the early stages of building their super could be most at risk, as they could take funds out of super just for the sake of security. Given the power of compound interest, removing $20,000 from a super fund 20 or 30 years prior to retirement access could have a devastating impact on their final retirement balance.

Reduced social security deeming rates

A direct loosening to Centrelink’s income test, whereby the upper and lower social security deeming rates will be reduced from 1st of July 2020 to 0.25% up to the threshold and 2.25% above the threshold. This is an overall reduction of 0.75% from the default 1% up to the threshold and 3% above the threshold.

An individual with $550,000 in financial assets on the default deeming rates of 1% and 3% will have their age pension reduced by $65 each per fortnight. Under the new transitional deeming rates, their pensions will only be reduced by $32 per fortnight. The key to consider is that deeming is only a part of the incomes derived by the client, which is dependent on the level of financial/investable assets and the loosening of the deeming rates will not help if your prevailing test is the Assets test.

Further measures are set to be announced in the coming weeks, however, it seems as though these initial changes will provide relief to those who are impacted.

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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