Setting yourself up for success in the new financial year

The start of a new financial year is the perfect time to get your financial affairs in order. Whether it's tidying up your paperwork, assessing your portfolio or dealing with outstanding issues, there are plenty of practical actions you can take to set yourself up for the year ahead.

Here are some strategies for starting the new financial year on the right foot.

Tidy up your paperwork

Dealing with the paperwork is the task most of us love to hate. But taking a day to trawl through the ‘To Do’ pile and the growing mountain of filing could be a good investment in yourself. What’s more, you might identify some savings.

So, reviewing your bank statements, credit card bills (check for any automatic deductions that are no longer relevant), and receipts, as well as organising any tax documents can be time well spent.

Set your budget

A lot can happen in a year, so it makes sense to review your budget to ensure it still works towards your goals in the new year. This will help you track your changing expenses and ensure you're not overspending. And if you haven’t got a working budget, now’s a great time to start. There are plenty of budgeting apps and tools available online that can help you get started. By doing this, you'll be able to get a clear picture of your financial situation and be able to identify areas of improvement.

Assess your portfolio

Another important step to take as you start the new financial year is to assess your investment portfolio. This includes reviewing your investments, risk appetite and the investment mix and don’t forget to check your investments inside your super fund.

Some important areas you may wish to address:

You may be regularly keeping an eye on your portfolio but standing back and looking at the big picture can be a game changer.

Check your insurance

Now is a good time to examine your insurances closely and to consider whether they match your needs and risks. It is also a good reminder to take note of policy renewal dates so that you can shop around to make sure you get the best price.

Make sure that any life insurance, total and permanent disablement, trauma, and income protection insurance premiums you hold are appropriate for you. Most of us have some kind of insurance cover within our super funds. Check to see what and how much you have. Is it enough to support you and your family should something happen to you? Alternatively, you may have multiple insurance policies or have too much cover and it may be time to reduce or cancel some of it to save the premium costs.

And don’t forget your house and contents and car insurance. Are you adequately covered if you are unlucky enough to have a total loss?

Understand Federal Budget changes

Keeping up to date with the commentary about Federal Budget initiatives may be useful.

The measures aimed at easing the cost of living will provide a boost to some. They include energy bill relief for concession card holders and energy saving incentives. Meanwhile those with chronic health conditions will benefit from a number of changes announced in the budget.

The Budget also included support for families with cheaper childcare and a more flexible Paid Parental Leave scheme, and incentives for some types of new home building projects.

Simplify your debt

The start of the new financial year is a good time to deal with reviewing and simplifying any outstanding debt by negotiating better interest rates on loans or credit cards. Consider refinancing for better loan terms and offers. You could even consolidate multiple debts into a single loan, which will allow you to pay one fortnightly or monthly payment instead of multiple payments but carefully calculate the costs of any change first. If you have a loan offset account but also have cash savings in other accounts, you could consider pooling your cash into the offset account to save interest costs.

One simple change you can implement is making fortnightly mortgage repayments instead of monthly, which could reduce your interest over time. For example, on a 30 year $1,000,000 mortgage at 6% p.a. interest, your monthly principal and interest repayments are about $5,996. If you switch to fortnightly payments of $2,998, you will repay the loan 5.5 years sooner. This is because instead of making 12 payments, you have made 26 payments, which is an extra month’s payment each year.

Principal remaining ($) vs. Time (years)

Source: Mortgagechoice.com.au

Review your superannuation

A review – at least annually - of your super account is vital to make sure that:

It is also important to check for any stray super accounts from previous employers that may be incurring unnecessary fees. These can be consolidated, if necessary, into your main account. Check your myGov account for details of your super accounts.

You might also consider a salary sacrifice strategy, where you ask your employer to make extra super contributions from your pre-tax salary. These additional contributions are taxed at 15 per cent within the super fund, plus an additional 15% if Division 293 tax applies to you (income over $250,000).

Meanwhile, it is not too late to top up your super balance for this financial year using either concessional contributions (from your pre-tax income) or non-concessional contributions (after-tax income). Don’t forget the caps on payments, which are $27,500 for concessional contributions and $110,000 for non-concessional.

It is a good idea to get some expert advice regarding your super contributions, we can assist with the best ways to manage your contributions.

So, set yourself up for a fresh start to the year with some simple strategies to help you achieve your financial goals.

Budget 2023

A surplus for now but stormy seas ahead

Treasurer Jim Chalmers bills his 2023 Federal Budget as an economic strategy to help ease cost-of-living pressures.

To that end, he has delivered a modest but welcome package of cuts to healthcare, housing and energy costs as well as boosts to welfare payments for single parents and the unemployed.

Banking an unexpected bonus in increased tax revenue and rising commodity prices, the Albanese government has aimed to help the most disadvantaged while also looking ahead with new plans for renewable energy, defence and the arts.

But it has kept its spending under control to deliver a forecast $4.2 billion budget surplus – the first in 15 years.

The Treasurer sums up his second budget as “a plan for security, for prosperity, for growth”.

 

The big picture

While the first budget surplus in a decade and a half is to be celebrated, the joy will be short-lived. By next year’s budget, it’s expected there will be a return to small deficits for the next few years.

That’s because the global economy is slowing thanks to persistent inflation and higher interest rates. Aside from the pandemic and the 2007 Global Financial Crisis, the next two years are expected to be the weakest for global growth in more than two decades.

As a result, the government expects Australia’s economic growth to slow from 3.25 per cent in 2022-23 to just 1.5 per cent the following year, before recovering a little to 2.25 per cent.

In this environment, the treasurer continues to mark inflation as the government’s primary economic challenge. He says that is why the budget is “calibrated to alleviate inflationary pressures, not add to them”.

The good news is that the Reserve Bank says inflation is falling slightly faster than it had first forecast and has now passed its peak.i It is expected to be around 4.5 per cent by the end of the year, a long way from last year’s CPI rate of 7.8 per cent.ii

 

Easing the cost of living

The government’s $14.6 billion package of cost cuts aimed at helping some of those most affected by rising costs covers energy bills, health and medical services, and welfare payments.

There will be energy bill relief to around five million households and one million small businesses. From July 2023, eligible households will receive up to $500 and eligible small businesses up to $650.

The government will also introduce a number of energy saving programs for households including low-interest loans and funds for upgrades to social housing. And there will be access to better information on reducing energy bills.

 

Health and medical

Countering a major expense for many, the government is pouring in billions of dollars to ease health and medical costs and access to services.

It will spend an extra $3.5 billion to provide incentives to doctors to bulk bill Concession Card holders and children under 16. It’s expected that the increased bulk billing incentive will help around 11.6 million people.

The cost of medicines is also likely to change for many who suffer chronic health conditions. From 1 September 2023, some patients will be eligible to be prescribed two months’ worth of medicine at a time, instead of one month’s worth. It’s expected this change will cut the number of visits to GPs and pharmacies, and the government estimates at least six million people will see their bills for medicines reduced by half.

The government is also providing $2.2 billion over five years for new and amended listings to the PBS, including treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Meanwhile, to improve access to care and reduce the strain on hospitals, a further $358.5 million will be spent to open a further eight Urgent Care Clinics. The clinics will bulk bill and remain open for longer hours.

 

Welfare boost

Income support payments including JobSeeker, Austudy and Youth Allowance will rise by $40 a fortnight following a concerted campaign by lobby groups in the months leading up to the budget.

And, recognising the extra challenges faced by older people looking for work, those aged 55 and over and out of work for at least nine continuous months, will now receive the higher rate JobSeeker payment currently paid to those over 60. Around 52,000 people will receive the increase of $92.10 a fortnight.

There will be more support for eligible single parents from September 2023. They will receive the Parenting Payment until their youngest child turns 14 (currently up to eight years old). Those receiving the payment will also benefit from more generous earning arrangements compared to JobSeeker. Eligible single parents with one child will be able to earn an extra $569.10 per fortnight, plus an extra $24.60 per additional child, before their payment stops.

 

Housing assistance

While rents continue to climb sharply around the country, the government has provided only limited assistance to renters. Those receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance will see a 15 per cent increase in their payments from 20 September 2023.

Eligibility for the Home Guarantee Scheme will be expanded beyond first home buyers to include any 2 eligible borrowers beyond married and de facto couples, and non-first home buyers who have not owned a property in Australia in the preceding 10 years.

The government’s other housing initiatives are medium to long term solutions to the housing crisis.

There are new tax incentives to encourage the construction of more build-to-rent developments. The government claims an extra 150,000 rental properties could be delivered as a result in ten years.

The government is also focusing on providing more affordable housing by supporting more lending to community housing providers for social and affordable housing projects.

 

Pay rise for aged care workers

Severe staff shortages in the aged care sector, largely been driven by low wages, may abate a little with the government’s commitment to fund a pay rise.

More than $11 billion has been allocated to support an interim 15 per cent increase in award wages.

Support for families

Childcare will be cheaper from July 10, when the government subsidy will increase to 90 per cent for families on a combined income of $80,000 or less.

For families earning over $80,000, the subsidy rate will taper down by 1 percentage point for every additional $5,000 of family income until the subsidy reaches 0 per cent for families earning $530,000.

A more flexible and generous Paid Parental Leave scheme will also be introduced in July. A new family income test of $350,000 per annum will see nearly 3,000 additional parents become eligible for the entitlement each year.

 

Superannuation

Superannuation is in the government’s sights and employers and individuals with larger balances will be affected.

The concessional tax for those with balances exceeding $3 million will increase from 1 July 2025 to 30 per cent. Earnings on balances below $3 million will continue to be taxed at the concessional rate of 15 per cent.

Meanwhile from 1 July 2026, employers will have to pay their employees’ super at the same time they pay their wages. The government says that in 2019-20, employers failed to pay $3.4 billion of super owing to their employees.

 

Looking ahead

The stormy global economic outlook will keep Australia on its toes for the next two years or so but the government has attempted both to support those who are particularly vulnerable now and keep an eye to the future with some bigger thinking.

Moving forward, the government wants to position Australia a “renewable energy superpower” with a new Net Zero Authority to help attract new clean energy industries and help workers in coal regions to find new jobs.iii

The arts received a boost with almost $1 billion going to art galleries, museums, arts organisations and the film sector to help address “a decade of chronic underfunding”.iv,v

And there is the much debated investment in defence – more than $30 billion over the next ten years. Treasurer Chalmers says that while we may have a lot “coming at us – we have a lot going for us too”.

Information in this article has been sourced from the Budget Speech 2023-24 and Federal Budget Support documents.

It is important to note that the policies outlined in this publication are yet to be passed as legislation and therefore may be subject to change.

RBA says inflation has passed its peak
ii https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/smp/2023/feb/economic-outlook.html
iii https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-net-zero-authority
iv https://www.arts.gov.au/news/2023-24-federal-budget-revitalise-arts-sector
https://minister.infrastructure.gov.au/burke/media-release/budget-2023-24-albanese-government-revives-australias-arts-and-culture

Budget 2022-2023

Budget October 2022: sign of the times

In his first Budget, Treasurer Jim Chalmers' emphasised the three Rs – responsible budget repair and restrained spending, right for the times.

For good measure, resilience also got a mention with spending targeted at building a more modern economy to deal with the challenges ahead.

This is the first budget from a federal Labor government in almost a decade, barely five months since Labor was elected and seven months since the Coalition’s pre-election budget in March, so it was bound to be a little different. The Treasurer used the opportunity to update the shifting economic sands and reset spending priorities to align with the new government’s policy agenda.

For Australians wondering what the Albanese Labor government will mean for them and their family, this is the first piece of a puzzle that will be completed over the next three years.

 

The big picture

The Labor government has inherited an improving bottom line, with the deficit for 2022-23 expected to come in at $36.9 billion, an improvement of more than $40 billion on the pre-election forecast. This was due to high commodity prices for our exports and higher tax receipts from a strong labour market and robust corporate profits.

The deficits of $224.7 billion previously forecast for the next four years have shrunk to $182 billion. The difference of around $40 billion will go towards funding the government’s election promises and budget repair.

Labor has also found $22 billion in savings by cancelling or redirecting programs planned by the previous Coalition government, and a further $3.6 billion in cuts to external consultants, marketing, travel and legal expenses. Savings will also come from clamping down on tax avoidance by individuals and foreign corporations.

But as the Treasurer is fond of saying, storm clouds are looming, and he singled out inflation as the biggest challenge.

 

Economic challenges ahead

Inflation is forecast to peak at 7.75% by year’s end, before returning to 3.5% in 2023-24. Despite low unemployment currently at 3.75% it is tipped to rise to 4.5% by 2023-24, the surge in inflation means wages are unlikely to grow in real terms until 2024 at the earliest. Wages growth is forecast to be 3.75% in 2023-24, overtaking inflation of 3.5%.

With more interest rate hikes expected to tame inflation, debt is also set to climb from $895.3 billion last financial year to a forecast $927 billion in 2022-23 and upwards over the forward estimates.

With global economic headwinds building to gale force, Australia’s economic growth is expected to slow as cost-of-living pressures bite into household budgets.

While Dr Chalmers does not expect Australia to slide into recession like many of our trading partners, economic growth is already slowing. Real gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to be 3.25% in 2022-23, down from 3.9% last financial year, and 1.5% in 2023-24, 1 percentage point lower than predicted in the March Budget.

 

Support for families

Childcare and improved parental leave are a priority area for the new government, in an effort to support families, reduce cost-of-living pressures and improve women’s workforce participation.

Already, $4.7 billion has been earmarked for childcare over the next four years, with families earning less than $530,000 to receive extra childcare subsidies from 1 July 2023. An extension of paid parental leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks is also set to be phased in from next July, so neither initiative will add to the current Budget.

 

Health and aged care

Pressures on the federal health and aged care budget are mounting in the wake of COVID and an $8.8 billion blowout in the NDIS budget which will reach $166.4 billion over four years. An extra 380 staff will be hired at a cost of $158.2 million to speed up claims and make the system more efficient.

$750 million will be spent strengthening Medicare and $235 million over four years to roll out Urgent Care Clinics to reduce pressure on public hospitals.

Following revelations from the Aged Care Royal Commission and lessons learned during the pandemic, the government has pledged to fund an increase in aged care workers’ wages.

And the cost of subsidised prescription medications will be cut from $42.50 to $30 from January 1, at a cost of $756 million over four years.

 

More affordable housing

A centrepiece of the Budget to improve housing affordability and chronic shortages is a new Housing Accord to build 1 million new houses in five years beginning in 2024.

The new $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund will provide a sustainable funding source to increase housing supply, including 20,000 new social housing dwellings, 4,000 of which will be allocated to women and children impacted by family and domestic violence and older women at risk of homelessness.

The plan paves the way for significant public and private investment in new housing across the country, following an historic agreement between the federal government, the states and private investors including superannuation funds.

 

Jobs, skills and education

Federal, state and territory governments have committed to a $1 billion one-year agreement to deliver 180,000 fee-free TAFE and community-based vocational education places from January 2023. Support will be targeted to priority groups, including First Nations people, and priority areas such as care sectors.

The government will also create 20,000 more subsidised university places over 2023 and 2024. The initiative will be targeted at disadvantaged groups to study courses where there are skills shortages.

 

Nation building and future-proofing

As part of its budget review, the government will ‘’realign” $6.5 billion of existing infrastructure spending. It will spend $8.1 billion on key infrastructure projects including the Suburban Rail Loop East in Melbourne, the Bruce Highway and other important freight highways.

The government has also committed to at least $40 billion in new borrowing to set up funds and companies to invest in policy promises. These include the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation Corporation to invest in the electricity grid, $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund for local manufacturing and the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund to invest in social housing.

In an acknowledgement of the increased frequency and severity of natural disaster, up to $200 million per year will be set aside for disaster prevention and resilience.

Climate change

A more comprehensive approach to climate change is also back on the agenda, with total climate-related spending of $24.9 billion over 2022-23.

As many of the nation’s largest emitters are in regional areas, the government will establish a $1.9 billion Powering the Regions Fund to help transition regional industries to net zero. And $345 million will be made available to increase uptake of electric vehicles.

 

Superannuation, pensioners and tax

What’s not in the Budget is also important. There was little new spending to help retirees and welfare recipients, but pensions and payments will increase due to indexation.

As previously announced, the amount Age Pensioners can earn before they begin to lose pension entitlements will temporarily increase from $7,800 to $11,800 this financial year.

While most superannuation fund members will welcome the lack of tinkering to the super rules, the investment potential of the new affordable housing initiatives should provide a valuable source of income to super funds and their members.

 

Women’s safety

The Treasurer pledged a record investment of $1.7 billion to support implementation of the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children. This will include funding for 500 new frontline service and community workers to support women in crisis.

The Government is also legislating 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave for all types of employees.

 

Looking ahead

The next 12 months are likely to be challenging for the economy and for households trying to budget for rising prices and interest rates, including higher mortgage repayments, at a time when home values are falling and real wages are going backwards.

The Treasurer has tried to walk a fine line between budget repair and responsible spending with long-term economic benefits for individuals and the nation.

Coming just months after the federal election, this Budget should be seen as laying the groundwork for the three Budgets to follow.

 

Information in this article has been sourced from the Budget Speech 2022-23 and Federal Budget Support documents.

It is important to note that the policies outlined in this publication are yet to be passed as legislation and therefore may be subject to change.

Go on... take a break!

One of the things many of us have been missing over the past few years is holidays, but now that the world is opening up again for travel and destinations that have been pretty quiet are now eagerly welcoming back tourists, taking a break has never been more appealing.

Holidays are not just a lovely way to spend time, they are fantastic for us on so many levels. Having a break from the daily grind gets us out of our usual routine, opens us up to new experiences and is good for us mentally and physically.

However, the stats tell us that for many Australians it’s been a long time between breaks. In fact, around 8 million Australians have accrued nearly 175 million days of leave over the past 12 months, up from 151 the previous year.i That’s a lot of missed holidays!

Whether you are one of those who hasn’t had much of a break lately or even if you’ve just got back from a trip and are planning your next one - there are a host of good reasons to take a holiday.

Holiday to keep the doctor away

Holidays have been proven to lower stress which has a myriad of benefits including addressing the risk of cardiovascular issues like stroke and heart attack. A study following more than 12,000 middle-aged men at high risk for heart disease, found those who took yearly breaks were less likely to die from any cause, including heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues.ii

It’s not just physical health that benefits, taking a break is unsurprisingly pretty good for mental health with even a short break of a few days having a powerful mood enhancing effect.iii

Travel to broaden the mind

Lifelong learning is not only good for our careers but also important for our personal growth. And travel is a learning experience like no other, whether you are heading to a new country or a different part of your city or state you’ll meet new people and experience a different way of life.

Travel is also the ultimate experience in mindfulness – you are living in the moment when you are on holiday. A break in routine takes us off autopilot and puts us in charge.

Having a break makes you more productive

If you are worried about the impact a break can have on your career – don’t be! Research by Boston Consulting Group found that professionals who took planned time off were significantly more productive than those who spent more time working.iv Holidays offer time for introspection, goal setting and a chance to recharge your batteries for a new lease on life.

Planning for a wonderful time

Not all vacations are created equal. Just taking any quickly thrown-together escape may not provide all the health and productivity benefits associated with taking a vacation. A poorly planned break can be a source of tension and stress, rather than the opposite.

So how do you get the best out of a break?

Be flexible - While it’s important to plan before you leave, have enough flexibility for discovery – be open to new experiences and willing to change the schedule to accommodate those spontaneous magical moments.

Don’t sweat the small stuff - Things can and do go awry once you are away but don’t let silly little things spoil the break.

Switch off - Don't be tempted to check your emails or socials every few minutes – stay in the moment. A decent break from work will also reinforce that the office doesn’t need you 24/7 and that life comes first.

Watch the budget but have some allowances to splurge - Focus on experiences and the memories you’ll take home with you rather than what’s on sale at the gift shop or duty free.

And finally, don’t feel that a holiday must be a luxurious destination or for a long period of time to count. A change of scenery can be as good as a holiday - even taking a mini break and heading off for a weekend away to a lovely destination can provide all the benefits of a holiday. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning that next trip. The wide, wonderful world awaits!

http://www.roymorgan.com/findings/8696-annual-leave-holidays-march-2021-202105170711

ii https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11020089/

iii https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800229/

iv https://hbr.org/2009/10/making-time-off-predictable-and-required

Six ways to pay off your mortgage faster

Paying off your mortgage early will save you money and take a financial load off your shoulders. Here are some ways to get rid of your mortgage debt faster.

Switch to fortnightly payments

If you're currently paying monthly, consider switching to fortnightly repayments. By paying half the monthly amount every two weeks you'll make the equivalent of an extra month's repayment each year (as each year has 26 fortnights).

Make extra payments

Extra repayments on your mortgage can cut your loan by years. Putting your tax refund or bonus into your mortgage could save you thousands in interest.

On a typical 25-year principal and interest mortgage, most of your payments during the first five to eight years go towards paying off interest. So anything extra you put in during that time will reduce the amount of interest you pay and shorten the life of your loan.

Ask your lender if there's a fee for making extra repayments.

Smart tip: Making extra repayments now will also give you a buffer if interest rates rise in the future.

 

Find a lower interest rate

Work out what features of your current loan you want to keep, and compare the interest rates on similar loans. If you find a better rate elsewhere, ask your current lender to match it or offer you a cheaper alternative.

Comparison websites can be useful, but they are businesses and may make money through promoted links. They may not cover all your options. See what to keep in mind when using comparison websites.

 

Switching loans

If you decide to switch to another lender, make sure the benefits outweigh any fees you'll pay for closing your current loan and applying for another.

Switching home loans has tips on what to consider.

Make higher repayments

Another way to get ahead on your mortgage is to make repayments as if you had a loan with a higher rate of interest. The extra money will help to pay off your mortgage sooner.

If you switch to a loan with a lower interest rate, keep making the same repayments you had at the higher rate.

If interest rates drop, keep repaying your mortgage at the higher rate.

Use our mortgage calculator

See what you'll save by making higher loan repayments.

Consider an offset account

An offset account is a savings or transaction account linked to your mortgage. Your offset account balance reduces the amount you owe on your mortgage. This reduces the amount of interest you pay and helps you pay off your mortgage faster.

For example, for a $500,000 mortgage, $20,000 in an offset account means you're only charged interest on $480,000.

If your offset balance is always low (for example under $10,000), it may not be worth paying for this feature.

Avoid an interest-only loan

Paying both the principal and the interest is the best way to get your mortgage paid off faster.

Most home loans are principal and interest loans. This means repayments reduce the principal (amount borrowed) and cover the interest for the period.

With an interest-only loan, you only pay the interest on the amount you've borrowed. These loans are usually for a set period (for example, five years).

Your principal does not reduce during the interest-only period. This means your debt isn't going down and you'll pay more interest.

 

Source:
Reproduced with the permission of ASIC’s MoneySmart Team. This article was originally published at https://moneysmart.gov.au/home-loans/pay-off-your-mortgage-faster

Important note: This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account.  It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, we do not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.  Past performance is not a reliable guide to future returns.

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