SEAFG Insights - August 2022

It’s August and as winter draws to a close there’s snow in the Alps and the wattle is blooming. Many Australians will soon receive a sizeable tax refund, if they haven’t already, which should help ease those rising cost-of-living blues.

Rising inflation and interest rates were the focus of attention in July. The US Federal Reserve lifted its target rate by 75 basis points to 2.25-2.50% to tackle surging inflation of 9.1%. At the same time, the US economy contracted by 0.9% in the June quarter, following a 1.6% drop in the March quarter.

By contrast, Australia is performing relatively well. In his first economic statement, treasurer Jim Chalmers downgraded growth forecasts to a still solid 3.75% last financial year and 3% this financial year. Inflation jumped to 6.1% in the year to June and is forecast to peak above 7% in December. And the Reserve Bank lifted the cash rate by 50 basis points to 1.35% in July, with a similar increase tipped this month and more to come. Governor Philip Lowe said he expects rates to get to ‘at least’ 2.5%. Unemployment fell to 3.5% in June, but rising prices and interest rates dented confidence. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index sits at 82.4 points – below 100 is pessimistic. While the NAB business confidence index fell 5 points to +1.4 points in June.

The biggest hit to inflation has come from housing and construction prices and petrol. But the housing market is cooling due to rising interest rates, with national home values easing 0.6% in June and new dwelling starts down 6.5% in the March quarter. Petrol prices are also easing, down 19c to below $1.93 a litre in late July on falling global oil prices. The Aussie dollar gained a cent to finish the month around US70c.


Coming to terms with stagflation

First, we had to brush up our understanding of inflation and what it means for our hip pocket and our investments. Now the term stagflation is being thrown into the economic mix.

For those with long memories, stagflation is a reminder of the late 1970s and early 1980s when the world economy fell into what then-Treasurer Paul Keating called “the recession we had to have”.

The word has raised its head again with the World Bank warning that there is a rising risk of stagflation.i This took the wind out of the sails of global sharemarkets, with Australian shares down 10 per cent in the year to June, although they have since started to show signs of recovery.ii

Despite the term stagflation re-entering conversation, the general belief is that things will not get as bad as last century but they are still likely to be challenging.

So, what is stagflation? Basically, it’s the combination of rising inflation, high unemployment, and weak economic growth. When all three happen at the same time, then the economy and living standards struggle. So let’s look at each of these three markers in turn.

Rising inflation

The definition of inflation is a general increase in prices and a fall in the purchasing value of money.

Certainly, we are experiencing rising inflation right now. It’s currently running at just over 6 per cent in Australia. The war in Ukraine took its toll on commodity prices globally which is contributing to the hike. While prices are off their highs, they are still hurting.

On the local front, floods on the east coast of Australia have damaged crops which will also push inflation higher.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has pointed to a top inflation rate of about 7 per cent in this current economic cycle which is well above the 2-3 per cent inflation target the Reserve Bank uses in setting monetary policy.

Slowdown in economic growth

Looking next at economic growth, and this is certainly slowing.

The OECD cut its outlook for global economic growth from 4.5 per cent in 2021 to 3 per cent this year and 2.8 per cent in 2023. In Australia, growth is expected to fall from 4.8 per cent to 3.5 per cent this year and 2.1 per cent in 2023.iii

The definition of economic growth refers to the size of a country’s economy over time. It’s measured in real and nominal terms. Nominal refers to the increase in the dollar value of production over time; real economic growth just looks at the volume produced. Real growth is the figure generally used.iv

Low unemployment

Unemployment, meanwhile, is at the lowest levels in Australia since 1974 at 3.9 per cent.v But despite the low unemployment rate, wage growth is less than half that of inflation, so it is hard to keep pace with the rising prices.

Looking at the three criteria for stagflation, unemployment in Australia is less than 4 per cent, inflation is running at just over 6 per cent and GDP growth is 3.3 per cent. At these levels it seems more likely, but far from certain, that we will experience a recession rather than stagflation. Recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Stagflation would be a bigger problem than a severe recession because the traditional ways to deal with it are either increased government spending or cutting interest rates. Unfortunately, these solutions are both inflationary and therefore not good tools for the current economic environment.

Big mortgages put brake on rate rises

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, interest rates hit 18 per cent as the Reserve Bank struggled to contain inflation. With mortgages at their current size, increased rates will start hurting much sooner so this will put a brake on inflation well before rates reach double digit levels.

The general view is that mortgage rates will peak at just over the 5 per cent mark.vi

Concern about the possibility of stagflation has fuelled the recent sharemarket volatility and uncertainty, although it seems unlikely on current evidence. As the future is impossible to predict, it is better to sit tight and wait for the market to recover rather than sell as a kneejerk reaction and realise losses.

If you would like to discuss your overall financial position in these uncertain times, then call us.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/06/07/world-bank-global-growth-forecast-stagflation/

ii https://tradingeconomics.com/australia/stock-market

iii https://www.oecd.org/newsroom/oecd-economic-outlook-reveals-heavy-global-price-of-russia-s-war-against-ukraine.htm

iv https://www.rba.gov.au/education/resources/explainers/economic-growth.html

https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/unemployment-rate

vi https://www.ratecity.com.au/home-loans/mortgage-news/high-will-rates-go-here-experts-think-rba-cash-rate


 

Guide to aged care at home

As we get older, most of us want to remain independent and in our own home for as long as possible, but this can be challenging without some help with household tasks and personal care.

Recognising this, the government runs a Home Care Packages program where approved aged care service providers work with individuals to deliver co-ordinated services at home.

Approval for a Home Care Package starts with an assessment by the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). Eligibility for a Home Care Package, or other government subsidised help at home, is based on your care needs as determined through the assessment. You must also be an older person who needs co-ordinated services to help them stay at home or a younger person with a disability, dementia, or other care needs not met through other specialist services.

You can make your own referral via the government’s My Aged Care website or by calling 1800 200 422 and answering some questions.

Financial eligibility

Your financial situation won’t affect your eligibility. But once you have been assigned a package, you will need a financial assessment to work out exactly how much you may be asked to contribute.

There are four levels of Home Care Packages – from Level 1 for basic care needs to Level 4 for high care needs.

The annual budgets for the packages are (in round figures) $9,000 for a Level 1, $16,000 for a Level 2, $35,000 for a Level 3 and $53,000 for a Level 4. The government contribution changes on 1 July each year.

The idea is that a person, using a consumer directed care approach, can decide how they would like to use that money for help which may include equipment such as a walker or services such as household tasks, personal care, or allied health.

Your contribution could be a basic daily fee up to $11.26 a day, as well as an income tested fee up to $32.30 a day or $11,759.74 a year.i These fees are adjusted in March and September each year.

Expect a wait

Demand for packages is high, with a wait of 3-6 months for a low-level package and 6-9 months for a higher level package. It’s not unusual to be approved for a high-level package but be offered or ‘assigned’ a lower level package as an interim measure.

Once approved for a Home Care Package, you must appoint a provider approved by the government, whose role is to administer, and manage the package for you.

The provider will charge a fee for their services which is deducted from the Home Care Package. This essentially reduces the amount of money from the package that can be spent on services. Administration costs can be 10-15 per cent of the package and case management another 10 per cent, or thereabouts.

The services offered and the way they are delivered can vary between providers, so comparing offers is important.

How much help you get from a package will depend on your care needs and fees, but generally a Level 1 package might provide two or three hours of help a week, a Level 2 about four hours, a Level 3 package about 8 hours and a Level 4 about 12 hours.

A recent Fair Work Commission ruling mandating minimum two-hour shifts for casual home care workers, while improving conditions for low-paid workers, is also expected to lead to increased costs for providers and ultimately Home Care Package recipients.

Self-managed home care

One way to get more hours of help and have a greater say in who delivers it, is to self-manage your Home Care Package. As well as saving the case management fee you can generally negotiate directly with workers the hours worked and the rate of pay.

You still need an approved provider to administer the package, with the fee being about 10-15 per cent.

There are currently five providers offering a self-managed option. One way to find support workers to assist with your care needs is through one of several online platforms where carers register their willingness to help, along with their hourly rates.

If you are weighing up your aged care options for yourself or a loved one, and would like to discuss financing arrangements, please get in touch.

i https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/home-care-package-costs-and-fees 


Tech tips to get more hours in your day

Life just seems to get ever busier as the years roll by and our most precious commodity is often our time. We could all do with a few more hours in the day and technology continues to play a vital role in bringing efficiencies into our daily lives.

In fact, research indicates that technology saves the average person around two weeks a year – or almost two and a half years of our lifetimes.i The main time savers are the things most of us are generally already using – self-service checkouts, online banking and shopping, and mobile traffic updates. It’s certainly worth ensuring you are making the most of these time savers and spending the least amount of time on mundane tasks by setting up online shopping lists and automating bill paying.

Then to take your time saving efforts even further, there are a myriad of applications that have sprung up to help you create efficiencies in your professional and personal life. Let’s look at the best ways to stop wasting your precious time and then look at specific applications that may be of benefit.

Taming the email beast

Email is certainly nothing new. Once prized as a valuable communication tool, email is now singled out as a black hole for lost time. What is relatively new is the number of email management applications you can turn to for help. Such applications are indispensable if you use multiple inboxes, or if you have so many unread emails that you can’t organise them on your own. A good example is Clean Email which deletes thousands of old emails and organises new incoming messages automatically. It’s also becoming more common to only check and respond to email a few times a day rather than on a continual basis as it can be a constant distraction.

Avoid distractions and stay focussed

When it comes to distractions it can be hard to stay on target 100 per cent of the time, however if you find that you are spending too much time on online diversions, apps like Freedom and the aptly named Selfcontrol block irrelevant content.

There is also a growing trend away from multi-tasking that suggests it’s more effective to focus on one thing at a time, giving each task your undivided attention before moving on to the next. If that’s an approach that you find challenging, there are a number of apps that have sprung up to help you keep focussed. If you find you jump from one thing to another and end up with a stack of half-finished tasks, apps like Focuskeeper provide discipline and the motivation to complete tasks.

Save time by being aware of time

One way of saving time is to become more aware of where your time is being spent so you can reduce wasted time. While it can be a little disturbing to find out how much time you spend checking your social feeds, apps like RescueTime are great for keeping you on target. RescueTime tracks what you’re working on and suggests the best times for uninterrupted work and when you're losing focus and trying to tackle too many tasks the prompts help you to prioritise.

Get organised and outsource

Making the most of your time is all about getting organised. Apps that help you to break down your hectic life into tasks and ‘to-do’ lists also help you to prioritise and make sure nothing gets dropped. Remember the milk allows users to manage tasks, share lists and allocate them to others so it’s a useful tool to keep your whole household or team at work organised.

It’s important to put a value on your precious time and sometimes that means getting a hand with all the low-value tasks in your life that get in the way of what you really need to do. There are heaps of apps like Fivver or Airtasker that can help you to outsource all sorts of annoying, time-consuming jobs.

Is it time to start exploring how technology can help you to be more efficient and reclaim some of those lost hours? The challenge will then be deciding what to do with all that extra time on your hands!

https://www.thelondoneconomic.com/tech-auto/modern-technology-saves-brits-the-equivalent-of-two-weeks-every-year-111552/

 

SEAFG Insights August 2022

SEAFG Insights - July 2022

Welcome to our July newsletter and the start of a new financial year. With winter in full swing, it’s a great time to rug up by the fire, take stock of the year that was and make plans for the future.

June was a big month in an eventful year for the local and global economy, with inflation and interest rates continuing to dominate. The US Federal Reserve lifted official rates by 0.75% to a target range of 1.50-1.75% to combat surging inflation of 8.6% in the year to May, stoking fears of a US recession.

Australia faces similar but less acute challenges. With inflation sitting at 5.1%, the Reserve Bank lifted the cash rate by 0.5% to 0.85% in June and Governor Philip Lowe hinted at more to come in July. The Australian economy is still growing relatively strongly at an annual rate of 3.3%. Retail trade rose 10.4% in the year to May on the back of low unemployment and high household savings. Household wealth rose to a record high of $574,807 in the year to March, but since then there has been a global sell-off in shares, a slowdown in the Australian housing market and cost of living pressures are mounting. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence reading remains weak at 84.7 points (100 is neutral).

Australia’s national average petrol price rose to 211.9c a litre in June, the second highest on record, on the back of a surge in global oil prices. Brent Crude rose almost 45% over the past year as the war in Ukraine disrupts supply. Despite a late bounce in shares, the ASX200 fell 9.6% in the year to June, while US shares were down more than 12%. The Aussie dollar lost ground over the financial year to finish below US69c.


A super window of opportunity

New rules coming into force on July 1 will create opportunities for older Australians to boost their retirement savings and younger Australians to build a home deposit, all within the tax-efficient superannuation system.

Using the existing First Home Super Saver Scheme, people can now release up to $50,000 from their super account for a first home deposit, up from $30,000 previously.

Another change that will help low-income earners and people who work in the gig economy is the scrapping of the Super Guarantee (SG) threshold. Previously, employees only began receiving compulsory SG payments from their employer once they earned $450 a month.

But the biggest potential benefits from the recent changes will flow to Australians aged 55 and older. Here’s a rundown of the key changes and potential strategies.

Work test changes

From July 1, anyone under the age of 75 can make and receive personal or salary sacrifice super contributions without having to satisfy a work test. Annual contribution limits still apply and personal contributions for which you claim a tax deduction are still not allowed.

Previously, people aged 67 to 74 were required to work for at least 40 hours in a consecutive 30-day period in a financial year or be eligible for the work test exemption.

This means you can potentially top up your super account until you turn 75 (or no later than 28 days after the end of the month you turn 75). It also opens up potential new strategies for making a big last-minute contribution, using the bring-forward rule.

Extension of the bring-forward rule

The bring-forward rule allows eligible people to ‘’bring forward” up to two years’ worth of non-concessional (after tax) super contributions. The current annual non-concessional contributions cap is $110,000, which means you can potentially contribute up to $330,000.

When combined with the removal of the work test for people aged 67-75, this opens a 10-year window of opportunity for older Australians to boost their super even as they draw down retirement income.

Some potential strategies you might consider are:

Downsizer contributions age lowered to 60

From July 1, you can make a downsizer contribution into super from age 60, down from 65 previously. (In the May 2022 election campaign, the previous Morrison government proposed lowering the eligibility age further to 55, a promise matched by Labor. This is yet to be legislated.)

The downsizer rules allow eligible individuals to contribute up to $300,000 from the sale of their home into super. Couples can contribute up to this amount each, up to a combined $600,000. You must have owned the home for at least 10 years.

Downsizer contributions don’t count towards your concessional or non-concessional caps. And as there is no work test or age limit, downsizer contributions provide a lot of flexibility for older Australians to manage their financial resources in retirement.

For instance, you could sell your home and make a downsizer contribution of up to $300,000 combined with bringing forward non-concessional contributions of up to $330,000. This would allow an individual to potentially boost their super by up to $630,000, while couples could contribute up to a combined $1,260,000.

Rules relaxed, not removed

The latest rule changes will make it easier for many Australians to build and manage their retirement savings within the concessional tax environment of super. But those generous tax concessions still have their limits.

Currently, there’s a $1.7 million limit on the amount you can transfer into the pension phase of super, called your transfer balance cap. Just to confuse matters, there’s also a cap on the total amount you can have in super (your total super balance) to be eligible for a range of non-concessional contributions.

As you can see, it’s complicated. So if you would like to discuss how the new super rules might benefit you, please get in touch.

Source: ATO


 

A Will to give

As baby boomers shift into retirement, Australia is on the brink of the nation’s biggest ever intergenerational wealth transfer. Yet estate or inheritance planning is rarely discussed by families.

Talking openly about how you want your assets to be passed on can help avoid family disputes that take a toll both financially and emotionally. It provides a certain peace of mind for you – that your intentions will be met – and for your family and friends.

Certainly the stakes have never been higher, with growing house prices and healthy superannuation balances contributing to a considerable increase in the wealth of many older Australians in the past two decades.

Around $1.5 trillion was transferred in gifts or inheritances between 2002 and 2018. In 2018 alone, some $107 billion dollars was inherited while $14 billion was handed out in gifts.i

The importance of planning

With so much at stake, having an estate plan in place helps to protect the interests of those you care about and to fulfil your wishes. It takes careful thought and professional advice, but that is no excuse for putting the task aside for later. If something happens to you in the meantime, your assets may not be distributed as you would like and there could be tax implications for your beneficiaries.

An estate plan includes a Will and, in some cases, funeral arrangements and instructions for the care of children and animals. Without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to state inheritance laws which may not be what you intended.

A plan may also include instructions for a testamentary trust to hold assets that are then distributed in a tax-effective way to your beneficiaries. And don’t forget your ‘digital will’, a list of any online accounts and passwords that may be important.

Meanwhile, to protect your interests in case you are incapacitated in some way, an enduring power of attorney and a medical power of attorney nominate the people you would like to handle your affairs until you are better.

Complex families

Estate planning is even more important in the case of blended families or for those with complex family relationships, especially where the emotional issue of the family home is concerned.

Disputes often centre around who gets the house when there are children from a previous marriage, but your new spouse is living in the family home. You could allocate other assets to the children and leave the home to your spouse or require that the house be sold and the proceeds distributed to all. Alternatively, your Will could grant lifetime tenure in the home for your spouse with it passing to your children after your spouse dies. Having conversations early about your intentions, can help alleviate possible conflict.

If you are concerned about protecting the interests of a family member with mental health or addiction issues, a testamentary trust can help to look after your assets and distribute funds in a controlled way. A testamentary trust is also often used to provide for young children, holding the assets until they reach adulthood.

Dividing it up

When it comes to deciding how best to allocate assets among children, some prefer to hand out equal shares no matter their individual financial circumstances, while others prefer to give extra to one who may be struggling. Given that Wills are frequently challenged by family members or others who believe they are owed a share or an even bigger share, it’s wise to make your intentions clear in your Will including reasons and documentation.

While people who receive inheritances are usually well into middle age - on average 50-years-oldii - and perhaps comfortably well-off, you could choose to bypass the next generation. Instead, you might consider leaving your estate to grandchildren, to help set them up with a deposit for a home or covering school fees.

Another option is to begin distributing your estate while you are alive and can share the enjoyment of the benefits the extra financial help might bring.

What’s not covered?

It is important to note that some assets are not covered by your Will. These include assets jointly held with someone else (such as a bank account or a house), super benefits and life insurance.

In the case of jointly held assets, ownership generally passes to the surviving partner and life insurance is paid to the beneficiary named in the policy. For super, it’s vital to complete a binding death benefit nomination to ensure the funds are paid to the person you choose.

With so much to consider, expert advice is critical when preparing an estate plan, so call us to begin the discussion.

i https://www.pc.gov.au/research/completed/wealth-transfers

ii Wealth Transfers and their Economic Effects - Commission Research Paper - Productivity Commission (pc.gov.au)


Your investing style - as unique as you

As interest rates start to increase after a lengthy period of historical lows, it’s a good time to think about how your money is working for you and whether your investing style and strategy is still in line with your goals.

Higher interest rates don’t just send a ripple through the economy, aside from the obvious impact on the property market, they often impact stock prices. There are a myriad of other factors that contribute to market movement and portfolio performance and trying to navigate all the things that need to be considered can be challenging but being aware of your preferred investment style and having a considered and appropriate strategy can help.

The benefits of style and strategy

Just as we are all unique individuals, our goals and approach to investing will also be different to our family and friends and it pays to be familiar with your own style and preferences.

It can be common for those new to investing to take the plunge without any real plan, let alone an investment strategy that's likely to align with their current circumstances, future requirements, and investment goals.

Even those who have been investing for some time can be guilty of a ‘set and forget’ approach that might mean hanging on to a strategy that does not meet their present or future needs.

Having the right investment strategy – the one that's right for you – improves the likelihood of your investments meeting your goals and allows you to sleep at night.

Your tolerance for risk at the core of your style

While approaches to, and styles of investing are many and varied, your comfort with risk is often the primary driver of any approach you may choose to take. There is of course a trade-off between risk and return that needs to also be considered. Your comfort with risk will determine the right mix of asset classes in your portfolio.

An aggressive investor, commonly someone with higher risk tolerance, is willing to take on greater risk for the possibility of better returns than a conservative investor. This type of investor will be comfortable with a higher proportion of growth assets like shares or listed property that offer higher returns over the long-term that may come at the expense of less stable returns.

A conservative investor will employ a larger proportion of defensive assets in their portfolio to provide long-term stable returns with lower volatility and exposure to risk. Defensive assets are fixed interest investment options including fixed income bonds and cash investment options.

Hands-on vs hands-off approach

Investing strategies can be further separated into two distinct groups: active and passive. Passive investing, as the name implies, focuses on benefitting from the overall increase in market prices over time. One of the benefits of passive investing is that it minimises the mistakes investors can make when they react emotionally to stock market movement.

Active investing involves a more hands-on approach, with more frequent buying and selling to take advantage of short-term price fluctuations and is generally undertaken by a portfolio manager.

Changing your strategy over time

Most investors find that their investment style shifts as they age. Younger investors have a longer time horizon, so they may feel more comfortable making riskier investments as they have time for the market to recover from market falls. Mature investors may be more focused on preserving their savings for retirement, so they may be more interested in diversification and dollar-cost averaging.

For investors nearing or at retirement, a shift from asset growth and capital gains to a focus on income may be something worth considering and is often desired. The advantage of an income focussed strategy is that investments can produce some of the cash flows needed when you're no longer working. Dividend stocks are a common way to achieve this goal, with companies showing stable and growing dividends providing the most value.

To ensure you are employing the right strategy to meet your objectives, it pays to be aware of your options and revisit your comfort with risk and your overall investment goals. We can ensure your investment portfolio meets both these elements throughout your various life stages.

If you are interested in exploring the options available to you, please get in touch. We can work closely with you to review your strategy or if you are new to investing, find the right mix for your unique circumstances.

SEAFG_Insights_-_July_2022

SEAFG Insights - June 2022

June has arrived and so has winter, as the financial year draws to a close. Now that the federal election is out of the way, it’s time to focus on planning for the future with more certainty.

Cost of living pressures, inflation and interest rates were major concerns in the lead-up to the May federal election. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) lifted the cash rate for the first time in over 11 years from 0.1% to 0.35%, as inflation hit 5.1%. This followed the US Federal Reserve’s decision to lift rates by 50 basis points to 0.75-1.00%, the biggest rate hike in 22 years as inflation hit 8.5%. Global pressures are largely to blame, from war in Ukraine and rising oil prices to supply chain disruptions and food shortages. The price of Brent Crude surged a further 27% in May.

As a result, the RBA has cut its growth forecast for the year to June from 5% to 3.5% and raised its inflation forecast from 3.25% to 4.5%. On the ground, the economic news is mixed. New business investment fell 0.3% in the March quarter but still rose 4.5% on the year. The NAB business confidence index fell from +16.3 point to +9.9 points in April, still above its long-term average. Adding to inflationary pressures, labour and materials shortages and bad weather saw building costs rise 2.8% in the March quarter, while retail trade rose further in April to be up 9.6% over the year.

On the positive side, unemployment fell further from 4% to 3.9% in April, the lowest rate since 1974, while annual wages growth rose slightly in the March quarter from 2.3% to 2.4%, still well below inflation.


A super end to the financial year

As the end of the financial year approaches, now is a good time to check your super and see what you could do to boost your retirement nest egg. What’s more, you could potentially reduce your tax bill at the same time.

There are a handful of positive changes to super due to start next financial year, but for most people, these will not impact what you do before June 30 this year.

Changes ahead

Among the changes from 1 July, the superannuation guarantee (SG) will rise from the current 10 per cent to 10.5 per cent.

Another upcoming change is the abolition of the work test for retirees aged 67 to 74 who wish to make non-concessional (after tax) contributions into their super. This will allow eligible older Australians to top up their super even if they are fully retired. Currently you must satisfy the work test or work test exemption. This means working at least 40 hours during a consecutive 30-day period in the year in which the contribution is made.

But remember you still need to comply with the work test for contributions you make this financial year.

Also on the plus side, is the expansion of the downsizer contribution scheme. From 1 July the age to qualify for the scheme will be lowered from 65 to 60, although other details of the scheme will be unchanged. If you sell your home that you have owned for at least 10 years to downsize, you may be eligible to make a one-off contribution of up to $300,000 to your super (up to $600,000 for couples). This is in addition to the usual contribution caps.

Key strategies

While all these changes are positive and something to look forward to, there are still plenty of opportunities to boost your retirement savings before June 30.

For those who have surplus cash languishing in a bank account or who may have come into a windfall, consider taking full advantage of your super contribution caps.

The annual concessional (tax deductible) cap is currently $27,500. This includes your employer’s SG contributions, any salary sacrifice contributions you have made during the year and personal contributions for which you plan to claim a tax deduction.

Claiming a tax deduction is generally most effective if your marginal tax rate is greater than the 15 per cent tax rate that applies to super contributions. It is also handy if you have made a capital gain on the sale of an investment asset outside super as the tax deduction can offset any capital gains liability.

Even if you have reached your annual concessional contributions limit, you may be able to carry forward any unused cap amounts from previous years if your super balance is less than $500,000.

Once you have used up your concessional contributions cap, you can still make after-tax non-concessional contributions. The annual limit for these contributions is $110,000 but you can potentially contribute up to $330,000 using the bring-forward rule. The rules can be complex, especially if you already have a relatively high super balance, so it’s best to seek advice.

Government and spouse contributions

Lower income earners also have incentives to put more into super. The government’s co-contribution scheme is aimed at low to middle income earners who earn at least 10 per cent of their income from employment or business.

If your income is less than $41,112 a year, the government will contribute 50c for every after-tax dollar you squirrel away in super up to a maximum co-contribution of $500. Where else can you get a 50 per cent immediate return on an investment? If you earn between $41,112 and $56,112 you can still benefit but the co-contribution is progressively reduced.

There are also incentives for couples where one is on a much lower income to even the super playing field. If you earn significantly more than your partner, ask us about splitting some of your previous super contributions with them.

Also, if your spouse (or de facto partner) earns less than $37,000 a year, you may be eligible to contribute up to $3000 to their super and claim an 18 per cent tax offset worth up to $540. If they earn between $37,000 and $40,000 you may still benefit but the tax offset is progressively reduced.

As it can take your super fund a few days to process your contributions, don’t wait until the very last minute. If you would like to discuss your super options, call now.

Source: ATO


 

How to manage rising interest rates

Rising interest rates are almost always portrayed as bad news, by the media and by politicians of all persuasions. But a rise in rates cuts both ways. 

Higher interest rates are a worry for people with home loans and borrowers generally. But they are good news for older Australians who depend on income from bank deposits and young people trying to save for a deposit on their first home.

Rising interest rates are also a sign of a growing economy, which creates jobs and provides the income people need to pay the mortgage and other bills. By lifting interest rates, the Reserve Bank hopes to keep a lid on inflation and rising prices. Yes, it’s complicated.

How high will rates go?

In early May, the Reserve Bank lifted the official cash rate for the first time since November 2010, from its historic low of 0.1 per cent. The reason the cash rate is watched so closely is that it flows through to mortgages and other lending rates in the economy.

To tackle the rising cost of living, the Reserve Bank expects to lift the cash rate further, to around 2.5 per cent.i Inflation is currently running at 5.1 per cent, which means annual wages growth of 2.4 per cent is not keeping pace with rising prices.ii

So what does this mean for household budgets?

Mortgage rates on the rise

The people most affected by rising rates are likely those who recently bought their first home. In a double whammy, after several years of booming house prices the size of the average mortgage has also increased.

According to CoreLogic, even though price growth is slowing, the median home value rose 16.7 per cent nationally in the year to April to $748,635. Prices are higher in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

CoreLogic estimates a 1 per cent rise would add $486 a month to repayments on the median new home loan in Sydney, and an additional $1,006 a month for a 2 per cent rise.

While the big four banks are not obliged to pass on the cash rate changes, in May they passed on the Reserve Bank’s 0.25 per cent increase in the cash rate in full to their standard variable mortgage rates which range from 4.6 to 4.8 per cent. The lowest standard variable rates from smaller lenders are below 2 per cent.

Still, it’s believed most homeowners should be able to absorb a 2 per cent rise in their repayments.iii

The financial regulator, APRA now insists all lenders apply three percentage points on top of their headline borrowing rate, as a stress test on the amount you can borrow (up from 2.5 per cent prior to October 2021).iv

Rate rise action plan

Whatever your circumstances, the shift from a low interest rate, low inflation economic environment to rising rates and inflation is a signal that it’s time to revisit some of your financial assumptions.

The first thing you need to do is update your budget to factor in higher loan repayments and the rising cost of essential items such as food, fuel, power, childcare, health and insurances. You could then look for easy cuts from your non-essential spending on things like regular takeaways, eating out and streaming services.

If you have a home loan, then potentially the biggest saving involves absolutely no sacrifice to your lifestyle. Simply pick up the phone and ask your lender to give you a better deal. Banks all offer lower rates to new customers than they do to existing customers, but you can often negotiate a lower rate simply by asking.

If your bank won’t budge, then consider switching lenders. Just the mention of switching can often land you a better rate with your existing lender.

The challenge for savers

Older Australians and young savers face a tougher task. Bank savings rates are generally non-negotiable, but it does pay to shop around.

The silver lining is that many people will also see increased interest rates on their savings accounts as the cash rate increases. By mid-May only three of the big four banks had increased rates for savings accounts. Several lenders also announced increased rates for term deposits of up to 0.6 per cent.v

High interest rates traditionally put a dampener on returns from shares and property, so commentators are warning investors to prepare for lower returns from these investments and superannuation.

That makes it more important than ever to ensure you are getting the best return on your savings and not paying more than necessary on your loans. If you would like to discuss a budgeting and savings plan, give us a call.

https://www.rba.gov.au/speeches/2022/sp-gov-2022-05-03-q-and-a-transcript.html

ii https://www.abs.gov.au/

iii https://www.canstar.com.au/home-loans/banks-respond-cash-rate-increase/

iv https://www.apra.gov.au/news-and-publications/apra-increases-banks

https://www.ratecity.com.au/term-deposits/news/banks-increased-term-deposit-interest-rates

 


 

The road ahead for shares

Trying to time investment markets is difficult if not impossible at the best of times, let alone now. The war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates and an upcoming federal election have all added to market uncertainty and volatility.

At times like these investors may be tempted to retreat to the ‘’safety” of cash, but that can be costly. Not only is it difficult to time your exit, but you are also likely to miss out on any upswing that follows a dip.

Take Australian shares. Despite COVID and the recent wall of worries on global markets, Aussie shares soared 64 per cent in the two years from the pandemic low in March 2020 to the end of March 2022.i Who would have thought?

So what lies ahead for shares? The recent Federal Budget contained some clues.

The economic outlook

The Budget doesn’t only outline the government’s spending priorities, it provides a snapshot of where Treasury thinks the Australian economy is headed. While forecasts can be wide of the mark, they do influence market behaviour.

Australia’s economic growth is expected to peak at 4.25 per cent this financial year, underpinned by strong company profits, employment growth and surging commodity prices. Our economy is growing at a faster rate than the global average of 3.75 per cent, and ahead of the US and Europe, which helps explain why Australian shares have performed so strongly.ii

However, growth is expected to taper off to 2.5 per cent by 2023-24, as key commodity prices fall from their current giddy heights by the end of September this year.

Commodity prices have jumped on the back of supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. While much depends on the situation in Ukraine, Treasury estimates that prices for iron ore, oil and coal will all drop sharply later this year.

Share market winners and losers

Rising commodity prices have been a boon for Australia’s resources sector and demand should continue while interest rates remain low and global economies recover from their pandemic lows.

Government spending commitments in the recent Budget will also put extra cash in the pockets of households and the market sectors that depend on them. This is good news for companies in the retail sector, from supermarkets to specialty stores selling discretionary items.

Elsewhere, building supplies, construction and property development companies should benefit from the pipeline of big infrastructure projects combined with support for first home buyers and a strong property market.

Increased Budget spending on defence, and a major investment to improve regional telecommunications, should also flow through to listed companies that supply those sectors as well as the big telcos and internet providers. But there are other influences on the horizon for investors to be aware of.

Rising inflation and interest rates

With inflation on the rise in Australia and the rest of the world, central banks are beginning to lift interest rates from their historic lows. Australia's Reserve Bank has recently raised the official cash rate after 11 1/2 years of no increases.

Global bond markets are already anticipating higher rates, with yields on Australian and US 10-year government bonds jumping to 2.98 per cent and 2.67 per cent respectively.iii

Rising inflation and interest rates can slow economic growth and put a dampener on shares. At the same time, higher interest rates are a cause for celebration for retirees and anyone who depends on income from fixed interest securities and bank deposits. But it’s not that black and white.

While rising interest rates and volatile markets generally constrain returns from shares, some sectors still tend to outperform the market. This includes the banks, because they can charge borrowers more, suppliers and retailers of staples such as food and drink, and healthcare among others.

Putting it all together

In uncertain times when markets are volatile, it’s natural for investors to be a little nervous. But history shows there are investment winners and losers at every point in the economic cycle. At times like these, the best strategy is to have a well-diversified portfolio with a focus on quality.

For share investors, this means quality businesses with stable demand for their goods or services and those able to pass on increased costs to customers.

If you would like to discuss your overall investment strategy don’t hesitate to get in touch.

https://www.commsec.com.au/market-news/the-markets/2022/mar-22-budget-sharemarket-winners-and-losers.html

ii https://budget.gov.au/2022-23/content/bp1/download/bp1_bs-2.pdf

iii https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/government-bond-yield

 

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Important Disclaimer: The views expressed in this discussion are for general information purposes only and are not meant to be taken as personal financial advice. To discuss your personal situation, please call SEA Financial Group on (02) 9634 5337.