Early retirement - is it right for you?

Posted on 6 December 2018
Early retirement - is it right for you?

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

International research shows leaving work early may not be so good for your life expectancy. We bring you a checklist of things to consider before you leave work and ride off into the sunset for your happily ever after.

Retire early for a longer life?

If you've already squirreled away enough super for an early retirement, it's probably pretty high on your list of priorities. But money isn't the only thing that's going to help you enjoy retirement for longer. What if you knew that retiring early could actually mean dying sooner?

New research from Maria Fitzpatrick of Cornell University and Timothy Moore of the University of Melbourne shows an alarming leap in mortality rates for US citizens who retire and start claiming their social security payments as soon as they're eligible from the age of 62. The study concluded that retiring at this stage in their lives "may have an immediate, negative impact" on their health. This is particularly the case for men, who can expect a 20% increase in their mortality risk1. The flaw in these figures, as acknowledged by Fitzpatrick and Moore, is that existing health problems may be a trigger for many people to hurry up and retire. This could go some way to explaining why an earlier death is more likely for this retirement cohort.

Another study from the US classifies the health status of research subjects to make sure this doesn't skew their results. Of 2956 retirees taking part in the Healthy Retirement Study, about two thirds considered themselves healthy and their decision to retire wasn't motivated by poor health. During the 18-year period after retirement, 12% of the healthy group and 25.6% of the unhealthy group died. Compared with outcomes for a group who retired a year later after turning 65, mortality risk was 11% lower for healthy retirees and 9% lower for the unhealthy group2.

Embrace a lifestyle change

If you're determined to retire early but want to safeguard your health, what's the answer? According to Chenkai Wu, lead author of the Healthy Retirement Study, replacing the 9-5 with new commitments could be the answer. "Keeping active and getting involved in voluntary work definitely brings retirees a lot of benefits that would have been brought about by keeping on working," says Wu3.

Research from closer to home seems to confirm this tip for a longer life in retirement. A University of Sydney research study shows that, in many cases, retirement generally leads to healthier lifestyle habits. The data gathered by Dr. Ding, Senior Research Fellow at the University's School of Public Health, and her team shows that retirees were doing 93 more minutes of physical activity per week compared with their peers still in employment. They also sleep for 11 minutes longer. Perhaps the best outcome is that 50% of female smokers quit after retiring. "A major life change like retirement creates a great window of opportunity to make positive lifestyle changes," says Dr. Ding. "It's a chance to get rid of bad routines and engineer new, healthier behaviours."4

Early retirement checklist

So the trade-off between an early exit from work and shortening your life seems to be making a commitment to keeping active. Here are some other things to think about when you're planning for your best and healthiest life in retirement:

  • Sharing retirement - if your partner continues to work when you retire will you be happy and keeping busy on your own? If friends are continuing to work too, it's important to have a plan for making some new ones. Aim to start your retirement with a strong social network so you can continue to have a sense of connection to the world around you.
  • Volunteering/part-time work - volunteering in your local community or working in a part-time role are both good ways to give your new lifestyle some structure, help you meet new people and feel valued. Doing something you're passionate about like coaching, supporting a charity or turning a hobby into a business can be a very rewarding way to spend time in retirement.
  • Making a move - when you're no longer tied to a location by work, the world is your oyster! Downsizing your home or relocating could be an important part of your retirement plan. Before making the move, do some research to check that a sea change will bring you into contact with the social groups and activities you're looking forward to enjoying in retirement.
  • Looking after family - if you have family living locally who rely on you for care and support, you'll probably be staying put. Caring for grandchildren can be very rewarding of course, but be mindful of having time to look after your own needs and enjoy your own interests, particularly if you're in the sandwich generation and looking after elderly parents too.

Looking forward to an early retirement? Get tips from a financial planner on how to prepare yourself for the changes to your finances and lifestyle.

1 Bloomberg, Retiring Early Just Might Kill You, Says New Research, Christopher Condon, 19 December 2017 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-19/retiring-early-just-might-kill-you-says-new-research-eco-pulse

2 The Guardian, Does early retirement mean an early death?, Luisa Dillner, 2 May 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/02/early-earlier-retirement-retire-death-risk-data-research-jobs

3 The Guardian, Does early retirement mean an early death?, Luisa Dillner, 2 May 2016 https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/may/02/early-earlier-retirement-retire-death-risk-data-research-jobs

4 University of Sydney, Retirement is good for your health, 14 March 2016 https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2016/03/14/retirement-is-good-for-your-health.html


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Navigating financial changes when children finish school

Posted on 5 December 2018
Navigating financial changes when children finish school

Hank Jongen
(General Manager, Department of Human Services)

When school finally wraps up for students, your clients might face some big changes - especially if their child is finishing Year 12.

For clients with children who have just finished Year 12, they'll need to help them make important decisions about their future. The Department of Human Services has support available, no matter what pathway they choose to take. With a little homework, your clients can understand the financial support available for their children.

They may not be ready to put the books away and choose to do further study at university or TAFE. Maybe they're interested in study, training and earning an income at the same time through an Australian Apprenticeship. Whichever pathway they choose, your client's child may be eligible for a payment to help with study costs.

Youth Allowance for students and apprentices is financial help for people aged 24 or younger who are:

  • studying full-time;
  • doing a full-time Australian Apprenticeship;
  • independent and needing to live away from home to study; or
  • temporarily unable to study.

If your client has a child who is over 25 and studying, they can apply for Austudy instead. They also need to be studying full-time or doing a full-time Australian Apprenticeship.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students may be eligible for ABSTUDY to help with study costs. There are extra ABSTUDY allowances available that can help with the costs of living and travel between home and the place of study.

However, other Year 12 students might be ready to put the books down and embark on their next adventure instead. If your client's child is interested in joining the workforce, we have support for them, too.

Youth Allowance for job seekers is financial help for people 21 or younger who are:

  • looking for work; or
  • temporarily unable to work.

To help your clients find out what their children might be eligible for, go to humanservices.gov.au/paymentfinder. Our Payment and Service Finder will find, estimate and compare payments for your clients.

Family Tax Benefit payments

While finishing Year 12 is a big change for students, it can also mean changes to their parents' Family Tax Benefit payments.

Your clients need to know Family Tax Benefit will stop when their child completes Year 12. If the child completes Year 12 before November, your client's payments will stop 28 days later. If the child completes Year 12 in November or December, your client's payments will continue until 31 December.

For more information and tips on planning for finishing school, go to humanservices.gov.au/leavingschool.

Tags in this article: Education

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Not just about the money

Posted on 3 December 2018
Not just about the money

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Thinking of a new job in the new year? With wage growth staying low, better benefits and work-life balance could be something to look for in your next role. Find out about the latest workplace trends for supporting employees with their health, finances and work-life balance.

The salary ceiling

While the wage growth rate in Australia for 2018 may be up on last year, it's still very low with second quarter figures putting the wage price index at 2.1%. What this means is we're seeing salaries rising only a fraction faster than inflation, with just 0.3% growth in real wages. If you're in the market for a new job, this doesn't bode well for pay negotiations with potential employers.

That doesn't necessarily mean a new job has no new rewards to offer. Perhaps you're looking for the challenges and opportunities to learn that a different role could bring. And at a time when companies are under more pressure to innovate and grow, it's becoming more common for employees to look at new ways to attract top talent and keep their workforce engaged.

Flexibility is key

When it comes to choosing a place to work, flexibility is something many people value. Whether it's the option to choose their hours, work remotely or more variety in the type of work they do, employees are often on the look out for an arrangement that suits their lifestyle better than working nine to five in the same office every day. According to the Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends report, 51% of employees would like their company to offer more flexible work options and 71% of people who are thriving at work say their employer provides flexibility at work[1].

It's good news for Aussies that the flexible working trend seems to be catching on. In their latest report summarising five years of data collection, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found more employers are making a commitment to flexible working arrangements.

Almost a quarter of employers (70.7%) now have a policy or strategy for flexible working, compared with just over half (57.5%) in 2013-14.

By the time a job offer is on the table, the topic of flexible working arrangement may something you've already discussed. But if it hasn't and it's something you're looking for, be sure to bring it up, particularly with your future boss. The Mercer report also found that while flexible working may be more common these days, it often happens in an ad hoc way and at the discretion of a manager[2].

Support for wellbeing

Flexible working is one of many ways employers can support health and wellbeing in the workplace. By allowing people more freedom to balance work and their other commitments, it's thought that flexible working can reduce stress, boost productivity and improve health outcomes for employees[3]. And it's definitely in the best interests of any business to invest in the wellbeing of their workforce. The 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey reports that employees in poor health take more than twice as much time off work, and their rate of presenteeism is 25% higher too[4].

It's not just physical health problems that lead to this significant drop in productivity. The same report reveals almost a third of employees have suffered from severe stress, anxiety or depression in the last two years. So it's not surprising to learn that half of companies surveyed have introduced workplace programs to reduce stress or are planning to do so[5].

Financial stress is on the rise

Research from the report also shows financial stress is becoming one of the biggest factors in employee health and productivity. With almost a quarter (23%) of Australian workers being unable to raise $2,000 at short notice[6], financial insecurity seems to be a significant threat to health and wellbeing. Employees with money problems are twice as likely to be in poor health and also report higher levels of stress, absence and presenteeism.

So what can employers be doing to support their workforce towards a more stable financial position, less stress and better health? When surveyed by Willis Towers Watson on preferred financial support services from their employer[7], spending tools were the number one choice for workers. These would provide ways for workers to track spending, review their finances and set goals, giving them some practical solutions for addressing the immediate causes of financial insecurity and stress.

The second most popular choice of service is access to a financial adviser. While budgeting for their current situation and lifestyle may be more important, advice from a professional to secure their financial future is a big priority for employees worldwide.

Looking to reduce your financial stress levels? Get tips from CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professionals on how to plan ahead with your finances so you can worry less, here and now. 

[1] Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, page 16

[2] Mercer 2018 Global Talent Trends Study, page 20 "Most companies have pockets of flexibility based on individual arrangements with a manager, but only 3% consider themselves industry leaders when it comes to flexibility"

[3] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Workplace Flexibility Strategy, page 4, "Flexibility is not only a beneft to businesses, it also benefts employees who can experience reduced stress, improved job satisfaction and better health outcomes through access to flexible working arrangements."https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Building_a_flexibility_strategy.pdf

[4] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 11, "Employees who are in the poorest health report more than double the number of absences and more than 25% higher presenteeism than other colleagues."

[5] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 6, "Mental health issues are widespread around the world, with around three in 10 employees reporting they have suffered from severe stress, anxiety or depression in the last two years. Around half of employers have either introduced initiatives to reduce stress or are planning to do so."

[6] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 8, "Comparable percentages of workers in Australia (23%), Canada (29%) and the U.S. (37%) could not quickly raise $2,000 (local currency)"

[7] 2017 Willis Towers Watson Global Benefits Attitudes survey, page 26, "If your employer were to offer the following to help you manage your finances, which would you mostly prefer?"

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The true value of financial advice

Posted on 29 November 2018
The true value of financial advice

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Does investing in a financial planner really pay off? According to the latest research from Sunsuper you could be thousands of dollars better off when you make choices based on professional financial advice. Plus you'll take more family holidays, have greater peace of mind and more confidence in your financial decisions.

Teaming up with research experts, Core Data, Sunsuper have released The Value of Advice Report. Insights include financial forecasts for three couples at different life stages and the lift in living standards and retirement expectations they're enjoying as a result of seeking advice. In all three cases it's very clear that financial advice has a real and immediate impact on their lifestyle, and creates opportunities to achieve important personal goals.

1. Building a bright future for a young family

Adam and Mara's goals for their family of four aren't out of the ordinary. Paying for private education and taking regular holidays are things that many families might prioritise but struggle to achieve when they're paying off a home loan and juggling work and family commitments.

Thanks to advice from a financial planner, Adam and Mara have settled personal debt, made appropriate investments to provide extra income for holidays and school fees, and arranged suitable insurances to make sure they're secure in the event of injury or illness.

Expected financial benefits from implementing their plan include:

  • Cover private school fees starting from primary school (instead of high school only)
  • 32 family holidays before retirement
  • An additional $54,720 in assets held at retirement

2. More time to travel in their prime

Heading down the home straight towards retirement, Amanda and John love to travel. They're currently focused on their careers, but keen to be living a good life, now and in the future. Having enough to provide for their children in their will is also an important goal.

Following financial advice has allowed Amanda and John to manage their debt more effectively and ensure they're covered by insurance in case of illness or injury. Their new strategy would also see them put more income into a holiday fund and their super savings.

Expected financial benefits from implementing their plan include:

  • Savings of $5k pa into a holiday fund for an extra 17 trips in their lifetime
  • Increased life and TPD insurance cover to match debt and income needs
  • An additional $78,720 in assets held at life expectancy that will benefit their children

3. Staying comfortable and independent in retirement

Having recently reached retirement, Jocelyn and Lou want to ensure they can continue to meet living and medical expenses and enjoy their senior years without financial stress. Not becoming a burden to their children is important to them and they'd like to retain assets to pass on to the next generation instead of having to sell them to generate more income.

With a new financial plan to guide them, Jocelyn and Lou can eliminate debts and reduce the burden of interest and loan repayments on their cash flow. They've also found ways to reduce their annual budget and still save money towards holidays.

Expected financial benefits from implementing their plan include:

  • Savings of $5k pa into a holiday fund for an extra 11 trips post-retirement
  • $47,250 of savings in interest on current debts
  • An additional $7,237 in assets held at life expectancy that will benefit their children

Face your fears and feel better about finances

As well as looking at modelling for these three couples, Core Data also surveyed 1000 Australians as part of the research project. Of those who received advice, 80% said they felt more confident making financial decisions as a result and the same proportion believe advice has brought them more peace of mind. And 75% take a view that financial advice is worth more than it costs.

In spite of these clear benefits to wealth and wellbeing, nearly nine million Australians have unmet financial advice needs, according to Anne Fuchs, Head of Advice and Retail Distribution for Sunsuper. So what's holding them back from seeing a financial planner? "Many people end up too scared to reach out to a financial adviser for fear they don't know enough, don't have enough or will be told their dreams just aren't achievable," says Anne. "This can leave many people to suffer in silence, not knowing what to do or who to turn to for help."

Reaping the benefits of advice at every life stage

For others it can be a case of leaving it until retirement, because they're too busy and managing their money well enough while they're earning a regular income. But the benefits of financial planning can be enjoyed now, and later, according to CoreData Principal Economic Researcher, Andrew Inwood. "Good advice does of course make you wealthier at retirement, but it also adds value all the way through your life in the choices you can afford to make about schooling, insurance, holidays, housing and personal interests," says Andrew.

"The important thing to measure is how it adds value to every life stage and enables individuals' life aspirations that's what we have modelled."

Not sure whether you've reached that life stage where you need support and advice from a financial planner? Discover 5 good reasons you might have for seeking financial advice. And if you are ready to make that first appointment, find out how to make sure a planner is the right one for you.

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Plan for quicker small business payments

Posted on 27 November 2018
Plan for quicker small business payments

Marnie Banger
(Australian Associated Press)

Australia's biggest companies will soon be forced to publish details of how quickly they are paying small businesses what they owe them.

The step is part of a federal government plan to help small businesses get paid faster, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has revealed at a business event in Sydney.

The strategy comes as too many small businesses still face long payment times, Mr Morrison said.

"Cash flow is crucial to the health of any business, but especially small business," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We are taking action to ensure small business is not being used as a bank."

Under the plan, the commonwealth will be required from mid-2019 to pay invoices of less than $1 million within 20 days, instead of 30 days.

The federal government is also committing to ensuring 35 per cent of its contracts go to small businesses, rather than its current 10 per cent.

The coalition will also help develop an annual reporting framework, which would require big companies with turnovers of more than $100 million to disclose how they go about paying small businesses.

More than 3000 of Australia's largest businesses would be covered by the framework, including foreign companies and government agencies.

The government would also change its procurement policies so big businesses seeking government contracts would need to match its 20-day payment time frame.

The commitment comes after the NSW government announced earlier this year it would pay small business contractors within 20 days by the end of 2018.

Mr Morrison said all states should follow its lead and that he's added the issue to the agenda for a meeting with state and territory leaders in Adelaide on December 12.

"All levels of government should set the standard and there should be no excuses for not paying small businesses on time," he said.

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