Updates on immunisation and the Child Care Subsidy

Posted on 15 October 2018

If you are receiving Family Tax Benefit, there are changes to immunisation requirements that may affect your family.

Posted in: News  

Aust, Japan urge better US-China ties

Posted on 12 October 2018
Aust, Japan urge better US-China ties

(Australian Associated Press)

Australia and Japan have warned China and the United States to settle their differences over trade and political issues using existing rules, rather than spark a new "cold war".

The comments come after a meeting in Sydney on Wednesday between Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Christopher Pyne and their Japanese counterparts Taro Kono and Takeshi Iwaya.

They also precede a G20 finance ministers meeting in Bali on Thursday where Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will tell the world's most powerful treasurers to recommit to free trade, amid the United States' protectionist "America first" approach.

President Donald Trump has slapped billions of dollars worth of tariffs on Chinese products and China has retaliated with similar tax hikes.

Vice President Mike Pence also attracted outrage from China when he delivered a speech in which he accused the Chinese government of stealing American intellectual property, seeking to interfere in US politics and wanting "nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific".

Senator Payne, who was recently in the US for talks, told reporters bodies such as the World Trade Organisation were best placed to deal with differences.

"Our view is always that these things are best resolved within the rules construct that has been used over very many years around the WTO and similar," she said.

"So we would encourage both parties to do that."

Mr Kono said for countries to prosper they needed to abide by the International rules-based order.

"No country wishes for a new cold war," he said.

Mr Frydenberg earlier said exports were crucial for Australian jobs.

"So my message to my fellow G20 finance ministers will be that free trade equals more jobs, free trade equals more investment and free trade means higher economic growth," he said.

Former federal Labor treasurer Wayne Swan says countries should speak out against the "incredibly disruptive" actions of the US on the global economy.

Mr Swan, who will also attend the Bali meeting, says Australia and developing Asian countries would bear the brunt of a trade war.

"We are all very interconnected. When something goes wrong in one area it can quickly spread if we don't have a decided and firm response from international authorities," Mr Swan told Sky News on Wednesday.

The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its global growth forecast for 2018-19 by 0.2 per cent to 3.7 per cent, citing the negative impact of new US trade measures.

"It's even more important that countries like Great Britain, Australia, Canada, the Europeans, the Japanese speak out very clearly and succinctly about the importance of good policy," Mr Swan said.

"When you see the state of politics and policy in the United States and its actions, which are incredibly disruptive to the established global order."

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Posted in: News  

Retirement and your mental health

Posted on 28 September 2018
Retirement and your mental health

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

It can be hard to stay engaged and keep a positive outlook in retirement, but advances in technology can help enormously. For example, if you are interested in volunteering, websites such as Good Company can instantly put you in touch with hundreds of opportunities, charities and individual projects. Or other options such as renting out a spare room on Airbnb or driving for Uber will not only contribute to keeping you more connected, you can also make a bit of extra cash.

The success of businesses such as Airbnb and Uber have given rise to dozens of other great services that utilise the internet and smart phones, without which they wouldn't exist. Here are some examples.

A dog's life

Another newer business, Mad Paws, combines pet-sitting and the pleasures of cuddling, patting and looking after someone else's pets, but not having them for "keeps" with a bit of extra income.

Mad Paws is also a great service for retirees who want to go travelling but fear leaving their beloved pets or having to put them in a kennel or cattery which can prove traumatic and be expensive.

Co-founder and CEO, Alexis Soulopoulos, started Mad Paws in 2014 after pet sitting for a friend who was struggling to find a place for his Labrador. After just three years Mad Paws has become Australia's largest online pet sitting community, working to connect pet owners with the perfect sitters across Australia.

Like the "Airbnb of the pet world" the company acts as the middle man, matching owners with the perfect sitter for their pet. Mad Paws offers a range of services including overnight services in the owner's home OR sitter's home (whichever the pet owner prefers) or daytime services such as pet day-care, house visits and dog walking.

How green was my garden

Along the same lines, Helen Andrew created Spare Harvest, an app and website that connects people within a local area to share food and garden resources.

"We are finding people who have retired have more time for their garden and they are connecting with other gardeners in their community to share, swap or sell excess produce, plants and various garden items," she says.

Spare Harvest also provides retirees with the opportunity to save some money by sourcing other members' excess resources. They can also make a little extra money from their garden by selling what they can.

"Not only is gardening a wonderful physical and mental wellbeing activity, but when our members connect with another like-minded person, they are developing their social network which also enhances their wellbeing," says Andrew.

Professional help

When it comes to retirement planning, employers and super funds have traditionally assisted people with financial aspects. However, as awareness of employees' psychological wellbeing has increased, so too has the knowledge there is more to a successful retirement than money.

SuperFriend is a national mental health promotion foundation focused on making it simple for employers to create mentally healthy workplaces.

The SuperFriend Planning for a Mentally Healthy Retirement Seminar was developed in conjunction with the Australian Psychological Society and is delivered by accredited psychologists. Seminars range from 30-60 minutes and teach people how to protect against poor mental health during retirement.

Australian life insurance specialist, TAL, focuses on providing health and mental health advice for Australians of all ages.

TAL's head of mental health, Glenn Baird, says maintaining mental wellbeing is important at any stage of life, but in retirement it's especially important "not to lose focus on those things that help us to stay engaged and keep a positive outlook on life."

"For some retirees, the reduction in day-to-day mental stimulation can be challenging," says Baird.

Baird's tips include:
  • Continue learning having more time on your hands can be an ideal opportunity to pursue those things you never had time to enjoy
  • Stay connected plan to see friends and family, take trips and reconnect with people on social media
  • Embrace your financial wellbeing just because you're no longer working, it doesn't mean you're not still in a position to positively impact your finances. Understanding your options and assessing your outgoings to ensure you're getting what you really need at the right price can be both rewarding and satisfying.

"The main thing to remember through all of this is that different things work for different people, so find the balance that's right for you and helps you make the most of your post retirement years," says Baird.

Posted in: News  

Super - know your rights

Posted on 21 September 2018
Super - know your rights

Money & Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Unpaid super isn't something to be taken lightly. No matter who you work for, it's their responsibility to make payments to you under the super guarantee. Find out more about how much super you should be getting, how often and what to do if there's a problem.

Rescuing your super unclaimed or unpaid

There's a staggering amount of superannuation that may never find its way to the people who should be spending it in their retirement years. According to ATO figures, there's approximately $12 billion in unclaimed super in their coffers. That's a lot of money just waiting to be transferred to Aussies who have lost track of account balances after changing their job, name or address. Getting this super back is pretty straightforward and either the ATO, your myGov account, or your current super fund(s) can help you bring all your super together.

Sadly, the amount of super that never gets paid at all is even more alarming. Back in 2016, Industry Super published a report claiming that around 2.4 million employees are being short-changed in mandatory super payments to the tune of $3.6 billion per year. At the time, the report estimated the total figure for unpaid super could reach $66 billion by 2024. That's a huge potential problem with what's known as super non-compliance employers deliberately failing to pay money their workers are legally entitled to under the super guarantee (SG).

Who should receive super from their employer?

Most employees, whether full or part-time, salaried or casual, must be paid super contributions by their employer under the SG. When you receive more than $450 per month in wages or salary, then you're entitled to the SG. If you're under 18 or working as a private/domestic employee such as a nanny you'll need to be working for more than 30 hours per week to qualify.

How much super should you be getting and when?

Under current legislation, SG payments should be made at the rate of 9.5% of your salary, or ordinary time earnings (OTE) if you're a casual worker. Your employer is required to make these payments to your nominated super fund(s) every three months at least. When an employer pays your super later than they should, there are still consequences for your retirement savings. The bigger your super balance the more money you can earn from investing it. So for each and every day that a dollar is in your super account, it can be helping you grow your retirement nest egg.

Missing out on these payments is going to have an even greater impact on your super balance in the next few years. Legislation has been passed to increase the SG rate from 1 July 2021 and the rate will increase by 0.5% each year from this date, reaching 12% by 1 July 2025.

Are you missing out?

According to the Industry Super report, it's small and medium sized businesses that are most likely to come up short with SG payments. And an ABC news story from May 2018 highlights how much of a problem unpaid super can be in the hospitality industry. Workers report having seen super payments on their pay advice, not realising the money wasn't being paid to their super provider.

Take some time to check your latest super statement to see when SG payments have been made and how much is being paid. Many funds will also offer you a login so you can check in now, and in the future, to make sure contributions from your employer are up to date.

Super shortfall what you can do

If you find your super balance isn't all it should be due to super non-compliance, the ATO and Fair Work Ombudsman should be your first port of call for more information, or to report the problem. And with the ATO having announced a 12-month amnesty for unpaid super starting from 24 May 2018, employers could be expected to be more co-operative in settling an unpaid super claim without the usual stiff penalties that would usually apply.

The amnesty is part of a raft of proposed legislative changes designed to crack-down on super non-compliance. It includes harsher penalties for directors of businesses who fail to pay super and requirements for immediate reporting of employer SG contributions to the ATO by super funds. This will act as an 'early warning' system for non-payment of super and take the onus off individuals to alert the ATO when there's a problem. However, at the time of writing, this legislation has not been passed. So for the time being, it's very important to take an interest in your super and act if you discover that you aren't receiving your full SG contributions.

Your employer isn't the only one who can contribute money to your super. Find out how salary sacrifice can help boost retirement savings and potentially save you money on your tax bill.

Posted in: News  

Consumers will pay for US tariffs on China

Posted on 20 September 2018
Consumers will pay for US tariffs on China

Angus Livingston and Daniel McCulloch
(Australian Associated Press)

A global trade war between the United States and China will hurt Australian consumers caught in the crossfire, the federal trade minister warns.

Donald Trump has slapped tariffs on $278 billion worth of Chinese goods, sparking the latest round of a battle that threatens the global economy.

"We urge all parties to step back from further escalating tariffs and to tackle trade-distorting subsidies or other issues," Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Tuesday.

"Australia's strong and growing economy - some 27 consecutive years of economic growth - is an example to the world of looking outwards."

The US president has announced a new round of tariffs against China to take effect from Monday, starting at 10 per cent, and rising to 25 per cent at the beginning of next year.

He threatened to drive the trade stake even deeper if Beijing retaliates.

Accounting giant KPMG estimates the escalation in the US-China trade war could cost the Australian economy at least $36 billion over the next decade, depriving the national economy of 0.3 per cent growth.

The global firm predicts Australia will be far more heavily bruised than the European Union or Japan.

"As a small, open economy anything that negatively influences our trading with other countries is a bad outcome for Australia," KPMG Australia chief economist Brendan Rynne told AAP.

"The real concern remains that this trade war develops into something that brings in other countries who adopt protectionist trade measures to ward off the excess goods that get built up in China and the US."

Senator Birmingham said Australia would continue to pursue trade deals, like ones currently being negotiated with the European Union and Indonesia, to keep the economy growing.

"We continue to have the backs of Australian industry. We'll work hard to ensure they aren't caught in the crossfire," Senator Birmingham said.

Australia has signed free trade deals with China, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia since 2013, while the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a deal with Peru are yet to be ratified.

Labor frontbencher Brendan O'Connor fears Australia suffer collateral damage in the global trade war.

"There will be ramifications - the extent and nature of which we don't know yet - but there'll be some impact on Australia," Mr O'Connor told Sky News.

"The retaliation is going to ripple through this region, without a shadow of a doubt."

Posted in: News  

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