Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)
If there’s one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, it’s that the unexpected can happen at any time. And, while there are many things in life you can’t control, you can make sure you have enough funds put aside to help you get buy. Here’s how to build your emergency savings, even on a budget.
As anyone who lost their job overnight due to COVID-19 will tell you, it pays to have cash stashed away for a rainy day.
An emergency can happen at any time, for any number of reasons. If it does, your emergency fund will provide a safety net to cover your living expenses until you can get back on your feet.
It’s best not to turn to a credit card to get you through an emergency, as credit doesn’t replace your income. It just creates a debt that you’ll need to start repaying almost straight away, whether or not your income is back to normal.
Anyone can start an emergency savings fund, even if you’re not a regular saver. Here’s how to build up your emergency savings, the smart way.
You’ll need to keep enough cash in your emergency fund to cover your living expenses for at least three to six months. For example, if your living expenses come to $3000 a month, you’ll need to keep at least $12,000 in your emergency fund.
If you’re not sure how much you actually need each month, go through your most recent bills and invoices and put everything into a budget.
Next, think about a realistic timeline for achieving your goal. How long it will take depends on how much extra cash you’re able to put aside each week or month.
For example, say you wanted to build your emergency fund within one year. If you needed $12,000 in your fund, that means you’d need to contribute $1000 a month, or roughly $230 a week.
Does the figure seem realistic? If not, you can spread the contributions out over a longer time, or find ways to increase your savings.
If money is tight, you’ll need to go over your budget with a fine tooth comb. Find every possible place where you could tighten up your spending and divert the cash to your emergency fund. Think about cancelling subscriptions you don’t use, or try negotiating a better deal on your services. Cut back on eating out for a while, or don’t buy any new clothes for a few months. Be ruthless to slash your unnecessary spending, so you can put the money towards your emergency fund.
Another option is to divert a set percentage of your income into your emergency savings, once your non-discretionary expenses have come out. Whatever you have leftover is your spending money for the month. For example, if you have $150 a week left over after expenses, you could contribute 30 per cent ($50) to your emergency savings fund.
Once you reach your savings goal, and you’re comfortable you can keep yourself afloat for three to six months, you can hit pause on your contributions. At this stage, you might want to divert the money you’ve been putting into your emergency savings into another type of savings, or even start an investment portfolio.
You want to keep your emergency fund in a separate online savings account that isn’t accessible via a bank card or credit card. Out of sight is out of mind, so keeping it at a different bank to your regular transaction account is even better.
Don’t be tempted to invest your emergency savings. Investments by their nature increase and decrease in value over time. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a situation where you’re forced to sell down your investment at a loss, just so you can get access to your emergency funds.
Similarly, cash is king when it comes to emergency savings. If you need quick access to the money, it’s easiest to withdraw cash from your bank account.
If a situation arises where you need to access your emergency savings, go for it, that’s what they’re there for. Once the emergency has passed, and you have an income to rely upon, you can simply top up the fund again and continue along your way.
For more advice on saving for a rainy day, take a look at our other articles on budgeting and saving. Or if you’d like more information about investing once your emergency fund is in place, check out our content on financial planning.
You need to include investment income in your tax return. This includes what you earn in:
You pay tax on investment income at your marginal tax rate.
Use our income tax calculator to find out your marginal tax rate.
You’re allowed tax deductions for the cost of buying, managing and selling an investment. But there are rules around what you can and can’t claim as a tax deduction. See the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)’s investment income deductions.
Investing and tax can be complex. See choosing an accountant for where to go for help.
If you sell an investment for more than the cost to acquire it, you make a capital gain. You need to include all capital gains in your tax return in the year you sell the investment. Capital gains are taxed at your marginal rate.
If you’ve held the investment for more than 12 months, you’re only taxed on half of the capital gain. This is known as the capital gains tax (CGT) discount.
The ATO has information to help you work out your capital gains tax on different investments.
If you sell an investment for less than the cost to acquire it, you make a capital loss.
You can use a capital loss to:
Savannah makes use of a capital loss
Savannah bought $2,000 worth of shares (50 shares at $40 per share) in a large mining company.
After 18 months she sold the shares. They had fallen in price to $20 per share. She made a capital loss of $1,000.
Savannah also made a profit of $1,500 from selling others shares she held. She had held these shares for five years.
Savannah can deduct the $1,000 she made a loss on from the $1,500 capital gain. This leaves her with a profit of $500. As Savannah held the shares for more than 12 months, she only includes half the capital gain in her tax return. She’ll pay tax on this $250 at her marginal tax rate.
Positive gearing is where you borrow money to invest and the income from the investment (for example, rent or dividends) is more than the cost of the investment (interest and other expenses).
If you’re positively geared, you’ll have extra money coming in. But you’ll also have to pay tax on this income at tax time.
Negative gearing is where you borrow to invest and the investment income is less than the cost of the investment.
Investors negatively gear as they can generally claim a tax deduction for the investment loss. The aim is for the capital growth to offset the loss in earlier years.
If you’re making an investment loss, it is still costing you money. You’ll need to have cash from other sources, like your salary, to cover interest and expenses.
A tax-effective investment is one where the tax on your investment income is less than your marginal tax rate.
Choose investments based on your financial goals, risks you’re comfortable with and expected returns. Tax benefits should be a secondary consideration.
Super is a tax-effective investment and one of the best ways to save for retirement. This is because the government provides tax incentives to save through super. These include:
See Tax and super for more information.
Insurance bonds are investments offered by insurance companies. They can be tax effective if you’re planning to invest for 10 years and follow certain rules.
All earnings in an investment bond are taxed at the corporate tax rate of 30%. If no withdrawals are made in the first 10 years, no further tax is payable. They can be tax effective for investors with a marginal tax rate higher than 30%.
Beware tax-driven investments
Tax-driven schemes offer tax deductions now for investing in assets that may provide income in the future. These schemes can be high risk and some are scams. Check the ATO page investigate before you invest for how to spot a dodgy tax scheme. Or get professional advice from an accountant.
Keeping good records will help you at tax time to:
It will also help you calculate any capital gains or losses when you sell an investment.
For all investments such as shares, property and cryptocurrencies you need to keep records to show:
You’ll need to keep records for five years after you included the income and capital gain or loss in your tax return.
Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)
You might think there’s not much you can do to increase the value of your superannuation in retirement. But with Australians now spending close to 30-years in retirement on average, our super needs to last longer than ever.
As a consequence, the federal government has proposed some changes to superannuation that will make it easier than ever to grow your balance following retirement. Here’s a look at some of the strategies you can use to maximise your super savings.
If you’re a retiree and your superannuation took a hit during to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is good news. Markets largely recovered recently and the federal government has extended the superannuation minimum drawdown rate for a further 12-months.
That means eligible retirees drawing certain superannuation pensions and annuities have until 30 June 2022 before they’re forced to withdraw the full pre-COVID-19 amount.
If you have sufficient cash flow to get by, it’s worth taking advantage of the reduced minimum drawdown and leaving your assets invested until they return to pre-COVID-19 levels.
Think you can’t add to your super after you retire? That’s not strictly true. If you’re aged 67 to 74 years old, you can make personal contributions, spouse contributions or salary sacrifice contributions to your super provided you meet the work test. That means you must have worked at least 40 hours over 30 consecutive days in a financial year.
Importantly, the federal government has proposed removing the work test altogether from 1 July 2022. That would allow individuals aged 67 to 74 to make or receive non consessional (after tax) contributions or salary sacrified contributions, subject to the existing contribution caps.
If you’re aged 65 years or over (and meet all the eligibility requirements) you can make a one-off contribution of up to $300,000 to your super from the proceeds of selling your home. If you’re part of a couple, each spouse may be able to contribute up to $300,000 each.
The federal government has also proposed reducing the age for making a downsizer contribution to 60 years.
It’s important to note that selling your main residence can affect your eligibility for income entitlements such as the Age Pension. So it’s best to seek professional financial advice if you’re considering making a downsizer contribution to your superannuation.
If you’re eligible for government benefits like the age pension, carer’s allowance or a disability support pension, this can really help your retirement income stretch further. It’s worth investigating your eligibility when you’re planning your retirement, as government payments are subject to income and asset tests.
Nothing chews up your income stream as fast as debt repayments, so aim to clear any outstanding debts before you enter retirement. By starting your retirement debt free, you’ll be able to use your retirement income for things that really matter, like living expenses, health, leisure and travel. If you’re already retired and you’re still carrying debt, such as a mortgage or credit card, speak to a financial planner and put a plan in place to become debt free.
Finally, while it’s important to protect your super balance once you’re retired, it’s probable that you’ll still need to earn investment income for some time. It’s worth considering how long your superannuation needs to last when planning your investment strategy.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, and the right strategy for you will depend on things like your total super balance, your tolerance to risk and how you plan to fund your retirement. Always seek professional financial advice before making any changes to your super investments.
If you’re looking for other ways to grow your retirement income, speak with a financial planning professional. They can give you tailored individual advice to help you achieve financial freedom in retirement.
Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)
Prior to the global coronavirus pandemic, Australia enjoyed 28 years of uninterrupted economic expansion.
However, a report warns the nation has become complacent and is not guaranteed the same sort of success over the next 50 years as it faces highly complex challenges coming out of the pandemic.
The report by consultants Deloitte says it will be more important than ever for Australia’s policy makers and business leaders to understand the structural changes underway and how they can effectively compete in a more complex and fragmented world.
“Out of uncertainty and volatility, we have the opportunity to shape a new future for Australia,” Deloitte Australia CEO Adam Powick said.
Central to Deloitte’s report is its new economic sophistication index that ranks countries based on their value add to goods and services they produce and how well their industries are connected in global supply chains.
Germany tops the rankings, followed by Great Britain, but Australia stands at a mediocre 37th.
“It’s a shock to realise we aren’t doing as well as we think we are,” head of Deloitte Access Economics Pradeep Phillip said.
“With half a century of hindsight, it’s little surprise that we have an economy characterised by low manufacturing capabilities and missed opportunities from not commercialising our strong research.”
He said Australia hadn’t built the business or structural foundations required for a diversified, resilient economy.
“Instead, we’ve been complacent with our success, and our lower value add and weaker connectedness with the global economy compared to our high-income peers is a serious issue for our future prosperity,” Dr Phillip said.
He says this will leave Australia vulnerable should geopoliticial tensions with China worsen or meaningful action on climate change catches Australia’s off-guard.
“If Australia’s action on climate change continues to lag and, in response, overseas governments introduce limits on our high emission intensity production flows, this too would be devastating for the Australian economy,” Dr Phillip said.
“The world would no longer want what we have, and our Index ranking would drop.”
AUSTRALIA NEEDS TO BE MORE SOPHISTICATED: DELOITTE
* Feeding the world – demand for Australian food is strong, but the core industries involved in Australian food production are among the least sophisticated
* Decarbonising the world – with competitive advantage in natural resources, technologies and energy, Australia can take part in the move to global decarbonisation, by producing new sustainable energy
* Shaping the future of health – Australia can create new value by using technology to turn its world-class health research into implementable health and wellbeing solutions
* Looking to the sky – Australia has a strong track record in the areas it has chosen to play in space, but also needs to grow its capabilities from niche research and manufacturing to end-to-end products and services
* Manufacturing the future – Australia should have a clear focus on moving up the value chain by connecting advanced manufacturing into areas of greatest economic opportunity
* Satisfying the senses – Australian organisations need to continue to be responsive and innovative by co-designing products and services for the ever-changing demands of consumers
* Servicing the world’s businesses – using virtual and digital technology, a significant opportunity exists to export business-to-business services such as engineering, telecommunications, professional services, and financial and insurance services.