Making super and investment decisions: Four tips during COVID-19 and beyond

Posted on 11 May 2020
Making super and investment decisions: Four tips during COVID-19 and beyond

MoneySmart
(ASIC)

During these uncertain times, you might be nervous about your investments. It's important to consider your long-term goals and make well-informed decisions.

Here are some steps to take with your super or investments in shares to ride out ups and downs in the investment markets.

1. Avoid focusing on market volatility

When investment markets are volatile, it can be a good time to review your investment strategy. But don't make any rash decisions based on recent market falls.

Some investors panic when markets fall and decide to convert all their investments to cash. However this means you lock in your losses and you miss out on any investment market recovery. Markets typically recover over the long-term.

Diversification across a broad range of asset classes is the best defence to ride out the ups and downs in the markets at any time.

Super in an uncertain investment market

If you're concerned about your super balance taking a hit, remember super is a long-term investment. Over time it will recover from the ups and downs in investment markets.

If you're close (5 years or less) to retirement, understand your retirement income options, take your time and avoid hasty decisions.

Consider getting financial information and guidance from:

2. Don't try to time the market

It's not a good idea to sell shares or other investments based on daily headlines.

Even the most skilled and experienced investors have difficulty predicting the best time to buy and sell. You might sell your investments only for markets to recover soon after.

Holding onto your investments, even during downturns, can be an effective strategy if your financial goals and situation haven't changed.

3. Review your financial goals

Unexpected events can impact your financial goals.

Talk it over with your family, consider your long-term goals and only make well-informed decisions

If you've become unemployed, for example, you might need to cash out some of your investments for short-term expenses. Only do this if you have no savings to draw on and have explored all other options such government support and applying for financial hardship.

If you do have to draw on your investments, only cash out some of them, if you can. That way you can minimise your losses and still have some money invested when the market begins to recover.

If you're using a financial adviser, now is a good time to ask them to review your financial plan.

4. Beware of investment scams

Beware of cold-calls and unsolicited investment offers and the promise of big returns. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Making hasty decisions, like panic selling or buying shares, can make you more vulnerable to investment scams.

Scammers exploit fear with fake investment offers promising to recover your losses.

Posted in: News  

$4b weekly hit strong incentive to reopen

Posted on 8 May 2020
$4b weekly hit strong incentive to reopen

Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)

Australia's economy is shedding $4 billion every week businesses are closed and travel is shut down, giving leaders a very strong incentive to get things moving again as the coronavirus is wrangled under control.

Treasurers are looking at the best ways to boost economic growth, including a possible company tax cut, a focus on skills and training, and the potential for new, niche manufacturing industries.

There are a million Australians newly on unemployment benefits and another five million are receiving the JobKeeper wage subsidy through their employer.

One in three hospitality workers have lost their job during the economic fallout from the virus, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows.

The arts and entertainment sector is close behind, shedding more than a quarter of workers.

Overall, the economy lost 7.5 per cent of jobs and wages shrank by eight per cent over the month to mid-April.

Treasury has estimated the economy will take a $50 billion hit in the June quarter, equivalent to about 10 or 12 per cent of GDP.

But it's warned things could get a lot worse if restrictions to deal with the coronavirus stay in place.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the $4 billion-a-week cost is a very strong incentive for leaders looking at easing restrictions.

"That certainly puts enormous pressure, as it should, on the timetable as we seek to move Australia back to a COVID-safe economy," he said on Tuesday.

"We now need to get a million Australians back to work. That is the curve that we need to address."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the focus should be on the sectors that enabled other areas of the economy to get moving faster.

"The quicker we lift those restrictions, the more economic activity we generate," he told the National Press Club in Canberra.

"Education, child care, transport and logistics even opening our cafes and restaurants will mean that farmers will have a home for their produce."

Treasury estimated that if schools and child care had completely closed down for three months, a million adults would have had to pull out of the workforce and the economy would have taken a $34 billion hit.

The federal government has been strongly advocating for all schools to return to in-classroom teaching.

Mr Frydenberg acknowledged some sectors, such as tourism, would be much slower to return to normal.

His thoughts are turning to the best way to boost Australia's economic growth once the health crisis is over.

The heads of Treasury and the Reserve Bank have told leaders economic approaches cannot be business as usual.

But Mr Frydenberg said the coalition intended to hold fast to its guiding values and principles.

It will look to tax cuts where possible, believes open markets are key, and wants the private sector rather than government to drive job creation.

The government didn't have a "shopping list of reforms" and would be looking at everything suggested in recent times for boosting growth and productivity.

But he still believed the company tax rate was too high at 30 per cent for big businesses and said Australia had to be as competitive as possible.

He wouldn't comment on whether the states have asked to look at GST, saying the nation's Treasurers regularly discuss a whole range of issues.

Posted in: News  

Workers more hopeful on post-virus economy

Posted on 7 May 2020
Workers more hopeful on post-virus economy

Finbar O'Mallon
(Australian Associated Press)

Australians are becoming more optimistic about their long term job prospects, believing the country might have seen the worst of the coronavirus economic impact.

It comes as new employment figures show one in three food and accommodation workers lost their jobs between mid-March and mid-April.

A new survey shows a slight increase in the number of small and medium-sized business employees who believe they'll be better off in six months as job opportunities rise.

The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index found builders, educators and manufacturing workers are the most pessimistic about their futures.

Public sector, finance and IT workers are much more optimistic.

Australians are more upbeat about the jobs market than a fortnight earlier, suggesting people may feel the worst of the economic fallout has passed.

More than half of respondents report a decrease in personal spending, while nearly two-thirds of unemployed Australians are spending less.

Nearly a quarter of small and medium-sized business employees think they'll be better off in six months, up from 16 per cent two weeks ago.

But the largest proportion (41 per cent) still believe they will be worse off in six months.

Across all industries, Australians are more positive about the long term than the short term.

LinkedIn Australia and New Zealand manager Matt Tindale said confidence was rising as authorities slowly got control over the coronavirus.

"However, we are seeing discrepancy in terms of confidence across industries," he said.

Jobs data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Tuesday also found a third of arts and recreation jobs were gone.

The Australian economy had lost 7.5 per cent of jobs, with wages shrinking by 8.2 per cent, according to the bureau.

Food and accommodation workers aged 20 to 29 and over 70 were the hardest hit, with more than 40 per cent of those age groups out of work.

JOBS FUTURE

LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index data from April 13 to April 19.

  • 54 per cent of working Australians report a drop in personal spending, compared to 70 per cent of unemployed people.
  • 51 per cent of active job seekers have increased the time they've spent looking for work, down from 59 per cent two weeks ago.
  • 23 per cent of small and medium-sized business employees think they'll be better off in six months, up from 16 per cent two weeks ago.
  • 41 per cent of small and medium-sized business employees think they'll be worse off in six months, down from 42 per cent two weeks ago.
  • 64 per cent of finance and IT workers believe they'll be better off in two years time, compared to 34 per cent of education sector employees.
  • 49 per cent of construction workers, and 47 per cent of education workers think they will be worse off in six months.
Posted in: News  

Tips for a stress-free conversation about your Will

Posted on 27 April 2020
Tips for a stress-free conversation about your Will

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

No one likes unpleasant surprises. Talking about your Will with your family can be stressful, but it can also help to avoid a worse situation when you are gone.

Contemplating one's own death can be hard and in many families, talking about money or inheritances is taboo. Some parents worry that letting their children know how much they stand to inherit may cause a sense of entitlement or encourage them to become less productive. Others fear the chat could stir up jealousies, insecurities and feuds among family members.

But no matter how stressful that conversation is, not talking about what's in your Will could cause confusion, bitterness, far bigger family feuds and even legal battles after you're gone.

Having a transparent and open talk about its contents could help your family understand the reasons behind your decisions and ensure their expectations are realistic. It can also reduce their anxiety. After all, it's often the unknown that stresses us the most.

The talk may also allow you to express any special wishes you have that are not specifically included in your Will. And, you may gain better insight into what different family members value and want. A conversation about your finances and wishes will help to clarify who to contact, and how to pay for basic expenses, as well as your funeral, when you pass.

One of the most contentious aspects of settling an estate can be the distribution of personal property like family jewellery, art or special collections, whether worth a lot or just of sentimental value.

Here are five ways to reduce the stress of these conversations:

#1: Identify potential hotspots

Think very carefully about what you plan to do with your assets and why. Do your research and speak to your lawyer about what's possible and what's not. Identify areas that could be touchy subjects.

For example, do you have a child you plan to leave more to than others? This could be because that child has a disability requires additional financial assistance or because that child is a single mother on a low income, whereas her sister is a lawyer married into a wealthy family.

Are you planning to make certain arrangements to protect your heirs? Perhaps one has a drug problem or can't manage his or her financial affairs very well. Or, another is in a rocky marriage and you don't want your hard-earned money being split with that child's spouse.

It's important to plan how you will broach these topics in your discussion with your family, if at all.

Giving good reasons for these decisions and getting buy-in now from everyone could avert problems later on, if they only hear about your plans when you are gone.

#2: Have a game plan

Decide whether you want to talk to each child separately, rather than addressing everyone as a group. If you choose the group route, will it be one discussion or a series of discussions?

Consider who should be involved in these meetings. In addition to your adult children, should you include adult or teenage grandchildren? Should spouses also be invited?

Proper planning can go a long way to keeping peace. Before the talk, determine the goals and objectives you want to achieve from the discussion. Draw up a meeting agenda and some talking points.

Chose a neutral venue for the chat, one that will make everyone feel comfortable and secure.

Consider having your solicitor, accountant or a trusted family elder or friend at the meeting someone who could step in if things get heated and steer the discussion back on track.

#3: Communicate

Carefully explain why you have made the choices you have, especially if you are leaving more to one child than another or if you want sentimental items to go to specific people. Simple explanations can go a long way towards avoiding bad feelings.

Explain the principles, history and values behind your decisions. Let family members ask questions and provide feedback on your plans.

Listen and be open. Give everyone a chance to express their views. This will encourage a healthy dialogue and a common understanding of what different family members want.

#4: Keep the peace

Speak in a calming tone. Don't shut down or lash out if things aren't going the way you want.

Remember that talking about your passing can be a very emotional conversation for your children.

Try to stay focused on the topic at hand and not let other family issues get in the way. Remind everyone that relationships matter more than money and things.

No matter what is said, you have the power to choose how you would like your assets distributed. If a family member doesn't agree with you, let them know they have been heard, but don't feel pressured to change your plan.

#5: Follow up

After the discussion, draft a simple summary of your estate plans and distribute it to your heirs for final input. This draft could also include information such as where your important financial documents are located and what you'd like for your funeral.

It's important to ensure that everyone has understood what was discussed and is one the same page.

Still think that a conversation with your loved ones about your Will is too uncomfortable and troublesome? Start by writing a letter to share your thoughts, reasons and wishes. Maybe you could even film yourself reading out. And remember while the conversation might be based around money, it's really about values.

Posted in: News  

How fit are your finances?

Posted on 24 April 2020
How fit are your finances?

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Wearable technology can monitor our heart rate and tell us how much sleep we've had, but what about our financial wellbeing? If you could benefit from a Fitbit for your finances, read on.

Just like your physical health, the more you can monitor what's happening with your finances, the easier it will be to improve your financial fitness.

We all know that financial stress can have a negative impact on our physical and mental wellbeing, leading to stress, anxiety and depression. Research has even shown that employees suffering high financial stress are "more than four times as likely to complain of headaches, depression and other ailments."

So, if you could get a Fitbit for your finances, what would it track? Keep an eye on these key metrics and you could be feeling financially fit in no time.

1. Spending

Expenses are a fact of life, but this is one area where things can easily get out of hand. Much like overeating, it's all too easy to buy too much and spend on things you don't really need, especially if you're not keeping track of where your money is going. And technology sometimes makes it even easier to overspend. Buy Now Pay Later and tap and go payments make it harder than ever to keep track of what's leaving your account.

What to do: 

  • Make a list of your essential costs, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, food, fees and regular bills.
  • Try using a spreadsheet or budgeting app to make tracking your spending as easy as possible. Many banks now offer breakdowns of your spending by category in their apps, so take advantage of these free tools.

By monitoring where you're actually spending money each day, you'll quickly get a true picture of your financial health.

If your spending habits are putting you on the wrong path, learn how to plan and stick to a budget.

2. Debt

Like carrying a few extra kilos, debt can creep up on you and weigh you down more than you realise.

Reserve Bank data shows consumers have nearly twice as much household debt as income. Meanwhile, the average Aussie tips the scales at $3271 in credit card debt, adding huge pressure to their daily lives.

What to do:

  • Detox your debt. The first step to financial health includes keeping levels of personal debt to a minimum.
  • Look at consolidating your debts onto one card or personal loan, so that you're only dealing with one repayment each month.
  • Take advantage of interest free periods to pay down your debt.
  • Put a repayment plan in place and stick to it!

Get more tips on reducing your debt.

3. Savings

Once your debt reduction strategy is underway, you can focus on another key aspect of your financial health: Savings. How much you have stashed for a rainy day is a strong indicator of your overall financial health.

What to do:

  • Open a dedicated high-interest savings account that's separate from all of your other accounts.
  • Make regular, consistent deposits weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
  • Add any extra cash windfalls to your savings account, such as tax returns or bonuses.
  • Sit back and watch the power of compound interest at work.

4. Superannuation

If you want to stay financially fit and healthy into your old age, you need to lay the groundwork now. That means knowing how much you need to maintain the lifestyle you want, and working towards that figure.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) estimates that for a couple to have a 'comfortable' lifestyle they need at least $640,000, while a single person needs $545,000.

You can use the Moneysmart retirement planner to estimate how much super you'll have when you retire. And if you decide that you need to work on building your super, there are a number of strategies that can help you get ahead.

5. Emergency fund

Like health insurance for your finances, having an emergency fund gives you a buffer against unexpected hard times. You should aim to have enough in your emergency account to cover six months of living expenses, including housing, to protect you in the event of losing your job, falling ill or any other major disruption.

6. Insurance

If you should lose your income for longer, or permanently, there are several types of personal insurance that can help protect you and your family from financial hardship.

Life insurance, total and permanent disability (TPD) and income protection all have a role to play in your financial wellbeing.

Depending on your stage of life, financial situation and responsibilities, it's worth ensuring that you have a mix of all three types of insurance. A financial planner can help you understand what you need and get the right level of cover to protect your lifestyle.

7. Credit rating

A good third-party check-up of your financial health is your credit rating. Compiled from your personal financial information by a credit reporting agency, it's one important indicator of your overall financial fitness.

Several things can affect your credit score, including your borrowings, number of credit applications and whether you make repayments on time.

You can check your credit score for free with one of the online providers listed on the MoneySmart website.

Keep on top of your financial health by monitoring these key metrics and you'll be feeling financially fit well into your retirement.

 

Posted in: News  

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