The old saying "penny wise, pound foolish" couldn't ring truer today

Posted on 11 January 2019
The old saying "penny wise, pound foolish" couldn't ring truer today

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

The old saying "penny wise, pound foolish" couldn't ring truer than in today's throw-away world of overconsumption and excessive production of disposable items.

Did you know that many manufacturers have been using techniques to deliberately reduce the life of a product to increase its replacement rate and sell you the same thing again? It's called planned obsolescence.

Some products are not built to last. Others are specifically designed to make them hard to repair. And some just go out of fashion. Apple, for example, has been accused of using proprietary five-point security screws in some iPhones, making them harder to repair which may have encouraged some customers to upgrade their gadgets sooner than necessary. And, the tech giant has admitted that it artificially slows down iPhones with older batteries.

Then there's the clothing industry. The whole idea is that we keep buying new items to keep up with the latest trends. But fashion changes quickly and last year's hot look may suddenly look dated. Clothes can also be poorly made which means they might not last long.

According to the ABC, each Australian buys an average of 27kg of new clothing and textiles every year. Yet, research found that three-quarters of them had thrown clothes away over the past year and nearly a quarter had thrown away an item after wearing it once.

Worryingly, around 85 per cent of these items end up in landfill. And clothing made from polyester, for example, can take up to 200 years to break down.

Harmful to the earth and your hip pocket

Our buying habits, however, are not only hurting the environment, they are also an example of a poor use of our hard-earned cash. It's like pouring money down the drain or into the garbage bin.

Things are changing though. In August 2015, France became the first country in the world to define and outlaw the practice of planned obsolescence. And thanks to websites like buymeonce.com,and books such as Tara Button's books A Life Less Throwaway and Australian Clare Press's Wardrobe Crisis, many consumers are changing their attitudes to spending.

By making smart buying decisions now, they are finding that they are saving money for more important things in the future, like a home or retirement, and are helping the planet at the same time. As another wise saying goes, "waste not, want not".

Here are some of the ways you can do the same:

Buy quality

An item may appear cheap now, but it's not cheap over the long-term if you are going to have to keep replacing it, maintaining it or repairing it. By doing that, you are not only losing money and your valuable time, but also opening yourself up to future frustration.

Sure, you can skimp on lots of small things that are not important in life or not used often. But it certainly pays to choose quality over price for those items you use almost daily, such as furniture, kitchen appliances, hand bags and shoes. These need to be durable and stand the test of time.

It's also worth spending a little more on some items such as household appliances if they are more energy efficient and can save you on energy cost and water bills over the long-term.

Go classic

Instead of following every fashion trend, buy your clothes for the long-term. This means no impulse shopping. Think carefully about each purchase and opt for quality items that are well-made and designed to last. Have classic basics in the colours that suit you, rather than those in fashion, and which can be worn on many occasions. Top these up with a scarf, jacket or a few other accessories that make you look different every time and feel fashionable.

Go pre-loved

Buying second-hand is no longer uncool, thanks to organisations like the US-based The RealReal and French disruptor Vestiaire Collective. You could also find fantastic items from op shops run by Vinnies, the Salvos, the Red Cross, LifeLine and many other organisations across Australia. Not only are you saving money, but you are also supporting valuable causes. And while you're at it, make sure to check out local buy-swap-sell groups on Facebook, or use eBay and Gumtree to find second hand items of all kinds.

Also consider visiting garage sales. Something that is older and still works well has been made well to start with.

Get mending

Thanks to people like British designer Stella McCartney and the growth in Repair Cafes, mending stuff is back in vogue and not just something great-granny did. Not only is it relaxing and satisfying to fix something, it can also give us a deeper connection to it. In fact, the Japanese have an ethos known as kintsugi, where items are fixed with gold joinery as a way of appreciating the beauty of broken things that have been mended. You don't need to mend your broken items with gold, but you can wear your mends as a badge of honour, by giving your clothes their own unique look and a new lease on life.

Ditch bottled water

Australians are fortunate to have easily accessible safe tap drinking water and yet we are willing to pay $3.00 for something we can get for free with no effort. Did you know that producing and delivering a litre of bottled water can emit hundreds of times more greenhouse gases than a litre of tap water? We only recycle 36 per cent of PET plastic drink bottles, so the rest goes into landfill. So, get yourself a refillable water bottle and carry it with you whenever you can. And ask for tap water in restaurants.

Get quality advice

Just like paying more for quality items that last longer, it pays to get quality financial advice on life's important decisions, like your savings, investments and estate planning. Mistakes made due to lack of advice or getting poor quality advice could cost you a lot more over the long-term.

 

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Staying engaged and keeping a positive outlook in retirement

Posted on 10 January 2019
Staying engaged and keeping a positive outlook in retirement

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.

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Where the money is: Jobs on the rise towards 2020

Posted on 9 January 2019
Where the money is: Jobs on the rise towards 2020

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

A new year can get you thinking about all sorts of lifestyle changes, including career direction. We look at the 5 industries expected to experience growth and offer the best in job opportunities in the next two years.

Money isn't the only reason we choose to work in the jobs we have. You might be following a personal passion or making the most of natural strengths and talents. But when it comes to planning a mid-life career change, it makes sense to be confident your new role and skills are going to reward you financially, particularly if you're going to be investing time and money in education and training.

With the general trend in wage growth in Australia looking sluggish, it's more important than ever to retrain for a job that's likely to be in demand. And you also want to be certain you won't be choosing a role that could be replaced by a robot in the next decade. According to estimates from the World Economic Forum's 2016 report "The Future of Jobs", 5 millions jobs will be lost to automation by 2020[1] and that's just the beginning.

Being a sought after human resource can give you bargaining power and a wider range of positions and employers to choose from. Here are 5 key skillsets and industries expected to experience growth in job opportunities heading towards 2020[2]:

1. Computer and mathematical

Technological disruption is here to stay and with it comes a lot of data for businesses and the public sector to analyse. Although automation can take over a lot of data crunching, there is still likely to be strong demand for data analysts who can bring a human element to the story data is telling us. Information security experts, software developers and programmers will continue to be in demand for their ability to harness technology and data and protect us from it too.

2. Architecture and engineering

Having the skills to design and manipulate our complex physical environment are likely to be just as highly valued as those needed to innovate in the digital world. Over 2 million new jobs in engineering, architecture, computing and mathematics are forecast for the 4 years from 2016 to 2020. Engineering roles in biochemicals, nanotechnology, robotics, and materials are expected to be particularly in demand.

3. Management

With the growing mobility of human capital and the rise of remote working, teams are becoming increasingly diverse and distributed. Put this together with the rapid pace of technological development and you get a complex set of challenges for managers to take on. Skilled leadership is going to be more important than ever as organisations seek to grow and prosper during periods of transformation and in uncertain times.

4. Human resources and legal

The brave new world of technology can quickly become a minefield of lawsuits and regulatory standards. Having specialised legal minds and government relations experts can help organisations embrace new commercial opportunities with less risk. Human resource and organisational design professionals will also be valued as businesses look to recruitment and retraining to secure the skills they need to thrive.

5. Sales

Effective salespeople are likely to become ever more specialised as businesses aim to break into new markets. Communicating the competitive advantage of a product or service to a range of target audiences government, businesses and consumers will be continue to be a prized skillset.

Plan for smooth transition

Taking time off to retrain for your next career can be less stressful if you plan for the change in your financial circumstances. Whether you'll be learning part-time or full-time, there's likely to be an impact on your income. Talking to a financial planner can be a good way to make sure you have enough time and money to meet all your commitments as you get ready for your bright new future.

Ready to jump in and get studying for that next career move? Find out more about the benefits of investing in yourself.

[1] Fast Company, These will be the top jobs in 2025, Gwen Moran, 31 March 2016, "The World Economic Forum's 2016 report, The Future of Jobs, estimates that 5 million jobs will be lost to automation by 2020 and that the number will keep growing." https://www.fastcompany.com/3058422/these-will-be-the-top-jobs-in-2025-and-the-skills-youll-need-to-get-them

[2] World Economic Forum, 8 jobs every company will be hiring for by 2020, Cadie Thompson, 22 January 2016.https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/8-jobs-every-company-will-be-hiring-for-by-2020/

 

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Wondering how to pay off your home loan sooner?

Posted on 8 January 2019
Wondering how to pay off your home loan sooner?

(Your Loan Hub)

Smart tips for paying off your home loan sooner

We look at some things you could do.

Australian home loan interest rates remain at historic lows, and the opportunities for paying off a mortgage early are better than ever. Used in conjunction with low rates, here are some extra steps that can speed up loan repayments and reduce your loan balance.

Make higher repayments

One of the easiest ways to quickly reduce the balance of your mortgage is to make larger loan repayments. The minimum repayments required on a loan are calculated on the amount owing and the prevailing home loan interest rate. Repaying more than the minimum can cut the overall term of the loan and save you thousands of dollars in interest. A mortgage repayments calculator will quickly show what savings can be achieved.

Some lenders may charge you an early payment cost for paying your loan in advance. This is particularly the case with fixed-interest loans, so it's always best to check up-front. These costs can be large.

Make more frequent repayments

Home loans are often structured so that you make monthly repayments. But making fortnightly repayments instead can reduce the term of a loan and save interest. By making fortnightly repayments, you are paying the equivalent of half of your monthly repayment every two weeks. This allows you to make the equivalent of one extra monthly repayment per year. Extra repayments will ensure the loan balance is lower at the time of the month the interest is calculated.

Use an interest offset account

Most lenders allow you to package a mortgage with an interest offset account. An offset account allows you to reduce the amount of interest paid on your loan by offsetting the amount in the (offset) account against your loan balance. Wages and other income can be deposited into your offset account. Note that you don't earn interest on the funds in the offset account, and that offset is usually only available on variable rate loans.

Seek out lower rates

Although obvious, many borrowers take out a mortgage and then stop following the home loan market. With interest rates constantly changing, it pays to monitor the latest rates. If rates go down, contact your lender or broker and ask if they can reduce the rate on your loan.

Don't take the rate cut

When a lender reduces the interest rate on its home loans, usually in line with a cut in official interest rates, your first thought may be to reduce your loan repayments accordingly. However, by maintaining your loan repayments, you effectively repay more than the minimum loan repayment. If it's possible to do so, this will help you cut the term of the loan and save on interest.

Pay both principal and interest

While you can make lower repayments by choosing an interest-only loan, doing so means the principal component of the loan will not be repaid while you are only paying interest.

Pay fees upfront

When initially taking out a mortgage, lenders will often roll the establishment costs and charges into the loan. While this may help the short-term budget, it's worth paying these costs separately to lower the overall balance of the loan from the start.

Use your home equity

As home prices rise, you build more equity in your property. Redrawing funds from a home loan to pay for renovations and other costs can be a much cheaper source of funds than others.

Set up a split loan

A split loan, sometimes referred to as a combination loan, enables borrowers to divide their mortgage into both variable and fixed components. By doing this, you can not only make extra payments on the variable component, but also lock in a lower fixed rate. Extra payments can often be made on the fixed loan too, up to a limit specified by the lender.

Get a financial package

You can often lock in a discounted loan rate with a financial package and also find special rates on other products and services. Putting those savings into your mortgage is a great way to get the best of both worlds.

With just a few easy steps, borrowers can significantly reduce the length of their mortgage and save thousands of dollars in the process. A mortgage broker can assist you in setting everything up.

For more information on how you can pay off your home loan sooner, contact your mortgage broker.

 

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How close are we to a cashless society?

Posted on 7 January 2019
How close are we to a cashless society?

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

With tap and go payments becoming ever more popular and the advent of instant transfers between domestic bank accounts, how much longer will we be using cash as a form of payment?  Find out more about when we can expect Australia to go completely cashless and what it means for us, as business owners and consumers.

Got any cash on you?

According to recent survey results produced by You Gov Galaxy and commissioned by payments provider Square, the average answer to this questions is likely to be 'about $38' if you're under the age of 40. Baby boomers are much more likely to have a few more notes and coins on them, carrying $72 in cash on average. And almost five million Aussies haven't visited an ATM within the last 4 weeks or can't even recall the last time they withdrew cash[1].

Put this together with the Reserve Bank of Australia's report from 2016 that found only 37% of payments in Australia were being made in cash and you can see where we're heading a time when having cash just won't be necessary or practical for the vast majority of the transactions we make. Using the RBA's data from 2016, comparison site Finder have forecast that cash could disappear completely from Australia as soon as 2026[2]. But do we have good reason to look forward to being a cashless economy and society?

Tap happy?

Unfortunately, the convenience of tap and go payments may end up having a negative impact on our ability to keep our spending within reasonable limits. According to a study from the University of Sydney, people can be expected to spend up to 50% more by paying with any payment type other than cash. "There's good empirical evidence that people spend more money when they don't actually have to use cash, and that goes across different alternative forms of payment," says Donnel Briley, Professor of Marketing and Behavioural Psychology at the University of Sydney.

A survey of high school students back in 2017 demonstrated that many teens simply don't understand key concepts around personal borrowing with credit cards. This makes them particularly vulnerable to the perils of buying something without really thinking through how much it costs in real terms. When there is interest to pay on their purchase, as well as the opportunity cost of having already spent the money, young people can be particularly vulnerable, to buyer regret as well as serious financial struggles when they're saddled with repayments on long-term debts.

For parents of kids, teens and young adults help is at hand. In 2018, the FPA commissioned research into our 'invisible money' generation and how parents are handling the challenges of raising kids to be financially savvy in an increasingly cashless context. The How to talk money with children e-book is packed with insights, advice and tips from experts on sharing good money habits with children in the digital age.

Good and bad for business

As well as presenting economic challenges for consumers, a cashless world also has pros and cons for businesses. While some small and medium sized businesses might celebrate saying goodbye to hours spent counting notes and coins 216 hours on average each year according to the You Gov Galaxy/Square survey others could be losing out on revenue with less cash changing hands. A 2017 survey by ME Bank reports a 51% fall in cash payments in the last five years for industry employees traditionally remunerated in cash, such as tradespeople and hospitality staff. Tipping and on-the-spot charity donations are two of the biggest casualties of the disappearance of cash, with each recording falls of 45% and 44% respectively in the frequency of cash payments in the same period.

Easier than EFT

A significant game changer for Australia's move towards being cash-free could well be the National Payments Platform (NPP). Officially launched in February 2018, the NPP technology could end up replacing many EFT and cash transactions but hasn't been offered broadly by financial services institutions yet. Assuming that widespread adoption of the NPP, and its associated services like PayID and Osko, are just a matter of time, the move towards a cash-free economy could pick up speed in the months and years to come. Watch this space.

Want to get ready for a brave new cash-free world? Read our insider's guide to invisible money to get up to speed on all the latest apps and advice.

[1] The Australian, One-in-three shoppers go cashless: poll, Luke Costin, 17 September 2018 https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/oneinthree-shoppers-go-cashless-poll/news-story/f3ed60f050d15e5f1609da7a2497ba08

[2] News.com.au, Cash payments predicted to disappear within a decade as tap and go takes over, Alexis Carey, 24 May 2018, "A projection of that data by comparison site finder.com.au has revealed that if the current trend continues, physical cash could vanish in Australia as soon as 2026." https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/cash-payments-predicted-to-disappear-within-a-decade-as-tap-and-go-takes-over/news-story/75026efec69b7e4bbdee90b1dd363429

 
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