Troubleshooting family finances

Posted on 4 January 2019
Troubleshooting family finances

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Are your family finances a battleground where good and bad habits collide? Find out how to support your family towards better financial wellbeing without risking your relationship.

Sometimes money can really drive a wedge between family members. When you have a parent, sibling, child or maybe even a partner who seems determined to sabotage their finances, it can be difficult to know how to help or where to draw the line with handing over cash.

Here are five important things to think about when it comes to handling family finances so you can keep your relationships and finances healthy and stable.

1. Where does it come from?

Talking to someone in your family about why they're bad with money can be a confronting experience for both of you. But if you can tackle it without blame or judgement, it can build a more equal and understanding relationship between you. Showing genuine interest in why someone struggles with financial hardship can go a long way towards resolving the tension and conflict that often comes with talking about money.

When gambling or addiction are involved, getting professional help can allow them to deal with financial troubles as part of a larger problem they need to overcome. If holding down a job is the challenge, you can support them towards better career choices by talking to them about their strengths, looking at training options and helping with their resume. Whatever the root of the problem, getting it out in the open can help you understand the best way of offering or finding the support they need.

2. Gifts and handouts

Sometimes you'll want to act on your goodwill towards family with a cash gift or loan of some kind. In the right circumstances, giving someone a handout can be just what they need to get them out of a negative spiral or just take the pressure off so they can make a plan and a budget they can stick to. And if you want to help them financially but keep control of how the money is spent, you could offer to pre-pay bills.

If it's a cash handout, make sure you both understand whether you're making it a gift or a loan. If it's to be a loan, make a written agreement for a realistic repayment schedule you're both comfortable with. While it might be a tricky subject to bring up, talk about what will happen if they don't pay you back. Even if you've helped in the past, it doesn't mean you have an unlimited budget for gifting or lending money to family. So whatever type of financial help you're offering, you should be confident you can afford it, whether they pay you back or not.

3. When to say no

Saying no to a request for money can be tricky. You might be worried that refusing to provide a gift or loan will make your relationship come unstuck and create problems for a person you care about. But think of the strain you'll put on yourself and your relationship if you offer money you simply can't afford to give. Helping in other ways can be a good way to let a family member know you care and want the best for them. Lending tools, appliances or a vehicle can save them on the cost of buying them. Helping with childcare or housework may be just what they need to make more time for earning money. So there are lots of ways to help without actually digging into your own pocket.

4. Budgeting and other good money habits

If you've got good money-management skills, take the time to share them. Being a budget mentor is one of the best and easiest ways to help a family member who is struggling to make ends meet. Sit down with all their bank and credit card statements, bills and payslips and take a good look at how much money is coming in and where it's going. Talk about what they value and how to prioritise that in their spending and save on other things. And introduce them to some budgeting apps to make it easier for them to track their spending, if you think that's going to suit them.

Sometimes people need a little nudge to hunt down a bargain rather than take the first price they're offered. Just by introducing your family member to comparison tools for things like energy bills and insurance you can begin an important change in their approach to spending.

5. Call in the experts

You might be a budgeting maestro, but sometimes it takes an expert to get family finances on track. There are all sorts of ways that financial advice can make a difference to you and your family finances. They can help you determine if a gift or loan is affordable in the context of your other financial goals, like saving for retirement or getting debt free. And having someone step in and provide your family member with impartial advice when they're in a financial mess can be just what you all need to make sure they're getting support without putting pressure on your relationship and your own finances.

Whatever your family or financial situation may be, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional can offer valuable advice on budgeting, dealing with debt and planning for a better financial future.

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How much super should I have?

Posted on 3 January 2019
How much super should I have?

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

It's all very well having retirement savings as a financial goal, but just how much should you plan to have in your super balance now, and when you retire? Find out more about coming up with a super balance target, for your age group, and for the retirement lifestyle you have in mind.

Above or below average?

Assuming you've been in the workforce for a few months, years or even decades, your retirement savings will be growing nicely thanks to the Super Guarantee. This is the compulsory contribution to super your employer must pay on your behalf. You can keep tabs on just how much you have by checking your latest super statement, logging on to your MyGov account, or your super fund's online portal.

Once you've checked up on your super savings, how can you tell if it's enough to see you living comfortably in retirement, whether that's in 5 or 25 years' time? To get an idea of how your super savings compare with others your age, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) has published average super balances held by different age groups, including figures for men and women. So if you're currently aged 40-44, your peers have an average balance of just over $80,000. That average rises to a peak of almost $215,000 in the years approaching retirement (60-64).

How much is enough?

Putting a figure on how much you'll need saved to cover your costs in retirement is a tricky task. There are so many unknowns for each of us, including when we're going to retire, how long we'll live once we do and what we'll be spending our time doing. This is why many people seek advice from a Certified Financial Planner® professional to get financially ready for retirement. They can ask the right questions and help you run the numbers to give you a clear picture of your retirement goals and plan for the income you'll need to achieve them.

To get a more general idea of what you can expect to spend in retirement, the ASFA publish retirement standard figures each quarter. As a well-researched estimate of what singles and couples will need to pay their bills for a modest or comfortable retirement lifestyle, these figures offer a rough idea of living costs. The Milliman Retirement Expectations and Spending Profiles (ESP) report is also published quarterly. Based on data gathered from 300,000+ Australian retirees, their reports put spending in retirement under the microscope to help people plan better for their financial needs in retirement. According to data and commentary from their February 2018 ESP report for example, Milliman found that over half of Australian retirees are actually living on less than the Age Pension each year.

Having said this, results from the 2017 FPA Live the Dream survey show that just 22% of baby boomers say they're living the dream in retirement. And the number one obstacle standing in their way is a low bank balance (39%). So while a modest income may be enough to live on, perhaps a bigger nest egg is important for making retirement dreams come true.

Should I save more?

As well as these different estimates about how much you'll need in retirement, here are some important ideas to bear in mind if you're uncertain about the importance of topping up your super with extra contributions:

  • Not only is Australia's population getting bigger, it's ageing too. As a nation that's very successful at living longer, we're likely to be retired for longer and need extra savings as a result.
  • Current ASFA retirement standard figures assume you'll have no rent or mortgage to pay in retirement. However, there are widespread concerns about growing numbers of people heading towards retirement still paying off a substantial home loan or continuing to rent for the rest of their lives. This creates a significant extra cost to cover from retirement income.
  • The gap between average superannuation balances at retirement age for men and women in 2015-16 was $113,661, a difference of more than 40%[1]. As women are far more likely to take on unpaid care roles[2], and stop working or work part-time as a result, they also have less opportunity to build up retirement savings from SG contributions. Whether you end up taking a break from work to study, travel or look after family members, consider making up for missed SG payments with extra contributions now.

Looking for a way to budget for extra super contributions? Salary sacrificing into super can be a great way to cut your tax bill and boost your super contributions at the same time.

References

[1] ASFA, Superannuation account balances by age and gender, October 2017, page 9, Table 1: Average superannuation balance by age and gender, 2015-16 https://www.superannuation.asn.au/ArticleDocuments/359/1710_Superannuation_account_balances_by_age_and_gender.pdf.aspx?Embed=Y

[2] PWC, Understanding the unpaid economy, March 2017, page 1, 'Women are significantly over-represented in the unpaid economy, accounting for almost three quarters of all unpaid work.'
https://www.pwc.com.au/australia-in-transition/publications/understanding-the-unpaid-economy-mar17.pdf

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Is this your year to retire?

Posted on 2 January 2019
Is this your year to retire?

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

If you've got retirement in your sights this year, we've got the ultimate checklist to help you retire in style. Discover how to prepare for this exciting new chapter in your life, safe in the knowledge that your finances will be taking care of you.

1. Explore your goals and make plans

Enjoying retirement to the full isn't just a matter of money. It's just as important to have a good long think about what you'd like to be doing when you're no longer going to work. Will you want to travel or spend time with family or keeping fit? And when you're faced with the idea of stopping work completely, you may want to continue working part-time or volunteer. A gradual transition to retirement can be a good way to manage your income needs too.

2. Work on your budget

When you do stop earning a salary your nest egg is going to have to last you for the rest of your life. So you'll need to think carefully about what you have to draw on assets, savings, investments and government benefits and what you'll be spending money on, including day-to-day expenses and household bills, your rent or mortgage and insurance as well as funding other retirement plans like trips overseas.

3. Reduce your debts

Interest on your mortgage, loans and credit card balances is a cost you'd rather not be paying once you're relying on retirement savings for your income. If you have the funds to do so, it may make sense to settle as many of your debts as possible before you start planning and budgeting for retirement.

4. Budget for big ticket items

Don't forget to include the cost of replacing your car, appliances or making major repairs to your home in your budget. The things you own and rely on will be ageing along with you and planning for these big bills will stop them having an impact on your day-to-day cash flow.

5. Check your eligibility for government benefits and super

Government benefits like the age pension and seniors card can make a significant difference to your income and budget but are you entitled? Depending on your circumstances, the process for being assessed and applying for these benefits can be complex so it's a good idea to investigate this before you actually retire. There are also rules around accessing your super savings, including how old you need to be. Make sure you're not counting on income from super if you're still too young to draw on it.

6. Find out about tax

There are tax benefits and concessions available to retirees receiving income from their super, but these depend a lot on how you invest your money. And government policies and legislation around super investments and income and how they are taxed has changed a lot recently. So when it comes to choosing tax-effective investments that offer opportunities to earn a stable income, professional advice from a financial planner can help you make the right decisions.

7. Make a retirement income timeline

Working with a planner can also help with managing your cash flow during retirement. If you're drawing income from a number of different "pots" like super, any savings or investments you may have outside of super or the age pension you'll probably find it helpful to forecast how much you're going to need from each one over time. If you're planning to downsize to release equity from your home for example, an income timeline can influence when you decide to sell.

8. Take care of family matters

Is providing for your children likely to be a priority for you either before or after your death? If you're planning to transfer some of your wealth to family through a will, make sure this is accounted for in your retirement budget and financial plan. And if you're expecting to help your children with financial and lifestyle goals in the near future such as buying a house or getting married bear in mind your own financial wellbeing and security before making the commitment. You may also want to consider making arrangements for one or more family members to act as your power of attorney in case you lose capacity for making financial decisions.

9. Find the right financial planner for you

A financial planner can help you get the right approach to managing your money for a secure and stable income that's going to last throughout your retirement. For example, they can offer valuable advice on whether clearing debts is going to stop you from having a savings and investment balance that can deliver enough income to meet your needs. They can also help you draw up a realistic budget that takes into account all your retirement goals, including transferring wealth to your children if that's important to you.

Your planner is likely to provide you with guidance and advice throughout your retirement years. So it's important to find a planner you feel comfortable with and who has the expertise and understanding of your unique needs that can deliver the best advice and results.

10. Plan to be in the best of health

All the money in the world won't help you enjoy retirement if you're not in good health. Whether it's including a gym membership, a new bike, home gym or stand-up paddle board in your budget, having a way to keep fit will go a long way towards maintaining your health and mobility as you age. And don't forget to review your health insurance, both before you retire and as you age, to make sure you can continue to meet the cost of managing your health.

Want to find out how advice from a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®professional can help you get ready for retirement this year? Read our financial planner's guide to preparing for retirement.

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Is working more the answer to your financial problems?

Posted on 21 December 2018
Is working more the answer to your financial problems?

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

When working more means earning more, it makes sense to take that promotion or extra shift to get ahead financially. But when expenses go up and quality of life goes down, is the price you're paying for longer hours too high?

So you've been offered a pay rise at work that comes with more responsibilities. If that's going to mean staying late at the office or taking work home with you, is the extra income really going to make it worth your while? Here are 3 important things to ask yourself before changing your lifestyle and habits to make more time for earning money.

1. Where will you be spending more?

Working more hours gives you less time to spend on looking after your other needs. By being tied up at work for longer, things like a clean and tidy home, shopping for meals and other essentials could end up costing you much more. Some examples of where your expenditure might go up when working hours increase are:

  • Less time to plan, shop and cook your own meals means spending more on take-away and restaurant food.
  • Extra hours and stress at work can make that mid-afternoon coffee or chocolate fix more tempting, and those extra dollars spent add up over time.
  • When you're tired at the end of a long day, taking taxis and Ubers to get you home faster will bump up your transport budget.
  • When leisure time is rare and precious, you're more likely to spend extra money on household maintenance, cleaning and laundry services.

If you do end up working longer hours for more money, beware of letting these expenses eat into that extra income. Otherwise you could be putting in all that effort and see very little difference in the budget you have available to save or spend on things you really value.

2. What will you be missing out on?

It's all too easy to get caught up in the idea that earning more is the path to greater security. And if you feel more secure, then you're going feel less anxious and more positive right? Well it depends a lot on your personal definition of what security and happiness means for you. Perhaps it's a priority for you to have comfortable home you can enjoy. If extra work commitments take you away from home more, then you're paying for something you actually enjoy less and less. And when you value things like your health and time with family and friends, there's a very good chance that working more will mean investing less time in these things too. If you're only getting to the gym every other week and skipping family dinners because of work, it's worth asking yourself if the extra dollars are really making up for these missed opportunities.

3. Could you be better off without earning more?

Although getting ahead financially may be important to you, earning more isn't the only way to go about it. Taking a good look at where your money is going is a positive step towards making better spending choices for you and your family. If you're really clear about what matters to you, and your day-to-day budget matches those priorities, you could be better off in a financial sense and have a stronger commitment to your goals and values. A financial planner can act as a sounding board to help you reflect on what's most important to you. They can also guide you through the process of setting goals and managing your budget to make the most of the income you have now.

Looking for ways to save on your day-to-day budget? Get tips on cutting back on the three biggest household expenses. Or follow our savings and budget checklist for more ways to start saving.

 

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Your festive finances

Posted on 20 December 2018
Your festive finances

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

Debt isn't a welcome guest for any family at Christmas time. And yet blowing the budget and paying it all back next year is tempting when we're trying to make it the best festive season ever. Get tips on how to keep your finances in the best of shape as you get ready for Christmas so you can enjoy a debt and stress-free new year.

The festive debt hangover

Getting into debt at Christmas is becoming about as common in Australia as feasting on prawns, turkey and ham. And it's not hard to see why as spending goes into overdrive in the days leading up to 25 December. In 2016, the National Retail Association was expecting sales of more than $48 billion in the period from mid-November to 31 December. That's more than $1 billion spent every single day[1].

So if you get a little carried away with shopping for the biggest celebration of the year, you're in good company. But this spending frenzy can have big consequences for months to come. According to survey data gathered by finder.com, families are taking months to get over their festive debt hangover. On average, a family took until 10 March 2018 to clear their 2017 Christmas debt and one in six people took between four and six months to catch up[2].

What you can do about it

If you're finding yourself facing credit card balances and other debts in January and beyond, it might be time to save yourself hundreds of dollars in interest by curbing those holiday season spending urges. Here are five great ways to make budgeting work for you when the pressure is on to spend:

1. Stick to cash - when we wave our card at an etfpos terminal, it's easy to be blasé about the amount we're actually handing over. And if that card is credit rather than debit, you're spending big with dollars you may not actually have in the bank. BBC broadcaster and psychologist Claudia Hammond suggests using cash for your Christmas purchases for a more conscious approach to spending. "When you are about to buy something on a credit card, imagine taking the equivalent money out of a cash machine" she says. "Would you still want to spend it?"

And if you're buying online and using your card to make this happen, try to avoid storing your credit card details or using one-click features in shopping carts. This will give you more time to think about what you're buying, why and for how much. And try not to be tempted to buy just a few more gifts with Afterpay. If you find yourself unable to make repayments on time, you'll be struggling even more when late fees are added to your balance.

2. Start with the essentials.. - if you're going to rein in your spending, that doesn't have to mean giving up on the Christmas treats and traditions you enjoy most. Make a budget for anything you and your family consider to be essential to make Christmas special for you. Maybe that's a real tree, decorating gingerbread houses or pavlova for dessert. This will give you a baseline amount to allow for in your budget. So when it's a choice between baubles for the tree or fairy lights for the verandah, you'll know which one is more important and can spend accordingly.

3. But don't forget the extras - having said that, there are lots of small details in preparing for Christmas that can sabotage your best budgeting efforts. Things like gift wrap and postage for overseas presents are small costs that can mount up. So remember to allow for these when planning how much you'll spend altogether.

4. Have a Christmas cut-off - the final days before Christmas can be the time when your budget flies out the window. From their survey, finder have also learnt that almost half the amount we each spend at Christmas[3] is handed over during the five day count-down to the 25 December. To save you from making expensive or unnecessary panic purchases, stick to a deadline of 20 December to have your shopping all done and dusted.

5. Share the catering load - in their Christmas forecast for 2018, finder are expecting Aussies to spend $122 per person on food and $131 on alcohol[4]. In your family, you may be footing the bill for many Christmas guests this year. If your catering spend is threatening to push you over what you can actually afford, ask relatives and friends to make a contribution. You could suggest they bring a dish, something to drink, or pay a share of the grocery bill.

Feeling worried about Christmas and money? Find out more on dealing with financial stress during the festive season.

[1] Canstar, 9 Ways To Stay Out Of Debt This Christmas, Regina Collins, 17 October 2017, "The pre-Christmas and Boxing Day Period runs from the final two weeks of November right up to New Year's Eve a total of 46 days and the National Retail Association (NRA) was expecting more than $48.1 billion to be spent during that time last year."https://www.canstar.com.au/budgeting/surviving-christmas-without-the-debt-hangover/

[2] Sydney Morning Herald, Most Australians will still be in debt from Christmas next Easter,Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon, 19 December 2017, https://www.smh.com.au/money/saving/most-australians-will-still-be-in-debt-from-christmas-next-easter-20171218-h06o5a.html

[3] Sydney Morning Herald, Most Australians will still be in debt from Christmas next Easter,Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon, 19 December 2017, https://www.smh.com.au/money/saving/most-australians-will-still-be-in-debt-from-christmas-next-easter-20171218-h06o5a.html

[4] https://www.finder.com.au/christmas-spending-statistics-2018

 

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