Personal Finance

5 Ways To Make The Same Money As Men

A man is not a plan, but they enjoy higher salaries now and more wealth later. To be precise, 17.5 per cent a year higher and $1 million over a lifetime more (the estimated dollar detriment for women who are in their 30s and 40s today).

RELATED: Helen Mirren: ‘Women Are Still Toddlers In This Modern World’

It certainly doesn’t help that females are still the more likely sex to take career/pay breaks to raise kids.

Bottom line: the system is dreadfully biased against women… so it’s time to man-up your money plan. Here are five easy ways to ensure we hit the same financial heights.

1. DON’T be scared to go for a pay rise – back yourself with your boss (your partner would)

Women are notoriously shy about asking for the salary we deserve, often because we can’t quite accept we deserve the job in the first place. This is the so-called, so-common ‘imposter’ syndrome. I’m betting you do deserve it – your employer clearly thinks so – and if you put a calm and convincing case for extra cash (including evidence of your contribution), it will be granted (even if it takes a while).

2. DON’T trust super – it will fail you unless you pay in more before and after children

Super has only been compulsory since 1992 but already women are retiring with less than half the balances of men because it is earnings-based. Indeed, super is actually sabotaging us: it’s lulled us into the false belief that a comfortable retirement is assured. Far from it, but you should avert disaster if you make even small extra contributions in periods when you are working and any possible when you are not (check out the free money available via the co-contribution scheme and tax incentives for spouse contributions). The early years are crucial for compounding.

3. DON’T trust your partner – to always provide for you, that is. For many reasons, he might not be able to

Not to get too grim, but death, divorce, dire money decisions… they could all leave you broke. Besides, what a responsibility for a man to shoulder your financial future too on the basis of out-dated gender roles. He may be clueless! Get across the basics of your money life: know your accounts (and be sure you can access them), your insurances (ensure they are enough) and your investments (check they are suitable). Come what may you need to be protected.

4. DON’T just think about your family – you owe it to them to also look after your future

‘The woman’s money is the family’s money, the man’s money is his money,” a participant in a recent RMIT University study of females and finance said succinctly… and scarily. And another added: ‘It’s a mother’s job to go without.” No, no, no. This is the attitude at the root of our ultimate income inferiority. If you need further motivation: what if your kids came to you for money as adults and you couldn’t help?

5. DO dare to dream – the situation is serious but also easily fixed if you simply make prosperity a priority

You don’t amass money for money’s sake. You do it to have options, to have opportunities. So decide exactly what it is you want from LIFE. Crystallise these precious aspirations and the process of achieving them – and the small sacrifices it may take along the way – will seem so worth it.

Nicole is the founder of TheMoneyMentorWay.com and developer of the 12-Step Prosperity Plan, an achievable and even enjoyable blueprint to take Aussies from worry to wealthy. Nicole’s writing has earned her top personal finance awards in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Her career credits include founding and editing The Australian Financial Review’s Smart Investor magazine, and reporting and editing for the magazine arm of the UK’s Financial Times. Author, qualified financial adviser and Fairfax’s Money Matters columnist for the last decade, Nicole is a regular on television and radio. She talks money without the mumbo jumbo. Follow her on Twitter at @NicolePedMcK.

September 16, 2015

Four Ways To Create A Successful Business

There’s a lot of information available on creating and sustaining business. There are a lot of points of view too! Some points of view may be true for you. Many may be limitations that you can go beyond.

Whether you are considering starting a business, in the beginning phases of a business or have been doing business for many years, what matters is what works for you. We often attempt to duplicate what others have done rather than functioning from what we know.

If you are interested in creating a successful business, there are 4 things I recommend. I am not offering steps or formulas so that you can do what I do. Rather, I am offering tools that you can use to bring what works for you into existence. After all, you are the most valuable product of your business!

1. What’s Your Target?

What does success mean to you? What’s the real target of your business? What’s the real target of your life?

For me, business is about changing the world and creating more awareness and consciousness on the planet.  That’s my target.  If one person reads The Joy of Business or walks out of a class I have facilitated and has changed even slightly because of something I’ve said, then I’m a success.

What is it for you? What makes you come alive? What energy do you wish to have more of in your life and in the world?

Hint: Usually whatever you find really easy and think has not value is what you can make money from.

2. Ask Questions

Everything has consciousness, including your business. A business has a way it wishes to develop, and when you are in allowance of that, it can be much more successful.

Questions you can ask your business:

What can I contribute to the business today?

What does this business require of me today?

What would be fun for us to create today?

What information do we require to increase the business?

You can awaken your business and your life when you ask questions, trust your knowing and develop your awareness of what else is possible.

3.Empowerment Not Micromanagement

When you micromanage, you go into your thoughts and expectations and you leave the possibilities behind. Micromanagement shuts down the energy of the business.

Empower your staff and colleagues instead!

Ask them:

What could you contribute to this project?

What ideas do you have?

Where do you see this business in 2 years?  5 years?  10 years?

What would we have to institute today to increase our business today and in the future?

What is vital to you?

When you empower people in this way, you open the door for them to ask, “What can I contribute?” This is a huge factor in the success of a business.  It invites people to a possibility of contribution.

4.Be Willing to Receive

Your ability to receive is essential to the success of your business. What are you willing to receive? Success? Money? Gratitude?

If your business is not as successful as you would like, look at your willingness to receive and ask:

What energy have I been unwilling to receive that would create success beyond what I have ever imagined?

To create a successful business with ease: Know your target. Ask questions. Empower. Receive!

Simone Milasas is a business mentor and the author of Joy of Business, $38.50.  She has been involved in a multitude of companies, and is presently the world wide coordinator of Access Consciousness® as well as the founder and creator of Joy of Business.  For more information visit www.accessjoyofbusiness.com

September 6, 2015

5 Everyday Savings Tips

Are you constantly living on the brink of bankruptcy? Do you have trouble saying no to a new pair of shoes? It’s probably time you developed some healthy spending habits. Budgeting and saving can take effort, but it all starts by being aware of your everyday financial activity, and cutting out the little things. Here are a few tips to help sort your savings, that you can incorporate into your daily routine.

1. Don’t be hasty

Some people call it the 30-day rule: if you see something you like, don’t buy it immediately. Wait 30 days and if you still want it, you have earned your permission to buy it. Why wait? Because given some time, you may have realised that the hot pink crop top was actually a terrible idea and if you didn’t buy it, you could have paid your phone bill on time! It helps prevent impulse purchasing and, therefore, unnecessary spending!

2. Make lists

A shopping list isn’t just help jog your failing memory. It can also stop you from buying things you don’t need. When it comes to grocery shopping, you might also want to make a weekly meal plan in order to get the exact ingredients you need, saving you from doubling-up, missing out, and having to return to the supermarket several times a week.

3. Log your spending

This should be the first thing you do if you want to monitor and cut back your spending. Start by logging your daily expenses, and pin point where you need to cut back. For example, I spend too much money eating out. Therefore, I’ve made a conscious decision to limit the number of times I get take-away, take my lunch to work, and if I know I have a big night out coming up, I’ll find other ways to save that week.

4. Cut back on treats for the kids

If you have kids, keep in mind that, despite what advertisers tell you, it doesn’t take the latest toys and gadgets to entertain them. A healthy child should have a healthy imagination, and being resourceful during play time is not only beneficial for your child’s development, but also for your budget. While most of us will know how easy it is to give in to an epic tantrum at the mall, try to take these things in your stride, don’t yield to poor behaviour (reward them when they’re good), and remember that it will all be over soon, and your kids will find other things to do.

5. Turn off the TV

This is not only great for saving on electricity bills, you will also avoid the constant onslaught of television advertising and product placement that piques your desire to shop! Added bonus: You will have more time to spend doing things you enjoy and are practical. Using your time efficiently is invaluable.

June 23, 2015

6 Reasons Short-Term Loans Could Be A Better Way To Borrow

Short-term loans have received a lot of bad press over recent years. This was mainly as a result of exorbitant interest rates, administrative fees and other costs. Yet for many, a short-term loan is a viable option to get out of financial trouble. Here are six reasons why you might need to access a short-term loan.

The bargain of a lifetime 

Holidays are always important. If you’ve spotted a travel agent’s deal that’s too good to miss, then as long as you’ve done all of the sums and know that you can afford the repayments, a short-term loan will prove to be a welcome solution to any cash strapped shopper. Why not click here to see if you can afford a logbook loan. Unlike payday loans, you can repay the amount borrowed in small regular amounts until the debt is repaid.

No one wants to be locked into a debt 

If you’ve borrowed money, you don’t want to be locked into a repayment schedule that will prove costly and possibly inconvenient. You may even forget why you took out the loan in the first place. According to the website Money Saving Expert if you shop around you can still access a cheap short term loan, this might be through 0% introductory credit card offers or even a 0% overdraft rate with a new bank account. As long as you can prove that you have a good credit rating, this type of offer is the ideal way to source a short-term loan.

The future is always a mystery 

If you’ve worked out your budget for the foreseeable future and you are confident that you can meet your loan repayments, then a short-term loan is perfect for most purposes. No one has a crystal ball. Illness or accidents, or even recessions can occur at any time, so borrowing for a short period of time may be safer than a long-term debt.

Manage your debts 

A recent article in The Guardian highlighted the dangers of debt. Non-mortgage borrowing has reached a staggering £10,000 per household across the UK, or £239 billion in total and this figure is set to grow. This figure does include unavoidable student loans, which amounted for £9.1 billion of the £19.7 billion increase in 2014, and personal debt including loans and overdrafts amounted to £6.4 billion. If you want to manage your finances, a short-term loan that’s repaid within a fixed term may be your best option.

You need money quickly 

If you need funds in an emergency and don’t have time to wait for a bank’s decision on an overdraft, or your credit card is maxed out, then a short-term loan is perfect. You’ll be able to respond to the emergency and repay the money in over a short period of time.

Always read the terms and conditions 

Loans vary from company to company. Despite new regulations governing this financial sector you’ll still find that some loans are more expensive than others. As long as you understand the repayment schedule and all of the connected charges, then this type of loan can bail you out of a difficult financial situation.

June 1, 2015

Simple Ways To Reduce Heating And Cooling Costs

If you’re tired of paying massive sums of money for heating and cooling costs  you’ve come to the right place. I’ve tried and tested these simple techniques and they really work. As an example last quarter we literally saved a couple of hundred dollars on our usual $500 plus electricity bill. It wasn’t difficult and anyone can do it.

RELATED Given Your Credit Card A Good Workout?

Shop around for service providers

One way I managed to save was by doing a bit of homework and swapping our utility retailer. Some online companies can do this for you but it’s probably best if you make comparisons yourself. Check daily service charges, peak and off peak times and rates plus fees and charges and any discounts which apply.

Many retailers offer discounts for customers who pay on time. These can be good for people who like to pay fortnightly or weekly to reduce their total bill but if you primarily look for these type of deals you could be missing out. Some companies tariffs are lower than the discounted rate anyway so check the actual figures. I was a bit hesitant to swap initially because I was used to getting the pay on time discount, however when I had a look at the costs it worked out less overall.

Don’t be too concerned if you’re in a contract either. Most gas and electrical contracts are easy to get out of and the cost of swapping is still going to save you in the long run.  Just be aware that the swap won’t go through immediately and it can take several months to take affect. Generally retailers need to wait until the next billing cycle before they hand over supply to another company. It’s just a matter of contacting a new retailer, signing up and they basically do the rest.

Window dressings

Exposed glass can significantly add to heating and cooling costs. In warmer weather glass heats up as the sun beats down upon it. Luckily, a lot of people know to leave their homes shut up in summer to reduce the heat entering their homes. However, many neglect to realise when it’s cold outside they should do the same thing. The warmth generated by heating within a home rapidly escapes though the glass and this adds to the cost of temperature control.

An easy way to reduce the cost is by shutting window dressings to trap the heat within during winter and to repel it in summer. Heavily backed curtains are probably the most effective option. Other dressings like blinds or venetians are better than nothing but are no way near as effective.

Another excellent option is window tinting. This stuff is awesome. It reduces glare, adds privacy, has see through and decorative options, protects the glass from breakage and successfully saves money on temperature control. Adding this layer to glass windows makes it harder for heat to escape in winter and penetrate in summer. Plus it’s not as expensive as you might think. Even people who rent can add this without permanently altering a property.

You can buy it in bulk and apply it to each window in the home, have it installed professionally or just purchase enough for problem windows which receive the most exposure. Some tinting products are very easy to apply and remove. It’s just a matter of cleaning the glass, spray it with a bit of soapy water, position it and cut it to size. Violã! It’s that easy.

Using fans to assist with circulation

Using fans costs a fraction of the price of air-conditioners. I’m talking pocket change instead of folded notes! One really nifty tip is to use a combination of fans and the air-conditioning. Even though you have two appliances running it will save you a small fortune if you set the air-con to a higher or lower temperature than required and use the fan.

For example in summer instead of setting the air-con to 22 set it to 23 and use a fan or two to circulate the air. This cools the air and assists the air-con to reach it’s desired temperature faster. It’s been claimed that for each degree difference you can save 10 percent on running costs. Therefore if you set the air-con to 25 instead of 22 you can save a whopping 30 percent. The same applies to setting temperatures in winter. I did this during summer and we saved about $250 on our regular summer electricity bill and temperature wise we didn’t feel the difference.

Nine fast tips

  • Most of these are tips are common sense and if you watch your heating and cooling usage you will notice the savings. Seriously why spend more on utility bills than you have to? Wouldn’t you rather go on a short holiday every year with the savings? I know I would!
  • Avoid heating and cooling unused spaces
  • Gas is cheaper to run than electricity so if you have an option chose the gas rather than use an electrical appliance
  • Avoid using high wattage appliances like small fan heaters unless you need to
  • In winter if you have a heater which uses wood, try and source wood for free. Network, check online for give-away wood and don’t be afraid of a bit of hard work to collect it. This will save a fortune!
  • Instead of heating bedrooms before bedtime, use an electric blanket. Flick it on half an hour prior and you’ll be toasty warm in seconds
  • If you use ducting shut off ducts to areas not in use. Close the vents or board them up more permanently if they aren’t necessary
  • Dress appropriately. Rather than wearing t-shirts around the home in winter and turn on the heating, wear more clothing. If your watching TV or on the computer use blankets instead of turning on the heat if you can avoid it. The same applies in summer. If you dress for the weather conditions this will save you money
  • If you’re home alone, you really only need to warm or cool yourself not the entire space
  • Instead of using heating or cooling appliances day and night only use them when you really need to. Many of us are very used to flicking on the air-con when really we’d be just as comfortable opening the windows or putting on a jumper. This is not only good for your finances but also saves the environment from all those nasties generated by using temperature control appliances

If anyone has anymore useful tips on saving on heating and cooling costs we’d love to here from you.

Image treedoctors.ca

May 25, 2015

How To Beat The Heat This Summer

Well it’s that time of year again and the mercury is set to soar! It can be particularly deadly for the elderly, babies or young children unless the air con is continuously cranked. The problem is, with the price of power continuously skyrocketing, many of us are getting more and more reluctant to flick the switch. We still want to stay cool but also want enough money for a well deserved holiday. Luckily, it’s possible to have both!

Fans and air conditioning

Fans or air con isn’t a tough choice when it’s stinking hot. Yeah, there’s the environmental impact and all of that, but in the heat of the day during a long hot Aussie summer, who cares about the few bucks you might save? Plus, when it comes to the actual savings of using a fan or the air con, there’s some really technical advice out there and let’s face it, there are so many variables that it’s tricky to calculate.

Basically, I wanted to know if I was going to save dollars or cents by opting to use a fan instead of my air con, during those times when there is a choice. You know those days when you turn on the air con but know you could probably get away with using the fan?  I found the answer and it looks like it’s dollars and a lot of them! According to moneygeek.com.au ceiling or pedestal fans cost a fraction of the running cost of air cons.

In fact, air cons can cost 36.5 times more! To put a dollar value on it, imagine using a fan and it costs $20 to run. If you ran your air con for the same amount of time the cost would be a whopping $730!

Of course, there are variables which effect running costs. A couple of biggie’s are the temperature setting which the air con is programmed to reach and how hard it needs to work to achieve it. If you are going to use your air con, there are some ways to reduce the running costs.

Now, I found a great little tip which recommends using a combination of both to save me some hard earned dollars. Weird right, using the two instead of just one? Apparently if you drop the temperature setting 2-4 degrees and use a fan, you will reduce costs significantly (up to 10 per cent per degree). Your air con will need to work a lot less to achieve its desired output and adding the fan will help circulate the air and drop the temperature. Also, don’t forget to clean the air con filter regularly and that too will reduce the workload.

Window tint and dressings

I’ve recently applied window tint and it’s super easy, cost effective and looks great! Plus, if you rent there are removable versions which are easy to install and are re-usable. It’s a one time investment which can be as low as $100 for 1 x 30 metre lengths, if you shop around. That should cover a fair few windows.

Doing this will make a substantial difference to the amount of heat which passes through the glass, reducing temperature control costs all year round. Some varieties stop as much as 68 per cent of the sun’s heat.

While we’re talking windows, dressings like curtains, indoor or outdoor blinds are really important. Leave all window dressings shut or down during hot days and only open them when the heat recedes. Often people open up their homes too early and end up trying to sleep in excessive heat.

Creating cool air

There are a few ways to create cool air using fans or even the warm night time air which enters via windows. For example, placing ice or damp sheets in front of a fan lowers the temperature of the air as the fan circulates it. Sheets can be easily hung in front of windows to produce the same effect.

This is basically how air coolers work. If you use one of these instead of an air con, add some iced water to produce cooler air.

Use water

Water is by far the best way to cool down without air con. Use spray bottles to keep you, the kids and the pets cool. Soaked or damp towels on the back of the neck are great, especially in hot cars. Large buckets of water can be used to submerge feet (or compete in the ice bucket challenge). Cooling your feet will reduce your overall body temperature.

On especially hot nights, having a bath or cool shower just before bed will also reduce your overall body temperature and enable sleep. Submerge your entire body, including your head. The head retains heat and cooling it will drop the temperature of your entire body.

For the kids, grab some water toys or a small pool. Water is great to entertain, calm and cool the kids and pets. If you create a body of water for the kids it will likely be their favourite place in hot weather. You can fill the bath or if you don’t have one, fill a small pool in the bathroom or laundry when the heat is to extreme to be outside. Be sure to invest in a child lock for access doors and ALWAYS supervise kids around water.

Remember to drink plenty of cool water and always carry some when you leave the house. Even spending $2 a day on bottled water will amount to over $700 over a year. Pack your own and go on a holiday with your savings!

Image via assets.inhabitat.com

January 8, 2015

Given Your Credit Card A Good Workout?

Yep, looks like most of us are in for a heck of a festive season credit card statement again! The Reserve Bank has quoted that we racked up a cool $18 Billion over last year’s festive season and this year is shaping up to top that. They also revealed, $50 billion in credit card debt is being paid off by 15 million Australians. Glad I’m not paying that hefty sum off on my own!

So what are we going to do about it? Let’s get real, we’re probably just going to keep spending, hey. Luckily, there‘s an Aussie company out there, called RateSetter who are the first and only company in our fine land, who provide peer-to-peer leading to everyday Aussies.

These guys actually want to help us by reducing interest rates for festive season spending and have provided some quirky and entertaining financial tips to downsize your debt. Imagine a January credit card statement of zero! Sounds too good to be true, but Ratesetter reckon their financial fitness plan will steer you in the right direction.

‘Weigh yourself’ to assess how financially (un)healthy you are

Take a minute to assess your financial health. Be realistic with yourself to determine the health of your finances. Will your wallet benefit from some fin-tervention? Often, the first step to financial recovery is acknowledging the state of your debts.

Trade in your personal trainer for a financial planner

Consulting an independent professional before undertaking a new financial regime is a worthwhile investment in your long-term financial health plan. Get someone to cast an expert eye over the big picture of your financial fitness – including your credit card debt – and you’ll find that you can put their in-depth knowledge and professional skill to work.

Take a finance detox and stay away from ‘junk food’

Whilst it’s called the ‘silly season for a reason, consider detoxing your wallet by cutting out non-essentials like take away food, bottled water and that daily coffee. It’s amazing how much small purchases we all consume, actually mounts up to over a year.

Get finance app friendly

Take advantage of the many free budgeting apps available on smartphones and tablets. These are perfect tools for those who want a little daily assistance to keep on track.

Making sure that ‘hidden calories’ aren’t blowing out your financial diet

Are your interest rates sabotaging you? If you’re struggling to get back in the black, it might be time to review what your credit cards are really doing to your financial diet. Try considering ‘healthier’ alternatives to credit cards, such as a peer-to-peer personal loan where you get to determine your own preferred rate. You can consolidate your credit card debt and pay lower interest rates with a peer-to-peer loans.

Sounds almost achievable hey? So if you want more information on peer-to-peer loans to reduce your festive season debt and to get some home grown, Aussie financial advice check out RateSetter.com.au.

Image via google images

January 6, 2015

Expecting Your Annual Christmas Delivery?

Over the next few days and weeks, many thousands of families across this mighty nation are getting ready to fill their pantries, fridges, freezers and receive those Christmas gifts that they have been paying for all year. Painstakingly selected about 12 months ago, 26 or 52 payments later, here it comes. There might be some cool toys for the kids, a bar set for dad, some grog for the old uncle or even a five-star holiday for the family.

You might have guessed that I’m talking about Chrisco, Hamper King, Castle Hampers and others that cash in on Christmas via payment plan industry. These have been around for years and now the variety has stretched way beyond the humble tin of baked beans in a Chrissy hamper.

Now, I’ve looked into these before and seen many friends and family members empty their energy-sucking fridges and freezers to accommodate the goods they’ve purchased. Not only have they paid decent sums of money for this stuff all year, but then they pay overpriced energy companies for food storage all the way through summer and beyond. What, the air-con isn’t going to add to the price; you need to store excess food as well! Bad luck if the power goes out or someone mistakenly turns off the freezer. Now, I’ve seen that happen too. OMG what a waste!

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been handed catalogues and marvelled each year at the ever-increasing range. Gee, that quad bike looks amazing, the kids would love that Metallica pool table and OMG I’d love that new computer. Now, that stuff I understand why people would be tempted. But tempted is all I’ve ever been.

My main deterrent has always been the price. I fail to understand why intelligent women and some men, for that matter, still go through these companies to load up at Christmas time. If I were to head down to the local shops or jump online and have it delivered, I’d be paying around 25% less than what people are paying these companies. That’s $25 for every $100, people!

I’m not the greatest mathematician, but I can certainly see when I’m being ripped off so significantly! So why is this still popular? Why are many struggling families doing this each year? Doesn’t anyone have a smartphone, table, laptop or PC where they can shop on-line and get a Christmas delivery to save a bit of cash? Personally, I’d rather pocket that extra cash. Don’t people do this because Christmas can be so difficult to afford?

Not necessarily. Sheer convenience is all that I can put it down to. I totally understand that it’s much easier to break down Christmas spending into a weekly or fortnightly payment, but there are much better ways to do it.

For example: There are some smaller supermarket chains which you can deposit funds into specifically for Christmas shopping. They offer the same thing and don’t charge you any extra; 100% of the money you pay each week or fortnight is given back to you to spend in-store. They provide a voucher and you don’t need to spend it in one big hit either. You can shop when you like and won’t end up paying extra for food storage.

Then there’s banks or saving institutions. Why not hunt around for a low-fee, high-interest account where you can get a small portion of your pay slipped in there each payday and withdraw the lot at Christmas and shop where the specials are? You can do the Christmas crawl to the shops or shop on-line. It doesn’t matter, because it’s your money to spend anyway you like.

You certainly won’t be limited to what’s in a few catalogues, that’s for sure! You can even pay off holidays and cruises these days, so why on earth are people still doing this? My only advice is, that before you order next years goods, check out the supermarket prices on-line and look into other options. You might still want to pay for the convenience, but with on-line shopping and other options, you can still have that, without the hefty price tag.

Anyway, hopefully I’ve given you something to think about while you’re gearing up for a great Christmas!

Image source: http://automediya.ru/wa-data/public/blog/img/Christmas-Delivery-Dates.jpg

November 25, 2014

Choosing The Right Loan For You

The world of finance is complicated. You can always go onto price comparison websites to look at the costs of some loans or you can visit the Money Advice Service to seek help. Where possible you should always take your time when you are choosing a loan.

RELATED: How To Ask For A Pay Rise

Do you really need a loan?

If you really feel that you need a loan for an important purpose, try to avoid taking out credit. It’s always expensive and if you can’t afford the repayments your financial situation could deteriorate. Try and see if you could curtail your outgoings and save the money yourself for your proposed expense. Most people use credit because their regular budget doesn’t allow them a certain level of expenditure. If this is your situation then you must evaluate if you can realistically afford to repay any credit that you may wish to secure.

Secured or unsecured loans

There are two major types of loan. One that’s secured on your property or possessions, where the creditor can always be confident that they can recoup their losses through your assets, or an unsecured loan. If you borrow from a bank or credit card, or even a payday loan company you are taking out an unsecured loan. The length of time that you borrow the money for can vary, as can the interest rates. Though unsecured loans are generally more expensive and for smaller sums of money.

Guaranteed loans

If you have a poor personal credit history, there is still an option. If you have a close friend or family member who is prepared to vouch for you, and cover the loan should you fall into difficulty or arrears, you may be able to access a guaranteed loan and avoid the sky-high interest rates offered by payday loan companies.

Typically you will be able to borrow between £1,000 to £7,500 and you can repay the sum over five years. As long as your guarantor is confident that you will repay the debt this is an excellent option if you need a large household item, for example to replace a broken oven. The Independent suggests that you can also rebuild your credit history with this type of finance. The APR is generally around 50%, which is a lot lower than that offered by payday loan companies.

Credit unions

Another source of finance are credit unions. According to The Guardian, it’s 50 years since these institutions were established in the UK. They offer a low interest alternative to payday loan companies and banks, and encourage customers to save as well as borrow. The rates of interest offered by credit unions to borrowers are extremely competitive, some charge as little as an APR of 12.7%. If you want to borrow from a credit union you will have to be a member of your local organisation. The number of credit unions is growing and there will probably be one near you that you can sign up with. You’ll also be offered free life insurance, so if you die before you’ve paid back your debt, the repayments will be protected. This provides peace of mind for your family.

November 4, 2014

6 Tips You Can Do Today To Retire Comfortably

There’s no shortage of advice for ways to retire comfortably, yet actually setting yourself up for it can be a different story. For many, the idea of it is pushed to the back of our minds while others a little more prepared. Believe it or not, building wealth to retire financially comfortable is actually simpler than we think. The challenge doesn’t lie in the knowledge – but instead translating that knowledge into results that are meaningful.

Retirement decisions that have an impact on you down the track start early with lifestyle choices that can make your retirement more satisfying. Some want to spend their days playing golf through retirement, relaxing by the pool, traveling around the globe or adventure treks through the mountains. What does a comfortable retirement mean to you? Whether it consists of golf club memberships, living in your dream home or luxury vacations we check out some tips for creating a comfortable retirement.

1. Start thinking about retirement when you start saving

As farfetched as it may sound, it pays to start thinking about your retirement when you get your first start saving. It’s not the easiest thing to do when you’re thinking about your immediate goals but as start to make major financial decisions – a car or home – you should be taking into account how much money you will need for retirement.

Although employees put a percentage away in preparation for this, it’s not always enough for your future needs. The more of your income you set aside for retirement at a young age, the easier it’ll be to retire comfortably. Saving early ensures your retirement benefits from the value of compound interest. Whether you have a pension fund or a self-managed superfund, it does pay to take control of your SMSF investments from the very beginning to ensure your money in growing as quickly as possible. This article from Blueprint Planning provides a great resource about how to manage your super-fund.

2. Have a plan and make goals

The first big mistake people make when it comes to retirement is not having a written plan and retirement strategy for their financial security. The success of your plan results from the small goals and decisions you make each day.

A plan is one thing though – it’s important you create a realistic one with goals that are going to get you there. If you’re currently living a lavish lifestyle drenched in champagne, you’re probably not going to be happy with a beer budget come retirement day.

3. The age you retire matters

How many years do your retirement savings need to provide enough income for? Underestimating life expectancy is another common mistake people can make. Nowadays, it can be safe to assume that at least one spouse will leave to the age of 90 or beyond whereas the life expectancy years twenty years ago was only mid 70’s.

Retirees tend to want to settle down around the age of 62, but there is usually a big difference in the age people say they want to retire to when they actually do.  The decision to retire is sometimes made for superficial reasons, like not being happy in your job. Retiring on impulse isn’t a smart move – it’s much more fulfilling to retire toward a life that excites you rather than running from one that didn’t. Always have an exit strategy before you leave to help you retire comfortably.

4. Make your money hard to reach

When your savings are readily available, it makes it an easy solution to the curve balls life will throw at you. The retirement fund soon becomes an “it’s an emergency fund” and before you know it, there’s not much left for you to rely on. Whilst discipline plays a huge factor in this, even the most self-controlled of us are guilty of digging in to the savings when things get tough.

There’s always going to be a good excuse to do it too. Borrowing from your savings account when you’ve lost your job, just to get you by until you find something else – but, it all adds up. Thus, to be a smart investor (and your retirement fund is an investment) it’s vital to put those dollars into a hard-to-access, tax deferred retirement plan.

5. Don’t forget about insurance

Taking out insurance to protect your retirement plan is about applying risk management principals to your personal finances. Types of insurance that should be considered include life insurance, health insurance and long-term care – and can mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and years of heartache.

Risk management is an essential principal of planning for your retirement to insure away all threats you can’t afford to lose. It can play a major role in estate planning, useful for someone who needs home care and makes a dramatic difference in those retirement years. The alternative is not acceptable – and that’s to put your lifetime of hard work at risk for one mistake, accident or health issue.

6. Get a life – an exciting one

When we think about retirement, most of us think about the money we will need. That’s because all retirement dreams need money – to a degree. But there’s more to a comfortable and happy retirement than just money – what about relationships, health and a life that engages your interest and fulfils you?

Money is the means to a good life, not the end so make sure your plan includes investing time into relationships, your heath and things that nurture and build you. Once your financial goals are in place and your retirement plan filled with motivating interests, you’re bound to be one step closer to a comfortable retirement – in all areas!

By Jayde Ferguson, a freelance writer based in Western Australia. Connect with her on Google+ today.

September 24, 2014

The Best SMSF Advice You Can Be Given in Your 30s

As you near retirement, investment advice is important with more retirees looking toward SMSFs for help. Self-managed super funds can be managed without much hassle if you have the right information. When you are in charge of your own investment choices, you’re more likely to be more profitable and more engaged in the process.

The latest research shows SMSF trustees are getting younger, with nearly a third between 35 and 44 years. Thus, it’s absolutely crucial you’re armed with the best advice in preparation for a successful retirement. We check out a few vital tips below.

Understand your role in SMSFs

The purpose of your SMSF is to ensure that everyone gets an adequate retirement. Professionals should be used because it is difficult for a novice to understand all of the tax laws to protect your assets. The sole purpose test must be passed in order to receive all the full tax concessions that are available to SMSFs.

Diversification, risks, and return on your assets should be discussed according to your members’ needs and circumstances. Many people will re-evaluate their SMSF assets near retirement age and may add to their portfolio a more low risk and low reward investment.

Know your duties as a trustee and the governing bodies

For instance, if you’re setting up an SMSF, you should consider devising an investment strategy. The strategy should include how to accept contributions and pay the benefits.

The authority of SMSFs is the Australian Taxation Office. It enforces the majority of regulations and restrictions that are related to an investment strategy. When you are a trustee, you have full control over your retirement investments. You can choose to invest in shares, property, art, or collectables.

Know how to keep your fund compliant 

Ensure that you’re in compliance with all tax laws and super laws. This will also protect your members’ assets. Again, the sole purpose test must be passed to get full tax concessions.

If anyone is under the age of 60, the amount of tax deductible contributions that can be made without accruing a penalty is $25,000. If you’re over the age of 60, the maximum amount is $35,000. Many people make a salary sacrifice to make the contributions. Check with your employment agreement to determine what the maximum amount allowed is at this point. In general, you need to work for at least 40 hours for 30 consecutive days before you can make non-deductible contributions and tax deductible contributions to a super.

Know how to make investment decisions

In general, your investment decisions should always be evaluated according to the increasing returns on your fund. Experts suggest that you change your SMSF asset to include more low reward and low risk investments. These are the basics you must know before investing in these types of products.

Be aware of personal tax deductions to superannuation

Self-employed people and investors can receive less than 10 percent of their income deducted for superannuation. Always notify the fund and tell them how much you’re eligible to claim every year. Always save your paperwork for your accountant or tax agent.

Any tax deductions that should be taken from a personal savings or an inheritance can come from your personal income. You can also transfer personal investments, an inheritance, or profit from the sale of investments. Keep in mind that you can contribute up to $150,000 after taxes in 2014. If you’re under 65, you can contribute up to $450,000 in a three year period. A tax penalty may be assessed if the contribution caps are exceeded. The penalty can be as high as 46.5 percent.

After July 1, 2014, the cap will increase to $180,000, and $540,000 can be contributed over a fixed period of three years. A professional adviser can help you if you do not understand the process or if you meet the upper requirements for contribution.

Be aware of government co-contribution

If your adjusted income is less than $48,516, you may be eligible for the government co-contribution. If you make super contributions before the end of the financial year, you can consider this feature. The government will contribute 50 cents to your superannuation for every dollar that you contribute. The maximum government contribution is $500.

Know the amount of taxation on superannuation pensions

Keep in mind that the superannuation fund will be taxed at 15 percent rather than being tax free. You should be aware of these taxes to ensure that you are taxed in the appropriate bracket. When you turn 60, the lump sums that are taken from the superannuation are not taxable. Thus, any funds removed before the age of 60 will be taxed. Keep in mind that no tax is payable on amounts up to $180,000.

SMSF asset valuations

Assets present in your SMSF must be valued in a financial year. The assets in SMSF need to be valued every financial year. Property, artwork, and unlisted investments are recorded in your financial statements to ensure that your investments are sound.

By Jayde Ferguson, a freelance writer based in Western Australia. Connect with her on Google+ today.

September 23, 2014

Top Tips For Buying A New Car

Buying a car is an occasion that should be an exciting one – but for many, the process is tainted by frustration and confusion. From unfamiliar car jargon or uncertainty around the information being presented to them, many car buyers are left feeling stumped in their attempts to land their new dream vehicle. The good news is, they don’t need to be. Leading automotive experts CarsGuide has identified a number of tips to help Aussies on the car buying process.     

Lauren Williams, the CEO of CarsGuide.com.au, said: “Like your graduation or wedding day, buying a car is a major milestone in a person’s life. While many struggle to get their heads round the minefield of car dealerships and scrolling through endless options in the marketplace, there are a number of essential tricks to help Aussies get themselves ahead of the game and bag the best deal, saving time and money in the process.” 

Top 5 tips to help you get the best deal when buying a car:

1. Timing is everything. In the car buying market there are predictable, seasonal sales; lifecycle events for individual car models; and outlier sales due to external natural forces which result in car prices being lowered. Being vigilant of these forces means a car buyer can snag themselves a great deal.

  • End of Financial Year Sale: The obvious one, sellers need to move stock out the door to make the most revenue possible before the end of financial year. Cue lowered prices – say no more.
  • February – March: These months are also fruitful for car buyers. This is when last year’s models start to feel ‘old’ and new models enter the market. It’s a time to leverage cheaper deals and negotiate for upgrades to be thrown in.
  • Midweek specials: A superseded model moves from new and desirable on Monday to outdated and bargain-ready on Wednesday when the updated model arrives on the floor. Understanding the release cycle will elevate your bargaining power.
  • Christmas: The Christmas run-out sales see sellers eager to get rid of cars. Buyers are doing the sellers a favour by helping them get a sale on stock before it becomes outdated at the turn of the year.
  • Worldly forces: When the value of currency takes a hit because interest rates are low, dealers are going to encourage us to consider buying a new car by running special deals.

2. Do your research. Do some thorough research into the current market price of the car you’re interested in. If you come across a used car with a price significantly lower than the market value, you need to wonder why this is the case. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, compile a list of the best cars for resale. Every car depreciates, but there is some flexibility when it comes to how much and how fast. Influences include utility and location, style and upgrades.

3. Trade-ins.  Even if you plan on trading in your current car for a better deal, keep it out of sight from the dealer and don’t let them know you are thinking of doing so. The car you own is a source of profit. You’d get the most money for your car by selling it privately because dealers pay wholesale prices. A used car’s profit margin is actually more than that of a new car. If you do plan on negotiating a trade-in, arrive at the lowest cost possible without a trade-in first.

4. Rebates. Many manufacturers offer rebates with new vehicles. Keep track of available rebates by contacting the manufacturers to find out about rebate programs they are actively offering and keep a close eye on online, TV and local newspaper ads. Read the small print carefully as rebates are commonly attached to finance packages. Don’t discuss rebates with dealers until you’ve negotiated the lowest prices available without one.

5. Competition. Remind the seller that they aren’t your only option and let them know that you are taking quotes from competitors. Compare the prices and information provided to you by the multiple sellers you have spoken with and keep asking the dealer, ‘Can you do better?’ and telling them that other sellers have provided better deals.

Image via autoblits.com

August 14, 2014

How To Cope With Sexually Transmitted Debt

Have you ever found yourself taking out a joint credit card or a personal loan just to please a significant other? Then, when said relationship has hit the skids, you’ve found yourself saddled with a broken heart and an unwanted debt?

Or, what about the stupid, broken and wrong relationship we women can sometimes find ourselves in, when you pay for absolutely everything, and your partner always promises to pay you back? Then, when they’ve shot through, they end up owing you thousands and thousands of dollars in unpaid utility bills and more? Forget sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – sexually transmitted debt (STD) too, can be painful, embarrassing and debilitating.

If you find yourself suddenly single, with an empty wallet, there are steps you can take to free yourself of, and/or better manage, your current STD and prevent another equally painful one from reoccurring in the future. Financial experts say to:

  • Get utilities jointly when you set up house. That way, if the bastardo shoots through, the gas, water, electricity, etc, aren’t all in your name. And ensure all utilities in your name are terminated once your relationship has faced the same fate.
  • Protect yourself (and your hard-earned) by asking lots of questions about your financial obligations before you go guarantor, open a joint account or allow secondary use of your credit card.
  • Read everything before you sign.
  • Keep an eye on joint accounts. What is he spending large chunks of your shared money on? Does he have a bizarre, inexplicable whitegoods fetish? This one happened to me!?
  • Contact all creditors to whom you owe money and arrange debt consolidation/payment plans, if possible. Alert them to the status of your broken relationship if you have joint accounts and/or a mortgage.
  • Be clear with your current love, as to whether something, such as an expensive car, furniture or appliance, is a gift or a loan. This may prevent great conflict and heartache later on, if the relationship goes sour.
  • Work out what bills and living expenses should be covered as a couple.
  • Keep your own account into which your income and personal savings go.
  • If your ex has gone AWOL, owing you bundles of cash, it might be time to get a good lawyer, girlfriend.

Image via Flickr

By Nicole Carrington-Sima 

July 10, 2014

10 Australian Tax Changes Taking Effect From Today

The only constant about tax is change. Dr Adrian Raftery, a senior lecturer at Deakin University and author of 101 Ways to Save Money on Your Tax – Legally! 2014-2015 edition (Wrightbooks, June 2014, AU$24.95), provides us with some of the tax changes coming into play from July 1, 2014.

Medicare levy increasing to 2 per cent

From July 1, the government will raise the Medicare levy by half a percentage point to 2 per cent to provide a funding stream for DisabilityCare Australia.

Temporary budget repair levy

The 2014-15 federal budget announced that a 2 per cent levy would be introduced for the excess taxable income above $180,000 for three years from July 1, 2014 (for example, an individual with a taxable income of $200,000 will pay a levy of $400 being 2 per cent of $20,000). With the increase in the Medicare levy by half a percentage point to 2 per cent, this means that the highest marginal tax rate (as well as the FBT rate) will effectively jump from 46.5 to 49 per cent for the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 years.

Net medical expenses tax offset being phased out

There is a gradual phasing out the net medical expenses tax offset. Only those taxpayers who claimed the medical tax expenses offset in 2012/13 and again in the 2013/14 year can continue to be eligible for this rebate in 2014/15 (pending having net expenses above the relevant thresholds).  The offset will continue to be available for out-of-pocket medical expenses relating to disability aids, attendant or aged care until July 1, 2019.

Dependent spouse and mature age worker tax offsets abolished

In changes proposed in the 2014 federal budget, the government plans on abolishing both the dependent spouse tax offset (previously worth up to a maximum $2,471) and the mature age worker tax offset (up to $500).

Super guarantee contributions increase

The superannuation guarantee contributions (SGC) will have a 0.25 per cent increase in the 2014–15 financial year to 9.5% of ordinary time earnings. There will be no further increases until July 1, 2019 when there will be annual 0.5 per cent rises until the SGC reaches 12 per cent in 2022–23.

Super contribution limits lifted

The concessional contributions limit will be lifted to $30,000 for all individuals and to $35,000 for those aged 50 and over.

Introduction of My Tax

From the 2014-15 income tax year, the ATO will provide an online pre-prepared tax return for people without complex tax affairs.  Australian resident taxpayers will be able to use MyTax if they have income only from salary, wages, allowances, bank interest, dividends and/or Australian government payments.  The only deductions allowed are for work-related expenses, expenses related to interest or dividend income, donations and/or the costs of managing their tax affairs, and the only offsets that can be claimed are the senior and pensioner tax offset and/or zone and overseas forces tax offset. Taxpayers are ineligible to use MyTax if they have business income or losses, rental properties, partnerships or trusts (including managed fund investments), capital gains or losses, foreign income, lump sum payments, employee share schemes or superannuation income streams and lump sum payments.

LAFHA rules limited to all

Access to the previously generous tax concessions for the living away from home allowance (LAFHA) is no longer available from July 1, 2014, regardless of the date of their employment contract.  The new LAFHA concessions can only be claimed by people who maintain a home for their own use in Australia that they are living away from for work. In addition, the LAFHA concessions can only be used for the expenses of people who are legitimately maintaining a second home in addition to their actual home for a maximum period of 12 months.

First home saver accounts scheme abolished

The 2014-15 federal budget announced that the FHSA scheme will be abolished from July 1, 2015 with account holders being able to withdraw their balances without restriction at that date. Whilst existing account holders will continue to receive the government co-contribution (and all associated tax and social security concessions) for the 2013-14 income year, new accounts opened from May 13, 2014 will not be eligible for any concessions.

Research & development (R & D) tax incentive reduced for small businesses

Companies with annual Australian turnover of less than $20 million will have the R&D tax incentive reduced from 45 per cent to a 43.5 per cent refundable tax offset from July 1, 2014.

July 1, 2014

The High Cost Of Being A Woman

Being a woman is an expensive exercise; and our bloke folk are often blissfully unaware as to just how good they have it. Aside from the very frustrating and unjust fact that women still earn markedly less than men – the gender pay gap is 17.5 per cent – our living costs are excessive compared to men’s. For a start, generally men don’t have to worry about regular, expensive costs such as all-over body waxing, hair care and make-up. Then there’s the exorbitant costs of feminine hygiene products, Botox (if that’s your bag, baby) and regular beauty treatments, just to name a few. Sure, men still have to get haircuts, but I reckon my no-fuss husband is more the norm than the exception with his penchant for $10 barber jobs. And, hilariously, he is still extremely shocked and appalled every, single time at the high cost, by contrast, of my $160 cut and colour I get every eight weeks or so.

Then there’s the fact recent studies have shown women are charged more for everything from dry cleaning through to insurance premiums! And, let’s face it, it’s a rare man indeed who has a shoe or clothing wardrobe to rival ours! There are blurred lines between need and want, but if you’re fashion-forward, girlfriend ain’t going to be happy with just owning five pairs of shoes, like your average bloke. But the gender pay gap is still the grimmest statistic of all – a slap in the face for us university-educated women.

Mark McCrindle, social researcher, trends analyst and demographer at Sydney’s McCrindle Research, says Gen Y women are better educated than their male counterparts, but still don’t earn as much. “Women still aren’t getting paid as much as men and the challenge and the anomaly there is generally with education flows income,” Mr McCrindle says.“Gen Ys are the most formally educated women – 40 per cent of women aged 25-35 have uni degrees compared to 29 per cent of males in the same age category. In fact, one in three Gen Ys have a university degree compared with one in four GenX-ers. With more Gen Y women having university degrees than their male counterparts you’d expect them to be earning more, but we’re still not seeing that.”

So, sisters, if all this money talk leaves you feeling a little bitter and twisted, better make him pay for groceries/dinner/movies tonight, this month, or perhaps for the whole year.

By Nicole Carrington-Sima 

June 13, 2014

Money Saving Tips For Families

Since the Federal Budget was announced last month, families have been left feeling short changed and everyone is searching for ways to save money wherever they can.  Some savings can seem so insignificant but when you add that to all of the other money you can salvage, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much more money you have in your pocket.  

Buy second-hand or borrow from friends

Especially when it comes to new baby items, think about buying them second hand or borrowing from friends if you’ll only be using them for a short period of time.  A lot of second hand items have only been used a handful of times and you’ll be paying a fraction of the cost of a new one.

Sell unused items that you no longer need

Getting rid of those baby items that are collecting dust in the cupboard is an easy way to put some extra money back in your pocket.  If you find your house needs a general clean out, consider a garage sale – you’ll be surprised at what you think is junk, is actually someone else’s treasure.

Shop at markets and buy home brands at the supermarkets

Fruit and vegetables are generally cheaper if you can purchase them from farmers markets rather than supermarkets.  When you do shop at the supermarket purchase the home brands which are generally cheaper than the well-known brands and are almost identical in quality.

Shop around for suppliers

When your insurance products come up for renewal, shop around to see if you are getting the best value for money.  While you’re at it, check on your home loan, electricity, phone, internet and gas suppliers.

Buy non-perishables in bulk

Look out for specials and buy non-perishable items such as nappies and wipes in bulk where possible.  Think twice about buying fruit and vegetables in bulk though as sometimes they tend to go off before you’ve had a chance to use them and that’s just money going straight into your rubbish bin.

Layby for Christmas/birthdays

Be organised early and start a layby for those big Christmas or birthday presents.  Taking a small amount out of your income each week is far easier to manage than shopping last minute for expensive items.

Sign up to a toy library

Toy libraries are a great way to get new toys, books or educational resources for your children without having to purchase them.  For a fee you can hire the items for a set amount of time then return them for new ones once you are finished with them.

Buy a water purifier

If you’re buying a large bottle of water every day, over the course of the year it could cost you around $1500.  Consider purchasing a water purifier at a fraction of the cost which you can use time and time again.

Buy a coffee machine

Again, if you’re paying $5 for a takeaway coffee every day (which doesn’t even include those extra shots) it equates to $1825 each year.  The cost of purchasing a basic espresso coffee machine and some ground coffee will normally work out considerably cheaper in the long run.

Use a piggy bank

Some people think piggy banks are only for children – not true!  Each week put your loose change into a piggy bank and after a year you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the hundreds of dollars you’ve saved within. 

Image via thinkglink.com/2013/02/26/10-simple-easy-ways-save-money/

By Karyn Miller

June 4, 2014

Your Five-Step Financial Makeover

Did you know…by salary sacrificing the cost of a pair of stilettos every month, you could have an extra $225,387* in total savings for your retirement!

Women don’t have to earn the big bucks or have completed a degree in economics to make the most out of their superannuation.  However, women continue to lag behind male counterparts in retirement balances.

On average, a woman’s super payout at retirement is 43% less than a man’s – at $112k compared to $198k, due to sustained pay inequality and family caring needs. Given divorce rates are climbing and women live (on average) five years longer than men, it’s clear women must become more engaged in protecting their retirement nest eggs to ensure they get the retirement they deserve.

The ATO has created the Five Step Super Check to help women make the most out of their super.

1. Check your super statements

–              Is your employer paying the correct rate (amount equal to at least 9.25% of your pay) each quarter?

–              Does your statement correctly show all contributions, insurance and fees?

2. Does your super statement have your tax file number?

–              If not, you’ll pay more tax, and it’s harder to keep track of current and previous super accounts.

3. Keep track with Superseeker to

–              Check your super accounts.

–              Find lost super, and/or; Transfer super to your preferred account.

4. You may be eligible for government contributions

–              A government co-contribution can boost your super.

–              See if you qualify and what you need to do at www.ato.gov.au/boostmysuper

5. Are you putting extra money into super?

–              Make extra payments into your super fund account

–              Salary sacrifice or make contributions from after-tax pay

*Based on a 30 year old woman investing $160  into a moderate fund and assuming 5% growth over 35 years.

March 24, 2014

6 Ways to Manage Rising Private Health Insurance Costs

Did you know that health insurance premiums will increase by 6.2% on 1 April, 2014? If you’re worried you’ll have to rethink your household budget simply to afford the hike – you’re not alone. In fact, 50 per cent of Australians admit that they will have to cut basic household expenses to cover the cost. And around 40 per cent say they would shop around for a new policy.

With premiums increasing from every health fund, now is the time to asses your existing policies or shop around for another to ensure you receive the best deal.

Comparethemarket.com.au shares six tips for managing private health insurance costs:

1. Remember to claim
The cost of your private health insurance overall is a balance between the premium and your potential returns through claims. You must claim to ensure your return on investment, particularly with Extras policies. When making a booking with your healthcare provider, check they offer HICAPS – this gives you an immediate claim. The risk of claiming at a later date is you might forget altogether – which we think many do.

2. Know a policy’s returns in potential claims before buying
When speaking with policy holders, we find most people forget what they’re insured for and what amount they can claim back. For these, the cost of private healthcare becomes a liability, not a benefit. You cannot buy private health insurance and file it away. When assessing the value of a policy, know the services you claimed for in the last 12 months, how often you claimed, your spend on health services which you didn’t or couldn’t claim for, and any new services you might want to claim for in the following year.

3. Take advantage of discounts. Some funds will discount premiums by 4 per cent for direct debit payments, while others will discount by 4 per cent for annual payments and 2 per cent for bi-annual payments.

4. Look out for promotions. Some health insurers will offer the first month of cover for free for a limited time, while others may offer vouchers of up to $200 if you refer a new member.

5. Switch and receive a refund from your old policy. Many people don’t know that if they switch suppliers, their old policy will refund any premiums paid in advance. The new policy will start the day after the old policy ceases.

6. Have someone support you to compare. With more than 13,000 health insurance policies available for comparison on comparethemarket.com.au/health-insurance alone, choosing the most suitable policy and knowing how to maximise the benefits can be daunting. Choose a free service that provides a range of customer supports (such as online chat, phone and email support) to help you find the best policy to suit your needs.

Will you stay with the same health insurance provider or switch to a new one this year?

February 24, 2014

7 Steps to Buying Your Dream Home

Is this the year you buy your first home, or upgrade to a better home? It’s no secret that searching for a home that fits every want and need can be a frustrating process. Kim Clarke, founder of Xcel Properties, shares his top seven tips to secure your dream home in 2014.

1. Prioritise your needs and wants
It’s easy to get carried away with add-ons and extras. Map out what you can afford to spend and then outline what you ‘need’, sourcing what this will cost you. If you have a reserve to play after that, you can then begin choosing the luxuries that you ‘want’. If this is your first home, consider purchasing a new-build that you can afford that’s also a great investment. That way you’re only paying for what you need right now – an upgrade to a larger or more luxurious home can happen when you’re ready.

2. Take advantage of low interest rates
With interest rates currently sitting at a 40-year low, now is a better time than ever to apply for a mortgage. Remember to factor in at least a five per cent rate increase over the life of your mortgage to help determine how much you can afford to borrow and the size of your repayments.

3. Buy a house and land package
Being on a similar price level to second-hand properties, house and land packages are an increasingly popular choice in suburbs with room for growth. These communities in development maximise choice in terms of the size and shape of the land, and the positioning, size and design of the home – including all the key features buyers need to suit their living needs.

4. Apply for grants
Don’t forget to search online to see if you’re eligible for a government first home buyer’s grant. Some states such as Queensland offer up to $15,000 to those buying a new home.

5. Negotiate with builders
Do your homework by researching builders in regards to reputation and price. One increasingly popular way to research is through online reviews and forums. Choose your top five builders and source costs. Let each know what the other is offering. It’s likely that they’ll be able to compete on price or offer additional extras. Remember, a quick and cheap service is not necessarily the best service.

6. Ensure the community is a good fit for you
While the property is important, it’s the community that makes it a home. Before buying, take the time to speak with the neighbours, try the amenities and find information about funding of local facilities, reputation of the local schools and public transport. If you’re looking into a development, a good development should have a sales team that takes you around the neighbourhood and discuss the plans and services in our community.

7. Use the First Home Savers account
For those whose first-home purchase is a longer-term plan, the First Home Saver Account can help. Each year the government will make a 17 per cent contribution on the first $6000 deposited into this account each year – that’s an additional $1020 each year. Withdrawals can only be made after four years. First Home Saver accounts are available from some banks, building societies, credit unions, friendly societies, life insurance companies and super funds.

Are you thinking of buying a home this year?

January 31, 2014

How to Set and Cost Your Financial Goals

Get yourself in position to achieve your financial dreams in 2014 with these money saving tips from this extract from money mentor Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon’s new 12-Step Prosperity Plan.

Years ago, I heard a quote from supermodel Kate Moss that really stuck in my mind. When asked how she maintained her fabulous figure, she (more or less) replied: “It’s easy – you just have to want to be slim more than you want that piece of cheesecake, or that chocolate bar etcetera.”

The quote resonated with me because the same technique works for fabulous finances – it is easy to reach your longed-for money goals, you just have to want them more than you want those shoes, or that perfume etcetera.

I have a theory any of us is capable of spending any amount of money. I distinctly remember getting my very first pay cheque from my $24,000 a year job as a cadet journalist – and wondering how I was ever going to spend all that cash! Guess what? I managed it, and have been managing it ever since.

Think about how much, after tax, you currently earn a year (if you don’t know this figure, grab a calculator and multiply your after-tax weekly, fortnightly or monthly pay by 52, 26 or 12 respectively). Now, estimate how much you might have earned in your working life. What do you have to show for all this money?

If the answer is not much, there’s a fair chance you struggle to resist spending your whole pay packet. But here’s the thing – anything you manage to save now, you will get to spend later. In fact, this will ensure there is something left to spend later. It’s not about blanket denial but about deferred spending. And I’d venture you’ll enjoy more what you work for, and look forward to, anyway.

Top Tip Tute: Is micro-spending ruining your future?
Find out in my video.

So it’s time to start dreaming; I always say you need strong motivation to resist instant gratification. Busting out of debt, if you have any, should be your top money priority. But think too about the fun stuff you want in the short, medium and long term:

The next one to two years: 

For example, an overseas trip. Does a friend have an upcoming wedding in Thailand next year? Maybe you fancy a more expensive, longer sojourn the following year? (NEVER use credit for something for which you’ll have nothing to show afterwards but photos). On the sensible side, other goals during this timeframe might be to pay off a credit card and/or a personal loan.

The next three to five years: 

Is your car going to need replacing within this period? If so, you’ll need to start planning to meet the expense (NEVER borrowing for a depreciating asset, one that will fall in value). Or perhaps you would really like a new kitchen.

Five years and beyond:  

The ultimate goal – for all of us – should be to ensure by the time we retire that we have repaid at least our Very Bloody Bad Debts (my term for nasty personal debt that earns you no income) and that our income will be adequate when we stop work. Remember, the money employers are required to pay into your super fund is unlikely to be enough to sustain you for the whole of your retirement. So in this category you could include repay the mortgage and build a nice little nest egg.

Next, make a list like the following of these most-desired money goals. Write beside each one the date on which you would like to achieve it. Then put an estimate of what the goal will cost and how many pays there are until your target date. For example, if the target date is three years away and you are paid fortnightly, multiply 3 (years) x 26 (the number of fortnights a year). Finally, divide the cost by the number of pays to find the amount you have to put aside each pay.

Short-term goals (1-2 years)

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Medium-term goals (3-5 years)

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Longer-term goals (5 years+)

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Top Tip Tute: How can I stop micro-spending?

Scrimping and saving is not much fun but it can yield fantastic results. The trick is to make your goals specific and terrific: A trip to Fiji… A paid-off house by January 2020… Retirement five years before you can get at your super… Now that’s worth holding some back.

And make like Kate Moss and skip the cheesecake and you’ll find yourself in great shape, in more ways than one, earlier still.

This is an edited extract from Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon’s new 12-Step Prosperity Plan, available exclusively on TheMoneyMentorWay.com. Together with a fully-customisable prosperity tracking tool, it forms a money makeover system that is delivered 100 per cent online and accessible to all. 

Nicole is the founder of TheMoneyMentorWay.com and developer of the 12-Step Prosperity Plan, an achievable and even enjoyable blueprint to take Aussies from worry to wealthy. Nicole’s writing has earned her top personal finance awards in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Her career credits include founding and editing The Australian Financial Review’s Smart Investor magazine, and reporting and editing for the magazine arm of the UK’s Financial Times. Author, qualified financial adviser and Fairfax’s Money Matters columnist for the last decade, Nicole is a regular on television and radio. She talks money without the mumbo jumbo. Follow her on Twitter @NicolePedMcK.

January 23, 2014

5 Ways to Get Your Finances in Order (For Good!)

Most of us resolve to get our finances in order at the start of a new year (along with our diet, health, relationships…) but how many of us see that through? Well, maybe this is the year you take control and whip your finances into shape.

While growing your savings is no easy feat, a little bit of careful planning, teamed with a strategic budget, can go a long way towards helping you reach your financial goals in 2014 and beyond, whether that be paying off your credit card debt,  reducing your mortgage, or saving for a holiday or your first home.

Mortgage Choice spokesperson Jessica Darnbrough offers a few money saving tips and real-life pointers to help us stick to our financial goals this year.

1. Avoid unnecessary extras and costs
Evaluate your regular outgoings and identify any unnecessary costs which you can cut down or cut out. Cutting back on guilty pleasures like takeaway coffees, Friday night takeaway or premium television packages can lead to significant savings in the long term.

2. Think small when budgeting
Planning ahead with your finances for a full year can be daunting, and ultimately, ineffective. Instead, budget monthly or in accordance with the length of your pay period. This will allow you to amend your budget fairly quickly if you over overestimate or underestimate certain expenses.

3. Update your savings account
Research the benefits offered by savings accounts across various financial institutions. Switching banks and opening a new account with a lending institution that offers lower fees and higher interest rates will allow you to save more in less time.

4. Pay off and cancel your credit card
Credit card interest rates are notoriously high. Constant use without complete payment at the end of the month can lead to significant debt. Many people get stuck using a credit card and struggle to break the cycle as interest continues to accrue. Make paying off your credit card a priority early in the year, and cancel it as soon as possible. Debit cards are an ideal alternative, providing a similar level of protection for online and over the phone purchases, without the significant interest rates.

5. Compare to find a better deal
You may be paying more than is necessary on your home loan, insurances, utility bills, etc. Comparing your options via your mortgage broker or websites such as HelpMeChoose.com.au can help you find the best deal suited to your needs and save you money in the process.

For more budgeting tips and home loan options visit www.mortgagechoice.com.au.

What are your best money savings tips? Share them in the comments!

January 13, 2014

10 Super Terms Every Woman Should Know

Is one of your resolutions to get serious about your savings? If not, it should be! To help you understand superannuation, Crystal Wealth Partners director John McIlroy explains the top 10 super terms to help your retirement and investment choices.

1. Default option
Refers generally to the investment option you are given when you have your super money paid into an industry fund or retail fund and you decide not to make a specific investment choice.

2. Industry fund
These were established primarily to provide benefits for employees engaged in a particular industry (e.g. building industry).  These funds are designed to enable individuals who frequently change jobs within an industry, or have more than one employer within the same industry, to maintain all of their superannuation benefits within the one superannuation fund. Many of these funds have become like retail funds, which means that anyone can be a member, rather than just employees working in a particular industry. Historically, industry funds have provided a low-cost super option with limited investment choices but many are now offering a wider range of investment options.

3. MySuper
This is the name given to a new range of simple super accounts that are low-cost and provide limited investment options. There are MySuper rules which any super fund needs to meet to be classified as a MySuper account. Any fund, industry, retail or corporate super fund can provide MySuper accounts.

4. Preservation
To ensure that superannuation benefits are used for the primary purpose of the provision of benefits in retirement, the government has imposed provisions that restrict access to amounts held within the superannuation system.  These provisions are generally referred to as the ‘preservation rules’. Your age determines when you are able to access your super benefits and most younger people are able to access super benefits from age 60. Older people can access their super from age 55.

5. Retail fund
These are generally superannuation funds, which are ‘open’ for membership to the general public. They are mainly provided by larger financial institutions such as banks and life insurance companies and what they offer can vary considerably from low cost/low choice options to more complex structures which are sometimes referred to as wrap platforms.

6. Rollover
If you are entitled to a superannuation benefit you can, regardless of age, transfer all or part of the payment to another superannuation fund. This can occur simply to amalgamate multiple super accounts into one fund while working or can it occur upon retirement to consolidate savings.

7. Salary sacrifice
This is another type of super contribution but rather than being compulsory, an employee voluntarily elects to direct salary or bonuses into super rather than receiving cash. This may provide some tax benefits to the employee over receiving cash remuneration.

8. SMSF
Self managed superannuation funds are one of the choices you have for managing your super, along with industry funds and retail funds. SMSFs are often also referred to as DIY superannuation funds. They are super funds with fewer than less than members that satisfy specific control and membership conditions. As the name suggests you can invest your own super through this type of fund, but you have to comply with certain rules. You can also appoint advisers to help you.

9. Super Guarantee
Super guarantee or SG refers to the prescribed minimum level of superannuation contributions required under the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992 to be made by employers on behalf of their employees. Also referred to as compulsory super, these contributions are currently at a prescribed level of 9.25 per cent of salary or wages. Most employees have the choice of having these contributions directed to a retail fund, industry fund or SMSF.

10. Superannuation pension
A pension payable from a superannuation fund which is usually provided by way of monthly payments. There are various types of superannuation pensions available and they are an alternative to taking super benefits as a lump sum at retirement.

Crystal Wealth Partners is a privately owned boutique financial advisory and investment management firm specialising in delivery of services to high net worth individuals and family offices.

What are your financial goals for 2014?

January 8, 2014

Q&A with MyBudget’s Tammy May

Most of us have some sort of financial stress in our lives, whether it be credit card debt, mortgage repayments or wanting to save for the future but finding it unattainable. Tammy May has always wanted to change that by helping people take control of their finances. In 1999, the South Australian businesswoman founded MyBudget when she was just 22, and today, the company manages over $425 million of salaries and employs around 250 people. Tammy has won both EY Young Entrepreneur of the Year and South Australian Business Woman of the Year awards, and this year made the BRW Young Rich List.

SHESAID chatted with Tammy to get her best money saving tips, financial advice for women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, and how she fits being a mum into her busy day.

Congratulations on making the BRW Young Rich List! Tell us about your journey from starting MyBudget to becoming one of Australia’s most successful businesswomen today?
Thank you. Certainly when I started MyBudget I didn’t have any grand plans to become a successful business person. I actually started MyBudget to help people, to assist people to eliminate the financial stress in their lives and improve their financial position. That being said, deep down I always thought that by doing something so profoundly good for people that it would grow and become a success. I am very proud of the team I have working with me. They truly care about our clients and come to work every day to make a difference. MyBudget wouldn’t be where it is today without them.

Definitely the journey has had some tough times, for example it has been difficult educating the market about what we do and the difference we make in the community and in people’s lives. Despite the challenges we have faced I have always remained unwaveringly passionate about what we do and been dedicated to improving our clients financial positions.

Describe a typical working day for you…
I normally drop my kids off to school in the mornings on my way to work. I find this is a good  time to have a chat to them about their day ahead and any after school activities they might have on.

After I arrive at work, I get myself organised for the day, starting with a daily 15 minute huddle with my senior management team. Generally I spend most of my day in meetings relating to marketing and communications, and sales (depending on the day I may also have finance and human resources meetings) or strategy sessions relating to the company in general. In between meetings (and sometimes during) I eat lunch at my desk (I try to eat healthily where I can). Occasionally I will go out for a lunch meeting.

After the working day is finished (normally 6pm) I go home to have dinner with my partner and kids, or go to watch their sport and try to get to the gym when I can.

Your business helps people get out of debt and take control of their finances. What’s the first thing someone should do if they’re in debt?
Budgeting is the most important tool for taking control of your finances, and getting out of debt. The first thing you should do is to create a budget – this will give you an idea about where, when and how much you’re spending. It will show where you can trim spending and free up some cash to pay back your debts faster. Make sure you include all of your income (if your income varies, use an average from your ‘year to date’ figure on your payslip) and everything that you spend money on. And most importantly, make sure your budget is flexible.

Life doesn’t always goes exactly according to plan, so you need to make sure you leave a buffer for unexpected expenses – this is the only way that it will be realistic and work for you.

Do you think women are taking more of an interest in their finances these days?
I personally think women are becoming more independent every day and part of that independence involves understanding and taking control of their finances. Our statistics also show that women are 80% more likely to be the one looking after the finances in a relationship. From paying the bills, managing the cash flow to organising finance. It tends to be the responsibility of the woman. So yes, I believe they are taking more of an interest – which is fantastic.

What is your best piece of financial advice for a women in her 20s/30s/40s/50s:

* 20s – Try to avoid using credit for bad debt (e.g. shoes, groceries, holidays etc). Use a debit card instead. Avoiding credit cards in your 20s will set you up with good spending habits for life.

* 30s – Begin paying extra repayments on your mortgage. Both consistent and ad-hoc additional repayments such as bonuses and tax returns work to reduce the principal on your mortgage faster. The earlier in the loan term you begin making additional repayments, the greater the benefit in terms of time and money saved will be.

* 40s – Take stock of your financial goals. Review them regularly. Your goals now will be different than they were in your 20s and 30s. Seek professional advice to ensure you are on the best path for financial freedom in your later years.

* 50s – Make adult children pay board. If your grown-up child is working and still living at home then rent should be paid either as a flat rate or percentage of their salary. Establish rules to lighten any friction that may come later.

Most of us are saving for something, whether it be a holiday, a car or a house. What are your top money saving tips to achieve your goals
Make sure you have regular savings in your budget. Putting your savings in a separate bank account, that you cannot easily access is a great way to avoid the temptation to draw on them. If you want to increase the amount that you can afford to put aside for savings, you need to look for ways to cut down your spending.

You could:

–        Shop around for cheaper rent, phone, and insurance deals.

–        Plan your meals, buy in bulk and compare prices at the supermarket. Growing your own veggies can also save you some money.

–        Eat breakfast at home and take your lunch to work instead of buying. Use the coffee machine at work instead of buying take-away coffees.

–        Make your own cleaning and beauty products – there are some great websites out there that provide recipes.

–        Have a BBQ at home instead of going out, and ask your guests to bring a plate.

–        Car pool or take public transport to work instead of driving – this will cut down your fuel and parking costs.

However you choose to go about it, budgeting is key.

What is your advice to someone wanting to start their own business today?
Make sure you are passionate about your business idea. It’s that passion that gets you through the tough times and allows you to keep going. It’s also important to surround yourself with positive like-minded people. Where possible try to seek out the absolute right people to assist you and experts who know more than you do. My last piece of advice is that you should have a business plan, even if it’s just written on a piece of paper. 

Who inspires you both in the business world and beyond?
I am inspired by many different people. On a personal level, my Nana truly inspires me. She is strong, funny, loving and kind. Professionally, I am inspired by Dale Carnegie and his principals. So much so that myself and many of my executive team have undertaken the Dale Carnegie Training Course. He was truly an amazing man! Certainly also business people like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Oprah and many more.

November 27, 2013

5 Things Your Real Estate Agent Might Not Be Telling You

House hunting this weekend? Did you know that while sellers have a duty to inform their agents of any issues surrounding a property, many simply neglect to disclose issues if they are likely to influence a buyer’s purchasing decision.

As such, buyers are often kept in the dark about what they are actually purchasing. Nicole Ciantar of Vogue Real Estate Australia has devised a list of five things that your real estate agent may not be telling you about when renting or buying a property – so make sure you ask the right questions.

1. Urban development and infrastructure projects
For buyers, the environmental surroundings of the property are a key determinant in the purchase decision. Real estate agents may fail to inform buyers of any government projects or new infrastructure, such as roads or housing blocks being built near the home if they haven’t been notified by the seller.

2. Criminal history of the home
Any crimes committed in the house are often left undisclosed, from drug-labs to shoot-outs to cases of abuse. “Although these types of crimes may not result in death, the sensitive type of consumer is still going to feel distressed,” Ms Ciantar said.

3. Termite damage or impact
Annually, termites damage over 180,000 Australian homes and buildings. Estimates of the combined cost of termite damage range from $700-1 billion when agriculture and horticulture are taken into account. Despite this, many buyers are unaware of homes affected by termites and are generally only made aware after conducting a termite inspection. Often people don’t consider doing this.

4. Changes to Residential Tenancy Agreement
Previously, if a tenant wished to break free of their property lease before the end of the fixed term of the agreement, they were obliged by contract to continue paying rent and property fees until a suitable replacement tenant was found. Changes to the Residential Tenancy Agreement provide an alternative for tenants, allowing them to break free of the lease so long as notice is given and they pay six weeks of rent upfront. “Many renters are unaware of this new clause and feel stuck living in a property when they simply want to move on” Ms Ciantar said.

5. Suicide, deaths and backyard burial sites
“The gory history of a home often remains hidden,” said Ms Ciantar. The previous owner may have committed suicide with new buyers completely oblivious. “This is concerning, as many people would probably feel uncomfortable living in a ‘haunted’ and stigmatised house.”

So how do you avoid these pitfalls? Ms Ciantar suggests that research is essential, and buyers should thoroughly inspect the home and ask detailed questions before making any purchase decisions. Examining old records, conducting termite inspections and even carrying out a simple Google search is sure to deliver valuable information. Above all, a good real estate agent can make all the difference, so buyers are encouraged to look around and find an agent that best understands their needs.

November 27, 2013

5 Tips to Help First Home Buyers Buy Property with Confidence

With interest rates sitting at historical lows, and lenders proving they are hungry for business, now may be a great time to consider your property options.

Of course buying property, particularly if it’s your first, can be a daunting prospect. According to a recent survey by Mortgage Choice*, four out of five future first homebuyers do not feel well informed about the property purchase process.

Purchasing property can be a complex process but, provided you set achievable goals, do your due diligence and seek professional advice, home ownership can be a rather fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

Mortgage Choice spokesperson Jessica Darnbrough offers a few tips to help first home buyers feel more confident about getting into the property market and achieving their goal of home ownership sooner rather than later.

1. Find out if you are eligible for government grants or concessions
For example, the First Home Owner Grant is a national scheme funded by the Federal Government that can help first time buyers get onto the property ladder sooner. The amount available varies by state and ranges from $5,000 up to $25,000 for first home buyers towards the purchase of their first home.

2. Consider Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)
As a borrower, if you do not have a deposit of at least 20%, you can be forced to pay LMI. This insures your lender, protecting them against any loss incurred if you default on your loan. While LMI does not protect you as the borrower, it can potentially help you purchase property sooner if you have a smaller deposit. However, it is important to weigh up your options carefully and consider whether or not it is right to pay LMI and jump in now, or hold off, watch the property market and save a larger deposit.

3. Buying with others
If you’re struggling to put aside enough money each month to save a deposit for your first home, you could consider pooling your money with others, be it a partner, friend or family member. Combining your funds will not only give you a bigger deposit, it may also increase your borrowing power and help you secure a home loan that meets your needs.

Of course, if you decide to go down the path of co-ownership, it’s important to seek legal counsel as this will help you to address all the important issues upfront, such as what would happen if one person sold their share or defaulted on their mortgage.

4. Let your mortgage broker do the legwork
Choosing the right home loan is an extremely important part of the home buying process. At no cost to you, a broker can walk you through the mortgage minefield and help you find the right home loan for your needs – often saving you a great deal of time and money.

5. Get ahead with pre-approval
Before hitting the pavement in search of your new home, consider getting pre-approval. This will give you a good idea of your borrowing capacity and save you from looking at properties that aren’t in your price range. Contact your local mortgage broker to obtain home loan pre-approval.

If you want to learn more about your home loan options, visit www.mortgagechoice.com.au

Are you thinking of buying property in 2014?

October 17, 2013
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