Finances

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

7 Modern Money Lessons You Need to Teach Your Kids

Teaching kids about money used to be as simple as: “This is the pay envelope with our cash for the week.” These days credit and debit cards, internet banking and – pretty soon – transacting via mobile phone mean money has become almost invisible to children. Add to that technology traps like unexpected in-app purchases and unfathomable mobile plans, and parents face a big challenge raising modern money managers.

These are the seven vital lessons to impart if your children are ever to fend for themselves financially.

1. Even though you seldom see money, it does disappear
Everyone has a finite amount on which to live and play. Key is to make it stretch as far as possible, and have a little leftover for later.

Top teaching tip: Use food as a pay proxy and from a young age. For example, with chocolate and money, you have to carefully decide how much and how quickly you consume, because it’s very sad when it’s gone. Especially when yours is gone before anyone else’s.

2. Plastic is not fantastic – unless it’s pre-loaded with cash
To a child, it can look like a real-life fairy tale to flash a card and magically take home anything you want. But a big credit card bill at the end of the month is positively evil.

Top teaching tip: Remember you are your child’s first experience of debt and spending so always model good credit card behaviour. Buy only what you set out to and explain there is either money saved onto the card or you will repay what you spend before it costs extra in interest (do you like the way I assume that’s the case?).

3. Tablets are not just for Angry Birds
How are your precious progeny to know when you are head down, brow-furrowed, that you’re not gaming but banking?

Top teaching tip: Always talk through what you are doing. And consider paying pocket money into a deposit account from an early age so children can watch both their game scores and bank balance tick up online. It might even encourage them to get competitive about interest rates.

4. Plan to not miss out
It’s crucial to think ahead to what you are going to want and need in any given pay period because, as we’ve established, money is finite.

Top teaching tip: The pocket money challenge. Give your kids the option to have $10 a week pocket money or $40 a month. They’ll presumably choose $40 a month and then spend it in a week, learning quickly – albeit painfully – to make money stretch. The ‘challenge’ for you is not to cave in and give them extra when they can’t go out at the end of the month (that could even pre-dispose them to debt dependency).

5. Children are viewed as ‘fair’ financial game
More than 50 consumer protection agencies around the world have now united in a fight against smartphone and tablet apps that mislead kids. They need to understand that companies prey on children’s psychology and competitiveness – to get to the next level… to advance more quickly… – to keep them spending money.

Top teaching tip: Micro-payments – on/in apps, games or music – can do maximum damage. Set any parental restrictions you can and keep a tally with your child of their spend. If they transact on the internet, also ensure they know sites need to be secure (with a ‘https’ prefix and a padlock in the bottom corner).

6. Waiting works wonders
Today’s money world takes our built-in instant gratification bent – you’ll recognise it in your child’s super-fun ‘I want, I want’ meltdowns – to a whole new level. An important learning is that alternative, delayed pay-offs can be far greater and even more satisfying.

Top teaching tip: Target a family goal like a big trip to California’s Disneyland. Then every time your child spies something shiny or yummy at the checkout, give them the option to buy it for them or save the equivalent for a splurge on Disneyland merchandise. Push actual coins or notes into a piggy bank or preferably deposit them in the bank, and keep an incentive chart of their ‘savings’ on the wall.

7. Stash cash from an early age
This one is really the key to comfort: tiny changes made early enough make a massive difference.

Top teaching tip: Drive home the dollar advantage of putting some money aside to keep your child focused. A dollar a day of pocket money saved from, say, age 10 becomes more than $60,000 by age 50 (at a return of 6 per cent). Better still, only $14,560 of that is from you; the rest is courtesy of the bank or investment. Imagine where you’d be today if someone had told you that…

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 columnists 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 15, 2015

Save Money While Travelling? Yes, It’s Possible

Travelling is fun. Getting ripped off while you’re doing it is not. Luckily, with a few insider tips from Cover-More Travel Insurance’s video blogger Dan Moore, you can make the most of your time and money while you’re away, and ensure your holiday is next-level amazing.

Get appy

There are lots of great travel apps that can be really handy when overseas, and it pays to take some time before you leave to do a little research and download your faves.

Moore recommends City Maps 2Go, which uses satellite to show your location and doesn’t require the Internet to work. “Just load your map, pin your location, get lost, and navigate back to your pin.”

A currency converter app is also great to have on hand, Moore says. “It’s an easy way to get a bearing on your money conversions and make sure you don’t ripped off, especially in the first few days in a new place.”

The Cover-More Global SIM is free to activate and is prepaid for calls and data – so you can use your phone like you would at home, to everything from finding a great café to posting photos on Facebook. The SIM works in more than 100 countries and is compatible with most recent mobile phones and tablets.

Make your money work for you

Every penny saved is a penny you can spend on food, shoes or more travel. Moore suggests not carrying too much cash on you. “It’s safer in the bank, and you won’t spend all your time worrying about losing it,” he says.

“Get a travel card (most Aussie banks provide them). This way you have minimal to no fees as it adds the local currency to your card, and you can earn frequent flyer points at the same time.”

Look for accommodation using booking.com, hostelworld.com or quickbeds.com or something similar. “These sites give amazing discounts on rates, and best of all you can usually cancel within 24 hours with no fee,” Moore says.

Avoid booking transfers to and from the airport. “Transfers can sometimes be up to twice as much as the cost of a standard taxi. In Bangkok, you can get a fast train for about 40b over a taxi that’s about 350b, and the train will get you there twice as fast.

Don’t skimp on a good backpack or bag. “This is basically your mobile home for the next few weeks, or even months, and you need it to be reliable,” Moore explains. “It’s going to get beat up and handled ‘without care’, and although having a zipper break so that your underwear sprawls out across an airport luggage conveyor belt will certainly be a memorable experience (trust me), it’s probably not worth the money for a humorous anecdote.”

Food hacks

Eating is without a doubt one of the best things about travel. Nothing beats getting a taste for the local cuisine, and street food can be some of the tastiest, and cheapest, meals you’ll find. Do be a little discerning though. “Don’t eat at the first place you come across, keep an eye out for the popular places full of locals, and research restaurants on Yelp or similar,” suggests Moore.

Also, if you’re staying at a hostel or hotel and can take advantage of the included breakfast, it’s a good idea to take a bottle of water, and a piece of fruit as you leave for the day. “Having that snack in your bag means you’ll never go hungry and you can concentrate on the fun of trying to find your way around a new city, or work out the public transport system.”

Safety first

Whatever you do, don’t take shortcuts when it comes to your health, urges Moore. “Invest in proper travel insurance, and if you have injured yourself go to a pharmacy or doctor straight away. There’s absolutely no point risking your health, or your bank balance.”

To celebrate their YouTube channel hitting 2 million views and over 1000 subscribers, Cover-More Travel Insurance, has launched the search to find the Ultimate Traveller. Record and share your video adventure for the chance to win a $10,000 travel adventure… There are also GoPro Hero4 and GoPro Hero3+ cameras up for grabs. http://competition.covermore.com.au

July 1, 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

Teaching Kids Money Skills

Most of us would admit that our finances could use some improvement. We weren’t brought up with good money skills and that’s what makes teaching our kids about money so challenging. But even if you don’t feel like a money expert, don’t be discouraged. Whether you realise it or not, you have acquired a lot of money wisdom you can pass on to your children to give them a good start in life.

RELATED: 7 Modern Money Lessons You Need To Teach Your Kids

Talk about money

Explain to your children what money is as soon as you can, as well as the different forms money can take – cash, credit cards, bank deposits. Let them watch you pay at the shop and later outsource the payment to them. They’ll love it and they’ll get to practice their maths, too.

It’s also important to teach them where money comes from (it’s not from the ATM, like my son used to believe). When children understand that people pay you money because you have contributed in some way to make their lives better, they see money as a fair exchange rather than endless supply.

Play money games

Kids love to play shops. Parents use this game to teach their kids new words, but it’s also a way to model money transactions. My kids have a price list for all kind of items they sell at their shop and we use play money to purchase them.

Monopoly is a great game for older kids. It will take their understanding of money to a new level and it’s fun to play for adults, too.

Encourage saving

Take the kids to the bank to open their own savings accounts – it will make them feel all grown up. Have a piggy bank at home, too, for easier access. When they receive money, remind them that saving it (or part of it) is an option and that not spending all their money immediately will help them buy bigger things later on.

Allow buying decisions

Let your kids take responsibility for their own spending every now and then. You can discuss with them the pros and cons of each decision, but leave it up to them, even if you think they’re making a mistake. Sometimes mistakes are the quickest way to learn.

Work on your own money skills

When you’re getting better at saving, budgeting, managing your debt and making the most out of your money, you’re modelling these money skills for your children.

Image via Pixabay

April 3, 2015

How to Test Drive a Used Car

Buying a used car can be a daunting and risky process. You never know exactly what you’re getting. While the majority of used car dealers are trustworthy and reliable, there are unfortunately some that will do anything in order to make a sale. One way to ensure you are getting the best value for money is to insist on a test drive. Top dealers such as Jennings Motor Group will be more than happy to let you test drive a car before deciding if it is right for you.

Planning your own route

As featured in the Telegraph, whether buying from a private seller or car dealership, it is important to plan your own route. If the seller knows the car has trouble undertaking specific tasks, they will plan a route that avoids highlighting the problems. For example, if the car has worn down suspension components, the seller could avoid a route that features speed bumps. Or they may insist you stick to main roads if they know the steering is quite heavy at lower speeds. Planning your own route will enable you to test the car in a number of situations.

Top things to look out for

When you’re on the test drive, there are a number of factors you should pay attention to. How comfortable are you in the driver’s position? Can you reach the pedals easy enough? It is also important to test out the features of the car such as windscreen wipers, the horn and lights.

While driving, pay attention to the different gears. Is it easy to change into different gears or do they grind? Listen out for any noises too. These are just some of the top things you need to keep an eye on.

Take somebody else with you

It is a good idea to take somebody else along for the ride. They can help you to keep an eye on anything that doesn’t feel/sound right. However, try to avoid taking the whole family with you. They will cause more distraction than anything else and you need to be fully focused on the car.

Don’t talk throughout the drive

It may feel a little awkward, but staying quiet throughout the test drive is actually a clever tactic. As published on About Autos, sellers hate silence as it makes them feel uncomfortable. You can hear every noise that the car makes. It is surprising how quickly they are willing to talk about the cars problems when you stay quiet as you’re driving along.

Test driving a used car is a small, but vital part of the car buying process. You will find that most sellers want to rush the test drive. Try and set a time of at least half an hour and ask if you can do the test drive by yourself. Private sellers will likely be reluctant to let you do this but it is always worth asking. If you follow the tips above you will have a better chance of buying a reliable used car.

November 25, 2014

Why Helping Your Teen Save Will Be Beneficial In The Long Run

Financial competence is an essential skill that any teenager or young adult has to learn. It means knowing how to spend wisely and how to save. As young adults, this skill is vital for their survival and success in the adult world. It can mean the difference between having a house to live in and being homeless, or having the means to buy that shoes you saw on the window and being in card debt. Being financially savvy can spell the difference between homelessness and success, in later life.

RELATED: Choosing The Right Loan For You

They learn to be financially savvy

By teaching them how to save at such a young age, that lesson is inculcated in their brains by the time they grow up. At an early age, they learn the value of money. This translates to knowing how to spend money wisely. They learn what purchases are essential and what purchases are just mere luxuries. Expenses for food, lodging and the costs involved with driving are essential purchases, but the newest Chanel bag is just a mere luxury. By knowing the difference, they can then decide whether or not they can afford the luxury item, and when they can purchase it. It also includes the question of whether or not they should buy it at all.

They learn to be financially independent

Being financially savvy translates to financial independence. People who cannot control their spending habits become slaves to their credit cards. They start off a cycle of debt, where the person purchases non-essential items using a credit card, without the funds to pay for it fully. They pay the minimum monthly payments but the interest and the principal just starts to pile up until they are so buried under debt. Financial independence also means that they can control their finances without letting it overrun their lives. It can mean taking a mortgage on a house but with a clear plan on how to pay for it. It can mean taking a car loan with a definite monthly budget for its payment. It doesn’t mean your child will not need financing help anymore, it just means your child will be able to maximize the opportunities provided by financing.

They will learn how to be successful

Being financially independent is the first step to success. When they can take charge of your finances, they can manipulate it and maximize its benefits. They can make use of financing to set up their own business without shelling out a big chunk of money. Financial savvy will also allow them to be successful in any business venture they enter. After all, the success of a business depends on whether it is making a profit or not. If the leader of the business knows when to take risks with their investments, the business will be able to avoid bankruptcy. If the business leader knows how to manage the company’s finances, there is no surprise if the company flourishes in the long run.

Starting a child early in the art of saving and spending wisely will be a big benefit to them when they become young adults, and eventually mature adults who are in charge of their lives.

November 13, 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

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

What We Really Spend Our Money On

A new study has revealed what Australian women are really speanding on beauty and grooming – and the results may shock you. Of 1000 women surveyed by Invisalign, the average amount spent was $3600 a year, totalling about 5% of their average household income.

But what’s more surprising is what she’s spending it on. The largest investments were made on temporary beauty fixes and if there’s one thing the vast majority of Australian women agree on, it’s that ‘mum’s the word’ when it comes to revealing this spend to their partner or family.

beauty, skincare, beauty products, finances, Invisalign, survey

May 31, 2014

How To Make New Year Resolutions – And Keep Them

If you are like almost half of the population, you will be thinking of making New Year resolutions. The sad fact is that most people don’t achieve their resolutions, but with a bit of planning you can be one of few smug few who can make your resolutions a reality.

A study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol in 2007 showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail. Another study by the University of Scranton showed that it has a lot to do with age. 39% of people in their twenties achieved their resolution each year while this dropped to 14% for people inTo achieve New Year resolutions you need to understand a bit about how your mind works and how to remove obstacles to success.

In his New Year resolution book A Course in Happiness, Frank Ra maintains that “resolutions are more sustainable when shared, both in terms of with whom you share the benefits of your resolution, and with whom you share the path of maintaining your resolution. Peer-support makes a difference in success rate with New Year’s resolutions”.

Chris Noone, co-founder of www.PromiseLocker.com, supports the view that sharing your goals with others improves the chance of success. After a few unsuccessful solo attempts he and a few friends promised each other that they would lose weight and enter competitive sporting events. Importantly they also told all of their friends.

“Because we publicly declared our commitment we had the support of friends and family, plus a bit of peer pressure from the rest of the group. We were all able to achieve results that we had only dreamed of previously”.

James Brodie, a strength and conditioning Coach for the Manly Marlins Rugby Union Club and owner of J-Train Athletic Performance, works one-on-one with his clients to achieve their fitness goals.

“The ones who really succeed are those who make public pacts and get ongoing encouragement from their friends and family. This holds them accountable and puts the responsibility on them to work harder to achieve these goals”, said James.

Here are some more tips to help you achieve success in 2014.

Start Small
A big goal sounds impressive, but is hard to achieve. Start by setting small goals so you begin to understand how you can best achieve results. Once you have a few successes under your belt and understand your potential, take a step up to a bigger goal.

Reward Yourself
We all need help to maintain our motivation. Set your goals so that you can celebrate the small achievements along the way. Short sprints are much more effective and enjoyable than a long, slow slog.

Recruit Supporters
Share your success with friends and family so they can congratulate you along the way. Don’t be afraid to let them know if you slip up too! You’ll find that encouragement from others can be really motivating. At the very least, the risk of public failure will make improve your dedication.  Set up a blog to share your progress or use Facebook or Twitter. Websites like PromiseLocker and apps such as Lift  and Everest make it easy to record, track and share your commitments.

Plan for Setbacks
Nobody is perfect. Life has a habit of getting in the way of New Year resolutions. Accept this as normal and don’t aim for perfection all of the time. Think in advance what setbacks you may encounter and how you can mitigate them.

Check Your Progress
Measuring, recording and sharing your progress are all positive steps that will support your achievement. If your progress has been good, it provides positive reinforcement to keep going. If you have fallen behind, take some time to reflect on why and what you can do to improve.

Remove Temptation
Think ahead about things that may tempt you to stray from your path and try to get them out of your life, at least for a while. This could include staying away from people who reinforce your bad habits, removing sugary foods from the cupboard or avoiding certain activities.

Make it Real
Your New Year’s Resolutions should be based on actions that are obvious. Vowing to get fit or lose weight are quite vague, instead try to commit to walking to work twice per week or not drinking sugary drinks.

Manage Your Willpower
You can’t do everything all at once. According to Roy Baumeister from Florida State University your willpower is a finite resource, so ration it for the goals that count and let some other things go. Recent research shows that willpower can be increased with positive attitude. Perhaps achieving some small goals will help you to improve your willpower.

Are you making any resolutions in 2014?

January 2, 2014

How to Save $6386 a Year by Getting Smart With Your Bills

My guess is you spend more time dwelling on your Facebook status than your financial one… planning your Pinterest board than your interest hoard…linking in than stopping money leaking out.

But it is. And the irony is that technology is making the flow faster.

A growing phenomenon I’ve dubbed Digitally Induced Laziness sees us blithely ignore all the automatic payments that come out of our accounts each month – allowing oh-so-convenient to become oh-so-conned.

Providers of everything from utilities to financial services rely on their bill-DIL existing customers to fund big discounts to entice new ones. You may even find your deal gets slowly worse.

Here is where you’re likely to be losing the most money.

Your mortgage

The big banks are exploiting your electronic inertia big time. The difference between the standard variable rate offered by the Big 4 and the most competitive mortgage on the market has swelled to a shocking 1.42 percentage points. Historically they’ve only skimmed 1 point or so off the top. Today you’ll pay 5.91 per cent versus just 4.49 per cent, which means you could save on the average $300,000 mortgage a massive $75,000 in interest.

Possible saving: $250 a month; $3000 a year. BUT it’s possible to take this total interest saving from $75,000 to $122,644 without paying an additional cent… you simply need to maintain your repayments at their existing level. This means you’ll also clear your debt more than five years early, after which your money is your own. And your big-bank lender may even agree to match this if you threaten to leave.

Your electricity

For all the talk about big increases in the price of electricity, and some areas have seen hikes of four times the rate of inflation in the past five years, you can actually make huge savings. A family can save a big chunk by moving to a better offer; you just need to be wary of contracts that commit you for a period of time as you may end up stuck on an increasingly uncompetitive deal.

Possible saving: $386 a year, says Market researcher Energy Watch.

Your insurances

You could probably be paying 15 per cent less on every single general insurance policy – think car, home and contents. The potential savings could be even higher with risk insurers like life or income protection providers, but because of age or health history it can be trickier to change. You could also save a truckload on your health insurance – and bear in mind that laws designed to keep health insurance competitive dictate that you do not have to re-serve waiting period for hospital cover.

Possible savings: More than $2000 a year.

Your telecommunications

New players are massively shaking things up when it comes to your mobile phone and your data plans. Look into signing up with a new provider as soon as you get off a phone contract; you’ll be stunned by the savings now on offer. Consider also bundling your internet into the deal to save a bucketload more.

Possible saving: Maybe $1000 a year (and that’s assuming you’ve already been tech savvy enough to get on to Voice-over Internet Protocol like Skype  for overseas calls).

Screen time of a different kind could yield big results if you’ve inadvertently become a bill DIL. In fact, swap Instagram for an hour a month for probably an instant grand.

Fess up – how much time do you spend each month dealing with your finances?

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 30, 2013