It’s September and spring is in the air. It’s time to shake off the winter cobwebs, get out into the garden or the great outdoors. It’s also a good time to plan your summer break.
August was a challenging month for investors. Global markets reacted negatively to an escalation in the US-China trade war and the looming no-deal Brexit. US economic growth slowed to an annual rate of 2 per cent in the June quarter, down from 3.1 per cent the previous quarter. China’s economy is also slowing - industrial production, retail sales and fixed asset investment all recorded lower growth in the year to July.
To stimulate the US economy, the US Federal Reserve cut rates by 25 basis points, the first cut since 2008. US short-term bond yields rose as did the US dollar, but shares fell around the globe. In the US, shares were down around 2 per cent for the month while Australian shares shed 3 per cent. The Hong Kong market fell more than 7 per cent as protests continued and UK shares fell 5 per cent on Brexit worries.
In Australia, most companies reported positive earnings for the 2019 financial year, but only a little over half managed to lift profits. One challenge is retail spending, up 0.2 per cent in the year to June, the weakest in 28 years. The NAB business confidence index rose in July, but the business conditions index fell to 2.4 points (the long-term average is 5.8 points).
On the bright side, Australia’s trade surplus hit a new record high of $49.9 billion in the year to June. The Australian dollar finished the month lower at around US67c, which should support our exporters.
For most people, life insurance provides a safety net against unexpected events. This is particularly the case if you have a mortgage, debts or family who are dependent on you earning an income.
In many cases, life insurance has been automatically offered through superannuation. Although 85 per cent of people hold life insurance this way, a recent survey found one third of them don’t even realise.i
Now some super members may have lost their insurance cover and may not be aware of it.
Millions could lose cover
Concern that super balances were being eroded through insurance premiums and fees has led the government to introduce Protecting your Superannuation legislation.
As a result, from July 1 this year your insurance cover is to be cancelled, if your fund has been inactive for more than 16 months.ii
Letters were sent towards the end of the financial year to those with inactive funds, advising you to contact your fund to make a contribution or risk losing your life cover.If you didn’t respond, your life insurance policy may have been cancelled.
It’s estimated that up to 3 million super members may have been affected.iii And while you can buy a new life insurance policy, you may not be able to reactivate your previous one unless your fund offered an extension of the deadline to reactivate cover. If not, you may have to face a medical examination and/or pay higher premiums in order to take out a new policy.
Younger members to opt-in
It is also proposed (although not yet legislated) that new superannuation fund members who are aged under 25 will no longer be given automatic life insurance cover as they have in the past. Instead, they would be given the opportunity to opt in to cover.
The argument in favour of this move is that young people with no responsibilities, have nothing to insure. But once you buy a home, get married or become a parent, the need for life insurance becomes paramount.
As you get older, once the family has flown the nest and you have paid off all your debts, the need for life insurance may reduce. However, with a blended family, a life insurance policy in super can prove a good financial strategy to ensure the right beneficiaries receive your money. That’s because superannuation ‘death benefits’ don’t form part of your Will but are paid out separately to your nominated beneficiaries.
SMSFs may also be caught out
Up until now, some self-managed super fund members have deliberately kept a public offer super fund active to take advantage of the cheaper insurance. But as stated above, if that public offer fund is inactive and an election to maintain cover has not been made, then cover may be lost.
The beauty of having life insurance in super is that the premiums are generally cheaper because you are charged at a group rate. In addition, it won’t affect your cashflow as premiums come out of your super. Of course, that is the point of this legislation. The monies available for investment to build your balance for retirement may be eroded through those very premiums.
Another precautionary note is that it may be harder to access a payout through super if you need to make a claim. If you haven’t correctly nominated a beneficiary in your super, then it is the trustees who decide who receives the payout. And because the insurer makes the payment via the fund, this can also take longer.iv
What happens next?
As part of the Protecting your Super changes, inactive funds with balances less than $6000 will see the monies transferred to the Australian Taxation Office. The ATO will then endeavour to amalgamate this money with an active superannuation fund of yours or hold the money for you until it is claimed.
If this happens, investment returns on the money held by the ATO may be significantly less than if you invested through your super.v
Don’t wait until you need to make a claim to discover you don’t have any insurance cover after all. If you have any questions about the changes or your insurance needs in general, give us a call.
Negatively gearing an investment property is viewed by many Australians as a tax effective way to get ahead.
According to Treasury, more than 1.9 million people earned rental income in 2012-13 and of those about 1.3 million reported a net rental loss.
So it was no surprise that many people were worried about how they would be affected if Labor had won the May 2019 federal election and negative gearing was phased out as they had proposed. With the Coalition victory, it appears negative gearing is here to stay.
While that may have brought a sigh of relief for many, negative gearing is not always the best investment strategy. Your individual circumstances will determine whether negative gearing is advisable. For many, it may pay to positively gear.
So, what is gearing?
Basically, it’s when you borrow money to make an investment. That goes for any investment, but property is where the strategy is most commonly used.
If the rental returns from an investment property are less than the amount you pay in interest and outgoings you can offset this loss against your other assessable income. This is what’s called negative gearing.
In contrast, positive gearing is when the income from your investment is greater than the outgoings and you make a profit. When this occurs, you may be liable for tax on the net income you receive but you could still end up ahead.
While negative gearing may prove tax effective, it’s dependent on the after-tax capital gain ultimately outstripping your accumulated losses.
The importance of capital gains
If your investment falls in value or doesn’t appreciate, then you will be out of pocket. Not only will you have lost money on the way through, but you won’t have made up that loss through a capital gain when you sell.
That’s the key reason why you should never buy an investment property solely for tax breaks.
But if the investment does indeed grow in value, then as long as you have owned it for more than 12 months you will only be taxed on 50 per cent of any increase in value.
When it pays to think positive
If you are retired and have most of your money in superannuation, negative gearing may not be so attractive. This is because all monies in your super are tax-free on withdrawal. And thanks to the Seniors and Pensioners Tax Offset (SAPTO), you may also earn up to $32,279 as a single or $57,948 as a couple outside super before being subject to tax.
It makes more sense to negatively gear during your working years with the aim of being in positive territory by the time you retire so you can live off the income from your investment.
While buying the right property at a time of your life when you are working and paying reasonable amounts in tax may make negative gearing a good option, sometimes positive gearing may still be a better strategy.
ASIC’s MoneySmart website compares two people each on an income of $70,000 a year. They each buy an investment property worth $400,000, paying 6 per cent interest. Additional expenses are $5000 a year while the rental income is $500 a week.
Rod negatively gears, borrowing the full purchase price; Karen is positively geared with a loan of $100,000. In terms of annual net income, Rod who negatively geared is worse off than if he had not invested in a property at all, with net income of $52,868.
Positively geared Karen ended up $10,000 ahead, with net income for the year of $64,433.
Of course, if his property grows in value over time, Rod should ultimately recoup some or all these extra payments.
If you do negatively gear, then it’s important that you claim everything that’s allowed and keep accurate records.
For investment property, this includes advertising for tenants, body corporate fees, gardening and lawn moving, pest control and insurance along with your interest payments.
If you want to know whether negative gearing is the right strategy for you, then call us to discuss.
If like many Australians you’re looking for ways to put some cash away for a rainy day, a holiday or to earn extra income, the job has just become a bit harder. It’s also become more urgent if you are expecting a handy tax return.
In early July, the Reserve Bank cut rates to 1 per cent. Soon after, the Morrison Government got its tax package passed. As a result, those on incomes from $25,000-$120,000 got an immediate tax cut of up to $1080.
So, whether you are looking to make the most of your tax cut or other savings, here are some suggestions.
1.Throw it on the mortgage
For those who have a mortgage, tipping in a bit extra, especially in the early years, can save you substantial amounts. It can also shave years off the life of the loan, meaning you’ll enjoy the priceless peace of mind that comes with paying off your home sooner.
Banks charge more for the money you’ve borrowed from them than the interest they pay on money you deposit with them. So, it may not make much sense to put money in a savings account paying 1.5 per cent interest when you’re paying 3.5 per cent interest on your home loan.
Say you have a $400,000 loan at 4 per cent with 20 years to run. Using ASIC’s MoneySmart mortgage calculator, by increasing your monthly payments by just $50, you could save $6,146 in interest and shave 7 months off the term of the loan.i
2. Up your super contributions
It’s hard to go past super as a tax-effective investment option if you are happy to lock your money away until you retire.
Over the last seven years, while interest rates and inflation have been low, growth funds (where most Australians have their savings) achieved returns of 9.3 per cent a year after tax and fees, on average. ii
You can make tax-deductible contributions of up to $25,000 a year into super, this includes your employer’s payments, salary sacrifice and any voluntary contributions you make. Once your money is in super it’s taxed at concessional rates. New rules also allow you to "carry forward” unused concessional contributions from previous years. Conditions apply so call us to see if you are eligible.
Most Australians pay little attention to super until they are approaching retirement. That means they fail to harness the power of compounding interest to the extent they could have. If you’re a decade or two away from leaving the workforce with cash to spare, it’s difficult to find a better pay-off than the one you’ll (eventually) receive from channelling savings into super.
3. Invest in shares
For longer-term savings, it’s tough to beat the returns generated by a share portfolio. Over 30 years to 2018, which included many ups and downs including the GFC, the average annual return from Australian shares was 9.8 per cent.iii Last financial year the total return from capital gains and dividends was 11 per cent.iv
Whether you are just starting out or wanting to expand an existing portfolio, we can help you align your investments with your goals.
If you would like to direct some extra cash into shares, there are now even ‘micro-investment’ apps such as Raiz and Spaceship Voyager, which you can access via your mobile phone.
4. Put it in the bank
Australia’s current inflation rate is 1.3 per cent. If your bank is paying you less than 1.3 per cent you are losing money.
If you have a so-called high interest savings account paying you a standard variable rate of between 1.5-2 per cent, you’re getting a near negligible return.v Also be aware of high introductory rates that revert to the standard base rate once the honeymoon ends.
Term deposits are currently paying around 2-2.25 per cent which is a bit better but not much.vi
Despite these low rates, it’s wise to have some money parked in a savings account or in your mortgage offset or redraw account so that it’s available in case of an unforeseen expense.
If you would like to discuss your savings and investment goals and how to achieve them, give us a call.
iii https://static.vgcontent.info/crp/intl/auw/docs/resources/2018-index-chart-brochure.pdf?20180806%7C220825 (p4)
iv 'Year in Review’, CommSec Economic Insights, 1 July 2019