The warmer weather and spring rains are a welcome break from the colder months. And, while outside activities become more tempting, don’t forget to find a moment or two to review your finances to make sure you’re up-to-date and on-track.
Household wealth has increased for the third quarter in a row. It rose by 2.6% in the June quarter, pushed up by rising house prices and increases in superannuation balances. Meanwhile demand for credit was the lowest since 2005. But consumers are not spending and consumer confidence is down. Retail sales growth was the slowest since the pandemic lockdown.
While the number of job vacancies have fallen by about 18% since their peak in May this year, they are still around 72 per cent higher than just before the pandemic – that’s an extra 160,000 positions that employers are looking to fill. Unemployment was unchanged at 3.7%.
The Australian dollar rebounded a little to finish the month where it began but it’s ended the quarter about 3% thanks to surging oil prices, interest rate uncertainty and the US markets.
Brent crude has continued its relentless climb since June, ending the month just over 30% higher than three months ago. That’s pushed petrol prices ever higher – about 17% over the same period – with the national average price for unleaded at $2.11 a litre compared to $1.80 in June. Oil prices are expected to continue to increase because of depleted US inventories and cuts to production in Saudia Arabia and Russia. Increasing petrol prices helped fuel a jump in inflation last month.
Yours, mine & ours – estate and succession planning for modern families
Navigating complex family relationships and blended families can be challenging at times and particularly when a family member dies.
A good estate plan can help to make sure your wishes are carried out when you die. An estate plan, of which a will is the first and most important part, can ensure your estate is distributed in the way you want. It can also help if you become incapacitated, particularly when it includes an enduring power of attorney and a medical power of attorney that indicate who should be in charge of your affairs and any relevant instructions.
Professional advice is vital in estate planning to make sure that you have considered all the issues, including tax matters, and that your loved ones are protected. It is also important to clearly communicate your wishes, particularly when there are complex issues involved, so that your wishes are clearly understood.
Here are some of the issues to think about.
A binding death benefit nomination should be at the top of your list when you are considering the distribution of your superannuation funds.
This makes certain that your super death benefit is paid to those you choose because without one, the trustee of your super fund will make their own decision.
The nomination is usually valid for three years before it lapses and must be renewed.
If you have been married more than once and/or have children with more than one partner, your will helps to effectively provide for those you choose.
You may wish, for example, to ensure that your children receive the proceeds of your estate rather than your spouse or ex-spouse. Alternatively, you may need to ensure your will protects your current spouse from the claims of previous spouses.
When it comes to the family home, the type of home ownership is important. If you have purchased as ‘joint tenants’, the entire asset will pass to the surviving spouse. On the other hand, if you have purchased as ‘tenants in common’, each spouse can distribute their share of the house to others.
You may also wish to include a ‘life interest’ in the home so that your current spouse can continue to live in the home until their death before it ultimately passes to your other beneficiaries.
Any existing family trusts should be reviewed with a blended family in mind. Check that the trust deed provides clear instructions for succession, if you want to ensure your children from past relationships are catered for.
Your will can also establish new trusts, known as testamentary trusts, to provide for any dependents with disability, when you are worried that a child may waste or misuse your assets, or to allow for young children.
A testamentary trust can also help to protect your adult child’s interests if they were to divorce a partner or are facing bankruptcy. Any inheritance they receive from you would become part of their property and can be considered in a divorce settlement or called on by creditors.
Handing on a business
If you are in business with partners, or would like to hand on the family business to one child but not others, a life insurance policy may be a useful strategy – sometimes known as estate equalisation – to even the distributions from your estate.
In the case of a business partnership, you would name your partner or partners as beneficiaries of the life insurance policy, to effectively ‘buy you out’ of the business. Where it’s a family business due to be handed on to one child, your life insurance would go to your other children to match the value of the business.
Note that it is crucial to continually review the value of the business and the value of the life insurance to ensure they remain current.
Estate planning can be tricky and emotional, particularly when your circumstances are a little more complex. So, get in touch with us to ensure your estate plan meets your wishes and takes account of all the issues.
When enough is never enough
How much is enough? It’s a good question. Our relationship with our finances can be a tricky one. Everyone has a different idea of how much it takes to be comfortable or even well off.
Given it is something that has such a strong influence on how we live our lives it’s unsurprising that money, or the pursuit of it, can develop into somewhat of an addiction.
The million-dollar question is how do you know if you are developing an unhealthy relationship with money and what can you do if you, or someone you know, is heading down that path?
The love of the dollar
When John D. Rockefeller, who has been widely considered the wealthiest American in modern history, was asked how much money is enough, he famously stated: “Just a little bit more.”
It’s a common approach to money – that it’s not possible to have too much of a good thing. However, we can become addicted to the act of growing our net wealth to the detriment of our daily lives. If you’re only interested in seeing your account balance go up, you might miss opportunities to put your money to work in other ways and enjoying what life has to offer.
If you can relate to the words of Rockefeller, it might be time to do some self-examination and see whether your relationship with your finances could be healthier.
Common feelings about acquiring money
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is embedded in our culture. As a society, we’re constantly comparing ourselves to those who earn more or are wealthier than ourselves. The danger is there will always be someone better off than you (unless you are Rockefeller!). Gratitude can serve as an antidote to competition, so try shifting your focus to what you have rather than what others possess.
Of course, for many the focus is not outward but inward. The competition can be an internal struggle to meet and exceed continually shifting self-imposed financial objectives. If this is moving beyond a healthy drive for success, it might be time to celebrate your successes and focus more on enjoying your wealth.
You are what you possess
Compulsive saving can be a need to find self-worth, defining yourself by what you possess and accruing the trappings of wealth to feel whole. Recognising your self-worth goes beyond possessions and how much money you have in the bank is a key step in breaking the hold money may have over you.
Fear of loss
Being afraid of losses can keep you from making smart decisions with your money that could improve your financial situation. For example, you might be so fixated on accruing wealth and so afraid of losing money that you never invest. Having an appreciation of the relationship between risk and reward can help you make healthier decisions.
An extreme focus on your financials can be driven by a fear of not having enough. The underlying cause of anxiety around money might be traced back to a time when you struggled. The key is to review your financial situation and let go the past to manage your finances in a way that is appropriate to your present circumstances.
Breaking money habits
That sounds easy but it can be difficult in practice. Whatever the driver of your approach to money, if you’ve been operating in a certain way for a long time, habits can be hard to break.
If you’ve been saving furiously for a home deposit it can be hard to step out of the frugal behaviour, take a breather and feel Ok about spending money again. Alternatively, if you’ve spent a lifetime building your wealth to have a wonderful retirement it can be difficult to flick the switch from saving to spending – especially if you suddenly have no wages coming in.
Recognise that old habits can be hard to break but that it is possible to change.
One thing that can help is having a financial plan, so you know how you are tracking to meet your financial goals. That’s where talking to a third party who is not so emotionally involved can be of benefit.
We are here to assist if you need assistance with any aspect of your financial life.
A positive property outlook for some
Residential property investors have been on a wild ride in recent years as prices slumped during the pandemic then quickly skyrocketed before losing ground again.
Now, with prices levelling out or slowly increasing, there is good news around the corner, according to some analysts.i
A combination of positive indicators for housing could help to fuel further price rises.
With a widespread view that the Reserve Bank’s interest rate increases are beginning to work to ease spending, some believe we may see the first rate cuts as early as next March. Add to that the increase in migration and the fall in new house construction, and residential property gains may follow. CBA Chief Economist Stephen Halmarick is forecasting a 7 per cent rise in house prices this year and another 5 per cent in 2024 claiming that, by this time next year, prices will return to “all-time record highs”.
The sustained levels of high demand clashing with historically low levels of for-sale listings are also pushing prices up, according to the Property Investment Professionals of Australia (PIPA).ii
In the meantime, some investors are doing it tough with rising interest rates and the end of fixed interest rate mortgages sometimes a contributing factor. The number of short-term property resales made at a loss has jumped, according to property analysts CoreLogic, from 2.7 per cent a year ago to 9.7 per cent in the June quarter this year.iii The median loss was $30,000, for houses sold within two years, compared to a median profit of $75,000.
PIPA’s annual survey to gauge property investor sentiment found just over 12 per cent of investors sold at least one investment property in the past year.iv Less than a quarter of those houses sold went to other investors, continuing a trend that has been happening for several years.
Almost half of those who sold said they were concerned about governments increasing or threatening to increase taxes, duties and levies.
Where are rents headed?
Will rents continue to rise or stabilise? Experts’ views are mixed about the short-term outlook for the rental market.
The Reserve Bank says the continuing shortage of rental housing is likely to support ongoing increases in rents.
The rents paid by new tenants provide a good indication of price movements in rental housing. Actual rents paid by new tenants increased by 14 per cent over the year to February 2023. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, rents paid by new tenants have increased by 24 per cent.vi
But CoreLogic predicts a slowing in rental price growth next year, saying rents rose for the 35th month in a row in July but monthly growth has eased over the past four months. It says the expected drop in interest rates next year combined with softer income growth and stretched rental affordability will contribute to a slowing in rents.
Australia’s growing build-to-rent (BTR) market is getting a boost with tax concessions from governments eager to increase housing stock.
BTR projects, common in Europe and North American, see landlords build a large-scale residential development intending to hold it for the long-term while renting the apartments for as long as three years with rent increases locked in. Rents are often slightly higher than market averages in return for better communal amenities such as roof gardens and gyms.
Institutional investors, such as super funds, are also getting onboard with the projects, favouring the steady income stream.
While Australia’s BTR market is mostly being driven by large developers and global players, smaller private investors are also getting in on the act. On the plus side, BTR offers regular income, often better returns and the chance to minimise expenses, not to mention the government tax concessions.
On the downside, there is the possibility the concept might not take off in Australia and that vacancy rates may be higher. Meanwhile, the locked-in rental increases may not keep pace with rapid market changes.
ii, iv https://www.pipa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/PIPA_Investor-Survey-Report_2023_Final.pdf
v, vi https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2023/jun/new-insights-into-the-rental-market.html
The information contained in this newsletter is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser.