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Archives for Stephen Coniglione

Man holding first home keys

Thinking about buying your first home?

Buying your first home is a dream many Australians think is out of reach and saving for a deposit in an increasing property market only deflates one’s saving momentum.

The bank of mum and dad or an unexpected inheritance from that great aunt can assist, however, it is not often a bankable deposit.

The federal government has a saving scheme that helps first homebuyers make every dollar saved work that little bit harder.

I guarantee that many of you reading this have never heard of the First Home Super Saver Scheme.

So why are so few Australians saving for their first home through the First Home Super Saver Scheme? It is complicated, let me explain.

What is the First Home Super Saver Scheme (FHSSS)?

It is an interesting savings option that allows savings to be deposited and withdrawn from your superannuation account.

The deposit earns a set rate of return of 3% above the 90-day Bank Bill rate (0.12% p.a. as of 29/10/2021).

Investment earnings are taxed internally within superannuation at a maximum of 15%.

The voluntary super contributions that can be made are:

What are the FHSSS contribution limits?

  • Annual limit – $15,000 of voluntary contributions
  • Total limit – $30,000 on all voluntary contributions (may increase to $50,000 once legislated).

What are the eligibility requirements?

The applicant must:

  • be over 18 at the time the determination is requested
  • have no previous FHSSS release authority
  • have never previously owned an interest in Australian real property (with some exceptions involving financial hardship provisions)
  • occupy or intend to occupy the property as soon as practicable
  • intend to occupy the property for at least 6 of the first 12 months that it is practicable to occupy the property.

The property must:

  • be located in Australia
  • a real property
  • capable of being occupied as a residence
  • not a mobile home or houseboat.

What is the maximum release amount?

To sum it up, the FHSSS maximum release amount is:

  • the total eligible contributions subject to the above limits, plus
  • proportioned earnings (the set rate of return) on the voluntary contributions, less
  • any applicable contributions tax.

To release the savings from super you need to apply to The Australian Tax Office (ATO) who will calculate the maximum amount that can be withdrawn upon a determination request.

A valid request must be made to the ATO within 14 days of entering a contract. If a release request is made first, you have 12 months to purchase a home and sign a contract. You must notify the ATO within 28 days of signing the contract.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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House (Asset) with coins (cashflow) in front

Asset rich and cash flow poor

The cost of retirement in Australia continues to rise and I have noticed increased cost pressure on retirees everyday expenses.

I am often asked the question “how much do we need to save for retirement?” There is no simple answer to this question as everyone has different living standards and one could go without what you might consider essential.

According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, to live a comfortable retirement at age 65 a couple will need $640,000 saved or funds of $62,562 per year. For a couple aged around 85, the funds needed per year falls to $58,871.

Some older Australians who are homeowners that I have spoken to feel anxious about their retirement and being able to meet their income needs. Being asset rich and cash flow poor is not an unusual dilemma.

One option to consider is downsizing your family home.

Selling the family home may allow eligible individuals to make a downsizer contribution from the capital proceeds into their superannuation of up to $300,000. A couple can contribute up to $600,000.

A downsizer contribution is not treated as a non-concessional contribution and will not count towards an individual’s contribution caps.

Eligibility criteria

  • Homeowners aged 65 years or over. The 2021-22 budget proposed reducing the eligibility age down to 60.
  • Owned an Australian property for at least 10 years and it must be your primary residence within this period to qualify for the capital gains tax exemption.
    • A houseboat, caravan or mobile home are not included.
  • Must not have previously made a downsizer contribution using the proceeds from the sale of another home.
  • The contribution must be made within 90 days of when the change of ownership occurs.
  • You must provide your superannuation fund with the downsizer contribution into super form.

There is no requirement to purchase another home, for example, you may rent or go into aged care.

Things you should consider

  • Age Pension implication
    • Currently, your primary residence is exempt as an asset from assessment of entitlement to the Age Pension. Your superannuation is assessed and the downsizer contribution may affect your Age Pension entitlement.
  • Contributing to a self-managed super fund.
    • It is essential for trustees or members of a self-managed super fund to ensure that a downsizer contribution into the fund is permitted by the trust deed.

This is just one option older Australian’s have to top up their super for a more comfortable retirement.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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Retirement presents a number of new challenges as well as uncertainty for many Australians.

Planning for your retirement

Retirement presents a number of new challenges as well as uncertainty for many Australians. The current economic volatility and low return on cash savings are increasing drivers for Australians seeking advice. It is important to obtain appropriate and tailored advice as it will help retirees navigate the change from saving for retirement to relying on your savings during retirement.

The danger of running out of money is the second biggest worry for retirees, with 53% of Australians concerned about outliving their savings. (National Seniors Australia 2020[i])

There are many ways we can provide value when planning for retirement:

  • Reviewing your historical spending to determine likely spending habits during retirement to know how much you need to support your lifestyle.
  • How to structure your savings to minimise or even eliminate tax.
  • Review your risk tolerance and understanding of the risk-return relationship.
  • Assist eligible retirees to access Centrelink benefits to supplement income and extend retirement asset longevity.
  • Ongoing review service to ensure you remain on track and are coping outside of employment.

The COVID-19 global pandemic is the current driver of volatility and low interest rates. The need to maintain a long-term investment strategy and avoid instinctively making emotional decisions is imperative to ensure that your retirement savings continue working for you.

Understanding your needs and objectives allows us to provide tailored and relevant strategies to support effective decision-making and a long-term plan that guides you through a stress-free retirement.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.


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Ethical investing is becoming more popular

Ethical Investing

Over the past few years, conversations I’ve had with clients regarding ethical investments have changed. Those interested in investing ethically are no longer a fringe minority, with a number of our clients displaying genuine interest in sustainable and ethical investments. Clients are looking for ways that they can invest their savings into causes important to them whilst also outlining industries they would like to avoid. These discussions have made clients aware that returns are not the only consequence of their investment choice.

What I’ve found is that each client has a different set of values when it comes to deciding whether or not an investment is ethical. I have some very passionate clients and there will be a level of scrutiny where all companies appear to be inappropriate investments.

Listed companies in Australia have aligned with the Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) standards and improved their ESG reporting over the last few years. This level of transparency allows fund managers using a sustainable and responsible investment approach to better compare the sustainability and environmental impact of companies.

At The Investment Collective, our investment philosophy allows us to take a ‘hands on approach’ to position clients’ portfolios in stocks that we believe show the most promise and brightest future prospects.

Finding the right investments can be a complicated and timely process. A portion of managed funds claiming to be ‘sustainable’ fail to meet the most basic client expectations for a responsible or ethical investment. Ethics is more than just adding ‘sustainable’ to the name of the fund. We continue to actively look for new investments that provide a point of difference and have a renewed focus on finding responsible investment managers that align with our investment philosophy.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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HomeBuilder – Federal Government Stimulus

A lot has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and life is slowly getting back to normal as social restrictions are eased at a different pace, state by state. All levels of Government are now shifting their focus to targeted economic stimulus.

HomeBuilder is the latest Federal Government stimulus targeted at the residential renovation and new home construction market. The Government is offering a grant of $25,000 to build a new home or substantially renovate an existing home, where a contract is signed between 4 June 2020 and 31 December 2020.

To be eligible, you must be an Australian citizen and an owner-occupier over the age of 18. You will need to earn less than $125,000 per annum for an individual or $200,000 per annum for a couple (based on 2018-19 tax return).

If you choose to renovate, the cost of the renovation contract will need to be between $150,000 and $750,000. The value of your property must not exceed $1.5 million pre-renovation.

If you choose to build a new home, your property value must not exceed $750,000. Construction for the new build or renovation will need to commence within three months of the contract date.

The State and Territory governments will distribute the HomeBuilding grant when the builder you employ seeks permits and submits appropriate applications. First home buyers are still eligible for the respective State or Territory Government grants on top of the HomeBuilder grant.

HomeBuilder might just be the extra money needed to build your first home, complete that major renovation or build your new home.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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Preventing financial stress on expecting parents

I can see how having children can be the most rewarding and life-fulfilling experience for parents. Spending time with my niece and nephew and seeing them grow gives me great joy and insight into parenthood.

Starting a family or a growing family brings a roller coaster of emotions and financial stress as parents assess the upcoming changes in their life and finances. I’ve recently met with a couple expecting their first child and they are confused about how to do this and what financial support is available to them. Additionally, while focus is on immediate income and expense needs, other financial considerations such as superannuation and insurance can get left behind.

Should planning for a baby start after conception?

From my experience expecting parents tend to focus on the cost of having children in the sense of preparing for the babies arrival, prams, cots etc. – and longer-term education costs. In reality though, the most significant cost of having children is the loss or reduction in employment income, during both the initial maternity/paternity leave and also via reduced working hours over the longer term.

From a planning point of view, it’s important for a couple thinking about starting a family to know what that future cash flow shortfall will look like. This will show how much a couple will require to save in cash before the baby is born in order to get through the child-raising year without having to drastically change their standard of living.

The government provides a range of financial support initially which can supplement or replace reduced cash flow. Note that this is only very short term and it is important to discuss with your partner what happens after these payments stop.

Parental Leave Pay

The government offers 18 weeks of minimum wage payments (currently $740.60 per week) to the main caregiver of a new baby.

To be eligible, the primary carer of the newborn must have worked 10 out of the 13 months before birth (or adoption) of the child and at a rate of least 330 hours over the 10 months (equivalent to approximately one day per week on average). Have individually earned less than $150,000 in the last financial year.

Don’t worry, dads or partners are not forgotten!

Dad and Partner pay

The government offers two weeks of minimum wage payments (currently $740.60 per week) to the dad or partner of the primary carer.

Any initial financial stress is generally forgotten by parents as the majority of conversations I’ve had with clients is about their child’s achievements. I’ve often heard how sleep-deprived new parents are once their baby is born and planning for the new one’s arrival by removing some of the financial stress will help a couple to focus on caring for the newborn.

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

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The Afterpay Christmas

Are you being smart this silly season? Shop now, enjoy now and pay later.

This Christmas will be a bit different for many Millennial and Gen Z’s globally. The buy now, receive now and pay later revolution has taken the world by storm. Afterpay is just one of the buy now, pay later service companies and it already has over 6 million active customers with 15,000 new accounts opening daily and over 40,000 retail businesses from clothing, travel, experiences and health are offering this type of layby service[i].

What are the benefits of buy now, pay later?

Unlike layby where a customer puts goods on hold that they could not otherwise afford. Buy now, pay later allows customers to receive their goods with a small down payment and future interest-free instalments. The majority of the purchase is other people’s money, but you’re not forced to save and wait.

The service is “free” to the consumer but the costs associated are priced into the product as the service company takes a small cut from each transaction. Retailers pay for the service.

Why would a retailer allow this type of payment?

Retailers want to do business and have seen an increase in average basket size and people shopping more frequently. It’s estimated that retailers have seen more than a 25% increase in transaction values[ii].  Or put another way, users of this payment service are spending more money than they have.

Here are 3 tips to help you avoid a small initial late fee and spend 25% less this Christmas

  • Use cash to pay for Christmas gifts
  • Get your family, friendship group and workplace to embrace Secret Santa. It’s the idea of only gifting to one person
  • Set dollar limits in addition to Secret Santa

Please note this article provides general advice only and has not taken your personal, business or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored advice, please contact us today.

[i] 2019 CEO and CRO Presentation (afterpay touch)
[ii] FY2019 Results Presentation (afterpay touch)
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Upside with protection

We’ve seen global markets correct as global growth wanes under pressure of protectionist political policies and an escalating trade war with China and the United States. The fear of a global recession pushed our Australian stock market lower.

Has this market volatility scared you?

Rewind a few weeks and the Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) 200 closed at a fresh record high surpassing the closing price reached on 1 November, 2007. Our asset allocation strategy provides our clients with the comfort of knowing that a vast majority of their investments are not exposed to the Australian stock market.

Firstly, we assess our clients’ risk tolerance and understanding of the risks associated with investing, then allocate a risk profile (such as Balanced) based on this assessment. Each risk profile divides our clients’ money up between defensive and growth asset classes to produce a diversified portfolio. Defensive investments include cash, term deposits and fixed interest investments (government and corporate bonds). Growth investments include Australian shares, international shares, property and infrastructure.

Effective asset allocation not only provides protection when markets correct but also offers opportunity to maximise returns. I often say to my clients that defensive investments can be compared to shock absorbers of a car as they smooth out the bumps in the road.

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Developing Saving Habits

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or can you?

Who we are today is a reflection of our past experiences and as we age we become more set in our ways. Our habits, what we enjoy and how we respect the people and material things we have rub off on those around us, especially children. What financial habits are you teaching your children?

Adolescence and teenagers are not taught how to manage money at school and it is left to parents to provide them with the knowledge and skills to be good money managers.

I remember at school buying my lunch from the canteen on a rare occasion, the lunch was something of a treat and not the norm. It’s not like my parents couldn’t afford it and at times I felt angry that my friends always bought lunch and I couldn’t.

On reflection, I now understand what my parents were unknowingly teaching me. Preparing my lunches the night before school was a habit they taught me and preparing my lunches has continued into my working life. However, now my wife and I prepare lunches on Sundays for the working week, we eat more nutritious food and avoid the costly takeaway lunch expense.

The $15 to $20 daily work lunch and coffee might not seem like a lot but, preparing our meals saves us thousands each year. Thank you, Mum and Dad, for teaching me how to make good financial decisions on a daily basis.

This is only one example of how my parents taught me to respect and spend money. The only way to save is to spend less than you earn and a bit of frugality is key. What financial habits will you teach your children?

Please note this article provides general advice and has not taken your personal or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored financial advice, please contact us today. One of our advisers would be delighted to speak with you.

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Protecting Your Loved Ones From Potential Financial Mistreatment

What I really enjoy about being an adviser is the opportunity to resolve client puzzles. Each situation is unique and the solutions are an opportunity to make a real difference to a family’s life.
Recently, I was asked by a client how to protect their child with special needs from potential future financial mistreatment. This was an opportunity for me to dust off my knowledge of trusts and more specifically, special disability trust.

The purpose of a special disability trust

A trust is a legal obligation that details how you want property or assets held for the benefit of a beneficiary administered and managed.

Special disability trusts are primarily established to assist succession planning by parents and family members, for the care and accommodation needs of a child or adult with a severe disability. The name ‘special disability trust’ relates to the social security treatment of the trust, not the actual disability.

The legal requirements for setting up a special disability trust

The first step is to make sure that the special needs person qualifies for a special disability trust. They need to meet the definition of severe disability as detailed in the Social Security Act 1991. The individual will have to go through a process where they are interviewed and assessed by social security. Centrelink has a special division that makes an assessment regarding whether they meet the criteria under section 1209M of the Social Security Act.

The Social Security Act recognises that people with special needs work and positively contribute to our society. If the special needs person is working, the act states that a condition of a disability restricts them from working more than 7 hours a week for a wage that is at or above the relevant minimum wage.

The trust deed must comply with certain conditions, and incorporate compulsory clauses as defined in the model trust deed as laid out by the Department of Social Services.

Anyone except the special needs person or the settlor can be a trustee of a special disability trust. There are two types of trustees and they both must be Australian residents (must be assessed by the Department of Social Services).

  1. Independent (corporate) trustee – does not have any relationship with the special needs individual and has to be a professional person or a lawyer.
  2. Individual trustee – A minimum of two trustees are required to ensure the special needs individual’s interests are protected.

The trust can either be activated while you are alive – this gives the special needs individual more independence or set up as part of a will – to protect the special needs individual.

The special disability trust can only have one beneficiary (the special needs individual) and the beneficiary can only have one trust. There are two main restrictions placed on the beneficiary, their living situation and gifting.

The Social Security Act stipulates that the beneficiary is not able to reside permanently outside of Australia – the reasonable primary care and needs for the beneficiary must be met in Australia.

There is also a gifting concession available and the contribution made must be unconditional (you can’t get it back), and without the expectation of receiving any payment or benefit in return (if gifted by you). The beneficiary is only able to give money that they received as an inheritance within 3 years of receipt into the trust. Also, a gifting concession, that does not impact any Centrelink benefits is available for the first $500,000 of gifts contributed to the trust.

The social security implications of a special disability trust

There is no limit to the dollar value of assets that can be held in a special disability trust, however, there is an asset test exemption (for Centrelink benefits) of up to $669,750 (indexed 1 July each year) available to the beneficiary. Another advantage is no income is assessed under the social security income test for the beneficiary. The special needs individual can also have their primary residence in the special disability trust, which is also exempt.

Centrelink has also added a limit of $11,750 to ‘discretionary expenses’ for beneficiaries to improve their level of health, wellbeing, recreation and independence.

Further information about special disability trusts can be found on the Department of Veteran’s Affairs site and the Department of Social Services site.

In conclusion, the aim of establishing a special disability trust is to provide protection and to ensure that those we love have a secure financial future.

Please note this article provides general advice and information only, it has not taken your personal or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored financial advice, please contact us today, one of our advisers would be delighted to speak with you.

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