A new year can often bring a renewed commitment to healthy living or improving another area of our lives.
A new financial year provides a great chance to support your financial health with a range of ‘good habits’.
Making sure your super is in shape can be a great start.
Your super is one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your lifetime.
Here are five simple ways you can take to ensure your super account is the healthiest it can be:
Consolidate (or roll over) your super into one account to avoid multiple fees and their impact on your super balance. You’ll also help reduce your paperwork and carbon footprint by cutting down the amount of mail you get. Just remember, to check your insurance cover before consolidating your super.
2. Find Lost Super
This is vital if you’ve ever changed your job, name or address. Millions of Australians currently have unclaimed super. Useful websites are ato.gov.au/superseeker and unclaimedsuper.com.au Best of all, it’s free to find your lost super!
3. Top Up
Put a little away now to benefit later in life by topping up your super. Even adding just a bit extra each week can make a big difference down the track. It’s never too early or too late to start topping up. There are two ways to contribute extra to your super – before or after tax. Which method of making additional contributions is right for you will depend on your income. To find out more, contact your super fund.
4. Don’t Forget the Co-Contribution Scheme
Take advantage of the government co-contribution scheme to receive up to a maximum of $500 from the Government towards to your super. If you earn less than $35,454, and put $1,000 into your super from your take home pay, you may receive the maximum amount. You can still receive a part co-contribution if you earn up to $50,454.
Visit ato.gov.au/super to find out more.
5. Get Active about your Investment Options
Make an active choice about your investment options to reflect the level of risk you’re comfortable with and your retirement goals. Visit your super fund’s website to find out your options.
If you’re with an industry fund like HESTA you might also be able to access handy advice and information that comes at no extra cost.
For instance, HESTA has a range of calculators that can help you to work out how your super is tracking, see the impact that topping up your super could have or work out if your insurance cover is right for you.
So, get your finances off to a fresh start this financial year, one step at a time.
The fine print: Issued by H.E.S.T. Australia Ltd ABN 66 006 818 695 AFSL 235249, the Trustee of Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia (HESTA) ABN 64 971 749 321. This information is of a general nature. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or specific needs so you should look at your own financial position and requirements before making a decision. You may wish to consult an adviser when doing this. For more information, call 1800 813 327 or visit hesta.com.au for a copy of a Product Disclosure Statement which should be considered when making a decision about HESTA products.
HESTA is a valued partner of 10thousandgirl.
Did you know on average, Australian women have just over half the super of men?
This is because as women, we are more likely to:
• Receive lower rates of pay
• Take career breaks to start a family, and
• Work part-time to care for family.
These kinds of issues have a significant impact on the final super balance of women, and can place you under unnecessary stress in retirement. But there is some good news. By getting the right advice and putting a plan in place, you can improve your financial future.
Read the full report with tips to get you on a super super track from our partner, HESTA, here.
Credit checks are a way of ascertaining your credit past and behaviour so that potential lenders can evaluate the level of risk of lending to you.
Get your credit record
You can apply for your credit record for free (please don’t pay for it) to see how you rate (see the bottom of the post for links).
When you apply they will send you back your credit report with an overall number – that will be your credit score. Your score can range from -200 to 1200.
The average Australian ‘credit active’ score is 550.
- Excellent: Any score above 700.
- Good: Any score from 600 to 700.
- Average: 550 is the average score.
- Bad: Any score from 400 to 500.
- Very bad: Any score below 400.
How am I scored?
There are a variety of factors that determine your score.
Applications for credit
Your rating is based on a number of factors, one being the number of times you have applied for credit (regardless of whether you went for it or not). So, say you applied for a five year personal loan, the bank approved it but then you decided not to go ahead with it – that application is recorded regardless of you actually using it.
If they see too many applications for credit, that can tell a potential lender that you have been desperate at times and possibly a high risk.
Many credit accounts
Having too many credit accounts can be seen as someone in financial trouble or desperation.
If you have ever defaulted on a credit card payment, mortgage, debts, bills etc – this will be used to ascertain your credit score.
Any default is generally held on record for a period of 12 months.
Credit Shopping Pattern
Your report also looks at the number of lenders you may have requested credit from as well as the frequency.
Other factors affecting your score
Your credit score might also factor in personal factors as well such as your age, the length of time you have spent with an employer and also how often you have moved home.
If you are a business, the report will consider the location of your business as well as any other information that indicates credit patterns, commercially.
A long held credit record will have a different risk assessment than a ‘younger’ record.
How can I improve my score?
- Don’t apply for credit you can do without
- If you do apply for credit ensure that the lender is reputable and credible
- Pay all your bills on time, all the time
- If you happen to default on a bill/payment etc repay it as quickly as possible
- Avoid (where possible) job jumping and moving house too often
- If you have several credit accounts, consider consolidating and having everything on the one credit card.
To get a free credit check, click here.
Debt can be a spiral that can be hard to get control of. As soon as you stop and see it for what it is: something that needs to stop and be sorted out, you are on the right track already.
We share 10 ways you can start reducing your debt today:
- Cut the cord!
Reconsider whether you need a home phone. If everyone has a mobile phone, perhaps it’s time to cut the cord
- Reconsider your Pay TV cost
There are now more options, including some much less expensive ones including Netflix, Stan and Quickflix.
Consider buying used items. There can be great bargains on toys, sporting goods, clothing and lots of household goods. Check out Gumtree, garage sales and second-hand clothing shops.
Shop around before you renew your car, home, or contents policy.
- Share with Friends
Find ways to pool your resources, by sharing babysitting duties or airport drop-offs or long drives.
- Coffee (sorry!)
Learn to make your coffee at home. While it’s not quite the same, it can be pretty good and the savings every day will add up.
- Matinees and Early Dinners
Look for discounted tickets for afternoon performances or or dinner deals at earlier seating times. Weeknights can also be bargains compared to weekends.
- Give Homemade Gifts
Plan ahead and give something you’ve made. Many people love a homemade cake or other treats and it’s a great way to cut the impulse spending.
- Buy in Bulk
Join a warehouse store, or watch for the specials and stock up.
- And Most Importantly: Establish a Budget.
Set goals at the beginning of the month and track what you spend. This is the best way possible to highlight where you should focus your savings efforts.
Spending is a part of life but not all those purchases are necessities or even really wanted and thus can represent a huge waste of money that could be better placed elsewhere.
Spending can be emotional, addictive and a way of giving ourselves a lift when we’re having a bad day/week/month. The thing is, like having one glass of wine too many, there is usually a hangover in the form of financial pain and regret further down the track.
Here are some clever psychological tips to train your brain to save money rather than spending it:
1. Track your Spending.
Tracking your spending is so not endorphin making. Knowing that you are going to have to stare at a rather spontaneous transaction of that pink porcelain rabbit that you just had to have really takes the jazz out of that spontaneous moment of carefree spending. Tracking your spending makes the decision to purchase something a more rational decision in your mind, thus removing that addictive buzz we get when we randomly spend without a care in the world.
2. Pay with Cash
Having a full hand of credit cards makes it oh-so-easy and pain-free for all those shopping sprees. Take cash instead and feel the pain of handing over those hard earned bills. Not so fun and much harder. Try it!
3. Tune into your Vision
Saving money can actually be way more fun than spending. I’m not even kidding.
To really feel the joy though you need to have something tangible and awesome to save for: a beautiful holiday, a home, a new car, peace of mind knowing your money is working hard for you somewhere, a year off work to travel etc. Something you really need, desire, dream of….
Once you set your goal and have something to aim for, you will feel great refraining from those random weekend purchases knowing that you are working towards something exciting and fabulous.
4. “But I can’t Save…”
It can feel like an uphill battle trying to save…you make a start and then BAM the car needs a massive repair and it’s all gone. What a buzz kill. A few times of this happening and you just give up the savings ghost. We get it.
But you can save. You can! And what’s more, even save for those unexpected expenses.
Start with baby steps: save just a small amount each week to get you in the right frame of mind – just $10 a week. Can’t do $10, save $5…etc but whatever it is, save it, and see how much you have at the end of the year.
5. Wait. Chill.
Seen a pair of shoes you love but they’re going to cost $500? Me neither but you get the idea. For those large ‘naughty’ purchases – chill. Walk away. Give it 24 hours. Have a really good think about it.
Can that $500 be better utilised? Are you saving for something fabulous that that money could go towards? Can you buy something for a fifth of the price that would do the job? Can you get the same shoes on eBay, cheaper? Or, do you feel it is a justifiable expense?
Be rational. Often, walking away and really thinking it through can help you tune into some good old fashioned common sense and inner wisdom. There is nothing worse than a stomach full of regret, an empty bank account and an expensive pair of shoes you might get to wear but once a year.
6. Set Your Budget
Before the month starts, take a look at your money coming in and money going out. Budget, and stick to it. When the next month comes around, review the challenges of the past month and work in ways to overcome them.
Don’t lose hope when things didn’t go according to plan – generally they won’t. But don’t despair. Go gently with yourself. Start again. Wherever you can, navigate back to a budget plan for your money every month. You will get there.
Are you trying to get your finances in order but your partner doesn’t seem to be on board?
It can be frustrating when you are trying to get your finances in order, stick to a strict budget to save for that house deposit in the next two years only to find your other half has just spent $60 you had designated for a credit card repayment on a pair of socks. And they keep doing this!
Random, spontaneous spending: we all do it but when it is scuppering your ongoing efforts to save for a very worthy life goal, it might be time to have a conversation with your partner so that you are unified and strong in your financial and life goals.
Here are our tips to help ease you both through:
1. Take a good hard look at yourself first
In a relationship it can be easy to point the finger when things go wrong. Have a trawl through your bank accounts for the past month or so to see what your spending habits are. Identify areas where you could reign yourself in. Make this easy for yourself – use an online budgeting tool, like the MoneySmart budget template and get things down in black and white. Then, when you go to the table for that conversation you can start the discussion by identifying where you feel you can improve.
2. Talk to one another
It isn’t an easy conversation to have. Money can be a hot topic between couples so it’s no wonder that this will be a discussion you are both looking to avoid. But, putting it on the table now means that you can both get on the road now to clarifying and understanding your financial goals together and the steps that you both need to take to get there.
Discuss your future plans, break them down into short/medium/long term goals. Pay off that debt, buy a new lounge, save a deposit. Agree and commit to them together. Feel excited together by them!
The next step is looking at your current spending pattern to identify cutbacks or changes to attain your goals. This is where things can get sketchy between you…
To keep things smooth, approach your partner with a no-blame, ‘we’re-in-this-together’ attitude.
Ask questions like:
- “I noticed looking through our accounts that I spent a fair bit on lunches out with the girls last month. I’m happy to drop those and do something cheaper instead. How about you? Having a look through here, do you see anything you could cut back on or out all together?”
- “Is this expense something we might cull so that we can attain our short/mid/long term goal you think?”
- “Can we scale this expense back? What do you think?”
- “Can you think of any ways we might reign in our spending?”
It may be your partner simply must have a solid collection of snazzy socks – that without them feels like their life’s purpose is non-existent. That’s okay! Buy maybe instead of spending $60 a week on a new pair, is there a compromise position of maybe one pair a month? Create a plan. Maybe once gone through your life goals together that in fact maybe socks aren’t their thang anyway.
4. Share the Small Successes
As your plan and more controlled spending rolls out be sure to share with your partner the savings you have achieved together and link the progress to your shared goals. It always feels good to know you are on the road to success by having tangible evidence to show for your hard work.
5. Get some help!
If this is a truly hot button issue for you and your partner (and it is for many!) where you really can’t get understanding or traction, simply get in touch with a local Interrelate counsellor for a few sessions to help you both steer through these choppy waters. Often, spending habits are linked to emotions and deeply held beliefs from way back that don’t serve us as adults in our present world. Counselling is a wonderful opportunity to grow your understanding of yourselves and each other.
If you are over 18 with any possessions to your name, then you need a Will. It’s pretty gloomy to think about, but it will make life so much easier for those left behind. And it means you decide who gets your stuff, rather than a pre-determined government formula. This might mean taking steps to make sure your family are provided for, gifting something sentimental to your best friend or making a donation to a charity that inspires you.
If you have kids, there’s a whole set of other issues to consider, like who you would trust to raise them should the worst happen. Who loves them and is going to be physically and mentally able to raise them the way you want? And who do you trust to look after their inheritance until they are old enough to do so themselves?
There are different ways to get a Will – a DIY kit (if you know what you are doing), through your lawyer or through the State Trustees (but note they can charge a large commission if you make them the executor).
You should pick an executor who is trustworthy, reliable and happy to deal with the paperwork on your behalf. If there might be disputes, it can be good to choose someone independent or you can nominate one from each side of the family.
Don’t leave your loved ones guessing what your wishes were, particularly if you may be leaving children behind. Leave your assets and your little ones in safe hands, and make a Will today.
Laura Vickers is the Principal of Nest Legal, Australia’s first online after-hours law firm for busy women and their families, and finalist for the 2015 LIV Law Firm of the Year. For more info about making a Will, go here.
Are you feeling an itch? Like you want to put the brakes on day-to-day life things for a year or more and do something that will make a real difference to others’ lives? Something at a grass roots level, taking real action where it counts the most?
Volunteering overseas can be incredibly rewarding, character building and an experience you are likely to remember for the rest of your life.
If you are eager to make a difference to the lives of women and girls overseas, take a look at these programs:
1. Volunteer in Kenya: Women’s Education Project – HIV/AIDS
Due to on-going initiatives to support those affected by HIV/AIDS, many women living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya are still able to function on a day-to-day basis, but require support to be able to do so.
Volunteers on the Women’s Education project work closely with centres which support these women and their families, providing counselling, guidance, and sometimes childcare. The primary aim of these centres is to empower the women through income-generating projects, education and skills training. At many of the centres, women are able to learn sewing, tailoring, candle making and jewellery making through subsidised courses.
The women also have access to finance and small business management courses, enabling them to start their own craft-making or tailoring businesses to generate an income and provide for their families.
In these centres, volunteers can assist in a range of areas, including counselling, skill-training and campaign/education development. Volunteers on the Women’s Education project do not need previous experience or training in HIV/AIDS support or Women’s Education, however we strongly recommend volunteers gain some understanding of these areas prior to their arrival in Kenya.
Find out more here
2. Volunteer in Peru: Women’s Empowerment Program – Domestic Violence
The Women’s Empowerment program aims to assist women who have suffered domestic violence. Most women have children so the shelter where volunteers will assist works directly with kids also. The project aims to help with emotional healing as well as teaching skills and helping the women regain control of their lives.
Part of the volunteers’ responsibilities will be to help the women with English, support them during the workshops, as well as lend a hand around the shelter (cooking, cleaning, laundry etc.).
Volunteers will also have the opportunity to organise activities for the women, which is a great chance to provide skill-oriented training. Volunteers will share their own experiences and insights.
Find out more here
3. Volunteer in Tanzania, Africa: Women’s Empowerment Program – Vocational Training
In the patriarchal society of Tanzania only 5% of girls finish secondary school. Without education and guidance, most women end up serving their husbands or struggling to provide as a single parent. Give A Heart To Africa (GHTA) is a non-profit organisation that empowers women with the skills to improve their situations and pull themselves out of poverty by providing free vocational training.
Find out more here
4. Volunteer in Morocco: Women’s Rights – Outreach and Advocacy
Improvements in women’s issues in Morocco have been made in the last twenty years. Economic and political liberalisation have helped, as well as efforts by national and international organisations pushing feminist issues. The government has also taken positive steps, for example by setting aside seats in parliament for women.
However, the gender gap in Morocco remains very wide across every indicator, including education, employment, health, human rights and literacy. Cultural factors play a part, as well as ones related to the education and justice systems. Advancement is more difficult for women than men, especially in poor communities.
Volunteers support a grassroots organisation devoted to feminist issues. They bring new perspectives and skills, and collaborate with the local staff to push forward the organisation’s activities. Volunteers live and work in Rabat.
Find out more here
5. Volunteer in India: Rehabilitation of Young Girls from Distressed Families
India is trying to change the way of thinking about women in the society. Be part of the rehabilitation process of young girls who come from distressed families. Main aims of these projects are:
- Rehabilitation of the girls who come from broken families
- Provision of safe caring atmosphere
- To provide education and give skills so that the girls are able to be independent income generator
- Eventually send them back to their families or find them a job
- Give them the self-respect that they have been denied previously
Volunteers have been helping with the studies of some of the girls by teaching them English in fun and interesting ways. They have also been playing various games to promote both relaxation and some physical exercise as some of them have become demoralised and really relish time spent thinking of other things. Just the cultural exchange and interaction with international volunteers provide the girls/ women with much needed confidence and exposure.
Find out more, here
Having a sudden rush to the head when you’re at the shops and buying all the things – it’s not just you doing it. Oh no, we all do it. And buying yourself nice things is okay but when you’re trying to attain some serious saving goals then that delicious little habit might need to be altered somewhat. Here are some helpful tips to help you reign in those spontaneous spending splurges to get you well on the road to financial strength.
1. Cash only
When you spend, spend cash. Using credit cards is too easy – when we spend cash we have to consider how much we are actually spending.
When you withdraw your cash for a spontaneous spend, make a point of checking the balance so you can see how it is going down and question whether you would prefer a healthy bank balance or this lovely thing in the shops…
2. Old Wisdom
Remember this old adage when cruising around the shops for something :
“Look as you go, buy as you come back”
This will help you save money by scouting around for the cheapest option rather than purchasing the first item you come across.
“Cut your cloth accordingly”.
If you don’t have it, absolutely don’t spend it!
3. Get accountable!
Tell close friends and family your savings goals so you feel accountable.
Promise yourself a (reasonably priced) treat once you hit a certain savings target as a short term incentive (outside of the bigger incentive of galloping towards your life goals of course!).
5. Be clear about Needs vs Wants
Each time you go to purchase something (outside of food and the absolute essentials) ask yourself whether you really, truly need this thing… Be really clear about your needs and wants.
6. Make an oath!
Make an oath to yourself:
“I promise to be more mindful in my spending and remind myself each and every time I go to spend money what I am saving for. I am committed to saving $x,000 for a new ______”. Write this on some card (make it really beautiful!) and stick it up somewhere you are likely to see it often. Make this into a credit card size card too and keep it in your wallet on top of your credit card so you have to get past it every time you reach for your credit card to spend.
7. Visual Cues
Get your life and finance goals in your mind and find a visual cue to remind you of why you are being more frugal. Keep this visual cue close to you around the house so that it is always in your mind. This will help you keep your focus on your goals.
If you need something with you when you out and about (because that’s when you’re ‘at risk’ of spending!), choose a lovely little smooth rock. Sit with it in your hands and visualise all your life goals, see them in glorious technicolour! Then, when you are out and about and feeling the urge to buy something random and unnecessary, reach into your pocket and touch your rock to remind yourself of all those wonderful goals you are committed to. And walk away from that lovely thing in the shops…
8. Be more mindful
It is so easy to get into a mindless habit of buying random bits and bobs (for whatever reason). By simply being more mindful in our behaviour we give ourselves the opportunity to question ourselves as to whether we truly need this item and interrupt our random spending habit.
9. Budget and compromise with yourself
Much like radical dieting, if we are too hard on ourselves we are more likely to sabotage and rebel and our efforts will only be short lived. If you really love to buy yourself a little treat at the end of the week or month, maybe instead of cutting it out completely, simply look to downgrade it a little – maybe limit the treat to one item rather than five. Or, instead of weekly, make it a monthly occasion. Oh, and budget for it too, along with all your other budget lines! Set the money aside for it. This way you are far more likely to stick to your other long term saving goals.
10. Find something else to do!
There is a whole world out there! Find something else to do that doesn’t involve being at the shops. Get together with friends and have a picnic at the beach, go for a swim, go walking, read, cook, write that novel you’ve been concocting in your mind, get that blog up and running, paint that picture, take some photos, play, start a movement. Whatever it is, do that. Replace the thrill of acquiring new bits and bobs with something far more exciting.
Doing your own taxes can save you money and help you feel confident that you’re in charge of your own financial planning. The process will also shed a lot of light on where your money is going. You’ll come out of it much more aware of how it all works.
Are you ready to do your own?
If you have a straightforward situation, you’re a good candidate to do your own taxes. If your income comes from salary and wages, bank interest, dividends and government payments, the ATO’s MyTax program is made for you. If you have other types of income, or have lots of deductions, you still may be able to file yourself via the ATO site, using their more detailed eTax option
When to pay someone:
If things are more complicated, you might do better to seek out a professional tax preparer. They’ll make sure you don’t miss any deductions and potential savings. And they’ll ensure everything is done correctly and on time. Most importantly, they can take a lot of stress out of the situation for you.
What are some signs that you might have a more complicated situation on your hands?
If you’ve made major changes in the past year like starting a business or an overseas move, that can be a sign that a tax professional should be helping you. Or if you have lots of investments or multiple sources of income. Or if you’re really short of time. Your return is due on October 31! Taxes are something that should never be done in a rush.
SO you’re ready to take the plunge and prepare your own return? Here’s what you need:
You will need a little time and some patience to prepare your tax return.
It’s important to organise yourself first – gather your summary of income from your employer, along with any tax invoices or other documentation. Be sure you check the ATO website to know what expenses are deductible – they have an easy-to-use checklist . Set aside at least a couple of hours on a quiet afternoon or evening and be prepared to work through it one step at a time.
One last tip:
To do your own taxes, it does help if you’re comfortable using online programs and have a little comfort with basic maths.
Rest assured, you don’t need a higher level maths degree, just the basics and the patience to check your work. You should also feel confident doing basic research on the ATO website should you have questions. Not to worry, it’s all in plain english, with plenty of online resources for help. If you’re willing to give it a go, check out the ATOs MyTax service and take control this tax season!
Everyone likes making money but when it comes to investing some people are more comfortable taking risk to earn a higher return than others.
If you’re a member of a super fund, you’re an investor. The money in your super account is invested with the aim of growing your balance.
All investing involves risk. Typically, the higher the expected return an investment could earn, the higher the potential risk. Just like some people enjoy living on the edge — going skydiving or bungee jumping — some people are more comfortable taking investment risk.
Before you invest, understanding your goals can help you choose the investment strategy that best suits your needs. Deciding how comfortable you are risking the money you plan to invest, how long you want to invest for and the return you’re targeting will help you make an investment choice.
An investor aiming for higher returns over the long-term might choose a more aggressive investment strategy. They’re generally less worried about short-term changes in the value of their investments because they’re focused on achieving growth over the long term (10 years). An investor more focused on protecting their money as they could need it soon — rather than earning a higher return — may adopt a more cautious investment strategy.
Find out if you’re super is on track to meet your goals, using the Government’s MoneySmart Superannuation Calculator
Issued by H.E.S.T. Australia Ltd ABN 66 006 818 695 AFSL 235249, the Trustee of Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia (HESTA) ABN 64 971 749 321. This information is of a general nature. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or specific needs so you should look at your own financial position and requirements before making a decision. You may wish to consult an adviser when doing this. Third-party services are provided by parties other than H.E.S.T. Australia Ltd and terms and conditions apply. H.E.S.T. Australia Ltd does not recommend, endorse or accept any responsibility for the products and services offered by third parties or any liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result of services provided by third parties. You should exercise your own judgment about the products and services being offered.
Did you know that from 1 July, you will be able to do this using the newly launched myGov online service?
Once you set up an account with myGov, you essentially gain access to a secure online inbox. Here you will be able to receive online letters, statements as well as other important information from various government bodies such as:
- Veterans’ Affairs
- eHealth Resources
- National Disability Insurance Scheme
- Child Support
The ATO’s Steve Vesperman said “You’ll be able to update personal information, keep track of your superannuation, pay any tax debts and keep tabs on the processing of your tax return…you can be confident that your personal information and records are secure.”