Buying and reviewing your insurance is a bit like going to the dentist. It may not be a great deal of fun, but it’s important because otherwise we risk some serious agony down the track.
That doesn’t mean the process is entirely painless. Let’s face it – reading a Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) can be a pain.
For a short acronym, it’s such a long document. But don’t use that as an excuse to slide your insurance documents back into a filing cabinet; by not understanding your policies, you could be exposing yourself to major financial losses.
What is a PDS?
A PDS is a legally required document that gives a full description of the terms and conditions of the insurance policy. It explains what obligations you have to your insurer, and also what obligations your insurer has to you as the policyholder. It includes a description of the policy’s features, benefits, cost and exclusions – and, most importantly, how your insurer will help if you incur a loss covered by the policy.
Why should I read it?
The insurance market is highly competitive. Insurers differentiate themselves not only on price, but also policy features. Every policy is different in terms of its coverage and its exclusions.
For instance, it’s handy to know your comprehensive car insurance policy may not cover you in the event of an accident if your vehicle was not roadworthy.
It’s essential to understand your travel insurance policy excludes coverage for highly dangerous activities before you jet off to Pamplona to run with the bulls.
Some of the coverage features may also surprise you: did you know, for example, that most home insurance policies won’t cover damage caused by tidal waves but will cover tsunamis caused by an earthquake?
If consumers don’t understand the policies they’re buying, it can lead to major financial losses and angry customers. Indeed, the Financial Ombudsman Service reports that 50 per cent of the complaints it receives are due to consumer misunderstandings. However, insurers pay about 98 per cent of lodged claims
Reading and understanding a PDS helps give you the information you may need to compare policies. If you buy on price alone you may not get the policy that suits your needs.
So, set aside a few minutes with your insurance PDS documents, a highlighter and a cup of tea. Sure, it’s less enjoyable than watching My Kitchen Rules. But it could save you the pain of finding out too late that your insurance policy doesn’t match your requirements. And that might hurt a lot more than any date with a dentist’s drill.
Sound advice by our Supporting Partner: Understand Insurance
www.understandinsurance.com.au cuts out the jargon and explains in simple language what insurance is, how it works, the many types of cover available, and how Australians can physically and financially protect themselves from such threats as theft, accidents and natural disasters.
It’s not something we want to think about – how would you manage if the worst happens? It could be a job loss, major home damage or medical costs or other unexpected bad news. If you were suddenly in a tough spot, do you know what you’d do?
The best time to think about emergency plans is before it happens. Start with your existing household budget and take an honest look at essentials vs. non-essentials. Separate out everything that you really can live without. Most of us have money each month going to dinners out, entertainment, vacation savings or other non-critical items. Pay TV, cleaners or shopping funds can also be on the non-critical list. If it all starts to sound too bleak, remind yourself this is a temporary situation, perhaps a few months, to get over a crisis period. It’s not forever.
Then take a look at the essentials still on the list and consider where there’s room to cut those. Food spending often has room for savings, by eliminating takeaways or buying ahead and in bulk. Look at transport options and consider public transport or ride-sharing.
Think in terms of cash timing, not just total amounts. If you’re up against a big one-time bill such as an annual insurance payment, contact your provider about a monthly plan. Many companies will work with you if you’re honest about your situation.
Then lay it all out week-by-week and month-by-month, showing the cash outlays you absolutely have to make. With some discipline, this should be lower than your average monthly expenses and could buy you some well-needed breathing room.
Are you in the market for a new car? Before you head out for test drives, be sure to prepare a full budget including the cost of the car, all fees and insurance. If this gives you sticker shock or is over your budget, don’t despair. There are some smart ways to reduce the total cost, but still get the new wheels you want. Here are some of our top tips:
- Time the market: pay attention to the end-of-year runout sales. Often the updates from one model year to another are minimal, yet you can save a lot by taking an older car off a dealer’s lot. Listen for the ads on the radio or check out dealer websites for the best timing.
- Shop online first – and compare. Request pricing from dealers online. If you find the right salesperson within a dealer’s sales team, they’ll be motivated to do a deal with you. Don’t be afraid to play one off the other – let them know what others are offering and see if they’ll beat it.
- Ask about demos. A very lightly-used demo car can be a great value. You’ll want to ask questions – who has driven the car, and under what circumstances. It’s easy to search for demos on the major car websites.
- Do your research before you commit. Once you have a car in mind, research all of the costs including insurance. This may cause you to rethink your options or keep comparing.
- Be open-minded about options. There are more than 25 makes of cars in Australia. There are always other options out there. Often new or up-and-coming brands will be more willing to work with buyers on a budget. So keep shopping if you need to.
- No matter what, keep your cool. Don’t fall in love with the flashy new car until you know you can afford it!
Often we have money habits that are so embedded, we don’t even realise they’re there. A little self-examination can be very revealing! Bad habits can develop in your upbringing or your early days as a financially independent young adult. It’s worth an honest look at your money habits to see what bad behaviour is holding you back, sometimes without even realising.
- We all love a little splurge but be honest if you’re going too far and using spending to make yourself feel better. If your go-to solution after a tough week or big achievement is to treat yourself, look at the impact on your budget. The sense of reward can be very short-lived, but you’re stuck with the cost forever. Before you indulge again, spend some quiet time listing and planning some non-financial rewards. An afternoon off at the beach, or time spent with a favourite magazine or book would be much easier on the wallet.
- Another form of toxic emotional spending is the urge to help. If you’re the one who always picks up the cheque, or helps the friend who needs a few extra dollars, think about whether it’s more than what’s really required. It’s okay to just pay your fair share when the cheque comes to the table. Or when the friend needs a quick loan, politely beg off saying you’re already over your budget this month. Find other ways to help out and be a good friend: pick the restaurant, coordinate group plans, make the booking, offer to drive.
- Using spending to support your own sense of confidence is also a money no-no. It’s hard not to compare ourselves to others, especially when it comes to income, spending and showy expensive treats. It can take some practice and focussed thought, but teach yourself instead to feel confident about who you are. Are you more organised? Working harder than most on your studies or career? Or a great source of support for your family? Think about what really matters and learn to see the expensive treats for what they are – a momentary treat and nothing more.
The potential for you to make big changes in the amount you are able to save might be under your nose every single day! We can all get into daily spending habits, that all tolled, can really add up.
- No more brand names in your weekly shop – no need! Unless you’re really loyal with very good reason to a particular brand, opt for the home brand and save money on your weekly groceries.
- No more daily coffees – we know, this one hurts, but not as much as looking at how much you could save each year if you bypassed the exxy cafe cup o’ joe: $3.55(average cost of cup of coffee in AUS) per coffee x 5/week x 52 = $923 – what could you do with nearly a grand?
- No more spending before midday – this is really about setting yourself limits and learning self discipline. You can take this further and say no more spending outside absolute essentials for a week or a month. An interesting experiment maybe?
- Save all your $1 coins – for fun: save all your $1 coins from now on. Pop them all straight into a savings box or a jar for a whole month. See how much you save. Then, keep going!
- No more browsing for items online – shopping online makes it very easy to shop from wherever we are! Resist the temptation – just don’t shop online.
- No more buying food and drinks when out and about – we are paying a premium when we buy food and drinks from cafes and restaurants. Bring food and drink from home and save heaps.
- No more music or video purchases for 365 days – save money and cancel those plans for a year. Or, just have one. Deal with what’s on for free instead and save.
- Pledge to make do with existing clothes.
- Meal plan – create a list for the week ahead, factoring in packed lunches for work, extra coffee (because you won’t be buying it form the cafes) and some bulk cooking ideas and don’t buy off-list.
- Review your bank accounts – are you being charged bank fees for everything? Go into the branch and see if you can get a better deal.
- Put that credit card away – pay with cash only and steer well clear of hefty interest rates
- Cook! Pre-made meals and take-aways cost a premium. Learn to cook or cook more yourself. Cooking in bulk on the weekend can give you meals to grab and take to work or to whip out of the freezer and reheat if you have had a huge day at work.
- Stop and think! Before you buy that extra pair of shoes – just stop for a second and think about it. How long did you have to work to be able to earn that amount? 8 hours? Two days? Looking at it like that, are they still really worth it? What else could you spend the money on?
- Hot water and air con – check the settings on these – by turning down your hot water by only a couple of degrees can save you heaps on your electricity bill. With your air-con, a tip that could halve your power bill is using DRY mode with your air-conditioning.
- Don’t shop when hungry – we don’t need to explain this one!
Electricity bills can be chunky-here are some tips to help you reduce it.
- Remember to turn Off Your Lights!
- Fill Up Your Fridge. Empty fridges cost! They have to work harder. If you find it’s on the empty side, fill it with full bottles of water.
- Consider solar panels
- Hang your washing out to dry – don’t use the dryer. If you must use it, use wool dryer balls and reduce drying time from 30-50%. Also, separate the clothes before putting in machine – it will be more efficient this way.
- Light Free Evenings – this could be fun! Use candles, or just go to bed when the sun goes down. Could be fun!
- If you do use a dishwasher, fill it up before you use it
- Keep Your Freezer Full: the frozen items will work to keep the inside of the freezer cold and mean the freezer uses less electricity.
- Review the temperature of your fridge and freezer. Of course, it needs to do a job but does it need to be on the coldest possible setting?
- Unplug! Yes, tune out and do yourself a favour. Turn everything electronic off. Give yourself electrickery free days and go outside instead.
- Know when Off Peak is then run your dishwasher etc then if you can
- Compare energy plans to get the best deal
- Electric for hot water? Try turning the thermostat down by 5 degrees. (Needs to be minimum of 60 degrees Celsius to prevent bacteria build up in the system).
- Wash clothes in cold water
- Be mindful of your usage of the main offenders: air con units, hot water systems, fridges, swimming pool pumps and electric heaters.
- Hand wash your dishes – lose the dishwasher!
- Use little lamps instead of the big room lamps – that way they light up just the area you are using.
- Shut off power on all appliances – TVs etc on standby are still using power and therefore costing you money
- Keep the cooling vents clear and clean in your fridge and freezer – if they are blocked the appliance will have to work harder
- Unplug battery chargers e.g. iPhone, laptop etc when not in use
- When you’re cooking a meal, take all the ingredients out of the fridge at the same time. Less opening of the fridge = less electricity usage
- If you use a dishwasher, clean the drain regularly so you will not need to rewash dishes.
- Soak your dishes before popping them in the dishwasher.
- Get rid of unnecessary electric appliances such as electric can openers etc
- Rotate cordless phones in one charger only instead of having more than one charging at the same time
- If you have a microwave, disconnect the light in there. Your kitchen is probably well lit enough.
So you have hit 40. You have yet to buy a property for yourself to live in and you think your long term financial position is in financial ruin, right?
There are a number of ways you can accumulate wealth that doesn’t rely on property. And there are also strategies you can consider in the property market that you may have never considered.
As a mortgage broker, I am unable to give advice on financial strategies, but in general, other wealth creation tools would be shares (whilst volatile over the last 20 years, for every $1 that you had invested in 1996 would be now $3.13 today). Check out this website which goes through the history of shares and what your dollar would be worth now had you invested previously.
1. Saving and Investing your Spare Change
It’s often asked “how much money do I need to get into shares”. Usually, you would need to have at least a couple of thousand to get you started. Enter Acorns: a new concept in America coming to Australia. This is a novel approach to building up a little more savings which you can then use to purchase a bigger share portfolio.
2. Extra Superannuation Payments
Paying extra into superannuation can have some added tax benefits which the MoneySmart website explains really well. this can be an effective way to build up your superannuation as part of your overall strategy.
3. Self Managed Super Funds
Depending on how much you have in superannuation, you may also be able to buy property in your Self Managed Super Fund (SMSF.) Your SMSF would buy the property and you can obtain a loan to cover the difference between your savings (super) and purchase price. This is not for everyone but can be a way to accumulate property with no cash out lay from your savings (as the deposit is your superannuation balance!) There are some pros and cons with a SMSF and it can be costly. Your financial advisor will give you information to see if this strategy is suitable for you.
However I ask you to consider a couple of other strategies that recent clients of mine did providing great outcomes.
Kate (not real name) couldn’t afford to buy in Sydney on her own. She was keen on property. Her flatmate of 6 years felt the same. They felt that they had the ability to create a good business relationship and purchase an investment unit together. They needed $20,000 each to get in to cover the purchase. The did some very minor improvements themselves (paint, new curtains and carpet) and they now have a sense of ownership that they are helping each other to pay off this property. The thought of doing this on their own was too overwhelming, but this strategy was very motivating to each other and has been a really positive experience.
5. Investment Property into Your Retirement Plan
Another consideration, think about where you want to live in retirement. Perhaps your investment property could be your retirement property. Having any old investment property can be uninspiring. But having someone else pay off the mortgage for your retirement plan could be that motivating factor to get you to “tick”. Clients Philip and Jane did exactly that. They have bought up on the Tweed River near Byron Bay. 3BR house under $400,000 right by the river. This is rented and for a small deposit they have a property where they will live in about 20 years time.
Sometimes purchasing in your immediate circles may not be feasible and purchasing an investment property “just because” can be uninspiring. But if the purpose of the property purchase like the scenarios above tick your values and motivates you it can be that way of getting some wealth in a way you may have never considered before.
By Nicole Cannon
A mortgage broker with a difference having won awards for ethics, social responsibility and community engagement. Find out more about her, here.
*Enrol by Feb 3 2016 and get the Early Bird rate!*
‘Your first task for the year should be to review your finances.’ Lesley Parker, Sydney Morning Herald
Here are top 10 to-dos if you are seeking to overhaul your finances this year.
1. DON’T PUT OFF UNTIL TOMORROW WHAT YOU CAN DO TODAY
Your first task for the year should be to review your finances. ”Firstly, understand your current situation,” says a Dun & Bradstreet spokesman, Damian Karmelich. ”Secondly, have a budget and, thirdly, have some goals. If you only have the budget, you can end up feeling like it’s all about cutting back and it will wear you down. Having some goals gives you a reason to keep going.”
To do: The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has a budget planner at its consumer website.
2. THE SOONER YOU START, THE BETTER
When it comes to savings and investments, time is your friend. ”Compounding is a powerful investment principle that means the earlier you start to save the more your savings will grow,’‘ Louise Biti of advisory group Strategy Steps says. ‘‘Over time, interest is earned on not only your money but on the interest on that money.’‘ In superannuation, she gives the example of a 30-year-old earning $70,000 a year who has $25,000 in super already.
Making a few assumptions, including an 8 per cent return, their balance at age 65 would be $435,000 in today’s dollars if they relied on compulsory super alone. If at age 50 they started to also salary sacrifice 5 per cent, the outcome would be $513,000. But if they started salary sacrificing 5 per cent at age 30 they could retire with the equivalent of $632,000.
To do: AustralianSuper has a super calculator that estimates your final benefit. Change the contribution level to see the impact.
3. WHAT GOES DOWN CAN GO UP … AND VICE VERSA
It’s easy to be an optimist when investment returns are high or interest rates low. But it doesn’t pay to base your decisions on the unrealistic expectation that returns and rates will move only one way.
For any financial decision this year, consider the worst-case scenario – no matter how unlikely it may seem at the time.
To do: Stress test your mortgage by seeing if you could afford the repayments if rates were 2 percentage points to 3 percentage points higher (some lenders do this when assessing applications). MoneySmart has a good calculator
4. IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT
Fixed-rate loans surged in popularity in the last couple of years as mortgage rates rose. But do your sums. By the time most people think about locking in, fixed rates are so much higher than variable rates it’s not worth the switch.
In any case, the conventional wisdom is that you’ll be better off over the life of a loan if you can afford to ride the swings and roundabouts of a variable rate. According to RateCity, the benchmark three-year fixed rate over the past eight years was 7.08 per cent, while the benchmark standard variable rate averaged 6.76 per cent. Of course, peace of mind is priceless. If you think another rate rise will threaten your ability to make your repayments, fix at least part of your loan.
To do: ASIC has a new mortgage-switching calculator where you can check whether a new loan will save you money, after costs such as fees. Go to www.fido.gov.au.
5. A DOLLAR SAVED IS A DOLLAR EARNED
By not spending a dollar you not only have that money in your hand but also the potential to turn it into more.
Financial planner, Tony Clark of Multiforte Financial Services, tells the story of a client who planned to roll over his car lease, in all likelihood to drive away something worth $40,000 or $50,000. Clark pointed out that, by lowering his taxable income, the novated lease reduced the amount of super his employer paid on his behalf by $2500 a year. He suggested the client use the $20,000 equity he’d built up in his existing car to buy a car outright, regaining his full super contribution while also diverting into super the money he’d have spent on the lease of an expensive vehicle. Clark estimated the man could be $150,000 better off in five years’ time as his tax-effective super grew.
6. NEITHER A BORROWER NOR A LENDER BE
Debt collector Dun & Bradstreet sees it all the time: people going to the wall not for a $500,000 mortgage but over relatively small credit card or mobile phone debt.
”What we tend to find is that people are getting into trouble for those smaller amounts of debt – for $1000 on a credit card or for using their mobile phones in ways that cost them money,” spokesman Damian Karmelich says.
To do: Check your credit report not just for blemishes but for accuracy. You can obtain your credit report online, here. An express report costs $30 but the standard service, which takes up to 10 days, is free.
7. NO PAIN, NO GAIN
If you do have credit card debt, don’t be lulled into a sense of complacency by the minimum repayment specified on your credit card statement. Pay that tiny percentage – about 2.5 per cent of the balance – and you could condemn yourself to credit card limbo.
Financial analyst David Lalich of researcher InfoChoice did the sums on a credit card charging 20 per cent interest and an annual fee of $150, on which $5000 was owed. Paying only the minimum amount each month, it would take six years and seven months to clear that sum, at the cost of a whopping $4062 in interest.
Pay just an extra $100 a month and you’d clear the debt four years earlier, paying $2600 less interest. Or you could follow your new budget (see rule No.1) and clear your card every month, paying no interest at all.
To do: Work out how long it would take to pay off your credit card paying only the minimum, here. Then nominate a higher payment to see the change.
8. IF THE CAP DOESN’T FIT, YOU’LL HAVE TO WEAR IT
”Beware the dreaded ‘capped’ plan,” says Elise Davidson, spokeswoman for the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). A survey by the Australian Communication and Media Authority recently found that three out of five people had exceeded their mobile phone cap in the previous 12 months.
”Remember that a cap is a minimum rather than a maximum spend,” Davidson says. ”Make sure you understand what is and isn’t included in your cap and if you use a smartphone, monitor your data usage closely, as excess data charges are notoriously high.” To control your spending, consider a prepaid plan – they’re much more generous than they used to be, she says.
To do: Comparison service phonechoice.com.au can filter plans for you. If you suffer ”bill shock” in 2011, ACCAN has a tip sheet on how to make a complaint, at www.accan.org.au/tip_sheets.php.
9. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Insurance should be part of the picture when your review your finances. But whether it’s income protection, life, health or even car and travel insurance, don’t select a policy just because it’s the cheapest.
”The first thing a consumer needs to look at is the benefits – then only the price,” says risk specialist Roy Agranat of Centric Wealth Advisers. ‘‘A cheap price is long forgotten after a bad claims experience.”
Disability insurance that has an ”own occupation” definition is more expensive, for instance, but you’ll receive a payout if you can’t do your job – a definition that’s easier to meet than not being able to do ”any” job. A cheap travel policy may seem a bargain until you find that you can’t claim for stolen cash or the full value of your camera.
To do: Do you need more insurance this year to cover increasing liabilities or perhaps less because you’ve paid off the mortgage and the kids are gone? The insurance industry’s Lifewise website has a calculator at www.lifewise.org.au.
10. BE PREPARED
Why have an emergency fund when you’ve got a credit card? Because if you use the plastic all you’re doing is putting the problem off for 55 days – when you’ll have to pay off the credit card or start accruing interest at a rate as high as 21 per cent.
Financial advisers suggest having at least three months’ living expenses set aside somewhere such as the offset account attached to your mortgage – where the sum can do some work in the meantime lowering your interest charges – or in a high-interest, at-call account. If job security is an issue, aim to have 12 months’ expenses set aside.
To do: A year’s expenses is a lot of money, so set a smaller goal such as saving 10 per cent of each pay packet for a rainy day.
This article adapted from
Publication: SMH Money
By: Lesley Parker
*Enrol by Feb 3 2016 and get the Early Bird rate!*
Are you thinking you might be ready to explore the share market but not quite sure where to start? Watch the video below!
Founder of 10thousandgirl, Zoe Lamont, shares with us how to find out how much you need to get started, who should invest, where you go to get cracking, knowing the different products and what you should be buying as a first timer.
What is the Difference between Good Debt and Bad Debt?
You may have heard there’s good debt and bad debt. So what is the difference?
Good debt helps you earn money, increase your future income or improve your net worth. For example, a loan to fund a certification course can result in higher earnings. A mortgage allows you to benefit from the appreciation in home prices.
But there’s also bad debt.
Bad debt includes any debt taken on when you buy something without lasting value, or that doesn’t help you improve your income or net worth. Credit cards due to shopping bills, or personal loans that fund holidays. So if bad debt is so bad, how can a person get rid of it?
Get Rid of Bad Debt
- Start by understanding. Make an accurate list of all debt, good and bad, by using your monthly statements. Include both the balance you owe, and the monthly payment you’re making. Then set a budget for your monthly payments. Bad debt often comes with very high interest rates. Target everything you can toward the bad debt. It’s important to be as disciplined as possible to pay down bad debt, faster than the minimum if you can.
- Once you’ve pulled together your list, the next step is to look for other ways that bad debt can be reduced. Sometimes bad debt can be converted to good debt. It might be possible to increase your mortgage at a lower rate and pay down a person loan at a higher rate.
- Or it may be possible to sell an asset such as shares to pay down bad debt. It’s important to consult a financial advisor or tax advisor as you think about the possibilities to make sure your plan doesn’t trigger any problems.
Once you have your plan, it’s a good habit to do a debt check every few months to stay on track. As bad debt goes down, you’ll be building a much higher level of financial confidence!
When it comes to money having a healthy mindset around how we treat our hard-earned can have a huge impact on our peace of mind and quality of life; not to mention feeling fabulous about being on our way to achieving our goals!
Two different money mindset profiles: healthy vs unhealthy. Which one are you?
|Unhealthy Money Mindset||Healthy Money Mindset|
|Blame others||Take action. Do something about situation|
|Make decisions to avoid losing||Make decisions to create value|
|Wish they had wealth||Make a commitment to wealth and do what it takes|
|Focus on problems with things||Focus on opportunities in problems|
|Resent wealthy people||Learn from wealthy people|
|Hide their value so that others are not threatened||Advertise their value|
|Feel smaller than their problems||Grow so they are bigger than their problems|
|Have trouble receiving gracefully||Receive with ease and gratitude|
|Get paid for their time||Get paid for their results|
|Think there is not enough to go around||Create more to go around|
|Focus on income||Focus on increasing net worth|
|Mismanage money and are managed by money||Manage money well|
|Work for their money||Make money work for them|
|Let fear stop them||Act in spite of fear|
|Think they already know it all|
Want to nurture a supremely healthy mindset
and transform your finances?
A whole year has gone by and we’re now getting into 2016. Did you hit your financial goals for 2015? If not, it might be time to try a new approach this year.
Describe it in one sentence
The most important part may be picking the goal and describing it in just the right way. A good goal is one that you can explain in a sentence, with both the desired outcome and the reason why e.g.: “I’m cutting my weekly expenses by $50 to pay off my credit card by Christmas.” Keep it simple and realistic, and repeat that to yourself when you need to.
Then break it down into actions. HOW will you do it? You might be cutting expenses by packing your lunch each day. How will you do that? By doing a big shop on the weekend? By picking recipes and learning to cook them? Get specific enough that you feel like the steps are very clear and doable. It’s important to turn it into smaller steps so excuses don’t get in your way.
A great way to stay on track is to create monthly goals out of your goal for the year. If you’re on track, what will you have completed by January? February? Will you have opened a new savings account or contacted an advisor? Signed up for an online course? Closed your credit card account?
Then measure yourself against those monthly goals. Be honest. If you’re on track, there’s nothing wrong with a small reward. Perhaps an afternoon off at the beach? Something small, but enjoyable. And if you’re not on track, don’t beat yourself up. Perfection often isn’t realistic. Just get back on track and keep going!
Ready to overhaul your money mindset and take control of your finances?
Take our 6 Week Online Money Makeover – starts Feb 2016
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