2020 is finally over! Many have described it as the longest 12 months, or a year to forget. Worldwide pandemic, panic buying, high employment rates, lockdown restrictions, border closures, increased depression rates and stimulus payments sum up the 2020 year and it has affected every person in the nation. Fortunately, compared to many other counties around the world, Australia has been relatively successful in battling the effects of coronavirus. Despite all the negatives of 2020, there is a positive side. The extra time has given us the opportunity to stop, think and review our situation, count our blessings and appreciate the people around us.
With the economy picking back up and the vaccine roll-out, we are hopeful that 2021 will be a better year. 2020 has taught us, it is possible to approach 2021 with a different outlook. We can look for opportunities to focus on what we really want to achieve in our life and set some plans to get there.
As a woman in finance, I would like to share some of my tips with other women on how to look for opportunities to improve their financial situation.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER INTEREST RATES
Since 2011, interest rates in Australia have been on a decline. Who would have imagined that we would see banks offering term deposit rates of 0.50% and home loan rates of around 2% or lower. Why not take advantage of the low interest rate environment to improve your financial situation and reduce your debts. Some opportunities include:
- Refinance your debts!
Review your mortgage to see if you can get a better rate from your lender or refinance. The market is very competitive and if you have a significant mortgage, just refinancing for a better rate, could result in paying less interest and paying off your mortgage faster.
If you have other debts such as a car loan or credit card, perhaps you could shop around for a better deal. By locking in a lower interest rate, it may be possible to reduce your loan repayments which will mean more in your pocket.
- Buy a home!
If you would like to get into the property market to purchase your first home, perhaps now would be a good time to consider whether this is financially possible. With the First Home Owners Grant and First Home buyer stamp duty reduction, this could be a big help in purchasing your first home.
- Invest more!
If you are an investor, then lower interest rates may push you to consider other investment options that offer a higher return than cash. Many people have commented that they saved money in 2020 since they could not travel or spend money, it may be an option to consider investing in some of those savings.
Another option is, rather than paying extra off your home loan, you may choose to use extra funds for investing. This may be worthwhile if the return you are getting on your investment is higher than the interest rate on your home loan.
REVIEW YOUR SUPERANNATION
Some people are clueless when it comes to how much they have in super, how it is invested and what fees they are paying. One reason may be because they are unable to access their super until retirement or age 65, so their mindset is ‘out of sight out of mind’. What they lose sight of is, superannuation is their money. It is an investment for the future and the decisions you make now can have an impact on your retirement.
What to look for when you review your superannuation:
- Investment Options
Your super fund will have a range of investment options. These options could be cash, conservative, balanced, growth and high growth. Each option will have a different investment mix and therefore different rates of return. You need to choose the right investment option for you after considering your stage in life and what the level of risk is that you are willing to accept.
- Super Contributions
If you are working, it is worth checking to see if your employer is paying the right amount of super for you. If you have surplus income, you may want to make extra contributions to boost up your retirement savings and reduce your tax.
- Super Fees
Are you aware of how much fees are deducted from your super balance each year? Super Funds charge a range of fees which can include; administration fees, investment management fees, performance fees, advice fees, investment switching fees and buy/sell spread fees. It is common just to look at the administration fees and forget about the rest.
The fees you pay today and over your working years can significantly affect your retirement savings. As an example, if a 25 year-old has an average income of $61,984 and the average investment return was 6.85% per annum, by paying 0.75% on their account balance per year, they would have $135,802 more in retirement compared to if they paid 1.5% of their balance in fees.
DO YOU HAVE ANY INSURANCE?
According to one of the largest insurers in Australia, only half of Australian’s hold some form of life insurance and many are under-insured. There is a major gender gap when it comes to life insurance and women. A recent Finder study revealed that just 33% of women reported having any life insurance at all, compared to 48% of men.
What is life insurance and why would you need to consider it? The reason people take out life insurance is to ensure the family is financially protected in the event of death. If you pass away and you had life insurance, a lump sum would be paid out that could cover any debts such as a mortgage and replace lost income so the family can continue their lifestyle. You may think, this is fine if you are equal income earners in the family with your spouse or even the main income earner. However, if as a woman you are not the main breadwinner or you may not have any income as your are a stay-at-home mum, why would you require life insurance?
Did you know that you can list your occupation as a homemaker when applying for life insurance? Insurers recognise there is value in the unpaid roles of a homemaker. According to salary.com the value of a stay-at-home mum is $288,000 (US $178,201).
If you are a stay-at-home mum, have you thought about who is going to replace the work you do, or cover your spouse’s income because they had to stop work to care for family? Having life insurance ensures your family receives a payout so that they can pay for childcare, home maintenance, and whatever else you would have done at home full time.
IMPROVE YOUR FINANCIAL SITUATION
Why not use this year to review and improve your financial situation now and for the future? By making small changes along the way, it can make the biggest difference for your future.
Get in touch with our team of financial advisors today for an appointment to improve your financial situation.
Helen Yau // Manager + Financial Planner
CA, BCom, Dip Fp, SSA