Category Archives: Blog

Have you budgeted for Christmas?

Christmas is just around the corner. It is already a stressful time of year, but COVID-19 has made this year more difficult for many. According to Finder, Australian households spent an average of $969 on Christmas last year. We’ve compiled a few tips to help your budget during Christmas this year!

1. Make a list and check it twice!

To help plan out your Christmas spending, it is a great idea to create a list of everyone you are buying for and outline how much money you are going to spend on each individual. Be realistic – it is better to have an affordable Christmas than racking up credit card debt.

2. Shop second hand

COVID-19 has caused countless problems with stock levels, and there is a short supply of incoming freight. Many products have been out of stock for months! This makes it a fantastic time to shop second hand to get great items for a fraction of the price. You can go to your local second hand shop or look online at places like Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace for some bargains.

3. Budget for the other parts of Christmas

When talking about Christmas spending, most people only consider the gifts. But what about all the other fun parts of Christmas? Make sure you consider the additional costs involved – food and drinks, decorations, work parties, and dining out to name just a few.

4. Start buying now

Shops are already full of Christmas food and decorations. You can start buying non-perishable items ahead of time if you see them on sale.

5. Spread the spending

A lot of people spend Christmas with their families and friends. To help your budget, talk with your relatives and friends to organise a combined lunch budget, and everyone can bring a plate to share.

6. Be inclusive

It is very important to keep everyone in mind, particularly this year. Some people will be in a better financial situation than others, so keep your Christmas celebrations inclusive. Organise affordable and simple plans that everyone can get involved in.

Get in touch if you need guidance on your budget this Christmas.

How well do you know superannuation?

How well do you understand superannuation? It can be very confusing, with people throwing around terms like beneficiary and non-concessional contributions? Here are some standard superannuation terms that you should know about.

Beneficiary

You can nominate a beneficiary – a person that you nominate to receive your super benefits if you pass away. They must be dependents, such as your partner, children or any other person that is financially dependent on you.

Binding and non-binding nominations

A binding nomination allows you to advise the trustee on who is to receive your superannuation benefit in the event of your death.

A non-binding nomination gives the trust of the superannuation fund the discretion to protect the interests of your beneficiaries if circumstances change. This means they can pay the benefit to one or more dependents, or to your estate, and decide what proportion they receive.

Concessional and non-concessional super contributions

Concessional contributions are made into your account from money that has not been taxed yet, so therefore receives a concessional (lower) tax rate. In contrast, non-concessional contributions are made into your super fund from after-tax income and are not taxed in your super fund.

ESG

ESG in superannuation stands for environmental, social and corporate governance funds. They are seen as sustainable funds before they focus on long-term, long-lasting investments. Often, they will choose not to invest in areas such as tobacco, gambling, alcohol, and fossil fuels. They might invest in areas of positive social impact, like affordable housing.

Preservation age

Your preservation is the age at which you can access your superannuation. This ranges from 55 to 60 but depends on your date of birth.

Transition to retirement

A transition to retirement strategy can be implemented once you reach your preservation age. You can access some of your super and keep working, letting you reduce your working hours without reducing your income.

Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge

PREP: 15 MINS | COOK: 1 HOUR | SERVES: 25

What you’ll need…

  • 375g can of condensed milk
  • 120g butter, diced
  • 400g dark cooking chocolate, chopped
  • 50g glace cherries, finely chopped
  • 60g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Method

  1. Line a 20cm x 20cm slice tine. Combine condensed milk and butter in a saucepan until heated through and butter is melted. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Stir until smooth.
  2. Add cherries to chocolate mixture and mix well. Pour into prepared pan and top on the bench gently so the surface is smooth. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and refrigerate for 1 hour until firm.
  3. For serving, remove from pan and trim the edges. Cut into squares and package up to give as gifts.

Financial security during a recession

Economies around the world are struggling, and Australia is now in recession. There are a few ways to focus on your finances and become more financially secure during a recession.

Build an emergency fund

A recession and potential job losses or work hour cuts can make it difficult to pay your day-to-day expenses. If you can, now is a great time to start building your emergency fund to help you navigate a recession and gain some financial security.

The amount you have in your emergency fund will differ between person to person. Generally, you should have enough money to cover three to six months of your expenses. 

Revise your budget and cut back

Look at your budget to decide what is essential and anything you can cut back on. Essentials will include your mortgage, rent, utilities and insurance.

It is important also to remember that while it might be an essential expense, you might still be able to save money. Shop around and look at comparison websites to get the best rates and offers on everything from your insurance to food shopping.

Live within your means

It is nice to splash out and treat yourself now and then on discretionary items. But a recession is the time to really consider what matters most to you and only spend what you can afford. Think about your lifestyle and the luxuries that are important to you – dining out, subscription services, or the latest technology. You might be able to cut back, for example, if dining out is important to your lifestyle, you might choose to go out once a fortnight instead of weekly.

Consolidate your debts

Consolidating your debts can help you get a better handle on your expenses. It makes it easier to manage your repayments in one payment, ideally at a lower overall interest rate. This will help you to manage your expenses and hopefully pay off your debt sooner.  

Build your skills

A recession can be a great time to build your skills and pursue further education. New skills and training can make you more employable and help you find work or keep your current position.

Think long term

It is important to remember with investment strategies and superannuation that you will see results in the long term. Don’t make changes based on short-term economic events, as you might miss out on potential growth in the future.

It is hard to predict the future, so it is essential to boost your financial security when possible, especially during times of uncertainty like recessions. Our team are here to help.

Five costly estate planning mistakes

Drawing up your will and estate plan is an important part of life, no matter what your age. Make sure you avoid these five costly estate planning mistakes!

Delaying your estate planning

One of the most significant mistakes people make when it comes to estate planning is putting it off. It is never too early to start planning and arranging your will. This will ensure that your assets go to the right people with minimum fuss for your loved ones. Also, if you put it off too long, you may lose the capacity to communicate your wishes.

Not communicating your plan

The key to a successful and stress-free estate planning is communication. Disputes often arise because people preparing their will do not communicate with their family and loved ones. By communicating clearly, you can let them know the reasons behind your decisions – why you nominate a person as executor or why you gift assets to a specific person?

Not updating as your situation changes

It can be costly if you do not update your estate plan regularly. Your situation changes all the time – you have kids, sell assets, get separated, the list goes on. It is essential to keep your will updated through these changes. For example – if you are going through a divorce and pass away without updating your estate plan, then they will still get any assets you have outlined, even if you no longer wish for them too.

Lack of understanding of assets

People often assume that theirs will covers all of their assets. However, many assets aren’t controlled by your will: superannuation, life insurance payments, jointly owned assets, assets in trusts, or funds in joint accounts. Failing to consider these other assets might mean that they don’t end up where you wish them to.

Not communicating document location

The original copy of your will is important – a missing will can result in delays and extra costs, and if never found, could leave you with no control over who receives your estate. People move house or change solicitors over time, and unfortunately, wills get lost. Make sure you inform your executor or family where the original copy is to avoid extra stress when you pass away.

Estate planning is about preparing ahead for the future of your loved ones. Remember to take the time to get your estate sorted and avoid making these costly mistakes. Reach out to our team for peace of mind that your final wishes are fulfilled.

Almond Mandarin Cake

PREP: 10 MINS | COOK: 70 MINS | SERVES: 10

What you’ll need…

  • 4 small (about 400g) mandarins, unpeeled
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 220g almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking power
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Method

  1. Put the whole mandarins in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 45 minutes or until tender when tested with a skewer, topping up water as necessary. Drain, cool to room temperature, cut in half and remove any pips.
  2. Preheat oven to 160°C and line the base of a lightly greased 20cm springform cake pan with baking paper.
  3. Blend the cooled mandarins, eggs and sugar in a food processor until well combined. Add the almond meal, baking powder and orange blossom water (if using) and pulse until combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and sprinkle with almonds. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool for 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Keep your identity safe online

Your personal information is so valuable. We have a lot to lose if somebody steals your identity, and it’s not just money. It can take years to recover your identity. However, there are several ways to protect your identity online. Keep reading to find out what to look out for and how to protect yourself online.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is a type of fraud, where a scammer steals your personal information to steal your money or gain access to other accounts or benefits. Scammers use your information to impersonate you and:

  • Access and take money from your bank account/s
  • Open new credit card accounts or bank accounts to take out loans or lines of credit
  • Set up phone, internet or utility services in your name
  • Gain access to your government accounts or online services
  • Purchase expensive goods
  • Steal your superannuation funds
  • Access your email or social media accounts to find more information about you and target your friends and family

What to look out for?

Do you know the warning signs that scammers are targeting your personal information online? Watch out for the following that may indicate you are being targeted:

  • You receive an email, text or phone call asking you to provide information or validate your details by clicking on a link or attachment
  • You receive a friend request on social media from a person you don’t know
  • Unexpected pop-ups appear on your computer or device asking you to run software

Think you can spot an attempt to steal your information? The ACCC put together a quiz to test your knowledge.

How to protect your identity?

  • Independently research a company if somebody is asking for your information. It’s a good idea to find their legitimate phone number and contact them directly to confirm it’s a genuine request.
  • Keep an eye out for suspicious emails or messages, even if they appear to be from a trusted source. Watch for tell-tale signs, like sender’s email address, grammatical errors and suspicious links.
  • Never share your personal information to people you don’t know or trust.
  • Use secure passwords and set up multi-factor authentication on your accounts.
  • Be careful with the information you share on social media as scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or target you with a scam.

It is important to remain vigilant to keep your information, money and identity safe online.

Let’s talk about money

Money – one of the most taboo topics in Australia. But it shouldn’t be. In this time of uncertainty, it is now more important than ever to have honest conversations with your family about your financial situation. Please keep reading to find out how important it is to talk about money.

A study by St George Family Finances found that almost one in four people don’t trust their partners when it comes to money. It also indicated that many believe that managing personal debts adds extra, unwanted stress to their relationships.

Think about it – when was the last time you had a conversation about your debts, income or how much you’re spending? Being open about your financial situation can be scary because it makes us vulnerable to judgement and scrutiny. But it is worthwhile, with a survey from ME Bank finding that stress levels about your finances significantly drop when you discuss money. The research also found that when you are actively talking money, you are more likely to be actively managing your finances and getting on top of your financial situation.

Talking about money has great benefits for your relationship and family. It can lead to happier relationships and reduce your likelihood to argue about finances. And we know that parents often worry about discussing money with their children but getting it out in the open can help develop good financial habits at an early age. Don’t be held back by your own financial situation or views. Click here to read some great tips for talking money with your kids.

It is important to have positive conversations about money to strengthen your relationships and pass on good money habits to your children. Be honest about your experiences to avoid further stress in your life and relationships.

Apple & Sultana Crumble Cake

PREP: 20 MINS | COOK: 1 HR | SERVES: 8-10

What you’ll need…

  • 175g butter, diced and softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 3/4 cup sultanas
  • 1 granny smith apple, cut into 1cm dice

Crumble:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 60g butter, diced
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Lightly grease a 22cm spring form pan and line the base with baking paper.
  2.  Place butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add eggs one at a time until well incorporated.
  3. Add sour cream, followed by the flour, almond meal and spice. Mix until batter is smooth. Add sultanas, mixing in well. Spoon into prepared pan, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with diced apples.
  4. For the crumble, combine oats, sugar and butter in a bowl and using fingertips, rub to combine so mixture resembles chunky breadcrumbs. Mix in the almonds. Sprinkle over apples and bake for 1 hour or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Serve warm with custard or cream.

What is the 30-day rule?

Do you find it difficult to save money because of discretionary spending? You are definitely not alone – we all find ourselves making impulse purchases. However, many people swear by the 30-day rule, a popular method to help people save more money. Keep reading to find out more about the 30-day rule and how it can help you curb impulse spending.

So, what is the 30-day rule? Essentially it is about waiting 30 days before making a purchase. Use this time to think about the item or service you are looking to purchase and consider if you really need it. Before making a purchase, do the following:

  • After you see the item or service that you would like to buy, note down all the information that you have. This could include what it is, how much it costs, and any details or specifications.
  • Leave this information somewhere obvious that you will often see, such as your calendar or fridge.
  • For the full 30 days, carefully deliberate whether you need the item/service and if it is worth the price.
  • In that time, you can search for alternatives and better deals at other stores or retailers.

The advantage of the 30-day rule is by taking the time, and searching for better deals, if you find that you still want to make the purchase after 30 days, you will potentially be able to save money or find an alternative that is more suitable for your needs. You might find that you forget about item/service, or realise they are not that important to you. Over time you will start to save money and be more considered with our spending.

Committing to the 30-day rule is a great step towards saving. It will help you develop discipline, stop impulse spending, and you will be well on your way to meeting your savings goals.