Insights

September 2021

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It’s September and spring is here, providing a welcome lift in spirits. After some spectacular performances by our athletes at the recent Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, hopefully you are inspired to achieve some personal goals of your own.

August provided mixed economic news, with central banks, business and consumers remaining cautious. In a widely-reported speech, US Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell said there remained “much ground to cover” before he would consider lifting interest rates, sending stocks higher and bond yields lower.

In Australia, shares and shareholders were boosted by a positive company reporting season. According to CommSec, of the ASX200 companies that have reported so far, 84% reported a profit in the year to June, 73% lifted profits and dividends were up 70% to $34 billion. One of the COVID “winners” is the construction sector. While the value of construction rose 0.4% overall in the year to June, the value of residential building was up 8.9% and renovations rose 24.5%, the strongest in 21 years. One of the COVID “losers”, retail trade was down 3.1% in the year to June.

While unemployment fell from 4.9% to 4.6% in July, full-time jobs and hours worked were lower due to the impact of lockdowns. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute index of consumer sentiment fell 4.4% in August while the NAB business confidence index fell 18.5 points in July, the second biggest monthly decline since the GFC. Wages grew 1.7% in the year to June, well below the 3% the Reserve Bank wants before it considers lifting interest rates.

Iron ore prices fell 18% in August, while the Aussie dollar finished the month weaker at US73.2c.


Don’t take super cover for granted

Buying insurance through super has many advantages, but you need to make sure you are getting the right cover for your individual needs. In some cases, you may be paying for nothing.

Most super funds offer life and total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance to fund members and, in some cases, income protection cover.

But since the introduction of the Protecting your Super reforms in 2019, this cover is no longer automatic.

If you have less than $6000 in your account or it has been inactive, then the insurance component will have been cancelled unless you advised the fund otherwise. An account may be deemed inactive if, for example, it has not received a contribution for more than 16 months.

In addition, insurance cover is no longer offered to new fund members aged under 25.

Is it right for you?

If you do have insurance in your super account, then it’s a good idea to check the cover is right for you. This is particularly the case now that the stapling measure has been introduced as part of the recent Your Future, Your Super legislation.

From November 1, unless you choose a new fund when you change jobs, the first fund you joined will be ‘stapled’ to you throughout your working life. This is where problems can arise; while the fund stays the same, so will the insurance cover.

Say you move from a low-risk job where the insurance offered in your super was more than adequate to a high-risk job such as in construction or mining. Would your insurance now cover you if you were no longer able to work? And if it did, would the cover be sufficient? It may well be that your new occupation is not even covered.

Most TPD policies within super are for “any” occupation rather than “own” occupation. This three-letter definition can make a world of difference. If you still have the capacity to work in some other occupation, then it is likely your insurance will not pay out.i

Many benefits

Despite this, there are still many benefits from having insurance cover in your super. Firstly, the premiums are generally lower because the fund buys the insurance cover in bulk. In addition, your premium payments are effectively lower as they come out of your pre-tax rather than your post-tax income.

What’s more, you are not having to put your hand in your pocket to pay the premiums as the money automatically comes out of your super. Of course, the flipside is you will have less money working to build your retirement savings.

So, when it comes to taking out insurance, going through your super has lots of positives.

But the downside is that the default level payout may be lower than you might need. You should check if this is the case and maybe consider making additional premium payments to give yourself and your family more appropriate cover. Be aware though that opting for a higher payout could mean you have to undergo a medical.

Also, life insurance cover in super actually reduces over time to the point where your cover reaches zero by the time you are 70. And for TPD cover it ceases at 65.ii

Regular checks

Wherever you get insurance cover, it’s important to remember that its purpose is generally to cover any outstanding debt and ongoing financial obligations should you pass away or become unable to work.

For this reason, it is important to regularly check your insurance within your super to ensure it is sufficient to maintain your lifestyle.

If it falls short, then you might also consider taking out a policy outside super.

While income protection is sometimes available through your super, it may be necessary to look outside. Such policies pay you a regular income for a specified period if you are unable to work through an illness or injury, and premiums are tax-deductible outside super.

When you are leading a busy life with lots of claims on your income, insurance may be seen as an unnecessary expense. But when it comes to the crunch, it can play a valuable role in you and your family’s life when you need it most.

Please call us to discuss your insurance needs and whether your existing cover, both inside super and outside, is sufficient.

i https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-life-insurance-works/total-and-permanent-disability-tpd-insurance

ii https://thenewdaily.com.au/finance/dollars-and-sense/2021/08/02/insurance-life-tpd-superannuation/


Salary packaging - worth the sacrifice

Salary packaging – worth the sacrifice

The principle of ‘salary sacrificing’ may not sound very appealing. After all, who in their right mind would voluntarily give up their hard-earned cash. But it can have real financial benefits for some in terms of reducing your taxable income, which could see you pay less at tax time.

As we nudge ever closer to the end of financial year, it’s worth taking a look at salary sacrificing to see if it’s a worthwhile strategy to put into place for you.

A salary sacrifice arrangement is also commonly referred to as salary packaging or total remuneration packaging. In essence, a salary sacrifice arrangement is when you agree to receive less income before tax, in return for your employer providing you with benefits of similar value. You’re basically using your pre-tax salary to buy something you would normally purchase with your after-tax pay.

How does salary sacrifice work?

The main benefit of salary sacrificing is that it reduces your pre-tax income, and therefore the amount of tax you must pay. For example, if you’re on a $100,000 income, you may agree to only receive $75,000 as income in return for a $25,000 car as a benefit.

Doing this would reduce your taxable income to $75,000 which could lower your tax bill because you’re essentially earning less as far as the tax office is concerned.*

This arrangement must be set up in advance with your employer before you commence the work that you’ll be paid for and it’s advisable that the details of the agreement are outlined in writing.

What can you salary sacrifice?

According to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), there’s no restriction on the types of benefits you can sacrifice, as long as the benefits form part of your remuneration. What you can salary sacrifice may also depend on what your employer offers.

The types of benefits provided in a salary sacrifice arrangement include fringe benefits, exempt benefits and superannuation.

Fringe benefits can include:

  • cars
  • property (including goods, real property like land and buildings, shares or bonds)
  • expense payments (loan repayments, school fees, childcare costs, home phone costs)

Your employer pays fringe benefit tax (FBT) on these benefits.

Exempt benefits include work related items such as:

  • portable electronic devices and computer software
  • protective clothing
  • tools of the trade

Your employer typically does not have to pay fringe benefits tax on these.

Superannuation

You can also ask your employer to pay part of your pre-tax salary into your superannuation account. This is on top of the contributions your employer is already paying you under the Superannuation Guarantee, which should be no less than 9.5% of your gross (before tax) annual salary, though this may rise in the near future.

Salary sacrificed super contributions are classified as employer super contributions rather than employee contributions. These contributions are called concessional contributions and are taxed at 15 per cent. For most people, this will be lower than their marginal tax rate.

There is a limit as to how much extra you can contribute to your super per year at the 15 per cent tax rate. The combined total of your employer and any salary sacrificed concessional contributions cannot exceed $25,000 in a single financial year. If you exceed the cap, you could be charged additional tax on any excess salary sacrifice contributions.

Most employers allow employees to salary sacrifice into super, but not all employers will allow salary sacrificing for other benefits.

Is salary sacrifice worth it?

Salary sacrifice is generally most effective for middle to high-income earners, while there is little to no tax saving for people who are already in a low tax bracket.

If you are a middle to high-income earner, then it may be worth considering salary sacrifice to reduce your taxable income and to take advantage of some of those benefits.

Before you do, make sure you talk to us so we can help ensure it is an appropriate strategy for your circumstances.

*Note: This example illustrates how salary sacrifice arrangements can work and does not constitute advice. You should not act solely on the information in this example.

Source for all information in this article: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Fringe-benefits-tax-(FBT)/Salary-sacrifice-arrangements/


Not feeling yourself? You could be languishing

Not feeling yourself? You could be languishing

Feeling a bit lacklustre as the days roll by? Hitting the snooze button more than usual? It’s a feeling that can be difficult to put your finger on, but it has a name, languishing.

Whether it’s feeling exhausted and unmotivated, or restless and eager to do more, we can be off kilter from time to time. It’s no surprise that many are feeling this way, as we continue to deal with ongoing uncertainty and snap lockdowns due to the pandemic. Knowing this is normal is important, particularly in the current circumstances, but we can also make changes to improve our overall wellbeing.

Flourishing vs languishing

Often, we think of good mental health as the absence of mental health issues, but as the diagram below shows, there is a spectrum between high mental health and low mental health.

While flourishing sits at the top, languishing is at the bottom.

Source: Dual continua model ( Keyes & Lopez , 2002)

You’re kicking goals at work, your relationships with family and friends are harmonious, you’re growing as a person – these are examples of flourishing. On the flipside, languishing can see you struggling to get out of bed in the morning, disengaged from your work, feeling negative about your relationships, or frustrated at not getting to where you want to be.

Called “the dominant emotion of 2021”, languishing has been described as if “you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.”i

Moving towards flourishing

The pandemic has reminded us of how little control we have over external circumstances. While lockdowns are likely to remain in our near future and the way we work and socialise are impacted as a result, there are ways we can improve our outlook.

Take time out

Working from home and remote schooling has become a reality for many of us, meaning we are busier than ever. Scheduling in some time-out is crucial to being able to switch off and feel more refreshed. Even if it’s just a day spent not checking your email and doing something restorative, you’re prioritising self-care.

Start small

When you’re languishing, it can be difficult to get motivated, it’s not likely to be the time you embark on a new fitness regime, study or career move. However, starting small can make changes in your life while building motivation for you to make further changes.

Whether it is going for a morning walk each day, reading a book the whole way through or getting to one of those tasks on your to-do list, you’re taking a step towards flourishing.

Cut out the noise

Back-to-back Zoom calls, the 24/7 news cycle, pings of social media, the distraction of everyone being at home together – no wonder it’s hard to focus.

Tap into your ‘zone’ or flow, by switching off from external noise where possible to concentrate on one task at a time. When you’re in the state of flow, time flies by as you’re engrossed in an activity that takes your full attention.

Reach out for help

It’s also worth acknowledging when you need a helping hand. It may be delegating at work so you’re not feeling overloaded or having someone to talk to if you’re struggling through the day.

Mental health issues are on the rise due to the pandemic and there is no shame in asking for help – more than ever, Australians are reaching out for mental health support in these turbulent times to help stay on track.ii

i https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html

ii https://www.lifeline.org.au/resources/news-and-media-releases/media-releases/


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