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5 smarter money decisions for 2018

Glenn Freeman  |  25 Jan 2018Text size  Decrease  Increase  |  
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Particularly for empty-nesters with a paid-off mortgage, the following tips can help overcome some common pitfalls, according to wealth management specialist Jonathan Philpot.

"People who are otherwise in a comfortable financial position can still take steps to improve their financial situation and, perhaps more importantly, avoid mistakes that could jeopardise their financial future," says Jonathan Philpot, wealth management partner at HLB Mann Judd Sydney.

1) Think twice before lending to children

In the current climate of elevated property prices, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, a desire to help their children into their first mortgage is a topic he often discusses with clients.

"Obviously you want children to be self-sufficient and to give them a start ... but it's how you do it that can be improved. Often you hear people saying they'll gift their child $50,000 or $100,000," Philpot says.

"When I start talking through that, what comes through is often that, 'Really, we'd like to protect this money that I'm giving.' So, perhaps rather than gifting, you could do it through a formal loan document process."

This is particularly important if the child is married or in a long-term relationship, because if the relationship breaks down, they don't have to hand over half the money to their ex-partner if there is a loan agreement.

Not that it has to have an interest rate, but just a signed loan agreement saying that they've given their child $50k and it's in place, "so that if any thing changes in their relationship with partners et cetera, the cash is protected in going to their child," Philpot says.

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He also cautions against acting as guarantor on loans to children, either for housing loans or business loans.

"If the banks don't feel comfortably lending the money to the child, then maybe the parents also need to think twice," Philpot says.

2) Consider wealth-building structures

Philpot refers to a tendency for many couples who are keen to start building up wealth by investing, after having paid off their mortgage, to automatically invest in the name of the lower income-earning spouse.

"But people should be aware that there may be future problems with this. If a good amount of money has been built up, say over $500,000, having the investments in one person's name will cause issues in the future," Philpot says.

He refers here to capital gains tax implications relating to the sale of shares or property, and potential problems upon retirement, if all the income is in one person's name.

"A better strategy might be a family trust, where income distributions can change over time. Another advantage of family trusts over superannuation is that wealth can be accessed before retirement, if necessary," Philpot says.

3) Review estate planning

While he suggests the number of Australians with a Will is rising, Philpott is concerned that many of these are still very simple "do-it-yourself" arrangements.

"Most people, when you talk to them about their Will, say their situations is pretty straightforward and they don't need anything complicated. But often when we start to drill down, we find this is far from the case," he says.

He points to the high rate of divorce and relationship breakdowns, and the incidence of mixed families with children from previous marriages. "Many family structures are far from simple, and this needs to be considered in estate planning."

"A testamentary trust is able to provide some significant tax and asset protection benefits ... which comes from the assets not being received in the child's name but via a trust," Philpot says.

He says this can be further strengthened with inheritance protection agreements (IPA). These are clauses in a Will that can request a beneficiary to enter an IPA with their partner, where each party agrees any inheritances are excluded from consideration should the relationship end.

4) Review personal insurance costs

Philpot suggests the costs of life cover plans, particularly those held within APRA-regulated superannuation funds or group life, will increase substantially over the next few years, "some by as much as 50 per cent".

Philpot suggests checking the costs of premiums in existing policies versus potential other options and ensuring the level of insurance is correct--"in some cases, older people have cover in place when they are in a position of being self-insured".

However, he recognises that under-insurance is a far more common scenario among the Australian population.

"So, the right level of cover needs to be assessed and any current policies in place will need to be reviewed for competitiveness," Philpot says.

5) Take advantage of new super rules

He believes super contributions are "a great tax planning tool". With legislation changes, lower interest rates and the outlawing of various managed investment schemes--such as agri-business arrangements--"it is difficult to claim large tax deductions".

But with changes to super rules from 1 July 2017, PAYG earners will now also be able to claim a tax deduction.

"For those with income levels above $87,000 and in the 39 per cent tax bracket (including Medicare levy) the tax benefit of the contribution is 24 per cent, but the individual personally receives the 39 per cent benefit," Philpot says.

"Even if there is still a mortgage on the home, with 5 per cent interest you are still well ahead by say, taking $10,000 from the offset account and putting this into super and claiming the tax deduction. The limit on how much can be contributed to super personally is $25,000 less your Superannuation Guarantee contributions, which is 9.5 per cent of your salary."

Philpot believes this will become much more common for those aged over 40, "even if there is a reluctance to lock away money until retirement age".

"The tax benefits will outweigh this, together with the benefit of having greater retirement savings."

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Glenn Freeman is a senior editor at Morningstar.

© 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither Morningstar, its affiliates, nor the content providers guarantee the data or content contained herein to be accurate, complete or timely nor will they have any liability for its use or distribution. This information is to be used for personal, non-commercial purposes only. No reproduction is permitted without the prior written consent of Morningstar. Any general advice or 'class service' have been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892), or its Authorised Representatives, and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. Please refer to our Financial Services Guide (FSG) for more information at www.morningstar.com.au/s/fsg.pdf. Our publications, ratings and products should be viewed as an additional investment resource, not as your sole source of information. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product's future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a licensed financial adviser. Some material is copyright and published under licence from ASX Operations Pty Ltd ACN 004 523 782 ("ASXO"). The article is current as at date of publication.

is senior editor for Morningstar Australia

© 2021 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither Morningstar, its affiliates, nor the content providers guarantee the data or content contained herein to be accurate, complete or timely nor will they have any liability for its use or distribution. This information is to be used for personal, non-commercial purposes only. No reproduction is permitted without the prior written consent of Morningstar. Any general advice or 'regulated financial advice' under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892), or its Authorised Representatives, and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information, refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). Our publications, ratings and products should be viewed as an additional investment resource, not as your sole source of information. Morningstar’s full research reports are the source of any Morningstar Ratings and are available from Morningstar or your adviser. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product's future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a licensed financial adviser. Some material is copyright and published under licence from ASX Operations Pty Ltd ACN 004 523 782. The article is current as at date of publication.

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