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Federal Budget 2023-24 Analysis

A surplus for now but stormy seas ahead

Treasurer Jim Chalmers bills his 2023 Federal Budget as an economic strategy to help ease cost-of-living pressures.

To that end, he has delivered a modest but welcome package of cuts to healthcare, housing and energy costs as well as boosts to welfare payments for single parents and the unemployed.

Banking an unexpected bonus in increased tax revenue and rising commodity prices, the Albanese government has aimed to help the most disadvantaged while also looking ahead with new plans for renewable energy, defence and the arts.

But it has kept its spending under control to deliver a forecast $4.2 billion budget surplus – the first in 15 years.

The Treasurer sums up his second budget as “a plan for security, for prosperity, for growth”.

The big picture

While the first budget surplus in a decade and a half is to be celebrated, the joy will be short-lived. By next year’s budget, it’s expected there will be a return to small deficits for the next few years.

That’s because the global economy is slowing thanks to persistent inflation and higher interest rates. Aside from the pandemic and the 2007 Global Financial Crisis, the next two years are expected to be the weakest for global growth in more than two decades.

As a result, the government expects Australia’s economic growth to slow from 3.25 per cent in 2022-23 to just 1.5 per cent the following year, before recovering a little to 2.25 per cent.

In this environment, the treasurer continues to mark inflation as the government’s primary economic challenge. He says that is why the budget is “calibrated to alleviate inflationary pressures, not add to them”.

The good news is that the Reserve Bank says inflation is falling slightly faster than it had first forecast and has now passed its peak.i It is expected to be around 4.5 per cent by the end of the year, a long way from last year’s CPI rate of 7.8 per cent.ii

Minimum pension income payments – no announcements’

No mention was made as to the continuation or otherwise of the current temporary 50% reduction in the level of minimum pension income payments in a year.

Observations The current temporary reduction was introduced during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and was extended on an annual basis.

At the time of writing, it could be expected that the minimum pension income payments will revert to the standard percentages in 2023-24. It should be noted that the Federal Budget is not always the forum where such decisions are announced.

Easing the cost of living

The government’s $14.6 billion package of cost cuts aimed at helping some of those most affected by rising costs covers energy bills, health and medical services, and welfare payments.

There will be energy bill relief to around five million households and one million small businesses. From July 2023, eligible households will receive up to $500 and eligible small businesses up to $650.

The government will also introduce a number of energy saving programs for households including low-interest loans and funds for upgrades to social housing. And there will be access to better information on reducing energy bills.

Health and medical

Countering a major expense for many, the government is pouring in billions of dollars to ease health and medical costs and access to services.

It will spend an extra $3.5 billion to provide incentives to doctors to bulk bill Concession Card holders and children under 16. It’s expected that the increased bulk billing incentive will help around 11.6 million people.

The cost of medicines is also likely to change for many who suffer chronic health conditions. From 1 September 2023, some patients will be eligible to be prescribed two months’ worth of medicine at a time, instead of one month’s worth. It’s expected this change will cut the number of visits to GPs and pharmacies, and the government estimates at least six million people will see their bills for medicines reduced by half.

The government is also providing $2.2 billion over five years for new and amended listings to the PBS, including treatment for cystic fibrosis.

Meanwhile, to improve access to care and reduce the strain on hospitals, a further $358.5 million will be spent to open a further eight Urgent Care Clinics. The clinics will bulk bill and remain open for longer hours.

Welfare boost

Income support payments including JobSeeker, Austudy and Youth Allowance will rise by $40 a fortnight following a concerted campaign by lobby groups in the months leading up to the budget.

And, recognising the extra challenges faced by older people looking for work, those aged 55 and over and out of work for at least nine continuous months, will now receive the higher rate JobSeeker payment currently paid to those over 60. Around 52,000 people will receive the increase of $92.10 a fortnight.

There will be more support for eligible single parents from September 2023. They will receive the Parenting Payment until their youngest child turns 14 (currently up to eight years old). Those receiving the payment will also benefit from more generous earning arrangements compared to JobSeeker. Eligible single parents with one child will be able to earn an extra $569.10 per fortnight, plus an extra $24.60 per additional child, before their payment stops.

Housing assistance

While rents continue to climb sharply around the country, the government has provided only limited assistance to renters. Those receiving Commonwealth Rent Assistance will see a 15 per cent increase in their payments from 20 September 2023.

Eligibility for the Home Guarantee Scheme will be expanded beyond first home buyers to include any 2 eligible borrowers beyond married and de facto couples, and non-first home buyers who have not owned a property in Australia in the preceding 10 years.

The government’s other housing initiatives are medium to long term solutions to the housing crisis.

There are new tax incentives to encourage the construction of more build-to-rent developments. The government claims an extra 150,000 rental properties could be delivered as a result in ten years.

The government is also focusing on providing more affordable housing by supporting more lending to community housing providers for social and affordable housing projects.

Pay rise for aged care workers

Severe staff shortages in the aged care sector, largely been driven by low wages, may abate a little with the government’s commitment to fund a pay rise.

More than $11 billion has been allocated to support an interim 15 per cent increase in award wages.

Support for families

Childcare will be cheaper from July 10, when the government subsidy will increase to 90 per cent for families on a combined income of $80,000 or less.

For families earning over $80,000, the subsidy rate will taper down by 1 percentage point for every additional $5,000 of family income until the subsidy reaches 0 per cent for families earning $530,000.

A more flexible and generous Paid Parental Leave scheme will also be introduced in July. A new family income test of $350,000 per annum will see nearly 3,000 additional parents become eligible for the entitlement each year.

Superannuation

Superannuation is in the government’s sights and employers and individuals with larger balances will be affected.

The concessional tax for those with balances exceeding $3 million will increase from 1 July 2025 to 30 per cent. Earnings on balances below $3 million will continue to be taxed at the concessional rate of 15 per cent.

Meanwhile from 1 July 2026, employers will have to pay their employees’ super at the same time they pay their wages. The government says that in 2019-20, employers failed to pay $3.4 billion of super owing to their employees.

Looking ahead

The stormy global economic outlook will keep Australia on its toes for the next two years or so but the government has attempted both to support those who are particularly vulnerable now and keep an eye to the future with some bigger thinking.

Moving forward, the government wants to position Australia a “renewable energy superpower” with a new Net Zero Authority to help attract new clean energy industries and help workers in coal regions to find new jobs.iii

The arts received a boost with almost $1 billion going to art galleries, museums, arts organisations and the film sector to help address “a decade of chronic underfunding”.iv,v

And there is the much debated investment in defence – more than $30 billion over the next ten years. Treasurer Chalmers says that while we may have a lot “coming at us – we have a lot going for us too”.

Information in this article has been sourced from the Budget Speech 2023-24 and Federal Budget Support documents.

It is important to note that the policies outlined in this publication are yet to be passed as legislation and therefore may be subject to change.
Reference Links:
RBA says inflation has passed its peak
ii 
https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/smp/2023/feb/economic-outlook.html
iii
 https://www.pm.gov.au/media/national-net-zero-authority
iv
 https://www.arts.gov.au/news/2023-24-federal-budget-revitalise-arts-sector
v
 https://minister.infrastructure.gov.au/burke/media-release/budget-2023-24-albanese-government-revives-australias-arts-and-culture
vi https://www.amp.com.au/

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Retirement planning: it’s not all about the money

Retirement is often a massive life change for the majority of people who experience it. Most of us will have mixed emotions around the end of our working life and the beginning of our ‘second half’. For some it will be a relief, and something they have long planned for and are looking forward to, but for others it will be a source of anxiety. This anxiety could be due to many factors including, but not limited to, concerns around the potential for running out of money, feelings associated with a lack of confidence or a lack of control and other factors we will discuss here.

While individuals’ wealth and health are obviously important for anyone heading into retirement, but we have found there are other factors that are usually more important in determining the life satisfaction for retirees.

Surprising results on retirement happiness

“Retirement: The now and the then” a survey of over 1,500 Australians over the age of 50 by Fidelity International, drilled into the many factors driving happiness for retirees, with some surprising results.

The survey found that the top four drivers of overall life satisfaction for experienced retirees – i.e. those with more than 10 years living in retirement – were:

  • purpose
  • control
  • confidence, and
  • emotional experience.

Emotional experience relates to the sense of optimism and contentment that retirees feel. It was the strongest driver of overall life satisfaction and significantly more important that health and wealth.

Positive emotional experiences often correlate with retirement journeys that have been well considered and planned, or ones in which despite retirees’ plans not having worked out but in which they already had a Plan B or a backup plan. Negative emotional experiences are often felt by those people who may not have planned adequately and may have been forced into retirement through job loss or other factors out of their control.

Emotional roller coaster

This chart is a useful illustration of what range of emotions are possible during a retirement journey.

 

The green line shows that the emotional experience of a well-planned and prepared retiree is usually fairly steady with low stress levels and a generally positive emotional experience.

In contrast, the journey of the reactive retirement is much more variable where the lack of planning can lead to significant swings in lived emotional experience.

The journey of the person forced into retirement through an unplanned redundancy is much more unpredictable and can be a difficult period from an emotional perspective. However, it can also be turned around with the right mindset and often with the help of a good financial planner, as the alternative paths highlight.

Promoting a good life

In thinking about how best to prepare for a long and fulfilling retirement, we believe that there are six key building blocks that are important elements of any plan.

We call these the six Cs:

Firstly, there is capability, which is the agency and ability to act and adapt to optimise a good life trajectory. If a retiree has the capability, they have the potential to turn a negative emotional experience into a more positive one.

Then there is confidence, or the peace of mind and optimism to keep looking forward to a good life while still enjoying your existing life. We may all wish we had a bit more confidence sometimes, but this is more about inner confidence and the belief that you have made the right choices and are living, and will continue to live, a good life.

Control is another C. This is about feeling like the master of your destiny while avoiding the pain of uncertainty and failed expectation. Obviously being forced into retirement through a job loss or redundancy is a lack of control but having a plan B already in place can help regain that sense of control.

Circumstance is how we like to bundle health and wealth together. These are critical components for enjoying a good life. A major health problem can derail an otherwise planned retirement but if the other Cs are all there, the overall experience will be better.

Character refers to self-esteem and a person’s resilience. These factors can ensure a positive inner narrative which is important for a good life. Again, having the character and discipline to have a plan B already in place, to have a flexible disposition and a positive outlook significantly helps build resilience to life’s unexpected turns.

And finally, there is connection, which refers to a sense of connection with family and the community. Quality relationships and being able to look beyond, or transcend, a purely inward focus are central pillars of a good life. It turns out thinking of others is also good for us too.

Lessons from the ‘elders’

There is a lot to be learned from those that have journeyed before us and retirement is no different. Our survey asked experienced retirees about lessons learnt and challenges did they not anticipate.

Many said they underestimated the emotional impact of retirement, such as their sense of loss of purpose and their personal identity when they retired.

Many also said that due to unexpected life events – such as losing a partner, health and mobility issues or dealing with homecare and aged care needs – they needed to be flexible and had to adapt and change their plans during retirement. Some downsized their homes or returned to work, to do more in retirement.

The two most important pieces of advice that late retirees can give to pre-retirees are not financial but emotional.

First, having a positive and optimistic outlook on life received the joint highest vote in our survey at 64% of respondents.

Second, also from 64% of respondents, investing in your health, and do it early, don’t leave it until too late.

Being flexible and adaptable was the next most popular at 61%, followed by finding purpose beyond work at 58% and taking control early with 55% of the vote. Always having a plan B was also important with 52% of the vote.

Plan beyond wealth

We hope that pre-retirees can incorporate some of these insights into their retirement plans. It’s not just about wealth, the size of retirement savings and how to build that over time. There are more important factors that can build a satisfying and happy retirement.

The survey showed that having a positive outlook with a sense of confidence, taking control and forming a sense of connection with friends, family and community are significant in building and maintaining a happy retirement.

Call us today to discuss your retirement planning strategy.

Source:
Reproduced with permission of Fidelity Australia. This article was originally published at https://www.fidelity.com.au/insights/investment-articles/retirement-planning-its-not-all-about-the-money/

This document has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider these matters before acting on the information. You should also consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statements (“PDS”) for any Fidelity Australia product mentioned in this document before making any decision about whether to acquire the product. The PDS can be obtained by contacting Fidelity Australia on 1800 119 270 or by downloading it from our website at www.fidelity.com.au. This document may include general commentary on market activity, sector trends or other broad-based economic or political conditions that should not be taken as investment advice. Information stated herein about specific securities is subject to change. Any reference to specific securities should not be taken as a recommendation to buy, sell or hold these securities. While the information contained in this document has been prepared with reasonable care, no responsibility or liability is accepted for any errors or omissions or misstatements however caused. This document is intended as general information only. The document may not be reproduced or transmitted without prior written permission of Fidelity Australia. The issuer of Fidelity Australia’s managed investment schemes is FIL Responsible Entity (Australia) Limited ABN 33 148 059 009. Reference to ($) are in Australian dollars unless stated otherwise.
© 2022. FIL Responsible Entity (Australia) Limited.

Important:
This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Any information provided by the author detailed above is separate and external to our business and our Licensee. Neither our business nor our Licensee takes any responsibility for any action or any service provided by the author. Any links have been provided with permission for information purposes only and will take you to external websites, which are not connected to our company in any way. Note: Our company does not endorse and is not responsible for the accuracy of the contents/information contained within the linked site(s) accessible from this page.

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How do interest rates affect your investments?

Interest rates are an important financial lever for world economies. They affect the cost of borrowing and the return on savings, and it makes them an integral part of the return on many investments. It can also affect the value of the currency, which has a further trickle-down effect on other investments.

So, when rates are low they can influence more business investment because it is cheaper to borrow. When rates are high or rising, economic activity slows. As a result, interest rate movements are also a useful tool to control inflation.

The cash rate or headline rate you hear mentioned regularly in the media is the interest rate on unsecured overnight loans between banks. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) sets the rate and meets every month, except January, to consider whether it should move up, down or stay the same. This rate then usually flows through to market interest rates causing, for example, mortgage rates to rise or fall.

Rising steadily

For the past few years, interest rates have been close to zero or even in negative territory in some countries, but that all started to change in the last year or so.

Australia lagged other world economies when it came to increasing rates but since the rises began here last year, the RBA has introduced hikes on a fairly regular basis. Indeed, the base rate has risen 3.5 per cent since June last year.

Australian Cash Rate Target

Source: RBA

The key reason for the rises is the need to dampen inflation. The RBA has long aimed to keep inflation between the 2 and 3 per cent mark. Clearly, that benchmark has been sharply breached and now the consumer price index is well over the 7 per cent a year mark.

While interest rates are the key monetary policy weapon to control inflation and dampen the economy, there can be a risk of taking it too far and causing a recession. Economic growth is forecast to slow to around 1.5 per cent this year as high inflation, low consumer confidence and rising rates take their toll.i

Winners and losers

There are two sides to rising interest rates. It hurts if you are a borrower, and it is generally welcomed if you are a saver.

But not all consequences of an interest rate rise are equal for investors and sometimes the extent of its impact may be more of a reflection of your approach to investment risk. If you are a conservative investor with cash making up a significant proportion of your portfolio, then rate rises may be welcome. On the other hand, if your portfolio is focussed on growth with most investments in say, shares and property, higher rates may start to erode the total value of your holdings.

Clearly this underlines the argument for diversity across your investments and an understanding of your goals in the short, medium, and long-term.

Shares take a hit

Higher interest rates tend to have a negative impact on sharemarkets. While it may take time for the effect of higher rates to filter through to the economy, the sharemarket often reacts instantly as investors downgrade their outlook for future company growth.

In addition, shares are viewed as a higher risk investment than more conservative fixed interest options. So, if low risk fixed interest investments are delivering better returns, investors may switch to bonds.

But that does not mean stock prices fall across the board. Traditionally, value stocks such as banks, insurance companies and resources have performed better than growth stocks in this environment.ii Also investors prefer stocks earning money today rather than those with a promise of future earnings.

But there are a lot of jitters in the sharemarket particularly in the wake of the failure of a number of mid-tier US banks. As a result, the traditional better performers are also struggling.

Fixed interest options

Fixed interest investments include government and semi-government bonds and corporate bonds. If you are invested in long-term bonds, then the outlook is not so rosy because the recent interest rates increases mean your current investments have lost value.

At the moment, fixed interest is experiencing an inverted yield curve which means long term rates are lower than short term. Such a situation reflects investor uncertainty about potential economic growth and can be a key predictor of recession and deflation. Of course, this is not the only measure to determine the possibility of a recession and many commentators in Australia believe we may avoid this scenario.iii

What about housing?

House prices have fallen from their peak in 2022, which is not surprising given the slackening demand as a result of higher mortgage rates.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed an annual 35 per cent drop in new investment loans earlier this year.iv The consequent reduction in available rental properties has put upward pressure on rents which is good news if you have no loan, a small loan or a fixed interest loan on the property.

The changing times in Australia’s economic fortunes can lead to concern about whether you have the right investment mix. If you are unsure about your portfolio, then give us a call to discuss.

https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/media-releases/articles/business-outlook.html
ii 
https://www.ig.com/au/trading-strategies/what-are-the-effects-of-interest-rates-on-the-stock-market-220705
iii 
https://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2023/02/inverted-yield-curve-predicts-australian-recession/e.
iv 
https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/finance/lending-indicators/latest-release

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Life insurance through the ages

Whoever said, ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’, was dead wrong when it comes to life insurance. While protection against adversity is always wise, your actual needs change as you move through different ages and stages of life.

From when you take your first job and go out into the world, life insurance in all its many forms has a role to play.

Life insurance falls into four main categories:

  • Income protection – Pays a monthly benefit if you are unable to work due to sickness or injury
  • Trauma – Pays a lump sum for a specific injury or illness
  • Total and permanent disability (TPD) – Pays a lump sum if you are permanently unable to work
  • Death – Pays a lump sum if you die or become terminally ill.

Shifting needs

Life insurance is like a bell curve – you need a low level of cover when you are setting out life, growing to a high level in your middle years when your responsibilities and debts are at their peak and then possibly dropping back when you retire.

The need for cover is ultimately about ensuring you have sufficient financial back-up should something go wrong. While superannuation offers most Australians some form of life insurance, it is generally a basic level of cover and may need topping up outside super.

Each stage of life has its challenges, whether you are young and single, just married, starting a family, empty nesters or retiring. Whenever a major event occurs in your life, such as marriage or the birth of a child, you need to consider whether you have the right cover for your current needs.

Young and single

When you are starting out in life you may not need life cover, but what would happen if you were injured in a car crash and couldn’t work for six months? What happens when your sick leave runs out? How would you pay your rent, car loan, utility bills and basic living expenses? That’s when income protection insurance can be a lifeline.

Just married

Once you are part of a couple you naturally want to protect each other’s wellbeing. If something happened to either one of you it could put tremendous strains on the other person. This is even more likely if you have bought a home and are saddled with a mortgage.

Life insurance, income protection and trauma insurance can all help you protect your lifestyle. And both partners should seek cover because both are contributing.

Starting a family

Once children come on the scene, the need for life insurance is even greater. If something were to happen to you or your partner, then the financial burden could be significant. Who would look after the children? Could they stay at the same schools? Could your partner pay the mortgage on one salary?

Income protection, life insurance, trauma insurance and total and permanent disability should all be considered. Once again, it’s important to make sure both partners are covered – even if one isn’t working, the costs associated with childcare and household tasks can be considerable.

Empty nesters

Just because the children have left home doesn’t mean you don’t still need access to money should something occur. Sure, you are probably at the peak of your earnings, but many empty nesters still have a mortgage. Even if you don’t, why put at risk all the wealth you and your partner have worked hard to build up for your retirement? Life insurance can help you protect these assets.

Retirement

Once you are retired, your need for life insurance may diminish. At this stage of life, you will probably have paid off your mortgage and your children are likely to be independent. As a result, insurance cover might just be a means to leave an inheritance for your children. Or you might want to have a policy to provide for your funeral.

Life is forever changing, as are your insurance needs. It is not a one-size-fits-all.

Call us if you want to discuss how to shape your insurance to meet your current needs.

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Time for an annual tune-up

Checking in on your goals, finances and health

We don’t think twice about taking our car in for a regular tune up. Why? Because we know it’s going to mean our car runs at its best and saves unexpected problems down the track. It follows then that we should take the same approach to other areas of our lives. From our goals, to our finances, to our health, there’s so much to be gained in checking in regularly to make sure everything’s tracking well.

Kick your goals into gear

A good place to start is with your goals. If you set some at the beginning of the year, take some time to reflect on how you’re tracking. If you didn’t, there is no time like the present to stop and think about what you want for your future.

The next step is to make a plan. This will involve writing down your goals then looking at what resources you’ll need to help you achieve them. You want to make sure you have allocated enough hours and dollars towards making them a reality. This will also dictate your overall timeframe. Set regular, realistic deadlines with measurable sub-goals and make sure you have someone in your corner to hold you accountable.

Remember too, that your goals don’t need to be bigger than Ben-Hur. They might just be to see more of your friends or put a bit extra aside each month for a holiday. Reflect on the little things in life that bring you joy, and what you can do to pursue them.

Fueling up your finances

Once you’ve got a handle on your goals, it’s a good idea to review your finances. The new financial year presents the perfect opportunity.

Start by reviewing your budget. If it’s not currently working for you, what changes can you make to start taking meaningful steps towards your goals? Maybe there’s an online subscription you aren’t using or you’re having one too many meals out. Shopping around for a better deal on your utility bills, as well as the interest rate on your mortgage and credit cards, is another worthwhile consideration.

It’s also wise to take a proper look over your investments. Review your asset allocation and risk tolerance to make sure that your approach is still in line with your present situation as well as future goals.

For many of you, your biggest and most tax-effective investment will be your superannuation. It makes sense then to ensure you’re comfortable with what your fund is returning as well as your current risk profile.

Your super may also include some level of insurance cover. If your circumstances have changed, it might be time to review. We can assist you in assessing whether you are adequately protected, looking at options both within and outside of super.

Get a handle on your health

Even if you’re feeling fit as a fiddle, a regular health check-up can be a worthwhile investment of both time and money that could help you to live a long, happy and healthy life. If you have reached a milestone birthday it’s worth speaking to your GP about any recommended tests.

Likewise, your physical health doesn’t start and end with a doctor or dentist visit. Getting into some exercise habits now and changing your eating habits could bear dividends for your long-term health and well-being.

Someone in the passenger seat

No matter where you’re going it’s always helpful to have someone in the passenger seat to help you navigate the way. For your goals and your passions, it might be a friend, partner or family member. For your health, it’s a doctor. And when it comes to your finances, we can help you protect the lifestyle you have, while mapping out the journey to achieve your ideal future.

If you need help with the financial aspects of your annual tune-up, give us a call. We’re always here to help.