It’s March already which marks the beginning of Autumn. While this is traditionally the season when things cool down, the economic and political scene is gearing up with the Federal Budget later this month and a federal election expected by May.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February increased volatility on global financial markets and uncertainty about the pace of global economic recovery. Notably, crude oil prices surged above $US100 a barrel, breaking the $100 mark for the first time since 2014. Rising oil prices add to inflationary pressures and could set back global economic recovery in the wake of COVID. In Australia, the price of unleaded petrol hit a record 179.1c a litre in February and is expected to go above $2.
In the US, inflation hit a 40-year high of 7.5% in January. Australian inflation is a tamer 3.5% and this, along with unemployment at a 13-year low of 4.2%, is raising expectations of interest rate hikes. The Reserve Bank stated earlier in February that a rate hike in 2022 was ‘’plausible” but that it is ‘’prepared to be patient”. The Reserve is also looking for annual wage growth of 3% before it lifts rates, but with annual wages up just 2.3% in the December quarter Australian workers are going backwards after inflation. The average wage is currently around $90,917 a year.
Before the latest events in Ukraine, consumer and business confidence were improving. The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer rating rose slightly in February to 101.8 points, while the NAB business confidence index was up 15.5 points in January to +3.5 points.
War in Ukraine has triggered a flight to safety, with bonds, gold and the US dollar rising while global shares plunged initially before rebounding but remain volatile. The Aussie dollar closed at US72.59c.
Avoid the rush: Get ready for June 30
It seems like June 30 rolls around quicker every year, so why wait until the last minute to get your finances in order?
With all the disruption and special support measures of the past two years, it’s possible your finances have changed. So it’s a good idea to ensure you’re on track for the upcoming end-of-financial-year (EOFY).
Starting early is essential to make the most of opportunities on offer when it comes to your super and tax affairs.
New limits for super contributions
Annual contribution limits for super rose this financial year, so maximising your super contributions to boost your retirement savings is even more attractive.
From 1 July 2021, most people’s annual concessional contributions cap increased to $27,500 (up from $25,000). This allows you to contribute a bit extra into your super on a before-tax basis, potentially reducing your taxable income.
If you have any unused concessional contribution amounts from previous financial years and your super balance is less than $500,000, you may be able to “carry forward” these amounts to further top up.
Another strategy is to make a personal contribution for which you claim a tax deduction. These contributions count towards your $27,500 cap and were previously available only to the self-employed. To qualify, you must notify your super fund in writing of your intention to claim and receive acknowledgement.
Non-concessional super strategies
If you have some spare cash, it may also be worth taking advantage of the higher non-concessional (after-tax) contributions cap. From 1 July 2021, the general non concessional cap increased to $110,000 annually (up from $100,000).
These contributions can help if you’ve reached your concessional contributions cap, received an inheritance, or have additional personal savings you would like to put into super. If you are aged 67 or older, however, you need to meet the requirements of the work test or work test exemption.
For those under age 67 (previously age 65) at any time during 2021-22, you may be able to use a bring-forward arrangement to make a contribution of up to $330,000 (three years x $110,000).
To take advantage of the bring-forward rule, your total super balance (TSB) must be under the relevant limit on 30 June of the previous year. Depending on your TSB, your personal contribution limit may be less than $330,000, so it’s a good idea to talk to us first.
More super things to think about
If you plan to make tax-effective super contributions through a salary sacrifice arrangement, now is a good time to discuss this with your employer, as the ATO requires documentation prior to commencement.
Another option if you’re aged 65 and over and plan to sell your home is a downsizer contribution. You can contribute up to $300,000 ($600,000 for a couple) from the proceeds without meeting the work test.
And don’t forget contributing into your low-income spouse’s super account could score you a tax offset of up to $540.
Know your tax deductions
It’s also worth thinking beyond super for tax savings.
If you’ve been working from home due to COVID-19, you can use the shortcut method to claim 80 cents per hour worked for your running expenses. But make sure you can substantiate your claim.
You also need supporting documents to claim work-related expenses such as car, travel, clothing and self-education. Check whether you qualify for other common expense deductions such as tools, equipment, union fees, the cost of managing your tax affairs, charity donations and income protection premiums.
Review your investment portfolio
After a year of strong investment market performance, now is also a good time to review your investments outside super. Benchmark your portfolio’s performance and check whether any assets need to be sold or purchased to rebalance in line with your strategy.
You might also consider realising any investment losses, as these can be offset against capital gains you made during the year.
If you would like to discuss EOFY strategies and super contributions, call our office.
How to calm those market jitters
It’s been a rocky start to the year on world markets but that doesn’t mean you should hit the panic button. Staying the course is generally the best course, but that’s easier said than done when there’s a big market fall.
In January markets plunged some 10 per cent but then staged a recovery. That volatile start may well be an indication of how the year pans out.i
The key reasons for this volatility are fear of inflation, the prospect of rising interest rates and pressure on corporate profits. Add to that ongoing concern surrounding COVID-19 and the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and it is hardly surprising markets are jittery.
But fear and the inevitable corrections in share prices that come with it are all a normal part of market action.
Rising interest rates and inflation traditionally lead to downward pressure on shares as the improved returns from fixed interest investments start to make them look more attractive. However, it’s worth noting that inflation in Australia is nowhere near the levels in the US where inflation is at a 40-year high of 7.5 per cent. In fact, the Reserve Bank forecasts underlying inflation to grow to just 3.25 per cent in 2022 before dropping to 2.75 per cent next year.ii
Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe concedes interest rates may start to rise this year, with many market analysts looking at August. Even so, he doesn’t believe rates will climb higher than 1.5 to 2 per cent. After all, with the size of mortgages growing in line with rising property prices and high household debt to income levels, rates would not have to rise much to have an impact on household finances and spending.iii
Even with rate hikes on the cards, yields on deposits are likely to remain under 1 per cent for the foreseeable future compared with a grossed-up return (after including franking credits) from share dividends of about 5 per cent.iv
The old adage goes that it’s “time in” the market that counts, not “timing” the market. So if you rush to sell stocks because you fear they may fall further, you risk not only turning a paper loss into a real one, but you also risk missing the rebound in prices later on.
Over time, short-term losses tend to iron out. Growth assets such as shares offer higher returns in the long run with higher risk of volatility along the way. The important thing is to have an investment strategy that allows you to sleep at night and stay the course.
Chance to review
A downturn in the market can also present an opportunity to review your portfolio and make sure that it truly reflects your risk profile. Years of bullish performances on sharemarkets may have encouraged some people to take more risks than their profile would normally dictate.
After many years of strong market returns, it’s possible that your portfolio mix is no longer aligned with your investment strategy. You may also want to make sure you are sufficiently diversified across the asset classes to put yourself in the best position for current and future market conditions.
A recent study found that retirees generally have a low tolerance for losses in their retirement savings. Retirees often favour conservative investments to avoid experiencing downturns, but this means they may lose out on strong returns and capital growth when the market rebounds.
Think long term
Over the long term, shares tend to outperform all other asset classes. And even when share prices fall, you are still earning dividends from those shares. Indeed, the lower the price, the higher the yield on your share investments. And it is also worth noting that with Australia’s dividend imputation system, there are also tax advantages with share investments.
For long-term investors, rather than sell your shares in a kneejerk reaction, it might be worthwhile considering buying stocks at lower prices. This allows you to take advantage of dollar cost averaging, by lowering the average price you pay for a particular company’s shares.
Investments are generally for the long term, especially when it comes to your super. Chopping and changing investments in response to short-term market movements is unlikely to deliver the end results you initially planned.
If the current turbulence in world markets has unsettled you, call us to discuss your investment strategy and whether it still reflects your risk profile and long-term objectives.
A balancing act
Billed as a Budget for families with a focus on relieving short-term cost of living pressures, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s fourth Budget also has one eye firmly on the federal election in May.
At the same time, the government is relying on rising commodity prices and a forecast lift in wages as unemployment heads towards a 50-year low to underpin Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.
While budget deficits and government debt will remain high for the foreseeable future, the Treasurer is confident that economic growth will more than cover the cost of servicing our debt.
The big picture
The Australian economy continues to grow faster and stronger than anticipated, but the fog of war in Ukraine is adding uncertainty to the global economic outlook. After growing by 4.2 per cent in the year to December, Australia’s economic growth is expected to slow to 3.4 per cent in 2022-23.i
Unemployment, currently at 4 per cent, is expected to fall to 3.75 per cent in the September quarter. The government is banking on a tighter labour market pushing up wages which are forecast to grow at a rate of 3.25 per cent in 2023 and 2024. Wage growth has improved over the past year but at 2.3 per cent, it still lags well behind inflation of 3.5 per cent.ii
The Treasurer forecast a budget deficit of $78 billion in 2022-23 (3.4 per cent of GDP), lower than the $88.9 billion estimate as recently as last December, before falling to $43 billion (1.6 per cent of GDP) by the end of the forward estimates in 2025-26.
Net debt is tipped to hit an eye-watering $715 billion (31 per cent of GDP) in 2022-23 before peaking at 33 per cent of GDP in June 2026. This is lower than forecast but unthinkable before the pandemic sent a wrecking ball through the global economy.
Rising commodity prices
The big improvement in the deficit has been underpinned by the stronger than expected economic recovery and soaring commodity prices for some of our major exports.
Iron ore prices have jumped about 75 per cent since last November on strong demand from China, while wheat prices have soared 68 per cent over the year and almost 5 per cent in March alone after the war in Ukraine cut global supply.iii,iv
Offsetting those exports, Australia is a net importer of oil. The price of Brent Crude oil prices have surged 73 per cent over the year, with supply shortages exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.v Australian households are paying over $2 a litre to fill their car with petrol, adding to cost of living pressures and pressure on the government to act.
With the rising cost of fuel and other essentials, this is one of the areas targeted by the Budget. The following rundown summarises the measures most likely to impact Australian households.
Cost of living relief
As expected, the Treasurer announced a temporary halving of the fuel excise for the next six months which will save motorists 22c a litre on petrol. The Treasurer estimates a family with two cars who fill up once a week could save about $30 a week, or $700 in total over six months.
Less expected was the temporary $420 one-off increase in the low-to-middle-income tax offset (LMITO). It had been speculated that LMITO would be extended for another year, but it is now set to end on June 30 as planned.
The extra $420 will boost the offset for people earning less than $126,000 from up to $1,080 previously to $1,500 this year. Couples will receive up to $3,000. The additional offset, which the government says will ease inflationary pressures for 10 million Australians, will be available when people lodge their tax returns from 1 July.
The government will also make one-off cash payments of $250 in April to six million people receiving JobSeeker, age and disability support pensions, parenting payment, youth allowance and those with a seniors’ health card.
Temporarily extending the minimum pension drawdown relief
Self-funded retirees haven’t been forgotten. The temporary halving of the minimum income drawdown requirement for superannuation pensions will be further extended, until 30 June 2023.
This will allow retirees to minimise the need to sell down assets given ongoing market volatility. It applies to account-based, transition to retirement and term allocated superannuation pensions.
More support for home buyers
A further 50,000 places a year will be made available under various government schemes to help more Australians buy a home.
This includes an additional 35,000 places for the First Home Guarantee where the government underwrites loans to first-home buyers with a deposit as low as 5 per cent. And a further 5,000 places for the Family Home Guarantee which helps single parents buy a home with as little as 2 per cent deposit.
There is also a new Regional Home Guarantee, which will provide 10,000 guarantees to allow people who have not owned a home for five years to buy a new property outside a major city with a deposit of as little as 5 per cent.
Support for parents
The government is expanding the paid parental leave scheme to give couples more flexibility to choose how they balance work and childcare.
Dad and partner pay will be rolled into Paid Parental Leave Pay to create a single scheme that gives the 180,000 new parents who access it each year, increased flexibility to choose how they will share it.
In addition, single parents will be able to take up to 20 weeks of leave, the same as couples.
Health and aged care
One of the Budget surprises in the wake of the Aged Care Royal Commission findings, was the absence of spending on additional aged care workers and wages.
Instead, $468 million will be spent on the sector with most of that ($340 million) earmarked to provide on-site pharmacy services.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is also set for a $2.4 billion shot in the arm over five years, adding new medicines to the list. PBS safety net thresholds will also be reduced, so patients with high demand for prescription medicines won’t have to get as many scripts.
A $547 million mental health and suicide prevention support package includes a $52 million funding boost for Lifeline.
And as winter approaches, the government will spend a further $6 billion on its COVID health response.
Jobs, skills development and small business support
As the economy and demand for skilled workers grow, the government is providing more funding for skills development with a focus on small business. It will provide a funding boost of $3.7 billion to states and territories with the potential to provide 800,000 training places.
In addition, eligible apprentices and trainees in “priority industries” will be able to access $5,000 in retention payments over two years, while their employers will also receive wage subsidies.
Small businesses with annual turnover of less than $50 million will be able to deduct a bonus 20 per cent for the cost of training their employees, so for every $100 they spend, they receive a $120 tax deduction.
Similarly, for every $100 these businesses spend to digitalise their businesses, up to an outlay of $100,000, they will receive a $120 tax deduction. This includes things such as portable payment devices, cyber security systems and subscriptions to cloud-based services.
With an election less than two months away, the government will be hoping it has done enough to quell voter concerns about the rising cost of living, while safeguarding Australia’s ongoing economic recovery.
The local economy faces strong headwinds from the war in Ukraine, the cost of widespread flooding along much of the east coast and the ongoing pandemic.
Much depends on the hopes for the rise in employment and wages to offset rising inflation, and the timing and extent of interest rate rises by the Reserve Bank.
If you have any questions about any of the Budget measures, don’t hesitate to call us.
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.
iv, v https://tradingeconomics.com/commodities
Trying to time investment markets is difficult if not impossible at the best of times, let alone now. The war in Ukraine, rising inflation and interest rates and an upcoming federal election have all added to market uncertainty and volatility.
At times like these investors may be tempted to retreat to the ‘’safety” of cash, but that can be costly. Not only is it difficult to time your exit, but you are also likely to miss out on any upswing that follows a dip.
Take Australian shares. Despite COVID and the recent wall of worries on global markets, Aussie shares soared 64 per cent in the two years from the pandemic low in March 2020 to the end of March 2022.i Who would have thought?
So what lies ahead for shares? The recent Federal Budget contained some clues.
The economic outlook
The Budget doesn’t only outline the government’s spending priorities, it provides a snapshot of where Treasury thinks the Australian economy is headed. While forecasts can be wide of the mark, they do influence market behaviour.
As you can see in the table below, Australia’s economic growth is expected to peak at 4.25 per cent this financial year, underpinned by strong company profits, employment growth and surging commodity prices. Our economy is growing at a faster rate than the global average of 3.75 per cent, and ahead of the US and Europe, which helps explain why Australian shares have performed so strongly.ii
However, growth is expected to taper off to 2.5 per cent by 2023-24, as key commodity prices fall from their current giddy heights by the end of September this year, turning this year’s 11% rise in our terms of trade to a 21 per cent fall in 2022-23.
Table: Australian economy (% change on previous year)
|Actual %||Forecasts %|
|Gross domestic product (GDP)||1.5||4.25||3.5||2.5|
|Consumer prices index (CPI)||3.8||4.25||3.0||2.75|
|Wage price index||1.7||2.75||3.25||3.25|
|Terms of trade*||10.4||11||-21.25||-8.75|
*Key commodity prices assumed to decline from current high levels by end of September quarter 2022
Source: TreasuryCommodity prices have jumped on the back of supply chain disruptions during the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. While much depends on the situation in Ukraine, Treasury estimates that prices for iron ore, oil and coal will all drop sharply later this year.
So, what does all this mean for shares?
Share market winners and losers
Rising commodity prices have been a boon for Australia’s resources sector and demand should continue while interest rates remain low and global economies recover from their pandemic lows.
Government spending commitments in the recent Budget will also put extra cash in the pockets of households and the market sectors that depend on them. This is good news for companies in the retail sector, from supermarkets to specialty stores selling discretionary items.
Elsewhere, building supplies, construction and property development companies should benefit from the pipeline of big infrastructure projects combined with support for first home buyers and a strong property market.
Increased Budget spending on defence, and a major investment to improve regional telecommunications, should also flow through to listed companies that supply those sectors as well as the big telcos and internet providers.
However, while Budget spending is a market driver in the short to medium term there are other influences on the horizon for investors to be aware of.
Rising inflation and interest rates
With inflation on the rise in Australia and the rest of the world, central banks are beginning to lift interest rates from their historic lows. Australia’s Reserve Bank has recently raised the official cash rate after 11 1/2 years of no increases.
Global bond markets are already anticipating higher rates, with yields on Australian and US 10-year government bonds jumping to 2.98 per cent and 2.67 per cent respectively. However, the yield on some US shorter-term bonds temporarily rose above 2.7 per cent recently. Historically, this so-called “inverse yield curve” has indicated recession at worst, or an economic slowdown.iii
Rising inflation and interest rates can slow economic growth and put a dampener on shares. At the same time, higher interest rates are a cause for celebration for retirees and anyone who depends on income from fixed interest securities and bank deposits. But it’s not that black and white.
While rising interest rates and volatile markets generally constrain returns from shares, some sectors still tend to outperform the market. This includes the banks, because they can charge borrowers more, suppliers and retailers of staples such as food and drink, and healthcare among others.
Putting it all together
In uncertain times when markets are volatile, it’s natural for investors to be a little nervous. But history shows there are investment winners and losers at every point in the economic cycle. At times like these, the best strategy is to have a well-diversified portfolio with a focus on quality.
For share investors, this means quality businesses with stable demand for their goods or services and those able to pass on increased costs to customers.
If you would like to discuss your overall investment strategy don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Most of us dream of the day we can stop working and start ticking off our bucket list. Whether you dream of cruising Alaska, watching the sun rise over Uluru, improving your golf handicap or spending time with the grandkids, superannuation is likely to be a major source of your retirement income.
IMPORTANT – Please take time to read – IMPORTANT
DO NOT SKIP OVER THIS – Changes to insurance in super ahead.
From 1 July 2019, superannuation fund members with inactive accounts risk losing their insurance cover unless they actively opt-in to retain their cover. Legislation to make this change effective received Royal Assent on 14 March 2019. The final legislation has impacted both members who have voluntarily taken out personal insurance in a ‘choice’ fund, along with the intended MySuper account holders who may have insurance they are not aware of under an automatic acceptance group superannuation policy.
This measure was originally announced in the 2018 Federal Budget under the “Protecting your super package” proposals. These proposals aim to address concerns that superannuation balances are being eroded by premiums that members may not need or may not be aware of. The Government had also introduced two other insurance measures in the main Bill which also relate to opting in to cover, however, these did not pass as certain members of parliament did not support the proposals.
The outstanding measures propose that superannuation fund trustees must only provide insurance to a member of a choice or MySuper product if directed by the member where the member:
- Is under 25 years old and begins to hold a new product on or after 1 October 2019, or
- Holds a product with a balance of less than $6,000 (and the balance has not been $6,000 or more on or after 1 July 2019).
These measures were reintroduced into a new Bill called Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Members’ Interests First) Bill 2019 however as the Government has set 18 May 2019 as the date for the next federal election, parliament is now dissolved and Bills that have not been passed by the parliament have lapsed. It would be up to the new Government to reintroduce this Bill after the election, if they wish to do so.
The changes for inactive accounts – what it means for members/clients
From 1 July 2019, trustees of a MySuper or choice fund are prohibited from providing insurance where:
- The member’s account is inactive for a continuous period of 16 months or more, and
- The member has not elected to obtain or maintain insurance in that fund.
In other words, from 1 July 2019 a member must opt-in to hold insurance in an inactive superannuation account. An account will be considered inactive if no amount has been received by the trustee in respect of the member (such as contributions or rollovers) for a continuous period of 16 months. The period of inactivity will be reset if a superannuation fund receives an amount in respect of the member. Despite these new rules, a member’s right to be covered by insurance for the period for which premiums have been paid for at the time of their account becoming inactive is unaffected.
Tip – the new insurance rules do not apply to:
- Self-managed superannuation funds or small APRA funds
- Members whose employer makes contributions to a fund on their behalf in addition to superannuation guarantee obligations, which cover the full costs of the member’s insurance premiums
- Defined benefit members, or
- Australian Defence Force (ADF) Super members (or a person who would have been an ADF Super member if they had not exercised choice).
What trustees will be doing Trustees are obligated to notify affected members who have insurance arrangements in place before 1 July 2019 in order to provide these members with an opportunity to elect for their insurance cover to continue.
From 1 April 2019, trustees will be identifying which members’ accounts have been inactive for the continuous period from 1 October 2018 to 31 March 2019.
On or before 1 May 2019, trustees must give those identified members written notice that:
- From 1 July 2019, the fund will not provide the member with insurance cover if the account remains inactive for a continuous period of 16 months, and
- Cover can be maintained if the member elects to do so, and
- Sets out a method for electing to opt-in to obtain or maintain insurance.
Trustees are not required to provide a notice to members with an inactive account on 1 April 2019 if the member has made a valid written election between 8 May 2018 and 1 April 2019 to opt in to obtain or maintain insurance cover.
What actions are needed
Members with inactive superannuation accounts who wish to retain their cover can either:
- Contribute or rollover an amount to their superannuation fund prior to 1 July 2019 to make it active, or • Submit a valid election in writing to their superannuation fund prior to 1 July 2019 to maintain their insurance cover
Tip – If a member wants to retain their cover, they only have to submit a valid written notice to their fund once. The election will apply even if the member’s account is inactive for a continuous period of 16 months in the future.
A member can also choose to do nothing if they have an inactive account and do not want their insurance to continue. It is important to note that contributing or rolling over an amount to a superannuation fund will only rectify inactivity in that fund for a maximum of 16 months, as an account can become inactive again if no further contributions or rollovers are received.
Whether you are still relaxing on your summer break or back at work, we hope you and your families have a happy and successful year ahead.
As a new year begins, it is always valuable to look in the rear-view mirror at the year behind us to see how we got here and if there are lessons to be learned.
It was not the result investors hoped for, but the late pullback in global financial markets in 2018 was more a sign of uncertainty and unfinished business than the state of the global economy. In this snapshot, we review 2018 and the issues that weighed on investors’ minds. From US interest rates to the US-China trade stand-off, Brexit, falling commodity prices, Australian political uncertainty and falling house prices, there was plenty to divert attention from solid economic gains.
Getting the right balance
Treasurer Scott Morrison’s Federal Budget 2017 was different to the first budget of the Coalition and marked a significant shift in tone from the tough stance of its three previous budgets.
Gone is the mantra of debt and deficit.
Instead the Treasurer has balanced the government’s resolve to live within its means with promises to tackle the cost of living and provide the services people need to get ahead.
Autumn has arrived after a flurry of economic data on the home front during February. The company reporting season for the six months to December was extremely positive overall, confirming that corporate Australia is in good shape. READ MORE HERE
Summer’s here and the countdown to the holidays begins in earnest. After such an eventful year on the global political and economic front, investors will no doubt be looking forward to some time out to relax with family and friends. READ MORE HERE