posted in: Building Wealth
Financial Strategy Checklist
As we travel through the different stages of life, many of you may feel you are too busy to update your financial strategy regularly, or you may not even have one at all. We have put together a Financial Strategy Checklist to guide and remind you of the key aspects that a comprehensive financial strategy should include.
- Ensure your budget is up to date
The first thing you should consider updating is your budget or creating one if you do not have one already. Whilst you probably don’t want to run your day to day life from a spreadsheet, we recommend you take the time to review and update your budget at least annually to ensure you are remaining on track to achieve your financial goals.
Most people have a reasonable process for managing regular expenses such as food, rent, gym memberships, etc. However, when it comes to less frequent expenses such as holidays, gifts and the annual car registration, these expenses are often overlooked and can find their way onto the credit card or taken from savings.
For those thinking about purchasing a home and starting a family, understanding your future income and expenses during this time will be a crucial aspect of your decision-making process. It is important that couples are aware of potential changes to their income when starting a family, plus potential changes to their expenditure such as childcare costs. Having kids can often be a stressful time for most couples but this can be exasperated even further if cashflow becomes an issue during this period.
- Create a long-term investment strategy
You spend your life working hard and trying to progress up the corporate ladder, but many forget to take the time to develop their own personal investment strategy. Purchasing a home and contributing to superannuation is a key component of investing, however these steps alone will not usually be enough to become financially independent. Let’s remember, even if you pay off your home early this asset won’t provide you with an income when you stop working as you’re still living in the property. Making sure you take the time to develop a long-term investment strategy of growth assets i.e., shares and property, is vital if you’re to replace your working income with a passive investment income in the future.
When is best time to invest – the earlier the better!
When building an investment strategy, it really is a case of the earlier you get started the better off you will be financially. The compounded effect of investing means the longer you have your money invested, the more wealth you will create. Over the long-term shares and property have been proven to provide consistent growth and income, whereas assets such as cash and bonds are more aligned with income only.
The below table looks at how the median property prices for our three major capital cities have moved over time. Based on the below table, Sydney has grown at 8.2% p.a, Melbourne at 8.45% p.a and Brisbane at 8.1% p.a.
For the purpose of forecasting the potential cost of procrastination, let’s look at potential future property values for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Despite the 50-year average growth rate being approximately 8.2%, for the purpose of this exercise we’ve adopted a more conservative average growth rate of 4% p.a.
If you are 25 and decide to defer investing until you’re 35, the cost to you by delaying investment would be $265,000 in Brisbane and $465,800 in Sydney.
The real cost could be even higher than this, considering the 4% growth rate we have adopted is considerably lower than the previous 50year growth rate of approximately 8.2%.
Review your debt facilities
When looking at your overall financial position, it’s important to regularly review and update your borrowing arrangements as they can become uncompetitive over time. When the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cut their official cash rate, not all lenders pass on the full cut to their clients. Over time, a home or investment loan can become uncompetitive and it would be wise to consider switching banks or renegotiating your rate with your current lender.
Additionally, it also pays to regularly review other borrowing facilities such as credit cards. Credit cards are often charged at interest rates of 15% or more, however they can be often forgotten about as many borrowers satisfy themselves with making the minimum monthly repayment. Focusing on fully repaying these credit cards or even refinancing them, can result in significant savings over the long term.
- Check you are in the best super for you
It is important to check that you have the right superannuation strategy – both from a cost and investment perspective. The superannuation environment is constantly evolving, so a cost structure that was competitive five years ago may not be so competitive now. It can be difficult to work out the total fees paid, as superannuation charges can come in many forms:
- Administration fee
- Performance fee
- Investment Management fee
- Other fees such as advice fee, buy/sell fee
See below for a comparison from one industry super platform with an average fee of 0.68% vs another industry super platform with an average fee of 0.32% p.a. The below is based off a 35-year-old, earning $120,000 and is projected until age 65.
*the analysis above is provided by Midwinter, when comparing two superfunds with the same assumed growth rate.
When we compare the fee impact between the two super platforms funds, there is a difference of $95,018 at age 65.
But fees alone are only part of the superannuation puzzle, it’s also crucial investors have the right investment strategy to match their investment objectives. Many Australians end up in default investment funds provided by their superannuation platform, and whilst these default funds have improved significantly over time, they may not be the right choice for you.
Additionally, super by its very nature is a long-term investment strategy for most Australians under 55 and many others over 55. Taking a more growth orientated approach typically pays dividends over the long term. When reviewing the SunSuper investment returns (below), you can clearly see that the high growth fund outperforms the conservative fund, even if it is more volatility in the short term.
|SunSuper p.a. returns||1 years||5 years||7 years||10 years|
Having the most appropriate fee structure and investment strategy can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the long term.
- Evaluate your insurance options – is it out of date or do you even have any?
Another component to your financial health checklist is the inclusion of insurance. Personal insurance provides cover to you and your loved ones in the event of injury, sickness and death. Some insurances can be paid through super and the types of cover include:
- Pays a tax-free lump sum in the event of a serious medical diagnosis such as a heart attack or cancer
- Can pay up to 85% of your salary if you are unable to work due to accident, injury or illness. The policy costs can be tax deductable
Total Permanent Disability (TPD):
- Pays a tax-free lump sum if you suffer a serious event such as loss of limbs, coma and paralysis
- Pays a tax-free lump sum in the event of death or a terminal illness diagnosis
- Get your estate planning in order – Is it up to date? Do you even have one?
Ensuring you have a plan for your assets and affairs after you pass is a key part of any financial strategy. Putting together your estate plan will ensure these assets are handed over how you would want and in the most tax efficient way. This is particularly important when kids are involved, especially when it comes to the long-term guardianship of kids if something happens to both parents.
Many Australians do not have a will in place and those that do often have one that is either out of date or not suitable for their current circumstances. Structures such as a testamentary trust can provide some great benefits from a control and tax perspective.
Good estate planning doesn’t simply focus on death alone, but also includes situations when someone is incapacitated and may require a power of attorney (POA) for another person to make key decisions on their behalf.
- Run your own race – stay focused on what’s really important to you!
Whilst it may seem necessary to emulate the spending of your peers, it is important to focus on you and your financial goals. You may feel like you’re unable to keep up with your friends if you don’t have the latest car or haven’t been on an overseas holiday recently, but if you plan correctly and keep focused on your goals, you’ll have the ability to achieve the things that mean the most to you and your family.
Not judging your success by measuring your situation against others, can be a great way to remain on track when it comes to your financial objectives and long-term happiness.
This Financial Strategy Checklist is general in nature and does not constitute personal advice. The team at Montara Wealth recommend that you speak to a qualified professional before making any changes or implementing a financial strategy. If you wish to speak to someone from Montara Wealth about getting your affairs in order, please click here to arrange a complimentary consultation.
Get through these uncertain times
At Montara Wealth we work with clients who are at the very beginning of their financial journey, through to clients who are preparing for the later stages of their financial lives. Contact us today via the form below for a no obligation consulation or call 02 8330 3733 to talk to one of our advisers.