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A super catch-up plan

It's a number that can only be described as mindboggling: $400 million a day.

         

That's the total amount of money that has been withdrawn from Australia's retirement savings system under the federal government's special early release measure since it became effective in late April.

From 20 April, individuals financially affected by COVID-19 have been able to apply online through the myGov website to access up to $10,000 from their superannuation account tax-free this financial year.

So far, around 1.1 million Australians have collectively withdrawn close to $12 billion in superannuation – with an average withdrawal amount of about $8,000 according to the Australian Tax Office.

Superannuation funds, particularly the industry funds with large membership bases covering workers in the hard-hit hospitality and retail sectors, have been flooded with withdrawal requests.

The vast bulk of those requests have been from individuals with less than $10,000 in their accounts, with another sizeable proportion of applications coming from people with less than $20,000 in super.

In the context of Australia's total superannuation system, which is managing almost $3 trillion in assets on behalf of members, the amount that has been withdrawn to date represents less than 0.5 per cent.

However, the volume of superannuation money being taken out of the system is climbing day by day.

There is still over a month until the end of this financial year, and then a second tranche of the superannuation withdrawal measure comes into effect. Individuals who have been made redundant, or who have lost 20 per cent or more of their regular income, can access $10,000 of their superannuation from 1 July until 24 September, 2020.

In many cases, applications are likely to come in from the same individuals who withdrew $10,000 of superannuation savings before 30 June.

The cost of early access

As we've detailed in previous articles, the cost of accessing superannuation early primarily comes down to the forsaking of future compound returns.

For someone close to retirement, let's say less than 10 years away, the net returns cost of pulling out savings early won't be as great as for a younger person.

Our Investment Strategy Group recently did some calculations based on a balanced multi-asset managed fund containing a mix of equities and fixed income, with an average net return of 6 per cent per annum.

For an investor who has 20 years until retirement, the value of a $10,000 withdrawal is estimated to be worth $32,100 at retirement. Over the course of 40 years, the impact of the $10,000 withdrawal on the retirement savings climbs to $102,900, while a $20,000 withdrawal means an investor would have $205,700 less at their disposal.

A way back

It's still very early days, but there's already discussion in financial circles around the need to entice individuals in the post COVID-19 environment – especially those who have withdrawn superannuation – to replenish their retirement savings incrementally over time through additional concessional contributions (taxed at 15 per cent).

This discussion is being framed into the wider debate around the ultimate purpose of superannuation, which is enshrined in the Superannuation (Objective) Bill 2016 as “to provide income in retirement to substitute or supplement the Age Pension”.

Last September the federal treasurer announced an independent review into Australia's retirement income system, with the final report from that Retirement Income Review due to be provided to the government by June.

The longer-term consideration for individuals who have needed to withdraw superannuation because of the COVID-19 crisis is perhaps around developing a savings plan for further down the track, once they are in a more stable employment position.

Which could involve allocating small amounts of earnings back into superannuation over a long period in addition to the compulsory employer-paid Superannuation Guarantee levy contributions.

There are also much more generous rules in place now around making larger superannuation contribution catch-ups, well beyond the standard annual limitations.

In our recent article Do your investment goals stack up?, we pointed to the importance of having a financial plan and the need to reassess one's goals when unforeseen events occur, such as those currently being experienced.

In the current environment, the need for having a long-term financial plan that incorporates having adequate retirement savings in place is arguably more than important than ever.

 

Tony Kaye
Personal Finance Writer
26 May 2020
vanguardinvestments.com.au

 

Court decides on taxable capital gains distributions

The Federal Court has determined whether trusts that distribute capital gains to non-resident beneficiaries are taxable and will need to be included in their assessable income.

         

The case of Peter Greensill Family Co Pty Ltd (as trustee) v Federal Commissioner of Taxation [2020] FCA 559 sought to determine whether the trustee was entitled to disregard its capital gains when it made a foreign resident beneficiary specifically entitled to those gains.

In making the decision, Judge Thawley found that:

  • It was the trustee that made the capital gain.
     
  • The trustee was not a foreign resident, so section 855-10 did not apply to the trustee.
     
  • Section 855-10 also did not apply to the foreign resident beneficiary as the distribution was not a capital gain “from” a CGT event, but a distribution of “amount” equal to the capital gain made by the trustee.

In a blog, Murray Shume of Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers noted the capital gains tax event occurred in relation to shares that were not taxable Australian property.

“Under section 855-10 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, foreign residents are entitled to disregard any capital gain or loss from a CGT event that happens in relation to a CGT asset that is not taxable Australian property,” Mr Shume said.

“In Greensill, Thawley J found that section 855-10 did not apply when foreign beneficiaries were specifically entitled to capital gains from an Australian resident trust. Therefore, the trustee was required to pay tax on the capital gain.”

Mr Shume said the decision has implications for distribution resolutions for the 2020 income year.

“In deciding how to make distributions of capital gains for this income year, trustees should consider the tax consequences of distributing capital gains to non-resident beneficiaries,” Mr Shume said.

 

 

Adrian Flores
25 May 2020
smsfadviser.com

 

SMSF liquidity lessons learnt from the pandemic

Sometimes it is true that you don't know what you've got.  ​Till it's gone.  Music aficionados will recognise that line from Joni Mitchell's 1970s hit Big Yellow Taxi.

         

There will be many lessons we learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our lives and our investment portfolios.

Few people will view risk – be it to their health or their investments – through the same lens again.

Rewind to the early days of a bright new year in January. The notion of a global pandemic that would infect more than 7 million people and result in more than 400,000 deaths (to date) and shut down large parts of the economy would have belonged firmly in the realm of Hollywood disaster movies rather than something you or your super fund had reason to worry about.

Liquidity is one of those things that investors – both professional and individual – can take for granted particularly after an extended period of relatively strong growth in investment markets and in Australia's case, no economic recession for 29 years.

Times of severe market disruption effectively stress test portfolios and their need for liquidity.

Large superannuation funds have been part of the public debate on liquidity in part because of their need to rebalance portfolios affected by the drop in market values but also because of the wide-ranging package of support measures initiated by the Federal Government that included varying the criteria for early access to super up to $20,000.

But it is not just large super funds that will be rethinking their approach to liquidity. Self-managed super funds also need to factor in the need for liquidity – particularly when they are approaching or indeed are already in the drawdown or pension phase.

Superannuation, by its nature and design, is a long-term investment. So liquidity can be traded off to a degree when the funds will not be needed to be drawn down for 30 or 40 years. Accordingly, for those SMSF trustees in their 30s or 40s liquidity is more an opportunity than a risk.

However, if you are approaching retirement the situation shifts significantly. The purpose of super is to provide the income to fund or supplement your lifestyle once the regular paycheck has stopped.

How you manage your funds' liquidity is always important but becomes critical when you hit the pension years because it is your responsibility as the trustee of your SMSF to be able to pay expenses of the fund and benefits to members as required. The liquidity challenge for an SMSF that is invested in one illiquid asset such as property can be dramatic when things do not go to plan.

There are a variety of strategies that specialist SMSF advisers deploy based on an individual's circumstances. But there are a number of risk areas for SMSFs in particular those with concentrated direct property portfolios.

Last year the Australian Tax Office sent letters to 18,000 trustees of SMSFs asking about the diversification within the fund's portfolio – the letter was sent to funds that had more than 90 per cent of their fund's assets in a single asset class – typically a property.

The ATO was not saying you could not invest everything in the one asset class – it just wanted trustees to be sure they understood the risks – particularly if limited recourse borrowing was involved – on return, volatility and liquidity and a properly considered investment strategy.

At the time there was commentary around whether it was a proper role for the ATO to ask such a question; for trustees that heeded the warning about the risks of lack of diversification and the potential liquidity risk it was prescient indeed.

An iteration of this article was first published in The Age on 13 May 2020.

 

Written by Robin Bowerman
Head of Corporate Affairs at Vanguard
19 May 2020
vanguardinvestments.com.au

 

Do your investment goals stack up?

There's an old saying, to only focus on the things in life that you can control.

         

But that adage has been well and truly stress tested on just about every level over the past few months because of the uncontrollable events stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

On an investment portfolio management level particularly, it's been difficult if not impossible to have much control amid the wild daily fluctuations in the values of many financial securities.

And, on a household level, the repercussions arising from lockdown restrictions and widespread business closures are that many families are now experiencing unprecedented financial strain because of a sudden loss of regular employment income, investment income, or both.

Of course, we all still have some elements of life control and maybe the current conditions are an opportunity to reflect on our investments goals to see if they still make sense and are realistic.

Depending on your circumstances, which may have necessitated impromptu investment actions during the crisis – such as the withdrawal of some superannuation funds or the selling of other financial assets – some goal adjustments may be prudent.

Last week, we referred to the Australian Tax Office now requiring SMSF trustees to not only review their investment strategies regularly, but to justify them.

The same sort of investment review also makes sense outside of the superannuation sphere.

Revisit your investment framework

Regardless of where and how you invest, creating clear financial goals is one of the fundamental pillars for having the best chance of achieving investment success.

Your goals should be well defined and as realistic as possible based on your current financial situation. If circumstances change, it makes sense to review them.

A review needs to take into account your immediate financial needs, and how they may impact your longer-term financial objectives.

Any adjustments will need to take into account factors such as your age, how your household income-earning capacity is likely to change over the short and medium term, and cater for revised expectations on investment returns over the longer-term.

Ideally, investment goals should always have a long-term focus and be designed to endure through changing financial environments over time, including periodic downturns in equity and property markets.

They should also take into account the potential for loss of income over time, which can be partially mitigated through appropriate personal insurance coverage.

Allowing for market risks

The current events have highlighted that investment risks are ever-present, and that when major value corrections do occur on markets they are usually widely unexpected.

In setting investment goals, it's important both to understand that risk is a key factor in investment returns and to build in your own tolerance for risk.

Market risks and potential returns are generally related, in the desire for higher returns will invariably require taking on greater exposure to market risk.

A current example of this is in the fixed interest market, where investors with a higher-risk tolerance have invested into bond issues from companies with low-quality credit ratings (see Know your bonds, they're not all the same). The investment temptation has been the issuers' high income payments, however recent events have seen a large number of these companies default on their debt repayments.

Other key aspects in setting and reviewing goals is your investment time horizon, liquidity requirements, tax obligations, legal issues, or unique factors such as a desire to avoid certain investments entirely. Constraints can change over time, and should be closely monitored.

The danger of lacking a plan

Without an investment plan, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture and to end up with a portfolio that's not well balanced across different asset classes.

As a result your portfolio may wind up being concentrated in a certain market sector (see Over-concentration risk comes to the fore), or it may have so many holdings that oversight of your portfolio becomes onerous.

Most often, investors are led into such situations by common, avoidable mistakes such as performance-chasing, market-timing, or reacting to market “noise.”

Many investors—both individuals and institutions—are moved to action by the performance of the broad equity market, increasing equities exposure during bull markets and reducing it during bear markets. Such “buy high, sell low” behaviour is evident in managed fund cash flows that mirror what appears to be an emotional response—fear or greed—rather than a rational one.

Stay focused on your goals

A sound investment plan can help you to avoid such behaviour, because it demonstrates the purpose and value of asset allocation, diversification, and rebalancing. It also helps you to stay focused on your intended contribution and spending rates.

Vanguard believes investors should employ their time and effort up front, on the plan, rather than in ongoing evaluation of each new idea that hits the headlines. This simple step can pay off tremendously in helping you stay on the path toward your financial goals.

Being realistic is essential to this process. You need to recognise your constraints and understand the level of risk you are able to accept.

In reviewing your investment goals, don't underestimate the importance of professional financial advice (find out about Quality financial advice in our Plain Talk library).

A financial adviser can help in developing a framework around your long-term goals and financial capabilities, which can be reviewed regularly over time.

 

 

 

Tony Kaye
Personal Finance Writer
12 May 2020
vanguardinvestments.com.au

 

Retirement income framework deferred due to COVID-19

The government’s introduction of the Retirement Income Covenant scheduled to start on 1 July has been deferred to allow continued consultation and legislative drafting to take place following the coronavirus crisis.

         

In a statement, Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology Jane Hume said the deferral will also allow drafting of this measure to be informed by the Retirement Income Review.

The revised date will be determined following further consultation on the Covenant.

Ms Hume said the purpose of the Retirement Income Covenant is to establish an additional obligation for trustees to formulate a retirement income strategy for their members.

“We’ve been working for some time on a Retirement Income Covenant. While efficient accumulation is imperative and we are steadily chipping away at the inefficiencies of that part of the system, we need to build a smoother transition from the accumulation to the de-accumulation phase,” Ms Hume said.

“Of course, there is nothing stopping funds and their trustees from developing retirement income strategies now, and we’d encourage them to do so. Trustees don’t need to wait for us to legislate the Covenant.”

 

 

Adrian Flores
25 May 2020
smsfadviser.com

 

How to stay the course in retirement

In the past few weeks, we have seen economies be brought to a standstill by COVID-19, unprecedented social measures announced by governments around the world, and a new, unusual rhythm of living that many of us are still settling into.

         

In the past few weeks, we have seen economies be brought to a standstill by COVID-19, unprecedented social measures announced by governments around the world, and a new, unusual rhythm of living that many of us are still settling into.

Although it might feel like things are calming down a little as markets begin to seesaw with less extremity, it's still the case that uncertainty ahead is likely to be the only constant. Even for the most measured of investors, staying the course in such times can be challenging, and perhaps particularly so for those who have retired.

You may have read in the news that many investors are “buying the dip” and taking advantage of trading opportunities caused by the volatility, with the view that share prices will eventually rise again. But for many in retirement, the first instinct is not to capitalise, but to protect. And advice to stay the course, while important, can feel a little off base when your super fund's portfolio has dropped sharply and you are starting to feel a bit helpless.

Here are three options to consider if you're in the retiree camp.

Reassess your asset allocation

Staying the course doesn't necessarily mean do nothing. More practically, it means sticking to your investment plan but periodically re-evaluating your asset mix to ensure it's still aligned to your goals, time frame and appetite for risk.

In light of all this volatility, perhaps you are now realising your tolerance for market risk is not as high as you previously thought – or you were comfortable but hadn't got around to updating/reviewing since you retired. In a severe market event like this you want to avoid trading in response to market moves and locking in losses. But it does make sense to revaluate your risk tolerance and consider how to rebalance your portfolio and lean towards fixed income products. One way to do this can be to redirect your investment distributions to conservative fixed income funds so you can build up the defensive portion of your portfolio over time.

Rethink discretionary spending

Reducing spending where possible goes without saying during difficult times but nobody would label it an ideal solution. But while you can't control the market nor predict its movements, your discretionary spending is however a factor that you can adjust.

For example, let's say your portfolio was valued at $950,000 at the beginning of the year.

Assuming a six per cent average annual return throughout retirement, you estimate you have a total amount of $4,750 to spend a month. If all other factors remain the same but your portfolio balance declines by 25% (to $712,500), your estimated monthly income drops by almost $1,200 a month (to about $3560).

For the time being, tightening your belt slightly in step with your reduced portfolio balance might help ease financial stress and help navigate through the crisis.

Relay concerns to a trusted adviser

The value of a good financial adviser often shines most brightly during periods of market uncertainty. When you're not sure what best to do, advisers can offer guidance and support that's tailored to your individual circumstances.

According to some research Vanguard recently conducted into the value of financial advice, it was noted that instead of purely focusing on portfolio and financial value, it is also worth assessing the value advisers can bring from an emotional standpoint.

Peace of mind can't be quantified in dollar terms but it is perhaps just as important as the figure on your portfolio statement. A second, professional opinion can calm your nerves or boost your confidence during these unsettling times. And if you're feeling particularly affected by the last few weeks, it might also help you readopt the right mindset to make considered investment decisions for your future.

Staying the course isn't always as easy as it sounds, but by keeping emotions in check and focusing on the factors you can control, you might weather this storm better than you think.

 

Written by Robin Bowerman
Head of Corporate Affairs at Vanguard
15 April 2020
vanguardinvestments.com.au

 

 

Superannuation for younger investors

The Australian superannuation industry has been in the headlines almost every day in the past few weeks, with the Federal Government predicting that as many as 1.7 million people will look to access their superannuation early as part of COVID-19 relief measures.

       

The key message is that accessing your super may be a critical matter of meeting life's necessities in the wake of a global pandemic – but explore all other options first because the long-term cost on your potential retirement savings is significant.

An interesting by-product of all the discussion about early access to superannuation is that it may have sparked the interest of younger investors who haven't always paid the closest attention to their own situation.

According to a research report by the Financial Services Council, the majority of young adults do not check their superannuation accounts and those under 35 were more likely to not know how much money they currently held.

With superannuation so topical, now could be a good time to learn a little more about it, even if retirement seems a long way away – particularly if you do not need to access but have rediscovered multiple accounts that you may have not got around to consolidating and still costing you in fees.

Superannuation 101

Superannuation is essentially money you regularly put into a fund in preparation for when you retire. It is deducted from your pre-tax earnings and when you stop earning a wage, your superannuation funds will be what helps provide you with a regular income in retirement.

Your employer is responsible for paying your superannuation into your specified fund at a compulsory contribution rate of 9.5 per cent of your annual salary. This applies to everyone who earns A$450 a week before tax.

Your superannuation fund then manages your money for you and invests it – either in their default fund or in the investment option of your choice.

Superannuation strategies

One of the simplest things you can do to manage your superannuation is to make sure you only have one account. If you've had multiple jobs in the past, your employer may have selected a default superannuation fund for you. And the more accounts you have, the more fees you are paying and the more your balance gets eroded. You can access ATO services to consolidate your superannuation via the MyGov website.

You are also able to select an investment option for your super, typically growth, balanced or conservative. Each investment option differs in their risk and return. A growth option will usually invest more of your superannuation in higher risk assets such as shares or properties, whereas a conservative option will invest more in lower-risk assets such as fixed income or defensive assets.

One of the key advantages that younger investors have is time, for the simple fact that the longer you have to invest, the more opportunity you have to realise returns. Choosing a high growth investment option earlier on means that although it may be riskier, you have the time to ride out market cycles and capitalise on the good years before you reach retirement. You also have time to reap the benefits of compounding interest on your superannuation balance.

Another strategy to consider is voluntarily contributing funds to your superannuation if you are in a position to do so. Even small amounts add up over time, and could reduce the tax you pay. According to the government's Money Smart website, these concessional contributions are generally tax effective if you earn more than $37,000 a year as they are taxed at 15 per cent. This might be lower than your marginal tax rate. But just remember there is a cap to how much you can voluntarily contribute a year.

Early access

While ultimately the decision to withdraw superannuation should be determined by your own financial situation, it is also important to understand the potential impacts of doing so. Based on an average net return of 6 per cent per annum, the value of $20,000 (the maximum you can withdraw) could grow to approximately $205,000 in 40 years.

Drawing down on your superannuation right now also means you are selling assets when the market values have fallen because of the uncertainty around COVID-19 and the economic impacts. You are asking your superannuation fund to sell your assets at a lower market price and even if you intend to repay it over time cashing out now may mean you can't recover this value when the market rebounds over time.

Conclusion

For those in their 20s or 30s, superannuation won't seem like a priority when you may have only recently entered the workforce. And day-to-day living expenses take precedence so voluntarily contributing more to your superannuation won't seem too appealing when you usually can't access those funds until you turn 67.

But superannuation is more than just a distant pile of money for future you, it also represents financial independence and freedom, and is best cultivated from an early age. This is especially true in recent years where millennials are experiencing record low interest rates, a tough housing market to crack and low wage growth. Making the right investment decisions about your superannuation may be an accessible way to growth your wealth right now.

 

Written by Robin Bowerman
Head of Corporate Affairs at Vanguard
29 April 2020
vanguardinvestments.com.au

 

 

Consumer satisfaction up for SMSFs, down for industry funds

New data from Roy Morgan has shown self-managed superannuation and public sector funds both increased their customer satisfaction rates in March, despite significant market upheaval, but their industry and retail counterparts were not so lucky.

           

Self-managed super funds received the highest level of customer satisfaction (75 per cent), up by 0.3 of a percentage point from February, while public sector funds increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 74.5 per cent. 

In contrast, industry fund satisfaction fell by 1.1 per cent in a month to 64.4 per cent, while retail funds were down by 0.2 of a percentage point to 60 per cent. 

Roy Morgan chief executive Michele Levine said that although longer-term trends show increased customer satisfaction levels, shorter term it is a very different picture.

“The average satisfaction rating across all superannuation funds is 64.2 per cent in March, a 3.4 per cent increase from a year ago,” Ms Levine said.

“However, this annual comparison misses a fall of 0.6 [of a percentage point] in the month of March after the ASX 200 market peaked in late February.

“Driving this fall has been a monthly decline of 1.1 per cent for industry funds in March.”

She noted the early super withdrawal option over the next six months will add to further challenges for the retail and industry funds.

“Industry funds based on employees in hospitality and retail industries are particularly exposed to this policy as many of their workers have been stood down in recent weeks as Australia fights the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic,” Ms Levine said.

“A majority of industry funds had declining month-on-month satisfaction in March, and the challenge for all superannuation funds going forward will be finding ways to maintain customer satisfaction amid trying market conditions, reduced returns and ongoing uncertainty.”

 

 

Sarah Simpkins
24 April 2020
smsfadviser.com

 

 

Our Website, your resources

Coronavirus resources have been added to the many others we supply our clients.  Resources such as many latest news articles, educational videos (updated recently), client portals, calculators, and stock prices.  You have 24/7 access to all these tools and resources.  Any question, simply ask. *

         

Latest News. 7-9 individual articles every month and all chosen for their relevance. Our website is a great place to stay informed.

Videos. All are relevant, interesting, educational and interesting. Videos that are changed three times a year to ensure you and your family are able to lean about many issues related financial issues and topics.

Calculators. A good range of calculators to help you better understand and manage your personal and family financial issues. Four of the more popular are: Pay calculator, Budget Calculator, Loan Calculator, and Super Calculator

Client Portals. Portals are quite common on many sites and can be used to store your data, pay bills, log onto investment systems.

Ask us a question at any time. If you have a question on any related topic then don’t hesitate to use a form on our site to ask.

Your information is private and confidential and should be treated that way. Using Secure File transfer means your information is encrypted when sent in either direction over the Internet.

Many sites also have a message window feature that displays messages of interest or that cover topics and deadlines you should be aware of.

 

* Not all are on every website.

Your Financial Planner

ATO releases JobKeeper alternative test

The alternative decline in turnover test rules for the JobKeeper payment scheme has now been registered by the ATO.

         

The legislative instrument, Coronavirus Economic Response Package (Payments and Benefits) Alternative Decline in Turnover Test Rules 2020, has now been registered.

The alternative tests will only kick in if an entity cannot satisfy the basic decline in turnover test.
The explanatory statement notes that the alternative tests will only apply to seven circumstances.

These include where an entity commenced business after the relevant comparison period in 2019 or the business did not exist in the relevant comparison period and as a result there was no relevant comparison period in 2019.

It will also cover a circumstance where an entity acquired or disposed of part of their business after the relevant comparison period in 2019, and where an entity has restructured part or all of their business after the relevant comparison period in 2019.

Entities who had an increase in turnover by 50 per cent or more in the 12 months immediately before the applicable turnover test period, or 25 per cent or more in the six months immediately before the applicable turnover test period, or 12.5 per cent or more in the three months immediately before the applicable turnover test period, will also be covered.

The alternative test will also cover entities affected by a drought or other natural disaster in the relevant comparison period in 2019, and entities who have an irregular turnover that is not cyclical, such as what can occur in the building and construction sector.

A sole trader or a small partnership where the sole trader or one of the partners did not work for all or part of the relevant comparison period because they were sick, injured or on leave during the relevant comparison period, and those circumstances affects the turnover of the sole trader or partnership, will also be covered.

Each of the seven circumstances has its own alternative test that is detailed in the legislative instrument.

“The commissioner cannot determine an alternative decline in turnover test in all circumstances,” said the explanatory statement.

“It is only in those circumstances where there is an event or circumstance, be it internal or external to an entity, that is outside the usual business setting for entities of that class which results in the relevant comparison period in 2019 not being appropriate for the purpose of an entity in the class of entities satisfying the decline in turnover test.”

 

Jotham Lian
24 April 2020
smsfadviser.com

 

 

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