Financial Market Update: A review of December 2017

The month of December capped off a great year for investment markets.  Good returns with unusually low volatility provided ‘many happy returns’ for balanced and growth investors.

Australian fixed interest turned in a negative return, as longer term rates rose during the month. A widely expected rise in the US Federal Reserve rates pushed their Fed Funds rate up to 1.5%, the same as the Australian Official Cash Rate. The only negatives for the major asset classes for the month of December were International Shares, and Australian Fixed Interest. In fact, international shares were mostly positive in December, but the 3.0% rise in the Aussie dollar turned those gains into a negative return for the month.

On the currency front, the strong Australian dollar was in fact more about the US dollar which weakened by 10% versus a trade weighted basket of currencies over the 2017 year. This is a perverse outcome very few would have predicted given the US central bank was just about the only major global central bank raising rates during the year.

Downsizing into Retirement

The downsizer contribution initiative is due to come into effect on the 1 July 2018. Late last year the Government passed its policy which allows super fund members over the age of 65 to sell a main residence and contribute funds into their superannuation accounts without contribution cap and work test issues.

While it may seem quite straight forward, like any government policies, there are a few hoops to jump first. There are three key steps that need to be taken if a member would like to be eligible to make downsizer contributions.

 

#1: Eligibility

The first step a member needs to take is to confirm that their contributions will be eligible to be contributed to their fund. An eligible downsizer contribution is where:
 

1. the contribution is made to a complying super fund by a member aged 65 years or older;

2. the amount is equal to all or part of the capital proceeds received from the disposal of an ownership interest in a dwelling that qualifies as a main residence in Australia;

Are you Eligible? Government Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate

Update: Applications for the Queensland Government Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate are now open. To apply, go to www.qld.gov.au/appliancerebate.

Although purchasing appliances that are more energy efficient can have a higher upfront cost, they can lead to long term saving because of the amount of money you will save on your electricity bill yearly.

Choosing an energy efficient fridge or washing machine can save Queensland households up to $50 a year, and energy efficient air conditioners could save up to $135 per year. $20 million has been committed under the Affordable Energy Plan for rebates on approved energy efficient appliances, in order to assist Queensland households to improve their energy efficiency.

 

What are the rebates available?

Rebates will apply to purchases on or after 1 January 2018 of the following household appliances:

  • $200 for a 4 star energy rated washing machine
  • $250 for a 4 star energy rated refrigerator
  • $300 for a 4 star energy rated air conditioner.

When is the right time to start planning for retirement?

There is no magic number to start planning but the simple answer is, the earlier you start, the more chance you have to achieve the retirement that you dream of having.

The reason for this is because of the compounding interest effect. Below are some simple graphs showing how powerful this effect can be.

The first graph shows a beginning balance of $25,000 and rate of return of 6%, with no extra payments. Starting at age 25, by age 65 the balance has grown to over $257,000. If you delay the start by 10 years, the end balance is $143,500.

 

If you wanted to have $1 million at retirement age 65, the graph below shows how much you would have to save every month, using a 6% return, at different starting ages.

 

The table shows the amount that would have been personally contributed over the time to retirement and the compounded interest amount.

Financial Market Update: A Review of November’s Performance

The S&P/ASX200 Accumulation has now put in two solid months, following the October gain of 4.01% with another 1.64% in November. Twelve month returns are 14.61% almost double our expected annual 12 month returns of around 8.5%. This surge may have pulled forward some of the next twelve months expected gains.

 

Global Markets

Global markets also posted a good month, with gains of 3.24% and three month gains now at 11.33%. Emerging Markets, which we have favoured in our Managed Portfolios, are up 29.27% over the last year. We mentioned in the last update that Emerging Markets remain somewhat cheaper than developed markets, with arguably more to gain from structural reforms and demographic changes.

 

Real Estate Trusts

The A-REIT sector (real-estate trusts) saw gains of 5.29% for the month of November. This sector is coming back into favour after a sell-off based on concerns about higher bond rates and the arrival of Amazon which may (or may not) further hollow out the Australian retail sector.

Bitcoin and crypto-currency investment in an SMSF

The recent surge in the price of Bitcoin has many investors seriously looking at crypto-currency as a part of their SMSF investment portfolio.

So, can an SMSF invest in bitcoin and crypto currency, and if so, what must trustees and advisers be aware of?

There are a number of key areas that trustees need to consider and address if they are looking if invest their SMSF monies into Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies / crypto-assets.

 

Is it allowable under the SMSF trust deed?

For any investment to be allowed, it must specifically be enabled and included in the trust deed of the SMSF. As Bitcoin and other crypto-assets are part of a relatively new asset class, it is unlikely that most SMSF deed would include a provision for investing into these currencies.

The ATO’s view is the Bitcoin and other crypto-assets are NOT currencies:

“Our view is that bitcoin is neither money nor a foreign currency,

Desired Lifestyle vs. Realistic Living in Retirement for SMSF Trustees

When planning for retirement, it’s important to understand your SMSF household needs, and outline your goals with your adviser.

The latest report on the financial health of SMSF trustees heading into retirement has found that the amount needed for a 65-year-old couple to afford a comfortable retirement has risen by 17 percent from $702,000 in the previous year to $824,000.

Unfortunately, this report has also found that one in four are unlikely to achieve their SMSF goals.

 

Realistic wealth goals for SMSF trustees

Of course, achieving your ideal lifestyle is easier if you start with more wealth. The direct link is the greater level of initial wealth, the higher chance an SMSF household will be able to live their desired lifestyle in retirement.

The last seven years has seen a rising trend of median SMSF balances, but recent weak investment markets have resulted in low returns, and only a small increase. This brings the median balance for two member SMSFs to $1,137,000 with the median imputed investment return of 1.0 percent,

Financial Market Update: A Review of October’s Performance

The S&P/ASX200 Accumulation index finally put in a surge in October, with a gain of 4.01% in the month, shaking off a 6 month malaise. Twelve month numbers are back up to 16.13% almost double our expected annual 12 month returns of around 8.5%.

 

Global Markets

Global markets also had a good month, with gains of 4.29% and a rolling 12 month return that tops the charts at 22.53%. Emerging Markets posted even higher returns with a gain of 5.92% in October, and one year returns of 25.49%. Although vulnerable to negative events in the short term, Emerging Markets remain somewhat cheaper than developed markets, with arguably more to gain from structural reforms and demographic changes.

 

Bond Markets

Bond markets improved in October, posting a gain of 1.09% on average. However one year gains are still muted at 1.64%, held back by long bond yields that are drifting higher, albeit at a slow pace. 

Is your SMSF’s Estate Plan up to speed?

A recent survey of SMSFs revealed that estate planning is the highest unmet need for advice, estimated to affect 59,000 funds which equates to about 10% of the total number of SMSFs in Australia. Given demographic trends and the continued growth of SMSF numbers in Australia, this advice gap looks set to rise over time.

There are many good reasons to obtain advice on your SMSF’s estate arrangements, whether you need to plan carefully to cater for a blended family structure, to determine who is eligible to receive your SMSF death benefit, or simply ensure that the most tax effective outcome can be achieved for your beneficiaries.

Whatever the need is, it is imperative to ensure that the SMSF’s estate planning arrangements dovetail with each member’s other (non-superannuation) estate arrangements in order to achieve the right overall outcomes. Featuring prominently among these are the Will and Powers of Attorney, but there are also life insurance policies and entities such as discretionary trusts to consider.

Are you ready for retirement? Where to start.

One of the key challenges for people approaching retirement is adequately preparing for it. The other big challenge is gaining greater confidence in how their finances might look once retired.

Getting the right advice helps enormously with this, and likewise beginning the planning process earlier rather than later will reap rewards.

What are the stats?

A recent survey conducted by Vanguard of more than 5,500 people aged 55-75, across Australia, US, UK and Canada, showed that many reported that they experienced an increased level of satisfaction with their financial position upon retirement.

One contributor to this result was the higher incidence of people within the first 10 years of retirement seeking financial advice, compared with those still up to 10 years away.

Even amongst those who had access to some form of financial advice during the lead up to retiring, some still experienced regret about how well they prepared.

 

People’s biggest regrets

The biggest regrets of recent retirees included:

  • Not saving enough
  • Not starting the planning process early enough
  • Not spending enough time planning for it
  • Not learning enough about superannuation – in Australia,