Tag Archives: Cash flow

Millions to get more Age Pension starting from 20 March 2024

By Robert Wright /May 28,2024/

Government Age Pension payments increased on 20 March, so if you’re one of the millions of eligible Australians, you’ll have a little more to spend.

The increases are designed to help address inflation and cost of living increases. Here’s what happened.

Age Pension payments increase in March 2024 due to indexation

Here are the maximum Age Pension payment rates that came into effect from 20 March, which are paid fortnightly, along with their respective annual equivalents. Single payments rose by $19.60 per fortnight, while combined payments for couples increased by $29.40.

Maximum Age Pension payments from 20 March 2024

  Fortnightly* Annually*
Single $1,116.30 $29,023.80
Previous payment $1,096.70 $28,514.20
Couple (each) $841.40 $21,876.40
Previous payment $826.70 $21,494.20
Couple (combined) $1,682.80 $43,752.80
Previous payment $1,653.40 $42,988.40

*Includes basic rate plus maximum pension and energy supplements

The payment rate increased 1.8%, indexed to inflation. Payments last increased in September 2023 and are likely to change again when they are next assessed this coming September.

Tip: Depending on how much super you have, you may be eligible to receive Age Pension payments in addition to income from your super savings.

Income and assets test thresholds increase for the Age Pension

The government reviews the Age Pension income and assets test thresholds in July each year. The upper thresholds also increase in March and September each year in line with Age Pension payment increases.

Whether you are eligible for the Age Pension depends on your age, residency and your income and assets.

If your income and assets are below certain limits (also known as thresholds), you may be eligible.

When determining how much you’re entitled to receive under the income and assets tests, the test that results in the lower amount of Age Pension applies.

Here are the income and assets test thresholds that apply as at 20 March, compared with previous thresholds.

Assets test thresholds comparison

The lower assets test threshold determines the point where the full Age Pension starts to reduce, while the upper assets test thresholds determine what the cutoff points are for the part Age Pension.

If the value of your assets falls between the lower and upper assets test thresholds, your entitlement will reduce.

The higher your assessable assets, the lower the amount of Age Pension you are eligible to receive.

Your family home is exempt from the assets test but, your investments, household contents and motor vehicles may be included.

Asset test thresholds from 20 March 2024

  Full Age Pension limit Part Age Pension cutoff
Single – Homeowner $301,750 (unchanged) $674,000
Previous threshold $301,750 $667,500
Single – Non-homeowner $543,750 (unchanged) $916,000
Previous threshold $543,750 $909,500
Couple (combined) – Homeowner $451,500 (unchanged) $1,012,500
Previous threshold $451,500 $1,003,000
Couple (combined) – Non-homeowner $693,500 (unchanged) $1,254,500
Previous threshold $693,500 $1,245,000

Income test thresholds comparison

The lower income test threshold determines the point where the full Age Pension starts to reduce, while the upper income test threshold determines what the cutoff point is for the part Age Pension.

Income includes things like payment for employment or self-employment activities, rental income, and a deemed rate of income from financial investments such as managed funds, super (if you are over the Age Pension age) or account-based pensions commenced after 1 January 2015.

Income doesn’t include things like emergency relief payments.

Income test thresholds from 20 March 2024

  Full Age Pension limit Part Age Pension cutoff
Single $204 per fortnight (unchanged) $2,436.60 per fortnight
Previous threshold $204 per fortnight $2,397.40 per fortnight
Couple (combined) $360 per fortnight (unchanged) $3,725.60 per fortnight
Previous threshold $360 per fortnight $3,666.80 per fortnight

If you have income between the lower and upper income test thresholds, your entitlement will reduce as your level of income rises.

For example, the Age Pension payment for a single person earning more than $204 per fortnight will reduce by 50 cents for each dollar earned over $204.

For a couple earning more than $360 per fortnight combined, the Age Pension payment for each person will reduce by 25 cents for each dollar earned over $360.

Tip: The Work Bonus may allow you to receive more income from working, without reducing your Age Pension.

The maximum Work Bonus balance that you can accrue is $11,800.

 

Source: Colonial First State

Australian household wealth

By Robert Wright /February 16,2024/

Is high Australian household wealth a source of support for consumers?

Key points

  • Australia ranked as having one of the lowest rates of disposable income growth per capita amongst OECD countries in mid 2023.
  • An increasing income tax burden and mortgage repayments have weighed on income growth, despite solid wages and salaries.
  • But, household balance sheets in Australia look stronger compared to incomes. Household wealth increased in 2023, as home prices rose.
  • However, growth in household wealth will decline in 2024 as home prices are expected to fall. Household incomes will also be under pressure as earnings growth slows from a softening labour market.
  • As a result, high household wealth holdings will not be enough to offset a challenging environment for households in 2024, despite some easing in cost of living challenges.

Introduction

Household income data from the OECD showed that Australia had one of the lowest rates of annual real household disposable income per person compared to its OECD peers (see the chart below). Over the year to June 2023, Australia’s real per capita household disposable income was down by 5.1%, compared to a 2.6% rise across OECD countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: AMP, Macrobond

This occurred despite very healthy labour market conditions in Australia which saw employment growth running above 3.0% per annum all year, the unemployment rate remaining below 3.9% and underemployment continuing to be low, all of which boosted wages growth. Despite this positive earnings backdrop, the income tax burden increased in 2023 as households have been moving into higher income tax brackets (otherwise known as “bracket creep”), as well as the end of income tax concessions. Mortgage interest repayments are also an increasing drag on incomes (see the chart below) as the cash rate has been increased by 425 basis points since May 2022. Australia’s very high population growth in 2023 (running at 2.4% over the year to June 2023) also masked a fall in household disposable income growth per person, relative to other OECD countries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: ABS, AMP

Just looking at household income accounts does not show everything about the position of households. In a country like Australia where home ownership rates are high (66% of Australian households own their home, with or without a mortgage), looking at household wealth is also important.

Household wealth in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates the value of a household’s assets, liabilities and therefore wealth. Net worth or wealth is calculated as a household’s total assets minus its liabilities. Total wealth is close to 11 times the size of household disposable income (or 1083%) and net wealth is 896% of income. The latest data for the year to June 2023 showed a slight fall in wealth as a share of income, after it reached a record high in 2022 – see the chart below. Non financial wealth is worth 647% of income, larger than financial wealth at 436% and well surpassing household debt, which is 187% of income.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: RBA, AMP

Around 70% of Australian household wealth is tied to the value of homes (which is made up of land and dwellings) and moves closely in line with home prices (see the chart below). Household wealth rose throughout 2023, in line with solid growth in home prices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: ABS, AMP

Other components of household wealth are shown in the chart below. Assets include superannuation, shares and currency and deposits. Loans which are mostly for housing are the source of household liabilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: ABS, AMP

How does household wealth compare around the world?

Australian household wealth, as a share of household disposable income, is at the top end of its OECD peers (see the chart below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: OECD, AMP

High holdings of wealth could be considered a source of support for households, especially against record levels of household debt in Australia. This is a concept known as the “wealth effect”. When household wealth increases, households feel more secure with their financial position and household savings tend to decrease which lifts consumer spending. When wealth decreases, households feel less secure which leads to an increase in savings and decline in spending. However, this relationship does not always work. Most recently in the pandemic, household wealth rose in 2021/22 alongside the lift in home prices but the savings ratio also surged thanks to government driven stimulus cheques. Since then, the household savings ratio has been falling but growth in total consumer spending has been low. We expect that the household savings rate will continue to fall in 2024 as it normalises after the pandemic but growth in consumer spending will still be low.

Implications for investors

Households dealt with a cost of living challenge in 2023 because of high inflation and rising interest rates. Inflation is expected to slow in 2024 and we expect the RBA to start cutting interest rates by mid year which should ease the repayment burden for households with a mortgage, as mortgage interest repayments as a share of income are rising to a record high (see the chart below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: ABS, AMP

So, while cost of living issues should improve for consumers, household wealth will come under pressure in 2024 as we expect home prices will decline by 3.0% to 5%. This is likely to occur alongside a slowing in household incomes as the labour market weakens and the unemployment rate increases. This environment is expected to be negative for consumer spending and GDP growth. We see GDP growth rising by 1.2% over the year to June 2024, below the RBA’s forecast of 1.8% and anticipate the unemployment rate to increase to 4.5% by mid year. This should see the RBA cutting interest rates by June and we expect a total of 3 rate cuts in 2024.

Wealth inequality between households is also an issue in Australia. The top 20% of households (by income quintile) owned 63% of total household wealth in 2019-20 but the bottom income quintile (the bottom 20%) owned less than 1.0% of all household wealth. In Australia, there is also increasing generational wealth gap, with wealth across older households increasing significantly over recent decades but this has not been the case for younger Australians. There are numerous government policies that could address these issues of wealth inequality, including improving the housing affordability issue (through lifting housing supply and/or looking at the favourable treatment of housing investment) and doing a tax review (looking at broadening the GST and examining the merits of a wealth or death tax), which could help the wealth inequality issue.

Source: AMP

Majority of working Aussies to benefit from personal income tax cuts

By Robert Wright /December 04,2020/

Tax cuts proposed in the recent Federal Budget were passed in parliament on Friday 9 October, and you might see some of the benefits before Christmas.

The government has brought forward tax cuts originally planned for 1 July 2022 and backdated them to 1 July 2020. Plus, low and middle-income earners are still able to benefit from existing tax offsets.

Has my marginal tax rate changed?

The upper thresholds have increased for some tax brackets, as highlighted in the table below:

(*excluding 2 % Medicare Levy)

Can I benefit from the tax offsets?

If you earn up to $126,000 per year, you may be eligible for the low and middle income tax offset (LMITO). This was previously introduced as a temporary measure and scheduled to end when the 1 July 2022 tax cuts kicked off. But the good news is that despite bringing forward these tax cuts, the government has kept the LMITO for the 2020–21 financial year.

And, if you earn less than $66,667 per year, you may be eligible for an additional tax offset called the low income tax offset (LITO). As part of this package of tax cuts, this tax offset was increased from $450 to $700.

How much will I save from the tax cuts?

The below table shows indicative tax cuts, based on the legislative changes for an individual in 2020-21, to the tax rates, thresholds, and offsets that were applicable for 2020-21 (before these changes):

When will I receive the new tax savings?

Your take-home pay should reflect the new rates before Christmas. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has given employers until 16 November to make changes to payroll processes and systems.

As you’ll have already paid personal income tax at the original rate since 1 July this year, you’ll receive your entitlement to the reduced tax payable for the entire 2020–21 income year when you lodge your income tax return.

Source: AMP

Planning, not panic: managing retirement portfolios through the pandemic

By visual /May 13,2020/

Despite the recent wild ride for markets coping with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, many investors are well-versed in the need to “sit tight”.

They understand that moving out of positions in falling markets risks crystallising losses at the bottom and missing out on the recovery.

For retirees it’s not so simple, where portfolios are particularly vulnerable to sequencing and behavioural risks that are not so apparent for those in the accumulation phase. If investors continue to contribute to their super fund in the current environment, they are potentially buying into the market at bargain prices every time they receive their salary.

Gains might take some time to materialise and losses some time to overcome, but with a long-time horizon there is more opportunity for an investor’s portfolio to recover.

If, on the other hand, investors draw down on their portfolio they may experience the sharp end of sequencing risk. Losses affect the entire nest egg, a proportion of which will be invested in assets acquired at higher points in the market cycle. In our view, most retirees have less of an opportunity to buy back in and take advantage of the future upside to current low prices. Crucially, most also have no choice but to draw-down to fund their costs of living – meaning they have to liquidate positions in a falling market.

Watching the dollar value of their life savings fluctuating over the course of a single day can be gut-wrenching for retirees, and these emotions are compounded by the ongoing health and societal crises raging around us. The fight or flight instinct is very strong in times like these. In our view, it creates a very strong behavioural risk for retirees who may act against their own best interests by switching out of growth assets at the worst possible time to “protect” what remains of their nest egg.

Shoring up your position without selling the silverware

These two risks create a conundrum for the retiree. On one hand, there is an imperative to reduce their exposure to market falls in order to minimise sequencing risk, and on the other hand there also exists a significant behavioural risk in shifting to lower risk asset classes at this point in time. It’s a tough time to make a decision but investors should be aware of the options available to them.

Diversify into other value assets

We believe one way to manage risk and lower an investor’s exposure to falling equity markets is to diversify. The key at the moment is to look to other asset classes where discounted pricing might be available, diversifying into areas such as infrastructure, property, credit and other alternatives.

Use protection

There are a number of funds and products offering forms of protection for capital or income. Investors retain some level of exposure to market gains, but could also be insulated from more significant losses to their portfolio.

Adjust expenditure

Research shows that one of the most powerful tools retirees have to secure the stability and sustainability of retirement income is to know how much they can safely spend. This depends on many variables such as age, health, social security, wealth – to which a financial advisor can guide retirees. It also might surprise retirees that even a large fall in markets may only require a small adjustment in weekly expenditure to ensure their retirement income lasts.

Reconsider what is ‘defensive’

The traditional approach to retirement investing is to move further into traditional ‘defensive’ assets such as cash and bonds. We would like to emphasise that while these assets in the short term have the least likelihood of a negative return and therefore could be considered ‘safe’, the future returns of cash and bonds are relatively low. A large allocation to this group may reduce long term returns and jeopardise the sustainability of a retirement income strategy.

Investors stand to lose when they move a large proportion of their assets to defensive positions such as cash and bonds in the current environment, locking in lower returns for their portfolio. It may feel comfortable in the short term, but over the long run it could seriously jeopardise the longevity of their retirement income.

We believe an investor could improve their retirement strategy over time by considering the steps above and always on the basis of sound financial advice.

Source: AMP