Are your insurance needs covered?

February 17, 2020

The start of a new year is always a good time to check whether your insurance policies are still serving your needs. But this year there is even more reason to review your cover.

If your super balance is less than $6000 or you are under 25 and are a new fund member, life insurance in your superannuation will no longer be automatic come April.

Letters have already been sent out to those affected by the change which is part of the Putting Members First/Protect Your Super Package legislation. If you don’t respond to the letter by advising your super fund that you want to maintain your cover, it will be cancelled.

Since last year, super accounts inactive for more than 16 months have been in a similar situation with automatic cancellation of life insurance if the member doesn’t opt in to continue their cover. There are a few exceptions, such as defined benefit funds, so contact your super fund if you’re unsure.

Of course, most Australians with super won’t be affected as their balances exceed $6,000 and they are aged over 25. Indeed, due to the existence of default life insurance offered through super, many more Australians have cover than in previous times.

Sometimes, however, this cover may be insufficient to cover your actual costs, should you need to make a claim.


Underinsurance still common

A 2017 survey by Rice Warner found the median death cover was only twice the median household income. Yet it’s estimated that people in their 30s with children would need replacement income equivalent to eight times their family income to continue their current lifestyle if one parent were to die.

Similarly, total and permanent disability (TPD) cover is generally only three times the median household income when four times is ideal. TPD pays you a benefit if you become seriously disabled and are unlikely to ever work again.

While life and TPD cover have grown thanks to super, only about 30 per cent of the working population has income protection insurance. Income protection pays you regular income for a specified period when you are unable to work due to temporary disability or illness.

Given the size of mortgages these days and the cost of raising a family, this low level of income protection cover is concerning.

You probably don’t think twice about insuring your car or your home, so why think twice about insuring your ability to earn an income should something unexpected happen?


Do regular check-ups

Insurance needs vary depending on your income, your age, your family situation and your working status.

Clearly if you have a young family and a mortgage, your financial commitments will be greater than if you have paid off your mortgage and your children have flown the nest.

That’s why it’s important to check your insurance when it comes up for renewal and/or when your personal circumstances change. For instance, if you have recently married, had a child or retired you may need to alter your level of protection.


Inside super or out?

For some, life insurance outside super may provide more tailored cover than insurance offered inside super, or you might decide to have a combination of the two.

Life insurance in super is often cheaper because super funds can negotiate group rates and your premiums are paid with pre-tax dollars. Generally, you will be covered without having to undergo a medical, but there are drawbacks.

Unlike insurance inside super, cover outside continues when you change jobs. And claims are likely to be faster as benefits are paid directly to the policy owner and not to the fund.

Also, outside super, you can insure “own” occupation rather than “any” occupation with a TPD policy. This means you will get a payout if you can’t continue working in a similar occupation to your current one. “Any” occupation is a much broader definition and can lead to a lower chance of making a successful claim.

Life insurance is a must for most people, but it will be of limited use if you don’t have adequate cover should you make a claim.

If you need help determining your current insurance needs, give us a call.



Learning from the littlies

Being called childish isn’t usually a compliment, however there are many things we can learn from children. Here are some important life lessons that they can teach us (or remind us of).


No dream is too big

Think back to the earliest memory you have of being asked what you’d like to be when you grow up. It’s likely your answer was a bit out of the ordinary – perhaps you even wanted to be a dinosaur or a princess! When kids answer this question, their imaginations run wild and they don’t stop to think of feasible career pathways to their goal. For them, no dream is too big (even ones not grounded in reality).

While being realistic is an important life skill, as we grow up we can lose the knack of dreaming big. We can talk ourselves down by thinking that our dreams aren’t possible or that they’ll take too much hard work to achieve.

Playing it safe and not challenging limiting beliefs can keep us in a place of dissatisfaction. So whether you want to climb the career ladder, try your hand at a new hobby or go off on an adventure, channel your inner-child – let yourself believe that these dreams are possible and start fearlessly working towards them.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Children are encouraged to ask questions and seek help from adults when they need it. You may have had no issues putting your hand up in class, but as an adult you’re hesitant to reach out for assistance.

Research paper ‘Why Didn’t You Just Ask?’ (published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology) explains that “even a minor request can invite rejection, expose inadequacies, and make a help-seeker feel shy, embarrassed, and self-conscious.”

Perhaps you could do with career advice or need help with a more personal matter. Moving beyond a tentativeness to ask for assistance will help you feel more supported and capable, so ask away. Remember, all of us need a helping hand from time to time.


We’re not that different from each other

When you watch children interact, you’ll often notice how willing they are to make new friends and interact with each other. They might be poles apart in terms of their personalities and backgrounds, yet they tend to find common ground and band together to play.

Adult relationships tend to be more complicated. However, approaching people and situations with an open mind can bring you in contact with a diverse range of views and experiences.

Look beyond your differences and remember you all share the human experience. You may find yourself establishing great friendships and partnerships you otherwise would have missed out on.


It’s great to try new things

Kids are constantly exposed to new experiences as they grow and are generally pretty enthusiastic about trying something they haven’t done before. Yet as we grow older, we become more set in our ways and can be reticent to feel like a beginner again.

Trying new things is a fantastic way to challenge yourself and build your confidence. It can also help you recognise strengths you never knew you had and also pinpoint what you’d like to work on.


Don’t worry what others think

If you’ve heard the quote that begins with “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching …” (William W. Purkey), you’ll know that as adults it helps to be reminded its ok to let loose.

As our self-awareness and understanding of social conventions (where dancing in public can be looked upon as a tad eccentric!) grows, we can also lose the ability to block out other people’s opinions. Enjoying yourself without worrying about how you’re coming across is something kids excel at and adults can struggle with.

While you don’t have to take to tap dancing in the streets, simply letting yourself have fun and not being in ‘serious mode’ all the time can be very energising and uplifting. It’s a fantastic way to feel like a kid again!

So, channel and nurture your inner child – don’t be afraid to dream big and be open to new experiences and soon you’ll be viewing the world with the wonder and wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child.



Can money really buy happiness?

February 10, 2020

The links between money and well-being have been hotly debated. Some people believe that money enhances well-being, whereas others think that the best things in life are free.

The scientific literature supports both views. On the one hand, having a lot of money doesn’t automatically make us happier. At the same time, money can buy us happiness if it lifts us out of poverty or if we spend it to free up our time, experience new things or help other people.

Studies show that an income change is most likely to boost happiness when it lifts us out of poverty. This is because the added income enables us to meet our basic needs, such as buying food and arranging shelter. People in better socioeconomic conditions also become happier when their financial position improves. This boost is only temporary though – it quickly dissipates when we readjust our standards to match our new income. Social psychologists refer to this as the adaptation-level phenomenon. Essentially, we get used to our new lifestyle over time. Once we do, the new standard of living no longer makes us happier.

Spending money to free up our time can also make us happier. A Harvard researcher, Ashley Whillans, and her colleagues, recently found that outsourcing tasks boosts happiness more than buying new things. Essentially, we are better off spending money to gain time, especially if we are avoiding things we dislike, such as washing dishes or going to the supermarket. The findings were replicated across all income and wealth bands in Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and the US.

Buying things can also make us happier, but certain purchases are better than others. Many studies have found that experiential purchases are more satisfying than material ones. This means that spending money on activities – such as travelling, bowling, or going to the opera – is better for our well-being than purchasing a new pair of shoes or an electronic device.

Spending money can make us happy when we use it to help others. It feels good to know that we are helping a loved one, a charitable organisation or even a stranger. The link between altruism and happiness is robust.

All of these things give us an opportunity to connect with other people, whether it’s by helping them out, doing something with them or having more time to nurture our social relationships.

We know from a large body of research that spending time with loved ones is key to happiness. The Harvard Study of Adult Development – a 75-year longitudinal study that is widely touted as the most comprehensive happiness study to date – found that a strong social network was the biggest predictor of happiness.

Remember this the next time you have some extra money to spend. You will be happier if you use it to help someone, to give yourself time to do the things you love or to spend time with the people you love.

At the same time, all of these things can be done without money. For example, small acts of kindness – such as complimenting someone, holding a door open for the person behind you or smiling at a stranger – make us (and the recipient) happy. Similarly, many wonderful experiences – including going for a walk by the beach – do not require money. Having more free time can also be accomplished by learning new time-management strategies and reaching out for support.


Written for The National Opinion by Dr Sarah Rasmi, a social psychologist and professor at United Arab Emirates University

Getting your balance back

Overindulge over the holiday period? You’re certainly not alone, but now it’s time to get back on track. Early in the year makes for the perfect time to dust yourself off and recommit to a your version of a balanced, healthy life.


Consider all aspects of your life

Before rushing ahead to create new goals and habits, take some time to consider all aspects of your life and what it looks like at present. This will help you work out how to achieve a better balance.

Are you working longer hours than you’d like to (and perhaps don’t need to)? How much sleep are you getting? Do you get time to see family and friends, and do you allow yourself to simply relax every now and then? Are you always rushing from place to place?

Reflecting on your life as is it will highlight what you want to change, making it clearer as to which habits you want to get rid of and which you want to cultivate.


Understand your habits

Once you’ve worked out which habits you want to break (perhaps it’s reading your emails as soon as you wake up or reaching for that block of chocolate every day come 3.00pm), have a think about why you do these things.

Don’t dismiss the power of neurotransmitters – enjoyable behaviour prompts the release of dopamine, which makes it difficult to break pleasure-based habits such as constantly checking your phone or reaching for another biscuit.

It’s not impossible to break these habits though. Firstly become aware of your triggers, and then replace the habits that no longer serve you with better ones you can draw upon instead.


Create better habits

When deciding on what new habits you’d like to establish, it’s okay to think small. In fact, creating smaller habits that work towards a healthy lifestyle tend to be more sustainable.

Habits that will better balance your life may be a simple as going for a short walk every morning or switching off from technology at least an hour before bed – these actions can reduce stress levels and optimise your health.

While most health habits are established in childhood, it’s never too late to change. You might want to reach out for support to help you pinpoint what you’d like your new habits to be and how you can make them work. For instance, a personal trainer can help you focus on your exercise goals, a dietician on what you’re eating, or a business coach or mentor if you’d like to create better work habits.


Stick with it

Scientists have found that it takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. To help stick with your goal, remember why you are doing it – how will it make your life better and more balanced? Will it improve your health, make you happier and less stressed? Perhaps it will help you achieve a career goal or help you branch out into a new area of business. Reminding yourself about why it matters can help keep you on track.

Check in on your progress to see how you’re tracking. This can also help you identify if you need additional support or to refocus your attention. You may also be pleasantly surprised at how far you have come!


Be kind to yourself

Sometimes in the quest for balance we can become overly focused to the point of getting stressed if all the pieces aren’t fitting perfectly together. A balanced life should be a happy one, so be kind to yourself.

Remember that balance and a commitment to health and happiness is a lifelong commitment. It’s not something you can tick off your to-do list. Also, life happens and sometimes our best habits and intentions fall by the wayside as we have to shift focus to what needs our attention. Rather than getting frustrated, work on recommitting to a balanced life as best you can, when you can.



Back to school tips for parents

February 4, 2020

Going back to school after a few weeks of fun and relaxation is never easy, but kids aren’t the only ones who struggle with it.

Parents also find it difficult when their kids head back to school, and many experience emotions ranging from sadness to anxiety and even resentment.

Fortunately, getting well-prepared a few days in advance can make easing back into the normal school routine a lot less overwhelming for both parents and kids. Here are a few handy back-to-school tips that will make the transition smoother.


1. Encourage kids to set goals and take responsibility

Encouraging children to set goals and take responsibility for the upcoming school year is a great way to get in them in the right frame of mind. Research shows that kids who participate in setting learning goals are consistently more motivated and take learning more seriously.

Of course, what this means will depend on your child’s age, as a preschooler won’t be able to take on as much responsibility as one heading to primary or secondary school. But even younger children can be given simple goals to focus on, even if it’s just packing their backpack before bed each night.

With younger kids, you can ease into the discussion by reading books about school and talking about the fact that they’ll be heading back soon. Find out what they’ll be working on and if there’s anything specific they’d like to accomplish, and then work together to make a list of steps they’ll need to take to reach those goals.


2. Engage with their curriculum

If you want to help your child set appropriate learning goals, it’s important to engage with their curriculum and be aware of what they will be learning and are expected to be proficient in.

Most kids deal with some level of stress or anxiety about school. One survey found that 53 per cent of parents cite homework and schoolwork as the greatest driver of stress in their kids. But when parents are aware of what their kids will be learning, they’re better able to provide support and manage stress before school starts again.

It’s always a good idea to talk to your child about what they have been learning, but if you can, try to speak with your child’s teacher as well. This will give you a chance to find out what you can do to support your child at home and also be aware of any specific areas they may need to work on.


3. Ease into the routine a few days early

During the holidays, schedules are usually more relaxed and kids get used to going to bed and waking up later, which is one of the things that can make the first few days of school difficult. It can help to ease into routine by starting a few days early, so that everyone is already used to waking up on time by the time school starts.

Kids are very sensitive to routines. If getting to sleep on time is a problem after too many late nights, you can try enforcing a No Electronics rule an hour before bedtime so everyone can wind down. Older kids can also use an alarm clock to take responsibility for their own mornings and evenings.


4. Get organised

The more organised you are the easier your first back-to-school mornings will be, so take the time to plan your morning routine in advance. This may include figuring out what time you need to get up, what you’ll prepare for breakfast and laying out some outfits the night before.

Lunches are also best prepared the night before, and you can even get the kids involved by asking them what they’d like to eat and see if they’d like to help you chop vegetables, prepare sandwiches and organise the kitchen once you’re finished.


5. Have fun with it

School days may not be as exciting as holidays, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a sombre or boring time. Look for ways to keep things fun, whether it’s upholding family traditions, such as family breakfast and reading or watching a TV series together, or looking for extracurricular activities the kids will enjoy, such as swimming, football or music and art.

Going shopping for new school supplies together and letting kids pick out their own pens, notebooks and other school supplies can also help them get excited about going back to school, even if it means the shopping trip might take a bit longer.

Also keep in mind that kids are often quick to pick up on our attitudes towards things, so try to speak positively about school and emphasise the positive aspects of it, such as their friends and teachers or the cool things they’ll have a chance to learn.