Making your wishes known

July 27, 2020

While Australia’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was among the best in the world, the speed and spread of the illness underlined just how fragile life can be.

It was also a solemn reminder of the importance of ensuring your affairs are in order, so your wishes are met – in life and death.

The centrepiece of any estate planning is your Will, which sets out who you would like to receive your assets when you die, and how they are to be distributed. But you also need to consider what will happen to your superannuation as well as who will act on your behalf if you are unable to make decisions about your finances, health or wellbeing.

 

Expressing your Will

Despite the importance of a Will, it’s estimated that nearly half of Australians don’t have one. If you die intestate (without a Will), your assets will be distributed according to a legal formula within each State, which may not be in line with your wishes. In an era where complex family situations and blended families are common, this can create unnecessary conflict at what is already a difficult time.

Even if you have a Will, it’s not a set-and-forget document. You must make sure it is up to date and reflects major changes in your life, such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the purchase of a home.

 

Super is not part of your Will

It is not widely understood that superannuation is not covered by your Will unless you specifically direct it to be by nominating a legal personal representative (LPR) as your beneficiary.

Unless you nominate a valid beneficiary, the fund’s trustees will determine who receives your super. Even if you don’t have much money in super yet, chances are you have life insurance with your super which is paid out to your beneficiaries on your death.

To be valid, a beneficiary must be your LPR or a dependent, defined under super legislation as your spouse, child, someone in an interdependency relationship with you or a financial dependent. If you don’t nominate anyone, or your nomination is not valid, generally the money will go to your dependants or your LPR – but it’s always good to make sure.

The best way to ensure your super and any insurance payout ends up with the people you want to receive it is to make a binding death benefit nomination. There may be a small charge and you need to renew it every three years to remain valid. A non-binding nomination is only a guide so the trustees can overrule your nomination.

It is also worth remembering that if your beneficiaries are adult children, there may be tax implications for them.

 

Living Wills

Estate planning isn’t just about planning who gets what when you are gone. You should also consider putting in place directives to let your family and others know how you want to see out your days.

An enduring power of attorney will allow you to nominate somebody to act on your behalf if you are no longer capable of conducting your own financial matters. A general power of attorney is not sufficient as it is usually for a set period and becomes invalid once you can no longer make your own decisions.

You should also organise enduring guardianship to appoint somebody to take control of any lifestyle or medical issues should you become incapacitated. And it is worthwhile introducing an advance care directive which states exactly what medical treatment you do and don’t want to receive towards the end of your life.

 

Spread the word

Once you have prepared an estate plan, it’s a good idea to gather all your documentation in one place and tell your family and legal representative where they are. Also, consider giving someone you trust your online passwords to avoid complications down the track.

Getting your affairs in order can provide great peace of mind for you and your family, now and in the future and we are here to assist.

 


References

https://www.contestingwills.com.au/how-many-people-die-without-writing-a-will/

Terms and Conditions Facebook

July 23, 2020

Terms and Conditions 

The promoter is Future Assist Group of companies whose registered office is at Level 5, 69 Phillip Street, Parramatta NSW 2150. 

The competition is open to residents of Australia aged 18 years or over except employees of Future Assist Group of Companies and their close relatives and anyone otherwise connected with the organisation or judging of the competition. 

There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition. 

By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions. 

Route to entry for the competition and details of how to enter are via www.facebook.com 

Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified. 

Closing date for entry will be 30/07/2020. After this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted. 

No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.  

The rules of the competition and how to enter are as follows: 

The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter. 

The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition. 

 

The prize is as follows: $400 Visa Card.

The prize is as stated, and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice. 

 

Winners will be chosen at random by software, from all entries received and verified by Future Assist Group of Companies. 

The winner will be notified by direct message on Facebook, within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner. 

The promoter, Future Assist Group of Companies, will notify the winner when and where the prize can be delivered. 

The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. 

By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions. 

The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by Australian law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Australia. 

The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, as well as their entry. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current Australian data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent. 

The winner’s name will be available 28 days after closing date by emailing the following address: info@futureassist.com.au 

Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions. 

This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. You are providing your information to Future Assist Group of Companies and not to any other party. The information provided will be used in conjunction with the following Privacy Policy found at https://futureassist.com.au/privacy-policy/ 

i. Future Assist Group of Companies’ decision as to those able to take part and selection of winners is final. No correspondence relating to the competition will be entered into. 

ii. Future Assist Group of Companiesshall have the right, at its sole discretion and at any time, to change or modify these terms and conditions, such change shall be effective immediately upon posting to this webpage. 

iii. Future Assist Group of Companies also reserves the right to cancel the competition if circumstances arise outside of its control. 

How to start exercising and stick to it

July 21, 2020

Exercise is a fundamental part of being a healthy and happy human being, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. No doubt many Australians have donned their best activewear and exercised during the restrictions, after all, it was a chance for many to get out of the house. Now that restrictions have eased in many places across the country, however, it appears that momentum has come to a halt.

If you’re struggling to keep to an exercise routine don’t worry, you’re not alone. While keeping fit is desirable for many Australians, the truth is that it can be difficult to get started and to stick to it.

For most of us, the biggest barrier to taking on regular exercise is mental. We like to question and doubt ourselves, especially in the realm of health and fitness, and certainly many of us have given up before seeing any meaningful results.

Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be like this forever. There are ways you can make exercise less intimidating and more fun.

 

Common excuses

Many of us don’t even get to the exercising part of our plans. It can be easy to come up with an excuse for you to not exercise at all. Here are some common excuses and why they don’t hold up.

“I hate exercising”

There are so many reasons we like to say this. Gyms can be intimidating and anxiety-inducing for many, and a run can feel more painful than beneficial. These aren’t the only exercise activities out there! Finding an activity or hobby that you enjoy can help you push past the monotony and hate for exercise. Things like dancing, sports, even just a walk in a park or a bike ride with a friend. There are so many different ways to exercise, so find one that suits you!

“I’m too busy”

Many of us live very busy lives, and so it can be hard to find any time to exercise. But remember, don’t go into it with an all or nothing mindset. Even the busiest of people can find some time to exercise and make it a priority. It doesn’t have to be a full workout, short and intense bursts of activity can be beneficial as well.

“I’m too tired”

While it may seem a little counterintuitive, exercise is a great energy booster, especially for the long run. By exercising regularly, you’ll boost your long-term energy and feel refreshed and energised for longer. Just don’t exercise if you’re cutting into precious sleep time!

“I’m too fat, too old or my health isn’t good enough”

It’s never too late! Even if you’re a senior or a full-time couch potato who has never exercised, there’s still a chance for you to start. There aren’t many health or weight problems that completely rule out exercise, just make sure you talk to your doctor if you’re worried.

“It’s too painful”

It’s all too common to put yourself in the “no pain, no gain” mindset, but the truth is that exercise shouldn’t hurt. It’s important to take it easy and not overwork yourself, you really don’t have to destroy yourself to see results. Start with small things first!

“I’m not athletic”

You don’t have to be sporty or ultra-coordinated to get fit. Exercise and wellbeing aren’t limited to being a sports superstar! Focus on the easy ways to boost your activity level, and get moving in the way that suits you best.

 

Setting yourself up for success

If you just go straight into it without any thought, it’s unlikely you’ll stick to it. It’s important to set yourself up for a good exercise habit to maximise your chances of success.

Schedule it

It can be difficult to just go and exercise when free-time comes along. In fact, this free-time can often become an excuse to not exercise. By creating a schedule for when you want to exercise in the week, you give yourself a chance to anticipate and prepare for it. It also means you can mark it as an important self-appointment and thus eliminate the chances of forgetting or double-booking yourself.

Make it easy on yourself

When creating a schedule you should consider whether or not you’re likely to stick to it when the time comes. For example, if you’re not a morning person don’t just schedule workouts for mornings and expect to be in your best mood. Plan your workouts around times where you’re not completely burnt-out or stressed, and give yourself time to rest as well!

Remove obstacles

When planning we can often forget the little things that can get in the way of enacting our plans. If you’re going somewhere else to exercise, make sure you have time to get ready. If you want to exercise early in the morning, prepare clothes and things the night before so you can get straight to it!

Hold yourself accountable

Self-accountability is a vital skill in all aspects of life, but it can be a challenging one to develop. If you struggle at this, consider getting yourself a workout partner. With a friend to workout with, you can motivate each other and will be less likely to skip on training sessions. Alternatively, you can ask others to keep track of your progress or announce your goals to friends and family.

 

 

Making exercise more enjoyable

Remember, you’re much more likely to stick to something if you find it fun and rewarding. Results can be an awesome motivator, but a fun exercise activity will certainly help in the long run.

Don’t just think of the gym

When many of us think exercise, we think the gym. But the truth is that going to the gym can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for many. Not to mention, thousands of Australians sign up for gym memberships only to use it once and have to pay for the rest.

Find something that you enjoy and keeps you active. It can be as simple as a short walk in a park every now and then or as complex as gymnastics.

Make it a game

The wonders of technology have brought many possibilities to the table when considering fun exercise. There are many apps and programs that can help you keep track of your exercise and give you motivation through rewards and badges.

This can make exercises fun and interesting, and push you to achieve your best. You could even find yourself playing literal games while running, with apps offering immersive experiences for joggers.

Pair it with something you like

Exercise doesn’t have to be done alone. There are many ways you can get the minutes you need alongside another hobby. If you’re into photography you can document your exercise journey, or perhaps you might want to take the simpler route and watch TV while you run on a treadmill.

Make it social

Exercise can be an awesome time to socialise with others and keep yourself motivated through your connections. You might find it beneficial to include your friends, or perhaps you’d enjoy meeting new people in a club setting.

Alternatively, a little competition never hurts. It can keep you on your toes and motivate you to perform.

 

Getting into an exercise routine can be tough for many, but if you plan ahead and dedicate yourself, you increase the likeliness that you’ll stick to it. And remember, everyone starts from somewhere and you don’t have to follow others’ steps to get your routine going. Think about the ways you can fit exercise into your life through activities you enjoy around people you want to enjoy them with.

New financial year – New perspective

The start of the financial year is always an excellent time to take stock of your current situation and visualise where you’d like to be in the future.

It’s fair to say this year hasn’t been ‘business as usual’! While no-one could have predicted the first six months of 2020, nor want to repeat them, it’s likely there have been lessons learned. So as you review and set new goals, consider any takeaways from lockdown and how they have influenced your goals and path for the future.

 

Different priorities and new goals

Your priorities may have forcibly changed in response to the change of circumstances, or perhaps you realised that some things are more important to you than others. Do you now want to spend more time with family, improve your connection to your friends, help out in the community? Perhaps you have a reignited passion for your work or have been motivated to look for greater opportunities. Has not being able to travel in the short-term made you more determined to hit the road or jet off to a new destination?

Work/life balance remains a top priority for many people, yet it can feel elusive at the best of times. By identifying what is important to you and what you want more (or less) of, you’ll be better placed to make changes to reach more of a balance.

You might have also discovered a new hobby. If you’re a gym junkie, you might have made the shift to exercising outdoors and discovered a love of trail running or mountain biking. If you love visiting restaurants and cafes, perhaps you started to enjoy more time in the kitchen, trying to replicate your favourite chef-cooked meals. Whatever hobby you’ve picked up or re-sparked, think about how you can keep it up when life returns to a new normal. Perhaps this hobby could even be a side business or has ignited an idea for a new career path?

 

Awareness of your finances

It’s likely your financial situation has changed in 2020. Your income and expenditure may have altered during the period of lockdown, and while we were all impacted in different ways, the period presented a degree of uncertainty for everyone, highlighting the need for financial security.

The financial goals you established last financial year or in January are likely to have shifted due to the year’s upheaval. And you may also have new goals following the COVID-19 pandemic. Review your finances and your budget to set new objectives, working with your current situation to build a financial safety net and work towards your future goals.

 

Setting and achieving your goals

The first half of the year has shown us that plans can and sometimes, must change. But don’t let this stop you from setting goals and working towards your vision of the future.

Ensuring your goals are smart, or specifically SMART – Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related, will make it easier for you to follow through and achieve them. Whether they’re related to finances, your career or spending more time with family and friends, drill down into the details.

The SMART framework strengthens your goals by making sure they are thought through. For instance, if this has been a time of financial instability for you, your priority could be having more savings behind you. But how much money will you put away and how often, who will make this happen, and is this feasible? With increased uncertainty, it may be beneficial to set micro-goals with shorter time frames. This will allow you to be adaptable while still progressing towards your larger goals.

 

Getting support

This tumultuous year has also highlighted the importance of reaching out for support. This may be a coach, friend or mentor who provides guidance, encouragement and keeps you accountable on your journey. When it comes to establishing your financial goals and working through concerns, you don’t have to go it alone.

We can help keep you on track to achieving your objectives and guide you through the process, so feel free to get in touch today.

Becoming a better active listener

We all want to be heard. Feeling truly listened to can boost your self-confidence, make you feel understood and strengthen the connection between you and others. In the workplace, it can be the difference between feeling engaged or unappreciated.

In the book, You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, Kate Murphy writes: “Done well and with deliberation, listening can transform your understanding of the people and the world around you, which inevitably enriches and elevates your experience and existence.”

The good news is with a little concentration, patience and practises you can develop your active listening skills.

 

Active listening instead of simply hearing

Ask that person with the glazed expression who is busy doing something while you’re talking to them if they’ve heard you, and they’ll probably say yes. They can parrot back what you’ve said but it’s unlikely they have let your words sink in.

The difference between hearing and active listening is that the latter involves your full attention, not just the ability to hear the sounds the speaker makes.

 

Why we’re not great at active listening

Active listening is actually more difficult than any other form of personal communication. This is simply due to the fact that the rate at which we speak requires our brains to receive words at an extremely slow pace compared with its capabilities. Our brain has spare time for thinking while listening, which can be either used well or misused. This is made all the more difficult as our attention is pulled in many directions these days. Notifications on our phones and computers ping, we’re scrolling through websites, we often need to multitask – when we do have conversations it’s rare that we tune out these distractions and focus solely on the speaker.

Our emotional filters and perceived assumptions also influence our capacity to actively listen, as can our habit of trying to ‘get all the facts’, which prevents us from grasping broader concepts while committing facts to memory.

We can also misunderstand what it means to be a good listener. As the example above illustrates, perhaps you think the ability to repeat what was said means you’ve honed the art of listening. Or the fact that you can still hold a conversation while scrolling through your phone shows you can still listen.

Being an active listener is not something that comes naturally to many of us, but we can work at it.

 

The benefits of improved listening

While active listening is obviously beneficial to your interpersonal relationships as you’ll develop greater connections with the people around you, it also provides value to businesses. When people fail to hear and understand each other, productivity is impacted, mistakes occur, conflict can arise and processes break down.

Promoting active listening and platforms to enable communication, can improve customer satisfaction, enhance client retention and build company culture. Innovation and process improvements can also benefit as management hears suggestions and takes action.

 

How to actively work on your listening skills

How many times are you busy formulating your reply to someone before they’ve finished speaking? Most of us do this and it means we’re more likely to miss out on nuance, visual and verbal cues or an unanticipated revelation this way.

Recognise and moderate any preconceived assumptions or biases you may hold. Pause before rushing in. Ask for more information to help inform your response, using open-ended questions. Just as importantly, listen to yourself. How do your responses show that you respect the other person’s point of view?

Making a space conducive for listening is also important. This could be finding a separate room, stepping away from your computer and silencing your phone so you can focus on the conversation, maintaining eye contact and positive posture.

You won’t become an active listener overnight, but by making an effort to strengthen this ability you’ll undoubtedly reap the benefits.

 


References

Murphy, Kate. You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters. Penguin. (Original work published 2020).

https://hbr.org/1957/09/listening-to-people

The Housing Market: shaken not stirred

July 13, 2020

With Australia in a COVID-induced recession, residential property is not immune to falling economic activity. Yet housing prices are proving surprisingly resilient.

Only months ago, economists were forecasting a housing price slump of 20 per cent or more. Now, most have revised their forecasts to price falls of between five and 10 per cent.

The more optimistic predictions are due to Australia’s success at containing the coronavirus, the gradual lifting of restrictions and government stimulus aimed at keeping Australians in work. The most recent of these measures is the HomeBuilder package.

 

Housing stimulus

The Morrison Government’s HomeBuilder package, announced on June 4, offers homebuyers a grant of $25,000 to build a new home worth less than $750,000. The grant can also be spent on renovations valued between $150,000 and $750,000 to an existing home valued at no more than $1.5 million.

The scheme is limited to owner-occupiers (not investors) on incomes below $125,000 for singles and $200,000 for couples. The amount of money on offer is uncapped, but the government expects it to cost about $688 million for roughly 27,000 grants.

To be eligible, renovators must sign a contract with a builder by the end of 2020. They will need to have plans drawn up, finance approved, and any building and development approvals secured.

The package has been well-received by the housing industry, which hopes it will encourage buyers to bring forward purchases and support construction jobs. While critics argue the HomeBuilder package is too limited in scope and time to make a significant impact, it is more likely to support house prices than harm them.

 

House prices marking time

According to CoreLogic, national home prices edged up 0.6 per cent in the three months to the end of May, at the height of the economic shutdown. Melbourne was the only market to lose ground during that period (-0.8 per cent) but all regions lost momentum.

However, sales activity bounced back by an estimated 18.5 per cent in May after a drop of 33 per cent in April. The rise in sales coincided with an easing of social distancing restrictions, the arrival of JobKeeper payments in people’s pockets and growing consumer confidence.

On an annual basis, national home values rose 8.3 per cent in the year to May with Perth (-2.1 per cent) and Darwin (-2.6 per cent) the only capital cities where prices are still lower than a year ago.

 

Rents and yields falling

Rents in every capital city except Perth fell in the two months to May. Falling rents are welcome news for renters, especially in cities like Hobart where a booming property market and the conversion of long-term rentals into short-term Airbnb lets had priced many out of the market.

However, falling rents are not so good for property investors. Rental yields were 3.8 per cent nationally in May, although higher in regional areas (4.9 per cent) than capital cities (3.5 per cent).

According to CoreLogic, there is a strong chance that rents will fall more than housing values, putting further pressure on rental yields, with yields in Sydney and Melbourne already at or near record lows.

 

Looking ahead

While the outlook for the property market is brighter than feared, there are still challenges ahead.

One test will come after September when JobKeeper payments and loan repayment holidays are removed. There is a risk that mortgage arrears and distressed sales could increase at that time. While unemployment is now expected to peak at around 8 per cent, not 10 per cent as previously forecast, it is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for at least two years.

On the positive side, interest rates remain at record lows and the OECD expects the Australian economy will bounce back by 4.1 per cent next year (if the coronavirus is kept under control), after a contraction of 5 per cent in 2020. This is a better economic performance than almost any other nation.

While the outlook for property is still uncertain, the stirrings of economic activity are encouraging. If you would like to discuss your property strategy in the light of current market developments, please get in touch.

 


References

https://www.corelogic.com.au/sites/default/files/2020-06/CoreLogic%20home%20value%20index%20June%202020%20FINAL.pdf

https://www.businessinsider.com.au/australian-unemployment-forecast-government-treasury-covid19-2020-6

https://www.afr.com/policy/economy/australia-leads-on-economic-recovery-oecd-20200610-p5514b