July 2024

July 2024

With the shortest day behind us, the longer days ahead will give us a chance to enjoy the outdoors, even if there’s still a need to rug up.

Technology stocks have driven Australian shares, and global markets, to new highs in the last 12 months. The S&P/ASX 200 finished the financial year 7.8% higher, slightly less than the previous year. Technology stocks gained 28% during the year.

In the US, the S&P 500 index rose 14% in the first six months of 2024 in one of the strongest performances since the dotcom bubble of the 1990s. Tech stocks were behind much of the gain, in particular AI chipmaker Nvidia, which overtook Microsoft and Apple as the world’s most valuable public company last month.

An interest rate cut is widely expected in September in the US but in Australia, many commentators predict another rate increase before the end of the year to help tame inflation. The RBA left interest rates unchanged at 4.35% at its June meeting but news that annual CPI was up by 4.0% in May compared with 3.6% in April will give the Bank cause for concern.

The Australian dollar ended the financial year almost where it began at just under US67 cents, after 12 months of volatility with highs of almost US69 cents and lows under US63 cents.

Going for Gold

Going for Gold

Gold fever is in the air and it’s not just the prospect of medals at the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Gold prices have been climbing strongly in 2024 as investors, jittery about the effects of wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, buy up the asset because of its reputation as a safe haven. The spot price has risen more than 18 per cent since mid-February.i

Demand for the precious metal is also being driven by central banks adding to their gold reserves to hedge against currency and other market risks.

For investors, gold has been an alluring buy for centuries thanks to its association with wealth and power. As a precious metal and a physical asset, it often attracts a certain confidence, which is sometimes misplaced.

Patchy performance

Day traders might be lucky enough at times to buy or sell gold for a decent profit by correctly guessing when to get in or out but, generally speaking, gold is not an easy investment to love.

Over the longer term, it hasn’t always beaten inflation, the price can plunge at a time when market conditions suggest it should be rising and its performance against stocks and bonds has been varied.

In fact, there have been long periods of persistently low prices. It languished for around six years from 1988 before recovering and then again for the decade or so leading up to the beginning of COVID-19 in 2020. The uncertainty of the pandemic-era helped spark a rally that has increased the price by almost 38 per cent.

Pros and cons

So, is gold worth considering as part of a portfolio? As with any investment, there are pros and cons.

Like many other asset classes, gold can help to diversify a portfolio and reduce certain risks. During stock market downturns, gold prices often (but not always) begin to rise. Some investors like the idea that it is a scarce, physical asset and, despite its ups and downs, gold has tended to hold its value over time.

At times gold has provided a good hedge against inflation. For example, in the US between 1974 and 2008, there were eight years when inflation was high and during those times, gold prices rose by an average of 14.9 per cent annually.ii But different periods give different results. While US CPI growth was around 6.8 per cent in 2021 and 2022, gold prices were achieving an annual increase of just over 1 per cent.

How to invest

You don’t need to lug home gold bars and hide them under the bed to have a stake in a gold investment.

Of course, it is possible to own gold bullion by buying online or in person from one of a number of registered dealers in Australia. The actual gold can be delivered to you or held in storage for a fee. You could also own physical gold by buying jewellery although there are high mark ups and resale value isn’t assured.

The ASX provides the avenue to buy shares in one or more of the many gold mining companies. You’ll need to do your homework carefully to consider the credentials of the companies. Some are riskier than others depending on the countries in which they operate and their size.

You could also consider exchange traded funds (ETFs) that are linked to or track the gold price. One advantage is provided by funds that hedge currency risk so that your returns won’t be affected by differences in the US dollar. Although with any fund, you’ll need to factor in an annual management fee, which will reduce your ultimate return.

If you’re interested in achieving a balanced portfolio, we’d be happy to help you.

i Gold – Price – Chart – Historical Data – News (tradingeconomics.com)
ii Is Gold An Inflation Hedge? – Forbes Advisor

When DIY does not pay off

When DIY does not pay off

“If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself”

Not necessarily! The appeal of doing it yourself is understandable. There is a great feeling that comes with doing something that challenges you and with being resourceful and learning a new skill. However, there can be pitfalls to DIY and there are benefits from getting an expert involved sometimes.

We tend to be proud of what we create and place greater value on things we have made ourselves. There is a statistical difference between the dollar value someone places on something that they have built, compared to what another person would pay for it (this is for good reason known as the “Ikea effect” as it even applies to putting together flat-pack furniture).

Making DIY look easy

With all the information we have at our fingertips, encouraged by the appeal of learning a new skill and guided by the power of Google and YouTube videos, we are emboldened to give things a go. Whether it’s fixing that dripping tap, troubleshooting the laptop that’s playing up or even investing your hard-earned dollars, DIY has never looked so easy.

The growth in DIY

The DIY mindset seems to be one that is on the increase. When we think of DIY we tend to think of home improvement and fixing things around the home. This market has increased by almost 10 million dollars in the last ten years.i The statistics reveal more than half of us are taking up the tools, with 55 per cent of homeowners deciding to take on home improvement and repair jobs rather than seek professional help.ii

DIY can be a lot more than just picking up a hammer though, and our love of DIY also extends to our financials. The search for additional income in an inflationary environment has seen an increase in traders keen to take the reins and invest for themselves. Over the past decade there has been a steady increase in the share of retail investors, with equity trades by a retail investor nearly doubling in volume from a decade ago.iii Equally, when it comes to getting ready for retirement the number of people setting up self-managed super funds (SMSFs) continues to rise, increasing by around 9 per cent over the past 5 years.iv

Reasons to be careful

There is a lot more to lose if there is a problem with your financial situation than a tap that’s leaking though, so it’s important to think about what is at stake when you manage any aspect of your own financials.

The bottom line is you want to be getting the best outcomes and that does not always happen if you are taking a DIY approach. For example, when it comes to investing, a number of academic studies have shown that DIY investors tend to underperform the market and that underperformance ranges between 1% to 10% per year.v

Getting an expert involved

The trick with any form of DIY is to do your research, understand the task and what’s involved, and acknowledge when you might benefit from a helping hand. There are times when it’s OK to have a go yourself and times when it makes more sense to get advice and support. You can still learn and gain skills that you can apply to future situations but it can make sense to maximise your efforts, while leveraging the skills of the experts.

When it comes to your financial life, whether it’s investing and growing your wealth, protecting your wealth, retirement planning or estate planning, there is a lot to know and consider, and consulting with an expert can really add value and help you avoid potential pitfalls.

Getting help does not mean being passive and not engaged, however. The best outcomes are achieved when we actively work together in partnership to achieve your desired outcomes.

There is a world of difference between totally going it alone and maybe floundering a little, and getting advice and guidance to reach the best outcome. So, if you want something done right, sometimes it is best to call in the experts! We are here to help.

i https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/diy-home-improvement-market/market-size

To sell or not to sell is the question for moving into aged care

To sell or not to sell is the question for moving into aged care

Moving into residential aged care can trigger a range of emotions, particularly if it involves the sale of the family home.

What is often a major financial asset, is also one that many people believe should be either kept in the family or its value preserved for future generations.

Whether or not the home has to be sold to pay for aged care depends on a number of factors, including who is living in it and what other financial resources or options are available to cover the potential cost of care.

It also makes a difference if the person moving into care receives Centrelink or Department of Veterans Affairs payments.

Cost of care

Centrelink determines the cost of aged care based on a person’s income and assets.i

For aged care cost purposes, the home is exempt from the cost of care calculation if a “protected person” is living in it when you move into care.

A protected person could be a spouse (including de facto); a dependent child or student; a close relative who has lived with the aged care resident for at least five years and who is entitled to Centrelink income support; or a residential carer who has lived with the aged care resident for at least two years and is eligible for Centrelink income support.ii

Capped home value

If the home is not exempt, the value of the home is capped at the current indexed rate of $201,231.iii

If you have assets above $201,231 – outside of the family home – then Centrelink would determine you pay the advertised Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD) or equivalent daily interest rate known as the Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP), or a combination of both.

The average RAD is about $450,000. Based on the current interest rate of 8.36% [note – this is the rate from July 1] the equivalent DAP would be $103.07 a day.

Depending on your total income and assets, you may also be required to pay a daily means tested care fee. This fee has an indexed annual cap of $33,309 and lifetime cap of $79,942.

This is in addition to the basic daily fee of $61.96 and potentially an additional or extra service fee.

There is no requirement to sell the home to pay these potentially substantial costs, but if it is a major asset that is going to be left empty, it may make sense.

Other options to cover the costs may include using income or assets such as superannuation, renting the home (although this pushes up the means tested care fee and can reduce the age pension) or asking family to cover the costs.

Centrelink rules

For someone receiving Centrelink or DVA benefits, there is an important two-year rule.

The home is exempt for pension purposes if occupied by a spouse, otherwise it is exempt for up to two years or until sold.

If you are the last person living in the house and you move into aged care and still have your home after two years, its full value will be counted towards the age pension calculation. It can mean the loss of the pension.

Importantly, money paid towards the RAD, including the proceeds from a house, is exempt for age pension purposes.

Refundable Deposit

As the name suggests, the RAD is fully refundable when a person leaves aged care. If a house is sold to pay a RAD, then the full amount will ultimately be paid to the estate and distributed according to the person’s Will.

The decisions around whether to sell a home to pay for aged care are financial and emotional.

It’s important to understand all the implications before you make a decision.

Please call us to explore your options.

i https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/understanding-aged-care-home-accommodation-costs

Plan Financial Solutions Pty Ltd ABN 44 648 985 479 is a Corporate Authorised Representative of Politis Investment Strategies Pty Ltd, ABN 71 106 823 241, AFSL No. 253125.
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