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It seems everyone is an influencer these days; just go to your local cafe and witness everyone excitedly photographing their food.

Blogging is often perceived as an appealing job to have, and with most boasting about the appeals of working from the comfort of their own home, tea in hand wrapped in their favourite pyjamas, it’s no wonder more people than ever are jumping on the influencer bandwagon.

Despite this appeal, working from wherever and whenever you please isn’t the only drawcard – there are some surprising things you can claim on your tax.

As we edge closer to EOFY, here are five tips for influencers to help you determine what the ATO could consider leisure and business expenses, as sometimes, the lines can be blurred.

1. Understand the differences between your hobbies and your business as an influencer

Fitness, beauty, fashion, food and travel: these are five of the top blogging genres and they can without a doubt be mistaken for leisure activities.

Most of these general meal, travel and clothing expenses can’t really be claimed unless you can absolutely prove that you’re earning an income from brand opportunities, as there’s a difference between having a small side hustle that’s years away from earning cash, and businesses that require
assistance and staff to help with your blogging.

2. Be clear and concise about your business expenses

If you’re just starting out in your blogging or influencing career, this might be new to you.

One of the simplest ways to separate your business and personal expenses is to create a different bank account specifically for business purposes only.

Once it gets to tax time, it’ll then be easier for your accountant to go through your statements, expenses and earnings to determine what can and can’t be deducted, as opposed to having to sift through complicated and confusing personal statements.

If you work out of your own home, a few basic expenses you may be able to claim through your tax is home office equipment (including computer expenses – less than $30,000, internet and phone) and sometimes even part of your rent or mortgage.

3. Document contra opportunities such as gifts and press trips

One big appeal of being an influencer is receiving gifts, freebies and being whisked away on press trips.

With this, however, can come some scrutiny by the ATO which might have difficulty identifying what is part of business or pleasure.

It’s usually not required to declare small gifts but it if they happen to be of substantial value the ATO will usually expect them to be included on your return. If you’re unsure whether to declare a particular item, ask an expert who will be able to help.

4. Remember what you can claim

Prominent blogger or influencers can claim a range of expenses and if you’re one of them, despite the ATO’s scare tactics (which happen every year), you should be fine to generally claim any deduction that is related to your income.

In addition to home office expenses mentioned before, influencers can also claim on advertising, promotion and design (such as outsourced blog and logo design, prize giveaways and search optimisation services), and sometimes even travel expenses such as food, transport and accommodation. The latter will need to be kept via a thorough and clear record with carefully filed receipts.

5. Don’t get too confident, though!

While there are a number of claimable expenses, it’s important to not give in to the temptation to claim everything unless you’re 100% sure it is related to your income.

Even though blogging has its benefits this is something only recently acknowledged by the ATO, so if you’re unsure of what you can and can’t claim, always seek the advice of a tax agent.

The post Five tax tips for bloggers, influencers and Instagram stars appeared first on Money magazine.

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Q. My parents-in-law, aged 80-plus, face the issue of what to do next. They own their home and get a small pension, but time is catching up with them, so what to do?

If they move to a retirement home, do they sell their house to pay entrance fees or rent it out to cover the costs?

What is the best way forward, as we don’t want to get it wrong?

I got lots of information but it just adds to my confusion. Some clear directions and consequences would be appreciated. – Mareee

A. Hi, Maree. This is a really hard one. My wife Vicki and I, along with most of our friends, have had to deal with this situation. And it is really complex.

First, there are quite a number of “aged” advisers in the marketplace. Some, I fret, are flogging solutions, but quite a few of the fee-charging ones are there to answer the questions you have.

So I cannot answer your question as an expert. I can only give you my personal experiences. We, and most of our friends, have tried to keep our parents at home, barring debilitating illness.

As part pensioners, yours will qualify for the government’s reverse mortgage scheme if a little more week-to-week money would help.

The overarching solution to age is to assist people stay at home for as long as possible. So check out all the packages that will assist your parents to do this.

As I am keeping this personal, I am happy to share Vicki’s and my plans with you.

We will stay at home as long as possible and will use our assets to bring in extra assistance as needed. Community services are available to help you do this, if needed.

When the time comes – and it will probably be our kids having to do this – we hope not to leave until we are assessed for high care, which can be covered with a government-guaranteed and refundable bond.

At that stage the house may need to be sold, or used as security to cover the bond.

Others may disagree; we respect that. But this is what we and many of our friends did to help our parents live the best life possible. There is no perfect plan for age, except not getting old!

The post Ask Paul: Should my in-laws sell their house to pay for aged care? appeared first on Money magazine.

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If you have taken a break from the workforce and aren’t receiving superannuation contributions, you may lose some valuable benefits from July 1.

There are a number of new superannuation rules starting in a few weeks. Some rules will impact people taking time out of the workforce and considered inactive.

The super changes, called Protecting Your Super, were set up to stop Australians’ super accounts from being eroded by insurance fees and premiums they don’t need.

This is a great move for young people who were losing their valuable superannuation savings.

But there are other people who may be impacted who want to keep their insurance.

They could include mothers taking a break from the workforce, Australians employed overseas, people in part-time work who earn less than $450 per month, workers who are paid cash, people recovering from major illnesses and accidents as well as the self-employed who make irregular payments or people travelling overseas for long stretches of time.

Loss of insurance cover

If your superannuation account hasn’t received any contributions or rollovers for more than 16 months, it is considered inactive. It will cut off your death and total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance cover.

But before it does, your super fund is required to inform fund members that they are at risk of having their insurance cancelled.

Fund members have the option to retain their insurance cover even if they are not making regular super contributions. But if you have moved and haven’t updated your address, you will need to contact the fund.

The problem in losing your insurance cover is that you may not get the same broad cover when you reactivate it after you have lost it. You could be asked medical questions and depending on your health, lose automatic cover.

Check with your super fund before the new super rules come into effect on July 1.

Closure of inactive super accounts

Your super account could be closed automatically if you have an inactive super account with a balance of less than $6000.

The balance will be transferred to the tax office, which will then use data matching technology to combine the low balance amount with – if you have one – your active super account.

Cap on fees for low balance accounts

One of the benefits of the new changes is a new cap on the fees charged on small super accounts with a balance of $6000 or less. However the capped fee level is quite high at 3% per annum.

Switching funds without exit fees

Another good move is that you will be able to switch from one superannuation fund to another without having to pay an exit fee.

Exit fees will be banned so you don’t have to pay a penalty and are free to move from a bad super fund.

No work test for contributions in the first year of retirement

New retirees aged between 65 and 74 will be able to make voluntary contributions into their super account without needing to satisfy the work test. To qualify you must have had less than $300,000 in your super account at the end of the previous financial year.

The relaxation of the work test rules only applies once and you cannot make contributions in subsequent financial years without meeting the work test.

Catch-up concessional contributions

This is the first year you can make additional catch-up concessional contributions to your super fund, allowing eligible Australians to put more into super. You do this by using your unused concessional contributions cap amounts from previous years.

To qualify for making a catch-up concessional contribution, you must have less than $500,000 on June 30 of the previous financial year. Also, you must not have used your entire $25,000 annual concessional contributions cap in the previous financial year.

Under the rules, you can carry-forward up to five years of unused concessional contributions caps for use in a later financial year, but the rolled forward amounts expire after five years.

The five-year carry-forward period started on July 1, 2018, meaning that 2019-2020 is the first year in which you can make catch-up contributions. If you are aged 65 or over, the normal work test rules apply.

Rise in age pension work bonus

If you’re working and receiving the age pension you could be entitled to the Work Bonus, which excludes some of your pay from the Centrelink income test.

This bonus is increasing from $250 to $300 a fortnight, meaning you’re able to keep more of your income, or work for short periods with little or no effect on your age pension.

Lifetime annuity means test change

Changes to the means test for lifetime retirement income streams or annuities come into effect from July 1, 2019.

Annuity payments are included in the age pension income test, but under the new rules only 60% of an annuity’s purchase price will be included in the assets test rather than the previous situation where the full purchase price is included.

The assessment rate will reduce to 30% for people aged over 84.

Pension Loans Scheme expanded

From July 1, 2019, the eligibility criteria and withdrawal amounts for the Pension Loans Scheme (PLS) will be expanded to make the scheme available to more Australians of age pension age. Under the new eligibility rules, you must still qualify for one of the eligible pensions.

The PLS provides loans to more asset rich, cash poor pensioners who own real estate in Australia. It allows them to unlock money tied up in their own homes to help pay for day-to-day expenses through a reverse mortgage. It can help with unexpected medical bills or bridging aged care costs until the family home is sold.

The withdrawal amount per fortnight is increasing from 100% to 150% of the maximum fortnightly pension rate.

The post Don’t get caught out by the July 1 super changes: what you need to know appeared first on Money magazine.

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Every tax time, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) focuses on certain hotspots where taxpayers are prone – either accidentally or deliberately – to make errors.

These are the areas it will concentrate its audit firepower on, and for those who have made claims in areas the ATO will be targeting, they can be a wake-up call to ensure that you get it right this year and that you go back and check that you did it right last year.

So, what is on the ATO’s list this year? Well, essentially, they’re looking at two main areas: work-related expenses and claims made by investment property owners.

The ATO recently claimed there was an $8.7 billion shortfall between the tax individuals are expected to pay and the tax they actually are paying.

The ATO believes that work-related expenses claims are the biggest element in that “tax gap” and have signalled that they’ll be looking closely at these deductions this year. In particular, they’ll be looking closely at:

  • Claims for work-related clothing, dry cleaning and laundry expenses (for instance, the ATO has flagged that it will be checking taxpayers who take advantage of the exemption from keeping receipts for people who spend less than $150 on laundry expenses – the ATO believes too many people are claiming this without actually incurring the expense).
  • Deductions for home office use, including claiming for “occupation” costs like rent, rates and mortgage interest, which are not allowable unless you’re actually running a business from home.
  • Overtime meal claims.
  • Union fees and subscriptions.
  • Mobile phone and internet costs, with a particular focus on people who are claiming the whole (or a substantial part) of the bill for their personal mobile as work-related.
  • Motor vehicle claims where taxpayers take advantage of the 68 cents per kilometre flat rate available for journeys up to 5000km (the ATO is concerned that too many taxpayers are automatically claiming the 5000km limit regardless of the actual amount of travel).
  • Incorrectly claiming deductions under the rule that allows taxpayers who have incurred work-related expenses of $300 or less in total to make a claim without receipts (the ATO believes that some taxpayers are claiming this – or an amount just less than $300 – without actually incurring the expenses at all).

All these are areas where we know taxpayers often make mistakes, often not helped by misleading or vague advice from the ATO about how the law actually works.

H&R Block’s top tip before making any claim is to be confident that you understand what you can and can’t claim and that you have the necessary proof (invoices, receipts, diaries, etc) that you actually incurred the expenditure and that it was work or business related.

Property spotlight

The other main focus this year is on people who make deduction claims in relation to investment properties and holiday homes.

Over 1.8 million people – or about 8% of the Australian population – own an investment property, according to ATO figures, so this is a large and growing population for them to focus on.

The ATO believes errors in rental property claims are the second biggest component in the $8.7 billion tax gap (after work-related expenses), and indeed they recently announced that in a series of audits, the ATO found errors in 90% of returns reviewed.

So, this year, expect them to focus on the following:

  • The ATO has announced it will be paying close attention to excessive interest expense claims, such as where property owners have tried to claim borrowing costs on the family home as well as their rental property.
  • They will also be looking at the incorrect apportionment of rental income and expenses between owners, such as where deductions on a jointly owned property are claimed by the owner with the higher taxable income, rather than jointly.
  • They will be looking at holiday homes that are not genuinely available for rent. Rental property owners should only claim for the periods the property is rented out or is genuinely available for rent. Periods of personal use can’t be claimed. This is particularly important for holiday homes, where the ATO regularly finds evidence of home-owners claiming deductions for their holiday pad on the grounds that it is being rented out, when in reality the only people using it are the owners, their family and friends, often rent-free.
  • They will be keeping a close eye on incorrect claims for newly purchased rental properties. The costs to repair damage and defects existing at the time of purchase or the costs of renovation cannot be claimed immediately. These costs are deductible instead over a number of years. Expect to see the ATO checking such claims and pushing back against claims that don’t stack up.

Don’t forget, the ATO has access to numerous sources of third-party data including access to popular holiday rental listing sites such as Stayz and Airbnb, so it is relatively easy for them to establish whether a claim that a property was “available for rent” is correct.

The key tip from H&R Block is to ensure that property owners keep good records.

The golden rule is; if you can’t substantiate it, you can’t claim it, so it’s essential to keep invoices, receipts and bank statements for all property expenditure, as well as proof that your property was available for rent, such as rental listings.

Other hotspots

Cryptocurrency

The ATO will also be taking a closer look at the booming market in investments in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

Increasing numbers of taxpayers are jumping on the bandwagon and the ATO believes that some of them are failing to declare the profits (and in some cases the losses) they are making on their investments.

Remember, investing in cryptocurrencies can give rise to capital gains tax on profits. Traders can be taxed on their profits as business income.

To help them in their search, the ATO is collecting bulk records from Australian cryptocurrency designated service providers (DSPs) as part of a data-matching program to ensure people trading in cryptocurrency are paying the right amount of tax.

Data to be provided to the ATO will include cryptocurrency purchase and sale information. The data will identify taxpayers who fail to disclose their income details correctly.

The ATO estimates that there are between 500,000 to one million Australians that have invested in crypto-assets.

Sharing economy

The ATO will also be looking closely at those working in the shared economy to ensure that income and expenses are correctly reported.

Examples quoted by the ATO include services such as:

  • ride-sourcing – transporting passengers for a fare (such as Uber drivers).
  • renting out a room or house for accommodation (Airbnb hosts are the obvious example). The ATO is believed to be particularly concerned about taxpayers claiming the full CGT main residence exemption when part of their main residence has been rented out through Airbnb; the law prevents a full CGT exemption where part of a main residence has been used to earn income.
  • renting out parking spaces.
  • providing skilled services – web or trade services etc (Airtasker workers, for instance).
  • supplying equipment, tools etc.
  • completing odd jobs, errands, deliveries etc.
  • renting out equipment such as tools, musical instruments, sports equipment etc.

The post Tax office spotlight: who the ATO is targeting this tax time appeared first on Money magazine.

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We have all heard the building horror stories: the project that took years to complete; the builder that went bust halfway through a project, leaving the homeowner high and dry; the dodgy workmanship and the woes of not being able to get trades back to fix it.

It is enough to put anyone off building or renovating.

The good news is that it is not like that most of the time. We simply hear more about the horror stories than the good ones. But for every building or renovation horror story there are hundreds of projects that are completed on budget, on time and to a high standard.

So how do you make sure you are a success story instead of a horror story? Thankfully, there are some easy steps you can take to ensure you end up a winner.

Schedule blowouts and time delays

The main causes of schedule blowouts and time delays on building and renovation projects are:

Change in scope

If you keep adding new features to your project, then it will take longer. To avoid this, spend time planning at the start of your project.

Weather delays

Unexpected weather events can happen at any time of the year. To minimise the impact allow for rainy days in your schedule and plan indoor tasks to be carried out during winter months.

Supplier delays

Some products need to be ordered in advance. Before ordering a product always ask how long it will take to arrive.

Suppliers going out of business

I have seen homeowners buy appliances early in the project and the retailer has held the goods in storage. Unfortunately, when the retailer went out of business, the owner could not gain access to their goods. Sunk money. If you buy early, store the goods yourself until you are ready to use them.

Trades shortage

Good tradespeople are worth waiting for and those who are at the top of their game usually have a waiting list. Create a project schedule and lock in your premium trades in advance.

Watch out for budget creep

Know your building or renovation budget and stick to it. It is very easy to get tempted into buying goods and materials that are more than you have budgeted for.

Budget creep can happen slowly and surely, and before you know it you have added thousands to the total cost of your build.

A great way to approach this is to allow for one or two splurge items and put some padding into your budget to cater for these.

Get the right trades on board

Nothing wrecks a renovation project faster than poor workmanship.

Getting the right trades lined up is essential to ensure that you are not disappointed with the end result. Use this checklist to source quality tradespeople:

– Certain trades must be licensed or registered. Ask for their evidence of their registration number and check that it is still current.

– Ask if they have insurance. Without insurance you might be personally liable if they have an accident in your home.

– Will they let you talk to previous customers as a reference? Just because they finished a job around the corner it doesn’t mean that the customer is happy with their work.

– Do they provide a written quote? Never proceed without a written agreement or you are likely to get slugged for additional costs and labour cost blowouts.

– Don’t pay in cash. With no proof of payment it is unlikely that you will get a warranty for the work so you won’t have a leg to stand on if the work is substandard.

How to choose a reputable builder when they all look the same

Choosing a builder can be confusing. They all promise the same things so how do you know which one will deliver on their promises?

Which one will deliver on time and on budget and do the right thing by you and your home?

First, check that your builder is registered/licensed, and find out how long they have been in business.

Ask if the builder has a track record in homes that are similar to yours.

Then check the builder’s track record of delivering on time. Ask to speak to clients on recent projects.

Ask who you talk to when you have concerns during your build. Are you able to talk to your builder or will you have to deal with office staff you have not met before?

Ensure that promised dates are written into your contract, and only proceed if everything is in writing and signed off in a standard contract.

Win a copy of Nail Your Renovation Without Getting Screwed 

The post How to avoid your home renovation becoming a nightmare appeared first on Money magazine.

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That Bingo Industries (ASX: BIN) is up more than 85% in four months is testament to its desirability as a long-term investment.

It has also been extremely rewarding for some members of the founding Tartak family who, it is reported, collected $420 million in cash when the company floated in 2017.

But the recovery belies the inevitable cyclicality in the business for domestic and industrial waste collection, recycling and disposal.

Earlier in the year, Bingo shares fell 50% in a single day, after the company announced it would fail to generate the previously expected earnings growth of 15-20%.

Instead, the company said it expected to produce a 2019 profit equal to 2018.

The company made its announcements at a time when residential construction activity was flattening but still at peak levels.

Since then however residential approvals have slumped and anecdotal evidence points to a major decline in the pipeline of work for both house and land package developers and developers of medium- and high-density dwellings.

Perhaps even more importantly, the commercial construction industry is booming. However, the demolition phase – the most lucrative for a waste removal business – appears to have peaked.

With many unlisted builders privately telling us that both residential and commercial construction is ‘post peak’, Bingo’s ability to match last year’s earnings will be challenging despite some analysts putting in extremely bullish FY20 forecasts as a consequence of the Queensland landfill levy.

It is not unreasonable to expect the company to provide guidance for 2020 that might be weaker than 2019.

If a downgrade transpires, and if the share price reacts negatively again, we think Bingo could be a very hot stock indeed.

Through the company’s acquisition of Dial-a-Dump Bingo now owns one of the largest non-putrescible landfills in the southern hemisphere and, provided the competitive landscape allows the company’s gate fees to cover not only operating costs and depreciation costs but also a profit after taking into account post-closure management and perhaps the replacement of the landfill asset itself, Bingo could be extremely lucrative.

The post Why now could be the time to recycle your interest in Bingo shares appeared first on Money magazine.

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It is now 139 months since the all-time high of 6873 points on the All Ordinaries Index set back in 2007, the longest period our market has taken to reach a new all-time high following a bear market.

In the past 60 years, the longest time was 94 months following the lows in the early 1970s. So any suggestion that the Australian market is overheated and running too fast is a little premature.

This week the ASX 200 rose strongly reaching its highest level since December 2007 and just a few per cent away from achieving the elusive new all-time high.

Miners were the main catalyst for the rise after iron ore exceeded $US103 a tonne. A combination of rising iron ore prices and the RBA’s rate cuts have benefited miners over the past month.

The Materials sector was up 3.5% with Fortescue Metals leading the way this week up more than 6% followed by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto both up around 4%.

Analysts are forecasting that iron ore will exceed US $120/ tonne, although this may already be factored into the current share price, so I would watch how these stocks unfold in the coming weeks.

Wesfarmers power play

Wesfarmers brought out its chequebook and continued to make power moves this week to acquire retailer Catch of the Day for $230 million.

The deal is focused on providing Wesfamers and Kmart Groups the opportunity to accelerate into the digital age by enhancing both their digital and ecommerce capabilities. The week prior, Wesfarmers had also announced a proposal to acquire Lithium producer Kidman Resources.

This news is timely given that Wesfamers had provided the market with a trading update on sales for Target and Kmart coming in lower than the previous half year, which was to be expected.

Both Target and Kmart only make up a small percentage of Wesfarmers books, contributing around 12.8% to total revenue in 2018.

While the market will often have a knee jerk reaction once news of lower sales breaks, its shares were only down slightly, which indicates that the overall market is still supporting this stock. If you own Wesfarmers, I believe now is the time to be patient.

Looking at the other sectors, Communication Services and Healthcare where the top performers both up more than 3%. The worst sectors were Consumer Discretionary and Utilities, which were both down more than 1%.

Of the top stocks in the ASX 200, Vocus Group continued its rollercoaster ride on speculation of takeovers making it this week’s top performer, up more than 12%. AGL Energy has now also put its hat in the ring of possible hopefuls to takeover Vocus with their non-binding $3 billion bid to acquire the company.

Other top performers include Bingo, which was up more than 10% and IDP Education more than 9%.

The worst performers include Star Entertainment Group down around 15% and Challenger, which fell more than 12% following profit downgrades. AGL was also down more than 6%, which may be a reaction to its offer to takeover Vocus.

What to expect from the market

Last week I thought that whatever happened this week would indicate the direction of the Australian market in the coming month.

Given that the All Ordinaries Index rose strongly, I believe it will continue to rise for some time to come.

It is likely that we will see some increased volatility between mid to late July although this will not affect the direction and strength of the Australian market.

Given this, I believe it will continue to move up to new highs until late July or even into August with my target around 6900 points.

The post Market wrap: ASX 200 nears elusive new all-time high appeared first on Money magazine.

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Every year when the Entertainment Book comes out, I like to look back and see how I used it the previous year. And last year surprised me, mainly because I didn’t think we had used the membership very much.

These days my new husband and I are more focused on dining in and saving money rather than eating out. We don’t shop much either, or so we thought – when I added up our expenditure, I discovered that we had, in fact, saved just over $400.

That might not sound like much but it isn’t a bad return on investment given that in my area the Entertainment Book costs $60. Worth noting is the bonus of 20% from the sale of each membership going to supporting your charity of choice.

25 years of supporting charities

This month marks 25 years since the first Entertainment Book was launched in Australia.  Since that time, it’s hard not to find a family that hasn’t heard about the book, or a charity that hasn’t thought about using it for fundraising at some point.

Just do a simple Google search for the Entertainment Book and charity, and you will see what type of charities the book helps to support – everything from the Cancer Council, the RSPCA and Starlight Children’s Foundation to work social clubs.

I’ve been selling it for my work’s family support network for the past four years.

I find the book pretty much sells itself so no hard sell is necessary and Entertainment’s mobile phone app means more and more people renew on their phones and the new membership clocks over automatically. The downside with the app, though, is that you can’t transfer app discounts in the same way you can share paper vouchers.

When it was first introduced, the Entertainment Book with its detachable vouchers was a game changer. There wasn’t much of a discount culture at the time.

Now you can buy everything from group buying discounts such as Groupon, early dining discounts such as First Table, Shop A Dockets, loyalty schemes, package holiday deals and much more. The difference, though, is that the Entertainment Book makes a significant contribution to our community. Group executive manager Heidi Halson reports that in 25 years Entertainment has helped raise over $84 million with Australian and New Zealand fundraisers.

My savings in 2018-19

“But what about the money?” I can almost hear you thinking.

“Surely I would be better just to keep my $60-$70 rather than buying a membership – maybe even give that money to charity – and get my deals elsewhere?”

Despite the competition (or perhaps because of it?), Entertainment Book memberships still offer good value. I use membership as a baseline for comparisons rather than my only source of good offers.

For instance, some Groupons offer exceptional, short-term value and are hard to beat. Meanwhile, some other offers seem really good at first but have fine print such as expiry dates and items that are excluded (for example, alcohol).

In contrast, I love the range and flexibility of the offers that Entertainment Book membership provides. I loved the ritual of bringing home the book, flipping through the offers and daydreaming about the experiences on offer.

These days I tend to go through the app and mark my favourites to return to. Sometimes planning future adventures is almost as much fun as the adventure itself!

When I recap my Entertainment Book membership usage over the past year, there is no question that we made some significant savings – even while staying true to our frugalista mortgage reduction goals. Our major savings were in the following areas:

We used quite a lot of eWish cards over the past year, in part because we used them at Dan Murphy’s to purchase alcohol for our wedding last year.

We waited for some great specials, then swooped in with our eWish cards and automatically received a 5% discount.

Our reception venue was a long way from the shops, so we over-ordered a bit and are now slowly enjoying the rest (in moderation, of course).

What’s in the latest edition

This year the Entertainment Book has some strong offerings. On the travel front, it is now partnering with seven airlines (Emirates Australia, Virgin Australia, Qatar Airways, British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Air New Zealand and Jetstar).

At the time of writing, Jetstar is offering a 5% discount for gift cards, Virgin 10% off business saver and business class fares, and Qatar 10% off economy or business fares.

The book now has its own Entertainment Traveller service, which offers package tours. For instance, there are a P&O Norway and Northern Lights cruise for 31% off (including return airfares to London) and some good-value Pacific holidays. Package holiday options are limited but I expect that will improve with time.

There are also great shopping discounts, with the book’s discounted eGift cards having come to the rescue more than once for last-minute significant birthday presents over the years.

This year Priceline has come on board, offering 10% off eWish cards bought through the site. You can also score 10% off gift cards with Rebel Sport, Super Cheap Auto, Country Road, Lorna Jane, BCF and others. Something to bear in mind, though, is that gift cards are often sold out online.

A new Entertainment Book product is on offer this year, too – a special 30-day membership. Once you have purchased a membership, you can then opt for a 30-day membership for $30 for another area.

This is useful if, say, you are going to the Gold Coast on holidays for two weeks or going to Melbourne for a month-long work trip. The price is reasonable for access to discounted activities and dining options while you are away from home.

Win an Entertainment Book

The post How I save hundreds of dollars with my Entertainment Book appeared first on Money magazine.

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He may not be as famous as Warren Buffett, but he is known as the richest man in Japan.

Ranked number 43 on the World’s Billionaires 2019, Masayoshi Son is estimated to have a net worth of $US22.9 billion.

Son is the founder and current CEO of SoftBank – a Japanese conglomerate known for its investment in a number of high-profile companies around the world including Alibaba (Amazon of China), Yahoo Japan, Uber and Slack Technologies.

What is SoftBank?

SoftBank is the fourth largest publicly traded company in Japan, coming behind only Toyota, MUFG and NTT. It became a listed company in 1994 when it was valued at $3 billion.

Founded in September 1981 by then 24-year old Masayoshi Son, SoftBank started as a computer parts store. It would go on to become Japan’s largest publisher of computer and technology magazines and host of trade shows.

In the same way that Warren Buffett has Berkshire Hathaway as his main investment company, Masayoshi Son has SoftBank as the primary conglomerate behind all his investments.

Investment Strategy

But unlike Warren Buffett, who is also well known for choosing to buy into companies with products or services that are easy to understand, Masayoshi Son seems to prefer companies at the leading edge of technology and innovation.

This is obvious given the list of companies in which SoftBank has invested in over the past several years.

One common theme between Warren Buffett’s and Masayoshi Son’s investment strategy is that they both tend to buy a majority stake in companies. They don’t just buy a few shares here and there.

Here are some of the companies that Masayoshi Son has invested in over the past few years.

Alibaba

Considered the Amazon of China, this company founded by Jack Ma had a market capitalisation of US$352.28 billion as of December 2018. It ranked as the world’s biggest Initial Public Offering (IPO) when it listed in September 2014, with a company valuation of US$231 billion.

Masayoshi Son is one of the early investors of Alibaba. He invested approximately US$20 million into Alibaba in 1999 and today owns 29.5 per cent of the Chinese e-commerce giant. Masayoshi Son’s initial investment in Alibaba had been estimated to be worth around $108.7 billion as of 23rd October 2018.

Ping An Health

The largest private insurer in China, which attracted a substantial investment from SoftBank to fund its pre-IPO financing.

Given the massive reach and presence of Ping An in China, servicing the medical and healthcare sectors, it is understandable that Masayoshi Son was keen to invest in this company.

Here are some mind-boggling numbers from Ping An:

  • 20,000+ technology and R&D staff members
  • 500+ data scientists
  • 3,000+ international and national patents
  • 190 million registered users of its Ping An Good Doctor app
  • 800 million customers for its Healthcare Technology (covers 70% of Chinese cities)

Slack Technologies

This workplace messaging app company received a boost in funding from Masayoshi Son’s SoftBank in September 2017. The initial investment was worth US$250 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

Recent industry news showed that Slack is getting ready to go public.

Given the growth and interest in technology companies that promote productivity and collaboration among massive group of users, Slack is well-placed to take advantage of this trend due to the popularity of its workplace messaging app.

Given Masayoshi Son’s early investment in the company, it looks like Slack may be another top performer in the SoftBank portfolio.

Uber Technologies

Known for its peer-to-peer ridesharing service, food delivery and bicycle-sharing system.

SoftBank is the largest shareholder in this controversial ride-hailing service which recently completed its IPO. Using the massive pool of US$100 billion raised under its Vision Fund two years ago, SoftBank became one of the early investors in Uber.

Recent industry estimates showed that SoftBank owns approximately 15% of Uber. Though Uber’s share price has fallen since it listed, it remains to be seen whether its biggest shareholder will make massive profits or losses in this particular investment.

Some Uber statistics:

  • Estimated 110 million users worldwide
  • 69% market share in the US for passenger transport
  • 25% market share for food delivery
  • 785 metropolitan areas covered worldwide

These are only some of the major companies and brands that SoftBank (and to a certain extent Masayoshi Son in his personal capacity) has invested in and continues to invest in.

Some of these companies may fit into your portfolio while others may not.

Either way, it may be worth considering whether some of these stocks can deliver improved returns to your portfolio just as they have delivered ongoing returns for Japan’s richest man.

The post How Japan’s Warren Buffett chooses where to invest appeared first on Money magazine.

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At a time of record low interest rates, home-owning retirees on the full age pension and eligible self-funded retirees will be able to borrow up to $36,000 a year for a single or $54,000 for a couple from the federal government from July 1.

The little-known Pension Loans Scheme, which has been in place since 1985, has been expanded to provide loans to more asset-rich, cash-poor pensioners who own real estate in Australia.

It allows them to unlock money tied up in their homes to help pay for day-to-day expenses through a reverse mortgage. It can help with unexpected medical bills or bridging aged care costs until the family home is sold.

The 0.25% Reserve Bank interest rate cut will leave retirees and other savers $1.3 billion more worse off in the coming year, according to Finder’s insights manager, Graham Cooke.

Under the changes, the scheme will now be open to full aged pensioners and self-funded retirees, whereas it was previously only available to eligible pensioners. As well, the amount available has increased to up to 150% of the maximum fortnightly pension rate.

For example, according to figures modelled by AMP, a single person on a full age pension of $24,000 could borrow up to $12,000 each year, bringing their total cash flow from the age pension and the loan to the maximum $36,000.

With a low reverse mortgage interest rate of 5.25%, it is worth considering the scheme, which is run by the Department of Human Services

How the Pension Loans Scheme works
  • The loan is made as a stream of fortnightly pension top-ups, up to 150% of the maximum fortnightly rate of pension.
  • Interest continues to accrue until the loan is repaid and increases the amount to be repaid.
  • The longer an individual takes to repay the outstanding loan balance, the more they will have to repay over the life of the loan.
  • Repayments can be made at any time or the debt can be left, including the accrued interest, to be recovered from the person’s estate.
  • It is up to the borrower to manage all the costs associated with establishing, changing and finalising the loan, such as legal fees.
  • You have to be of age pension age, or the partner of someone who is, to qualify.

“A reverse mortgage allows retirees to increase their cash flow while staying in the family home. However, it won’t be right for everyone and there are many things retirees should weigh up before applying for the Pension Loans Scheme,” says John Perri, AMP’s technical strategy manager.

He says the most important consideration is that a reverse mortgage will reduce the value of the family home when it is sold. The longer it takes to repay the loan, the more interest is paid.

“For retirees the Pension Loans Scheme provides an opportunity to free up some equity that they have in their home. This may help bridge the funding gap while looking to secure aged care or while they await an ACAT assessment,” says Perri.

“The downside is that their estate often will be left to pay the outstanding loan, potentially leaving less inheritance to the kids. Retirees should carefully consider their personal situation to work out if this is a viable option for them.”

Few people have taken up the loans scheme. As at June 2016 there were only 669 borrowers with outstanding debt totalling $30 million. The average loan was around $45,000.

Where to get help

The Department of Human Services offers a free and confidential Financial Information Service (FIS) to help people with finances. It is a good idea to meet with a specialist FIS officer to discuss the terms and conditions of the Pension Loans Scheme when deciding whether to apply.

To speak to an FIS officer, phone 132 300 or visit humanservices.gov.au.

The post Loan scheme expanded to help asset-rich, cash-poor pensioners appeared first on Money magazine.

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