Cautious Aussies remain sensible with cash

Cautious Aussies remain sensible with cash

Australians are continuing the trend of being sensible with cash and paying down debt as millions of taxpayers resist using their tax returns on a spending spree.

With the 2013/14 financial year beginning today many Australians will start to prepare their tax returns in the coming weeks and about three in five people will either use their refund to pay off debts or will save it, research found.

The survey, by RateCity, showed 40 percent of respondents plan to use their refund to pay down debt and another 23 percent intend to save it, which was not good news for retailers. Only 3 percent of respondents are planning to spend all of their tax refund.

Alex Parsons, chief executive of RateCity, said Aussies are continuing to take a cautious approach to their cash.

He said a good way to use a refund was for home loan customers to put the funds straight on to their mortgage.

“By putting a $2000 lump sum on a $300,000 mortgage it can save almost $7000 in interest and reduce a home loan term by four months,” he said. “And if $2000 was added as a lump sum every year, borrowers could save $77,000 and cut their 30-year loan term by almost six years.”

RateCity found that by adding a $2000 tax refund to a typical credit card debt of $3000 and the average purchase rate of about 17 percent, cardholders could potentially save almost $5000 in interest.

Savers could benefit from adding their refund to a savings account, adding around $1430 in interest over five years by adding a $2000 return every year to an account paying 4.4 percent, RateCity found.

Tammy May, director of MyBudget, said tax time was a good opportunity for Australians without savings to put aside a pool for a rainy day.

“One of the greatest causes of credit overuse and unmanageable debt is a lack of savings,” she told News Ltd.

“Savings provide a financial safety net in case of unexpected expenses such as a car breaking down or the washing machine needs to be replaced or a sudden change of income.”

“Be sure to keep it in a separate bank account so you won’t be tempted to make withdrawals.”

The Australian Taxation Office expects more than 12.4 million Australians to lodge their income tax returns for the last financial year. Australians have until October 31 to lodge their return or register with a tax agent.

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Learn more about home loans

Cash or mortgage – which is more suitable to buy an investment property?

Deciding whether to buy an investment property with cash or a mortgage is a matter or personal choice and will often depend on your financial situation. Using cash may seem logical if you have the money in reserve and it can allow you to later use the equity in your home. However, there may be other factors to think about, such as whether there are other debts to pay down and whether it will tie up all of your spare cash. Again, it’s a personal choice and may be worth seeking personal advice.

A mortgage is a popular option for people who don’t have enough cash in the bank to pay for an investment property. Sometimes when you take out a mortgage you can offset your loan interest against the rental income you may earn. The rental income can also help to pay down the loan.

What are the features of home loans for expats from Westpac?

If you’re an Australian citizen living and working abroad, you can borrow to buy a property in Australia. With a Westpac non-resident home loan, you can borrow up to 80 per cent of the property value to purchase a property whilst living overseas. The minimum loan amount for these loans is $25,000, with a maximum loan term of 30 years.

The interest rates and other fees for Westpac non-resident home loans are the same as regular home loans offered to borrowers living in Australia. You’ll have to submit proof of income, six-month bank statements, an employment letter, and your last two payslips. You may also be required to submit a copy of your passport and visa that shows you’re allowed to live and work abroad.

When do mortgage payments start after settlement?

Generally speaking, your first mortgage payment falls due one month after the settlement date. However, this may vary based on your mortgage terms. You can check the exact date by contacting your lender.

Usually your settlement agent will meet the seller’s representatives to exchange documents at an agreed place and time. The balance purchase price is paid to the seller. The lender will register a mortgage against your title and give you the funds to purchase the new home.

Once the settlement process is complete, the lender allows you to draw down the loan. The loan amount is debited from your loan account. As soon as the settlement paperwork is sorted, you can collect the keys to your new home and work your way through the moving-in checklist.

Can I get a home loan if I owe taxes?

Owing money to the Australian Tax Office is not an ideal situation, but it doesn’t mean you cannot qualify for a home loan. Lenders will take into account your tax debt, your history of repaying the debt and your other financial circumstances, while reviewing your home loan application. 

While some banks may not look favourably upon your debt to the ATO, some non-bank lenders may be willing to help. They will look into the reasons for your tax debt and also take into account the steps you have taken to repay it before deciding whether to offer you the loan or not. Having said that, there are no guarantees - it depends on your whole financial picture.

Here are a few steps that you can take to improve your chances of getting approved for a home loan.

  • Demonstrate evidence of income.
  • Manage your debt by paying it off in installments.
  • Offer an explanation for your tax debt and a plan to pay it off.
  • Do what you can to stay out of court or attract debt collection agencies.

 

Can I salary sacrifice my home loan?

You can pay for your home loan straight from your pre-tax salary by salary sacrificing. Of course, this will depend on your employer’s policy. 

Salary sacrifice for home loans is offered exclusively for owner-occupied properties, so it cannot be used for investments.

Your employer may need to pay Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT), but non-profit organisations are exempt from this tax up to a certain limit. Some organisations may charge you an administrative fee to set this up. 

Keep in mind not all lenders accept salary sacrifice payments on your mortgage. Some lenders, like NAB, accept salary sacrificing for home loans.

Salary sacrificing won’t work for everyone, but in certain circumstances there are benefits to paying your home loan from your pre-tax income. These include reduced tax liability and potentially paying off your home loan quicker.

Who offers 40 year mortgages?

Home loans spanning 40 years are offered by select lenders, though the loan period is much longer than a standard 30-year home loan. You're more likely to find a maximum of 35 years, such as is the case with Teacher’s Mutual Bank

Currently, 40 year home loan lenders in Australia include AlphaBeta Money, BCU, G&C Mutual Bank, Pepper, and Sydney Mutual Bank.

Even though these lengthier loans 35 to 40 year loans do exist on the market, they are not overwhelmingly popular, as the extra interest you pay compared to a 30-year loan can be over $100,000 or more.

What is the Home Loan Rate Promise?

The Home Loan Rate Promise is RateCity putting its money where its mouth is. We believe that too many Australians are paying too much for their home loans. We’re so confident we can help Aussies save money, if we can’t beat your current rate, we’ll give you a $100 gift card.*

There are two reasons it pays to check your rate with the Home Loan Rate Promise:

  • You can find out how much you could save on your home loan by switching to a loan with a lower interest rate
  • If we can’t beat your current rate, you can claim a $100 gift card with our Home Loan Rate Promise*

How do I save for a mortgage when renting?

Saving for a deposit to secure a mortgage when renting is challenging but it can be done with time and patience. If you’re on a single income it can be even more difficult but this shouldn’t discourage you from buying your own home.

To save for a deposit, plan out a monthly budget and put it in a prominent position so it acts as a daily reminder of your ultimate goal. In your budget, set aside an amount of money each week to go into a savings account so you can start building up the ‘0’s’ in your account.  There are a range of online savings accounts that offer reasonable interest, although some will only off you high rates for the first few months so be wary of this.

If you aren’t able to save a large deposit, you can consider ways of entering the market that require small or no deposits. This can include getting a parent to act as guarantor for your home loan or entering the market with an interest only loan.

How do you calculate how much you could save with a lower rate?

To work out how much you could save, we run the home loan details you’ve provided through our database, and search for similar home loan options that we think would be suitable for you.

We then calculate the costs of these loan options over 15 years (to keep our calculations consistent) and compare them to the cost calculations for your current home loan.

How long should I have my mortgage for?

The standard length of a mortgage is between 25-30 years however they can be as long as 40 years and as few as one. There is a benefit to having a shorter mortgage as the faster you pay off the amount you owe, the less you’ll pay your bank in interest.

Of course, shorter mortgages will require higher monthly payments so plug the numbers into a mortgage calculator to find out how many years you can potentially shave off your budget.

For example monthly repayments on a $500,000 over 25 years with an interest rate of 5% are $2923. On the same loan with the same interest rate over 30 years repayments would be $2684 a month. At first blush, the 30 year mortgage sounds great with significantly lower monthly repayments but remember, stretching your loan out by an extra five years will see you hand over $89,396 in interest repayments to your bank.

How do I refinance my home loan?

Refinancing your home loan can involve a bit of paperwork but if you are moving on to a lower rate, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long-run. The first step is finding another loan on the market that you think will save you money over time or offer features that your current loan does not have. Once you have selected a couple of loans you are interested in, compare them with your current loan to see if you will save money in the long term on interest rates and fees. Remember to factor in any break fees and set up fees when assessing the cost of switching.

Once you have decided on a new loan it is simply a matter of contacting your existing and future lender to get the new loan set up. Beware that some lenders will revert your loan back to a 25 or 30 year term when you refinance which may mean initial lower repayments but may cost you more in the long run.

What is an interest-only loan? How do I work out interest-only loan repayments?

An ‘interest-only’ loan is a loan where the borrower is only required to pay back the interest on the loan. Typically, banks will only let lenders do this for a fixed period of time – often five years – however some lenders will be happy to extend this.

Interest-only loans are popular with investors who aren’t keen on putting a lot of capital into their investment property. It is also a handy feature for people who need to reduce their mortgage repayments for a short period of time while they are travelling overseas, or taking time off to look after a new family member, for example.

While moving on to interest-only will make your monthly repayments cheaper, ultimately, you will end up paying your bank thousands of dollars extra in interest to make up for the time where you weren’t paying off the principal.

How does an offset account work?

An offset account functions as a transaction account that is linked to your home loan. The balance of this account is offset daily against the loan amount and reduces the amount of principal that you pay interest on.

By using an offset account it’s possible to reduce the length of your loan and the total amount of interest payed by thousands of dollars. 

Example: If you have a mortgage of $500,000 but holding an offset account with $50,000, you will only pay interest on $450,000 rather then $500,000.

How do I calculate monthly mortgage repayments?

Work out your mortgage repayments using a home loan calculator that takes into account your deposit size, property value and interest rate. This is divided by the loan term you choose (for example, there are 360 months in a 30-year mortgage) to determine the monthly repayments over this time frame.

Over the course of your loan, your monthly repayment amount will be affected by changes to your interest rate, plus any circumstances where you opt to pay interest-only for a period of time, instead of principal and interest.