Five steps towards a financially secure future

Five steps towards a financially secure future

Think you’re too young to start planning towards a financially secure future? Think again.

It’s true, financial planning can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. There are simple steps you can take to start managing your money early and take control of your financial security.

1. Start your savings and investing sooner

“The sooner you start, the sooner and more likely you are to achieve your financial goals,” says Michael Nowak, adviser & partner at Joe Nowak Financial Services Group and national president of the Association of Financial Advisers.

Whether you are saving towards a holiday or a deposit towards your first mortgage, starting early helps you establish a habit of saving that will come in handy throughout your life. “I’ve found that it’s not the people who earn the most money who have the most; it’s the people who use their money wisely,” Nowak adds.

2.  Pay off your non-deductible debt as a priority

The family home is the biggest debt most of us will have and, in tax terms, it’s a non-deductible debt. “The sooner you pay off your home loan, the sooner you can use your discretionary income to invest in shares, other investments or towards your retirement plan,” Nowak says.

Most home loans are calculated to run over 25 or 30 years, which means a large chunk of your repayments is directed towards the interest rather than the original amount you borrowed – known as the principal of your loan. The longer you take to pay it off, the more money you spend on interest. Making extra repayments and having an offset account linked to your home loan will help you chip away at the principal and pay off your home sooner.

“By modelling differing repayment options, for example $500 or $600 per month, you can see the difference extra payments will have on reducing your interest and time to pay off your loan. This can be tens of thousands of dollars saved and many years on repayments,” Nowak says. Try using the RateCity home loan calculator as a guide.

3. Have a back-up plan

What happens if you get sick or lose your job? What if you or your spouse dies unexpectedly? Sure, nobody likes to think about gloomy scenarios but achieving financial security is more than accumulating wealth; it also means protecting your assets and your ability to create wealth.

Income protection (which can pay up to 80 percent of your personal exertion income if you lose your job or are unable to work for a period of time), trauma insurance and life insurance are all an important part of a financially secure future.

“Life insurance is an essential component of any financial plan,” Nowak says. “Australians are drastically underinsured, which is alarming given most would say they would like to maintain their own and their family’s lifestyle on death or disability.”

4. Take control of your super

“You are never too young to own and monitor your super,” Nowak adds. “First steps are consolidating your super into one fund and choosing the most appropriate investment strategy.

“Don’t be afraid to get professional advice if you need it as it can give you the help and certainty and the confidence you need to start you on your retirement funding journey.”

5. Start your pre-retirement planning early

Nowak recommends starting your retirement planning at age 50, or earlier. Start by setting a date for retirement and calculating how much money you would like to have each year. From there, you can calculate how much you will need in your retirement to achieve your goal.

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Learn more about home loans

How can I calculate interest on my home loan?

You can calculate the total interest you will pay over the life of your loan by using a mortgage calculator. The calculator will estimate your repayments based on the amount you want to borrow, the interest rate, the length of your loan, whether you are an owner-occupier or an investor and whether you plan to pay ‘principal and interest’ or ‘interest-only’.

If you are buying a new home, the calculator will also help you work out how much you’ll need to pay in stamp duty and other related costs.

How do I take out a low-deposit home loan?

If you want to take out a low-deposit home loan, it might be a good idea to consult a mortgage broker who can give you professional financial advice and organise the mortgage for you.

Another way to take out a low-deposit home loan is to do your own research with a comparison website like RateCity. Once you’ve identified your preferred mortgage, you can apply through RateCity or go direct to the lender.

How much money can I borrow for a home loan?

Tip: You can use RateCity how much can I borrow calculator to get a quick answer.

How much money you can borrow for a home loan will depend on a number of factors including your employment status, your income (and your partner’s income if you are taking out a joint loan), the size of your deposit, your living expenses and any other debt you might hold, including credit cards. 

A good place to start is to work out how much you can afford to make in monthly repayments, factoring in a buffer of at least 2 – 3 per cent to allow for interest rate rises along the way. You’ll also need to factor in additional costs that come with purchasing a property such as stamp duty, legal fees, building inspections, strata or council fees.

If you are planning on renting the property, you can factor in the expected rental income to help offset the mortgage, but again it’s prudent to add a significant buffer to allow for rental management fees, maintenance costs and short periods of no rental income when tenants move out. It’s also wise to factor in changes in personal circumstances – the typical home loan lasts for around 30 years and a lot can happen between now and then.

What is a debt service ratio?

A method of gauging a borrower’s home loan serviceability (ability to afford home loan repayments), the debt service ratio (DSR) is the fraction of an applicant’s income that will need to go towards paying back a loan. The DSR is typically expressed as a percentage, and lenders may decline loans to borrowers with too high a DSR (often over 30 per cent).

How can I pay off my home loan faster?

The quickest way to pay off your home loan is to make regular extra contributions in addition to your monthly repayments to pay down the principal as fast as possible. This in turn reduces the amount of interest paid overall and shortens the length of the loan.

Another option may be to increase the frequency of your payments to fortnightly or weekly, rather than monthly, which may then reduce the amount of interest you are charged, depending on how your lender calculates repayments.

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.

Remaining loan term

The length of time it will take to pay off your current home loan, based on the currently-entered mortgage balance, monthly repayment and interest rate.

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.

Mortgage Calculator, Loan Term

How long you wish to take to pay off your loan. 

What are the pros and cons of no-deposit home loans?

It’s no longer possible to get a no-deposit home loan in Australia. In some circumstances, you might be able to take out a mortgage with a 5 per cent deposit – but before you do so, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.

The big advantage of borrowing 95 per cent (also known as a 95 per cent home loan) is that you get to buy your property sooner. That may be particularly important if you plan to purchase in a rising market, where prices are increasing faster than you can accumulate savings.

But 95 per cent home loans also have disadvantages. First, the 95 per cent home loan market is relatively small, so you’ll have fewer options to choose from. Second, you’ll probably have to pay LMI (lender’s mortgage insurance). Third, you’ll probably be charged a higher interest rate. Fourth, the more you borrow, the more you’ll ultimately have to pay in interest. Fifth, if your property declines in value, your mortgage might end up being worth more than your home.

Will I have to pay lenders' mortgage insurance twice if I refinance?

If your deposit was less than 20 per cent of your property’s value when you took out your original loan, you may have paid lenders’ mortgage insurance (LMI) to cover the lender against the risk that you may default on your repayments. 

If you refinance to a new home loan, but still don’t have enough deposit and/or equity to provide 20 per cent security, you’ll need to pay for the lender’s LMI a second time. This could potentially add thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in upfront costs to your mortgage, so it’s important to consider whether the financial benefits of refinancing may be worth these costs.

What if I can't pay off my guaranteed home loan?

If you can’t pay off your guaranteed home loan, your lender might chase your guarantor for the money.

A guaranteed home loan is a legally binding agreement in which the guarantor assumes overall responsibility for the mortgage. So if the borrower falls behind on their mortgage, the lender might insist that the guarantor cover the repayments. If the guarantor fails to do so, the lender might seize the guarantor’s security (which is often the family home) so it can recoup its money.

How do guaranteed home loans work?

A guaranteed home loan involves a guarantor (often a parent) promising to pay off a mortgage if the principal borrower (often the child) fails to do so. The guarantor will also have to provide security, which is often the family home.

The principal borrower will usually be someone struggling to find the money to enter the property market. By partnering with a guarantor, the borrower increases their financial power and becomes less of a risk in the eyes of lenders. As a result, the borrower may:

  • Qualify for a mortgage that they would have otherwise been denied
  • Not be required to pay lender’s mortgage insurance (LMI)
  • Be charged a lower interest rate
  • Be charged less in fees

Does Australia have no cost refinancing?

No Cost Refinancing is an option available in the US where the lender or broker covers your switching costs, such as appraisal fees and settlement costs. Unfortunately, no cost refinancing isn’t available in Australia.