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D-Day for JobKeeper: what Australians can do to help survive a drop in income

D-Day for JobKeeper: what Australians can do to help survive a drop in income

It’s D-day for the million Australians receiving JobKeeper with COVID relief payments finishing this week.

Figures from the ATO show one million people were receiving JobKeeper at the end of January, down from 3.6 million in September last year when the payments were first slated to finish.

As a result of JobKeeper ending, Treasury estimates up to 150,000 people could find themselves unemployed.

For many, this will mean transitioning to JobSeeker while they look for work, which from Wednesday for a single person is up to $620.80 a fortnight – if they meet income and asset tests. For many households where a partner is still on a full salary, they might not qualify at all.

Other payment support programs include the Family Tax Benefit and the Child Care Subsidy.

RateCity.com.au research director, Sally Tindall, said: “For months, we’ve been talking about the impending JobKeeper cliff. Today, hundreds of thousands of Australians are now facing it head on.”

“The cliff isn’t nearly as big as it would have been back in September, but for up to 150,000 people who are set to lose their jobs, it’s going to be a difficult landing,” she said.

“Many people have only just managed to scrape by over the last year on JobKeeper payments. Now they could find the bills impossible to pay,” she said.

Most mortgage repayment pauses offered by the banks are finishing this Wednesday, after this time credit reporting will return to normal.

“Just because the banks’ COVID mortgage deferral programs are finishing, doesn’t mean your lender will stop offering support,” she said.

“If you don’t think you can make your monthly repayments, pick up the phone and tell your lender before it’s due. They don’t want to see you default any more than you do.

“When you talk to your bank, ask to be put on the new customer rate. If you haven’t negotiated your loan in a while, that might be enough of a discount to get you through,” she said.

RateCity.com.au research shows a 0.50 per cent cut on a $500,000, 30-year loan would drop a person’s monthly repayments by around $130.

Options for people under financial pressure

Get personal financial advice: sitting down with a trusted accountant or ringing the National Debt Helpline can help you come up with a plan to get through.

Use any money you have saved wisely: whether that’s from a redundancy package or a rainy-day fund, come up with a plan that will see it last as long as possible.

Check what government assistance you are eligible for: the level of assistance will depend on your income, assets and living circumstances.

If you have a home loan ask for a rate cut: another alternative is to switch to interest-only payments, but make sure your bank doesn’t hike your rate. If you are in hardship, the last thing you need is to pay more interest.

Negotiate your bills: call your energy, gas, phone and internet providers and ask them for a better deal, or a reprieve if you need one. If you’re struggling to pay for essential items, you could also be eligible for a no interest loan.

Make your own budget cuts: sit down with your bank statements and see where you can make cutbacks – that could be putting the gym membership on pause, cancelling Netflix or Stan subscriptions, or eating in as much as possible.

Where to get help if you are experiencing financial hardship

The National Debt Helpline: 1800 007 007, ndh.org.au (operates Monday to Friday).

The helpline can put you in touch with a financial counsellor who can talk you through your options.

No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS)nils.com.au

The scheme offers interest free loans of between $300 and $1,500 for essential goods and services such as fridges, washing machines, car repairs and medical procedures for people who earn under $45,000 after tax or have a health care or pension card.

For people going through severe financial hardship, charities can often help with food and shelter, Centrelink has crisis payments. Support hotlines such as Beyond Blue and Lifeline can help you manage the stress financial hardship brings.

Did you find this helpful? Why not share this news?

This article was reviewed by Research Director Sally Tindall before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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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.

Why does Westpac charge an early termination fee for home loans?

The Westpac home loan early termination fee or break cost is applicable if you have a fixed rate home loan and repay part of or the whole outstanding amount before the fixed period ends. If you’re switching between products before the fixed period ends, you’ll pay a switching break cost and an administrative fee. 

The Westpac home loan early termination fee may not apply if you repay an amount below the prepayment threshold. The prepayment threshold is the amount Westpac allows you to repay during the fixed period outside your regular repayments.

Westpac charges this fee because when you take out a home loan, the bank borrows the funds with wholesale rates available to banks and lenders. Westpac will then work out your interest rate based on you making regular repayments for a fixed period. If you repay before this period ends, the lender may incur a loss if there is any change in the wholesale rate of interest.

When does Commonwealth Bank charge an early exit fee?

When you take out a fixed interest home loan with the Commonwealth Bank, you’re able to lock the interest for a particular period. If the rates change during this period, your repayments remain unchanged. If you break the loan during the fixed interest period, you’ll have to pay the Commonwealth Bank home loan early exit fee and an administrative fee.

The Early Repayment Adjustment (ERA) and Administrative fees are applicable in the following instances:

  • If you switch your loan from fixed interest to variable rate
  • When you apply for a top-up home loan
  • If you repay over and above the annual threshold limit, which is $10,000 per year during the fixed interest period
  • When you prepay the entire outstanding loan balance before the end of the fixed interest duration.

The fee calculation depends on the interest rates, the amount you’ve repaid and the loan size. You can contact the lender to understand more about what you may have to pay. 

Can I get a Commonwealth Bank home loan during maternity leave?

The Commonwealth Bank considers several factors like your income, expenses, assets, and liabilities to determine whether you’re suitable for a loan. Being on maternity leave doesn’t mean you won’t get approved for a loan, provided you meet the lender’s other criteria. For example, you may have other savings or spousal income to support your application. 

Having said that, it can be slightly more difficult to get a loan while you’re on maternity leave if you’re not being paid for your time off (which is often the case, depending on how long it’s for). 

If you are looking to apply for a Commonwealth Bank home loan during maternity leave, here are some things that may help your application:

  • Get a letter from your employer including details like your date of resuming work, salary when you return to work, and other employment terms
  • Show the bank you have savings. Putting up a 20 per cent deposit may help and you could also avoid Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)
  • Calculate your income and expenses to apply for only what you can afford to pay.
  • If you have a partner or guarantor to help with your loan, provide their financial details on your application. 

Some people like to tell the lender they are on maternity leave before applying to see whether they qualify before going through the full process. 

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.

Does the family tax benefit count as income?

The family tax benefits are one of several government support payments that are not considered taxable income. Other such payments include child care subsidies, economic support payments, rent assistance, and carer allowances. If you file a tax return, you typically don’t need to mention such income on the return. However, some home loan lenders may accept family tax benefits as an income source when reviewing your home loan application. You’ll still need to meet other lending requirements, such as having a sufficiently high credit score and enough savings for a deposit before the loan will be approved.

Aussies receiving family tax benefits usually have an adjusted taxable income of no more than $55,626 a year. Alternatively, one spouse can be receiving income support payments from the government to be eligible. Most importantly, they need to have children dependent on them for care at least 35 per cent of the time. Children between the ages of 16 and 19 should be either full-time secondary students or have a somewhat comparable study load unless the government exempts them from these study requirements. 

Does Real Time Ratings' work for people who already have a home loan?

Yes. If you already have a mortgage you can use Real Time RatingsTM to compare your loan against the rest of the market. And if your rate changes, you can come back and check whether your loan is still competitive. If it isn’t, you’ll get the ammunition you need to negotiate a rate cut with your lender, or the resources to help you switch to a better lender.

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.

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 much are repayments on a $250K mortgage?

The exact repayment amount for a $250,000 mortgage will be determined by several factors including your deposit size, interest rate and the type of loan. It is best to use a mortgage calculator to determine your actual repayment size.

For example, the monthly repayments on a $250,000 loan with a 5 per cent interest rate over 30 years will be $1342. For a loan of $300,000 on the same rate and loan term, the monthly repayments will be $1610 and for a $500,000 loan, the monthly repayments will be $2684.

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.

What are extra repayments?

Additional payments to your home loan above the minimum monthly instalments, which can help to reduce the loan’s term and remaining payable interest.

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.

What is mortgage stress?

Mortgage stress is when you don’t have enough income to comfortably meet your monthly mortgage repayments and maintain your lifestyle. Many experts believe that mortgage stress starts when you are spending 30 per cent or more of your pre-tax income on mortgage repayments.

Mortgage stress can lead to people defaulting on their loans which can have serious long term repercussions.

The best way to avoid mortgage stress is to include at least a 2 – 3 per cent buffer in your estimated monthly repayments. If you could still make your monthly repayments comfortably at a rate of up to 8 or 9 per cent then you should be in good position to meet your obligations. If you think that a rate rise would leave you at a risk of defaulting on your loan, consider borrowing less money.

If you do find yourself in mortgage stress, talk to your bank about ways to potentially reduce your mortgage burden. Contacting a financial counsellor can also be a good idea. You can locate a free counselling service in your state by calling the national hotline: 1800 007 007 or visiting www.financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au.