How to get a head start in the property market

How to get a head start in the property market

As lenders loosen the purse strings and house prices take a dive, first-time buyers are more likely to be able to buy than at any time since the credit crunch. But the average down payment needed remains above $45,000, locking potential new homeowners out of the market (based on a 10 percent deposit and using RP Data’s median capital city house price as at January of $450,000).

Given the right circumstances; a stable income, little-to-no outstanding debt, and a sensible budget; saving for a large sum can be achieved within a few years. But first you’ll need to determine the best saving method for your situation, whether it is using the first home saver scheme, a high-interest savings account or term deposit account.

Online saver versus first home saver accounts

The government’s First Home Saver scheme is very attractive if you are planning to enter the housing market for the first time in the next few years.

For example, assuming you start with a $20,000 sum and deposit $1000 per month for the next four years at a base rate of 4.8 percent, (taking into account interest earned and tax saved) a first home saver could potentially have a final balance of just over $81,000. By contrast, the best online savings account available at the moment would leave you with a balance of $77,000 after that time; so you’d be over $4000 better off with the First Home Savers Scheme because of the rate boost and the lower tax rate.

As the name suggests, these accounts are only open to people saving for their first home. They have two main benefits. First, any interest you earn on the account is taxed at 15 percent, so if you earn more than $37,000 you’ll save at least half the tax you would have paid on a normal savings account. Second, to encourage savers to make regular deposits, the government will add a bonus that’s equal to 17 percent up to a maximum contribution of $5500 each year.

There are a number of conditions that must be met to earn the bonus contribution. First, you have to deposit at least $1000 each year for four financial years before you can withdraw your savings. Second, the house must be your principal place of residence, not an investment property. Finally, once your account balance hits $85,000 you can’t make any more contributions, though interest will still be credited to the account.

Fixed term accounts

Fixed term deposits can be a smart option for future home buyers with rates above 6 percent available on three-year terms. But because these types of accounts don’t allow regular deposits, even with a lump sum of $20,000 fixed for three years at 6 percent p.a., interest earnings are capped at $3933 (compounded).

The best savings option will depend on your circumstances, however, so take the time to do plenty of research to maximise your home deposit; because the long term savings could be significant.

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Learn more about term deposits

What is a term deposit?

A term deposit is an investment savings account. A term deposit usually pays a higher rate of interest than a regular savings account, with the interest rate fixed for the term (or duration) of the deposit.

You can open a term deposit account for one month or up to five years depending on your investment goal, and invest as little as $500 to start earning a profit.

With a term deposit, you get to decide how much you want to invest (the principal or deposit), for how long (the term or duration) and the frequency of interest payments.

A term deposit represents a secure form of investment, unlike trading in shares or purchasing real estate. And a term deposit up to $250,000 is protected by the government guarantee.

What is the best interest rate for a fixed term deposit?

The best interest rate for a fixed term deposit changes all the time, as interest rates move up and down and banks compete with each other to win market share.

To find the best interest rate for a fixed term deposit, it’s helpful to understand how interest rates are applied to term deposits.

There are three factors that determine the fixed interest of term deposits:

  1. The size of your deposit
  2. The duration of the term
  3. The frequency of interest paid

Term deposits vary in duration from one month to five years or more. Interest rates generally work on a sliding scale; shorter terms get a lower rate, longer terms get a higher rate.

Here are a couple of examples of how interest is applied to term deposits.

  • A $10,000 term deposit taken out over 12 months, with interest paid at maturity, might receive a fixed interest rate of 2.20 per cent.
  • A $10,000 fixed term deposit taken out over 12 months, with interest paid quarterly, might receive a fixed interest rate of 2.00 per cent.

Using the size of your deposit, the duration of the term and how often you want to be paid interest, you can shop around for the best interest rate for a fixed term deposit.

How do you calculate term deposit interest?

If you’re ready to open a term deposit, there’s a lot you’ve already figured out. You’ve decided on the length of your term and found the best interest rate, but there’s something you still might be wondering. How do you calculate term deposit interest?

One of the easiest ways to calculate term deposit interest is by using a term deposits calculator. However, you can also estimate your total earnings on your own.

A fixed interest rate signifies what percentage of your original balance your term deposit will earn annually. For example, a deposit of $1,000 at an interest rate of 3 per cent will earn three per cent of $1,000 annually – meaning you’ll earn $30 of interest each year.

You can estimate your interest using three variables. Multiply together your deposit amount, interest rate, and term length and you’ll approximate the interest a deposit will earn. For example, if you invest in a term deposit for $5,000 at an interest rate of 3 per cent for two years, your interest would total $300.

What is a term deposit account in a bank?

A term deposit account in a bank is a type of investment where you lock away a portion of your savings for a fixed period in return for earning a set amount of interest.

Opening a term deposit account in a bank is a safe way to earn a stable return on your investment of cash.

Term deposit accounts can be a good way to give your savings an extra boost without the need to actively watch or manage your funds during the term of the deposit.

Term deposit accounts in a bank are a popular type of investment because they’re safe and there’s very little risk that you could lose your money.

If you make a term deposit of up to $250,000 with an authorised deposit-taking institution, it’s guaranteed by the Australian government, which means there’s virtually no risk of losing your money and you’re guaranteed return.

Interest rates vary depending on the length of the term, the amount you deposit and the bank you choose.

How safe is a term deposit?

You may have heard that a term deposit is a type of investment, different to a traditional savings account. All investment comes with inherent risk, so it’s important to know how safe a term deposit is before committing.

Term deposits offer a fixed interest rate which is guaranteed, so you do not have to worry about rising or falling interest rates when investing. You can add up how much interest you will earn over your fixed term, and this will be paid into your account per the conditions of your term deposit.

Term deposits with authorised deposit-taking institutions are also guaranteed for up to $250,000 by the Financial Claims Scheme, so you don’t have to worry about the bank collapsing either.

The only inherent risk of a term deposit is if you may need to break it early. If this happens, you will need to pay a breakage fee and possibly sacrifice some of your interest as a penalty. But if you know you can invest a certain amount of money for a fixed period of time, you can rest assured that a term deposit is a safe investment option.

Are term deposits compounded?

Term deposits can be compounded, depending on what you choose to do with the interest.

There are two ways to receive interest from a term deposit: either a lump sum at maturity; or paid on a regular basis, usually monthly. If you get your interest paid regularly, you can get it paid into a transaction account, or back into the term deposit account. By using this second option, you’re getting interest paid on your interest. In other words, it’s compounding.

Having the money paid into a transaction account means you can access it for your day-to-day spending, while compounding the interest means you get a better overall return on your investment. Both have advantages, depending on your needs, but be aware that some term deposit accounts that pay interest regularly may offer a lower interest rate to offset the effect of compounding.

What is a fixed term deposit?

A fixed term deposit is a safe and stable way to earn a fixed return on your cash investment.

Fixed term deposits are essentially bank accounts where you lock your money away for a fixed period and earn a fixed interest rate on those funds.

Fixed term deposits can be both short term, which is usually anything under 12 months, or long term, which can be up to 10 years.

Once the fixed term has ended, the bank or financial institution will give you back your initial deposit plus any interest you earn during the fixed term period.

Depending on the type of fixed term deposit account you open, when the term matures, you may have the option of rolling the funds over for a new term or withdrawing the funds.

Unlike other savings or transaction accounts which offer variable interest rates and flexible features, fixed term deposits offer fixed interest rates, which means the amount of interest you earn will remain the same during the term of the deposit.

How long is a term deposit?

A term deposit refers to when you lock your money in an account for a certain period of time and at a specified interest rate. You will not be able to access your money for the length of the agreed term without incurring a penalty fee.

A long term deposit generally refers to a term deposit that lasts for more than 12 months – which in some cases may be as long as 10 years.

Usually, the longer you store your money, the better the interest rate you’ll get, so a long term deposit will tend to pay higher interest than a short term deposit.

At the end of the term, you can roll over the money (plus the interest you’ve made during the term), or you can withdraw it all.

Is term deposit interest taxable?

The interest that you earn from your term deposit is considered taxable income. Because your term deposit interest is taxable, it should be disclosed on your annual tax return.

It’s important to note that circumstances may differ depending on whether you provided the account holder with your tax file number (TFN). If you did not supply your bank or other financial institution with your TFN, they are typically required to withhold tax from your interest earnings.

If you’ve invested in a deposit that lasts longer than 12 months, you’ll need to claim your earned interest in the year that you received it. For example, if you receive interest monthly, you’ll need to claim your earnings at the end of the financial year. However, if you only receive interest at maturity, you should claim your earnings in the year that you received the lump sum of interest.

How often do term deposit rates change?

One of the advantages of a term deposit is that this type of investment enjoys a fixed interest rate. This means that the interest rate that you have signed up for will not change during the period of your term deposit, regardless of rising or falling market interest rates.

However, it is important to be aware of the end of your term deposit. Once your term ends, whether this is in three months or three years, many banks will default to rolling over your deposit into a new term, sometimes with a lower interest rate. Once your term deposit rolls over, you will then be locked into this new fixed interest rate for another term.

Make sure to use the grace period at the end of your term to your advantage. Shop around for a competitive interest rate and reinvest your money accordingly.

What is a short term deposit?

Sometimes you only want to tie up your money for a short period, maybe because you want to make a quick return on a large sum, or just to have more flexibility and access to your money. That’s where a short term deposit can come in.

Short term deposits are usually less than 12 months (e.g. 30 days, 90 days, six months or 12 months), though you will still not be able to access your money for the length of the term without incurring a penalty fee.

At the end of the term, you can roll your deposit over, or you can withdraw it. An advantage of short term deposits is that you can take advantage of higher interest rates with a different financial institution, if they are available.

Can students make term deposits?

If you are a student who has managed to save some money and are looking for a safe investment option, you may be considering a term deposit. Most term deposits (and other bank accounts) are open to anyone who is at least 18 years old.

There are also some term deposits open to younger students, some even without an age limit. These term deposits are usually opened on the student’s behalf, by their parent or guardian.

A term deposit is generally a safe investment option, especially if you want to make sure you can’t touch your savings for a set period of time. If you are 18 or older, shop around for a competitive interest rate before committing. If you are under 18, speak to your parent or guardian to get started.

Are term deposit accounts subject to capital gains tax?

The tax you pay on a profit generated by a term deposit is not classified as capital gains tax (CGT). CGT applies to an asset (or investment), such as real estate or shares, where you either make a capital gain or a capital loss.

Interest earned on a term deposit is considered income though, and would need to be included in your annual income tax return.

The interest can be declared in the year the investment matures, or for the financial year it was credited to your account.

This also applies if you roll over your investment into a new term; you are still required to declare the interest earned at the rollover date (whatever financial year that falls in).

Are term deposits covered by the Australian government guarantee?

Yes, term deposits are covered by the Australian government guarantee.

Under the Financial Claims Scheme, the Australian government guarantees term deposits up to $250,000, capped at one person, per financial institution.

This means that your term deposit (if it’s $250,000 or less) is protected in the unlikely event the bank, building society or credit union collapses.

If you have more than $250,000 in a term deposit with one the one bank, for example, then only up to $250,000 of your principal is covered.

If you’ve got more than $250,000 and you wish to invest in a term deposit, you could consider dividing your money between term deposits and banks (limiting each deposit to $250,000 per bank).

That way all of your deposits are protected by the Australian government guarantee and you will not suffer any financial losses.