2021 May Newsletter
May is here and in cooler regions the colours of autumn are all around. In Canberra, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is putting the finishing touches to the May 11 Federal Budget which will no doubt dominate the national conversation in coming weeks.
Australia’s economic recovery gathered steam in April, despite a spike in coronavirus cases overseas and vaccine delays. Australia’s trade surplus stood at a healthy $8.5 billion in March, underpinned by strong export prices for our commodities. Iron ore prices rose 16% in April and 21% over the year to date, due largely to renewed demand from China. China’s economic growth rebounded an extraordinary 18.3% in the year to March. Prices for our oil, copper, coal and beef have also recorded strong gains.
Higher commodity prices pushed the Aussie dollar up 2.4% in April to US77.72c, although record low interest rates are keeping stronger gains in check.
Australian consumers are gaining confidence in the recovery, despite the winding back of government stimulus payments. The Westpac-Melbourne Institute Index of Consumer Sentiment rose 6.2% in April to its highest level since 2010. One reason could be booming house prices, up 2.8% in March and 6.2% over the year, according to CoreLogic. Not so welcome are rising petrol prices which hit a 13-month high in April. While higher prices lifted inflation by 0.6% in the March quarter, it is still running at a low annual rate of 1.1%.
Rising employment is also a cause for optimism. The jobless rate fell from 5.8% to 5.6% in April and the Federal Government has announced it is targeting a rate beginning with a 4, supported by big spending initiatives in its upcoming Budget.
Here's to a happy, healthy, long life!
Yet while many of us don’t want to reflect much on our mortality, we all want to live happier, healthier and longer lives. In fact, it’s a very human trait to be fascinated by the potential of extending our lifespans.
While one 105-year-old woman, who has survived COVID and the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, recently credited her longevity to eating gin-soaked raisins on a daily basis, there are those who go to much greater lengths.i
Living longOver the past 100 years, life expectancy in Australia has increased from around 50 years to well over 80 years, with a boy born today expected to live around 80.9 years and a girl 85.0 years.ii Most researchers looking at trends in mortality believe life expectancy will continue to increase in coming decades.
That’s not enough for a small cohort of people termed ‘Biohackers’ who ‘hack’ their bodies to make them function better and in many cases, live significantly longer.
One high profile biohacker, Dave Asprey, is vocal in his aim to reach the grand old age of 180. Dedicating millions of dollars to the cause, Dave gets regular stem cell injections, bathes in infrared light, uses a hyperbaric chamber and takes over 100 supplements a day.iii
How to live longer and betterWe’re not all Silicone Valley millionaires, able to access expensive biohacking treatments, nor do we all want to. But there are some common-sense ways to not only live longer, but live better.
Eat wellWhile the ‘perfect’ diet is often contested, what the experts generally agree on is that we should incorporate plenty of plant foods, limit red meat, avoid processed foods and eat healthy fats and complex carbs.iv Often the Okinawa Diet is referenced when it comes to living longer, as the residents of this Japanese island can live to 100 – Okinawa has the most centenarians per 100,000 population. The Okinawans eat a lot of plant foods, with some seafood and meat.
Move itBeing physically active is also important. Again, this can look different for different people, but regular exercise has been proven to improve heart health, control blood sugar levels, maintain or provide weight loss, and also possibly decrease our risk of developing cancer.v
Stay sharpStaying mentally active can also improve our lifespans. As we age, our mental abilities decline, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing you can do about it. And it’s not all bad news either, in fact, an older brain can create new connections between neurones. As some neurones die, their roles are taken up by others to help you adapt.vi Prioritising your social life, being open to new experiences and taking up new hobbies will keep you mentally active, as will that puzzle book or game of Trivial Pursuit.
ConnectionMaintaining a healthy social life won’t just help your brain, research has also shown there are many physical benefits to staying connected. Lower blood pressure, a stronger immune system and possibly reduced inflammation can be the result of being happy around other people.vii
PurposeIt’s also important to be happy within yourself. Feeling fulfilled has been linked to longevity. A research scientist call Robert Butler found that those who could express their sense of purpose or life meaning lived about 8 years longer than those who were rudderless.viii
Ultimately, it’s not just the years in your life, but the life in your years that’s important. What’s the point of living to 100, or 180, if you don’t feel content and well? Living a full and satisfying life is the main goal we should strive for, and by taking care of ourselves, we hopefully will have years in our life and life in our years.
The missing link in the Bitcoin boom
The price of Bitcoin has gone from around $13,800 a year ago to a recent high of $84,350.i Undoubtedly, some people have made money on the way up, but experts urge caution. While cryptocurrencies are being accepted more widely, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) warns they are high risk, difficult to value and unregulated*.ii
You may also have seen recently that a digital artist known as Beeple sold a work at auction for $89 million, while Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet for $3.8 million. Both were paid for in cryptocurrencies in a trend called non-fungible tokens (NFTs).iii NFTs are a unique bit of digital code that cannot be duplicated or counterfeited, making them particularly attractive for collectors.
Cryptocurrencies and NFTs have one thing in common - they are both enabled by a technology called blockchain.
What is blockchain?Blockchain is a system of recording and storing information that helps keep track of ownership securely and transparently.
It is essentially a digital ledger of transactions stored in blocks that is duplicated and distributed across a network of computer systems forming a blockchain. Every new transaction that occurs on the blockchain is added to every participant’s ledger.
This means if one block in the chain is changed, it would be immediately apparent that it had been tampered with, making it near impossible to change, hack or cheat the system.
History teaches us that fortunes are more likely to be made selling shovels to miners in a goldrush, than buying a shovel and joining them. So could it be that long-term value is more likely to come from investing in the underlying blockchain technology than chasing quick profits from the likes of Bitcoin and NFTs?
Given rising concerns about hacking and data breaches, it’s no surprise that blockchain is being embraced by government and businesses alike.
Government backs digital technologiesIn the 2020 Federal Budget, the Australian government set aside $800 million to invest in digital technologies, including blockchain technology pilots to cut business compliance costs.iv
This followed the launch two years ago of the government’s National Blockchain Roadmap, developed in collaboration with industry and universities to highlight the technology’s potential to save businesses money and open new business and export opportunities.
According to the Roadmap, blockchain technology is predicted to generate an annual business value of over US$175 billion by 2025. By 2023, blockchain will support the global movement and tracking of US$2 trillion worth of goods and services annually. By next year, it is predicted to save the financial services industry US$15-20 billion annually.v
Practical uses of blockchainIn Australia, the biggest user of blockchain is the financial services industry. For example, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is working on a new blockchain system to finalise local equity trades which will replace the old CHESS system in early 2022.
But it also has applications across the economy in sectors including trade, logistics, real estate, energy, water, resources and agriculture. The cost to Australian food and wine producers of direct product counterfeiting and substitution was estimated to be over $1.7 billion in 2017 alone.v
Take the example of the wine industry. Blockchain can help with inventory tracking, facilitate automated payments between supply chain members, and reduce counterfeiting through provenance transparency.
Investment opportunitiesThanks to government and industry support, a growing number of blockchain companies are listing on the ASX. There are companies using blockchain to:
- Keep track of financial data and identity documents for compliance
- Verify human engagement on social media to prevent interaction with bots and fake profiles
- Make supply chains transparent in combination with artificial intelligence technology.vi
While the local ASX-listed technology sector is still relatively small and high risk, it does offer investors increasing opportunities to invest in cutting-edge technologies with real world applications.
If you would like to discuss your overall investment strategy, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
*Disclaimer: We cannot advise clients on investments in Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency as they are not regulated financial products.
Salary packaging - worth the sacrifice
As we nudge ever closer to the end of financial year, it’s worth taking a look at salary sacrificing to see if it’s a worthwhile strategy to put into place for you.
A salary sacrifice arrangement is also commonly referred to as salary packaging or total remuneration packaging. In essence, a salary sacrifice arrangement is when you agree to receive less income before tax, in return for your employer providing you with benefits of similar value. You’re basically using your pre-tax salary to buy something you would normally purchase with your after-tax pay.
How does salary sacrifice work?The main benefit of salary sacrificing is that it reduces your pre-tax income, and therefore the amount of tax you must pay. For example, if you’re on a $100,000 income, you may agree to only receive $75,000 as income in return for a $25,000 car as a benefit.
Doing this would reduce your taxable income to $75,000 which could lower your tax bill because you’re essentially earning less as far as the tax office is concerned.*
This arrangement must be set up in advance with your employer before you commence the work that you’ll be paid for and it’s advisable that the details of the agreement are outlined in writing.
What can you salary sacrifice?According to the Australian Tax Office (ATO), there’s no restriction on the types of benefits you can sacrifice, as long as the benefits form part of your remuneration. What you can salary sacrifice may also depend on what your employer offers.
The types of benefits provided in a salary sacrifice arrangement include fringe benefits, exempt benefits and superannuation.
Fringe benefits can include:
- property (including goods, real property like land and buildings, shares or bonds)
- expense payments (loan repayments, school fees, childcare costs, home phone costs)
Exempt benefits include work related items such as:
- portable electronic devices and computer software
- protective clothing
- tools of the trade
SuperannuationYou can also ask your employer to pay part of your pre-tax salary into your superannuation account. This is on top of the contributions your employer is already paying you under the Superannuation Guarantee, which should be no less than 9.5% of your gross (before tax) annual salary, though this may rise in the near future.
Salary sacrificed super contributions are classified as employer super contributions rather than employee contributions. These contributions are called concessional contributions and are taxed at 15 per cent. For most people, this will be lower than their marginal tax rate.
There is a limit as to how much extra you can contribute to your super per year at the 15 per cent tax rate. The combined total of your employer and any salary sacrificed concessional contributions cannot exceed $25,000 in a single financial year. If you exceed the cap, you could be charged additional tax on any excess salary sacrifice contributions.
Most employers allow employees to salary sacrifice into super, but not all employers will allow salary sacrificing for other benefits.
Is salary sacrifice worth it?Salary sacrifice is generally most effective for middle to high-income earners, while there is little to no tax saving for people who are already in a low tax bracket.
If you are a middle to high-income earner, then it may be worth considering salary sacrifice to reduce your taxable income and to take advantage of some of those benefits.
Before you do, make sure you talk to us so we can help ensure it is an appropriate strategy for your circumstances.
*Note: This example illustrates how salary sacrifice arrangements can work and does not constitute advice. You should not act solely on the information in this example.
Source for all information in this article: https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Fringe-benefits-tax-(FBT)/Salary-sacrifice-arrangements/
Please note this information is of a general nature only and has been provided without taking account of your objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, we recommend you consider, with or without the assistance of a financial advisor, whether the information is appropriate in light of your particular needs and circumstances.
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