Where to find managed funds

One of the common questions in my DIY Wealth Creation course is “how do you find what managed funds are available?”

(For context: this question comes up when I recommend people start by investing indirectly rather than directly. It is an easy place to start with less to learn. Plus you can start with low dollar amounts and get a diversified portfolio.)

There are tens of thousands of managed funds licensed to operate in Australia. To my knowledge there is no single database of all the funds that is easily accessible to the general public.

Some places to start finding out about available managed funds  are:

  • Advertising (online, TV, radio)
  • In the financial media

In Australia the financial media that often provide limited lists of managed funds are:

  • The Australian Financial Review newspaper
  • The Business or Wealth sections of The Australian newspaper
  • Smart Investor magazine
  • Money magazine

Which ones?

But just knowing which ones are available is not enough. How do you make a smart choice of the ones that are right for you right now?

To wisely construct a portfolio of actively managed funds you need expertise plus time to research and apply your expertise. If you don’t yet have that expertise then you first need to invest time and energy in acquiring that expertise. Otherwise your portfolio construction will be little more than uninformed speculation.

Fortunately with managed funds there is a quick-start way that I recommend in my DIY Wealth Creation course. Start with index funds, which are also know as passively managed funds. Pick an index fund that is diversified – which means it invests in a blend of asset classes. Match the blend to your risk profile. For example: if your risk profile is aggressive you could choose a High Growth or All Growth index fund.

One of the largest retail index fund managers in Australia is Vanguard. (Also in the USA.) But most of the big brand active fund managers also have index based funds. So you can even pick a portfolio of index funds within most good retail superannuation accounts.



In Investing, It’s When You Start And When You Finish

Is investing about timing the market or time in the market or…?

Ed Easterling of Crestmont Research has produced a very interesting illustration of your average annual return depending on when you bought and when you sold your investment. The chart is based on the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index for the United States of America and goes back as far as 1920 (i.e. before the Great Depression.)

The  New Yorks Times have republished the chart here.

Not surprisingly using long term average returns is very deceiving. Your wealth creation will be greatly affected by the sequence of returns during your investment time frame.

For me this illustration reinforces the importantance of annually reviewing your progress and making adjustments to your strategy and saving rate.

It also reinforces the folly of blindly ‘investing‘ in the share market with a short term view, expecting to make great returns. Short-term trading is for professionals and those playing with loose change from their deep pockets.

(Thanks to loyal reader Gihan for alerting me to this illustration.)

Property prices do go down

Do you or someone you know hold beliefs like “property is safe”, “property doesn’t go down”, “you can’t lose money on property” and “property is the best investment”. If so, you may be a victim of our natural tendency to confirmation bias. Read this article to boost your robust decision making.

A couple of weeks ago someone was telling me about their recent investment property purchase. They had borrowed the full property price plus purchase costs. Their strategy was to hold it for about 3 to 4 years and then sell it for a substantial profit.

Alarm bells were already ringing for me – then they came out with “the worst that could happen is we sell it for what we bought it for.”

I do not have a bias for or against any particular type of investment asset, although some may interpret that I do. I favour robust decision making where the outcome is selecting the right strategies and assets for you right now. What is appropriate for you will be fluid and change over time as your situation evolves.

When it comes to residential property too often I encounter beliefs and decision making that is far from robust.

I hear phrases like “property is safe”, “property doesn’t go down”, “you can’t lose money on property” and “property is the best investment”.

Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.”
— Michael Shermer

Naturally deceptive

Confirmation bias is one of our natural tendencies where we selectively focus on and easily recall information that reinforces our existing beliefs. At the same time we selectively ignore and forget information that would challenge that belief.

When people talk to me about residential property they seem to always have a toolkit of anecdotes they can roll-out to prove their point. Often they can’t recall knowing anyone who has lost money, or reading any news about property loses.

I know a lot of people have made good money investing in residential property in the past decade. But I also know people who have lost money, sometimes lots. And I also see the more scientific statistics of movement in real estate indices (and the indices of other asset types.)

“…thinking anecdotally comes naturally, whereas thinking scientifically does not.”
— Michael Shermer

Evidence to help you

In the interests of supporting you in making more robust decisions I am starting to collate and publish evidence to challenge the common misconception that property does not go down. Here is the first:

House prices tipped to slip in year ahead

The Weekend Australian, January 1-2, 2011 reported “…a national fall in house prices with further declines likely over the year ahead.” Read the article here

I live in the “boom town” of Perth where optimism about property investment is astounding. Yet even in Perth property does go down as reported by The Weekend Australian:

“The Rismark-RP Data house price index shows the market is weakest in Perth, where average prices have fallen by 4.9 per cent, or almost $25,000, since May.

Average apartment prices in Perth are down $44,000. Home buyers in Perth have seen no capital appreciation since August 2007.”

(emphasis added by me.)

Wow, two whole years where investors potentially had no capital appreciation to compensate them for negative cash flow (from rent not covering interest).

Selling your property for what you bought it for is certainly not the worst that could happen!

Ensure you are scientific in your research and make robust decisions about what is right for you right now.

Guide for landlords

If you have an investment property then you may be interested in the Landlords Pack from the W.A. Department of Commerce.

The pack contains many useful guides and links to other relevant information to property investors, including:

  • Renting Out Your Property – An Owners Guide
  • Information on new smoke alarm requirements
  • Information on requirements for Residual Current Devices (RCDs)
  • Links for useful forms for things like rent increases, inspections, lease agreements and termination of agreements

Even if you don’t yet have an investment property but are considering one you should visit the site to better inform yourself prior to making your investment decision.

An updated wealth creation rule of thumb

You may have heard the rule of thumb that you should save and invest about 10% of your income. I think it originated from the book “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George S. Clason.

I’m often asked if that is before or after tax saving.

More importantly, is it even close to right?

If it was close to being accurate then in Australia the 9% compulsory employer superannuation contributions should get people close enough. Sadly it is widly accepted that the 9% is nowhere near enough.

Last month the Financial Services Council released research by RiceWarner Actuaries that estimated the average retirement savings gap per person was about $88,000. That is the extra amount they need to have an adequate retirement lifestyle.

How much you need to save

If you are currently in your 20s or 30s RiceWarner estimated you’ll need to save and invest (for retirement) approximately an extra 11% per year of your after-tax income, in addition to the 9% employer superannuation.

If you’re already in your 40s you’ll need to save an extra 12% per year after-tax.

If you’re already in your 50s it’s about 15% extra per year.

So really the rule of thumb should actually be that you need to save a total of at least 20%-25% or more (not 10%) of your after-tax income over your entire working life to come close to an adequate retirement lifestyle.

(Note the actual figures in the research are split by gender and 5 year age brackets. For simplicity I have approximated an average. See table 3 on page 6 of the report if your brain wants greater precision.)

Important assumptions

Definition of an adequate retirement lifestyle

The model assumes that you can have an adequate retirement lifestyle if you receive about 62.5% of your gross pre-retirement income. This is estimated to enable you to have about 75% of your pre-retirement expenses. (Assuming you have no debts left in retirement.)

Most people I meet do not want to decrease their lifestyle in retirement. So if that includes you then you need to consider that you may need to:

  • Save a higher percentage;
  • Invest more aggressively;
  • Do a bit of both

If the prospect of saving that much and/or investing aggressively scares you then meet with a great financial planner who can guide on a smart wealth creation strategy that suits you.

You may live longer

One of the assumptions is that you need the retirement lifestyle under the average life expectancy. The reality is that half of the population live past that point. So if you rely on this updated rule of thumb be prepared to live on just the Age Pension past your life expectancy.

The better way to calculate how much you need to save

Rules of thumb can be nice short cuts but when it comes to money there is no substitute for proper planning and purposeful action.

The best way to work out how much you need to save is to:

  1. Define the lifestyle choices you’d like to have in retirement
  2. Estimate how much those choices would cost right now
  3. Define when you want to make work optional (“retire”)
  4. Define how long you want that lifestyle to last (age 83, 90, 100?)
  5. Calculate what lump-sum wealth you’d need at retirement to fund that lifestyle for that long
  6. Calculate the annual savings you need to make from now until retirement in order to accumulate that wealth

There are some calculators available for free on the internet to help you do this calculation yourself.  View a list here.

But if you are not naturally analytical then I recommend you partner with a financial planner to guide you on how much you need to save and the best way to invest that money.

Trading Contracts for Difference

You’ll often see advertisements for courses teaching you how to make a bucket load of money through trading. Trading in Contracts for Difference (CFDs) are one such investment product that have been regularly advertised in recent years.

These publicly-targeted course always concern me and they also concern the regulator, ASIC. ASIC are so concerned they’ve published a very useful guide to trading CFDs.

I am concerned because I see that our human nature ticks us into focusing on the glamorous headlines of potential returns whilst blinding us to the complexity of the strategies and products. They require a great deal of expertise to make the potential high returns, plus they come with higher risk. Many people don’t fully grasp that.

In publishing the guide ASIC Commissioner, Greg Medcraft, said: “Our research with CFD traders found that many traders don’t know or don’t appreciate key aspects of how CFDs work, despite the fact that they are actively trading them. This guide aims to fill some of these knowledge gaps, especially around the trading risks.”

Key Rule: “First do what you understand”

I agree wholeheartedly with the guideline provided by ASIC that retail investors should consider trading CFDs only if they:

  • have extensive trading experience;
  • are used to trading in volatile market conditions; and
  • can afford to lose all of – or more than – the money they put in.

View the guide on ASIC’s webiste or download a copy of Thinking of trading contracts for difference (CFDs)? here now.

SMSF: corporate or human trustee?

This article is reprinted with permission of the article author LawCentral. The views expressed are entirely their own and within their expertise. Read the article or watch the video here.

Question: My accountant suggested a corporate trustee for my Self Managed Super Fund. I already have a few companies – I know they are more expensive to operate than having individual trustees. Is he only trying to generate more fees from me? I’m not made of money you know.

Answer [by LawCentral]

It is a vexed question whether SMSFs should have corporate trustees. Everyone in the Superannuation game has a different opinion. I change my opinion daily.

But no two SMSFs are the same. So a blanket ‘yes’ or ‘no’ won’t cut it. Your adviser and accountant looks at the following things to formulate their opinion:

  • What is the relationship between the members? Will they change often?
  • What are the type and value of the SMSF assets?
  • Where are the SMSF assets located? Other states or countries?
  • How pedantic are you?
  • Do you need extra asset protection? Is there risk that the SMSF can go insolvent?
  • Are the members happy to pay higher maintenance costs for a company?
  • Contemplating Limited Recourse Borrowing Arrangements (formerly known as instalment warrants)?
  • Do you own more than one property in one state paying land tax?

Corporate Trustees add expense and complication. Your Accountant is best to do the cost/benefit analysis. If your accountant suggests a corporate trustee, they have already answered all of these questions.

Who can be trustee of a SMSF?

  • Humans as Trustees

If you want a human Trustee, all members of the SMSF must also be Trustees. You can’t pick and choose between members – it’s all or nothing. (There are minor exemptions for children and members living overseas.)

  • A company as Trustee (Corporate Trustee)

If you have a Corporate Trustee, all members must be the Directors of the Company. All Directors must be members of the Fund. The Corporate Trustee carries out its role as a Trustee of your superannuation fund just the same as you as individuals do.

If you are the only member of your SMSF, special rules apply. (See the Platinum member only section below.)

When should I have humans as trustees?

  • You want less hassle and the lowest administrative cost

It costs nothing (apart from food and shelter) to keep humans as trustees. There are no annual reports to ASIC or dates to lodge with ASIC.

  • You are unlikely to change the SMSF membership

It can become a nightmare to change the members of your SMSF with human trustees. Firstly, you need to admit (or exit) that person as a member (you have to do this anyway). Then, title to the SMSF assets is transferred to or from the member. This is because SMSF assets are held in the name of the trustees, not in the SMSF itself. For example, the four of you as members hold the SMSF land in your names. That is the law. You die; the property must now be transferred into different names. If you had a company, no transfer is required.

When should I have a corporate trustee?

  • You change the members of your SMSF often

If your members change often, you simply remove (or appoint) them as members and as directors of the corporate trustee. Although the directors change, the actual corporate trustee does not. As the SMSF assets are owned in the name of the corporate trustee, there is no need to jig about with the land titles office.

  • You are secretive and own lots of assets

Don’t want anyone to know what assets you own? A Corporate Trustee holds the assets in the name of the company. If someone does a land titles search using your personal name, they won’t find the real estate held in your SMSF.

  • You want to borrow in your SMSF

If you want to take advantage of Limited Recourse Borrowing Arrangements to borrow to fund SMSF assets, beware. Many lenders only agree to lend you money if you have a corporate trustee.

  • You need to amp up your asset protection

Assets in your SMSF are meant to be conservative – they are there for your retirement – not for speculation. Risky or not, I have had clients that have ended up with negative assets in their SMSF. Insolvency often leads to the SMSF Trustees going down with the sinking ship. Better to lose just a company.

  • You pay land tax

In most states, you pay a higher marginal rate of land tax the more land you have. Therefore, if you and your spouse already have a rental property then owning more land (as Trustee of the SMSF) increases the rate of land tax you pay. At Brett Davies Lawyers, we can usually transfer the land out of your name into the name of your new company – for no transfer (stamp) duty and no Capital Gains Tax.

Ok fine. I think I need a corporate trustee. Can I use one of my other companies as trustee?

Yes you can. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Using a company for multiple purposes is fraught with risk. People who are pedantic and never make mistakes should only do it. I am pedantic and never make mistakes; however, I still use one company solely for my SMSF.

Why do you need a separate company? SMSFs are delicate. SMSF auditors are even more so. There can’t be any overlap between SMSF funds and other company funds. Weekly, I get calls from accountants where their clients accidentally used the wrong cheque book (or clicked the wrong internet banking account). Sure it is an accident, but the SIS Acts say this is incredibly illegal. No one can guarantee that they never make mistakes. Best to bite the bullet and set up a separate corporate trustee.

What are the ASIC fees for my corporate trustee company?

It is cheaper to run a company that acts as the trustee of your SMSF. Why? Because ASIC allows you to register this company as a ‘Special Purpose Company’. Your special treatment means that the annual ASIC review fee is only $41 per year (rather than the usual company review fee of $218). (The initial ASIC registration fee is still $412.)

You can build a Special Purpose Superannuation Trustee Company at LawCentral (it takes 8 minutes).

How do I update my SMSF to include a Corporate Trustee?

To change the trustee of your Self Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF) to a Corporate Trustee, you do two things (in this order):

  1. Set up a company. Use the LawCentral Build a Company document to do this. After you build the company, you register it at ASIC. ASIC charges $412.
  2. Update your SMSF Deed by using the SMSF – Deed Update document available at LawCentral. Select: change your trustee into a Corporate Trustee. Insert: new company name, ACN and address

(Original publication date 18th October 2010 in LawCentral Bulletin 338.)

Is residential property over, under or fair value?

Graphs, graphs and damn statistics!

There is no shortage of articles quoting one “expert” or another about whether or not Australian residential property is currently in a bubble, ripe to boom again or just fair value. Every article seems to be accompanied by a barrage of graphs and statistical quotations to justify the author’s point of view.

If your eyes glaze over at the detailed graphs don’t worry, you’re not alone, often mine do too. I sometimes wonder (suspect) if the detailed graphs are purposeful anaesthesia to make the reader compliant to the author’s conclusions. (Hmm, I think that sentence may have done the same…)

Overvalued or fair value or…?

Who cares?

Really in the scheme of things if property is over or under-valued matters most if you are taking a short term trader’s view – trying to make money within a short time frame from a volatile asset.

What matters more is that new residential property investors are increasingly reliant on a continuing price boom in order to make a reasonable total return on investment (ROI).

With property prices and rents at current levels residential property investors make significant annual net income losses (even after tax returns). That creates a situation where a high capital growth is required to repay the debt, offset income losses and retain a reasonable return on equity.

Yes, my generation and those with an investing memory of about 15 years may say that residential property does generate really high capital growth. But the fact is that all you can say is that over that period it has done.

Can residential property continue to deliver high annualised capital growth over coming decades?

My helicopter view

Value is in the eye of the beholder. People seem to be willing to pay whatever they can to get something they really want. And Australians really want their own home – and a comfortable one at that.

In the last decade the amount of people bidding for property and their ability to pay has rapidly increased for reasons such as:

  • Ability and willingness to borrow higher percentages of income.
  • Ability to borrow higher percentages of the property value, meaning you needed to have saved less before you could compete in the market.
  • Grants to property purchasers.
  • Commencement of lending to a lot of the population previously shunned (e.g. employed yet unmarried females of baby-making age; and those with limited or mixed financial history.).

Consequently in many of our memories we have seen stellar above-average capital growth.

Can that ability and willingness to pay increase as rapidly over the next 40 years and thereby support continuing stellar capital growth?

It would require 40 years of:

  • Above average wages growth
  • Increased percentage disposable income through reduced lifestyle expenses (less kids and more frugal living – yeah right!)
  • Low interest rates
  • Increased willingness to lend by the banks
  • More crazy Government subsidies

I’m not an economist so I don’t even pretend to have a crystal ball. But my rational mind says that in the long term gravity will kick in and force a return to normal long-term growth rates.

Therefore I expect that at some time there may be a sustained period of sideways or even negative growth (i.e. price declines.)

Predicting when that will occur matters most if you are taking a short term trader’s view.

I welcome your thoughts, reaction and responses to my view which you can in the comments section below.

Introducing the new Australian share volatility index

Are you interested in the expected volatility of the share market? Then get some VIX. From tomorrow a new Australian equity volatility benchmark will be published by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The benchmark will be known as the S&P/ASX 200 VIX (ASX code: XVI). Following are some key highlights from the information provided by S&P and the ASX.

Are you interested in the expected volatility of the share market? Then get some VIX.

From tomorrow a new Australian equity volatility benchmark will be published by Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). The benchmark will be known as the S&P/ASX 200 VIX (ASX code: XVI).

If you are familiar with share market investing you will note the similarity to the VIX index published by the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE). In fact the Australian index will use the same methodology (under licence of course).

You can learn more about the volatility index and download a fact sheet on the ASX website here.

Following are some key highlights from the information provided by S&P and the ASX. If you get lost in all of this it’s ok – you don’t need to know it to successfully create wealth.

What the VIX is

The index measures the expected volatility of the top 200 shares listed on the ASX. Since it is a forward looking index, in a way it is like trying to put science around a crystal ball.

Expected volatility is calculated using the settlement prices of call and put options, which are derived from expected future prices of the underlying share.

Using and interpreting the volatility index

In regards to using the index I like this quote in the media release from Richard Murphy, ASX General Manager, Equity Markets, who said:

“observers of the index will have insight into the degree of uncertainty among investors and their expectations regarding the magnitude of future movements in the local equity market.”

Also from the media release is this tip on how to interpret the index:

“A volatility index at a higher level generally implies a market expectation of large changes in the S&P/ASX 200 over the next 30 days, indicating that investor sentiment is uncertain. Conversely, a lower volatility index value generally implies a market expectation of little change, suggesting greater levels of investor confidence.”

Should you care about the volatility index?

The index looks forward 30 days so it is very short term. That really is only of interest to short term traders and anyone contemplating making a purchase or sale of a direct share during that period. If you are investing for the long term you can probably ignore it and focus on enjoying the other elements of your life.

Further the index is non-directional – volatility is both ways. You don’t know if investors expect the fluctuations to be mostly up or down. So you can’t really interpret from the index that the market will go up or down and therefore you should either buy now or wait, respectively.

So unless you actively trade direct shares you are better off concentrating your energies on other financial elements. (Unless you want to impress people at the next barbecue with comments about how fearful or not investors are.)

How I made a 5000% return in 1 month

In January I sold an investment asset that I had bought only one month earlier – and the sale netted me just under a 5000% return on investment. The investment I made was in buying an Internet domain name. It is like virtual property investment. To help you start learning more about investing in Internet domain names I’ve interviewed my domainer mentor, Ed Keay-Smith. Listen to the interview here.

In January I sold an investment asset that I had bought only one month earlier – and the sale netted me just under a 5000% return on investment.

Now I got lucky when a motivated buyer emerged within a month of my purchase. This is uncommon.

But what is common is that level of percentage return on investment, according to my mentor in this investment type Ed Keay-Smith.

The investment I made was in buying an Internet domain name. For example: MattHern.com.au. It is like virtual property investment.

I refer to this type of investment as frontier investing as it reminds me of the days centuries ago when people rode off into the Wild West and pegged some land.

Whilst very high percentage returns are possible, of course just like any investment you need to first learn a lot so that you know how to make a good investment decision. Otherwise you are just speculating. And if you are blindly speculating you are one small step from gambling.

How to invest in domain names

To help you start learning more about investing in Internet domain names I’ve interviewed my domainer mentor, Ed Keay-Smith. Ed is one of Australia’s leading authorities on the subject of domain names and domain investing and his blog and podcast at ozdomainer.com is read and listened to by domain investors across the globe.

In this 40 minute interview you’ll discover:

  • What exactly is an Internet domain name
  • Why you may want to invest in this type of asset
  • Why you may not like to venture into this frontier investment type
  • Several golden tips from Ed on how to generate domain ideas and work out if they may be valuable
  • Where to go next to learn more about investing in domain names

Updated: AXA guide to investment markets

Have you been watching the investment markets fluctuate over the past year and wondering if you should be getting back in, or just in at all?

If so you may be interested in this perspective published by AXA Australia today called Charting The Future – Guide To Investment Markets.

This is an updated version of the AXA Guide published in February. You can read that version here.

What do you think of the AXA guide?

Please let me know your reaction to the AXA guide in the comments section below.

Was it informative or too full of jargon? Did it take you closer to making an investment decision? What else would you want to know? Please share your thoughts below.

Why you don’t need a SMSF

Self managed superannuation funds (SMSF) are often sold to people on the basis of getting greater control. That’s rubbish! Every time I hear it I roll my eyes and sigh heavily.

An off the shelf fund gives you great control

When you are thinking of getting more control over your superannuation, what control are you seeking? Is it more control over investment decisions?

Well, you already have plenty of that control in most off the shelf (retail) funds. For over a decade you’ve been able to choose the investment option within your current fund. And for nearly five years you’ve even been able to choose the superannuation fund (account) itself.

Are you seeking control over the money so you can spend it on yourself now? Think again – that’s technically illegal and scrutinised by the ATO.

What you can access and do in an off the shelf (retail) superannuation fund

  • Access an investment menu that includes hundreds of different managed funds from most investment sectors
  • Directly buy the top 200 (even 300) shares listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX)
  • Invest in managed funds that include internal gearing
  • Buy some derivatives, such as some types of options and warrants

If you want all of those features you’ll pay a higher administration fee, but it’ll still probably be less than a SMSF would cost you.

If you don’t want any of those features you can find really low cost funds off the shelf (retail) that still give you control. The retail superannuation product market is so diverse you can probably find a product to suit your needs whilst also being value for money.

Do you really want to DIY your super?

Self managed superannuation funds may also often be known as DIY Super, which sounds attractive. But DIY is dangerous when you don’t know what you are doing.

Big penalties for non-compliance

Each member of a SMSF is also a trustee, which involves a lot of responsibility.

The SIS Act (Superannuation Industry Supervision Act) is huge and as trustee of your SMSF you are legally obliged to understand it and comply with it. If you don’t comply you could be stripped of your concessional tax status and pay the top tax rate. (i.e. no more 15% tax rate.) Ouch!

You can also be personally subject to a range of civil and criminal penalties for non-compliance.

Yes, you can outsource some of that compliance to a specialist financial adviser plus a compliance firm. But that costs money.

They’re costly

You also need to pay for annual financial accounts and audits. More money.

In a SMSF the costs can only be spread across four members, not thousands as with a retail superannuation fund. So your administration, investment and transaction costs can quickly add up to higher in percentage terms than in an off the shelf product. That’s why it’s best to wait until you have hundreds of thousands of dollars in superannuation before considering self managed superannuation.

When you may need a SMSF

There are some types of assets that retail superannuation funds generally don’t enable you to hold. If (big if) you need to hold these assets in superannuation then a SMSF may be appropriate for you. These assets include:

  • direct property
  • private business
  • collectibles (for investment only – no personal use allowed. And a recent announcement suggested these ‘exotic’ assets be banned.)
  • other direct investment assets. (e.g. that gold bar you just bought from the Perth Mint.)

In addition technically you can now ‘directly’ borrow to buy investment assets within superannuation. For example you can borrow to buy an investment property. If you want to implement that strategy you will need a SMSF (plus a nice sized deposit and good cash flow from contributions.)

Who definitely should NOT consider a SMSF

If you habitually ignore your superannuation, as evidenced by barely reading your annual statement, then a SMSF is not right for you.

Similarly if you don’t understand how superannuation works then don’t go near DIY Super. This may sound harsh, but if you have not understood this article then you’re probably not yet ready for a SMSF.

In summary the reasons a SMSF is not appropriate for most people include

  • you can get the desired level of control from a retail fund
  • you can access the desired type of investments from a retail fund
  • you’re not interested enough to learn to fulfil the trustee’s obligations
  • you want to minimise your costs
  • you don’t currently have a high enough balance

What do you think? Anything I’ve overlooked? Please share in the comments below (you can be anonymous)

Should you use a Corporate Trustee to run your Self Managed Super Fund?

This article is reprinted with permission of the author LawCentral.

As with most things whether you use a corporate trustee to run your self managed superannuation fund entirely depends on your situation. Your accountant is the best person to ask.

A Corporate Trustee is good if you fall into the following categories:

You are secretive and own lots of assets

Don’t want anyone to know what assets you own? A Corporate Trustee holds the assets in the name of the company. If someone does a land titles search using your name, they won’t find the real estate held in your SMSF.

The members of your SMSF change often

Your members are the Trustees. So when a member changes, so do the Trustees. In this instance, you have to go back to the local titles office and transfer the property into the names of the new Trustees. There are generally no state duty or Capital Gains Tax issues to do this. But there are administrative costs to transfer.

You love asset protection strategies

Assets in your SMSF are meant to be conservative – they are there for your retirement – not for speculation.  Risky or not, I have had clients that have ended up with negative assets in their SMSF. Insolvency ensures that the Trustees of the SMSF can go down with the sinking ship.

You pay land tax

In most States you pay a higher rate of land tax the more land you have. Therefore, if you and your wife already have a rental property then owning more land (as Trustee of the SMSF) increases the rate of land tax you pay. You can transfer the land out of your name into the name of your new company – for no transfer duty and no Capital Gains Tax. (Get the help of a tax lawyer.)

Corporate Trustees add expense and complication. Your Accountant is best to do the costs/benefit analysis.

For the definitive arguments for and against a Corporate Trustee visit LawCentral and subscribe for Platinum membership.

Investing between the flags

ASIC, the Australian regulator of most financial services, has published this introductory book called “Investing Between the Flags: A Practical Guide to Investing“.

If you are absolutely brand new to planning your money and investing then this book may be useful in enlightening you of concepts that are essential to understand. In a sense it is about increasing your base financial literacy. Things you may discover include:

  • Mainstream types of investments (asset classes)
  • Main risks of investing
  • Risk based investment portfolios
  • Avoiding financial scams

The book does include some useful check lists such as the one about getting ready to invest.

Historical returns

One of the interesting graphs presents the historical annual returns of the Australian share market from 1900 to 2008. (Page 29). You can see that it is similar in shape to the bell curve with most annual returns being between zero and 20%.

Expected returns

One of the fascinating areas for me as a financial planner was the information on risk profile based investment portfolios (pages 26 & 27). In particular ASIC have published the expected annual average return from each portfolio based on historical returns.

It fascinated me as a planner since the expected returns are higher than we as licensed professional advisers could get away with using when advising clients. Maybe I’ll start including those two pages in my statements of advice as proof of my “reasonable basis of advice” if ASIC’s lawyers ever come knocking. 🙂

What you won’t get

One of the limitations of publication from a Government regulator is that that can’t really express their opinion nor give you detailed processes for how to make a decision that is appropriate for you. They just tell you to make your own decisions and here’s a few basic things to keep in mind.

That’s where sites like mine (The Money Guide) come in. You’ll find articles where I take a stand and share my opinion. Plus in the detailed resources I share the processes I use when selecting the appropriate strategies for clients. So if you are not yet a subscriber now is a great time to get on board as I have lots more detailed resources planned for publication this year.

Average duration of Australian bull and bear markets

Zurich have published this graph showing the average duration of Australian bull and bear markets from 1970 to December 2009. The index used is the ASX200. Download the graph here.

Average Australian Bull Market

Average Bull Market Duration: 38 months
Average Annual Bull Market Return: 30.8%

Average Australian Bear Market

Average Bear Market Duration: 15 months
Average Annual Bear Market Loss: -31.1%

Interesting, but don’t put too much weight (if any at all) on these sort of statistics when making your investment decisions.