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Archive for April, 2007

How I Added $10,000 to my Net Worth Today (maybe)

April 30th, 2007 at 01:40 pm

Amid all the hoo-ha about the changes to "Simpler Superannuation" from July 1 this year are some less-pleasant, little-know aspects. For example, from 1 July all payments made out of superannuation will be treated as a mixture of undeducted and deducted amounts per the overall mix across all your superannuation accounts with a particular trustee. For example, if you had a total balance of $400,000 and $100,000 of this was due to "undeducted" contributions, any withdrawal after 1 July will be deemed to be 25% undeducted and 75% deducted.

What does this matter? Well, some people will have amounts within their superannuation accounts that they can withdraw at any time. Called unrestricted, non-preserved amounts, I think these are generally undeducted contributions made into superannuation prior to 1999. (All contributions after then are preserved until retirement age). Currently, if you decide to withdraw an unrestricted, non-preserved amount you can nominate how much of the withdrawl is to be from the deducted and undeducted components of your superannuation account.

For example, of the $335,000 in my superannuation account, $55,000 is an unrestricted, non-preserved amount that I can withdraw at any time. My undeducted amount is $34,000, so under the current rules I can withdraw $34,000 as an unrestricted non-preserved amount and don't have to pay any tax on that amount. If I withdrew the maximum possible ($55,000) I'd have to pay some tax on the $21,000 "deducted" component (which was contributed into the fund out of pre-tax salary).

However, if I withdrew the same $34,000 unrestricted amount after the new rules come into force on 1 July, the amount would be treated as roughly 90% (34K out of 335K) "deducted" and only 10% "undeducted" - and I'd have to pay around 20% tax on the $31,000 undeducted component. So, withdrawing this $34,000 after 1 July would cost me an extra $6,000 or so in tax!

But wait, there's more...

Another other benefit of withdrawing $34,000 tax-free from my superannuation account before 1 July is that I could then use this amount over the next two years to replace around $48,500 of my taxable income (with a marginal tax rate of 30%), and I could therefore afford to salary sacrifice an extra $24,000 pa [1] into superannuation without reducing how much cash I have available to pay my bills. The benefit of doing this is two-fold. Firstly, the salary sacrificed amounts will only be taxed at the 15% superannuation contribution rate, rather than my expected marginal tax rate of 30% (which applies to income between $25K-$75K). The second benefit is that be doing this large salary sacrifice my taxable income should be reduced from around $55,000 to around $30,000 and I'll then be eligible to get a government co-contribution of up to $1,500 if I make a $1,000 undeducted contribution into my superannuation account.
Current Situation If salary sacrifice an
extra $24,000 pa
Taxable Income $55,000 $31,000
Salary Sacrifice $10,400 $34,400
SGL contribution $ 7,400 $ 7,400 [2]
Income Tax due -$11,850 -$ 4,650
Super Tax due -$ 2,670 -$ 6,270
Super co-contrib $ nil [3] $ 1,300
(if make a $867 undeducted contribution)
Total after tax $58,280 $63,180

This means I'd end up with an extra $4,900 pa (tax saving and co-contribuction) by making the increased salary sacrifice. However, this is only possible as I have the extra $34,000 tax-free withdrawal from my superannuation account to supplement my income for the next two years. Otherwise my after-tax "take-home pay" would have been reduced from $43,150 to only $26,350.

By making these arrangements I'll end up with the following over the next two years:
Current Situation New Situation
Super Balance $335,000 $301,000 (withdraw $34,000)
Take-home pay $43,150 $31,000 (salary sacrifice)
Super withdraw nil $17,000 pa (split over 2 years)
Total cashflow $43,150 $48,000
Super contrib. $17,800 pa $43,100 pa
Super tax. -$ 2,670 pa -$ 6,270 pa [4]
Super balance $365,260 $374,660
after two years (ignoring earnings)

The only material impact of thisarrangement will be that the ratio of undeducted:deducted money in my superannuation account will be higher if I withdraw $34,000 of undeducted funds and recontribute via salary sacrifice (deducted funds). However, as all pension payments made from a superannuation account after you retire (and are over 60) are tax-free under the new "Simpler Super" rules, this shouldn't have any real effect in the long run.

[1] Under "Simpler Super" there will be an overall cap of $50K pa in deducted contributions - so you have to make sure your total of salary sacrifice and employer SGL amounts doesn't exceed this.
[2] My employer calculates the required 9% superannuation contribution levy based on my original salary (ie. before salary sacrifice is deducted). Legally it is possible for an employer to only contribute 9% of the actual salary paid (ie. after deducting the amount salary sacrificed). So it's important to check this with your employer before making salary sacrifice arrangements.
[3] The government superannuation co-contribution (up to $1500) is available on a 1.5:1 basis for undeducted contributions made into superannuation by employees with incomes up to $28,000. For incomes above $28,000 the maximum amount reduces until for incomes over $58,000 you're not eligible.
[4] There's no 15% contribution tax on the government co-contribution

DISCLAIMER: I'm not a financial planner, accountant, tax lawyer or in any position to give advice. This is just information about what I'm currently planning to do, and what I *think* the implications are. I checked my superannuation details (unrestricted non-preserved balance and undeducted component) with my superannuation fund, and I asked the Australian Tax Office "Simpler Super" help line about whether the new rules treating all withdrawals as being in the same undeducted:deducted ratio as the overall account would apply to unrestricted, non-preserved amounts. The ATO help line rep didn't know, and he had to go ask a "specialist" in this area to come back with the opinion that yes, this rule seemed to apply to all withdrawals by persons under age 60. As the ATO only gives binding private rulings about income tax questions and not superannuation, this seems about as definitive an answer as I can obtain. You could get professional advice from a financial planner, if so make sure that they really know the answer (since the ATO wasn't even sure!).

Dow and All Ords to Rise 25%

April 29th, 2007 at 03:16 am

With the US and Australian stock markets at, or near, all time highs, many pundits are predicting an imminent plunge. The fact of the matter is that the market will always be hitting "all time highs" as it follows its long-term uptrend over the centuries. The question is whether or not a particular high is associated with the excessive exuberance, or if it is supported by fundamental values, profitability and projected continued economic growth.

Alan Kohler had an interesting article outlining the case for viewing current market levels as reasonable, and even provides a rationale for a further gain of 25% or more in the next couple of years:

In 1987 the trailing price-earnings ratio of the Australian market was 20.4, which produces an earnings yield of 4.9 per cent. The 10-year bond yield was then 12.5 per cent. Today the earnings yield is 6.4 per cent and the bond yield 5.9 per cent.

As we stand here with the Dow at 13,000 and the ASX S&P 200 at 6150, shares are cheap.

It is now equivalent to about December 1986. History never repeats itself exactly of course, but if it did, the Australian index would hit 13,000 next January - before crashing spectacularly.

The point is that the sharemarket has not yet had the price-earnings multiple "blow-off" that usually marks the end of the bull market.

The 1987 blow-off took the average P/E ratio to only 20.4 because inflation was 8.5 per cent and the bond yield was 12.5 per cent - more than double what it is now. But that P/E was double the then 10-year average.

Now the trailing P/E is 18 times, but inflation is 2.7 per cent and the bond yield 5.9 per cent (3.2 per cent real versus 4 per cent real in 1987). Times change, but in my view people do not. At the end of a long bull market, with abundant cash and rampant optimism, people tend to go nuts. They start extrapolating existing growth forever and price assets accordingly.

So far that has not happened: share prices have merely kept pace with earnings as they are now, not what optimistic forecasters think they might be.

While I don't necessarily think Alan is right, it's nice to read that your stock market portfolio could increase another 25% by the end of next year. Of course, if it did increase that much, I'd be even more tempted to abandon my long-term asset allocation and lighten up on my stock holdings in an attempt to "time the market". The only justification for such a radical change of investment strategy would be that having experienced many years of exceptionally high growth, my net worth would be well above where I need to be to attain my retirement and investment performance targets, so I could shift to a lower-risk, lower-return asset mix and have greater certainty of reaching my original goals. The alternative would be to stick with my original asset allocations, and hope that the returns reverted to average performance which would result in my final outcome exceeding my initial expectations.

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

Intelligence doesn't lead to Wealth

April 28th, 2007 at 02:20 am

A little while ago I wrote that I'd be interested to see any research on whether or not wealth is correlated to intelligence. Well, a recent study, has found that there is no link between how intelligent people are and their net worth. Although income is related to intelligence this doesn't translate into wealth. Having a big income doesn't guarantee wealth if you spend more than you earn, and it seems that the discipline and motivation required to accumulate wealth isn't related to intelligence.

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

Adventures in Day Trading - day 7

April 27th, 2007 at 03:48 pm

Yesterday's second trade was looking good for a while - the AUD had dropped from 0.8265 to 0.8250 USD. I thought about closing out at that point and making a $150 profit, which would have more than made up for the earlier $110 loss. However, as is always a danger, I got greedy and changed my mental exit point to 0.8240, as the trend seemed to be continuing. Of course the AUD then changed direction and I ended up watching it ever so slowly drift up, with occasional dips to give me false hope, until I gave up and sold out at 0.8264, netting a minimal $10 profit.

Today DW had made three trades before I got home from work, each one placed just before an apparent trend reversed direction. Her fourth trade was a more successful and she managed to claw back most of today's losses before calling it quits. I then logged in to my account and was going to also buy the AUD and hope the strong uptrend continued, but by the time I logged in there was a pause and a slight drop in the AUD. I should have waited a while and watched what happened next, but instead I decided it was likely to be a pullback, so I sold the AUD at 0.8306 instead. It then resumed it's uptrend and I intended to wait a while and see if it peaked and started to drop as expected. Unfortunately I decided to bail out when it reached 0.8334 (a $280 loss!), and then sat by the uptrend did finally peter out and it started to drop.

By this time my account balance was below my intial A$1000 level, so I could no longer trade A$100,000 on 1% margin - I instead sold A$50,000 and am sitting here hoping that this time the expected correction will materialise and I make a small profit on this trade... It does appear to be dropping slowly at this time, unfortunately with a A$50,000 position opened at 0.8323 I'd only make back about 1/3 my loss if it retreats back to the level I initially sold at this evening.

If I lose my entire A$1000 trading stake I'll call it quits and do paper trading for a while.

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

So THAT's how to Blog!

April 26th, 2007 at 05:15 pm

Text is Today's Dilbert is apropos and Link is
Today's Dilbert is apropos

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

A Home Wi-Fi Network of my new Dell PC

April 26th, 2007 at 05:06 pm

The Dell PC I ordered a couple of days ago is "expected" to be delivered next Wednesday. It will have a wireless keyboard and mouse so I can sit in comfort in our lounge room, with the 20" LCD screen sitting next to our TV (which also happens to be a modest 20" CRT TV). I had been thinking of moving the current cable modem box from my computer table in the next room (where it's currently attached to my Toshiba Satellite notebook) into the lounge room, and then running an ethernet cable from the desktop PC to the notebook. However, I've decided to have a go at installing a wireless network, as there are some instructions on how to do this on my ISP's website (Optus), and Dell offers a Belkin wireless router and USB adapter, so they must be compatible with the PC I've ordered.

I was going to check if I could add the router and adapter to my existing order (as the Dell website says that accessories are shipped separately anyhow, and if they're not part of a computer system order they get charged shipping). However, I didn't have my order number with me at work today, so I searched the internet for an alternate supplier (and to check pricing), and found that I could order a package deal of the Belkin router and a USB adapter for less money ($101 plus $11 shipping) from Mitec.

I ordered the Wi-Fi router this afternoon (payment using a Paypal eCheque from my linked ING online bank account), and it should ship in 4-5 days, so will probably arrive around the same time as my Dell PC. I worked as a computer systems administrator several years ago, and networked PCs and macs using thin ethernet cabling, so hopefully setting up the Wi-Fi and getting the cable modem to work with the new PC and being accessible via the USB network adapter on my notebook PC won't be too much of a hassle.

Ideally I can use the desktop PC while relaxing in the lounge (ie. I can keep an eye on my forex trades while watching the cricket or "Lost" on TV), and can also use the notebook at my computer desk for uni assignments, or even while sitting next to the pool or having breakfast in bed. Wink

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

Adventures in Day Trading - day 6

April 26th, 2007 at 04:47 pm

DW has been on a trading hot streak since she opened her own account. She is now up almost 100% in just a few days. However, nine trades isn't a statistically valid sample - I'll reserve judgement on her trading "knack" until she's been at it for a couple of months.

My forex trading has been a disaster these past couple of days. Each time I've taken a position in what appears to be an established trend, then next few ticks are a major reversal. I'm now back to the starting capital, and every time I drop below $0 available margin with my $1,000 open position I get an automatically generated margin call email. Luckily I can just ignore these as I'll have a positive balance when I close my position (I wouldn't let it run to more than -$200 margin). The margin call emails warn that if I don't add in additional funds to bring my account back into the positive they may close out my open positions - I've no idea how large a negative margin would be required to trigger this. Perhaps if a went to -$1000 margin, so my overall account balance was $0, I'd automatically be closed out. Hopefully I'll never be in this position. At the moment I'm short the AUD with an apparent down trend underway - we'll see if this time my luck changes and the trend continues for a while, rather than reversing as soon as I've taken a position!

Text is Current Trading Portfolio Status and Link is
Current Trading Portfolio Status

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

Day Trading Performance

April 25th, 2007 at 06:02 am

I'm tracking my forex trading with a google spreadsheet. It includes some stats on the ration of winning:losing trades, % winning trades, avg. amount gained in winning trades, and avg. amount lost in losing trades. I'll insert the spreadsheet in this post and link to this post if future updates about specific trading activity.

Text is Day Trading Performance and Link is
Day Trading Performance

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

Real Estate Appears to be Picking Up

April 24th, 2007 at 01:56 pm

Owning our own home plus an investment rental property (albeit with large mortgages) means that my net worth is dependent in large part to the vagaries of the Sydney property market. The latest average house prices for the adjacent suburbs where our home and investment property are located shows considerably higher averages prices for house sales than were reported for the previous month:

Combined with the recent strength in the Australian stock market it looks like this month will give a boost to my net worth. Hopefully todays CPI figures will mean the interest rate on our mortgages doesn't increase again (our house is a variable rate loan, and the rental property is a 5-year fixed rate loan, with four years left to run). It may also help breath some life back into the property market - new house construction is running below the required rate to meet increased housing demand, which is starting to make rents increase. Any confidence that interest rates have now peaked will encourage both investors and home buyers back into the market, which should form the basis for the next increase in house prices in Sydney. Housing in Sydney tends to run in a 7-10 year cycle, and it's now been almost three years since the last peak in house prices.

Of the three goals I set at the start of this year (see side bar), my Net Worth and US Stock Portfolio goals are on track, but unfortunately my goal of getting down to my ideal weight by 30 June is not progressing as well as I'd planned.

In some ways diet and saving plans are similar - you pick your ideal behaviour and make an effort to stick to it until it becomes habitual or "automatic" behaviour. Unfortunately it seems easier to eliminate "junk spending" than it is to eliminate "junk food". I think the problem is that while you can arrange for your "essential" expenses (utility bills, home loan etc) to be paid automatically and can therefore focus on eliminating spending entirely (eg. "no spend" days), some basic level of food consumption is needed to maintain health. Food intake can't just be set on autopilot - every time you eat there is the chance you'll choose junk food instead of a more healthy food. I find that I'm most successful in sticking to a healthy eating plan if I have a fixed menu of healthy items for my breakfast, lunch and dinner - that way I CAN completely exclude eating anything that isn't "on my list".

Ah well, time to start writing down what I eat every day and tracking it on my diet spreadsheet...

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth

Adventures in Day Trading - day 5

April 24th, 2007 at 01:15 pm

I decided to do another trade last night after all, and promptly lost another USD$80 - the price had been bouncing up and down and I thought I could sell at the top of a bounce and claw back some of my previous loss. Of course, it then stopped bouncing and went up!

This morning my wife's account was activated after her A$1000 deposit had been processed. The AUD started a rapid drop immediately after the latest quarterly CPI figure came out at 11am - only a 0.1% rise for the quarter. This means that inflation seems to have moderated, so it's less likely that the Reserve Bank will raise interest rates next month after all. It was interesting to see that this news had exactly opposite effects on the AUD and the stock market:

Although after the initial spike up the market drifted back down, whereas the drop in the AUD was more prolonged. DW put in a SELL order for AUD$100,000 (costing $1,000 for the 1% margin) when the Aussie dollar started to slide, but, although the order said "executed" it didn't appear in her FX positions listing. After checking with CMC markets help desk it turned out that her bank had deducted $1.50 fee for the BPay transfer, so her trading account only had A$998.50 available. Due to insufficient funds her $1000 SELL order was automatically cancelled! By the time she'd worked this all out, and decided to trade a $50,000 position instead, the drop in the AUD had bottomed out. DW was quite annoyed that she missed out on a potential $250 gain. She made a series of small trades this evening, but there was no clear trend and she lost on several trades. Her most recent trade is making money as the AUD recovers - so she may break even on today's trades.

Text is Enough Wealth and Link is
Enough Wealth