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Archive for July, 2007

Car Troubles = $$$

July 31st, 2007 at 03:54 pm

Our car is now 9 years old, although it's only done 78,000 km. Yesterday it developed an intermittent steering problem - every now and again when doing a LH turn it would "fight" against the left turn, before the resistence suddenly dissappeared with a bump. I took it in to the garage close to our workplace and during the day they changed the a ball joint on hte front LH wheel. Unfortunately the problem was even worse when the mechanic took it for a road test just before I was due to collect the car, so I drove it home and planned on dropping it back in for further work today (maybe an CV replacement?).

Driving home was very tense as the car would suddenly want to drift off to the right, and would then suddenly try to lurch to the left with a bit of a bang and a bump. Crossing the Sydney Harbour bridge was a white knuckle experience!

When we got home I decided to borrow my parent's car to drive to work today, and my Dad dropped our car off at a local garage for repair. It turns out that a couple of teeth were broken off the gears in the gear box, which will need replacing. $700 for a new gearbox, plus around $300 labour, plus maybe a new clutch (it still has the original clutch, which is probably quite worn out by now).

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

DFS(FP) Update 3

July 28th, 2007 at 05:37 pm

I finished off the last of the 20 assessment activities for the DFS1 course at work during lunchtime of Friday and mailed them off for marking. This first module "Financial Advice" is mostly about the regulatory requirements and contains a whole lot of templates for the Fact Finder used to get relevant information about clients who want personal financial advice, a Risk Analyse to give a rough gauge of ow risk tolerant a client is, and sample Statement of Advice and a letter acknowledging the client has received all the relevant information, notifications and warnings. It very briefly mentions aspects of financial planning that should be considered when developing a financial plan for a client, but doesn't go into much detail about the various strategies and how to select the most appropriate one. Someone who passes this course will know what they are supposed to be doing, and how to dot all the i's and cross all the t's when providing advice, but whether or not they know HOW to do it well will depend on natural ability, background, and knowledge of the various strategies that can be employed for clients in different circumstances.

I'll start working on the next module DFS2 "Insurance" next week - it's likely to be the most boring and the one I know least about. The final two modules "Superannuation" and "Investment" are likely to be mainly revision and shouldn't take very long to complete.

I want to get all the DFS(FP assessment items finished as soon as possible as my GradDip Education course starts again next week and I'll need to start working on the assignments for that by the end of next month.

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

Dividend Income

July 28th, 2007 at 07:07 am

I usually get a large dividend payment from my CDF holdings at this time of year, and use it to repay the margin loan interest pre-payment that I've made in late June. Most years I initially pay the interest using my Citibank Redicredit Line-of-credit account and then pay off the citibank debt using my CDF dividend, but this year I chose to capitalise the margin loand interest payment. This means that the $8,416.63 dividend that was paid into my Credit Union account yesterday can be used to make other investments.

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

News Flash: The Stock Market can be Risky!

July 27th, 2007 at 08:06 am

Yes, I know that's not news to anyone. So, why all the kerfuffle about a drop of a couple of percent? The Australian stock market even managed to out-drop the US market - falling 174 pts (2.8%). On paper this knocked $15,000.00 or so off my net worth in one day, but I'm a long-term investor with an "aggressive" risk tolerance, so I should expect this to happen once or twice every few years. If it keeps going down another 10% we might even have a genuine "correction".

I can't decide which headlines are more amusing - the ones that say that this is a market "bloodbath" and the start of a bear market, or those that think a 2% decline is a "correction" and a buying opportunity...

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

HyperGearing Case Study

July 26th, 2007 at 04:46 am

Most of us would have a mix of asset in our investment portfolio - ranging from the low-risk, low-return government guaranteed bank account, through stock and real estate investments, and up, up and away into the stratosphere of geared, high-risk, high-return investments. Rather than invest in just one asset class of investment product that matches my risk-tolerance and desired return I have a mix of different investments, accumulated over time via deliberate diversification strategies and a large dose of "it seemed like a good idea at the time" strategy. In this post I'll look at what is probably my highest-risk investment, track how it's performed so far, and establish a baseline for keeping an eye on it's long-term performance over the coming years.

Investment: Hedge Fund (Macquarie Equinox Select Opportunities Fund), 100% geared using funding from a Macquarie Structured Products Investment Loan and annual interest payments capitalised using a line-of-credit loan against my property portfolio equity.

Principal Loan: $50,000 borrowed for the initial investment @7.75%pa fixed, paid annually in advance each June ($3,875 pa interest)

Interest Capitalisation Loan: The $3,875 pa interest payment on the principal loan amount is borrowed each June using my home equity line of credit, @ current variable home loan interest rate -0.7% "professional package" discount +0.1% "portfolio loan" premium. Currently the interest rate is 7.33% pa. This interest is paid monthly from my credit union savings account. (I could have also capitalised this interest on interest, but I couldn't be bothered as the amount each month is quite small, and I'd be pushing my luck regarding the tax-deductibility of such interest payments).

Investment Performance:
14.46% in the first year

Tax Considerations:
In order to ensure that the interest on any loan used to purchase the investment is tax deductible, the Macquarie Equinox fund is designed to pay a small "dividend" each year - estimated in the PDS to be around 1% pa. The dividend for the year ended 30 June 2007 will be declared by the end of August. For the evaluation of the tax effects of this investment I've assumed a 1% dividend is declared.

Taxable income from investment: 1% x $50,000 = $500

Deduction for interest paid on investment loan:
7.75% x $50,000 = $3,875

Deduction for interest paid on capitalised interest:
7.33% x $3,875 = $284

Net effect on taxable income:
$500 - $3,875 - $284 = $3,659 reduction

Marginal income tax rate = 30%
Reduction in income tax payable for 2006/7 FY: 30% x $3,659 = $1,097.70

Unrealised Capital Gains for 2006/7: 14.46% x $50,000 = $7,230
Capital Gains tax rate = 50% x marginal income tax rate = 15%
Unrealised CGT due when investment is liquidated: 15% x $7,230 = $1,084.50
Net Unrealised Capital Gain: $7,230 - $1,084.50 = $6,145.50

Net after-tax profit calculation:
= Investment Value - Loan balance - interest paid + tax refunds - CG tax due
= $57,230 - $53,875 - $284 + $1,097.70 - $1,084.50
= $3,084.20

It's a bit hard to work out a ROI as I used OPM to fund this investment, but as a ball-park figure I assume that I "used" $3,875 of home equity that could have otherwise been invested elsewhere, plus I paid out $284 in interest on this home equity loan. So, ROI becomes $3,084.20/($3,875+$284) = 74.16%

On the face of it this looks like a great little money-maker, BUT the potential riskis huge. Worst-case the investment could become worthless, leaving me with a $53,875 in debt to repay. So, as nice as a 74.16% pa return is, I'll restrict my total investment in this high-risk asset class to the current $50,000 - which is around 4.3% of my net worth. This limits the potential maximum loss to around $88,750 after ten years, vs. a "likely" net profit of around $90,980 after ten years (assuming interest rates stay the same, tax rates stay the same, and the investment return averages 14.5% pa).

Break even requires an averaged investment return of 5.98% pa (It's less than the cost of borrowing to invest due to the tax effectiveness of the investment).

Best-case scenario would be a net profit of $191,674 if the investment return averaged 20% (a figure quoted in the PDS as a "projection" based on historical returns for the underlying investments used to value to investment). This best-case scenario is highly unlikely, with the "historic" return data for many of the underlying investments being only a couple of years!

Doing a back-of-the-envelop estimate of "probable" outcome, I get the following:
Outcome Probability Scenario
-$88,750 10% Stay invested for 10 years, then investment goes bust
-$ 6,930 20% Stay invested for 10 years, investment return avg 5%
$16,264 25% Stay invested for 10 years, investment return avg 8%
$90,980 25% Stay invested for 10 years, investment return avg 14.5%
$131,567 19% Stay invested for 10 years, investment return avg 17%
$191,674 1% Stay invested for 10 years, investment return avg 20%
The Weighted average outcome is a profit of $43,464. (As a reality check this equates to an average return of 10.77%, which seems realistic)

Overall, I estimate that the likelihood of losing my entire 4.3% of net worth that I've put into this high-risk is only around 10%, and that there's a reasonable chance that this investment could increase my net worth by an extra $100K to $200K in ten years time.

This is a good illustration of how slack my investment due-diligence and risk analysis really is. Checking through the PDS again I found that:
a) The 10-year historic return of the underlying investments is actually around 15%, not 20%
b) This investment is supposedly "capital guaranteed" - so worst-case I *should* get back the initial $50,000 at the maturity date
c) There is a "rising guarantee" that "locks in" a part of the increased fund value each year (if any) - this may mean that by the end of August the rising guarantee has increased to maybe $53,000 - which would then become my "worst-case" scenario
d) The investment matures after 8 years, not 10. But at that time the fund "rolls over" into an investment in the top-10 ASX listed stocks, so it won't trigger a CGT event at that time. I may need to refinance to $50,000 loan at that time though.
e) I really don't understand exactly what mix of underlying investments the fund performance is linked to and I don't know what fees are being siphoned off - probably a lot, as exotic investments tend to have high management fees, and capital protected products tend to be loaded up with hidden costs.

So I've violated the cardinal rule to "only invest in things you understand". Then again, although $50,000 is a sizeable investment in one product, it's only 4.3% of my total net worth, and an even smaller % of my total investment portfolio. And some of the benefits (income tax deductions, investment asset diversification into non-correlated asset classes) are pretty certain.

If I was a more risk-averse investor I'd not invest in this product in the first place - instead I'd make a "risk free" 7.33% after-tax ROI by not drawing down my home equity loan to pay the interest on this investment.

On the other hand, a more risk-seeking investor might add $50K or $100K of such an investment to their portfolio each year, using every bit of available equity to fund the investment borrowings. If things worked out, after ten years you could have made an extra $1m or so and be able to retire, or possibly write a book and teach seminars on how to make a fortune through speculative investing Wink

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

Retirement Funding

July 25th, 2007 at 08:13 am

We're still waiting for our employer contributions to start appearing in the bank account of our Self-Managed Superannuation Fund. Apart from the intial $200 deposit I made last June nothing has appeared in the account yet. We notified our employer to direct our 9% compulsory employer contribution plus our "salary sacrifice" amounts into the SMSF from 1 July, and the payroll department has apparently made the change. The employer contributions still go initially to the company's superannuation administrator, who is then supposed to redirect it into the SMSF bank account within a couple of days. As no funds had appeared in the account yet I asked payroll in what timeframe I should expect the money to appear in our SMSF account. It turns out that although the superannuation contribution amount is printed on each fortnightly payroll slip the contributions are only sent in at the end of each month. So I should see the July contributions hit the SMSF bank account by the middle of August. As soon as I know that no additional contributions are going into the old fund we can send in the paperwork to close DWs account and "rollover" the entire balance into our SMSF. I'll also send in the request to rollover the bulk of my account balance into our SMSF, just leaving enough in the old fund to cover my insurance premiums. It's cheaper to get death & TPD cover through our company superannuation scheme as we get group rates and the premium is paid out of pre-tax dollars. Outside of superannuation life insurance premiums are generally higher, and aren't tax deductible. In contrast, income protection insurance is tax deductible, so it's generally better to obtain it outside of superannuation.

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

Good News Day

July 24th, 2007 at 04:32 am

Mum is OK - she had a tetanus shot and a diptheria booster for the wound on her hand, and is on antibiotics, but she was lucky and didn't break anything or get a concussion when she passed out and fell head-first into the bedroom wall. She was even feeling well enough to have us over for dinner this afternoon.

Meanwhile, my AUD/USD forex trading has been doing well - going long the AUD in the recent strong uptrend has made back some of my previous trading losses. I put a total of A$4,000 into my forex trading account and was down to A$1200 at one stage. My balance is now back up to A$2240 with the AUD at US$0.8847. If the Aussie dollar reaches 90c US I'll be close to break-even on my trading account. I've still managed to lose a bit of money every time I try to "day trade" the short term ups and downs, but the general uptrend has continued as I expected. If I'd just started out my forex trading with a smaller positions and thus allowed a larger margin buffer (so I didn't get liquidated on short-term dips in the AUD) I would have made a profit from the overall trend. Then again, any gains I make from my forex trading are really just hedging the currency losses on my US stock portfolio.

Today the Australian stock market was back up 40 points, more than making up yesterday's drop to close at a record high. So my stock investments and superannuation account balance are looking good.

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

Mini Medical Mayhem

July 23rd, 2007 at 08:23 am

Today was a day for medical mini-crises. First, DS2 was awake all night with a nagging cough, and by 5am we weren't sure if he was suffering from asthma of just badly conjested lungs. We've all had the same lingering chest cold for more than a month, but DS2 is only 10 months olds so it's more of a concern. He already had one course of anti-biotics several weeks ago, which got him over the worst of it, but the slight "rattle" and cough never went entirely away. Then last week he developed another runny nose, and his cough got worse over the weekend. So at 6 am we were debating whether to take him to the hospital emergency department, or just to our local GP. As the wait in the ER would probably be at least 2-3 hours we decided to go to the GP first. We managed to see the doctor at 9am despite not having an appointment, and it seems that DS2 probably doesn't have asthma, just a bad chest infection - maybe a spot of pneumonia. We then dropped DS2 off at my parents place for baby-sitting along with the first dose of new course of anti-biotic, and managed to get to work only a couple of hours late.

When we collected DS2 this afternoon he was looking well and had been resting comfortably all day and not causing Grandma too much trouble. So all seemed OK for DS2 to stay with Grandma tomorrow as usual (DW is working 2 days a week now). Then, at 9pm my Dad phoned to say than Mum had hurt her hand and then fainted while walking to the bedroom to lie down for a rest... Unfortunately she apparently hit her head when she passed out, and hurt her nose and some teeth. Last I heard Dad was going to take Mum to the ER for treatment and will phone with a progress report in the morning...

So I'll be taking a day off work tomorrow to look after DS2 (and check up on Mum's condition). I may need to take Mondays and Tuesdays off work for a couple of weeks if Mum isn't up to baby-sitting for a while.

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

Why I Don't Worry about Rebalancing my Asset Allocation

July 22nd, 2007 at 05:07 am

In an ideal world my investment asset allocation would be done in the following manner:
1. Determine what initial amount to invest and ongoing savings plan
2. Determine my risk tolerance and any constraints regarding what investment types I choose to invest in (eg. ethical funds, hedge funds etc)
3. Decide my timeframe and investment targets (eg. final amount for retirement, target ROI or whatever)
4. Select an appropriate asset allocation to meet my investment return target with minimal risk (ie. aim for the efficient frontier)
5. Select individual investments to meet my overall asset allocation with consideration of fees, diversification.
6. Rebalance the investments periodically (eg. every year) or when the actual asset allocation differs too much from the target allocation - either by selling investments and reinvesting, or by adjusting what assets new savings are directed into. Bearing in mind transaction costs and capital gains tax effects.

In reality I have a ROI target of 5%-15% for my total networth, excluding annual savings of around $30K. Assuming a CPI of 2%-3% this would mean a real return of around 2% - 12%. But I don't have an overall asset allocation target as I have a large chunk of my net worth tied up in real estate via our home and our rental property, despite preferring to be largely invested in Australian and international shares. The rental property investment was mainly chosen because DW wanted to invest in the property market, and the house - well we both prefer to own our own home rather than rent. I therefore tend to only manage asset allocations within our superannuation account and by having the remainder of my investible assets in stock investments plus some alternative investments (hedge funds, agricultural investments, coins, bullion etc). Given that I have a much larger proportion of my assets in real estate than I would prefer, you'd expect that any additional investments would have been directed towards additional stock purchases, or perhaps some alternative investments. In reality although my personal savings have been directed towards direct stock investments or into my superannuation fund, until recently we had actually been increasing the proportion of our networth tied up in real estate due to our home loan payments reducing the property loan principal over time. We've now got both our home loan and rental property loan setup as "interest only", mainly because DW can't afford her half of the normal P+I loan payments while working part-time, so this will shift our asset allocation
more towards stocks over time.

As you can see, my overall asset allocation is therefore a pretty hit-and-miss affair. So for that reason worrying about fine-tuning asset allocation by rebalancing is a moot point.

Copyright [url=http://enoughwealth.comlEnough Wealth[/url] 2007

Frugal Liing: Children's Books

July 21st, 2007 at 01:10 am

DS1 is an avid reader - so much so that it would be uneconomical to buy him novels to read. I have bought some encyclopaedia's, dictionaries and reference books, but for novels we tend to just borrow books from the local library. He has enjoyed the Enid Blyton series "Secret Seven" and "Famous Five", even though they are very old fashioned. I remember reading a "Tom Swift" novel when I was around his age (7), so I did a search on the Gutenberg.org site to see if these books were now out of copyright. Sure enough, you can download the series for free. One thing I did notice was that the language in some of the

Text is Tom Swift and Link is http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/a#a267
Tom Swift stories seems very *ist by modern standards, so you might want to either edit the text or use the books as a starting point for discussing how racial and cultural stereotypes are inaccuate and offensive...

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007

Frugal Living: Harry Potter

July 20th, 2007 at 11:53 pm

I admit to being a big kid when it comes to taste in entertainment* - I enjoy TV shows like Dr Who, Hyperdrive, Torchwood, Lost, Stargate, Star Wars... in fact anything with little green men and some flashing blinking lights (which reminds me of Flying High 2). I also enjoy reading SF and fantasy novels, so I've enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series so far, but I'm too stingy to pay for a hardcover copy when they are first released. The latest book in the HP series went on sale this morning, so I did my usual trick of standing around the book section of the local department store and read the first 88 pages of Deathly Hallows while DW took DS1 to the clothing section to buy him some school socks. I'll probably take about a week to get through the whole book, reading it for half an hour in various book shops and department stores during lunch hour and on the weekend. I don't feel too guilty about not buying the books - I have bought the DVDs of the movies as they have gone ex-rental, as the whole family enjoys watching them several times. I'll probably buy a boxed set of the entire series in paperback in a couple of years - by which time DS1 will be old enough to enjoy reading them.

The different approaches to selling the Potter book taken by various booksellers is quite interesting too. The Dymocks book store always takes pre-orders, sells the new release at full RRP (around A$44) and ran out of stock by lunchtime (there's a note in the window saying that more stock will arrive next week). I'm amazed that anyone buys the book from them - the Big W department store has lots of copies in stock, as does the Myer department store, and both are selling the same book for under $30. I'm also amazed that Dymocks ran out of stock this morning - the same thing happened when the sixth HP novel was released. I can only imagine that head office controls how many copies they can get hold of.

* I also like medieval wind ensembles and illuminated manuscripts, so I can pretend to have posh tastes if needs be.

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Text is Enough Wealth and Link is http://enoughwealth.com
Enough Wealth 2007