Michael Jordan's $14.5 million birthday present


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Basketball legend gifts $US10 million to sick kids, cost of health cover to jump 2.9%, and new house construction slows to lowest level in a decade. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

MJ slam dunks $US10 million into kids' charity

His Airness - Michael Jordan, has just slam dunked a $US10 million ($A14.5 million) donation into the hands of Make-A-Wish Foundation America.

michael jordan donates 14 million to the make a wish foundation

It's the largest donation by an individual in the charity's 43-year history.

The six-time NBA champion made the donation to celebrate his 60th birthday.

The big man of basketball (Jordan stands at 1.98 metres, or six-foot-six) retired from pro basketball in 2003, but that didn't see his earning power slow to a dribble. According to Forbes Magazine, MJ is worth $US1.7 billion ($A2.5 billion).

Like its US counterpart, Make a Wish Australia helps to fulfil the wishes of critically ill children. You don't have to chip in as much as Jordan to make a difference, and donations over $2 are tax deductible. Head to makeawish.org.au for more details.

Private health premiums to rise 2.9%

In just over four weeks, 14.4 million Australians with private health insurance can expect to dig a little deeper to pay their premiums.

Mark Butler, Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, has announced that from April 1, 2023, the cost of private health insurance will rise by an average of 2.9%, though some of the big funds including Medibank and Bupa will delay raising premiums until later this year.

Butler says the 2.9% premium hike is well below the 10-year average of 4.4%. Even so, it's an added cost for Australians to wear.

Consumer group CHOICE says now is the time to compare policies, especially as plenty of funds are offering sign-up deals to entice new members.

As a guide, AAMI and Bupa are offering eight weeks free cover - BUPA will even waive its two- and six-month waiting periods on extras cover. Priceline is offering a discount of $600 for new customers taking out combined hospital/extras cover. Conditions apply.

The privatehealth.gov.au has a free online comparison tool to help you narrow down your preferred policy and provider.

House building set for worst year in a decade

Plenty of pundits suggest we need more homes to help improve housing affordability, but the latest figures from the Housing Industry Association (HIA) show a decline in the number of new houses being built.

According to the HIA's latest Outlook Report, by the end of last year, lending for the purchase or construction of a new home had fallen to its lowest level since 2012, and rising interest rates are a key culprit.

HIA Chief Economist, Tim Reardon says, "There was a large volume of work in the pipeline when rates started to rise in May 2022, and there remains a record number of homes under construction, but this will shrink quickly as market confidence continues to fade."

The HIA expects the number of detached housing starts to drop below 100,000 per year for the first time in a decade, falling to just 96,300 by 2024 - a rapid slowdown from the 149,000 starts in 2021.

On the plus side, many multi-unit construction projects, which were postponed last year owing to an acute shortage of labour and materials, should kick off in 2023 fuelled by returning migrants and students, and buyer affordability constraints.

Westpac joins the buy now, pay later party

Westpac is set to launch its own version of buy now, pay later, with a new offering called PartPay, available to Westpac credit card customers.

PartPay can be linked to a Westpac credit card, allow purchases to be paid off in four interest-free instalments.

Westpac Consumer and Business Banking Chief Executive, Chris de Bruin, says the new feature is about giving customers more control.

"We want to give our customers greater flexibility by providing different payment options to suit their changing circumstances. We know our customers want more choice when it comes to their finances and this new feature will put them in the driver's seat."

PartPay will only be available on purchases of A$100 or more. No late payment fees apply, however, if a customer misses a PartPay payment, the instalment is transferred to their Westpac credit card purchase balance and standard interest rates will apply.

CommBank Group Super eyes merger with ART

Recent years have seen an escalation in super fund mergers, driven by the need to trim costs - and score a 'pass' on APRA's super fund performance tests.

The latest fund to merge looks set to be the $12.3 billion Commonwealth Bank Group Super fund, which has announced a possible merger with Australian Retirement Trust (ART) - itself the result of a 2022 merger between QSuper and Sunsuper.

CommBank Group Super Chair, Trustee Board, Rosemary Vilgan, says, "Though Group Super has delivered good outcomes for members over the years, we are still a relatively small fund, and we know scale is important to deliver long-term outcomes for superannuation fund members.

If the merger goes ahead, ART could overtake AustralianSuper as the nation's biggest super fund.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.