Money questions you should be asking if you're under 30
Do I pay off my HECS-HELP loan or save?
With an interest rate equal to the inflation rate, this is one of the cheapest debts around. So if you have any other debts, pay them off first. If not, then you'd be better off saving, provided your net return (including tax on interest earned) is greater than the rate of inflation.
You don't have to start paying off your HECS -HELP debt until your income is above $54,869, the compulsory repayment threshold for 2016-17. The amount you repay each year is a percentage of your income. The percentage increases as your income increases, so the more you earn, the higher your repayment will be.
The ATO will calculate your compulsory repayment for the year and include it on your notice of assessment. So, for example, if you earn $55,000 your repayment rate is 4% ($2200). You can make voluntary repayments to the ATO at any time and for any amount.
To get an estimate of your compulsory HELP repayment visit calculators.ato.gov.au.
Should I get private health insurance?
This is a no-brainer. Besides allowing you to afford expensive medical services when you need them, if you earn over $90,000 or you're over 30 it pays to have, at the very least, basic hospital cover.
Not only will you save on tax (Medicare levy surcharge) but you'll end up saving on premiums too (life-time health cover loading).
If you don't take out hospital cover before the July 1 following your 31st birthday, a 2% loading on top of your premium will apply each year for every year you are aged over 30 and you don't have private hospital cover.
For example, if you take it out when you are 40 you will pay 20% more than someone who first took out hospital cover when they were 30. The maximum loading is 70%.
The ATO also charges an extra 1% in tax if you earn over $90,000 and don't have hospital cover. Why pay the tax man extra when you can use this cash to cover yourself.
You can compare policies at privatehealth.gov.au.
What are the tax implications of having more than one job?
If you are an Australian resident for taxation purposes, the first $18,200 of your yearly income is not taxed.
This is called the tax-free threshold. If you have more than one paying job at the same time, the ATO requires that you only claim the tax-free threshold from the employer who usually pays the highest salary or wage.
Your second employer is required to withhold tax at the higher, "no tax-free threshold" rate. If your second payer does not withhold a higher rate of tax, this may lead to a tax debt at the end of the financial year.
However, if you are certain your total income for the year will be less than $18,200 you can claim the tax-free threshold from each payer.
More details can be found at ato.gov.au.
Am I entitled to super?
There is no shortage of employers who try to avoid paying super.
They might decide not to pay you because you work on a casual or part-time basis, or because they prefer to represent you as a contractor, not an employee. Having an employment contract does not mean you are a contractor.
Broadly, if the employer has control over the work you do and the way you do it, pays you for the time you have worked, provides most of the equipment and takes all the commercial risks for the business, you are an employee, not a contractor.
If you are employed either full time, part time or casually, aged 18 or over and earn over $450 a month (before tax), your employer is required to make regular superannuation contributions on your behalf, currently 9.5% of your salary.
This is called the super guarantee (SG) and forms part of your wages. Employees and some contractors are eligible for SG contributions but they do not apply to those who are self-employed.
Whether or not you are entitled to compulsory employer contributions will depend on your work arrangements.
The tax office's employee-contractor tool can help you determine whether or not you are a contractor. The site also provides the documentation you need to lodge a complaint.
Should I salary sacrifice?
According to Paul Clitheroe, Money's chief commentator and a financial adviser, super has all the key elements for wealth creation.
It allows you to put in money on a regular basis (tick here for dollar cost averaging), is a long-term investment (so interest is paid on interest) and is taxed at just 15%.
Yes, your money will be locked away until you retire but contributing just an extra $10 a week from age 24, and assuming growth of 5% a year, you'll enjoy an extra $70,000 in your super when you retire.
Just ask your employer if you can have money paid into your super fund from your salary before income tax is taken out. These contributions can reduce your tax bill as well as boost your super.
If you earn $37,000 or less a year, you may be eligible to receive a low income super contribution (LISC) of up to $500 to help save for retirement.
How hard is it to get a loan if I'm self-employed?
It may actually be harder to get a credit card than a home loan. That's because lenders have specific home loans for self-employed people, contractors and business owners.
They're called low-doc loans.
Having said that, you still need to prove your income, show a serviceability history of six months (prove that you can meet your expenses and there is a surplus), show a savings history and have a good credit history.
Unfortunately, you will have to jump through more hoops than if you were an employee.
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