Why Starting an SMSF To Buy Property is a Great Idea

Why Starting an SMSF To Buy Property is a Great Idea
Starting a Self-Managed Super Fund is quite an exciting prospect. No longer will an investor be constrained by the shackles of their tired superfund, an SMSF is an open road with untold freedoms ahead, but how to get started on that road? Luckily there are many eager experts out there ready to liberate investors from the boring returns of their banal old super funds and guide them into the riches of buying property within their SMSF.
Let’s say you and your partner are both in your early fifties, have maybe spent 30 years working and have managed to (between both of you) accrue $250,000 in super.
You may be with an industry super fund, maybe retail, maybe you have a financial planner, but for argument’s sake, let’s say the super fund costs are around 1% per annum or less. Let’s say it’s $2,000 to keep the maths easy. You also have an accountant who charges you $200 to do your taxes each year. Your “net worth” so to speak, to the finance industry is $2,200.
But $2,200 doesn’t feed many hungry mouths. It certainly doesn’t contribute significantly to support an assortment of professionals who can help with your SMSF and find you the perfect property. Nor does it contribute to the black hole of state government coffers or pay thousands in interest to keep bank CEOs happy.
To help all these people out, instead of paying your fees annually you could front load most of them and pay them up front so everyone can benefit now rather than having to wait for you to pay fees each year.
This is why it’s a great idea to set up an SMSF and buy a property.
Take that $250,000 from your super funds and set up an SMSF with your partner, you can then buy a brand new $700,000 apartment with a $500,000 loan (allowing $50,000 for stamp duty and expenses).
Upfront fees. $1,000 to $3,300 to your accountant. Legals? $1,000 to $3,000. Stamp Duty: $30,000 to $40,000 depending upon the state. Bank Valuation and other fees $500-1,500. Sales commissions are officially paid for by the vendor, not you. But all that means is that the sales commissions on your new apartment are embedded in the price. Add another $10,000 to $30,000.
Plus, now you have an annual $2,000 to $3,000 in accountants’ fees. And at 4.5% investor interest rates you are in for $22,500 in interest payments. You’re probably also now paying a financial planner to sign off on your strategy. At 1% that’s another $2,500.
With gross rental yields around 4%, you get income of $28,000 per year. Then you pay strata, insurance, rates, letting fees etc which means you are probably losing a few thousand each year.
Thankfully negative gearing gets you a discount. Oh. That’s right, an SMSF only pays 15% tax, which means there are almost no negative gearing benefits.
So let’s go through the maths:
Leaving your $250,000 in your boring old super fund:
Creating an SMSF to buy a $700,000 property:
Sure, you will wipe out close to 25% of your entire savings in upfront fees alone. And your annual fees are at least double what they were, maybe triple. But just look at the list of people who will benefit from your new SMSF: accountants, lawyers, governments, real estate agents and banks.
That’s a lot of marketing and lobbying power – to convince you to put your super into property via an SMSF, and to lobby the government to keep the changes that allow you to borrow in your SMSF despite ongoing warnings and objections from independent observers.
So you can see now see why setting up an SMSF to buy property is such a great idea
Well maybe not for you, but for everyone else in the game it makes perfect sense!
Note: this scenario highlights the associated issues related to off the plan property spruiking. For some investors there certainly are legitimate reasons to hold property within an SMSF. The moral of the story – ensure the strategy you take is the right one for your needs and comes with appropriate advice!

Should you use the new first home buyers scheme?

First home saver scheme - Attempt number 2.

The previous first home saver scheme was separate to superannuation and due to a lack of take up, it was scrapped after a couple of years. Now we have the new and improved version 2.

I think part of the lack of interest in the old system was the minimum 4 financial year period in saving for a house, which wasn't very popular because (in voice of Veruca Salt) "I want it now".

Anyway, this new system gets away with this. Contributions can start from 1 July 2017 and withdrawals allowed from 1 July 2018. From what I can see, once we are at 1 July 2018, there is no minimum time period, but, worst case a maximum of a 1 year 'waiting period'. I don't think this is going to be an impediment to take it up.

So, should first home buyers be using it?

Well, as I usually say - if you are nearing retirement, salary sacrificing to superannuation is a no brainer. So, if you are nearing the purchase of a house, wouldn't salary sacrificing for a deposit also be a no brainer?

On the surface, Yes, absolutely. But there are a couple of small distinctive differences that we need to take into account.

The first one is that withdrawals are taxed, so this needs to be considered. Withdrawals are taxed at your marginal tax rate, less a 30% offset. Remembering that on the way into super, you are saving your marginal tax rate, less a 15% tax on entry to superannuation.

Even with the additional tax on exit, you are still better of salary sacrificing to superannuation for your house deposit (unless you earn less than $18,200).

Take for example an average person earning between $37,000 and $87,000. If they have $10,000 of pre tax dollars, then they would have only $6,550 remaining for house deposit savings after paying their income tax.

They could salary sacrifice that to superannuation, leaving $8,500 after paying the initial 15% tax. Then upon withdrawal, they would pay only 4.5% tax (34.5% marginal tax rate less the 30% offset) which would leave them with $8,117.50 - significantly more than the person who paid the income tax.

Where this would come unstuck would be if you are on a significantly higher marginal tax rate when you withdrawal as when you make the contributions. But for the example above, if that person was on the higher 39% marginal tax rate at the time of withdrawal, they'll still have $7,735 or $7,055 if they are on the top marginal tax rate. So it really only needs to be considered if you are earning below $37,000 when you make the contributions. But, if possible, planning a withdrawal in a year when you are on a lower marginal tax rate will be preferable.

It's important to also note the planned increase to the medicare levy by 0.5% from 1 July 2019 which will affect these numbers slightly and may also encourage you to withdraw and purchase a house prior to this coming into effect. But really, we're talking a few $'s and on a large purchase like a house shouldn't really sway your decision much.

Another thing to consider is how to invest the money. Most people when saving for a deposit, keep it in a high interest savings account, but most people when contributing to super investing it a mix of property, shares and bonds which provides a much better return over the long term. So what should you be doing?

Well, in terms of how much you will actually have to withdrawal for your deposit, it doesn't really matter as your withdrawal amount is going to be based on how much you contribute (less tax) then an additional deemed earning amount (based on the ATOs shortfall interest charge currently 4.78% per annum), regardless of how much your investment actually earns. If it earns more than that, the additional will stay in super, if it earns less, you will be dipping into your 'actual' superannuation balance.

But, the question is 'should you alter your investments within superannuation so this portion is aligned with the shorter investment time horizon?' Well, everyone is going to be different. Some might use this as a longer term saving strategy where they are happy to keep the money in growth assets and save for a house over 5-10 years and others may keep it in cash or bonds for a 1 - 2 year plan. The general rule is that you should invest with an appropriate amount of risk for the length of time you will be investing for, however as your withdrawal amount is based on a standard bank bill rate, a good starting point could be a diversified bond fund that will return roughly a similar amount.

It is also very important that you review your superannuation fund when doing this as well as you want to make sure that it is appropriately invested and fees are low.

So, based on these things, it appears to be a great tax saving vehicle for people to save for their first home. These contributions count towards your concessional contribution cap so you need to make sure you stay within your cap ($25,000 per annum). You can contribute up to $15,000 per annum and a total $30,000. This doesn't mean that you'll have $30,000 for a deposit, because you will be paying some tax, but you will have more than if you paid your regular income tax. And both members of a couple can do it.

But the very best thing about this new plan is that it is coming out of your income before you see it. A very disciplined savings measure that can't be dipped into a for a new car or holiday. So you can get your employer to start the salary sacrifice, then it's gone before you get your regular pay so you can go about your business spending all your money on craft beer and smashed avocados. So you really can have your smashed avo AND eat it too.

Glenn Hilber is a Certified Financial Planner with over 10 years experience and the owner of Precision Wealth Management.

This represents general information only. Before making any financial or investment decisions, we recommend you consult a financial planner to take into account your personal investment objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

The shining light of managed funds

When I joined the industry in 2007 and for a few years after that, you just couldn't escape the amazing reputation of the Platinum International Fund.

It truly was the shining light of the managed fund industry. The portfolio manager Kerr Neilson was the Messiah of fund managers, 'could predict the future', and you had to include this fund in portfolios, despite it's very high price tag (1.54% p.a management fee), because, as I've said, it was 'the fund'. The one that can shoot the lights out and do what others can't.

For myself though, I wasn't so convinced. Sure, the performance of the fund was staggering, but, my beliefs were and still are, that markets are efficient and it is very very difficult, if not impossible, to outperform the market consistently, especially after costs. Whilst the performance of the fund was good, these beliefs were core to me and I took the path that low cost, highly diversified, asset class investment model would be the best thing for my clients.

It has now been a number of years since I've been in 'that part of the industry'. Researching the flavour of the month, who's put on a really good sales pitch (over lunch at the Hilton) etc etc, so I don't monitor the movements or performance of funds.

Anyway, today I received my invitation to the annual FPA roadshow. I enjoy going to the FPA roadshow as it's usually a big event, I catch up with many old friends in the industry, it usually has a lot of important information, and it's free and includes a lunch. However, the free and includes a lunch usually comes with another price tag - having to listen to a presentation by the sponsor. Last year it was Challenger, proving an 'educational' session on including annuities in retirement portfolios (one of my bug bears is product providers providing education to financial planners as it can often be misleading but that is another story).

Anyway, this years sponsor is Platinum Asset Management and that struck me as very strange. My my last knowings of how they were going, they didn't need to advertise.

So, what was going on? I thought I would check it out. And what do you know, the Platinum International Fund had under performed for about the last 7 years (ups and downs along the way as it is quite volatile). I thought this was quite interesting on 2 fronts:

  1. I was right in the fact that this fund couldn't consistently outperform like so many thought. Sure, they had done some things in the past that paid off very well, but clearly isn't a bulletproof strategy with 7 years of under performance. and;
  2. Probably the bigger thing is the fickle nature of financial advisers, no longer content with this fund as it's under performed for a bit, they will now be piling their clients money into another fund which has just done well but has no basis that it will continue to do well. Always chasing 'last years' winner. A strategy that is guaranteed to cost the investors money over the long term.
This second point is evident when looking at the fund size compared with the movements of the global stock market (if no one invests new money and no one withdrawals money, the fund size should move in unison with the market movements)

As you can see, the blue line (platinum international fund size) has not grown anywhere near as much as the market (red line) has over this 6 year period, meaning there has been more money withdrawn than new money contributed. 

So how do I invest clients money? Simple, low cost, highly diversified portfolios that capture the returns of asset classes efficiently. The structure of the portfolios asset classes is based on the clients specific goals, objectives and risk tolerance. Remain disciplined, invest regularly and concentrate on the things we can control.

Glenn Hilber is a Certified Financial Planner with over 10 years experience and the owner of Precision Wealth Management.

This represents general information only. Before making any financial or investment decisions, we recommend you consult a financial planner to take into account your personal investment objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

Warren Buffett's Big Bet

Warren Buffett has long been an advocate for index funds saying that for the average person, this is the best way for them to invest.

Well, in 2005's Berkshire Hathaway's annual report, Mr Buffett argued that active management in aggregate would over a period of time under perform the market index. Mr Buffett eventually followed it up wagering $500,000 that this would be the case (the winnings of which would go to charity).

It took some time, but eventually the bet was taken by Ted Seides. As part of the arrangement, Mr Seides selected 5 fund of fund hedge funds to be pitted against Mr Buffett seemingly amateurish selection of a run of the mill index fund.

The bet started at the beginning of 2008, so at the end of 2016, we had seen 9 out of the 10 years completed. There is 1 to go.

The results so far?

Let's just say, Warren Buffett's selected charity, Girls Inc. of Omaha, might want to plan what they might be able to do with $500,000.

After 9 years the growth of the index fund has been 85.4% (in total, not per annum), where as the best performing of the 5 hedged funds has returned 62.8% and the worst 2.9% - an average of 22.04% between the 5 funds. Just staggering. This selection of 5 funds coming from a co-manager of a major asset manager who has the financial resources and confidence to bet $500,000 on it.

But, the fact he has $500,000 to place on the bet is probably a good indication of the level of fees being charged by these managers and as academics can show, there is an extremely high correlation between higher fees and under performance.

For those who are interested, the information can be found in the Berkshire Hathaway's letter to shareholders for 2016 http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/2016ltr.pdf starting on page 21.

Glenn Hilber is a Certified Financial Planner with over 9 years experience and the owner of Precision Wealth Management.

This represents general information only. Before making any financial or investment decisions, we recommend you consult a financial planner to take into account your personal investment objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

The US election and investment markets

This scary clown craze has just gotten out of control. They've even got 2 running for president in the United States.

Regardless of who you might think will be a better or worse president, should you be making changes to your investment portfolio in light of the upcoming election and the uncertainty it poses? Other than investing in Mexican wall building companies - of course!

Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. Everyone already knows that an election is coming up and everyone already knows that both candidates of the 2 major parties seems to have some flaws - like is always portrayed. It's not a secret, you and I don't possess any special insight.

This is the thing with investment markets, they're amazing at pricing in today's news and pricing in risk and uncertainty. What you already know is already in the price.

Sure, if the unlikely scenario of Trump being elected actually happens, there probably will be some volatility, because at the moment, that isn't the expected outcome and if Trump is elected it will add some uncertainty, but the long term investor doesn't care about short term volatility. The long term investor will be invested for this next presidential term and probably the next 5 presidents as well.

The chart below shows the US market since 1926 and shows you the president and the political party they represent. The key takeaway here is that over the long run, the market has provided substantial returns regardless of who was residing in the white house.

Equity markets can help investors grow their assets, but investing is a long-term endeavour. Trying to make investment decisions based upon the outcome of presidential elections is unlikely to result in a favourable outcome. At best, any positive outcome based on such a strategy will likely be the result of random luck. At worst, it can lead to costly mistakes. Accordingly, there is a strong case for investors to rely on patience and portfolio structure, rather than trying to outguess the market, in order to pursue investment returns.

Glenn Hilber is a Certified Financial Planner with over 9 years experience and the owner of Precision Wealth Management.

This represents general information only. Before making any financial or investment decisions, we recommend you consult a financial planner to take into account your personal investment objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

Compare the Pair

We all know this ad from Industry Super Funds, if at least not this ad, one of the variants?

Well it's been very successful for them and the premise of the ad is that if you pay low fees, you’ll be better off. And I completely agree with this, keeping costs low is critical to achieving success when it comes to investing.

But industry funds aren’t really that cheap, and particularly not at Precision Wealth Management. Our clients pay about the same as industry funds, if not less, depending on the balance. This is because we are part of a large group that manages over $3 billion and have negotiated very low fees for our clients.

But the biggest determining factor of your financial success is actually the structure of your portfolio. How much do you have allocated to each asset class (Australia/International shares, property, cash, short term/long term fixed interest etc)?  On a simple example, this is evidently true if you look at the 5 year returns on QSuper. The higher risk “aggressive” fund has outperformed the lower risk “moderate” fund by about 4% per annum. That’s massive.

You might say, well shouldn’t everyone invest in the highest return? Well, it’s just not that simple. Risk and return are related and to achieve the higher return, you need to take on more investment risk, which might not be suitable for everyone. That is why a tailored portfolio that suits not only your tolerance to risk but also aligned with your objectives is so important.

On top of that, if you compared a third person ("Compare the Trio" doesn't quite roll off the tongue the same way) that had been salary sacrificing $50 a week for the past 10 years, that person would be light years ahead. I have a lot of dealings with people approaching, or in, retirement and I'm yet to meet one that said "I wish I didn't save so much. I wish I spent a bit more each week on discretionary expenditure". I think you can guess what most people regret when it comes to saving.

The other important aspect is the insurance offering within superannuation funds. The industry superannuation funds offer group insurance policies which are teeming with fine print and are not guaranteed renewable.  This means the insurer can change the terms of the insurance, the definitions, and possibly cancel cover all together. A good insurance policy is guaranteed renewable which means that providing you continue to pay the premiums, the insurer must continue to provide cover and is bound by terms and definitions when you originally took out the policy.  Changing the terms and definitions does happen.  Read the article from Shine Lawyers about the changes to the AustralianSuper definition on Total and Permanent Disability. 

Not only that, but the premiums in AustralianSuper have increased considerably over the past 5 or so years and now, a retail policy with the same level of cover can be cheaper as shown in these pictures. This is the same in almost every instance I see when comparing premiums for clients.

Superannuation is serious matter and one of the most important aspects of your financial life. And as a general rule of thumb, don't take advice from a guy with a mustache and a fedora hat. So if you want to "Compare the Pair", give us a call (1300 200 012) or email (admin@precisionwm.com.au) and I can give you a second opinion on your superannuation. 

Glenn Hilber is a Certified Financial Planner with over 9 years experience and the owner of Precision Wealth Management.

This represents general information only. Before making any financial or investment decisions, we recommend you consult a financial planner to take into account your personal investment objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

Retirement Property Investment Strategy

I had a friend (older friend nearing retirement) receive a cold call (perhaps wasn't 100% but was pretty cold) a week or so ago and they were talking to him about a government incentive about buying property to build wealth in the lead up to retirement.

The person continually said government incentives and also used the term property support service or something to that effect, giving the very real impression that there was some sort of government grant or similar. The person was very good on the phone and even though my friend had no interest at the start, they were somewhat curious and interested at the end. The person also insisted that you needed to be 5 years away from retirement.

Nevertheless, I'll explain it here.

Firstly, there is no government incentive (other than first home owners grant which is not what these people were targeting). What they are referring to is simply tax deductions on being negatively geared and claiming depreciation. So that is the first thing to remember. In fact, not only is there no government incentive, but the state government loves it because the stamp duty you pay is huge.

But, the strategy goes like this:

  • Buy a newly built property. Use your existing home or investment property as collateral for the borrowings.
  • Rent the property out over the next 5 years, based on current interest rates, it should be roughly neutrally geared, but then also claim depreciation which can be quite high on a new property to get tax returns each year.
  • Sell the property in a financial year after you have retired so any capital gains tax is minimised or eliminated. Because you are claiming depreciation each year, you are building up an unrealised capital gain, even if the property value stays flat. Over 5 years, this can be about $30,000-$50,000 depending on the value of the property.
So, the selling features of the strategy is:
  • You're likely to get tax returns each year through depreciation even though month to month cash flow on the property will be close to neutral. So, pretty much free money from the government. Who doesn't want that.
  • Even though you may incur a capital gain because of depreciation (even if the property value hasn't grown), if it is incurred after retirement, you should still not have to pay tax as you'll have no other income and the 50% capital gains tax discount.
  • You have exposure to property (which everyone seems to love so much) so if you get growth in the property market you will also do well.
It all seems so good. Getting good tax deductions while you are still working to then incur the capital gains tax in retirement when you might pay no tax, plus potential growth.

But, there is some downsides and this is what they gloss over and where the strategy has its pitfalls:

  • Property has very high transaction costs. Over $14,000 stamp duty to purchase a $450,000 investment property. Then sales commission of approximately $10,000. A total of $24,000 of transaction costs is a big hurdle to get over.
  • The properties that these people are selling are paying high commission. Whilst it isn't a direct cost to you, you are still paying it. If the developer can sell the land and property for $440,000 but then it is on sold at $450,000 (with a $10,000 commission), then the real value of the property is $440,000 and you need growth to recover that. This can impact the real growth you achieve on the property between when you buy it and sell it.
If I do some rough spreadsheeting on fair assumptions, it is very difficult to have turned a profit after you factor in these costs. And you definitely need growth to turn a profit.

But at the core of the strategy is huge leveraging (gearing) for someone nearing retirement and in my experience, not a prudent investment strategy (do we still remember Storm financial?). Investing in any growth asset should be done with a time horizon of at least (and I stress AT LEAST) 10 years, so any short term leveraged investment strategy is not wise. But, there will always be these things out there and based on the amount of people who share obvious fake Facebook competitions and get sucked in on scams in emails, opening attachments from fake email bills etc, I think there will always be a market for these people, in one form or another.