Sunday, March 08, 2015

How Much Could We Save by Renting Our House out for a Year?

Bigchrisb commented on my recent post that we could save money by renting our new house out rather than going to live in it immediately. This is because the stamp duty paid to buy new properties is in this territory immediately tax deductible for investors. In Australia no costs of owner occupiers are tax deductible. So, I've calculated roughly what I think the financial gain from renting our house out for a year would be and come up with $18k:

The main deductions are the stamp duty, mortgage interest and depreciation. The first two we are going to pay ourselves anyway and so aren't actually additional costs while the latter is probably not a real cost, or we are going to suffer it anyway. Next there are property management fees, which might help in getting a tenant fast etc. and the difference between land tax on investors and rates on owner occupiers. There are real extra costs.

Assuming we could rent the house for one year at $650 a week we would earn $33800 in rent. So, the net income is -$34k and the tax saved at 40% is $13.5k. On the other hand we make $33.8k we would otherwise not have, but pay $25.8k in rent on our existing apartment that we would not have to pay if we lived in the new house as well as $3.7k in extra actual costs. So the net financial gain is $17.8k.

Let me know if you think I got something major wrong.

So, if we don't do this, economists would say that our revealed preference shows that the utility of living in our new house a year earlier and avoiding dealing with the hassles of being a landlord are worth at least $17.8k to us. For me, $17.8k is about 1.2% of net worth and so it's not enough to make a difference. It's not a lot more than our after tax salaries for one month. I asked Snork Maiden how big the number would have to be before she would be willing to do it and she said $50k. I know that if it was $100k I probably would do it :)

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Housing Equity and Other Savings

I've updated my "savings components" chart to include housing equity. You can see the payment from current savings (blue) to the downpayment on the house (red). Also notable is that retirement profits (green) are approaching retirement contributions (pink). Non-retirement savings have performed much worse and profits (brown line) are nowhere near the money saved from salary etc (blue line). However, they are at least above the pre-GFC peak now.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Moominvalley Monthly Report: February 2015

The Australian Dollar was finally stable this month rising half a cent to 78.09 US cents. World stock markets rose strongly. The MSCI World Index rose 5.61%, the S&P 500 5.75%, and the ASX200 6.89%. In Australian Dollar terms we gained 4.92% and in US Dollar terms gained 5.57%. So we underperformed both the Australian and international markets but the latter only slightly. Still in absolute dollar terms this month had the highest investment income on record at $65k ($US57k), 55% more than any previous month.

All asset classes in our portfolio apart from hedge funds and private equity gained with small cap Australian stocks being the best performer (7.59%). Colonial First State Geared Share Fund gained the most dollars ($37.7k) followed by the Unisuper ($6.5k) and PSSAP ($3.9k) superannuation funds. I can't be bothered to work out rates of return for individual funds :)

However net worth fell $48k to $1.272 million not counting housing equity and fell $US31k to $US0.994 million. This was a result of the $111k second installment of our house downpayment. Including housing equity net worth rose to $1.468 million ($US1.147 million). The monthly accounts (in AUD) follow:

Current non-investment income (salary etc.) was $14.3k and retirement contributions were $3.3k.  Total investment returns of $108k also include the value of the gain in our house's value. As our house was valued at $785k and we only paid $740k I have credited a total gain of $45k, most of it occurring this month.

Spending on the current account was $11.9k, which include $2.8k in settlement costs and spending on our trip to New Zealand. We also paid car registration this month, which is an $1100 cost... The $693 spending in the housing account is additional costs, which the lender added to our mortgage loan. We have so far made two mortgage payments of $1589 each and so the total transfer to housing was $114k... So far there have been no interest payments on the mortgage. They would come under housing spending when we do make them. The house is currently being painted and we are booking the mover, arranging insurance etc.

Monday, March 02, 2015


My mother suffers from dementia. Up till recently my brother had power of attorney to make financial decisions for her, but financial providers now wanted him to have guardianship. So he is now the official guardian but the guardianship office where he and my mother live says that her investment portfolio is too risky. They want us to not have more than 20% in equities, get rid of all alternative investments and have the rest in cash and AAA bonds. It is not as if my brother and I decided on the current allocation. It's not a lot different to how it was when my mother could make her own decisions. The problem is that cash earns almost nothing anywhere and short term bonds less than inflation. Long-term bonds have the risk that their value will fall when one day central banks raise interest rates again.

We have tried to resist this and the guardianship office people met with my brother and his lawyer but the only concession they made was to give us a year to sort it out. In the meantime we also discovered (I read about this in an article in the New York Times) that the inheritance tax free threshold in the US for foreign estates was only $60k. That means that around 40% of the money in the US based separately managed accounts in my mother's name would be taxed away after she died - the accounts had minimal if any profit - so it would be taxing savings rather than earnings. So, we closed those accounts avoiding US inheritance tax and reducing the equity share of the portfolio to about 20%. Anyway, this is a warning to get good arrangements in place while you are still capable of making your own decisions rather than having a court imposed solution.

I need to think also about how to avoid US inheritance tax. I only have about $60k of direct US investments in stocks and mutual funds. But I also have another $70k in a 403b retirement account (TIAA-CREF). So, if I suddenly died there would be about $30k in inheritance tax that Snork Maiden would have to pay (no spouse allowance for foreigners...).  There are various options including trying to roll my 403b into an Australian super fund now or setting up an Australian self-managed super fund (SMSF) and transferring the US individual investments into it. My thinking is that this would then be like having units in an Australia based managed fund. Would need to get proper advice on that first. Of course, it's not worth setting up an SMSF for just USD 60k in investments - that would be just one of the holdings of the SMSF. So, watch out if you have individual stocks in the US and aren't a US citizen.