Saturday, December 05, 2015

Pre-Tax (Concessionary) Superannuation Contributions

After thinking about making after-tax retirement contributions, I thought today - Heh, I'm not even making the maximum pre-tax contributions. I've been making about $A28k a year in pre-tax contributions. Actually, that is supposedly my employer's contribution. In the university sector in Australia, employers contribute 17% on top of the nominal salary to superannuation for continuing (=permanent) employees, as opposed to the minimum government requirement of 9.5%. The maximum pre-tax contributions allowed for over 50's currently is $A35k per year ($A30k for under 50s). So, I just submitted the form to add $100 a week to my contributions. I didn't totally max things out to allow for a year or two of growth in salary before having to submit another form.

By the way, the standard agreement in the higher education sector includes another 8.5% pre-tax contribution from the employee's salary. I already opted out of that, because it would have been over the concessionary limit already when I started in 2011, when the concession limit was $A25k a year. Actually, I already had to withdraw an excess contribution to superannuation last year, which was a hassle, before the contribution limit was raised.

I'm still thinking about post-tax contributions. If I do it, I think I will start small at say $A1000 per month. That is small compared to the limit of $A15k per month :)

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Moominvalley November 2015 Report

Here are our monthly accounts (in AUD):

The headline news is that we spent a lot of money. Some of the biggest expenditures (everything over a thousand dollars):

Gardener - building new garden: $2781 - this is just a first payment.
Obstetrician: $1898 - first payment too - unclear about Medicare/health fund reimbursement at this point.
Ikea: $2705 - hopefully we are more or less done with that. Included a new mattress for the bed in our downstairs room ($700), outdoor furniture, baby furniture, a couple of pieces of indoor furniture etc.

The $14k spending figure doesn't include our mortgage or payment to a builder doing some of the garden related work. With those added we are at about $19k in spending. You can see that extra money in the accounts as "transfer to housing". I'm regarding the payments to the builder as investment in the house as he is adding new structures but treating the gardener as consumption as he is replacing the existing garden. Buying houses and having babies is expensive :)

Stock markets were fairly flat this month. The ASX 200 fell 0.68%, the MSCI World Index fell  0.78%, but the S&P 500 rose 0.30%. The Australian Dollar rose again from $US0.7133 to $US0.7233. We lost 1.62% in Australian Dollar terms and 0.22% in US Dollar terms. So we underperformed the Australian market and the US market, but outperformed the MSCI. The best performing asset class for us was commodities, gaining 3.25%. The worst was private equity, losing 2.91%. The best performing investment was the Winton Global Alpha fund, which gained $3,159. Cadence Capital (CDM.AX) was second best, gaining $2,324.

As a result of all this, net worth fell $A20k including housing equity (+$US4k) to $1.471 million ($US1.065 million). We dissaved $4.1k on the current account, saved $3.1k in retirement accounts, and saved $3.2k in our house. Net result was $418 of saving.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

After Tax Super vs. Offset Account

At the moment, Australians can contribute up to $A180k per year to superannuation from after tax money on top of up to $A35k (if over 50) from pre-tax income. This seems like a crazy high limit and has no analogue in the US retirement system, for example. There is now a lot of talk about lifetime caps on super contributions. An easy way to do this would be to cut or eliminate this post-tax contribution limit. I had thought about making post-tax contributions starting in about 5 years time (when I would be about 55) and up to retirement. In the meantime, the plan was to build up our offset account and then pay down and redraw the mortgage. But now I am thinking that government might eliminate the post-tax option, I am wondering whether it would make sense to make these contributions sooner.

The gain from adding post-tax money to super is the tax-free earnings on the money after retiring. However, at least at the moment investment taxes are lower than regular income taxes and so we are talking about avoiding an 10% (after franking dividend tax in 38% bracket) to 23.5% (long-term capital gains tax in 45% bracket) tax starting 10 to 15 years in the future. Let's say the super investments make an 8% return, then the extra yield from avoiding tax by investing in super rather than non-super investments is about 1.3% per year. And this won't start to 10-15 years out and it is uncertain that the opportunity will go away and stop us doing that a few years later.

In the meantime the offset account is earning 4.55% tax free virtual interest with perfect certainty. A superannuation account would probably earn that after tax in the next 10-15 years, but there is a lot of uncertainty about that and the money is locked up for the next 9 years.

Is the answer to diversify and do some of both strategies?