Australian workers have watched world share markets ride a hair raising roller coaster of ups and downs for some time now.
Thousands lost large chunks of their retirement nest eggs during the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and more recently, as the European markets teeter on the brink of uncertainty, many are concerned as to how their savings, shares and super funds will weather this new economic storm.
The one thing these significant changes to the global economic climate have highlighted is that we cannot afford to be complacent about where we stash our hard earned cash for the future.
Rather, it is up to each individual to work out the most secure, stable and effective investment vehicle for their individual needs and then pro-actively build a wealth-generating portfolio, whether it is based on shares or real estate.
My personal preference is for the latter, largely due to the fact that housing has proven itself to be less volatile than shares over time and as such, the banks are much happier to lend you more for property than to dabble in the stock market.
With wild swings in share prices over the past twenty or thirty years causing many to question their reliability when it comes to long term wealth creation, an increasing number of Australians are recognizing the comparative stability and income producing potential of our local, inner city property markets.
Combine our growing interest in bricks and mortar with the tax office changing superannuation regulations back in 2007 so that people can borrow within their own, self managed super funds, and real estate is not surprisingly becoming an increasingly popular super fund cash cow.
In fact recent data from the ATO indicates a 50 per cent increase in property investment activity within SMSF’s since June 2008, and a significant jump of 13 per cent in the past year alone.
Now, not only can you borrow up to 70 per cent (under certain circumstances even up to 80%) of a property’s value to invest in within your SMSF, you can also seek extra funds to make improvements on the residential properties in your SMSF (with some conditions of course and with special emphasis on repair and maintenaince versus improvements).
More Australians are recognizing the benefits of property as a strong, stable asset base for their super funds, given its ability to generate excellent returns and capital gains over the long term.
That being said, this strategy is not something you can simply run with, unless you have the financial capacity within your super fund and have received good, independent advice from a properly qualified financial planner.
So what are the main advantages and disadvantages of taking this tact when it comes to building your own retirement nest egg?
• Control – you have complete control over your SMSF rather than entrusting your future financial wellbeing to a complete stranger, who will take your hard earned cash and invest it in shares and managed funds that may or may not perform.
• Tax savings – If you buy and hold the property within your fund until you retire and your super goes into the pension phase, you will be exempt from paying either capital gains tax if you sell the investment, or income tax on any rental income should you decide to hang onto it. Before you retire, any capital gains or rental income generated by your SMSF are taxed at a rate of 15 per cent, or 10 per cent CGT is applicable if you hold onto the property for over a year.
• You will have a diversified super portfolio that is not reliant on just one investment vehicle, meaning you will have better financial security for the future.
• The cost! This can add up to tens of thousands of dollars in establishment costs and sometimes there will be higher fees involved in borrowing to buy property through your SMSF.
• The confusion. There’s no denying that managing your own super fund can be a minefield of complicated rules and regulations. Get something wrong and you could end up paying hefty penalties. Of course, you can pay a professional to manage it on your behalf and this is something I would strongly advise anyone with a SMSF to do – whether they’re buying real estate or not!
• You have to have the cash to do it. This is not a strategy for someone with a small amount of cash in his or her super fund.
Basically, unless you have $170,000 or more available funds in your SMSF and are still contributing to your SMSF, the banks may not be willing to lend money to your SMSF.
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