Australia

Five ways to take greater control over your finances

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To mark Global Money Week, SBS News is looking at how Australians can better manage their wealth. Here, finance experts explain the basics.

Australia's banking royal commission highlighted the need for consumers to take greater ownership of their money. 

"It's become quite apparent that bankers used to be trusted and that individuals could leave their personal financial guardianship to trusted institutions and people ... they can't do that [now]," financial analyst and stockbroker Marcus Padley tells SBS News. 

"They've been trusting profit-making institutions, and in order to guard themselves against that, they are either going to have to get proactively involved in their own finances or find someone they can trust."

Global Money Week (25-31 March) is an annual financial awareness campaign built to inspire children and young people to learn about money matters, livelihoods and entrepreneurship - in partnership with the OECD. But it's not just young people who could be better educated about money and building wealth.

Mr Padley says being proactively involved means arming yourself at any age with knowledge. Here are five ways to get started. 

1. Save and wipe debt

"Pay yourself first, the day after your salary comes in, whether it's automatically or doing it yourself. Have an amount that you won't miss deducted, and that gets you into a disciplined regular savings plan," says Marc Bineham, financial adviser and president of the Association of Financial Advisers. 

He adds, you should pay off bad debt like credit cards, and pay more than the minimum amount required.

"The minimum really is usually only two per cent, so you're just really only covering the interest, and therefore, for the average person, that's going to be 15 to 20 years before you pay that credit card off."

2. Understand compounding 

Mr Padley says it's important to have "the respect for small amounts of money because over long periods they can grow into large amounts of money. For instance, $1,000 invested at 10 per cent over 50 years turns into $117,000".  

Mr Bineham calls it "getting rich slowly", as anything that's done over a short amount of time is usually risky and usually unsuccessful.

But in a low interest rate environment, he adds that understanding investment classes and diversification is important.

"Like shares, whether that's international or Australian shares, bonds, fixed interest, or property getting a bit of understanding, you don't have to go out and do a course, but getting a bit of an understanding will help so much."

3. Sort out your super

The Australian Tax Office said there was more than $17 billion in lost superannuation last year. That's the amount of money sitting in around 3.4 million lost super funds - many of which are being charged fees. 

"A lot of people don't know where their super money is. The simple thing is to find out where it is and roll all your super accounts," Mr Padley says. 

"You go through the ATO website, you can identify all of them using your tax file number." 

The MyGov website has details on how to do that, but you need to register and create an account first.

Mr Padley adds that it's important to learn how to track and manage your fund online and consider making extra contributions.

"The government has suggested we save 9.5 per cent, it would be nice if we could save 15 per cent, it would make an enormous difference to how early you'll be empowered to do what you want, rather than to work."

4. Avoid financial vanity

"The amount of money wasted trying to look successful; big houses, big cars, anything consumed on debt, is a killer on that equation for the long term," says Mr Padley.

5. Learn to negotiate

Talk to the people who look after your money, says Mr Padley. 

"Negotiating better with the banks, utility companies, putting pressure on your employer for a salary rise and putting that money to work for you in the longer term rather than spending it in the short term." 

Getting good advice is also important.

ASIC's MoneySmart website has details on how you can find a financial adviser or planner.

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