Last Tuesday the Reserve Bank acted dropped interest rates even further. To make matters worse for retirees, there are hints that the next move is more likely to be down not up. Consequently, I have been receiving a flood of emails from readers asking where they could find the best bank interest rates on their deposits.
There are two major issues here. The first is finding the best rates, and the second is solving the problem of how to exist in a low-interest-rate environment. To find the best rate I suggest you search online using websites such as Finder, Canstar and RateCity. At date of writing the best I could find was 1.50% from Judo Bank for a three-year term, but keep in mind that rates change continually in the light of the banks cash position on the day. Furthermore, many so-called honeymoon rates may be good for six months, and then revert to the bank’s normal rate. There may also be special conditions. Right now, my wife has an at call account with St George Bank which pays a face rate of 0.20% but which moves up to 0.70% provided she deposits at least $50 each month.
But the bigger picture here is the role of cash in your portfolio. If you are extremely nervous, and have total financial assets of say $200,000, a difference of 0.5% is only worth $1000 a year to you. That’s not much in the scheme of things. And changing banks continually to grab an extra 0.5% is a mugs game – you will pay more than you save by incurring extra fees and possibly a loss of interest while funds are being cleared.
If the sum is bigger, it is not prudent to keep your whole portfolio in cash. Let’s face it – cash is the most expensive asset class you can own as it’s selling at 100 times earnings.
The obvious solution is to seek financial advice about a balanced portfolio, or simply do it yourself and best part of your money in an index fund such as Vanguard Australian Shares Index which currently has a yield of around 4.5%. The cream on the cake is that the yield is mostly franked so if you are retired with a tax-free income, you will get all the franking credits back. This would take an effective yield to close to over 6%. Full details are given in my new book Retirement Made Simple which is available at www.noelwhittaker.com.au
Now I appreciate that shares are volatile, but by definition, an index cannot go broke, and the index fund should keep on paying the dividends irrespective of the normal ups and downs of the share price. And the great thing about shares is that you don’t need to outlay a massive sum. Let’s say you were rather risk adverse, and your financial assets were $300,000 all in cash. You could simply leave $250,000 in cash, and put your toe in the water by investing $50,000 in an index fund. That huge cash buffer would give you heaps of time to ride out any falls in stock market, and the investment in the index fund would give you great experience with shares.
Of course, if you’re on the pension and are asset tested, every $10,000 you spend returns the equivalent of 7.8% per annum via a reduction in assessable assets. So instead of chasing an extra 0.05% on your $200,000 cash portfolio, you could simply spend $15,000 on a trip, or home renovations and get an immediate increase in your pension of $1 170 a year. That’s much more fun than chasing a few more basis points on your term deposit.