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Why you shouldn't feel bad about renting

The property market is rarely out of the news in Australia, with regular predictions of house prices collapsing being followed by weekends of record auctions and prices.

Property has certainly had a good run.  Over the past 10 years property prices in some of Australian major cities have skyrocketed and as property has become less affordable, more people are looking at a popular alternative which is to rent and invest their savings in a portfolio of shares instead.

Despite similar long-term returns, property and shares are always at different points in their own market cycles. When looking to invest for the next 5 years, it's worth thinking about where each is positioned in their own cycle and what that could mean about the future. Since the financial crisis in 2008-2009, property has been in the recovery and then boom stages, helped by low interest rates and supply shortages.


But which is better today, shares or property?

History has shown that investments are often most popular near the top of their cycle. This is when the market is hot and there is high confidence that prices will keep on rising. Silly stuff happens at the top of the cycle like was seen in the US property market in 2006-2008.

Today property investing is 3 times as popular as buying Australian shares. This shows how confident people are about real estate investment right now. High confidence around an investment often comes before periods of flat or falling prices as reality catches up to everyone's excitement. For example, US shares were at their most popular ever in 1999 – just before the infamous tech crash.

That said, confidence levels can remain elevated for a long time and it's always hard to pick the peak. Stock analysts were calling the top of the US tech boom years before it actually ended, just as many commentators have been predicting Australian house prices to fall for a decade now.

In any boom you can be sure that many people will try to pick the top but few will succeed with their timing without the benefit of hindsight!

Then there are shares, which have become less popular in recent years with only 7.8% of people surveyed thinking shares are the best place to invest, which is half the long term average.


Based on excitement levels, those who are renting and investing in shares currently have the upper hand since they're likely to be investing at a better point in the cycle. Australian shares are still below the levels they reached 10 years ago in 2007 so they are still in the recovery stage.

People who are renting and investing their extra savings in shares are able to quietly squirrel away savings and pay low rents while everyone else is jumping over each other to buy a house. But patience is a virtue for those renting since the strongest temptation to get involved in an investment usually comes around the top when everyone else is most excited. That's when FOMO (fear of missing out) is at its hardest to resist.

All markets move in cycles. It's tempting to get involved when confidence and excitement are high, but doing what's less popular can be the safer and smarter bet in anticipation of when returns inevitably go back to normal.

For more points to ponder on renting vs. buying... visit this page next week when we will discuss the returns of shares Vs. property. 

What Makes a Good Investment Strategy?

If you have a self-managed super fund (SMSF), then you should be aware one of the obligations that is placed on you as a trustee is that you must have an investment strategy for the fund that is reviewed regularly. But what makes a good investment strategy? How long does it need to be? How detailed?  

These are all great questions, but unfortunately there is no single right answer. However, here are 5 considerations that can help you along the way.  

1. Diversification  Super law does require that when formulating an investment strategy, trustees must have regard to diversification. Diversification relates to a consideration about the spread of different investments you might have – or thinking about ensuring you don't end up with all your eggs in one basket. However, there isn't a requirement that an SMSF's investments must be diversified, and there are some SMSFs that have large investments in a single asset (or asset class). Most commonly this occurs where the SMSF has a direct property investment, with a comparatively smaller investment in cash in order to make any relevant payments as necessary.    The big risk being so concentrated with your investments into one asset or one segment of the market is what if something went wrong? What if a property bubble bursts?  

2. Risk and return The risk involved with, and the likely return from, the investments are also important considerations, and really ties back into the issue of diversification of investment.  What can sound like an exciting possible return on any particular investment, should always be balanced against a consideration of any risks involved with that investment. The difficulty is that both risk and return are assessments of what may happen in the future. It's important to remember that any historical performance data availability is purely that – it's history! It can provide some guidance as to how well a portfolio manager has looked after the monies under their control, thereby providing some insight into their level of governance, but you should always be cautious when it comes to relying on performance history.  You shouldn't look at any investment in isolation, and always compare their performance against peers and over multiple periods of time. For example, whilst a share fund that provided an 8% return in the last 12 months might sound relatively good, it's not if all other comparable share funds were returning in excess of 10%. In addition to pure investment risk, you need to consider how much risk the members of the SMSF are willing to take on. The answer may be different for each member of the fund, so you also need to think about whether each member has their own investment portfolio in the fund, or whether everything is pooled together.  

3. Liquidity    As a trustee, you need to ensure that your SMSF is able to pay its liabilities as and when they fall due. Doing this for the ongoing running costs of your fund, sounds relatively easy. But you can't forget about the additional liquidity required as members of the fund approach retirement and start to draw on a pension from the fund.   

4. Insurance  Trustees are also required to consider the insurance needs of members. This doesn't mean that the fund has to hold insurance for the members, but this is actually an important consideration. Given that the trustees of an SMSF are also the members, this is about considering whether you have enough insurance of your own, and if not, should you acquire more coverage through your super.  But don't constrain yourself to personal insurance considerations, even though that's all that's technically required.  Depending on the type of investments in your SMSF, you should also consider if you need the fund to take out other types of insurance. This could be a vitally important consideration if you hold property.  

5. Documenting it all    Ensure you document your plans. The actual investment strategy document can be long or short, but you need to show you have considered the above elements.     Most good investment strategies will have two key positions them.       The first is an overall goal that the investments of the fund are trying to deliver.  For example, the fund could be targeting an overall return 2% above the Consumer Price Index on 5 year rolling basis.      The second, it sets out acceptable investment parameters. For example, it may say the fund is happy to hold between 30% and 60% of its investments in Australian shares, but is targeting a holding of 45%. These elements taken together give the trustees something to measure performance against. If the SMSF isn't meeting these objectives, or its investments fall outside of the expressed permitted range, then the trustees  need to be doing something to bring it back in line.   The good news is that as a trustee of a SMSF, you don't have to do it all yourself.  Professional support can help you understand how your fund has performed in the past and is currently performing, and also help you to identify the requirements of members and select investment to give them a chance of future success.                        

Paying for your children's education

Education costs can account for a huge slice of the family budget. The costs of school fees, uniforms, books, excursions and extra-curricular activities can really add up.    

Education costs are usually a long-term goal that can take more than 5 years to achieve, so it's never too early to start planning.



How much money they will need will depend on whether you want your children to attend public or private schools, and whether they plan to take up a post-secondary education after that?

For example, if you send two children to a private high school which costs an average of $20,000 a year for each child, by the time they both graduate you will have spent $240,000 on school fees. And that's not counting extras such as school uniforms, trips and sporting clinics.

Public schools are much cheaper but there are still extra tuition fees, textbooks, uniforms and school camps to pay for so a bit of planning and an early savings plan reaps benefits for them later.  The earlier you start saving for your children's education, the better.   Education costs are usually a long-term goal that can take more than 5 years to achieve.


Once you have clarified the financial goal you are working toward, you should consider your other financial obligations. For instance, you might be better paying off your mortgage where you have access to a redraw facility or paying off some other short-term debts first before you start saving. After all, there is no point in leaving yourself short every week and dipping back into those savings.

To help you reach your goal, you could put your savings into a number of different savings structures like: shares, managed funds, term deposits, savings accounts, investment bonds, or education funds.  We advise parents to use help their savings grow by using a structure that pays compounding interest. 

Education Funds are special funds to help save for children's education. If you are considering an Education Fund you should check the following to make sure these funds fit your long term financial plan. Here are some questions to ask before you invest in an education fund. 

·         Fees - What fees will you be charged?

·         Contributions - How much do you need to invest and how often do you need to contribute? Can other people, such as grandparents, also contribute?

·         Investment options - What investment options are available, and do the suggested timeframes for these options meet the timing of your children's education needs?

·         Fund purchases - What can you use the savings for, for example can you use them for primary, high school or tertiary studies? Do they cover expenses such as clothing, laptops and excursions?

·         Access to funds - What criteria need to be met before you can access your funds? What happens if your circumstances change, or if you can no longer contribute to the fund? Do you lose all that you have invested? How difficult will it be to withdraw your money if your children's priorities change? For example, what happens if your children decide they don't want to do tertiary studies?

You should compare the features of an education fund with other investments such as term deposits and managed funds. In particular, you need to consider the Product fees, features and benefits and how the fund is taxed compared to how other investments are taxed.  A tax agent can assist in unrevealing the complexities of these types of investments. If ever in doubt, contact us for an appraisal of the Fund.


Financial Advisors If you need help with a financial plan to save for your children's education, or if you need more information about education funds, consider getting financial advice from a qualified financial adviser.

There are quite a few assistance programs to help parents cope with the extra costs of school. 

Saver plus matched savings Saver Plus is a program to help families on low incomes develop savings habits, and could help save up for larger school costs like fees and excursions. It helps you reach a saving goal and then matches it dollar for dollar, up to $500. Find out more about Saver Plus

Government assistance some financial assistance is available to families on a low income. Some are means tested or require parents to hold a concession card.   In Queensland you may check out:  Textbook and resource allowance 

From a young age we are encouraged to think about plotting a pathway in life that gets us from Point A to Point B in an efficient and expedient manner. If only!

The truth is for most of us, the pathway to where we want to get to is an elaborate and sometimes absurd game of snakes and ladders. Even more so when you throw your hat into the ring as an entrepreneur.

However, once you embrace this idea, you can start to shed your unrealistic and limiting expectations and go with what really works for you. It may not be the path you originally thought you'd take, but it could be the one that takes you to greatness, just as it did for these successful female entrepreneurs.

Sara Blakely

These are some of the things Sara Blakely tried but failed at before becoming the founder of a billion-dollar company: lawyer, stand-up comedian, and Goofy at Disney World. She did, however, sell fax machines for seven years with some success. "It was great life training," Blakely previously told Business Insider.

Blakely's story is the classic case of the accidental entrepreneur. She invented a fashion product but was not a fashion designer and had never been involved in the clothing trade in any way at all. Instead, she applied the old rule of necessity being the mother of invention when she experimented with cutting the foot section off her pantyhose in order to get the benefit of wearing pantyhose without what she saw as the unsightly bit that spoiled wearing open toe shoes.

It was a mundane and almost comical start to what would eventually become Spanx, which is now a women's hosiery and activewear company worth more than $US1 billion. When she shopped her invention around to hosiery mills in the beginning she was roundly shown the door. But her persistence and hustle meant she finally found a partnering manufacturer and distribution through Neiman Marcus.

Today, Blakely is personally worth $US1.1 billion and has business interests in a range of companies.

Sophia Amoruso

By her own admission, Sophia Amoruso was a little lost for direction at one stage in her life. A dumpster diving punk with zero in the way of conventional career ambitions, Amoruso recounts her strange journey from high school dropout to fashion mogul in her book #Girlboss: "Anyone looking for a sure bet, in business or in life, would never have put their money on me. But that didn't dissuade me from betting on myself. In the end I beat the odds".

Starting out as a strictly eBay venture, Amoruso built up Nasty Gal from a scungy lounge room operation into an e-commerce company valued at $300 million at its height. She did this all in the space of about seven frantic years, riding on the thrift store coat-tails of the e-commerce revolution and the retro tastes of her mainly Millennial customers.

More recently, Nasty Gal has hit rockier times, as Amoruso stepped down as chief executive in 2015 and the company filed for bankruptcy late last year. But having defied the odds once already, it would be a brave person who would bet against Amoruso flying high yet again.

Karlie Kloss

Being a supermodel comes with a certain set of expectations and becoming an advocate for coding is probably not one of them. However, a successful and lucrative modelling career has not stopped Karlie Kloss from pursuing her interest in software and web development, and passing on that passion to young women.

Kloss started modelling at the age of 14 and has modelled for some of the biggest names in the fashion game, including her time as a Victoria's Secret Angel from 2011 to 2014. But in recent years it has been her somewhat left-field turn into the world of computer education that has garnered her applause from more than just the fashion crowd.

Kloss says she was always interested in maths and science as a kid, but her modelling career took over and she was unable to really pursue those interest, until 2014 when she enrolled herself in a Ruby on Rails programming course.

Inspired by her first foray into the world of programming, she teamed up with computer education provider Flatiron School to develop her Kode with Klossy program and scholarship. The non-profit now runs coding summer camps, awards career scholarships to young women developers and helps to foster the role of girls and women in tech.

The 3 big challenges facing Australian small to medium businesses

In today's climate, small and medium business owners face a volley of challenges. In this video, Peter Switzer of Switzer TV speaks with Damien Bueno, Vice President of SAP about what they can do to overcome these challenges.

"Smaller business is able to be responsive and agile... and we increasingly see that the younger people, smart millennials are far more attracted to those nimble and agile smaller businesses." Damien Bueno

                                 Click here to access video


Why Start From Scratch?


Purchasing an established healthcare practice could help secure a medical practitioner's financial future. It's not uncommon for business-minded practitioners to look at setting up their own practice once they feel they have secured a firm list of clientele. However, few consider the option of buying into an established practice – given the right circumstances, this option can yield the best outcome for the practitioner.

In much the same way that purchasing an established business can help entrepreneurs bypass challenges encountered in the start-up phase, purchasing an established healthcare is advantageous to practitioners. Access to an existing customer-base provides a predictable cash flow from Day One, and everything you need to run the practice will already be in-place including staff who know the business and how to do their job, as well as equipment and premises, which have all been secured for you.

Buying an established practice also eliminates a lot of time and capital that would traditionally be spent on building your business from the ground up and working on an effective business plan, which some practitioners might not want to or can't do. It also eliminates any unforeseen out-of-pocket expenses you might not have calculated for when setting up your own practice.

Below are some tips to keep in mind and consider when looking to purchase an established practice.

Finding the right practice

It's important to make sure you fully understand what kind of practice you are buying into, before making the big purchase. One way to see if a practice is suitable for you is to try working near the area, or even at the same practice if possible, and potentially even have an arrangement in place where you have the option of buying the practice after 12 months.

Have clear intentions before you begin

Make your intentions clear from the start. It's important to have an agreement in place when you join a practice, otherwise you could end up wasting a lot of time going back and forth on costs and transfers. Make sure you have a specific exit strategy in place for the existing owner as well, to avoid any crossovers that can cause problems.

Purchasing cost

Costs for a medical practice vary widely and can change depending on a number of factors. One of those factors is location. Some practitioners may prefer to work in an urban environment, however due to the convenience of the location, the price of a practice might be much higher than one based in the country. Country practices may cost less to purchase, however it's important to keep in mind that they may also offer a smaller clientele.

Ongoing staff

Starting out with experienced staff is a bonus when purchasing an established practice. To ensure a smooth transition into the business, you should keep in mind how existing staff are used to working and what systems are in place. You might have to factor in potential costs for training.

Existing equipment

Purchasing an existing practice often means you won't need to worry about buying new equipment. However, you will need to consider if the practice wholly owns the equipment, or if they are paying it off or leasing it. This is another factor you need to consider before making your decision to avoid unnecessary costs.

Use a specialist adviser or lender

Having a specialist adviser or lender can make the buying process much more simplified for you. A specialist adviser will show you the ins and outs of the business, keeping the process simple and right from the start. They will also remind you to do your due diligence, to ensure you know exactly what you're buying, including the liabilities. "Clarke McEwan's medical specialist division has been established on the Sunshine Coast for over 20 years.  Sunshine Coast and Brisbane clients all benefit from referrals to a huge range of contacts in the areas of lending, advising, banking, and insurance."

Adequate income protection, accident and life insurance is recommended. As a practitioner, you are the business asset, so if you can't work, you have no income. Make sure you take care of your biggest asset!

"Need assistance in your start up?  Clarke McEwan is also very experienced helping doctors establish themselves in private practice, and transitioning from the public system to private practice ."

Our Services for Medical Practitioners  How to Request an Appointment 


If you have a goal of practice growth in 2018, the analysis and planning you do now is vital.

Essentially there are five ways to grow your dental business:

1. Convert your existing patients to existing treatments or services

 2. Convert your existing patients to new treatments or services

 3. Increase the number of new patients

 4. Increase your fees

 5. Buy a list of patients / goodwill of a practice

So which areas should you prioritise? If you haven't already considered this, here are FIVE key questions to ask yourself :

1. What marketing is working for your business?

Take a look at where your new patients have come from in 2017 (if you don't measure this I urge you to prioritise creating a system for doing so), then consider:

• Can you improve the amount you are generating via your existing patients?

A simple calculation of your active patients versus the number of patients who recommend you can be revealing. Make the calculation and consider whether you are happy with the percentage of patients who are currently generating new patients for you. If not, take a look at your patient recommendation systems.  Do your patients actually know they can recommend you?

·         Can your patient journey be improved to provide more remarkable moments for patients?

·         Can you stop paying for advertising or other marketing which doesn't generate new patients for you?

·         Can you redirect these funds to create more promotional materials which help you talk about your treatments with existing patients?

2. What price rises should you make in 2018?

Your business costs have undoubtedly risen over the last few years. Your accounts should clearly illustrate this increase for you.

If you don't systematically review your prices each year to identify those fees which should be increased, you fail to redress this balance and your subsequently profit margins reduce.

A mystery shop exercise can be very useful. This involves someone calling your closest competitors as a potential new patient. It gives you an impression of how your patient experience and prices compare with your rival practices.

Formerly the domain of the retail sector, this exercise is now being used frequently in the dental sector. Chances are your practice has already been 'mystery shopped' more than once, so you should have no qualms about using it to your advantage too.

With knowledge comes confidence. Perhaps there are opportunities for you to raise the price of larger treatments if you are worried about increasing your fees for exams and hygiene appointments. Some dentists do both. Just make sure you complete the exercise annually in order to highlight the opportunities you have, rather than simply seeing your costs rise and doing nothing to balance these additional outgoings with extra income.

It makes sense to consider this in advance and make any price rises in line with the start of the financial year for your business.

3. What untapped profit potential do you already have?

Which of these still have potential for you:

·         What potential do you have to convert more patients to other dental services, such as hygiene or cosmetics? 

·         Have you assessed the working structure in your business to match your revenue to profit?

·         Can your exam and hygiene patient recall rates be improved further?

4. What is your 2018 marketing strategy?

When you review the key areas of profit potential you reveal opportunities to improve systems and carry out specific projects to drive the growth of your business. You create your marketing strategy.

It's important to collate these actions into a plan for 2018.  The earlier you do this, the more of the year remains to take the action and generate growth.

A key part of your Practice Manager's role should be managing this plan for you, so you can make the most of your own time. For smaller and sole practitioner businesses, Clarke McEwan can also stand in place of a practice manager for you.

Now is a good time to meet with us to agree a plan at the start of the year and make reviewing the plan progress a standard part of your meetings with us.

Your marketing strategy will dictate some of the Key Performance Indicators you should track throughout the year via your plan. And it should ultimately contribute to achieving your business vision.

5. Are you capturing the stories you create for your patients?

Giving your patients confidence in a healthier, fresher mouth creates a difference to them. So does giving them a brighter, straighter smile.

A key part of the process of promoting the 'magic' in what you do is capturing and sharing these stories with potential new patients.

Make sure you create a system with your team to identify and capture these stories. In marketing terms they are worth their weight in gold.

Need to discuss your 2018 strategy? We are always happy to talk to practitioners and you are welcome to call us on 07 5475 4300 for an obligation free chat.

Read more…

 One of the most important aspects of building a successful medical practice concerns creating a solid staff of qualified medical professionals as well as a team of management and administrative professionals that can help operations run smoothly.

The best medical practice management teams are made of up of a diverse group of professionals that can actively contribute to the success of the organization.

In many larger practices, these teams are made up of representatives from all aspects of the practice – from business managers to nurses and medical specialists. 

For smaller, private organizations and sole practitioners, practice management usually falls into the hands of the head physician or the sole medical manager who may be too busy to devote time to such an important role.  This is where we come in.  

Clarke McEwan provides a range of accounting and tax services and we assist your staff in creating and maintaining procedures that will ensure your interactions with the tax office are accurate and timely. 

 Our professional accounting staff, administrative team and tax bookkeeping staff can advise on procedures such as billing, Business Activity Statement preparation, income tax lodgement, whether the use of a structure for trading is advisable, and other practice related concerns.  

 For growing organizations, an important aspect of practice management is to recognize when there is a need to consult additional professionals, especially when it comes to finance and taxation

When you are investing a significant amount of time and money in staffing and procedures a medical practitioner needs to be sure the processes reflect both the nature of the practice, and any contracts you have entered into.


Clarke McEwan recommends a review of your organization to ensure your systems provide accurate reporting.

Has the Government made a start on housing pressures? 

In late November, the Government had a win as the Senate passed two measures to improve housing affordability .

The changes will provide a small incentive for some older Australians to downsize, and assist first home buyers to save a deposit faster and help to overcome one of the barriers for getting into the housing market.

1. Downsizing

Persons aged 65 or over who downsize by selling the family home will be able to make a non-concessional contribution to super of up to $300,000 from the proceeds. These contributions won't be subject to meeting any work test, will be in addition to the current non-concessional cap and won't be subject to the $1.6m balance test for making non-concessional contributions. If a couple, then potentially $600,000 could be contributed to super.

2. First Home Super Saver Scheme

At the other end of the housing market, first home buyers will be able to make voluntary salary sacrifice contributions into super, and withdraw these together with associated earnings for a deposit for their first home.

For more information read the complete article at


Can you trust your Deed?

I have lost count of the number of clients who think their self-managed super fund (SMSF) trust deed is like those blue-chip shares they bought two decades ago – you can put it at the bottom of the drawer and forget about it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is, your trust, the document that oversees the operation of your fund, is a living, breathing document that you need to keep revisiting to ensure it remains up to date and that it gives the trustee the authority to carry out his/her duties within the framework of the superannuation legislation.

It's worth remembering that the rules governing SMSFs are onerous, and that the regulators expect people who decide to manage their own superannuation to play by the rules of the game. It might be "your money", but it's "their rules".

So how do you know whether your deed needs updating? To begin with, practically every deed drawn up before 2008 needs to be amended to take account of the changes implemented under the Simpler Super reforms. If your adviser hasn't told you about these changes then they have been remiss, and it certainly should be top of mind when you see them next.

Post 2008, and you are still not out of the woods. Over the past seven years there has been any number of changes, whether it be regulatory, legal, taxation or legislative, that could require you to update your trust deed. Again, you need to ask your adviser.

There is no shortage of examples of where legislative change could put the actions of a trustee under a cloud. They can relate to: someone remaining a fund member past 65 years of age where the deed requires their benefits to be paid out; substantial changes in the areas of temporary disability benefits and in-house asset tests; and the payment of reversionary pensions.

This list is far from exhaustive. And, let me assure you, the changes will keep coming, so remain vigilant.

On the flipside, failure to update your trust deed can limit your actions as a trustee in many ways. Let me give you some examples. The fund continues to operate even though the deed quite clearly states it should be wound up because of a certain event has occurred, such as the death of a fund member.

Other examples include: accepting payments from fund members outside the parameters stipulated by the deed; entering into a limited recourse borrowing arrangement when the deed does not provide for this; allowing a fund member to enter into a transition to retirement arrangement when the deed specifically forbids this; and stopping a pension where internal roll-back is not allowed.

As I said at the beginning, there can be dire consequences for acting outside the parameters of your trust deed. You could attract the (unwanted) attention of the Australian Tax Office and that could lead to financial sanctions. They could even decide to wind up your SMSF.

There is the possibility of losing tax benefits as well.

The trust deed is the engine room of your SMSF. It sets the framework for its smooth operation. Like every engine it needs a regular fine-tuning by an SMSF specialist to ensure it's in smooth running order. So the question to ask is: when is my trust deed's next check-up due?

If you think your Deed may need a review, contact us

Contact Clarke McEwan