The Northern Territory news Tue 6 Jan 2015
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Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin
News Corp Australia
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News Corp Australia
TUESDAY JANUARY 6 2015 BUSINESS 25 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA IF THERES ONE THING YOU DO THIS WEEK, ITS... Sun Mon Tues Thurs Fri SatWed TO DO Its a common new year re solution for many of Australias three million smo kers and is taking a bigger financial toll tha n ever. The latest tax hikes have pushed m any packets of 20 cigarettes to $20, so a pack-a-day smoker is spen ding $7300 a year on their hab it. Every week you are not sm oking saves about $140, and ex perts say you should also spend less on d octors, dentists and cleaning b ills. Cutting smoking by half w ould save you more than $360 0 a year in cigarettes alone enough to p ay for a new car in less than a d ecade. There is plenty of free help to quit smoking and prepare a plan. Visit the governments quitnow.gov .au website or phone 13 7848. Stop smoking Reaping rewards of age TOUGHER rules for accessing the popular Commonwealth Seniors Health Card came into force last week, but there is still a mountain of money-saving offers available to older Aussies. Big savings on medicines and health services, public transport, council and water rates, energy bills and retail discounts are available for those willing to take some time to understand how various concession cards work. On January 1, the Federal Government started including account-based pensions, also known as allocated pensions, in its income testing for the CSHC, which offers benefits similar to those of pensioner concession cards to non-pensioners. Account-based pensions are now deemed like other financial assets, but because of the generous income test limits to qualify for the CSHC ($51,500 for a single and $82,400 for a couple) and Australias low deeming rates of up to 3.5 per cent, only wealthy retirees are likely to lose benefits. Seniors group COTA Australias chief executive, Ian Yates, said he believed the changes were fair. Our policy is that all income should be treated the same, regardless of the source, he said. Current account-based pensions from super are not affected, but if you change it or buy new ones, they are. Pensioner concession cards and the CSHC are prized by older Australians, particularly for the access they give to cheap medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Instead of paying a maximum of $37.70 for most prescription drugs, concession cardholders pay just $6.10. Marinis Financial Group managing director Theo Marinis said only high-income earners would be hit by the CSHC means-testing changes, and the card was still hugely popular. They all know about the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and are falling over themselves to get it even the self-funded retirees, he said. Joining groups such as COTA and National Seniors can deliver discounts in areas such as buy-oneget-one-free meal deals, gift cards, holidays and wine. Older Australians can also get discounts from the Seniors Card, a free state-based card for over-60s. Some states have a working hours limit to qualify for the card, while the benefits can include cheaper council rates, public transport, entrance fees and shopping discounts. Its aged related. Theres no means testing as soon as you turn 60 you can get the card and all sorts of discounts, Mr Marinis said. Mr Yates said both the Seniors Card and the CSHC were valuable. We encourage people to use them to their full entitlements. It can add up to quite a significant saving. PENSIONER CONCESSION CARD This free card is available for people on an age pension or other government pension or allowance. What you get: Cheaper medicines and medical expenses, plus potential state-based discounts on things such as council and water rates, energy bills, public transport, motor vehicle registration and free rail journeys. COMMONWEALTH SENIORS HEALTH CARD It is free and open to anyone of age pension age (but not qualifying for a pension) who has adjusted taxable income below $51,500 for a single and $82,400 for a couple. What you get: Cheaper medicines and medical expenses, discounts on rail journeys and state or territory concessions. SENIORS CARD These state-based discount cards are free and available to over 60s. Some states have eligibility criteria limiting your employment, and you get the same benefits when visiting other states. What you get: It varies between states but the cards provide rebates on council rates, free or discount public transport and a wide range of business discounts. COTA AUSTRALIA Membership of this seniors group is open to anyone and costs $34 for singles and $44 for a couple annually. What you get: Exclusive offers from business partners and free access to the Ambassadors Card with two-for-one meal offers, discounted gift cards and savings on retail, travel and wine. NATIONAL SENIORS Membership is for over50s or people interested in seniors issues and costs $40 for a single and $50 for a couple. What you get: Members can get a wide range of discounts on insurance, travel, optical, wine, cinema tickets, gift cards, motoring and health products. SAVINGS FOR SENIORS ANTHONY KEANE Wise up on mortgage matters HOME loan customers have plenty of reasons to attack their mortgage debt this year. Interest rates are tipped to drop, prompting people to reassess their loans to make sure theyre getting the best value. Here are five ways to cut your home loan debt in 2015. 1 REFINANCEThere are more than 2000 home loans on the market and some very competitive offers. Many financial experts predict the Reserve Bank will drop the cash rate from 2.5 per cent, so theres likely to be more incentive to switch lenders. But if you are refinancing, make sure your loan-to-value ratio is less than 80 per cent. Otherwise youll be likely to be hit by lenders mortgage insurance, which can end up costing thousands of dollars. 2 FIXINGBorrowers looking for some certainty around repayments should consider locking in a fixed rate for part of their loan. RateCity analysis shows the average standard variable rate on a $300,000 30-year loan is 5.44 per cent and is more than the average three-year fixed rate loan at 4.98 per cent. 3 OFFSET ACCOUNTSAn offset account is an easy way to cut your interest bill immediately, but make sure the offset is 100 per cent. If you have a $300,000 home loan and have $20,000 sitting in your offset account you will only pay interest on $280,000. 4 EXTRA REPAYMENTSOn a $300,000 30-year home loan with a rate of 5.44 per cent, if you boosted your minimum repayment by $50 per week to $439 per week you would save more than $83,000 in interest over the loans term. 5 MORE FREQUENT REPAYMENTS It pays to make fortnightly repayments instead of monthly repayments because youll end up paying more each year. SOPHIE ELSWORTH
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