I really enjoyed the list “100 things to do before you emigrate
” from this website, and found it very useful as a check-list to make sure we had everything covered before and during the move. I have been in Perth for a year now, working in the investment team for a large government super fund, and thought I'd share 10 tips (mainly with a financial slant) on useful things I discovered to help save a few $ and make settling in easier.
- Mobile contract
Lebara mobile offer a great pay as you go service with very good rates. The last time I checked, rates where cheaper than Skype for calls to international landlines, international mobiles and Australian mobiles, and only marginally more expensive than for calls to Australian landlines. You can buy the starter pack at newsagents and can also top up with them, or alternatively online. I have found the reception to be fine.
Be aware that the large local incumbent Telstra is very expensive, even when considering their bundled packages. Even calls from a Telstra landline are more expensive than from a Lebara mobile. Their service is also very poor – ask any Australian who has had any dealing with them! See www.lebara-mobile.com.au
The only drawback is that they don't offer roaming.
- Public transport
I have found public transport (trains and buses) very good and reliable here in Perth and use it every day. It may be worth considering renting/buying close to a train/ bus route.
Consider getting a Smartrider card which works like a debit card and you just swipe for access. On top of the convenience, you save 25% off the normal fare if you allow automatic top-up of your account once your balance runs low.
- Cash savings
Banking here is dominated by the big 4 namely Westpac, Commonwealth Bank Australia (CBA), Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ) and National Australia Bank (NAB). Consider the NAB Isaver account, which currently offers +-6% for an introductory call account. This compares to the normal rate of 4.75%. This is only valid for 4 months, but after that you can just close your old Isaver account and open a new one and keep repeating the process every 4 months to stay on the introductory rate.
With the bank rate currently at 4.75%, 6% is a great rate considering you retain the full flexibility of being on call.
- Choice of Super fund
Super can be very confusing for those not financially minded. Basically there is a compulsory salary deduction of 9% from your salary every month by your employer, which goes into a super (pension) fund for retirement savings.
If your employer doesn't have a compulsory super fund you have to join, consider Australian Super. While there may be other good options, there are confusingly many options, and I think Australian Super is quite solid for the following reasons:
- They are one of the largest super funds in Australia and very efficient.
- They are an industry fund. This means they are run purely for the benefits of their members. Be careful of the retail funds offered by the large banks and financial services organisations such as NAB/MLC, AMP, Colonial/CBA and ANZ. They are run for profit and their fees are much higher than the industry funds. The industry funds have demonstrated better investment performance than the retail funds over long periods of time in addition to being cheaper.
- The website is very useful to help understand superannuation basics, terms and options.
You can also try www.asfa.com for more info on the industry etc.
- Private medical aid
Public healthcare here is essentially free for residents and to my knowledge (and limited experience) also very good. You may however choose to top-up with private medical aid to provide cover not available under Medicare or to avoid waiting times at a public hospital. Bear in mind that if you are over a certain age (31) and joining for the first time, your premium is increased by a factor based on the number of years your current age exceeds this age. This is known as the Lifetime Health Cover Loading. You have one year of grace to avoid paying this additional premium once you become a resident. See www.health.gov.au for more details.
I didn't realise though that once your (or you and your spouses combined) income exceeds a certain amount, you have to pay and additional 1.5% of income in tax if you do not have private medical cover to a specified level. The Federal Government charges an additional 1.5% Medicare Levy Surcharge if your taxable income is more than $77 000 as a single or $154 000 as a family and you do not have private hospital cover. This is in addition to the normal 1.5% Medicare Levy. At this point you may find that joining private hospital cover pays for itself, or it can even be cheaper to join than not. It also then makes sense to join sooner rather than later, as this tax is levied on a pro-rata basis from when you become resident.
I found HBF a reputable and reasonable option though there could be other good ones too. At the least their website is informative, see www.hbf.com.au
- Tax matters
I am no expert at tax, but found that if your tax affairs are reasonably simple (as mine are), it is not too difficult to complete a return yourself. There is also a simple online option. The ATO website is very helpful and informative. See www.ato.gov.au. The tax year runs to 30 June.
Most people here seem to use tax accountants to do their tax calculations and submissions, and that can reduce the burden for you at a cost. I didn't find any of them good with advice on managing the transition from paying SARS to paying the ATO though, or even generally i.t.o. advice on foreign income. It may be worthwhile getting some one-off tax advice on this depending on your circumstances.
- Moneysmart website
The government just recently launched a website with advice on general financial matters such a super, banking, buying a house, investing etc which can be useful. It also contains some DIY calculators. See www.moneysmart.gov.au.
- AFR website
The Australian Financial Review is the local equivalent of Business Day and has a great website for those keen to manage their own investment affairs. This includes information on most listed companies, including access to 10 years of historical financial statements for all listed companies, shareholder announcements, shareholder analysis etc. A reasonable amount of info is available without subscription.
- ASX website
The Australian Stock Exchange website also has a lot of free information on all listed investment products. See www.asx.com.au.
Books are very expensive in-store here. Try www.bookdepository.co.uk for an online option. They offer free international delivery. I have heard a few good references from locals who have used them before.
Don't underestimate the amount of admin involved with the move, it is huge. It is well worth the effort though, Perth is very family friendly and we are loving it here!