You don’t need an inner-city address, Caren will help you tackle money matters in the ‘burbs, through a better understanding of all the important issues – investing, superannuation, budgeting, tax, insurance, mortgages, gearing, shares, managed funds, small business, food, home, fashion, travel, and much more.

A fun and entertainingly educational forum, specifically designed for Australian “suburbanites".

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Your relevant Budget summary. The short version or the long version – your choice.

I’m prepared to accept that there may be some people out there that find the Federal Budget a little boring. Hey, stop yawning – I haven’t even started!

For anyone who just wants an absolute bare bones budget breakdown, I’ve prepared a summary of the main points below. At the very least you can pretend to care if one of your friends or family members raises the matter.

And for anyone who would like a more comprehensive look at what this year’s Federal Budget involved, I’ve catered for your tastes too.

First, the breakdown.

Wayne Swan’s 6th and possibly last budget (his Swan Song??) was not as tough as expected. He’s anticipating savings of $44 billion over four years, with the budget expected to be back in surplus in three years time.

From an investor perspective, there were not many new announcements, as most of the changes to superannuation were announced a few weeks ago.

A summary of some of the changes that may impact investors are:

  • The personal income tax cuts scheduled to commence on 1 July 2015, will be deferred. These tax cuts had already been legislated so this will actually require an amendment to the legislation. The changes were to be funded by the carbon pricing, which has been lower than anticipated and therefore will be deferred until the carbon price hits $25.40.

  • The Medicare levy will be increased by half a percentage point from 1.5% to 2% from 1 July 2014 to provide funding for DisabilityCare Australia. This has already been introduced into Parliament and will most likely be passed before the election.

  • The proposed increase to the Medicare levy will take the top marginal tax rate to 47% (previously 46.5%), which means a number of other tax rates based on this combination will also be increased to 47% from 1 July 2014. These include increasing Fringe Benefits Tax and the tax rate on excess non-concessional contributions.

  • The Medicare levy low-income threshold for families will increase to $33,693 for the 2012-13 year, with effect from 1 July 2013.

  • The net medical expenses tax offset (NMETO) will phase out from 1 July 2013, with a two year “phase-out” arrangement for those currently entitled to the offset.

  • Swan announced a pilot program for age pension recipients when downsizing their home. Rather than having “leftover” sale proceeds means tested, they will be able to deposit up to $200,000 in a special bank account and it will be exempt from testing for 10 years (including the earnings). Importantly, the funds are only exempt if you do not make a withdrawal. This will be trialled over a 3 year period.

  • There have been a number of changes which may impact families including removing the Baby Bonus in July 2014, changes to Family Tax Benefit A which is now only paid until the calendar year when the child finishes school, and “pauses” on indexation for certain family based payments (Paid Parential Leave,  Family Tax Benefit A & B) and child care rebate.

  • The annual amount claimed as a tax deduction for self-education expenses will be limited to $2,000 per person. This doesn’t apply to employer funded expenses where there are currently no limitations (this doesn’t include salary sacrifice).

  • Something that wasn’t mentioned in the budget was further discounting of the minimum pension from July 2013. We can probably assume by the omission that the discounted rate hasn’t been extended and will most likely refer to standard rates on 1 July 2013.

If you’d like to hear more of what I have to say on the matter, click here for a recording of my most recent “You & Your Money” radio segment on 98.1FM Radio Eastern and click here for your more detailed Budget report.

If you’d like a youtube update that runs for less than 4 minutes, just go to

Talk soon,

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How can your business compete against 7,000 other marketing images per day?

If you’re a business owner, then I don’t need to tell you that there’s a lot of competition out there. It can be hard to get your message across when there are soooooo many other messages in your space alone.

I attended a webinar recently where the speaker advised us that we’re exposed to a whopping 7,000+ marketing and sales images every single day – and you’re trying to compete against that!!!

So what’s the answer? You must be unique! Actually, it’s more than that. You can’t just be unique, you have to be able to articulate and promote your uniqueness.

Essentially, you need to give your target market a compelling reason to buy from you rather than someone else. It’s these differences that make one business, product, or service more attractive than another in the customers’ eyes.

So how do you develop a Unique Service Proposition? Well there are three main types:

1. An 'Actual' Unique Service Proposition. That is, there's something genuinely unique about your business, the products, or services you provide or the way in which you provide these products and services.

Creating your Unique Service Proposition will revolve around expressing that actual uniqueness in a way that's meaningful to your potential customers and clients. This is often easier to do if you sell a product rather than a service.

2. The second is a 'Created' Unique Service Proposition. That is, you create a point of differentiation between your business and your competitors.

You may have heard me talk about "Paddy the Dentist." It's one of my favourite (true!) stories. Paddy openly acknowledged that there were a lot of other good dental practices in the area, so he knew he had to make his practice unique if he wanted to do really well. He interviewed his clients to find out what they hated most about going to the dentist. Turns out the overwhelming majority claimed it was the waiting room - the smell, the noise, the anticipation of pain.

So Paddy turned his waiting room into a tea salon! When you arrived at his surgery there was classical music being piped through the waiting room, you were shown to a comfortable seat and handed a menu to choose from a selection of over 50 tea varieties. It was served to you from a pot in a fine china cup and saucer. The experience was indulgent and relaxing. Can you guess the result for Paddy’s business? Phenomenal! Paddy had created a difference that certainly gave customers a compelling reason to go to him, stay with him, and refer him to others.

3. The third kind of Unique Service Proposition, the ‘Perceived Service Proposition,’ is also critically important - your Unique Services Proposition does not (in fact) have to be unique.

You may not have anything in your business that’s totally unique. But if you’re the first one to articulate a difference (even though others do the same), you’ll stand out in the marketplace as if you are unique.Simply because you’ve been the first to articulate it.

I mentioned earlier that not only do you need to offer something unique, but you need to articulate it. It sounds obvious, but most businesses have never articulated those differences. They expect people to buy from them simply because they’re in the marketplace. Most simply say ‘buy from us.’ But they don’t give the potential customer a clear and compelling reason why they should do so. 

Those things that make you unique, must permeate your entire business: the way your team members present themselves, the way you deal with your customers or clients, the way your business itself is presented, all your marketing material, even your signage, if possible.

I hope this has started the creative juices flowing, and that you’ll take some time to work out the key point of differentiation between you and your competitors to help the customers identify that they really do need to choose you over anyone else. 

For a detailed fact sheet on developing your Unique Service Proposition (including lots of examples), just click here

And if you’d like to hear more of what I have to say on the matter, click here for a recording of my most recent “You & Your Business” radio segment on 98.1FM Radio Eastern (or ask me about a one-on-one session to help identify a Unique Service Proposition for your business).

Talk soon,