Ask Noel

I'm 52, single and own my home worth $390,000. I have $50,000 in savings, $183,000 in super and earn $43,000 annually. What is the best way to make use of the $50,000. Should I salary sacrifice to increase my super? How much should I have in super when I retire at 67?

I'm 52, single and own my home worth $390,000. I have $50,000 in savings, $183,000 in super and earn $43,000 annually. What is the best way to make use of the $50,000. Should I salary sacrifice to increase my super? How much should I have in super when I retire at 67?

Provided you are prepared to lose access to the money until you retire after your preservation age, the best strategy would be to contribute the bulk of it to super as a non-concessional contribution, keeping within the limits. This would move the income on it from the 30 per cent bracket to the 15 per cent bracket. You may also be eligible for a tiny co-contribution from the government. How much you need when you retire will depend on many factors that include how long you will live, the state of your health and the earning rate on your money. As a rough guide, you could use 12 times your annual expected expenditure. It is important to meet with your financial adviser to fine-tune your strategies.

I'm 49 and work full-time on a salary package of $250,000. My company pays 12 per cent into super and I salary sacrifice $800 a month. My super is worth $480,000. My wife is 47, not employed and does not have any super. We were advised to open a super account for her and start contributions, which would be after tax. Would it be more beneficial to salary sacrifice into my super pre-tax for both of us rather than contribute after tax into a separate super account for her the difference being we would only have one super account between us as opposed to one each. I was born in 1962 and believe I can retire at 58.

Take urgent advice about the level of your contributions because unless you turn 50 before June 30, the maximum deductible contributions you are allowed from all sources is just $25,000 a year. Based on the figures you have provided, you may have excess contributions that are subject to an extra 31.5 per cent tax (in addition to the standard 15 per cent on taxable contributions). If you are aged 50 or over by June 30, 2012, your before-tax (concessional) cap is $50,000. From July 1, in the absence of amending legislation, everybody's concessional cap will be $25,000 a year. If your wife has no income, there is no benefit making non-concessional contributions to super at this stage. You are better off to make them in your name as you are two years closer to preservation age. If you were born between July 1, 1962 and June 30, 1963, the preservation age is 58.

I'm 65, working permanent part-time and also receive a pension. I own my unit, have a small amount of savings and have $73,000 in super. When I retire, should I put the super into a fixed deposit or leave it in super and take a transition-to-retirement pension.

The essence of a transition-to-retirement pension is that you salary sacrifice part of your income and make up the shortfall by starting an income stream from your super. Obviously, this will not be applicable to you when you retire. The main purpose of super is to save tax and, based on the information supplied, you will not be paying any tax on retirement if all your funds are kept outside the super area. In view of the relatively small amount, there seems no reason you should not leave the money outside super once you retire. It would be wise to take advice on the kind of assets in which to invest.

I took a package from my last job and now only owe $20,000 on my mortgage. I'm currently renting at $1500 a month. I'm receiving about $1300 from my rental property after costs. I have $40,000 in the bank and am looking to buy another property to live in. With today's market, I will need to borrow about $400,000 and would struggle paying a mortgage on my salary of $60,000 a year. What is the best way to go about investing this $40,000 as I would rather pay my own mortgage than pay rent.

There is no point in paying off the mortgage as you would lose the small amount of tax benefits available on that property. The key to success in investing is diversification, so talk to an adviser about investing surplus funds into a quality share trust. This will give you experience in another asset class and you can start small.

Advice is general readers should seek their own professional advice.

Contact noel.whittaker@whittaker Follow him on Twitter: @noelwhittaker. Questions to: Ask Noel, Money, GPO Box 2571, Qld, 4000, or see /ask-an-expert.

My wife and I owe $310,000 on our mortgage and have $40,000 in savings with a 100 per cent offset account. Should we keep building up our savings, which offset the account, or should we put my wife's salary of $1200 a fortnight directly into the mortgage and keep making the normal repayments from both our salaries so we are, in theory, paying double. We want to pay the mortgage off as fast as possible.

I prefer using the offset account. This will give you the same interest savings as paying the money directly off the loan but will give you flexibility in case you have a change of heart and decide to rent the property at some stage.

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