Keep a keen eye on government guarantees

It pays to be aware of new regulations guaranteeing a bank's deposits when you have long-held savings, writes George Cochrane.

It pays to be aware of new regulations guaranteeing a bank's deposits when you have long-held savings, writes George Cochrane.

I AM a self-funded retiree and do my own thing. I have term deposits maturing on December 30, 2011. If I renew them to mature, for example, in 12, 24 and 36 months, will the government guarantee to cover these until the longest maturity date of December 30, 2014? The total amount of my term deposits is under $1 million. So other than the four big banks, what financial institutions are covered under the government guarantee? Also, when the government guarantee on deposits drops to $250,000 per person per institution from February 1 next year, does this refer to money in ordinary deposits or term deposits? H.S.

The guarantee under the Commonwealth's Australian Financial Claim Scheme applies to all "approved deposit-taking institutions" or ADIs. The list of ADIs includes Australian banks, building societies and credit unions as well as subsidiaries and branches of foreign banks. The full list can be found at

If your aggregated balance of at-call and fixed-term deposits with an institution is less than or equal to $250,000, it will continue to be guaranteed after February 1 under the Financial Claim Scheme.

The Treasurer made his announcement on September 11 and therefore created a special exemption for term deposits existing at that date. They continue to be covered at the $1 million cap until December 31, 2012, or until the deposit matures, whichever occurs sooner. After that the cap drops to $250,000.

Term deposits that mature before February 1, 2012, and are rolled over will be covered up to $1 million until February 1, 2012, and will be subject to the $250,000 cap from then on. Term deposits that existed on September 10, 2011, and mature between February 1, 2012, and December 31, 2012, will continue to be covered up to $1 million until maturity.

After that they will be covered under the new $250,000 cap.

Deposits that reach maturity after December 31, 2012, will be covered under the $1 million cap until December 31, 2012, and then under the new $250,000 cap thereafter. It's a bit confusing but stay with it!

Property problems

I am 63 years of age, own my home, work on a casual basis though not enough to pay tax and have approximately $350,000 in First State Super. Rather than seeing this money decreasing, would I be better off buying an investment property on the central coast for around $320,000-$350,000? There seem to be some very good buys. A.G.

Don't forget that super is not a fixed investment and you can invest in most funds within super that you can outside of super. First State Super offers a range of investments, including a cash fund that, according to the FSS website, has shown a higher return, 4.4 per cent over 12 months, than the Australian Equities fund, which has returned minus 4.7 per cent, or the default balanced fund, up 1.1 per cent.

If you wish to try and prevent your super from falling further, switch it into the FSS Cash fund by filling in a form that you can download or request from FSS.

From media reports and anecdotal evidence, I understand that central coast properties have not performed well. Economists are warning that 2012 is not shaping up to be a good year, worldwide, in which case I would be surprised if regional properties showed much growth, if any. So my suggestion is, no, don't withdraw your super and buy a property.

Seeking safety of term deposits

After working for 31 years, I retired three years ago and am now 58. At retirement I was offered a "package" and so I have not needed to access my superannuation, which remains with the Qantas Superannuation Fund Growth Option (approximately $900,000). I will not need to access the fund (or alternative option) until after I turn 60. My wife works part-time and is aged 55. My dilemma is, I am now at a point where I want some security with my future super earnings while the current state of the market and world events seem to indicate continued volatility. I am looking to move my super earnings from a super fund to a cash-style account or term deposit where volatility is negated. I want a return in line with current term deposit rates rather than the credit union "cash option". I am unsure if this option is available for me before the age of 60. I am not looking for an annuity type of fund I just want to control my funds without the vagaries of market conditions with their current considerable up and down movements. G.M.

You don't have to move your benefits out of super in order to access cash funds or term deposits. For example, your Qantas super fund offers a cash option, although this is only paying around 4.4 per cent a year.

That's fine as a temporary parking facility but if you want to abandon growth options, look at the Melbourne-based Defence Forces Credit Union (, which is offering higher rates for its accumulation and pension funds.

If you have a question for George Cochrane, send it to Personal Investment, PO Box 3001, Tamarama, NSW 2026. Helplines: Banking Ombudsman, 1300 780 808 pensions, 13 23 00.

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