Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Motto For Wealth: Maximise Income And Minimise Expenses

The story of how to get rich has been trampled over many times by writers, entrepreneurs and dreamers. Even dreamers know the theory but they don't actively apply the theories. For you to grow your wealth and find the holy grail of financial independence, you need to apply all these 'how to get rich theories'.

The very root of how to grow your wealth is really very simple.

Maximise your income by investing in your skills and abilities and therefore you can demand a higher price for your knowledge and skills. On the other hand, you minimise your expenses by actively reducing your spending or reducing your recurring expenses. 

I wanted to write about my most recent experiences about reducing recurring expenses. Most of us dislike having to review our insurance bills, our mortgage bills, having to change banks and calling up for quotes.

Having remained with the same bank and same insurance provider for years and years which led to complacency, over the last few months, I thought it was time to take a look at my expenses. A good thing that I did that because my current bank and insurance providers were really having fun at our expense.

1. Cheaper Insurance Policies

Mr SMG and I had seven insurance policies with our current insurer and they gave us a 25% multi-policy discount for having multiple insurances with them covering houses, contents and cars. The 25% 'loyalty' discount is fine and dandy but it really is rubbish when there are more competitive insurers out there that don't even offer the multi-policy discount when they quote but are priced competitively to try and get your business.

 A different major insurer offered the same comprehensive insurance at a few hundred dollars cheaper and that was for just one policy. By staying with the previous insurer over the years, they simply kept increasing our premiums every year citing, "there may have been increased theft in your area, there may have been more accidents in your area...blah blah blah." 

2. Cheaper Mortgage Interest Rates

Most of us are aware that there are different tiers of mortgage rates out there depending on how much you borrow, the calibre of yourself as a borrower and how much business your provide to your bank (the more fees they earn from you from investment products, the more they love your business). I did some research on the internet and read that some were offered up to 1.3% discount off the standard rate. So I went to ask for interest rate discounts above what we were being offered at 0.91%. It was like hitting a brick wall, "No, no, no, we've given you the best discount that we can offer.". 

If at first you don't succeed, you try and try again. So I asked again and then they offered me a 1% discount. A few weeks later, I asked again. I knew there were better rates out there. I was prepared to change my bank but it is rather inconvenient so if they offered me something more competitive, I would remain. I got referred to a personal banker. He obtained a 1.2% discount off our standard variable rates. That 1.2% discount over our current 0.91% discount is going to save us thousands and thousands of dollars across our multiple mortgage loans. Unfortunately I can't quantify it for readers since Mr SMG and I combined our finances. He is a lot more of a private person than I am. It took several visits and phone calls but it was worth it.

3. Question Your Bills and Expenses

This point is mainly for Australians and not for international readers. The NSW Valuer General does the valuation on raw land values every four years. If you own any property, you have to pay council rates. The council uses the Valuer General's figures on your land value to calculate the amount of rates that you have to pay.

Previously, our land was valued at $585k. That's just for the raw land and the dirt underneath our feet. The recent valuation last year came in at $827k. Which is ridiculous having looked at recent sales in our area last year. With a land valuation of $827k and if anything happened to our house and we had to replace our four bedroom house at $500k(for the same house size that we have now), that would value our property at approximately $1.3m plus. Last year, I thought that was out of the question so I wrote to object and they sent a personal valuer out to check out our land. The value was revised downwards to $780k which meant that we saved about $500 in rates payable. That email took 30 minutes to compose and send and it saved us $500.

Having noted recent sales however, the Valuer General's figure was probably spot on for this current market but it wasn't appropriate for the property market last year. We'll just have to take advantage of that for the next four years. Two weeks ago, a house near us sold for a ridiculous $1.7m plus figure and that was just insane but this is the crazy Sydney property market where insanity is the new norm.

The motto for growing your wealth is as applicable as ever. Before we focused on growing our investment income but didn't really focus on minimising expenses that much. It was only when I looked at our bills and realised that all our recurring providers were just increasing our bills beyond inflation and every single year did I realise that it was time to review other providers. It's not fun but it's something that needs to be done.

As the treasurer for one of our strata block properties, I changed the gardeners and cleaners who were charging us $18k for the year to one that charged us only $14k. The previous contractors were simply increasing their fees by almost $1k per annum. With the replacement contractors, the quality and standard of the garden and block is exactly the same. That saved $4k per annum for the past five years which is a $20,000 saving. That was just one aspect.

Don't accept everything that is given to you as fact or as something that you just have to put up with. Question it. Ask around for quotes and be prepared to change providers. Can't emphasise that enough.

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