Technology provides the ability to remotely manage your financial affairs in Australia from abroad easy. In this article, Jason discusses the essential digital tools for Australian expats.
This article has been provided by Jason Wong. Jason is a wealth enthusiast who chronicles his personal finance lessons from being a student, an accountant, a fund manager, an investor, and a husband/father. Follow him on what it means to build long-term wealth at www.jasonjots.com.
Home is where the heart is, as the old adage goes. I love Australia and the life this beautiful country has given me. So much so that when I’m on my regular overseas secondment for work, I easily get homesick and miss the sights and sounds of Melbourne. The food. The people. Even the wild weather! Home for me is definitely where the heart is.
This feeling of incompleteness is not new. In fact it regularly plagues Australian expatriates who have left this beautiful land for new adventures overseas. To remedy this, expatriates often hold onto something that ties them to Australia just to feel that connection to Home. Many keep family homes and cars. Retention of passive investments and businesses are also common among expatriates.
While the financial ties are good for the heart, it requires maintenance to ensure its value is preserved. Fortunately, technology today provides the ability to remotely manage our Australian financial affairs regardless of physical location. In this post we will look at some of the essential digital tools that expatriates need to ensure that their domestic affairs are in good working order, ready for the day when they do eventually come home.
Quarterly statement of monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA)
Published every quarter from February to November, the statement of monetary policy is the go-to economic publication to gain an insight into the RBA’s interpretation on the Australian economy. Topics covered include commentary on which particular sectors are outperforming and under-performing, who are Australia’s most important trading partners, is the housing market still in a boom cycle, and most important of all whether the RBA would raise/drop official cash rates.
Tuning into what the RBA is thinking allows you to then make appropriate adjustments to your own wealth portfolio. And making decisions based on the RBA is important because they are perhaps the single most important (and influential) financial body in Australia. It literally pays to hear what they have to say.
The thing I like about this RBA publication is that it is written from a 100% unbiased perspective. No self-interest and no fluff. Just pure economic facts and how the RBA intends to tackle the ever changing cycles of the Australian economy. If there is a single document that has to be read by anyone interested in the Australian economy, it would have to be this.
Digital edition of the Australian Financial Review (AFR)
Don’t let the title of the paper fool you into believing that this newspaper publication is a very complicated read.
Notwithstanding the fact that occasionally there are thought pieces that require higher levels of financial literacy to understand, this newspaper is tailored to the general public and is a simple to moderate read. It’s a very useful tool to get you on top of the daily financial happenings within Australia, filled with expert commentary and opinions (*be aware of writer’s biases) on a range of finance-related topics including property, personal finance, stock market etc.
Along with their website, the publication can also be accessed through their award winning app on both Apple and Android digital stores.
Online banking service by the Big4 banks
ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac Bank are Australia’s 4 largest banks, hence called the Big4. Being Australia’s premier banks, it’s not a surprise that their internet banking (Netbank) offering are top notch and incredibly useful for expatriates who are not physically in Australia.
Their netbanking services are so feature rich that you can almost entirely eliminate the need to physically visit a bank branch. On Commonwealth Bank’s netbank for example, you can :
- change pin and limit of credit cards
- transfer funds to domestic or international accounts
- pay bills with BPAY
- apply for personal or finance loans
- budget with live feeds from active bank accounts
Furthermore, the Big4 banks make very good Apple/Android apps for mobile devices which makes it really easy for on-the-go banking needs. One cool feature is the ability to withdraw cash from any bank-owned ATMs nationwide without physical cards. For example, if the expatriate (while overseas) want to give some cash to family members in Australia, they can simply fire up the banking app and transact the withdrawal in real-time. The receiver can then visit any ATM and withdraw the nominated amount. It’s that straight-forward!
Signing up for netbanking services is very easy, and everyone who values convenience without borders should no doubt do it.
Get an accountant who specializes in expatriate services
Rules around tax and superannuation change very regularly, and unless one is actively working in a public accounting practice, it will be difficult to keep abreast of the changes. That is why having a trusted Australian accountant is essential in maintaining your financial interests in tip-top condition from a wealth planning perspective. It’s also important to be aware that choosing an accountant with sub-specialist knowledge in expatriate matters will maximize the effectiveness of the relationship.
If you didn’t already have someone you can trust, head on over to the website of the Chartered Accountants of Australia & New Zealand. All accountants listed on their website are qualified Chartered Accountants, one of the 4 professional accreditations used for public practice. More homework has to be done to judge whether your chosen accountant is the right fit, but having the appropriate qualifications in place gets you off on the right foot.
Cloud-based accounting software programs
Keeping track of physical receipts, bank statements, letters and notices are so last century but this archaic method of record keeping is still very much used by many individuals. Good record keeping gets much harder for expatriates because of the time-lag in receiving paper documents. A much better way to tackling records is to sign up to an online accounting software program.
There are many choices to choose from; MYOB, Xero, Quickbooks and Reckon are some of the more popular ones that individuals use. Yes it may cost money to sign up to these services, but the benefits include :
- automated record keeping based on regularly used key word searches
- updated tax and superannuation rates that are automatically applied to your portfolio
- your Australian accountant can seamlessly access your information over the internet
- removing the need to keep onto paper statements
- automatic reconciliations of your Australian bank accounts
- accessible 24/7 anywhere in the world with a computer and internet
Furthermore, having an online accounting program is especially useful for expatriates with Australian business interests. That’s because the finance team like accountants, wealth planners, book keepers can all work on the same database at the same time regardless of time and location. This promotes accuracy and increases productivity; factors that are critical to the success of the business.
Finder can quickly comb through retail finance products
The aggregator model of searching is arguably the most effective way to quickly search through thousands of products in a large marketplace. For those who don’t know what the aggregator model is, think a website like www.webjet.com.au. It is effectively an one-stop website that aggregates thousands of flight pricing information from all over the world and displays it on one single page, saving you the onus task of visiting each and every single individual airline website for information.
Finder operates on the same model and allows you to compare a myriad of retail financial products, everything from credit cards to personal loans and investment products.
Say you have a pot of spare money left in Australia; one useful feature on Finder is their “compare high interest savings accounts” where expatriates can search for the best banking product that pays the highest interest rate on deposits. Another feature that might interest expatriates is their “money transfer finder” where many agencies offer global currency exchange and transfer services.
Finder is also useful as a price reference site even if you didn’t want to buy anything. Again using their “compare high interest savings accounts” feature as an example, you could use the information gleamed from Finder and take it to your existing bank to negotiate better rates.
Whatever your intention is, you will probably find the information you need on the website.
Using moneysmart to re-educate yourself on Australian personal finance
For expatriates returning to Australia after a long time away, there will be an adjustment period to assimilate back into the Aussie way of life. Australian finance concepts that were once familiar might have undergone massive changes in the time that they’ve been away so it’s important to go through the financial re-education process to get up to speed.
ASIC’s financial guidance website www.moneysmart.gov.au is the perfect resource to give you all the education materials you need for the attractive price of FREE. It doesn’t try to sell you anything, and being a government run website, you can be sure that only quality unbiased financial guidance is being relayed onto the readers. I can’t recommend this website enough, and is almost always one of the first websites I direct my readers to to gain an understanding of basic Australian personal finance concepts.
One website for all things government related on myGov
Any Australians who has had to deal with multiple government departments know how cumbersome the entire process can be. First introduced in 2013 and gaining widespread use in 2015, myGov is a government initiative to keep up with the rapidly digitalizing world that we currently benefit from.
The portal acts as a single source of truth for individuals wanting to transact on matters of :
- Australian Taxation Office
- Australian JobSearches
- Personal health records
- Aged care and disability legibility
- Child support
- Veterans’ affairs
While the system is far from perfect, it has improved substantially since it was first launched 3 years ago. Constant updates keep the portal humming along, and more added services improve usefulness of the system. With the government pushing the community to self-serve more, myGov will inevitably be the tool of the future when dealing with government related affairs.
Wealth Management Without Borders
Hopefully the above few tools have given you a glimpse of how technology can be used to break down international borders, offering Australian expatriates the chance to be global explorers without needing to worry about their financial ties at Home.
I’d be interested to hear some of your favourite tools that you use to keep connected to Australia. Share them in the comments below!