What’s to do when interest payments on your cash are worth so little?

Cuts in interest rates are welcomed by homebuyers and other borrowers. But for retirees and others who depend on interest payments for their income, falling interest rates can be disastrous.

For them, a drop in interest rates from 3% to 1% meant a massive 67% drop in income. And with rates falling again from 1% to 0.5% they’ve suffered a further 50% reduction in income.

And sadly, that’s not the end of the story. There’s inflation to consider too!

Right now, the headline inflation rate, as measured by the Australian Consumer Price Index, is running at approximately 1.3%. That means, the real value of your money, i.e., the purchasing power of your cash, has fallen by 1.3% over the last 12 months.

With interest rates sitting at around 0.4%-0.5%, the interest you can accrue from your cash is not enough to cover for that 1.3% loss from inflation.

So, the harsh reality right now is, if your money is sitting in cash it’s actually costing you to keep it there!

If you’re not a retiree the story gets even worse, because there’s tax on interest to consider too!

What Are The Alternatives?

The big challenge for a retiree when looking for alternatives is acquiring cashflow that carries acceptable risk.

Aside from the term deposits favoured by many retirees, annuities are worth considering. An annuity effectively exchanges an up-front lump sum for regular income payments. They are generally considered to be low risk. However, as an interest-producing investment, returns are low when interest rates are down.

High dividend yielding shares have also been a traditional source of income for retirees, offering not just income but also the prospect of capital growth. However, shares can also fall in value, and the economic uncertainty precipitated by COVID-19 saw many companies cut or cancel their dividends as their profits fell.

Hybrids offer attractive middle ground between regular shares and bonds

Hybrids such as convertible shares, preference shares and capital notes have elements of debt and equity (share) investments. Their prices are usually more stable than ordinary shares, and they pay either a fixed or floating rate of interest, often as a fully-franked dividend, above a particular benchmark, usually the Bank Bill Swap Rate.

Lately at House of Wealth, we’ve been helping a lot of retiree clients take advantage of Convertible Notes issued by some of the major Australian banks. These offer security of your principal along with the potential to participate in share price gains.

For retirees preferring a less hands-on approach to managing their portfolios as well as diversification away from individual securities, a vast range of managed funds are available that suit all risk tolerance levels, and can provide regular income over and above the insulting rates of interest currently on offer.

Portfolio Balancing Can Help You Go the Extra Distance

With interest rates at unprecedented lows, many retirees will have no choice but to dip into their capital to meet their cash flow needs. If the portfolio contains a reasonable allocation to growth assets and depending on market conditions, then capital growth may be sufficient to cover cash withdrawals.

A long-term perspective

In abnormal economic times it’s important to keep some perspective. Economic upheavals are often short term. Retirement, on the other hand, can last for decades.

To ensure your retirement portfolio is optimised to weather the current interest drought, contact us today.

And if you’ve not already done so over the last 12 months, feel free to book in for a free financial health check, where we can discuss your options.

This article is intended as an information source only and to provide general information only. The comments, examples, words and extracts from legislation and other sources in this publication do not constitute legal advice, financial or tax advice and should not be relied upon as such. All readers should seek advice from a professional adviser regarding the application of any of the comments in this article to their particular situation.