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About my money rocket!

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Welcome to the Moneyverse!

Unlock the secrets within. We need money for our lives to run smoothly. When you know more about money, you can stay on course to the future you dream of.

Commence countdown, captain!

Discover the secrets of money management

The Moneyverse is a place where you can discover the secrets of money management. You can fly your money rocket through the Moneyverse, visiting planets and satellites, meeting astronauts and encountering asteroids.

As you explore, you will learn more about the financial universe and the choices you can make within it. All this discovery helps you think about what you would prefer to do in real life.

In real life, you have a kind of money rocket too. Your real-life money rocket is your financial position. The decisions you make affect your financial position –

  • Should I loan my friend $50 to help her pay a parking fine?
  • Can I afford to buy a car?
  • How risky is a credit card?

This means you are the captain of your real-life money rocket. You get to decide what you spend, what you save, and the risks you take. And, if you keep your money rocket in good order, it can take you wherever you want to go.

It’s not always easy – sometimes we don’t feel in control. The needs of others and random life events can knock us off course, but the more we know, the better we can manage. And that’s where the Moneyverse comes in – so start the countdown, captain!

How can I look after my rocket?

The most useful tool for looking after your money rocket is a ‘budget’. With it, you can –

  • Think ahead and make plans
  • Test out alternative decisions, or choices, I could make
  • Understand where things have gone astray and correct my course.

So what is a budget?

A budget is where you can bring together all your income (money in) and expenses (money out) over a particular time period (like a fortnight, month or year). With a budget you can work out whether you can expect to have extra money left over (savings) or fall short of what you need (debt). You can also get a handle on why – which gives you clues about what you can do to change the result.

Oh! but that sounds so boring and difficult!

Don’t worry, there are some fabulous tools out there to help you – see the resources at the end of this post. You can use the budget to look at –

  • The past – track all of your income and expenses (money in and out) over a period – this shows you where every bit of your money is going, including the bits you may be less aware of. Those subscriptions and takeaways have a sneaky way of adding up when we’re not looking!
  • The present – write down, or enter, what you expect your income and expenses to look like over the next fortnight or month. This will give help you decide ‘in advance’ what you can and cannot afford to spend.
  • The future – expand the range of your rocket to one year – or more! The budget tools make it easy to forecast over a year or more – how much will come in and go out, and what your result may be. You can add in lump sum purchases, such as paying for a holiday. Test out different money options to see what effect they will have on your budget and make better choices for yourself. Make sure you factor in risks as well, like unexpected expenses – an emergency fund is a useful component of your budget. You can play with ideas here!

A budget puts you at the controls of your rocket – together, you are fit to fly!

Explore further

Moneysmart: This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here are some useful Moneysmart pages:

  • the Moneysmart budget planner takes all the hard work out of building a budget!
  • For an introduction to money management and budgeting, check out the Moneysmart money management kit – it contains fact sheets, audio, stories and videos in 15 community languages, as well as in English.

MoneyMinded Online: MoneyMinded Online is a series of eight interactive activities that are designed to improve your money management skills, including budgeting. You can complete any of the activities at any time and at no cost. Click on any of the ‘Start activity’ options. You will be asked your name, email address and to choose a password for each time you log in.

Insurance

I’ll never need insurance! Nothing will ever happen to me!

Insurance is a waste of money for young people, right?

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Insurance

Insurance is a way of protecting ourselves from the full financial impact of something going wrong.

It works something like this: if we want to protect ourselves from having to pay everything to fix a situation after an unlikely (but possible) event or disaster, we can purchase insurance from an insurance company. Paying a yearly amount for the insurance means that, if the event ever occurs, the insurance company will protect us (or ‘cover’ us) financially from having to pay the entire cost of fixing things up.

When deciding whether to take out insurance, we are also considering the likelihood that a particular event (that is, a bad event!) will occur. Some young people think nothing bad will ever happen to them, so getting insurance might feel like a strange decision – but the possibility that something could happen to you, like an accident or injury, is quite real.

People make choices about how much insurance they need based on all sorts of reasons. Decisions may be influenced by the actual value of the item that we want to be able to replace, like a car. They may also be influenced by an event, or real experience, or the experience of someone we know.

Our decisions might also be informed by location and living situation; for example, a person living in a remote forest area may have very different insurance to someone living by the sea. Someone who cleans windows on skyscraper buildings may have different insurance cover compared to someone who manages a stable of horses. A person renting their home may have different insurance cover compared to someone who has a family to support and a large home loan to pay.

In all cases, insurance cover protects us from incurring enormous costs if something happens that changes our living circumstances, or prevents us from being able to work. Another way to describe it would be that we are putting the financial load of an incident onto the insurance company, while we pay a much lower price. The price we pay is called the premium.

Insurance companies can also add an extra payment that you pay at the time of the incident called an excess. Paying a higher excess means the premium is lower, but you’ll be lumped with the excess at the time of the incident when you make a claim. The details, terms and conditions of the insurance product is known as the policy.

There are different types of insurance, and although some are more relevant to people who already have a car and a home, it’s worthwhile knowing a bit about the insurance that is available:

Car insurance

If you have a bingle and need help to cover the costs of a car repairer. There are different types of car insurance – some may cover the cost of your car, some may cover the cost of the other car involved, and some may cover the cost for both of you.

Read more in the links below, and check out the Moneyverse asteroid Buying a car to investigate extra expenses, like insurance, that you need to consider when you want to get your first set of wheels.

There is also a link below that explains what to do if you have a bingle and you are not insured. It can be very expensive and have serious legal implications if you are out on the road while not insured.

Ambulance cover

Insurance to cover the cost of a trip to the hospital in an ambulance. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘ambulance membership’. This is because insurance is provided when you’ve paid to be a member of a state or territory’s ambulance organisation – for example, Ambulance Victoria.

Mobile phone insurance

To cover damage to your phone, including either replacement or repair.

Total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance

Provides a lump sum to help cover your expenses if you are injured and can’t work again.

Life insurance

If you pass away and can’t provide for your family anymore.

Home insurance

If you have a tree fall onto your chimney, you’re covered for repairs to your house.

Sometimes people separate the insurance for the home – that is, the building – from insurance for the contents, which refers to everything inside the house, including the fridge, TV, and any precious belongings.

Income protection insurance

If you need to cover lost income because you aren’t able to work.

Pet insurance

To help cover expensive vet bills if your dog or pet needs an operation.

Health insurance

To help cover the expenses in going to hospital, or getting new glasses.

Travel insurance

To help cover costs for unforeseen events while you are travelling, like getting you somewhere if a flight is cancelled, or medical care if you become unwell in another country.

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Useful things to know

Insurance premiums are usually paid once each year, so while paying the insurance premium is important, it can easily be forgotten. Make sure you have any yearly insurance expenses listed on your budget, and divided into monthly or fortnightly amounts that you can save for, so the bill doesn’t come as a shock! If you are having trouble paying important insurance premiums, ask the insurance company about paying in smaller amounts more often.

You probably don’t have to have a lot of insurance as a young person, unless you have particular complex health needs. It is important though to think about the sorts of things that could happen, like falling off your bike or getting injured playing sport, where you may need an ambulance to get you to hospital.

If you don’t think you need any insurance yet, perhaps just consider ambulance insurance – we hope that we never need it, but we want to be covered so we’re not billed for thousands of dollars if an ambulance is called to take us to hospital.

Did you know?

Australia has a health system that is made up of both public and private providers. The public health system is automatically available to all of us, and is paid for through taxes (your green Medicare card has a number on it for accessing the public health system). We also have a private health system, which is owned by private companies who offer a wide range of health services, but need to charge higher prices.

Having private health insurance means you are able to access private hospitals and other private health services not available in the public Medicare system.

You can read more about private health insurance and how to choose the insurance cover you may one day need here.

Do you have ambulance cover?

Check carefully to see whether you are covered for ambulance trips in your state.

In some states, like Victoria, you need a health care card, or ambulance membership, to be covered for short trips (the ambulance insurance cover is known as the ‘membership fee’). Paying a small yearly amount is well worth it because, without ambulance cover, you could be billed $1200 or more for your trip!

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What is the risk of our rocket crashing in space?

Very low I hope!

However, considering how many rockets there are in the entire universe, crashes probably occur quite often each light year. To an individual rocket owner, a crash is an enormous cost, but if we spread that cost across every rocket owner in the universe, we keep ‘rocket repair insurance’ premiums low.

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Explore Further

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money.

You can read about different types of insurance on the Moneysmart website – here are some links to get you exploring:

  • Health insurance – read here for more about what you need to do to get ambulance cover (depending on your home state or territory)
  • Car insurance – read here for information about different types of car insurance and what to look out for
Ambulance Victoria

If you live in Victoria, click here to visit the Ambulance Victoria website and find out more about becoming a member.

Car accident when uninsured

If you have a car accident and you don’t have car insurance, there are important things you need to know.

Visit this page on the Financial Rights Legal Centre’s website to read more.

Bills

In the galaxy guide: Top 10 most exciting asteroids, Asteroid Bills is definitely not on the list.
Whole tanks of fuel are consumed avoiding and dodging around bills.
That is, until the very last moment – when a rocket has no choice but to fly directly into Asteroid Bills, performing a low flyover and cash drop into a steamy crater called Stinking Due Date.

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Bills

You probably already know a bit about your household bills
They’re a record of what we need to pay to a company because we have been using what they’ve supplied us. Gas, electricity and water bills are some of the most common, and these are known as utilities, so you might have heard the term ‘utility bills’.
You need to pay the bill by the due date, to avoid extra charges or any interruption to the supply.

Utility bills may have a small extra charge if you receive a printed paper bill delivered in the post. There may be a discount applied if you paid on time, or have a Centrelink concession card linked to the bill. It’s a good idea to locate these added items printed on your bill. If you are paying any extra charges, the company may provide a way to reduce them, like paying early, or getting an electronic bill instead of paper.

Have you ever read your electricity bill with a magnifying glass!? There is a lot of information on a utility bill and some of the most useful info is actually in the tiniest print.

Look out for:

  • The number to call to ask about a cheaper rate – note! – the retailer must tell you if they have a better deal for your household, so it’s worth asking!
  • The number to call if you need to explain that you’re having trouble paying. You can ask about paying in smaller amounts, or by a later date, or about reducing your overdue bill with a ‘utility relief grant’
  • How to add a concession card number for discounted rates
  • How to pay over the phone if you don’t have access to a computer or online banking
  • The number to call if you need an interpreter to help you talk about getting a better deal from the company

Don’t forget that the utility retailer will also have lots of useful information on their website about reading and understanding your bill. There are also great tips on how to reduce your usage, especially in very hot or cold weather.

Even if your name is not on the bill, you can do things to help reduce the usage and lower the bill; every bit helps.

Did you know?

Electricity usage is displayed on a meter at your house and is charged on your bill in cents for each kilowatt hour.

On an electricity bill, you can see service charges are also added for the supply of electricity to your house from the street.

Useful things to know

Tips to help you manage your bills:

  • Be aware that you may not be the account holder named on the bill, which means you are not authorised to speak to the retailer about the bill
  • Having your name on the bill means you are responsible for paying on time, or making arrangements to pay. It also means that, if you have one, it’s your concession card that can be used to get a lower rate
  • You can make a difference to the size of the bill by reducing your usage
  • Not paying your bill risks disconnection of the service. Always make contact with the retailer even if you know you are unable to pay. It may be expensive to reconnect services so finding a solution is always the best option before a disconnection happens. A financial counsellor can also help
  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 to speak to a financial counsellor if you have received a Disconnection notice

If you are unable to pay the whole bill by the due date in one lump, you can ask your retailer about paying in smaller, more regular amounts. This is called bill smoothing. The water or energy retailer may look at your costs over a full year and work out a payment plan for you, which could be an amount due each fortnight or each month.

If you have your bills on file, you could work this out yourself!

Take the total of a whole year of bills (check your billing period dates – for example, a whole year would be four quarterly electricity bills!) Divide your grand yearly total by 26 to see what your electricity costs are on average each fortnight. Arrange to pay that amount fortnightly, or simply keep putting it aside in a separate account, ready and saved up.

Did you know?

If you have a power outage (a blackout), the supplier of electricity will be fixing the problem and updating you on the situation. They are the company that actually supplies electricity via the wires and poles. The company who sends the bill is known as the electricity retailer.

What is an ombudsman?

An ombudsman is a bit like your friend’s mum, or your favourite umpire – totally cool, calm and collected, and really good at getting things sorted out peacefully when the kids get into an argument.

If you are the account holder, and you have a problem with your water, gas or electricity retailer, or an ongoing problem with your bill, you first need to speak to your utility retailer. However, if the problem is just not getting fixed in the way that you thought, you can speak to the energy and water ombudsman.

They listen to your problem, and then go to the retailer and listen to them too. The ombudsman will make an assessment and tell you how they are going to sort out the issue efficiently and fairly for everyone.

There are ombudsman organisations for energy and water, telecommunications (TIO) and even banks (AFCA). It’s good to know how to contact the energy and water ombudsman in your state.

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There are a range of concessions and discounts available to people, depending on your circumstances and where you live. Call the utility company first, however if you are having difficulty in obtaining utilities concessions or grants, and believe you are eligible, a financial counsellor may be able to help you.

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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here are some useful Moneysmart pages about bills:

Financial counsellors

Have you ever found yourself on the wrong track with your money, spiraling into a dark black hole?

Are you struggling to pay your bills, or trying to fend off a scary debt monster? Financial counsellors are friendly, approachable and free – they are trained to help you!

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Financial counsellors

Regardless of how we are traveling with our money, there can be unexpected expenses or life events that cause us to ‘wobble’ off course. When this happens, a financial counsellor can help us understand the issues, get back on track and move towards our goals.

So who are financial counsellors? Put simply, they are professionals who will listen to your story to understand your debts or issues with money, explain your options and help you to get back on track. They don’t judge your situation and they will always respect your choices. Even though the financial counsellor will find out and explain your options, you make the decisions and you are always in charge of what happens with your money.

Just some of the more common issues that financial counsellors deal with:

  • Debts related to credit cards, for example when circumstances have changed and you can’t afford to make repayments anymore
  • When your ‘buy now pay later’ payments build up and you can’t afford all the direct debits from your account
  • When you can’t afford to pay your bank loan repayments
  • When you have taken out a payday loan (fast cash loan) and the fees and charges have made it impossible to pay back
  • When you have current utility (gas, water or electricity) debt, or old utility debt from previous places you’ve lived
  • When you have debts or fines that were caused by someone else, but are in your name.
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Financial hardship (being unable to pay for everyday expenses) is a different experience for everyone, and can happen totally unexpectedly. If you were to get sick and be unable to work, or if you suddenly had to take care of someone else, bills and expenses could build up very quickly. Dealing with your money concerns on your own can be isolating and overwhelming, especially if you have to juggle or prioritise one debt over another.
Sharing your story with a financial counsellor and working with them can really help to get you back on course.

Financial counsellors can also speak on your behalf (another word for this is ‘advocate’) if you aren’t sure how to talk about your issue with the bank or the company. It can be really hard to know what to say, or to know what your rights are when something has gone wrong. A financial counsellor can help by doing the talking and negotiating to try to get the outcome you’ve chosen. Options may include an affordable payment plan, a temporary pause on payments, a waiver, or a fair outcome that you agree to.

An added bonus is that you get to experience the financial counsellor working with you to prioritise the issues and take action. You will start to see how you can take action too! Being able to speak up, ask questions, and take back control of your money situation is very empowering. Learning about your money and your rights from a financial counsellor is like building your own money repair kit for the future.

There are some useful numbers below if you think you would like to contact a financial counsellor.

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Every night, Jesse comes home to a pile of envelopes on the kitchen bench, the same ones she’s been ignoring for a week. She’s feeling overwhelmed by overdue household bills, and a credit card that had been ‘maxed out’ to its limit. The unopened envelopes are sure to be stern, unfriendly reminders in red ink, or demands of some kind.

On top of everything else, Jesse recently received a small loan to cover the cost of a new fridge (the old one stopped working). The loan will incur big fees if she doesn’t make the repayments on time, and so she’s made that loan first priority over everything else. Even the electricity bill has dropped down the priority list. Jesse’s starting to think that there is just no way out of her situation.

And then one night – Jesse notices a story on TV about financial counsellors helping people who can’t afford to pay their mortgage repayments and bills. She wonders whether they may be able to help her too. Jesse plucks up the courage to speak to the National Debt Helpline…!

Phew! Good on you Jesse! Woohoo! High five!

(Gee, I really thought she was going to keep ignoring those envelopes, or just chuck them out! Awesome Jesse, that was the right decision to call the helpline!)

After Jesse explains her situation to the financial counsellor at the National Debt Helpline, the financial counsellor may:

  • Help Jesse to see where her money is being spent, and help her to set up a budget
  • Set up an affordable payment plan with the utility providers for Jesse’s bills
  • Take a look at loan documents and investigate the how the loan was issued and whether Jesse was even supposed to have been given the money in the first place
  • Speak to Jesse’s bank to set up an affordable repayment plan for her ‘maxed out’ credit card. This would mean that Jesse wouldn’t be able to keep buying things on the card, but she could pay off the debt in smaller, more affordable amounts
  • Give Jesse options for purchasing any future household items, like participating in the ‘no interest loan scheme’ (NILS), set up for low-income customers, with no fees or interest charged
  • Help Jesse to understand that she has options and can take care of things herself if she gets into difficulty again.

Jesse works with a financial counsellor over a few appointments, ticking items off her list. Some were once quite scary (including whether she could even keep the fridge), but she feels glad she has achieved her goals, and is able to manage paying her bills again.

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Explore Further

National Debt Helpline

To have an initial chat with a financial counsellor call 1800 007 007 or use the online chat on their website.

Financial Counselling Victoria

Sharing fairly

Camping trip! Housemates! Birthday night out!

Sharing money fairly is a big part of being a responsible adult and good friend.

Splitting bills, carving up the camping costs or making sure you don’t leave the birthday party with a bad taste. These are the times when you’re either arranging to pay others, or passing the hat around collecting from your friends because you (legend) covered the whole amount.

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Sharing fairly

What does it mean to ‘share fairly’?

Sharing fairly recognises that owing money to others is an important responsibility. Not acting responsibly impacts on our relationships. Sharing fairly also recognises that we may sometimes be generous and pay for others, but that that can also impact our own ability to afford things we need.

Getting together for snacks after a swim once meant having a few coins to share. Now we hardly ever have cash, but we still need to ‘play fair’ when it comes to sharing.

Some people think that another event will come along soon enough to ‘even up the score’; they might say ‘swings and roundabouts!’, or ‘it’ll all come out in the wash!’ Being a responsible adult and good friend acknowledges that casual arrangements like that can sometimes leave people feeling uncertain. Your friend may not be able to afford to wait until life ‘swings back’ to you, when it’s your turn to pay.

There are always going to be money transactions in life that require us to share or split money. Sometimes we’re paying others, and sometimes we’re collecting our fair share from others. Sometimes the two amounts might cancel each other out. In any case, we need to be responsible for our part in the transaction.

When sharing fairly, you may need to keep track of both who you owe, and who owes you. Keeping records may not only be helpful, but also the right thing to do. This is especially true when you encounter formal expenses like rent, and household bills, or even as friends going camping for two whole weeks.

Communicating with each other clearly and honestly when we have to talk about money helps our friendships and relationships. Everyone knows what’s expected of each other.

This is particularly true when you are living in a sharehouse. Click below to read more tips about sharing expenses between housemates.

Sharing fairly in a sharehouse

Housemates will often set up ‘house rules’, so that everyone is comfortable with the way costs are split. Listing which household expenses are going to be split, and the timing and frequency of the major bills is a great start.

What about the rent?

What is the system in your house to get everyone to pay rent on time? It’s always OK to pay a bit early, but never OK to pay late! It’s also important that when you do pay, your agent or landlord sends a receipt. That way all contributing parties acknowledge the transaction has been completed.

Is the rent at your house split evenly, or does the housemate with the biggest bedroom pay a bit more?

How should we split the electricity bill if one housemate is working from home and everyone else is out all day?

What’s the plan if someone moves out?

The answers to these questions can vary, but importantly, it’s good to have conversations early on, so everyone is clear about what’s happening money-wise. Casual ‘swings and roundabouts’ arrangements don’t apply when setting up house rules; you need to make sure everyone is clear about their responsibility for each transaction with each other.

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Useful things to know

Considering my impact on others:

What if there’s someone always paying for my meal, and I’m not really able to pay them back. Should I budget and grow my savings before I go out for dinner with them again, so I can offer to pay for both of us?

What if I am the one who keeps paying for everyone else? How will I start to feel when I can’t pay for my own expenses, while I wait for others to pay me back? How will I talk to my friend when I need to have a conversation about being paid back?

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Kaz has three housemates.

Frankie is really fit, super active and likes to eat a lot. Every morning, Frankie cooks an omelette that has two eggs and three extra egg whites in it. That’s five eggs a day. Three dozen a week.

Kaz can’t believe the number of eggs the housemates are buying. The cost is really starting to eat into the money they have all put aside for weekly shopping.

According to their house rules, each housemate must contribute equally to the weekly shopping and bills expenses. Frankie’s eggs are expensive and sometimes the housemates don’t have enough money to buy everything else on the list.

At first, Kaz thought it would be fine – healthy housemates are better than ‘couch potatoes’! But now she is starting to get cranky at the cost of Frankie’s big brekky routine.

Kaz has decided to start an open and honest conversation about personal spending and shared spending. The housemates have only agreed to contribute to shared spending. Kaz has been considering that Frankie’s eggs were a bit like Sarah’s hi-fibre, no sugar, exotic grain, GMO free, expensive granola from the market across town – Sarah’s special treat on her own special shopping list that she pays for herself.

Since they were all in this house sharing situation together, they decided to review their shared expenses and bills. It took an evening to sort out. Kaz was also in charge of electricity (the bill was in her name), but Sarah was in charge of water usage and the internet. They found an app that would track spending and calculate each person’s total amount owed, equally and fairly. It would also send a notification reminder about due dates, or if someone had forgotten to pay up.

Frankie can see that all their eggs are costing a lot. Thinking rather generously, they offer to cook everyone a daily super omelette…

‘Frankie!! That would mean twenty eggs a day, which is 12 dozen a week!! And who’s going to do all the washing up!!’

Perhaps not a practical or affordable idea. Frankie agrees to buy their own eggs for their own omelettes.

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Sharing life, like a total legend

Mum lets you borrow her car – legend, mum!

  • Always putting petrol back in it when you’re done – total legend!

Mary agrees to let you drink some of her oat milk – legend, Mary!

  • Buying her a bottle when you next go shopping – total legend!

Sam lets everybody know the due date for the rent is on the 12th of every month – legend, Sam!

  • You arrange to pay your share of the rent a bit early on the 9th – total legend!

Gareth has a party with music blaring – legend, Gareth!

  • Everyone brings bluetooth headphones for a late-night silent disco – total legend!
  • Gareth cleans up after the party the next morning – Wow, where can we find this guy!?
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Suggested Apps for Tracking and Splitting Expenses

You might like to investigate a short list of suggested apps for tracking and splitting expenses. These can be used for an event, a holiday, camping trip or sharing housemates:

More advice about Responsible House Sharing

If you would like more advice about responsible house sharing from the Share Housing Survival Guide: day to day living arrangements

Moneysmart

This guide on the Moneysmart website explains more about sharing money in our relationships, for example a close partner or someone who you are going to move in with: Relationships and money.

Housing

How will I ever get my foot in the door of my own home – in this economy!? It’s a challenge for everyone – but it is possible!

Click here to unlock the secrets to renting or buying a home.

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Housing

Moving out of home is a huge step for everyone.

Sometimes, it might feel that there’s just so much you have to know, and that it’s impossible to get your foot in the door (literally!) – particularly when all we seem to hear about are ‘rent crises’ and ‘interest rate rises’ (I mean – what even are those, anyway?)!

In this section, we take you through how the system works and what you need to know if you’re thinking of moving out of home.

In Australia, people typically live in homes that they either own or rent. Most young people moving out of their parents’ homes for the first time will move into a rental property – that’s because buying a house is extremely expensive (we’ll talk about that briefly below).

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Renting a home

‘Renting’ means living in a house or apartment you do not own, for a period agreed upon by both you and the person who owns the property (known as the landlord). Those living in the property (known as tenants) will pay rent to the landlord – usually in monthly instalments. While you are renting, you can’t make changes to the house or apartment, and you have to follow the rules laid out by the landlord (there are laws about what rules are reasonable and unreasonable to ask of tenants). In return, you, as the tenant, have the right to peace and privacy from the landlord for the duration of your tenancy.

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It is quite common for the landlord to rent their property through a real estate agent. This means that the landlord and tenants will have little contact with one another – instead, each will communicate with a property manager, who works for the real estate agent, who organises everything and passes information between the two parties.

The rules and responsibilities for both the landlord and tenant are set out in the lease. This is a document that both parties sign at the beginning of the tenancy. It outlines the agreed duration of the tenancy (typically – but not always – a year), the names of the tenants and landlord, the pets (if any!) permitted at the premises, and the condition of the property at the time the lease agreement commenced (this part is called the condition report). It’s important to read the lease agreement and understand all the terms outlined in it; it’s also important to make sure that the condition of the property is the same as what is listed in the condition report – take your own photos of the property at the beginning of the lease to make sure.

At the beginning of a tenancy, you will also have to pay a bond – this is approximately the cost of one month’s rent (but is in addition to your first month’s rent). The bond is kept by the bond authority (an official third party that is not related to either you or your landlord) for the duration of your tenancy. It remains your money (that is, the tenant’s), but acts as security for the landlord – if you damage the property, or are unable to pay rent, the landlord can use your bond to pay themselves the money they are owed. However, as long as you look after the house and pay your rent, your bond will be returned to you in full at the end of your tenancy.

Sometimes you might be renting but you won’t be on the lease – your housemate(s) may be instead. This is quite a common arrangement in sharehouses, where an original housemate may decide to move out before the lease finishes – you might move into their room, and take their position in the house. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s a good idea to chat to your housemates about transferring the lease into your name (in addition to the names of the current leaseholders) – this gives you more housing security, the ability to contact the property manager directly with queries and maintenance requests, and will start building your own rental history – which will make it easier to apply for your next house!

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Buying a home

For most people, buying a house is the most expensive purchase they’ll ever make. It’s not likely to be something you’re thinking about doing now. However, the housing market makes up a big piece of Australia’s financial system – and you’ve likely heard about parts of it in the news – so it’s worth explaining how it works.

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To buy a house in Australia, most people apply for a loan from a bank or other financial institution. This is because houses are so expensive that it’s unlikely someone will have the entire cost of a house sitting in their bank account. Borrowing money for a house is called ‘taking out a mortgage’ – a term that you may have heard before.

The amount a bank will allow someone to borrow for a house depends on that individual’s financial situation. They consider a person’s income, financial commitments, the amount they have already saved, their assets, and how well they have been able to pay back past debts. Different banks will also offer different interest rates. Because a home loan is such a big amount of money to borrow, interest rates really matter – and make a big difference to the total cost that the borrower will pay (for more information about interest and how it works, check out the Mobile phones and contracts planet in the Moneyverse). Your interest rate can be either fixed or variable – fixed rates are less flexible, but variable rates are subject to the ups and downs of the Australian economy. For instance – the Reserve Bank of Australia makes changes to interest rates as a way of strengthening the Australian economy. These changes filter down to the average homeowner with a mortgage, causing their monthly home loan repayments to increase. You may have heard of recent interest rate rises – and the stress this has caused many homeowners.

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Useful things to know

If you want to start looking for a house to rent, there are a few things you need to think about before you start applying:

  • Renting is expensive, so, if you’re thinking about moving out of home, it’s important that you have a steady income and a secure job. You will also need to know how much you can afford to spend on rent each month so you can look at rental houses within your budget. Check out the About my money rocket! section in the Moneyverse if you want to learn more about doing a budget.
  • You will need at least two months’ rent saved before you start looking for a rental property – when you sign a lease, you need to be able to pay one month’s rent in advance and the bond – all in one go.
  • Renting costs more than just your rent – you’ll also need to pay for household bills (electricity, gas, water usage and internet). It might be useful to develop a budget to see how much these will cost on top of your rent. If you are living with other people, remember that the person whose name is on each of the bills is liable for 100% of the bill even if it is the other housemates who don’t pay their share – so be careful! For more information about sharing expenses with housemates, check out the Sharing fairly satellite in the Moneyverse!
Tips for first-time renters

The rental market can be very competitive, and property managers and landlords will often prefer tenants who already have a rental history. However, there are ways of strengthening your application even if you have no rental history.

Before you start applying for houses, make sure you have:

  • Verification of employment and verification of income – these prove that you can cover the rental amount. It’s important to be able to show that you have a stable job and income, so you can assure the landlord that you will be able to pay your rent each month
  • Reference from your employer or another staff member – this proves your employment and also acts as a character reference for your reliability and responsibility
  • Reference from a neighbour – this is a very handy one to have as your neighbour can share how you are in your property
  • Personal references – these should not be from relatives and should speak to who you are as a person. Why should the property manager and landlord choose you?
  • Photo identification
  • A recent utilities or phone bill

If you have all of the above items ready to go when you start inspecting and applying for houses, you can complete each application as soon as you’ve seen the property. You should also inform your references that you’re applying for rental properties, so they know to be ready to receive a call from your property manager.

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Beatrice and Bernard are two friends who have been living in a sharehouse together for a year. Now, their lease is finishing and they have both decided to go their separate ways – Beatrice is off to Paris for a semester abroad, and Bernard is moving in with his boyfriend.

Before they move out, they complete a bond clean – this means emptying the house, cleaning it from top to bottom (including steam cleaning the carpets!) and returning everything to the state it was in when they moved in. If everything is in order, they should receive the full amount of their bond in a month or so.

A few weeks later, they receive an email from their property manager, who says that the landlord wants to withhold $600 of their bond because there is a scratch on the wall of the living room. Beatrice is immediately anxious – she’s just arrived in Paris, and has been counting on her proportion of the bond to help her get on her feet. But Bernard is relaxed.

“Bee, I checked the photographs we took when we signed the lease, and that scratch is in them! So we definitely didn’t do it – and we can prove it!”

Beatrice sighs in relief – she’d forgotten about the photos. When they first got the keys to the house, Bernard had insisted on taking photos of all the rooms and fixtures in the property. She’d rolled her eyes at the time – all she’d wanted to do was move her stuff in immediately and start her new, fun, inner-city life! But now she was incredibly grateful – she thanked Bernard.

“No worries, Bee. It was all thanks to Francis – he told me that it’s always a good idea to take your own photos of the property, even though the real estate agent will say it’s unnecessary, so that you have your own records of the condition of the place when you moved in!”

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Better Health

For a helpful summary of things to think about when moving out of home – and tips for first time renters – check out Better Health’s webpage on the topic.

Tenants’ unions

For comprehensive information about your rights as a renter – and assistance if you think your rights aren’t being respected – check out your state or territory’s tenants’ union. In Victoria, this is Tenants Victoria, and in New South Wales, this is the Tenants’ Union.

Getting your bond back

If you are already renting and having an issue getting your bond back, check out this page, on the Renters and Housing Union’s website.

Buying and running a car

Toot, toot! Your money rocket might be your ticket to freedom in the Moneyverse, but a car is your ticket to freedom in the real world.

Click here to find out more about what it costs to get out on the open road.

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Buying and running a car

I want to buy a car!

Getting your licence is a rite of passage – and having access to a car can mean freedom and independence.

If we can’t borrow a family member or friend’s car to get around when we need to, it might be time to get our own. Buying a car of our own is one of the bigger purchases we make – perhaps second only to buying a house!

But if you’re thinking about buying a car, it’s worth doing your research. I don’t mean just working out what model you want to buy, but also working out the total cost of buying and running a car, and the best way of buying a car to make sure you get a good deal and reliable vehicle (spoiler alert – there are lots of lemons out there!).

When you’re looking at a car you’re interested in buying, it’s a good idea to take someone, like a friend or family member, along with you. They can be a non-emotionally involved ‘sounding board’ for you. It’s even better if they know a bit about cars (or if you do!), so they know what to look out for before you commit to the purchase.

Useful things to know

Buying and running a car costs a lot more than simply the cost of the car and petrol.

If you live near public transport, and have other options for getting around, you might want to consider whether buying a car is your most cost-effective transport option. For example, a full-fare public transport pass might cost you as much as $1800 a year, which does sound like a lot of money. But, when you add up the yearly costs of a car, including registration, insurance, petrol, services, toll fares and parking, you’ll find that a car is substantially more expensive.

Here are the costs that you need to factor in when you’re thinking about buying a car (you might like to do a budget to make sure you can afford everything – see the About my money rocket! section in the Moneyverse for more information on budgeting)…

Licence fees

Before you can buy a car, you must have your licence!

The road to getting your licence, including the cost of driving lessons and the driving test, will vary in each state. Once you get your licence, there will also be a small charge every time you get it printed and/or renewed (including if you ever lose it!). In comparison to the price of a whole car, these costs may seem small – but are still important to factor in when thinking about getting out and driving!

Cost of the car

The cost of a car can vary greatly – new cars are much more expensive than used cars, but there is also a huge variation in price amongst second-hand cars.

A second-hand car purchased through a dealer is more expensive than one that is purchased from an individual – but likely a much safer purchase, because dealers have to operate within certain guidelines, and provide paperwork and contracts.

The cost of running and servicing a car also varies depending on the make and model – cars that are themselves expensive, vintage, or rare will be more expensive to fix, while bigger cars are often less fuel efficient.

It’s also worth remembering that buying a second-hand car can lead to additional, unanticipated costs: as cars get older, more parts need to be replaced, and this can increase the service costs. Also – very old cars may seem cheap, but you often do get what you pay for… the older a car, the more it poses a safety risk! And you absolutely do not want to buy a very cheap car that isn’t ‘roadworthy’ – make sure you have a roadworthy certificate before you buy your car, otherwise it will end up being only a very expensive street ornament..!

When you’re working out what your budget is for your car, you should also consider how you are going to pay – can you afford to pay the whole amount upfront? Or will you take out a loan? Make sure to factor in interest and a payment plan if you decide to pay in instalments or borrow money to make the purchase!

Registration

To drive a car on public Australian roads, it must be registered. You must register your vehicle with your state or territory’s relevant authority – in Victoria, this is VicRoads, and in NSW, this is Service NSW.

Registration can be expensive – in some states, registration can cost up to $890 a year. You must factor in this cost when considering whether you can afford a car. It is also important to be aware of whether a second-hand car you are buying is already registered – or requires registration.

Insurance

Insurance is an essential and very important part of car ownership – it protects you in the event of an accident. (For more information on insurance and how it works, check out the Insurance planet in the Moneyverse.) There are different kinds of car insurance available, with different levels of protection.

The most important insurance to have is compulsory third party (CTP) insurance, which is mandatory in all states and territories in Australia. CTP insurance covers you in the event that someone gets injured in an accident involving your car (it doesn’t cover any damage to property). In some states, CTP insurance is included in the cost of registration, while in others you must purchase it separately before you register your vehicle.

While it isn’t compulsory, it is strongly recommended that you have third party insurance in addition to your CTP insurance. Third party insurance will cover damage that you make to other vehicles in the event of an accident. While we always want to drive as safely as possible, we also need to be realistic about the fact that accidents do happen! And, if they do, we want to make sure we’re protected from paying for someone’s new Mercedes!

Comprehensive insurance covers damage you make to other vehicles, and accidental damage you make to your own car. It also often covers theft and damage due to (some) extreme weather events. While it is more expensive than third party insurance, you should consider comprehensive car insurance if your car is essential to your work or lifestyle, because it will protect you from forking out thousands of dollars in the event that your car is stolen or totalled.

It’s important to do your own research about insurance options before you buy your car. You should insure your car before you drive it for the first time – this means before you drive it home from the person you bought it from. And be aware – many car dealers will want to sell you insurance and also add their own extra commission, but this insurance may not be the most appropriate or best value.

Petrol

Petrol is increasingly expensive – and the amount you spend on it per week will depend on how frequently you drive – and how far.

When completing your budget, you might first want to estimate how many kilometres you are likely to drive in a week – this will help you work out how much petrol you will use. Cars also vary in their rate of petrol consumption – so you might want to look up how fuel efficient your prospective purchase will be before you commit.

Service

You will need to have your car serviced twice a year to ensure it remains safe. Again, this cost varies depending on the mechanic you choose and the kind of car you have.

The mechanic will complete a detailed checklist, make all necessary repairs and inform you of what has been done to ensure the car is ‘roadworthy’, and in its best condition. This means that the cost of a service can vary depending on the work that was done. If you decide to sell your car one day, having a regular service history will show a buyer that you have taken good care of the car, and help you to get the best price you can.

Tyres

In addition to twice yearly services, you will also need to make sure the tyres are safe – and replace them when they become worn out.

Roadside assistance

If your car breaks down, and you need assistance and/or a tow, you can contact a roadside assistance service. Typically, you pay a yearly fee for roadside assistance, which means you can call the service in the event of a breakdown and receive help promptly.

Toll roads and parking

Sometimes getting where you need to go will incur additional fees – in many cities in Australia, some bigger roads and highways cost a fee to use, and parking in the centre of the city may also cost money.

Fines!

While you shouldn’t expect to be paying fines, it’s important to be aware and realistic about the fact that they might happen! It’s a good idea to have some money set aside for emergencies – both car emergencies and other emergencies! That way, if the unexpected happens, it won’t completely throw your rocket off course.

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Did you know?

Electric vehicles are fast becoming an affordable option for young drivers. If you want to move away from petrol cars for environmental reasons, the growing range of electric cars being sold in Australia means that you now have a choice when buying an efficient small car.

It’s also becoming cheaper and easier to run an electric car: charging stations are being installed in very large numbers across towns and regional areas, which means that a charger is never far away. Car mechanics are also being trained to service and repair electric vehicles.

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Alex wants a car. It’s as simple as that. They’ve passed their driving test, and everyone says they’re a good driver – even Mum says she feels safe when they’re behind the wheel!

Dad says Alex will have to pay everything for a car – it will be theirs, and they have to be fully responsible for it. Mum and Dad cannot pitch in at all. So Dad suggests Alex do a budget to make a sound plan – how to save for a car.

Alex has already worked out what kind of car they can afford. There seem to be plenty available just now – second hand, but from reputable dealers. Alex goes to the Moneysmart budget tool and works out it will take them just 9 months to add enough to their savings to buy the car.

Has Alex forgotten anything? What questions would you ask Alex to make sure they can afford the car of their dreams?

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Explore Further

Youth Law Australia

Youth Law Australia also has a good webpage about young people buying cars. It includes useful tips on what to look out for when buying a secondhand car, and what to do if you encounter problems during the sale.

Cost of running a car

If you are looking for more concrete information (including cold, hard numbers) about how much a car costs to run, you might like to check out some of the following articles, which consider the yearly cost of owning and running a car in 2023:

What to do after a car accident

If you’ve had an accident in a car and are not sure what to do next, Financial Rights Legal Centre’s motor vehicle accident problem solver is a fantastic resource for helping you to work out your next steps.

Electric Vehicles

To find out more about electric vehicles, and the options available right now, head to the Electric Vehicle Council’s website, and My Electric Car.

Fines

Fines are not really ‘fine’!

What do I do if I get a parking ticket or public transport infringement notice?

Click to find out more about types of fines, and what you can do if you receive one.

P.S. – don’t worry, there are no speeding fines in space!

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Fines

A fine, also called an ‘infringement notice’, is issued if we are caught breaking the law.

The most common examples are:

  • Parking for too long where the parking signs display a time limit
  • Travelling on public transport without a valid travel pass or concession card
  • Not obeying a traffic signal while driving.

Depending on the type of fine, there are different ways we might receive the notice. It could be:

  • ‘On the spot’ – a good example of this is on the train, issued to you by a transport officer
  • Attached to your vehicle if you overstay, or park in the wrong spot
  • In the post – for example, if your car was photographed by a roadside camera, and the infringement notice has been mailed to the address where the car is registered.

Unfortunately, fines have to be paid. They don’t go away, even if you move house. If you just ignore it, it will become more serious and additional costs may be added.

It’s good to know that sometimes we can question whether we really are liable for paying the fine. For example, if you were not the driver of the car when it was speeding, or you had special circumstances for parking where you did (like an emergency). If you believe you have been unfairly issued with a fine or that there is a valid reason your fine should be withdrawn, you may be able to ask for the decision to fine you to be reviewed.

Read more about appealing a decision…

You may be eligible to appeal because of specific special circumstances. You can only expect to be eligible if you committed the offence, and can show that:

  • at the time of the offence you:
    • had a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness
    • had a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or a volatile substance
    • were homeless
    • were a victim of family violence, or
  • you cannot deal with your fines because of severe disabling long-term circumstances.

It’s important to note that you must provide evidence that there was a link between your special circumstances, and the offending behaviour. The evidence needs to be supported by a qualified practitioner or agency; a doctor, social worker or financial counsellor. For more information on what is required and how to apply, see the link listed in ‘Explore further’ below.

Although incurring a fine can be a bit of a shock, there is help to deal with them, or appeal in special circumstances. But we do need to act, as a fine will not go away! If you’re over 18, you can see your local financial counsellor to help you through the process. You can also phone the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Where the fine has become a court matter, the financial counsellor may refer you to a community legal centre for free legal advice.

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Useful things to know

If you have incurred a fine and you are able to pay, you must do so by the due date.

If you can’t pay, it’s important to contact the issuer of the fine straight away.

Ask about your options, such as:

  • an extension to pay
  • paying in instalments
  • Centrelink payment deductions via the Centrepay facility
  • doing unpaid community service, or personal development e.g. a ‘work and development permit’
  • getting a caution (for example, if you have a mental illness or an intellectual disability or are homeless).

Remember, there are also avenues to appeal if you do not think that the fine was valid. If you are in this situation, ask the issuer of the fine about appeal processes.

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Rasheed has been driving on a freeway that requires tolls to be paid. He can’t afford to pay due to some unexpected car repairs, and a dentist bill.
He doesn’t contact the toll company; he thinks it’ll be OK for a while until he can earn more to pay it off. Eventually a final notice is mailed to him which has extra fees added! His fine has increased!

If he doesn’t pay, or contact the company to explain his situation, Rasheed risks the debt being referred to the police. Rasheed realises he is actually experiencing ‘financial hardship’. He types those words into the toll company’s search bar. He finds their ‘hardship policy’ and a helpline number. He phones and has a payment plan set up, with small amounts that he can manage in his weekly budget. It’s a big relief for Rasheed.

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Did you know?

NASA was fined 400 dollars for littering in 1979, when a disused American space station called Skylab crashed to earth. Large pieces of metal debris landed around the town of Esperance in Western Australia, littering a large area. There was shock around the world at the news of all that mess! You can see the fine, and pieces of Skylab in the Esperance Museum. NASA didn’t pay the fine.

Do you think the fine of 400 dollars was enough!? How much do you think NASA would owe today, if we added all those years of late fees and charges!?

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National Debt Helpline

For more information about fines and special circumstances, or to speak to a financial counsellor, you can contact the National Debt Helpline here.

Note that where your fine has become a court matter, a financial counsellor may also need to refer you to a free Community Legal Centre.

Youth Law

You can access free advice and legal assistance from a great information hub called Youth Law: Help with fines

You can also phone: (03) 9113 9500 or email: info@youthlaw.asn.au

Your state or territory will have a webpage dedicated to the payment of fines and infringement notices. Find yours here:

Centrelink

Centrelink is part of the Australian Government’s agency Services Australia, which provides benefits to people in disadvantage. If you are a carer, a student or unemployed, you may be eligible to receive a payment.

Let’s find out what is available and where to search for help…

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Centrelink

There are all sorts of reasons why someone might not be able to earn enough money to live in our society. In order to cover basic living costs, they may need to access a government welfare payment from Centrelink.

Centrelink is a system, run by the Australian Government, that organises and provides financial help to Australians who are not earning enough money to live. This system is based on the idea that our government should provide assistance to those in our society who are experiencing disadvantage. Centrelink is a part of Services Australia, an Australian Government department that also oversees Medicare and other systems designed to help us. There are lots of reasons why someone might be eligible for a Centrelink payment – but not everyone is eligible all the time.

Centrelink is a complex system, and it can be hard to work out if you or someone you know may be eligible for a Centrelink payment. This quick list will give you a sense of who Centrelink can help – and the kind of payments that exist.

People who have unpaid caring responsibilities

If you are responsible for looking after someone who needs additional care because of a medical condition, disability, or old age, you may be eligible for Centrelink assistance.

To be eligible, Centrelink assesses how much care you are required to provide (and for how long), and your current income. There are two kinds of payments that Centrelink offers to unpaid carers – the Carer Allowance and the Carer Payment. The Carer Allowance is a ‘supplement’ that provides a top-up for unpaid carers who provide some additional daily care, while the Carer Payment is a larger ‘income support payment’ for those who provide constant daily care (and whose ability to work is more greatly affected).

People with disabilities

If you, or someone close to you, have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you from working, you may be eligible for the Disability Support Pension, or DSP.

Australians become eligible for the DSP at the age of 16 – before this, Centrelink may provide money to parents or caregivers to support the young person, rather than to the young person themselves.

Not everyone with a disability or medical condition is eligible for the DSP, even though their condition may prevent them from working (or working enough to support themselves).

The application process for the DSP is particularly complex. To help those who want to apply, there is an online resource, DSP Help, that will guide applicants and their doctors through what is needed. A link to this guide can be found in the ‘Explore further’ section below.

People who are studying

If you are doing tertiary study, you might be eligible for financial assistance from Centrelink. This is because Centrelink recognises that it is hard for someone to support themselves while they are also studying full time.

There are quite a lot of rules that determine whether someone is eligible for this kind of help – Centrelink will look at how much study you are doing (full time or part time), where you are living, and how much work you are doing. There are also a number of different payments designed to help students – depending on your situation, you might be eligible for one instead of another. Youth Allowance is intended for students (or apprentices) who are 24 or younger and studying full time, while Austudy is designed for students 25 or older studying full time. ABSTUDY payments and support are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and apprentices.

People who are looking for work

If you are currently unemployed and looking for work, you might be eligible for a Centrelink payment. You might also be eligible for a payment if you are temporarily unable to work due to illness or injury.

This kind of payment is designed to be temporary, and requires that you are actively looking for work. If you are in this situation, there are a few payments you might be eligible for – Youth Allowance is intended for people aged 21 or younger looking for work, or temporarily unable to work, while the JobSeeker Payment is intended for those aged 22 and above. If you are working only a few hours a week, you can still receive some support via either Youth Allowance or JobSeeker – the amount will depend on how much you are earning in the part time or casual work you have.

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Many recipients of the Centrelink payments listed above are also eligible for a Low Income Health Care Card, or LIHCC. Having a LIHCC gives you access to discounted healthcare and medicines, a concession discount on your electricity and gas bills, concession price concerts and film tickets, eligibility for a public transport concession card, and many other discounts that depend on which state or territory you live in.

While Centrelink is designed to be a safety net, it doesn’t provide assistance to everyone who is struggling to earn enough money to live. And for those who do receive money from Centrelink, they may not always receive enough money to pay for everything they need. Centrelink can be a divisive issue – many Australian taxpayers are unhappy with the way it works, and the amount of help that Centrelink gives others. Some think Centrelink gives people too much assistance – and others too little. However, it’s important to remember that the core principle is that Centrelink exists to help Australians – so, while it’s an imperfect system, it’s still worth exploring if it can help you!

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Useful things to know

If you think you might be eligible for one of the Centrelink payments listed above, you should apply! Centrelink exists to help Australians, and can help you if you are in one of the situations outlined.

If you are thinking of applying for Centrelink, here are some questions to ask yourself first:

  1. Am I eligible? What am I eligible for?
  2. How much will I receive per fortnight?
  3. Where is the nearest Centrelink Service Centre?
  4. How will my Centrelink payment interact with any other money I earn?

The application process can often be long and drawn out – you might need to call or visit a Centrelink Service Centre more than once. But it’s worth getting on to it as soon as you can – while your first payment will be delayed until your application is approved, you will be paid for the entire time between the date you applied and the date your application was successful.

In most instances (but not all), Centrelink will require an income and assets test to determine whether an applicant really does need Centrelink support. Centrelink also often requires that you lodge your fortnightly work history and income prior to receiving a payment – this ensures that your payment is adjusted to reflect any income you received during that pay cycle. It’s important to make sure your records are correct when you lodge your income, because you may be penalised for inaccurate records, and forced to return some of your Centrelink payment.

If you are currently connected with Centrelink, and either applying for or receiving a Centrelink payment, here are some guidelines to help you when you are contacting someone at Centrelink:

  • Record who you speak with at Centrelink
  • Make notes of what is said in the conversation with staff
  • Ask for a receipt number every time you communicate with Centrelink
  • Make copies of all documents you provide to Centrelink

If you or someone you know are receiving Centrelink payments, but you think there has been a mistake, help is available. Depending on where you live, your state may have a community legal centre that specialises in providing legal advice about Centrelink (in Victoria, this is Social Security Rights Victoria, and in New South Wales, this is the Welfare Rights Centre). If you are over 18, you can also speak to a financial counsellor. You can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Spike receives Youth Allowance while they complete their undergraduate science degree. They also do some casual tutoring to supplement the money they receive from Centrelink. Because of the nature of their work, some fortnights Spike gets only a few hours’ work, while others work a lot more.

In the lead up to exams, all of their students wanted extra sessions, and Spike worked triple the hours they usually do! When they reported their income to Centrelink that fortnight, they were informed that their Youth Allowance payment for that cycle would be only $11. Spike was shocked and a little disappointed, but knew that it was a once off because of the unusual amount of work they had done recently – and they knew that the consequences of not reporting the work would be much worse!

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Services Australia

While it can be difficult to navigate, the Services Australia website has lots of information about the payments Centrelink offers, and their eligibility requirements. Some useful pages include:

DSP Help

If you or someone you know are considering applying for the DSP, you should check out DSP Help. DSP Help is a free online resource to help people understand the DSP, and to help people make better DSP applications and appeals.

Legal advice

If you need legal advice for something to do with Centrelink, you can connect with a community legal centre. In some states, there are CLCs that specialise in legal advice related to Centrelink, including Social Security Rights Victoria in Victoria, and Welfare Rights Centre in New South Wales.

Little Dreamers podcast

For more information about Centrelink and other financial benefits for young carers, listen to Episode 8 of Little Dreamers’ Money Matters podcast, What financial benefits are you entitled to?

Young Carers

Young Carers are pretty special young people, aged 4 to 25, who take on extra responsibilities for a family member affected by chronic or mental illness, disability, substance use, or older age. They might cook, clean, or care for their loved ones in other ways, and it can be challenging to balance these responsibilities with school, friends, and work.

That's where Little Dreamers comes in, to provide a range of direct support programs and respite opportunities specifically for these incredible young people!

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Young Carers

Am I a young carer?

Let’s find out! Add a mental ‘check’ to the boxes that apply to you:

If you ticked the first two boxes and any/all of the other boxes, you are likely a Young Carer!

What support is available to me?

  • Fun school holiday programs and overnight camps
  • Help with your schoolwork
  • Group sessions to connect with other Young Carers
  • Leadership and personal development workshops and opportunities
  • One-on-one support and guidance for any life challenges you might be facing
  • An online community called the Dreamers Hub

How can I access support?

There are lots of free programs you can access as a Young Carer!

Head to www.littledreamers.org.au to find out how we can help!

Investment

Shooting for the stars?

Click here to read about how investing your money over time can make it grow!

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Investment

Once we’re earning money, we start making decisions about what we’re going to do with that money.

We will use some of it to purchase the things we need to live, like food and housing, but we also need to decide what to do with the money we don’t spend.

Many of us will put the money we save in a bank account, where it will be safe until we need to access it. But others may instead decide to invest the money they haven’t yet spent.

Investment is the act of putting money into something with the expectation of making a profit in the future. People invest money with the hope that the original amount they invested will increase as the thing they have invested in increases in value. However, investing is a risk – if the thing that someone has invested in loses value, they may lose all or some of the original investment.

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How investing works

People invest because there is the potential to earn a higher return on their money than they would get from simply keeping it in a savings account. For example, if we invest $100 in shares that increase in value by 10%, we would earn $10 in profit. Over time, those small gains can add up.

However, investments can also fail to grow and provide the benefits we hoped for. For example, if we invest $100 in shares that decrease in value by 10%, we would lose $10. To combat this risk, people often ‘diversify’ their investments, which means investing widely in many different things, rather than putting all their eggs in one basket.

Another important concept to understand when it comes to investing is the concept of compounding. This is when we earn interest on our initial investment, as well as on any interest that we’ve already earned. Over time, this can lead to exponential growth in our investment. For example, let’s say we invest $1,000 in a mutual fund that earns an average return of 8% per year. After the first year, our investment would be worth $1,080. In the second year, we would earn 8% on that $1,080, bringing our total investment to $1,166.40. Over time, those small gains can compound to a significant amount of wealth.

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What sort of things can we invest in?

There are many different types of investments that people can make, but some of the most common include term deposits, shares, and real estate. Each of these investments comes with its own set of risks, hidden costs and potential benefits. Sometimes, people choose to invest in someone else’s business venture, which provides the business with some initial money to help get it off the ground, although this is more risky again.

We’ll now go through some of the more common kinds of investment.

  • Term deposits are a comparatively low risk investment, and are not dissimilar to a savings account you might have with your bank. However, unlike a savings account, when you invest in a term deposit, you lock your money away for a certain amount of time (the ‘term’), and cannot withdraw or access it before the end of that term. In return, you get a fixed interest rate, which is higher than most bank accounts. The longer the term, and the more money you invest, the higher the interest rate. However, you need to be sure you won’t need to access the money you put in a term deposit before the end of the term.
  • Shares are higher risk investments, which means that, while the return may be greater, the potential for loss is greater too. When we buy shares, we are buying a small share of a much bigger company. When the company is performing well, our small share of the business becomes worth more than we paid for it. However, when the business performs poorly, our share of the business may be worth less than we paid for it. As you may have noticed if you’ve ever looked at the ‘business’ section of the news, companies are constantly changing in value – every day, the value of a company changes slightly from its value the day before. Ultimately, when we invest in shares, the aim is to sell them for more than we paid for them, but this means they’re often a longer term investment – meaningful changes in value happen over a long period of time, so we will likely have to ride the highs and lows of fluctuating share prices in the meantime.

Many people also choose to invest in real estate. This means buying property, like a house, either to live in or to rent out. Of course, this sort of investing can only happen when you have already saved a substantial amount of money. Visit the Housing planet to find out more about how buying a house works.

There are also a few other, less common investments you might have heard of, including cryptocurrency, racehorses, paintings, gold, jewellery and watches.

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Useful things to know

If you’re thinking about investing some of your money, it’s important to remember that investing always involves risk. Although not all investments involve the same amount of risk, there is no such thing as a risk-free investment. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the expected return, the higher the risk of losing money.

If you are in a precarious financial situation and considering investing some of your money, it is worth thinking about whether you can afford a bad return on that investment. Can you afford to never see the money you have invested ever again?

If you are planning to invest, here are some golden rules, borrowed from the MoneySmart website, that will help you remain financially safe and secure:

  • Pay off your debts first — pay off any loans, like a credit card or personal loan, before you invest
  • Have emergency savings — aim to have enough set aside to cover three months’ expenses, so you won’t have to sell an investment if you need cash quickly
  • Develop an investing plan — define your financial goals, risk tolerance and investment time frame
  • Diversify your investments — spread your money across and within asset classes to lower your portfolio’s risk
  • Keep track of your investments — review them regularly and make sure you’re on track

And remember, past performance is no indication of future performance – an investment may have made good returns one year, but this is no guarantee that it will continue to make good returns in the future.

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Josie’s dream is to open a café. She’s spent the last ten years working in other cafes and restaurants, saving money and learning the tricks of the trade, and now feels ready to make her dream a reality. However, there are a lot of start-up costs – she’s found her dream premises and signed a three year lease, but still needs to buy furniture, two coffee machines, cutlery… the list is endless!

Luckily, Josie’s friend, Seth, wants to become her business partner because he believes that Josie has what it takes to make her café a success. Seth has invested money in Josie’s business, which means Josie has enough money at her disposal to buy all the things she needs to open the café. Seth now owns a share of the business, and he hopes that, when the café becomes a success, his share will be worth more than the initial amount he invested.

Of course, the risk is that Josie’s business may fail – in which case Seth’s share will be worth less than he invested, and he will have lost money. Seth has considered this risk but, as Josie’s friend, he believes in her completely – even though she’s never owned a business before!

Do you think Seth has made the right choice? What would you do?

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Explore Further

Money Managed

For more information about the benefits and risks of investing as a younger person, including practical tips for how to start, check out the Investing page on the Australian Government’s Money Managed website.

Money Managed is a website providing information about money and finances to young Australians.

Scams

Scam alert! Look out! … They’re gaining on us! … Activate defense shields!

Scams are designed to steal money from us. They can happen to anyone – click here to find out how to be aware of scams and to protect yourself against having your money stolen.

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Scams

A scam is a deceptive act that is designed to cheat someone out of something. Most of the time, scams are designed to trick someone into giving their money away. Someone who scams others is known as a ‘scammer’.

Scams can happen in many different contexts – in person, on the phone, at school, within families – and especially on the internet. Just as the internet makes it easier for us to do lots of everyday activities, it has also made it much easier for scammers to find victims and to hide their own identities while carrying out their crime.

Scams can be incredibly clever and convincing – for example, it’s not unusual to receive a scam text informing you that you have a package at a local post office exactly when you are expecting a package! Well-planned scams are often designed to catch us off guard when we’re busy or distracted, or to tap into an existing feeling or obligation that we have.

The trickiest thing about scams is that they’re constantly evolving, and scammers always seem to be one step ahead of the rest of us, looking for new ways to make their scams more realistic and effective. By the time we identify a new scam and work out how it works, you can bet that scammers are already developing an even newer scam that uses techniques we’ve never even heard of. This means that it can be hard to distinguish a scam from something real, because scams are becoming more and more lifelike.

Scammers contact people via all kinds of communication and social media channels, including phone, text, email, and online messaging platforms. Some of the common scams that you might encounter include:

  • ‘Hi mum’ or family impersonation scams – in these scams, a scammer convincingly impersonates a member of our family in a text message, and pretends that this family member has an emergency and is in need of a quick bank transfer.
  • Online shopping scams – these kinds of scams include fake billing or false invoicing, which is where a website claims there was an urgent problem with our payment and asks us to pay again. We should be careful buying online, particularly when using websites we’re not familiar with, and should look out for fake offers of discounts or prizes.
  • False parcel delivery – a common scam involves text messages that claim to be from Australia Post (or other delivery services) – be careful when opening links in texts like these.
  • Gaming and gambling scams – scammers may make contact with us through gaming platforms, gaining our trust, before they indirectly steal both our identity and our funds. So, we should be careful when making contact with gaming partners online.

But these are just a few examples – there are so many more!

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Useful things to know

Although scams can be scary, there’s no need to panic. Knowing about scams and the techniques that scammers use can help us to protect ourselves. There are also some ‘golden rules’, outlined in the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams (which you can access via the link below), that we can use to help protect ourselves:

  • Be alert to the fact that scams exist. This awareness will help you to navigate the internet with caution, and to recognise suspicious activity
  • Know who you’re dealing with
  • Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails – delete them
  • Keep your personal details secure. Do not share your passwords or credit card details with anyone, and be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites
  • Beware of unusual payment methods. These include payment by wire transfers, preloaded cards and even Google Play, Steam, iTunes cards and Bitcoin
  • Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. Use password protection on your devices, don’t share access with others, back up your content and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information
  • Choose your passwords carefully. Make a password that would be difficult for others to guess – or, even better, use computer generated passwords and two-factor authentication
  • Beware of any requests for your details or money. Never send money, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust
  • Be careful when shopping online. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust.

Sometimes you might have been incredibly careful, and have followed all the guidelines outlined above, and you might still fall victim to a scam. Falling for a scam often has nothing to do with how much you know – or how smart you are – instead, it can happen to anybody! If you think you might have been scammed, here are some easy steps to help:

  • Tell family or a friend
  • Change your passwords
  • Block the sender. If you suspect you have been scammed, do not reply to the scammer and block them – this will stop more emails or messages
  • Call your bank. Remember that if money is taken from you, your bank may pay you the amount that has been stolen – however, if you have transferred money to someone willingly (even under fraudulent circumstances) it is much more difficult to get that money back
  • Report the scam to IDcare, a charity that assists Australians and New Zealanders whose identities have been stolen
  • See a financial counsellor (if you are over 18) to help recover money you have lost.
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Riley got a call from her mum –

Riley? Why are you answering the phone? I was just calling to doublecheck it wasn’t working.”

What? Of course it’s working.”

This wasn’t the news Riley’s mum wanted to hear – she had just been messaging another phone number, someone who said they were Riley. This Riley had dropped her phone in the toilet, and had asked her mum to send her $500 to tide her over until she could get a new phone and bank card.

The real Riley’s phone was fine – and she hadn’t received any money…

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Explore Further

Moneysmart

Moneysmart is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here are a range of useful pages on internet scams, including:

Scamwatch

Scamwatch, run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is a website that provides information about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

The ACCC has also produced a very useful resource, The Little Black Book of Scams, which offers practical tips for avoiding scams.

IDCARE

IDCARE is a charity that assists Australians and New Zealanders whose identities have been stolen.

Safe is savvy

For more information about online scams, listen to Episode 9 of Little Dreamers’ Safe is Savvy podcast, ‘Theft: How do I stop people stealing from me online?’.

What is debt?

I have dirty claws and dark, matted fur… Yellowing teeth and hot, putrid breath – I am the debt monster, and I’m here to wreck your rocket!

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What is debt?

Adults fear me but banks seem to love me! If you’ve ever heard a grown-up talking about me, you’ll have heard the quiver in their voice – is there anything scarier than those four little letters?

D – E – B – T!

But what is debt? What am I?

‘Debt’ refers to money that is owed and must be paid back. When you have your finances under control, debt can be manageable – you can work the repayments into your weekly or monthly budget.

But debt becomes scary when it becomes too big and you owe too much, or when something in your financial situation changes and you find you’re struggling to pay back your debt in the time you’ve been given to do so.

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If debt is so scary, why do people get themselves into it?

We often borrow money just because it feels so convenient. When we want to buy something but can’t afford to pay for it upfront, borrowing seems like a way of getting what we want without compromising. However, every time we borrow, we are actually getting into debt.

If you look throughout the Moneyverse, you’ll see that debt features across many planets and asteroids. Sometimes it forms part of a system that allows us access to something essential – like housing, a mobile phone, or even a university education! Other times, it is more dangerous, rearing its ugly head in precarious buy now pay later arrangements, or credit cards we’ve been sent that we can’t afford to use.

As you explore in your rocket, notice all the ways that borrowing and debt feature in our financial system. But remember – just because debt is normalised within our financial system, doesn’t mean that it’s ever without risk!

You’ll see debt pop up at each of the following destinations in the Moneyverse:

  • Banks
  • Bills
  • Buying and running a car
  • Buy now pay later
  • Credit cards
  • Hardship
  • Helping others to manage
  • HECS-HELP
  • Housing
  • Mobile phone plans and contracts
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But what happens when debt becomes a problem?

Borrowing and debt may be common elements of our financial system – but this doesn’t mean that borrowing money isn’t risky! If you, or someone you know, have a problem debt, a financial counsellor can help – check out the financial counsellor astronaut for more information, or call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

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Learn More about Debt

If you want to learn more about debt and the risks of borrowing, check out some of the National Debt Helpline’s useful resources.

Support for carers

Do you look after someone? Maybe your parents, a sibling with mental health support needs, or a relative or partner with a chronic health issue.

If you do, you are a carer.

Unpaid carers often overlook their own wellbeing while putting the needs of the person they care for first – but support is available. Click here to find out more.

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Support for carers

Do you look after someone? It may be your parents, your child with a disability, a sibling with mental health support needs or a relative or partner with a chronic health issue or age-related condition. If you do, you are a carer.

Around 11% of Australians provide unpaid care – including family members, friends and neighbours – that’s more than 2.65 million people. More than one third have been assisting someone close to them for more than a decade. It would cost Australia around $80 billion to pay for services to deliver the same amount of care. That’s a lot of zeros – ten, to be precise.

In many situations, care is provided by a number of people. The primary carer is usually the person with the main responsibility for the caring tasks. However, caring is often shared amongst a number of people, for example, parents, children, grandparents, and sometimes aunts, uncles and cousins as well. Anyone providing unpaid care is recognized by our community as a carer.

Being a carer can be challenging as well as rewarding. It takes time that might otherwise be spent on study, working or just having fun! Money can be tight, and being home all the time means the household bills are higher, and visits to doctors, hospitals and so on often involve quite high parking fees. Carers may find it difficult to juggle extra responsibilities along with their own needs, and may need extra money to make everything work. A visit to the dentist, an Uber trip to get home in time to take over… all of this costs money. And, at the same time, there is less time available for that part-time job.

If you are an unpaid carer of a family member or friend, you may often overlook your own wellbeing while putting the needs of the person you care for first. Support is available for you.

Recognising the value of unpaid care and the challenges that come with it, our community organises some carer supports. It’s not everything, but it may help – and if you are a carer, you deserve the assistance that is available.

Many people with a caring role do not identify as carers, and so do not benefit from the information, services, and supports they should have.

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It’s worth getting in touch

  • Little Dreamers: A wonderful organisation that supports young carers aged 4 to 25 with programs focussing on respite, health and wellbeing, social connection, education and employment and financial literacy.
  • Satellite Foundation: An organisation that provides support for children and young people where a parent has a mental illness or mental health challenge.
  • Carers Victoria: Carers Victoria is the peak body that represents all unpaid carers in Victoria.
  • Carers Victoria’s Carer Advisory Service is a free and confidential phone line that provides information, advice, and help accessing the range of carer specific services available to all Victorian carers and supporters. Call the Carer Advisory Service on 1800 514 845. This includes information regarding the Support for Carers program, funded by the Victorian government with local organisations providing respite and supports to Victorian carers.
  • Carer Gateway: This is an Australia-wide network of Carer Gateway service providers. Available to talk through what you need and help you to find services and support to help you. You can also call the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737.

HECS-HELP

I want to study at TAFE or university, but how will I pay the course fees? I can’t afford to repay a loan either. HELP!

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HECS-HELP

You may have considered that if you continue on from school to higher education, you are going to have to pay expensive course fees.

It is impossible to expect a young person to have many thousands of dollars ready to pay for their education. What can you do? To help young people pay for their study journey, the Australian Government has developed financial schemes, like HECS-HELP, to assist you.

Without any government assistance, you can be billed around $22,000 per year for a TAFE course, and an undergraduate university degree could be around $33,000! Most courses are three years of study!

Getting government assistance with your study fees means that many students have a HECS-HELP debt after their course is finished. This debt is carried through your study journey into working life.

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To put it in a bit of context:
Studying at TAFE or university is a very exciting time. Every young person has a right to continue their education and build skills and knowledge for life.
There are many opportunities available once you discover what you would really like to study, leading to a job you love.

It’s a great idea to talk to family or friends, including your teachers. Do you know someone who is studying a course right now?

Ask at your local library for helpful resources to define the skills you already have, and the things you enjoy doing. This will help you to plan a worthwhile study path to take you forward into a career.

Now back to HECS-HELP –

Depending on the type of financial scheme and the course you want to enrol in, the government may pay for some or all of your course fees. Fees left for you to pay may be allotted to a long-term interest-free loan, where you are only obliged to start paying money back once you earn over a certain amount.

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Glossary

The words for government financial support schemes, and how they work, can be confusing at first. Here are some words to get to know:

Commonwealth supported place, or CSP

If you enrol into a CSP, the government pays for some of your university tuition fees. You don’t need to pay it back. This scheme is for Australian citizens.

HECS-HELP

A HECS-HELP loan is interest-free, (although the value of the loan is indexed each year according to the consumer price index or CPI) and you only start to pay it back once you earn more than a certain amount; currently it’s when you earn more than about $48,000 per year.

If you are enrolled in a CSP, the government pays some of your tuition fees, and the rest would become a HECS-HELP loan, meaning a student can enrol and study their whole course without the burden of making any repayments. Any money provided through this government loan scheme appears administratively on your enrolment and course documents; you don’t receive the loaned money yourself.

FEE-HELP

An interest-free loan (indexed reflecting CPI) that you pay back once you earn over a certain amount. It covers the cost of tuition, but not your textbooks, laptop or accommodation. Any money provided through this government scheme appears administratively on your enrolment and course documents; you don’t receive the loaned money yourself.

Vocational Education and Training, or VET

These are certificate level courses, like TAFE, to get you job-ready.

VET FEE-HELP

The loan available to students at TAFE who want to study at diploma level or higher (it’s not available at certificate level qualifications).

Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY, Rent Assistance

While you are studying, you may be eligible to receive fortnightly payments through Centrelink. Eligibility depends on your age and individual circumstances. Find out more about these payments in the links below.

Unique Student Identifier, or USI

A USI is your individual education number for life. You need to have this number to be eligible for government assistance. If you decide to enrol in other courses in the future, you will need to use this number again. It’s always free to get one.

Tax file number, or TFN

A TFN is an individual reference number that is used to identify you in tax, employment, super and other government payment systems. You need to have this number when applying for government assistance. It’s always free to get one. In future you’ll also provide this number every time you get a job. Note it can take some time to get the number at first, as you will need to provide some I.D. documents.

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With any decision about committing to study, it’s important to know what you may have to pay for your other living expenses. Finding out what equipment you are going to need or how you will attend classes before you enrol is a great way to work out how much money you’re going to need during your studies.

Depending on which state you live in, there may be other state government supports that are available to you. And once you have enrolled, your new uni or TAFE will have lots of support services for new students. Ask about what they can offer you. Often there are grants of money and scholarship payments, especially for students in particular circumstances.

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Useful things to know

  • Are you eligible for a HECS-HELP loan? Refer to the information in the links below
  • HECS-HELP loans are interest free and, if you don’t earn above the repayment threshold amount, you don’t make any repayments
  • Once you earn over the threshold amount, currently about $48,000 per year, a compulsory repayment from your work wages begins. The amount increases as you earn more.
  • There are other daily living expenses to consider when becoming a tertiary student. Find out as much as you can before you enrol. Working too much to pay for essentials while you’re trying to study can be very overwhelming for a student.
  • If you are studying something that you find interesting and engaging, that will assist you in finding a job in the field you would like to work in. You might feel that your HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP debt is totally ‘worth it’. If you don’t think your course is assisting to achieve your goals, it may not be worth the debt you are accumulating.
  • Are there any student scholarships or bursaries available for the course you want to complete?
  • Are you eligible for any Centrelink benefits while you study? These benefits include: Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY. Find out if these are available to you. Students with complex circumstances (including those who study remotely, must travel from a remote location, have a disability, have carer responsibilities, or are from a culturally or linguistically diverse background) may also be eligible for other financial support, such as travel allowances and respite care
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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. To help you work out how much money you’ll need as a student, go to the MoneySmart Budget Planner for university study.

CSP and HECS-HELP

Here is a quick guide, developed by the Australian Government, about CSP places and HECS-HELP and how to apply.

Services Australia

Head to the Services Australia webpage for information about how the Australian Government can support you while you’re studying. Some useful pages:

StudyAssist

This government website provides information for students about government support while they study.

Universal Student Identifier (USI)

Create a USI here.

Tax file number (TFN)

Apply for a TFN here.

Headspace

Are you thinking about what to study, and the kind of job you would like? Here is a good place to start exploring.

Employment

Get a job! Earn money! Buy your favourite things, grow your confidence, and keep this rocket at a cool cruising altitude!

Click here to find out all you need to know about being employed - and getting paid!

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Employment

Almost every single person in the world will need to earn money to live. Employment is the word we use to mean having a job and earning money.

While making money is likely the primary reason to get a job, it isn’t the only reason – employment can bring your life meaning and purpose, can stimulate you intellectually, and can help you build connections with your broader community.

Many young people work a few hours a week while they are still at high school or uni. Part-time work can be a fantastic way to gradually get work experience, while also learning new skills and increasing your confidence in the workplace. The earlier you get a job, the quicker you’ll start earning money and developing financial independence.

Although we must work, we don’t have to dislike working – remember the saying: ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. We can factor in our sense of enjoyment and fulfillment when we’re choosing what we want to do as a job – it’s not all about money!

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Kinds of work

In Australia, there are rules about how much someone should be paid. The minimum amount someone can be paid depends on the person’s age, experience, the kind of work they are doing, and the industry they are working in. In each industry, the amount someone should be paid is outlined in that industry’s ‘award’ – this is a legal document that outlines rates of pay. However, some workplaces may also have an ‘enterprise agreement’, which outlines rates of pay and conditions of employment for that particular workplace – if you work somewhere with an enterprise agreement, it is the rates outlined in the agreement, rather than the industry’s award, that should be followed. To find out how much you should be paid in your job, you can use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s pay calculator (link below).

Employment is also categorised into different types: the most common types are full-time, part-time and casual. If you are about to start your first job, it’s important to understand what kind of employment you have, as this will impact your job security, and the financial consequences of taking a day off when you are sick or have caring responsibilities.

Full-time employees work an average of 38 hours each week, and are usually employed on a permanent basis or fixed term contract (this means their work is relatively secure). They are entitled to annual leave (a holiday!), sick leave, and carer’s leave. Part-time employees work less than full-time employees (that is, less than 38 hours each week), but have many of the same working conditions. This means their hours are fixed, their work is relatively secure, and they are also entitled to annual leave, sick leave and carer’s leave (on a ‘pro rata’ basis). Casual employment is a bit different: casual employees don’t have job security – instead, they accept a job offer knowing that there is no promise of regular and ongoing work. Casual employees are also not entitled to annual leave, sick leave, and carer’s leave (when they take leave, they typically do so without pay). Because of these uncertainties, casual employees are paid more than their full- and part-time counterparts.

Rights at work

If you have just started your first job – or are thinking about getting a job – it’s important to know about your rights and responsibilities as an employee. This will help you to have a positive work experience, and to feel respected in the workplace.

Everyone has the right to earn a living through work that they have freely chosen. As an employee, you have the right to:

  • Fair and equal wages
  • Safe and healthy working conditions
  • Equal opportunity for promotion
  • Rest, leisure and the reasonable limitation of working hours
  • Form and join trade unions.
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Useful things to know

Having a job and earning money means financial independence! Employment should mean that we have money coming into our rocket, ready to be spent or saved as necessary.

To make sure that this is happening properly, there are a few things we should ask ourselves:

1. What records should I keep and what should I communicate with my employer about?

You should keep a copy of your employment contract (this should tell you your award or agreement, and your employment type). You should also keep each payslip you receive from your employer.

Your payslip is a record of what you have been paid in a single pay cycle, including what tax (if any) you have paid, what superannuation your employer has contributed, and what leave you have accrued (you can find out more about Tax and Superannuation by visiting their planets in the Moneyverse!). If you aren’t receiving payslips, you should ask your employer to start giving them to you every time you are paid.

2. Am I being paid correctly?

Keeping records of your contract and payslips will help you make sure you’re being paid correctly. Have a look at each payslip and ask yourself:

  • Have all the hours I’ve worked been recorded?
  • Have all my penalty rates been recorded? (Penalty rates may apply when you are working on a Sunday, a public holiday, or after normal working hours.)
  • Has my superannuation contribution been recorded?

You can also use your payslip to make sure you’re being paid the award rate.

If you’re not being paid correctly (or your pay slip is incorrect):

  • Speak to your employer
  • Keep a written record of the hours and days you work – it may be helpful to email or text your employer with your hours each pay period
  • Use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s letter template tool (link below) to help you draft a letter to your employer.

3. Can I get Centrelink if I also already earn money?

The amount of money you are eligible to receive from Centrelink will likely decrease once you start earning money. There are helpful calculators on the Services Australia website to help you work out how your work will impact your Centrelink payment. You can also find out more by visiting the Centrelink planet.

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Fatima has just started working at her local supermarket. Because she’s still at school, she can only work one weeknight and one day on the weekend each week. Her roster comes out every fortnight – it tells her which days she will be working over the upcoming two weeks.

After two months at her new job, she notices that she gets paid a slightly different amount each pay cycle – when she works on a Sunday, she gets paid a lot more, and when she finishes late on a weeknight (her latest finish is 11pm), she also gets paid slightly more for every hour after 9pm. Because the amount she gets paid changes each cycle, she needs to budget carefully to make sure she has enough money for those weeks she doesn’t work late or on a Sunday. She also has to keep a small buffer in her account in case she is sick or has to take a day off to care for her brother – because if she takes a day off, her employer won’t pay her for the work she has missed!

What kind of employee is Fatima? Full-time, part-time or casual?

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Money Managed

The Australian Government’s Money Managed website has a section on working and getting paid for young Australians. It provides practical information about how to get and start a job, and has a useful page that will help you understand your payslip.

Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s pay calculator will allow you to calculate the amount you should be getting paid, including your base pay rate and any penalty rates you might be entitled to. It can also calculate how much annual and personal leave you have accrued.

If you want a record of your employment contract or payslips, or you’ve noticed an error in one of your payslips, you should contact your employer. This template from the Fair Work Ombudsman will help you write a clear and appropriate email to your employer.

Young Workers Centre

The Young Workers Centre provides information to young workers about their rights, and assists if they are facing a workplace issue.

Workmate is a chatbot powered by the Young Workers Centre that will give you quick answers to questions about your rights at work, what you should be paid, and what you’re entitled to. If you have a simple question about your employment, Workmate is a good place to start.

What to do if you’re sick but work as a casual

If you are a casual or contractor working in Victoria, you can apply for paid leave via the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee. Remember – to receive sick pay via the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee, you must sign up before you get sick – so it’s a good idea to sign up today!

Superannuation

Superannuation is totally super.

The Australian Government reserves at least 10.5% of your income from your job for your retirement. Is your employer contributing the correct amount?

Click here to find out more about what makes super so super – and how to make your super work best for you!

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Superannuation

Superannuation is a way to save money for retirement. You might think ‘Retirement?! That’s a whole lifetime away!’, but the truth is that it’s important to start saving for retirement early so that we can retire comfortably.

Luckily, in Australia we have a system that starts saving money for us: once we start working, it is compulsory for our employers to put some money away for our retirement each time they pay us. This money is called ‘superannuation’ and it goes into our ‘super fund’, where it is kept until we retire (or are given special permission to use it for an emergency). Our super fund should look after our superannuation, maintaining or growing its value by investing it.

The way that superannuation works means that we don’t have a choice about saving money for our retirement – the saving happens before we even receive our fortnightly pay! What’s more, the money we save early in our careers will increase in value over time because of compound interest – so the super we earn when we are 18 will have a greater value than the super we earn in our 50s. It can be hard to think so far into the future – and to make decisions that will benefit a version of ourselves that seems impossibly far away – which is why compulsory superannuation exists!

However, it’s worth noting that Australia’s superannuation system is not perfect. The amount of super we accrue is tied to the amount that we earn, which means that those who earn more – or who have been working for longer – will accrue more super over their lifetime. While on first glance that may seem fair, it also means that people who are unable to work due to illness, or parents (most often women) who take time off to look after children, will not be earning superannuation for the time that they are out of the workforce. Ultimately, this means that, on average, women have less superannuation than men (which means fewer options when they retire), while people who have been unable to work due to circumstance or illness have far less again.

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Useful things to know

When we get a new job, our employers ask what superannuation fund we want our super to be paid into – we can either nominate a super fund we want to use, or agree to use the default super fund suggested by our employer. It’s not at all unusual for a young person starting their first job to use the super fund their employer suggests. If someone has had multiple jobs, they might even have multiple superannuation funds.

Each super fund is different, charging different fees and making different choices about how to invest your money. As you become more familiar with superannuation, you may wish to investigate whether your current super fund is the best fund for you. It’s easy to change your super fund if you find one you prefer.

If you have a job, here are some important questions to ask yourself about your superannuation:

  • Is my employer contributing at least 10.5% of my income to my super fund? You can find this out by looking at your payslip.
  • How much am I paying in super fund fees? Depending on your super fund provider, your monthly fees may be eating away at the amount of super you have.
  • How many super funds do I currently have? If you have more than one, perhaps because you have had a number of jobs, you should consider consolidating your super to a single account. This will reduce what you pay in fees, and will make your super easier to manage.
  • Is my super fund aligned with my goals, values and line of work? There are a range of different factors to consider when choosing a super fund, including performance (how well a super fund is managing its clients’ money) and fees. Some industries also have industry-specific super funds. You may also wish to consider the kinds of investments your super fund makes – super funds invest in all kinds of companies, including those whose work harms the environment, and industries including armaments, tobacco and alcohol. If any – or all – of these investments don’t sit right with you, you may like to consider changing your super fund. To compare super funds in order to find one that suits your needs, check out the YourSuper comparison tool.
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Jessica has been working at her local juice bar for six months. She has been getting paid cash in hand, which her boss says is good for the business and good for Jessica – it’s all tax free! Then Jessica’s teacher ran a class on financial literacy, and Jessica learned about superannuation.

She realized that, if her boss wasn’t doing things by the books, she wouldn’t know how much – if any! – superannuation she was receiving from the juice bar. She was worried that she wasn’t getting paid what she was entitled to.

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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money.

For more information about superannuation, including how to consolidate your super funds, check out Moneysmart’s page on superannuation.

YourSuper

YourSuper is a comparison tool that will help you compare superannuation funds, fees and returns.

Little Dreamers podcast

For a clear explanation of superannuation, including tips for young people who have just entered the workforce, listen to Episode 5 of Little Dreamers’ Money Matters podcast, Understanding Tax and Superannuation.

Tricky relationships

I’m the captain of my money rocket… or am I?

Sometimes it can feel easier to make decisions that keep everyone happy, and don’t rock the boat.

Read here about what to do when things just don’t feel right.

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Tricky relationships

You know a relationship between family members or friends is ‘healthy’ when you always feel respected and safe.

What if you don’t always feel respected and safe? What if you have been saving for an important purchase only to find money missing from your account? What if someone else makes all the money decisions and you don’t get a say, but instead you just have to go along with it. Are you ever expected to rescue someone from a tight spot again and again? You may really want to keep things smooth, and avoid confrontation, but in fact these experiences are not OK!

Have you ever felt unsettled about money events or money decisions happening in your relationships? What was your ‘gut feeling’ at the time? It’s easy to ‘share fairly’ when everyone involved respects each other. But what if someone’s idea of ‘sharing’ is simply that you help them out all the time? Maybe they don’t ask or consider your situation, they just expect or even demand your help. Some people even go as far as to suggest that something bad may happen if you don’t go along with what they want. Perhaps the person does ask for help, but in a way that makes you feel like you can’t say ‘no’.

It’s important to take notice of how you feel, and acknowledge when things don’t feel right.

Being able to listen to yourself and trust your instincts is a healthy and important skill.

As captain of your money rocket, you should take sensible steps to protect your money and make sure all the decisions about it are yours – you have the final say.

Captain! – Conduct your rocket safety check!

  • Am I doing my own banking?
  • Do I check my statements regularly?
  • Am I confident using an ATM and EFTPOS?
  • Am I able to use internet banking or the banking app?
  • Are my passwords secret and safe?
  • Am I in control of online purchases?
  • Do I know where to go to get trusted advice or help?

You need to stay on top of things – it’s important to pick up any problems early! If someone else knows your password, or even if you suspect they might, then change it! Check your accounts regularly so you can pick up any withdrawals you don’t recognize or haven’t made yourself.

If someone wants you to borrow money for them to use, or to sign something, or to go along with a decision you haven’t been able to think about properly for yourself – STOP! You have the right to take some time to think. Seek out advice – you could call the National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007 or use the chat on their website. Their guidance is free, confidential and without conflict.

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Useful things to know

You need your money rocket to be in good order to take you all the places you want to go. Be aware that you may come across tricky instances that need investigation or expert repairs!

This may happen when someone disregards you and your needs, and makes decisions about your money. This can happen very quietly and slowly – so that little by little you find yourself losing control of your money rocket.

Regular safety checks are imperative! Captain, you must stay in control!

If you are conducting regular safety checks by asking yourself the questions listed above and things still don’t feel right, you may be experiencing financial abuse. If another person’s behaviour continues to make you feel disrespected and unsafe then you should take action. And remember, this can happen to anyone (and unfortunately, it does happen to many people). Remember the problem lies with their behaviour, not yours.

Financial abuse can include many things, like controlling and preventing your access to money, stopping you from getting a job, or forcing you to get loans you don’t want or don’t understand. Sometimes you might not even be aware that it is happening to you. This is because people who control others financially can often convince you that their way of “managing” money is for the best, They may also try to convince you that you don’t know how to manage money – and obviously, Captain, that is not true!

Remember – everyone has a right to feel safe and respected.

If you are ever concerned for your immediate safety or that of someone else please call 000.

Your community cares about you and your rights, and help is available.

Financial abuse

Domestic and family violence (which includes financial abuse)

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For the past week, Suyin’s boyfriend has been borrowing her car (again!) because his van has broken down. Suyin doesn’t know yet that her boyfriend has parked in a no standing zone and driven on the tollway multiple times (again!). She pays the toll bill monthly and, because it’s a direct debit payment from her account, she doesn’t always realise how much extra she is paying for his trips.

A few weeks later, Suyin receives some envelopes addressed to her. To her surprise, fines have been issued in her name, as she holds the registration for her car. The times of the fines indicate that they were issued during the week that Suyin’s boyfriend was driving her car.

Suyin would like to ask her boyfriend to pay the fines, and by the due date, because after that late fees will be added. She leaves the fine notices on the bench where he can read them, and brings up the subject of payment. He says ‘yeah, yeah, of course, I’ll get around to it’, but in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable in the pit of her stomach. She has already been paying his tollway trips for months now and he doesn’t seem to show responsibility toward paying them, or the fines. Everything has been going well and she really likes him, so it feels awkward when she asks him to pay, and she doesn’t want to ‘rock the boat’. As the due date gets closer, and her boyfriend has done nothing about paying the fines, she realises she will probably have to pay them herself.

What do you think is going on here for Suyin? Is it a good idea to keep paying for her boyfriend’s tolls?

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Mobile phone plans and contracts

My first mobile phone is my ticket to freedom – a portal to the whole world!

But what does this portal really cost? How much will I need to pay every month? And what about that contract?

Find out about the real costs of scrolling.

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Mobile phone plans and contracts

What’s the deal with mobile phones? There are so many ways to pay for them!

Having a mobile phone is an essential part of being an adult – it’s a way to keep in touch with your work, family and friends, and also a tool to help you navigate the world. Phones are often expensive, but there are lots of different ways to pay for them, depending on the kind of phone you’re looking for – and the budget you have.

Aside from choosing which phone you want, the biggest choice you’ll make is whether you want a prepaid or postpaid mobile phone plan. If you opt for a prepaid mobile phone plan, you will pay for your phone calls and data before you make them, which means you will only use what you can afford to pay for. If you opt for a postpaid mobile phone plan, you can use your phone as much as you like – and you will then be sent a bill for your usage at the end of each month. This bill also often includes a monthly instalment for the phone itself – particularly if the phone is the newest (and most expensive!) model. If you are postpaying your phone usage, you will have to sign a contract that locks you into paying for what you use.

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So what is a contract?

For lots of young people, a mobile phone purchase might be the first contract they’re asked to sign. But when you sign that contract at the Telstra shop, what is it that you’re really signing? What’s all that fine print about? Did you just unknowingly sign away your soul?

Sometimes we need – or want – to buy something that we can’t afford. When this happens, we might decide to purchase the item ‘on credit’, which means we pay some of the cost upfront, and agree to pay the money we owe in future instalments. A credit contract is a verbal or written agreement between a consumer (the person buying the item) and a provider (that’s the shop or seller). It outlines the amount the consumer has borrowed from the provider, the repayments that are due and the interest rate and fees. When you sign a contract, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions laid out in it – and these become your obligations upon signing.

But what does all of that mean? Let’s go through some of those key terms now.

  • The terms and conditions in a contract outline all the rights and responsibilities that both parties (that is, the consumer and the provider) have once the contract is signed. The consumer will need to indicate that they have read and understood these terms before they are allowed to sign the contract – most often, you can do this by ticking a box. Remember: it’s important that you understand what the terms and conditions of a contract are before you tick that box!
  • Repayments are payments that the consumer is required to pay back to the lender at regular intervals in order to settle the debt they owe. The contract will outline how big these repayments are – and how often they are due. Make sure you can afford the payment schedule as it is outlined in the contract.
  • Interest is the cost the consumer pays in order to borrow money (this is a cost on top of the amount of money they have borrowed). Interest is usually expressed as a percentage of the amount of money lent. The consumer most often pays this interest gradually, paying off a little bit with each repayment – but the overall cost of this interest can be fixed or variable. Fixed interest is determined in the contract and will not fluctuate over the term of the loan. In contrast, variable interest rates can go up and down over the term of the loan. If you’re thinking of signing a mobile phone contract, you actually don’t need to worry about interest – mobile phone contracts with telephone providers charge 0% interest. This means that we won’t have to pay an additional amount because we have borrowed from the phone company for the phone.
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Useful things to know

Entering into a credit contract allows us to take home an item that we would not have been able to afford upfront. While this is incredibly useful for expensive purchases that are essential for school or work – like a computer, for example – there can be risks too:

  • If we sign a contract, we commit ourselves to making regular payments for a number of months or years. It can be hard to anticipate how our financial situations may change over that time, so it can be risky to commit to large monthly repayments.
  • If our payments are late, we may be charged a fee (these are outlined in the terms and conditions), and these additional costs can get out of control quite quickly.

If we enter a two year mobile plan contract but then lose our job, we will still need to find another way to continue our repayments for the remaining two years. While it is possible to cancel a contract, this is accompanied by a large (and often unaffordable) early cancellation fee.

So when you’re choosing your phone, and how you want to pay for it, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help work out what phone is right for you:

1. What do you need your phone to do?

Think about the calls and texts you make, and the amount of data and kind of coverage that you need.

2. What is your budget? How can you afford to get a phone that does what you need it to do?

Depending on both your budget and your needs, you may prefer a prepaid phone over a plan. Simple handsets can be purchased using the prepaid option (for example, $30 per month) – this option is safer if your financial situation changes frequently, or if you don’t want to commit to paying off your phone for the next two years.

3. Do you really need all the features you think you do?

If you don’t think you can afford the phone you’d like, it might be useful to consider whether any of your mobile phone ‘needs’ may instead be wants – this can help you choose a more affordable phone and plan, which will reduce the risk of money trouble down the line.

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Josephine bought her first phone at the beginning of the year, when she was working five days a week and making a good wage. Now, she is in the middle of Year 12, and only works on Sundays. She’s fallen behind on her mobile phone bill, and decides she wants a different phone with a cheaper contract – something that is more within her budget.

Unfortunately, when she calls up her mobile phone provider, they tell her that she is locked in to her contract for another 18 months! It is her responsibility to find a way to keep paying her monthly bill.

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Explore Further

Moneysmart

Moneysmart is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money.

For more information about how to choose the right mobile phone plan for you, check out Moneysmart Choosing a mobile phone plan.

National Debt Helpline

For more information about your rights when entering a contract, see the National Debt Helpline’s page Know your rights.

And if you need help with a dispute about a mobile phone contract (and have already complained to the company), you can use the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s complaints line: 1800 062 058.

Buy now pay later

Buy now pay later! AfterPay! Zip! Klarna! Humm!
Get your stuff NOW, pay for it LATER!
But is it really that awesome?
Click here to find out why it can be risky business to sign up..!

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Buy now pay later

Have you ever made it to an online checkout only to be bombarded with payment choices? Options like Afterpay and  Klarna, promising ‘no upfront payments’ and ‘4 easy payments of $10’.

What they’re promising seems too good to be true – can you really buy a new mobile phone cover but pay nothing at all at the checkout? And if you do choose to use these services, is it really safe to commit to making payments in the future?

All of these payment options are known as ‘buy now pay later’ (sometimes called BNPL) services, which, as their name suggests, are a way of allowing you to buy something without paying anything upfront – instead, you can delay payment while still taking the item home on the day!

When you choose to use BNPL, you are making an agreement with a credit provider (that’s what we call the BNPL service you are using), locking yourself in to making repayments to them for the item over a set time. It’s important to remember that you have made a contract with the service, which obliges you to make repayments of the agreed amount at the agreed time.

If you have committed to a BNPL purchase, the service may direct debit payments from your account on the day that they’re due – taking money that you might have earmarked for rent, bills or other necessities!

BNPL services do not charge interest, which means you won’t pay more for your purchase because you’re putting off payment (this is often what happens when you use a credit card). However, if you don’t make a repayment on time, your BNPL service may charge you a late fee that can be as high, if not higher, than the instalment you should have paid.

BNPL isn’t a scam, and is perfectly safe to use – as long as you have made sure you will be able to make the repayments at the times outlined by the BNPL service. It can be a fantastic way of purchasing essential items that you can’t afford upfront – but it’s wise to be careful because a single late payment can lead to you paying almost double the amount you had initially planned!

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Useful things to know

If you’re thinking of using BNPL, here are some important questions to consider:

  • Can I afford the extra repayments in my monthly budget?
  • When will I finish the repayments?
  • Is my financial situation likely to change in the next few months? If it
    does, will I still be able to afford the repayments?
  • How much are the fees if I am late to make a payment? How likely is it
    that I won’t be able to make a payment?

Some other important things to consider:

  • Each BNPL provider may have different fees. Check what you are signing up for – fees can include establishment and monthly fees, late fees, and different payment amounts and lengths of payment plans.
  • Delaying payment for any purchase can be a risk! It’s important to remember that whatever we don’t pay now we will pay in the future – and we can’t always anticipate what the future will look like! Our financial situation may change – our employer may reduce our shifts, or we may need to reduce work to focus on our studies – and these sorts of changes can have a huge impact on whether or not we will be able to make our repayments.
  • Where can I get advice or help? Unfortunately, BNPL providers are not banks, and do not need to comply with banking regulations. Consumers have limited rights to complain about difficulties and poor conduct. This means that there is little that can be done if you think you have entered an unreasonable or unrealistic credit contract. But some helpful steps for you:
  1. Tell a trusted family member or friend
  2. Cancel your arrangement with the BNPL provider
  3. Seek free advice from the National Debt Helpline

Veronica has had her eye on one particular skirt for months now, but it’s way too expensive. But, with the Black Friday sales coming up, she thinks she might almost be able to afford it. Almost.

Veronica thinks that, with buy now pay later, she could buy the skirt when it’s on sale, pay nothing, then pay it off in bite-sized chunks. $10 every two weeks sounds like nothing! It will only take her (she does the sum in her head) … what, 6 months to pay it off! That’s not so long! And she won’t even notice the money coming out of her account every fortnight.

Do you think Veronica needs to ask herself any more questions before she commits to buying the skirt?

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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. For more information about buy now pay later and how it works, head to the MoneySmart website.

Support for emergencies

Help is never far away!

Money emergencies can be very stressful. Find out where to get immediate assistance by clicking here.

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Support for emergencies

Putting money aside for emergencies helps keep us afloat – some people call it having a ‘rainy day’ account. But saving for a rainy day is not always an option.

When something unexpected happens, there can often be unplanned expenses involved – and it’s not unusual for more than one thing to go wrong at once! Fortunately, there are immediate supports for you or your family to access.

Before we get on to the help available, here is a massive meteor-sized warning: when you are thinking ‘It’s an emergency! I need quick cash!’ STOP and THINK before you rush into applying for a quick loan.

Under pressure, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that quick cash is the only option. Believe me, you may actually make things worse by borrowing money you don’t have.

Quick loans may be quick, but they hang around like a bad smell, with excessive fees, and expensive penalties for late payments. Get help from safe sources instead – and avoid adding to your money stresses!

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Safe options to choose in an emergency

  • No interest loans (NILs) – As the name suggests, a NIL scheme is a program that can provide an interest-free loan to individuals and families on a low income. They are designed to help with emergency expenses, such as repair or replacement of essential household appliances, urgent car repairs, some medical costs and more. Community organisations across Australia offer NILs, which means there is a good chance that there is a provider near you. Some of the bigger organisations include Good Shepherd and the Salvation Army.
  • Utility relief grants – Depending on what state or territory you live in, you may be eligible for a utility relief grant. In this arrangement, the government pays an amount towards what you owe on gas, electricity and/or water bills. These grants are available to people on low incomes, or with a concession card, who are dealing with an unexpected event, such as losing a job or something breaking down.
  • Centrelink advance payment – If you are already receiving a Centrelink payment, you have the option of receiving some of your payment in advance. The total amount you can receive in one advance payment depends on the kind of payment you are currently receiving. Once you have been paid the advance, you will begin paying it back over the course of your next 13 fortnightly Centrelink payments – Centrelink will automatically reduce the amount of your payment to cover the repayments. For more information about advance payments via Centrelink, click here.
  • Food banks – Food banks are places where you can be given a free meal or food pack. If you or your family are having trouble paying for essentials such as food, bills, medication, you can visit a local emergency relief centre. Community organisations across Australia offer various forms of emergency relief; churches or other religious centres may also be able to assist you with meals.
    • Anglicare emergency relief locations – click here to see a map
    • The Salvation Army emergency relief program for immediate assistance – for more information, click here
    • Foodbank arranges food delivery to relief centres. Click here to look up the Foodbank directory of relief centres near you
    • St Vincent de Paul (Vinnies) emergency relief locations and other assistance – click here.
  • Your local council office, Neighborhood House, or library is also a great place to start if you are looking for immediate assistance locally. They may ask you a few simple questions to determine the right service for you.

If your changed financial circumstances have put you at risk of becoming homeless, or you are in need of mental health support, here are some more resources that can help:

  • Ask Izzy – This is a directory that is easy to use to locate services like housing, a meal, counselling and much more – it’s a really good website to save in case you need to look for other support in the future.
  • Moneysmart – This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information. Moneysmart has a useful section for getting urgent help not only for money but also mental health, housing and emotional support. Click on this page for information and links.
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Build your financial capability

Once the initial emergency has eased and you feel back on track, you may like to learn about ways to manage your money, including building up your savings buffer for any future unexpected emergencies.

Here are some good places to start:

MoneyMinded Online

ANZ MoneyMinded Online is made up of a series of eight interactive activities that are designed to improve your money management skills. Click here for more information.

Be The Boss

Money Wisdom for Life (downloadable workbook) is a step-by-step 76 page guidebook that walks you through important money conversations and considerations.

You can download the workbook and then begin working at your own pace: www.salvationarmy.org.au/need-help/financial-assistance/youre-the-boss

Saver Plus – ANZ and Australian Government

Saver Plus is a financial education and matched savings program for families and individuals on a tight budget. Its aim is to assist participants in developing life-long savings habits. Eligible participants who complete the program have their savings matched (up to $500) by ANZ, which can be used for education-related expenses for themselves or their children. Click here for more information.

MoneySmart

MoneySmart is a guidance and support website from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Australian Government agency for financial capability. MoneySmart covers many topics and provides resources, including calculators and tips to help individuals make better financial decisions. This includes an easy to use budget/money planner to work out where your money is going. Click here for more information.

The MoneySmart website also has Money Management Kits in 15 languages other than English.

Credit cards

A credit card allows us to spend money at shops or online without needing any cash. Simply tapping the card, or entering the numbers completes the purchase.

But what about the interest charges and fees? It could be risky!

Can I really afford to pay the bill every month? Find out the real cost of your purchase.

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Credit cards

A credit card allows us to buy things without having the cash actually with us.

People often pay for things online, just by entering the credit card numbers and expiry date to complete a purchase. We need to be aware that when we pay using a Visa or Mastercard, we are also borrowing the money from the bank. We can have the item straight away and the credit card payment happens later. For allowing access to money on the credit card, the bank charges an interest rate, on top, which may be small, but compounds over time increasing the cost of your purchases. The monthly credit card bill details what has been bought and how much interest is accruing. It also tells you how much the minimum amount is that you need to pay.

Getting a fridge and couch ‘on finance’ directly from a big department store comes with similar credit card interest charges, and a repayment plan over many months.

Credit cards are a great way of making easy purchases, but it is important to understand that we are paying for items, later on. We need to be careful not to spiral deeper into credit card debt, which can happen because there isn’t enough money to pay the credit card off in full, or back to zero, and interest has accrued beyond our capacity to pay. All over Australia, there are people who find themselves in need of help with their credit card debt – in total, we owe billions! Yikes!!

You can calculate the interest payable on the link below.

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Useful things to know

  • We get to spend money on items at shops or online by simply tapping the card. You don’t need cash
  • We can use the card to pay for phone bills, subscription services and utilities
  • We can avoid the bank’s interest charges by paying back the money by the due date. This is called an ‘interest-free period’
  • We can set a credit limit amount on the card to avoid overspending
  • An alternative worth considering is a debit card. A debit card links directly to your bank account and only lets you spend money that you have
  • We enter into a credit contract with the bank with every purchase; therefore how much you can afford for an item needs to be carefully considered
  • There may be annual card fees and interest charges that make purchases more expensive than you first thought
  • The bank makes you pay interest for the use of the money you have borrowed. It’s usually a percentage of the total amount owed – this percentage is known as the rate of interest
  • We risk not being able to pay the bank’s monthly repayment amount. This could be for several reasons: your work shifts get cut, other expenses occur unexpectedly, or a friend borrows money from you
  • If we can only afford to pay the minimum amount required by the bank each month, it can take years to pay off the item we bought!
  • Losing your credit card, having it stolen or skimmed, means we could be hit with credit card debt from a thief’s unauthorised purchases
  • We need to keep a regular portion of income aside for paying off credit card debt each month
  • Have a think about your own ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Taking time, an hour or even overnight, to consider whether you need to buy items can help to prevent overspending online (splurging!).
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Dami applied for a credit card with her bank.

Today the card arrived in the mail, and it happens to be orange, which is her favourite colour. A booklet has also arrived: What You Need To Know About Your Credit Card. It’s got tiny printing and a lot of pages. Dami files that booklet away in her room.

She neatly signs the back of the card and slips it into the inside of her phone cover. Dami feels 100% ready to shop…

Do you feel comfortable going shopping with Dami just yet? What would you like to say to her?

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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Find out more about using a debit card instead of credit card here.

Moneysmart also has a credit card calculator, to help you work out how much interest you will pay over time. You can access it here.

Helping others to manage

Your rocket may be soaring, but your best friend has just put out a distress call!

Should you change course to rescue them or throw them a life buoy as you fly onwards towards your goals?

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Helping others to manage

What does it mean to ‘help someone to manage’?

When you care about someone, it’s natural to want to help them when they have a problem. This might mean making them a pot of soup if they’re feeling unwell, or giving them a lift to school if they’re running late.

But things can be trickier when money is involved. If a family member or friend finds themself in a tight spot – they lose their job, they’re struggling to pay off a debt, they receive an unexpected fine – they might come to you for help – or you might feel tempted to reach out.

Of course you’ll want to help someone in a difficult situation, but the solution doesn’t have to be just loaning them money! There are other ways to support someone you love who is experiencing a money problem. In fact, giving someone the ability to help themselves out of a tight spot can be empowering.

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Other ways to help

If someone you know has a money problem, you can provide them with information to help them find appropriate assistance. This might involve:

  • directing them to other safe ways of accessing the money they need
  • giving them resources to help them learn more about their situation
  • giving them the contact details of a professional who might be able to help.

The astronauts in the Moneyverse have information about all these support services – any support service listed that is useful for you will also be useful for everyone you know! Check out the astronauts Support for emergencies and Financial counsellors to find information that may help your friend or family member.

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Informal lending

But what if someone does ask you for money? Or you’re considering offering a loan to someone in a tight spot? Is it wrong to lend money to someone you know?

Of course not! But a word to the wise – loans between friends can lead to tension if both people are not on the same page…

People can have very different approaches to money and borrowing – and it’s completely normal that these differences exist! The way people have been brought up to view money can vary greatly – for example, some families might give weekly pocket money in exchange for chores, others may give pocket money for no chores, and others may give no pocket money at all! So, before you lend someone money, it’s important to have an open conversation about what your expectations for repayment are – and to see if they match the other party’s expectations.

Even if everyone is on the same page, there can still be emotional challenges when money is owed between friends and family – like feelings of guilt, shame and judgment. Bad feelings can also grow if someone comes to feel disrespected by the other party. Lending money can strain a relationship to the point of damage – and sometimes that damage can be beyond repair.

And even if everyone has the best intentions, it’s still possible that the person you lent money to won’t pay it back. To protect your relationship, it’s worth preparing for the worst-case scenario – what would happen if the money wasn’t returned? Ultimately, when you’re deciding whether to loan money to a friend or a family member, you should ask yourself ‘Can I afford it if I never see the money again?’ And then, perhaps, a follow-up question – ‘Can I accept it if I never see the money again?’ If you don’t think you’ll be able to move on in the event that your friend of family member does not pay you back, perhaps it’s safer not to loan the money in the first place.

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Useful things to know

So what should you do when someone you care about needs money? Should you loan them the money they need?

These steps can help you think through a tricky situation:

  • Assess your financial situation: Before agreeing to lend money, it’s important to understand your own financial situation. Take a look at your current expenses and determine whether you have enough money to lend. If you don’t, it’s okay to say no. If you do but still don’t feel comfortable lending the money, it’s okay to say no.
  • Consider alternative options: If you don’t think that lending money is the right choice, either for you or your friend/family member, there are alternative options you can suggest – check out the Moneyverse astronauts for more information.
  • Set clear boundaries: If you do decide to lend money, it’s important to set clear boundaries upfront. Discuss the terms of the loan, including the amount and repayment schedule. Put everything in writing to avoid misunderstandings later.
  • Don’t let guilt or pressure sway your decision: It’s natural to feel guilty or pressured when a loved one asks to borrow money, but it’s important to remember that it’s ultimately your decision. Don’t let guilt or pressure sway you into making a decision you’re not comfortable with.

Lending money to someone you care about can be a complicated situation, but by setting clear boundaries, being honest, and not letting guilt or pressure sway your decision, you can navigate the situation more confidently.

Julie’s phone rang – it was her friend Georgia.

“Jules, hi, have you got a minute? I have a question for you.” Julie sat down on the edge of her bed and Georgia went on. “I want to say first – I feel really embarrassed and awkward asking you this. And I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t really, really stuck. But – my car’s broken down. I’ve called a mechanic and explained the problem, and apparently it’s going to be about $750 to fix. Yeah, I know – it’s a lot of money. So the thing is – I’ve just paid rent this month, and I don’t have a lot of cash at the moment. I have $600 saved, which I’ll use – but that means I’m still short $150. And I just … I know you have a job – and I’ll pay it back in a month, I swear – so I was wondering, could I borrow some money? I’d wait until I had the money to fix the car, but I need it to get to work, and I’ll lose my job if I don’t go, and then I won’t have money for the car or for rent… I’m really sorry to ask.”

Julie felt sick. Georgia was one of the most generous people she knew. She was Julie’s only friend with a licence and a car, and she happily drove everyone around without ever expecting petrol money. And Julie knew that Georgia really would pay Julie back as soon as she could… But Julie didn’t even have enough money to pay her own bills, let alone someone else’s!

“That sounds so stressful, I’m sorry that happened,” Julie began. “Let me have a look and see how much money I have to help you out. I’ll call you back.”

Julie knew she didn’t have any money to give Georgia, but how could she possibly say no?
Feeling desperate, Julie opened her laptop and typed “unexpected expenses help melbourne” into Google. She trawled the results until she came across a website called Moneysmart. It had a short, clear list of helpful options for someone in Georgia’s position. Julie made a page of notes and then, when she was done, rang Georgia back.

“Georgia – I’m sorry, I can’t loan you the money. But I’ve found some information that I think will help you. Let me email it through to you and then we can talk about it.”

Explore Further

If someone you know is experiencing a money problem, help is out there! As a starting point, have a look at the astronauts in the Moneyverse Support for emergencies and Financial counsellors. They contain information about support services – any support service listed that is useful for you will also be useful for everyone you know!

Banks

“I’ve saved some money, but the glovebox in my rocket isn’t secure and I want somewhere to store my coins!”

“Would you like to open a bank account?”

“Yes!”

Clink, clink, clink…

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Banks

“Sign here. Three coins have been deposited into your new bank account.

Here is your BSB number, your account number, your debit card number, your telephone banking telephone number, your temporary PIN and your online banking temporary customer access number. You need to think of a strong password that includes letters, symbols and numbers.

If you have any trouble, you can call this number.”

“Uh, OK. Thank you bank.”

That’s pretty much all there is to it with banks!      … REALLY!?

Having a bank account for the first time is exciting, it gives you the freedom and responsibility to choose what to do with your own money!

But banks are not only where we can safely deposit or withdraw money, they are also giant complex companies known as “financial institutions”. The millions of bank transactions occurring every day actually keep the entire Australian economy working like a big machine. Together with all our contributions (however small or large), banks manage money, loaning it out to borrowers. The banking system is so big, in fact, that the government also loans money to banks. This keeps the banks buffered with enough funds to be able to lend to thousands of customers at any time.

People save money in the bank for many reasons; because of their budgeting requirements and living expenses, or to have a financial plan for life events in the future. People borrow money from the bank for many reasons; buying a car or a house are among some of the most common.

Banks also offer a range of other services like credit cards, direct debiting, PayID, insurance, instalment payment options (like buy now pay later), and large loans called ‘mortgages’ for buying a house over a long period of time. A bank can also invest your money in other companies and grow your wealth on your behalf.

We’ll now go into some of the ways that you’re most likely to interact with a bank.

  • An everyday transaction account is a general type of account for making deposits and withdrawals for everyday reasons. The account has a linked plastic card to use at the ATM, or to make EFTPOS purchases in shops. If you don’t have any money in the account, you won’t be able to make the purchase. Everyday accounts should be free from bank fees, and easy to use. If you get a job, your pay, or ‘wages’ can be deposited into this account.
  • Credit cards allow us to borrow money from the bank to buy things, without actually having the cash ready to do so. It’s not uncommon for your bank to encourage you to apply for a credit card, either by sending you letters or emails, or through notifications made in your online banking app. However, before issuing a plastic credit card, the bank really should take into consideration your current circumstances, and your ability to make the minimum repayments that you have signed up for. The bank will charge you interest on your purchases that haven’t been paid back in full. (for more information, check out the Credit cards asteroid in the Moneyverse!) Banks make a lot of money from credit card interest, so it works in their favour when you only pay the minimum amount, but not the full balance. It’s not really very responsible for banks to allow young people to have large credit card debt, but they do it anyway. If you have a credit card, you can ask your bank to reduce your credit card limit, so that you don’t get into a large debt.
  • Bank statements are a record of all the activity, withdrawals and deposits impacting your account. The result of this activity is called the ‘closing balance’, which is usually calculated at the end of a month. Checking your bank statement regularly means you will notice if there is any unusual activity (in which case you need to phone the bank straight away!). It also shows you exactly where your money is going. Do you need to think about your spending habits? Review your savings plan for emergencies? Adjust your budget to reflect an amount that is actually being spent? Reviewing your account activity regularly helps you to manage your money as best you can.
  • Bank branches (buildings) used to be on every main street. Now we rely more on ATMs and online banking, rather than going into the branch. But bank branches are still important to visit if you have questions, when starting a business, or want to talk about a loan. Being familiar with the people at your bank branch can really help when you need advice or assistance. (Your BSB number identifies a bank branch!)
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Useful things to know

Make sure you are getting the best experience possible when you do banking:

  • Banks rely on the authenticity of your personal identification. From the moment you take your identity documents to open your first account, write your signature, or use your fingerprint to open the banking app, you are proving your identity to the bank. To ensure the integrity of every transaction, and to prevent fraud, banks perform identity (I.D.) checks by matching your written signature, requiring strong passwords, requesting your secret personal identification number (PIN) to be used with the plastic card, or by two- factor authentication (for example, a text message is sent to your phone with a code number in it). You are required to keep passwords and PIN numbers secret at all times.
  • To avoid paying account fees, ask the bank to help you open a basic account that has no fees for everyday transactions.
  • Once you have one account, you can choose to open more. Give each account a nickname for example; Expenses, Savings, or My Holiday, so you can decide how much you want to deposit into each, and which one should not be touched! This is a great way to manage your money, and have a backup savings plan for unexpected expenses.
  • Direct debits (automatic payment you set up to happen regularly) can be useful but be careful setting them up if you don’t have a regular income. Fees are charged when the direct debit is rejected because there weren’t enough funds in your account.
  • Does your bank send you promotions about getting a credit card? Be aware that banks will promote credit products. You don’t have to sign up to a credit card contract. If you have an everyday debit card linked to your account, it means you’re only spending the money you have in your account, and not borrowing more money (‘using credit’) you don’t actually have. Having a debit-only card is the best way to stay on top of your money and avoid getting into credit card debt.
  • How will my bank help me if I get into difficulty? Find out what they can do to help:
    • If I have my wallet stolen
    • For safe banking while overseas
    • When alerting the bank to an unusual transaction
  • How do you choose which bank to use? Is it the same as your family or friends, or is it your personal choice?
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What does my bank do to help others?

Some banks give a lot back to the local community through programs for sports facilities or by awarding grants (money) to small organisations.

Do you think it’s important to see your bank helping others?

Safety tips for withdrawing cash, or using online banking
  • Never tell anyone your PIN, or share your password – this is most important
  • Never give your PIN or password to someone who calls you on the phone – even if they say they are from a bank. Just hang up.
  • Cover your hand when entering your PIN at an ATM
  • If you are using a public library computer, log out of your account and clear your search history.
  • Don’t post about your new bank account on social media!
  • If you are receiving your plastic card, or bank statements in the mail, make sure your mailbox is secure, and be sure to change your address with the bank if you move house.
Banknotes

The Reserve Bank of Australia looks after the intricate images and security features of our banknotes.

Check whether you have a counterfeit (a fake!) banknote here.

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Money Managed

For more information about getting started with a bank account, and the different types of accounts you can choose, visit the Australian Government’s Money Managed website, which has a section on banks for young people.

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here is a useful page about staying safe when banking, and how to avoid scams.

Tax

Tax is boring, tricky and gets people all worked up! What does it really matter to me anyway?

Hang on a minute!

If you’re paying tax, it’s because you’re earning money! (bucks, dough, cashola, pineapples) – does that sound a little more exciting?

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Tax

Have you ever wondered why people can get so worked up about tax?

Tax is money collected by the government from the money we earn. It is used to pay for services and facilities that the whole community benefits from, like:

  • a hospital that is built in your area
  • financial assistance for people who can’t work
  • a rescue helicopter
  • upgraded classrooms at your local school

This may not mean much to you personally, but all around us are examples of taxes being used to improve the lives of people in our community.

So why do people get worked up?

Put simply, the government decides how much of our income will be taken out as tax, and also decides how to spend it.

People want to know that the money they’re giving to the government is going to impact them directly, but the way the government chooses to spend our tax will impact different people in different ways.

Michael, who lives in the country, needs to travel over an hour every time he needs to see his doctor – so he would love to see his taxes spent on a medical centre in his town. Elizabeth would love to see her taxes spent on a solar battery for her whole street to share.

Read on!

The amount of tax a person pays is dependent on how much money they earn – so the more money someone earns, the more tax they pay. We can earn a little bit of money at first without paying any tax, but by starting a part-time job (with our tax file number!), soon enough we’re likely to start having tax taken out of our pay.

As an employee, our employer will deduct tax from each pay and send it to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on our behalf.

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In Australia, if we are aged over 18 and earn over $18,200 per year, tax will be charged on our earnings. The rate of tax increases once you start earning over certain amounts. Tax rates begin at 19 cents out of each dollar we earn, and then jump to about 32 cents if you earn over $45,000 per year, 37 cents if you earn over $120,000 and finally to 45 cents out of each dollar earned, for those on $180,000 per year and above.

The Australian tax system is a big beast and can be complicated, even for experts! If you need more information, always go to the Australian Tax Office website and click on the ‘Individuals’ tab to find out more about personal tax.

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Other tips for starting out:

  • Have a tax file number (TFN) ready, or an application for one submitted when you start a job. Employees without a TFN pay a much higher rate of tax.
  • You also need a myGov account that is ‘linked’ to the ATO (you might already have myGov linked with Medicare or Services Australia – in this case, you just need to link the ATO to your myGov as well)
  • You must lodge an income tax assessment (also known as a tax return) each year to record your income and the tax you have paid. You can do this once you have a ‘payment summary’ from your employer, which shows both your income and the tax they withheld over the year. Employers produce payment summaries for their employees in July, after the end of the financial year on June 30th.
  • After you’ve lodged your tax return, you might receive a tax refund. That means the ATO has determined that you have paid too much tax. Tax refund money is deposited back into your bank account by the ATO.
  • You may be able to claim tax deductions at tax time. A tax deduction reduces the income that can be taxed, if you can prove that you paid for expenses that you needed to do your job, according to what’s allowed by the ATO. You need to keep receipts in a folder, paper, or on the ATO app in readiness for tax time. Some of the allowable deductions related to your work expenses include car expenses, travel expenses, clothing, uniforms and self-education. For more information, head to the ATO’s website.

A further note of caution, now that you’re totally into tax:

There is a lot of tax ‘advice’, articles and clips on social media, but the advice may not be legally accurate for your circumstances. Always head directly to the ATO’s website, or download the ATO app.

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Useful things to know

Tax is something we all pay at some stage. It’s important to know the basics about the correct amount you need to be paid for the job you do, and the correct amount of tax you need to pay.

  • Check your pay slip to see how much tax has been withheld. You can access a handy online calculator from the government website Moneysmart to check that the right amount is being withheld
  • Create a myGov account and link to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Find out if you are eligible to deduct any work-related expenses from the ATO website
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Jono has started working at his local bakery. It’s his first job! There are some important tasks to do, for example getting a tax file number (TFN). He needs to complete the application and provide the documents requested by the ATO.

Even though Jono doesn’t have his TFN just yet, he can still work at the bakery.

Jono was given a tax file number declaration form on his first day, by his boss. The form allows you to tick the box to say you have applied for a TFN, but you don’t have it yet. Jono’s boss can take tax out of Jono’s pay at the correct rate for 28 days, while he waits for Jono’s TFN. Jono will notify his boss of the new number as soon as he gets it.

If Jono never provides a TFN, his wages will be taxed at a much higher rate!

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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

The Australian Taxation Office website has a lot of information about tax, including:

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here is a simple calculator that helps you work out how much tax is being withheld from your pay.

MyGov

To create a MyGov account, click here.

Hardship

Did you know that there is always help at hand!?

Systems hard-wired into our banks and services are especially designed to help when things get really hard.

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Hardship

If you or someone you know is in financial hardship, then you may have noticed they are feeling stressed, and are saying something like:

‘I just can’t make ends meet!’, ‘I’m stuck in the red!’ or ‘I’m in it up to the eyebrows!’

Money is mixed up in our lives in so many ways, so when something impacts us in life, it will likely impact our money situation.

The great news is that in our community, there are systems and structures already set up to recognise that people experiencing hardship need to be supported to get back on track.

By definition, financial hardship means you are having trouble paying bills or loan repayments when they are due. Financial hardship can also impact your ability to pay for everyday essentials like your home or rent payments, food, your essential bills, and health needs. It can happen to anyone, and often quite unexpectedly.

So even if you are having trouble, you still have rights and you can access help – just like anyone else. There are also laws in place to protect you, and to make sure that banks, and other companies you may owe money to, treat you respectfully and help you to find a way forward.

An example of a system designed to help is the bank hardship assistance department. Did you know that every bank has a hardship assistance team who are there to help you if you are falling behind with payments? You just have to ask, and you can be connected to a helpful team member. Read below to find out more about other examples of assistance.

Here are some reasons that may cause someone to be in financial hardship
  • Having to manage through a natural disaster like flood or fire in your area
  • Falling off your bike and suddenly being unable to earn money
  • Moving to a new location where it’s harder to find a job
  • Having to pay for things entirely on your own after a friend leaves
  • Investing money in a business that doesn’t succeed
  • Having your money stolen by a scammer or false identity
  • Having expensive household bills because you are caring for someone with particular needs.
  • An unexpected change to your circumstances.
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I am in financial hardship, what rights do I have with my bank?

  • All banks have a special team called a ‘financial hardship assistance team’, who are there to help you. You have the right to ask about your options, like extra time to pay, or a repayment plan. The bank’s team will treat you respectfully, and help you find ways to manage and meet your obligations.

I am in financial hardship, what rights do I have with a debt collection agency?

  • If you didn’t pay your bill for a long time, the company you owe may have sent the debt to a debt collection agency. You have the right to be treated respectfully by debt collection agencies – this includes the right to speak to their hardship assistance department. There are also rules around how often a debt collector can text, phone, email or write to you.

I am in financial hardship, what rights do I have with my utility company?

  • If you owe money to a gas, electricity or water company, they also have a ‘financial hardship assistance team’. You just have to state that you are in hardship and need to speak to them about your options. They can make an arrangement with you to pay off the debt in instalments, make sure you are on the best deal and receive any concessions you are eligible for, and can help you to keep up with paying for your current usage.

If you think you may be in financial hardship, or if you are having trouble with banks, debt collectors or other companies, a financial counsellor can help you.

Check out our Moneyverse astronaut Financial counsellors to read about what they do!

If you need more urgent support for food or other daily essentials, check out our Moneyverse doggy astronaut Support for emergencies

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Explore Further

National Debt Helpline

To speak to a financial counsellor you can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or visit www.ndh.org.au to use the chat service.

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. You can visit the Moneysmart website to learn more about managing while in financial hardship.

Financial Wellbeing

Financial wellbeing is the opposite of financial hardship.

Financial wellbeing means having enough money for today, extra money saved for unexpected expenses, and money saved for our future plans.

So how much money do I need to stay financially healthy?

As a starting point, it’s a good idea to be prepared for unexpected events. While that can be difficult to put a sum of money on, start by setting up a savings buffer, or a ‘rainy day’ account.

Think about how an unexpected event may impact you. For example, if you pay rent, you need to avoid falling behind if something happens and you have unexpected expenses or need to take time off work.

Having at least one month of rent always set aside as a buffer, is a great way to avoid some of the impact of unexpected financial hardship.

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Banks
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Banks

“Sign here. Three coins have been deposited into your new bank account.

Here is your BSB number, your account number, your debit card number, your telephone banking telephone number, your temporary PIN and your online banking temporary customer access number. You need to think of a strong password that includes letters, symbols and numbers.

If you have any trouble, you can call this number.”

“Uh, OK. Thank you bank.”

That’s pretty much all there is to it with banks!      … REALLY!?

Having a bank account for the first time is exciting, it gives you the freedom and responsibility to choose what to do with your own money!

But banks are not only where we can safely deposit or withdraw money, they are also giant complex companies known as “financial institutions”. The millions of bank transactions occurring every day actually keep the entire Australian economy working like a big machine. Together with all our contributions (however small or large), banks manage money, loaning it out to borrowers. The banking system is so big, in fact, that the government also loans money to banks. This keeps the banks buffered with enough funds to be able to lend to thousands of customers at any time.

People save money in the bank for many reasons; because of their budgeting requirements and living expenses, or to have a financial plan for life events in the future. People borrow money from the bank for many reasons; buying a car or a house are among some of the most common.

Banks also offer a range of other services like credit cards, direct debiting, PayID, insurance, instalment payment options (like buy now pay later), and large loans called ‘mortgages’ for buying a house over a long period of time. A bank can also invest your money in other companies and grow your wealth on your behalf.

We’ll now go into some of the ways that you’re most likely to interact with a bank.

  • An everyday transaction account is a general type of account for making deposits and withdrawals for everyday reasons. The account has a linked plastic card to use at the ATM, or to make EFTPOS purchases in shops. If you don’t have any money in the account, you won’t be able to make the purchase. Everyday accounts should be free from bank fees, and easy to use. If you get a job, your pay, or ‘wages’ can be deposited into this account.
  • Credit cards allow us to borrow money from the bank to buy things, without actually having the cash ready to do so. It’s not uncommon for your bank to encourage you to apply for a credit card, either by sending you letters or emails, or through notifications made in your online banking app. However, before issuing a plastic credit card, the bank really should take into consideration your current circumstances, and your ability to make the minimum repayments that you have signed up for. The bank will charge you interest on your purchases that haven’t been paid back in full. (for more information, check out the Credit cards asteroid in the Moneyverse!) Banks make a lot of money from credit card interest, so it works in their favour when you only pay the minimum amount, but not the full balance. It’s not really very responsible for banks to allow young people to have large credit card debt, but they do it anyway. If you have a credit card, you can ask your bank to reduce your credit card limit, so that you don’t get into a large debt.
  • Bank statements are a record of all the activity, withdrawals and deposits impacting your account. The result of this activity is called the ‘closing balance’, which is usually calculated at the end of a month. Checking your bank statement regularly means you will notice if there is any unusual activity (in which case you need to phone the bank straight away!). It also shows you exactly where your money is going. Do you need to think about your spending habits? Review your savings plan for emergencies? Adjust your budget to reflect an amount that is actually being spent? Reviewing your account activity regularly helps you to manage your money as best you can.
  • Bank branches (buildings) used to be on every main street. Now we rely more on ATMs and online banking, rather than going into the branch. But bank branches are still important to visit if you have questions, when starting a business, or want to talk about a loan. Being familiar with the people at your bank branch can really help when you need advice or assistance. (Your BSB number identifies a bank branch!)
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Useful things to know

Make sure you are getting the best experience possible when you do banking:

  • Banks rely on the authenticity of your personal identification. From the moment you take your identity documents to open your first account, write your signature, or use your fingerprint to open the banking app, you are proving your identity to the bank. To ensure the integrity of every transaction, and to prevent fraud, banks perform identity (I.D.) checks by matching your written signature, requiring strong passwords, requesting your secret personal identification number (PIN) to be used with the plastic card, or by two- factor authentication (for example, a text message is sent to your phone with a code number in it). You are required to keep passwords and PIN numbers secret at all times.
  • To avoid paying account fees, ask the bank to help you open a basic account that has no fees for everyday transactions.
  • Once you have one account, you can choose to open more. Give each account a nickname for example; Expenses, Savings, or My Holiday, so you can decide how much you want to deposit into each, and which one should not be touched! This is a great way to manage your money, and have a backup savings plan for unexpected expenses.
  • Direct debits (automatic payment you set up to happen regularly) can be useful but be careful setting them up if you don’t have a regular income. Fees are charged when the direct debit is rejected because there weren’t enough funds in your account.
  • Does your bank send you promotions about getting a credit card? Be aware that banks will promote credit products. You don’t have to sign up to a credit card contract. If you have an everyday debit card linked to your account, it means you’re only spending the money you have in your account, and not borrowing more money (‘using credit’) you don’t actually have. Having a debit-only card is the best way to stay on top of your money and avoid getting into credit card debt.
  • How will my bank help me if I get into difficulty? Find out what they can do to help:
    • If I have my wallet stolen
    • For safe banking while overseas
    • When alerting the bank to an unusual transaction
  • How do you choose which bank to use? Is it the same as your family or friends, or is it your personal choice?
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What does my bank do to help others?

Some banks give a lot back to the local community through programs for sports facilities or by awarding grants (money) to small organisations.

Do you think it’s important to see your bank helping others?

Safety tips for withdrawing cash, or using online banking
  • Never tell anyone your PIN, or share your password – this is most important
  • Never give your PIN or password to someone who calls you on the phone – even if they say they are from a bank. Just hang up.
  • Cover your hand when entering your PIN at an ATM
  • If you are using a public library computer, log out of your account and clear your search history.
  • Don’t post about your new bank account on social media!
  • If you are receiving your plastic card, or bank statements in the mail, make sure your mailbox is secure, and be sure to change your address with the bank if you move house.
Banknotes

The Reserve Bank of Australia looks after the intricate images and security features of our banknotes.

Check whether you have a counterfeit (a fake!) banknote here.

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Money Managed

For more information about getting started with a bank account, and the different types of accounts you can choose, visit the Australian Government’s Money Managed website, which has a section on banks for young people.

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here is a useful page about staying safe when banking, and how to avoid scams.

Bills
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Bills

You probably already know a bit about your household bills
They’re a record of what we need to pay to a company because we have been using what they’ve supplied us. Gas, electricity and water bills are some of the most common, and these are known as utilities, so you might have heard the term ‘utility bills’.
You need to pay the bill by the due date, to avoid extra charges or any interruption to the supply.

Utility bills may have a small extra charge if you receive a printed paper bill delivered in the post. There may be a discount applied if you paid on time, or have a Centrelink concession card linked to the bill. It’s a good idea to locate these added items printed on your bill. If you are paying any extra charges, the company may provide a way to reduce them, like paying early, or getting an electronic bill instead of paper.

Have you ever read your electricity bill with a magnifying glass!? There is a lot of information on a utility bill and some of the most useful info is actually in the tiniest print.

Look out for:

  • The number to call to ask about a cheaper rate – note! – the retailer must tell you if they have a better deal for your household, so it’s worth asking!
  • The number to call if you need to explain that you’re having trouble paying. You can ask about paying in smaller amounts, or by a later date, or about reducing your overdue bill with a ‘utility relief grant’
  • How to add a concession card number for discounted rates
  • How to pay over the phone if you don’t have access to a computer or online banking
  • The number to call if you need an interpreter to help you talk about getting a better deal from the company

Don’t forget that the utility retailer will also have lots of useful information on their website about reading and understanding your bill. There are also great tips on how to reduce your usage, especially in very hot or cold weather.

Even if your name is not on the bill, you can do things to help reduce the usage and lower the bill; every bit helps.

Did you know?

Electricity usage is displayed on a meter at your house and is charged on your bill in cents for each kilowatt hour.

On an electricity bill, you can see service charges are also added for the supply of electricity to your house from the street.

Useful things to know

Tips to help you manage your bills:

  • Be aware that you may not be the account holder named on the bill, which means you are not authorised to speak to the retailer about the bill
  • Having your name on the bill means you are responsible for paying on time, or making arrangements to pay. It also means that, if you have one, it’s your concession card that can be used to get a lower rate
  • You can make a difference to the size of the bill by reducing your usage
  • Not paying your bill risks disconnection of the service. Always make contact with the retailer even if you know you are unable to pay. It may be expensive to reconnect services so finding a solution is always the best option before a disconnection happens. A financial counsellor can also help
  • Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 to speak to a financial counsellor if you have received a Disconnection notice

If you are unable to pay the whole bill by the due date in one lump, you can ask your retailer about paying in smaller, more regular amounts. This is called bill smoothing. The water or energy retailer may look at your costs over a full year and work out a payment plan for you, which could be an amount due each fortnight or each month.

If you have your bills on file, you could work this out yourself!

Take the total of a whole year of bills (check your billing period dates – for example, a whole year would be four quarterly electricity bills!) Divide your grand yearly total by 26 to see what your electricity costs are on average each fortnight. Arrange to pay that amount fortnightly, or simply keep putting it aside in a separate account, ready and saved up.

Did you know?

If you have a power outage (a blackout), the supplier of electricity will be fixing the problem and updating you on the situation. They are the company that actually supplies electricity via the wires and poles. The company who sends the bill is known as the electricity retailer.

What is an ombudsman?

An ombudsman is a bit like your friend’s mum, or your favourite umpire – totally cool, calm and collected, and really good at getting things sorted out peacefully when the kids get into an argument.

If you are the account holder, and you have a problem with your water, gas or electricity retailer, or an ongoing problem with your bill, you first need to speak to your utility retailer. However, if the problem is just not getting fixed in the way that you thought, you can speak to the energy and water ombudsman.

They listen to your problem, and then go to the retailer and listen to them too. The ombudsman will make an assessment and tell you how they are going to sort out the issue efficiently and fairly for everyone.

There are ombudsman organisations for energy and water, telecommunications (TIO) and even banks (AFCA). It’s good to know how to contact the energy and water ombudsman in your state.

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There are a range of concessions and discounts available to people, depending on your circumstances and where you live. Call the utility company first, however if you are having difficulty in obtaining utilities concessions or grants, and believe you are eligible, a financial counsellor may be able to help you.

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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here are some useful Moneysmart pages about bills:

Buy now pay later
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Buy now pay later

Have you ever made it to an online checkout only to be bombarded with payment choices? Options like Afterpay and  Klarna, promising ‘no upfront payments’ and ‘4 easy payments of $10’.

What they’re promising seems too good to be true – can you really buy a new mobile phone cover but pay nothing at all at the checkout? And if you do choose to use these services, is it really safe to commit to making payments in the future?

All of these payment options are known as ‘buy now pay later’ (sometimes called BNPL) services, which, as their name suggests, are a way of allowing you to buy something without paying anything upfront – instead, you can delay payment while still taking the item home on the day!

When you choose to use BNPL, you are making an agreement with a credit provider (that’s what we call the BNPL service you are using), locking yourself in to making repayments to them for the item over a set time. It’s important to remember that you have made a contract with the service, which obliges you to make repayments of the agreed amount at the agreed time.

If you have committed to a BNPL purchase, the service may direct debit payments from your account on the day that they’re due – taking money that you might have earmarked for rent, bills or other necessities!

BNPL services do not charge interest, which means you won’t pay more for your purchase because you’re putting off payment (this is often what happens when you use a credit card). However, if you don’t make a repayment on time, your BNPL service may charge you a late fee that can be as high, if not higher, than the instalment you should have paid.

BNPL isn’t a scam, and is perfectly safe to use – as long as you have made sure you will be able to make the repayments at the times outlined by the BNPL service. It can be a fantastic way of purchasing essential items that you can’t afford upfront – but it’s wise to be careful because a single late payment can lead to you paying almost double the amount you had initially planned!

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Useful things to know

If you’re thinking of using BNPL, here are some important questions to consider:

  • Can I afford the extra repayments in my monthly budget?
  • When will I finish the repayments?
  • Is my financial situation likely to change in the next few months? If it
    does, will I still be able to afford the repayments?
  • How much are the fees if I am late to make a payment? How likely is it
    that I won’t be able to make a payment?

Some other important things to consider:

  • Each BNPL provider may have different fees. Check what you are signing up for – fees can include establishment and monthly fees, late fees, and different payment amounts and lengths of payment plans.
  • Delaying payment for any purchase can be a risk! It’s important to remember that whatever we don’t pay now we will pay in the future – and we can’t always anticipate what the future will look like! Our financial situation may change – our employer may reduce our shifts, or we may need to reduce work to focus on our studies – and these sorts of changes can have a huge impact on whether or not we will be able to make our repayments.
  • Where can I get advice or help? Unfortunately, BNPL providers are not banks, and do not need to comply with banking regulations. Consumers have limited rights to complain about difficulties and poor conduct. This means that there is little that can be done if you think you have entered an unreasonable or unrealistic credit contract. But some helpful steps for you:
  1. Tell a trusted family member or friend
  2. Cancel your arrangement with the BNPL provider
  3. Seek free advice from the National Debt Helpline

Veronica has had her eye on one particular skirt for months now, but it’s way too expensive. But, with the Black Friday sales coming up, she thinks she might almost be able to afford it. Almost.

Veronica thinks that, with buy now pay later, she could buy the skirt when it’s on sale, pay nothing, then pay it off in bite-sized chunks. $10 every two weeks sounds like nothing! It will only take her (she does the sum in her head) … what, 6 months to pay it off! That’s not so long! And she won’t even notice the money coming out of her account every fortnight.

Do you think Veronica needs to ask herself any more questions before she commits to buying the skirt?

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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. For more information about buy now pay later and how it works, head to the MoneySmart website.

Buying and running a car
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Buying and running a car

I want to buy a car!

Getting your licence is a rite of passage – and having access to a car can mean freedom and independence.

If we can’t borrow a family member or friend’s car to get around when we need to, it might be time to get our own. Buying a car of our own is one of the bigger purchases we make – perhaps second only to buying a house!

But if you’re thinking about buying a car, it’s worth doing your research. I don’t mean just working out what model you want to buy, but also working out the total cost of buying and running a car, and the best way of buying a car to make sure you get a good deal and reliable vehicle (spoiler alert – there are lots of lemons out there!).

When you’re looking at a car you’re interested in buying, it’s a good idea to take someone, like a friend or family member, along with you. They can be a non-emotionally involved ‘sounding board’ for you. It’s even better if they know a bit about cars (or if you do!), so they know what to look out for before you commit to the purchase.

Useful things to know

Buying and running a car costs a lot more than simply the cost of the car and petrol.

If you live near public transport, and have other options for getting around, you might want to consider whether buying a car is your most cost-effective transport option. For example, a full-fare public transport pass might cost you as much as $1800 a year, which does sound like a lot of money. But, when you add up the yearly costs of a car, including registration, insurance, petrol, services, toll fares and parking, you’ll find that a car is substantially more expensive.

Here are the costs that you need to factor in when you’re thinking about buying a car (you might like to do a budget to make sure you can afford everything – see the About my money rocket! section in the Moneyverse for more information on budgeting)…

Licence fees

Before you can buy a car, you must have your licence!

The road to getting your licence, including the cost of driving lessons and the driving test, will vary in each state. Once you get your licence, there will also be a small charge every time you get it printed and/or renewed (including if you ever lose it!). In comparison to the price of a whole car, these costs may seem small – but are still important to factor in when thinking about getting out and driving!

Cost of the car

The cost of a car can vary greatly – new cars are much more expensive than used cars, but there is also a huge variation in price amongst second-hand cars.

A second-hand car purchased through a dealer is more expensive than one that is purchased from an individual – but likely a much safer purchase, because dealers have to operate within certain guidelines, and provide paperwork and contracts.

The cost of running and servicing a car also varies depending on the make and model – cars that are themselves expensive, vintage, or rare will be more expensive to fix, while bigger cars are often less fuel efficient.

It’s also worth remembering that buying a second-hand car can lead to additional, unanticipated costs: as cars get older, more parts need to be replaced, and this can increase the service costs. Also – very old cars may seem cheap, but you often do get what you pay for… the older a car, the more it poses a safety risk! And you absolutely do not want to buy a very cheap car that isn’t ‘roadworthy’ – make sure you have a roadworthy certificate before you buy your car, otherwise it will end up being only a very expensive street ornament..!

When you’re working out what your budget is for your car, you should also consider how you are going to pay – can you afford to pay the whole amount upfront? Or will you take out a loan? Make sure to factor in interest and a payment plan if you decide to pay in instalments or borrow money to make the purchase!

Registration

To drive a car on public Australian roads, it must be registered. You must register your vehicle with your state or territory’s relevant authority – in Victoria, this is VicRoads, and in NSW, this is Service NSW.

Registration can be expensive – in some states, registration can cost up to $890 a year. You must factor in this cost when considering whether you can afford a car. It is also important to be aware of whether a second-hand car you are buying is already registered – or requires registration.

Insurance

Insurance is an essential and very important part of car ownership – it protects you in the event of an accident. (For more information on insurance and how it works, check out the Insurance planet in the Moneyverse.) There are different kinds of car insurance available, with different levels of protection.

The most important insurance to have is compulsory third party (CTP) insurance, which is mandatory in all states and territories in Australia. CTP insurance covers you in the event that someone gets injured in an accident involving your car (it doesn’t cover any damage to property). In some states, CTP insurance is included in the cost of registration, while in others you must purchase it separately before you register your vehicle.

While it isn’t compulsory, it is strongly recommended that you have third party insurance in addition to your CTP insurance. Third party insurance will cover damage that you make to other vehicles in the event of an accident. While we always want to drive as safely as possible, we also need to be realistic about the fact that accidents do happen! And, if they do, we want to make sure we’re protected from paying for someone’s new Mercedes!

Comprehensive insurance covers damage you make to other vehicles, and accidental damage you make to your own car. It also often covers theft and damage due to (some) extreme weather events. While it is more expensive than third party insurance, you should consider comprehensive car insurance if your car is essential to your work or lifestyle, because it will protect you from forking out thousands of dollars in the event that your car is stolen or totalled.

It’s important to do your own research about insurance options before you buy your car. You should insure your car before you drive it for the first time – this means before you drive it home from the person you bought it from. And be aware – many car dealers will want to sell you insurance and also add their own extra commission, but this insurance may not be the most appropriate or best value.

Petrol

Petrol is increasingly expensive – and the amount you spend on it per week will depend on how frequently you drive – and how far.

When completing your budget, you might first want to estimate how many kilometres you are likely to drive in a week – this will help you work out how much petrol you will use. Cars also vary in their rate of petrol consumption – so you might want to look up how fuel efficient your prospective purchase will be before you commit.

Service

You will need to have your car serviced twice a year to ensure it remains safe. Again, this cost varies depending on the mechanic you choose and the kind of car you have.

The mechanic will complete a detailed checklist, make all necessary repairs and inform you of what has been done to ensure the car is ‘roadworthy’, and in its best condition. This means that the cost of a service can vary depending on the work that was done. If you decide to sell your car one day, having a regular service history will show a buyer that you have taken good care of the car, and help you to get the best price you can.

Tyres

In addition to twice yearly services, you will also need to make sure the tyres are safe – and replace them when they become worn out.

Roadside assistance

If your car breaks down, and you need assistance and/or a tow, you can contact a roadside assistance service. Typically, you pay a yearly fee for roadside assistance, which means you can call the service in the event of a breakdown and receive help promptly.

Toll roads and parking

Sometimes getting where you need to go will incur additional fees – in many cities in Australia, some bigger roads and highways cost a fee to use, and parking in the centre of the city may also cost money.

Fines!

While you shouldn’t expect to be paying fines, it’s important to be aware and realistic about the fact that they might happen! It’s a good idea to have some money set aside for emergencies – both car emergencies and other emergencies! That way, if the unexpected happens, it won’t completely throw your rocket off course.

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Did you know?

Electric vehicles are fast becoming an affordable option for young drivers. If you want to move away from petrol cars for environmental reasons, the growing range of electric cars being sold in Australia means that you now have a choice when buying an efficient small car.

It’s also becoming cheaper and easier to run an electric car: charging stations are being installed in very large numbers across towns and regional areas, which means that a charger is never far away. Car mechanics are also being trained to service and repair electric vehicles.

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Alex wants a car. It’s as simple as that. They’ve passed their driving test, and everyone says they’re a good driver – even Mum says she feels safe when they’re behind the wheel!

Dad says Alex will have to pay everything for a car – it will be theirs, and they have to be fully responsible for it. Mum and Dad cannot pitch in at all. So Dad suggests Alex do a budget to make a sound plan – how to save for a car.

Alex has already worked out what kind of car they can afford. There seem to be plenty available just now – second hand, but from reputable dealers. Alex goes to the Moneysmart budget tool and works out it will take them just 9 months to add enough to their savings to buy the car.

Has Alex forgotten anything? What questions would you ask Alex to make sure they can afford the car of their dreams?

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Youth Law Australia

Youth Law Australia also has a good webpage about young people buying cars. It includes useful tips on what to look out for when buying a secondhand car, and what to do if you encounter problems during the sale.

Cost of running a car

If you are looking for more concrete information (including cold, hard numbers) about how much a car costs to run, you might like to check out some of the following articles, which consider the yearly cost of owning and running a car in 2023:

What to do after a car accident

If you’ve had an accident in a car and are not sure what to do next, Financial Rights Legal Centre’s motor vehicle accident problem solver is a fantastic resource for helping you to work out your next steps.

Electric Vehicles

To find out more about electric vehicles, and the options available right now, head to the Electric Vehicle Council’s website, and My Electric Car.

Centrelink
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Centrelink

There are all sorts of reasons why someone might not be able to earn enough money to live in our society. In order to cover basic living costs, they may need to access a government welfare payment from Centrelink.

Centrelink is a system, run by the Australian Government, that organises and provides financial help to Australians who are not earning enough money to live. This system is based on the idea that our government should provide assistance to those in our society who are experiencing disadvantage. Centrelink is a part of Services Australia, an Australian Government department that also oversees Medicare and other systems designed to help us. There are lots of reasons why someone might be eligible for a Centrelink payment – but not everyone is eligible all the time.

Centrelink is a complex system, and it can be hard to work out if you or someone you know may be eligible for a Centrelink payment. This quick list will give you a sense of who Centrelink can help – and the kind of payments that exist.

People who have unpaid caring responsibilities

If you are responsible for looking after someone who needs additional care because of a medical condition, disability, or old age, you may be eligible for Centrelink assistance.

To be eligible, Centrelink assesses how much care you are required to provide (and for how long), and your current income. There are two kinds of payments that Centrelink offers to unpaid carers – the Carer Allowance and the Carer Payment. The Carer Allowance is a ‘supplement’ that provides a top-up for unpaid carers who provide some additional daily care, while the Carer Payment is a larger ‘income support payment’ for those who provide constant daily care (and whose ability to work is more greatly affected).

People with disabilities

If you, or someone close to you, have a permanent physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops you from working, you may be eligible for the Disability Support Pension, or DSP.

Australians become eligible for the DSP at the age of 16 – before this, Centrelink may provide money to parents or caregivers to support the young person, rather than to the young person themselves.

Not everyone with a disability or medical condition is eligible for the DSP, even though their condition may prevent them from working (or working enough to support themselves).

The application process for the DSP is particularly complex. To help those who want to apply, there is an online resource, DSP Help, that will guide applicants and their doctors through what is needed. A link to this guide can be found in the ‘Explore further’ section below.

People who are studying

If you are doing tertiary study, you might be eligible for financial assistance from Centrelink. This is because Centrelink recognises that it is hard for someone to support themselves while they are also studying full time.

There are quite a lot of rules that determine whether someone is eligible for this kind of help – Centrelink will look at how much study you are doing (full time or part time), where you are living, and how much work you are doing. There are also a number of different payments designed to help students – depending on your situation, you might be eligible for one instead of another. Youth Allowance is intended for students (or apprentices) who are 24 or younger and studying full time, while Austudy is designed for students 25 or older studying full time. ABSTUDY payments and support are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and apprentices.

People who are looking for work

If you are currently unemployed and looking for work, you might be eligible for a Centrelink payment. You might also be eligible for a payment if you are temporarily unable to work due to illness or injury.

This kind of payment is designed to be temporary, and requires that you are actively looking for work. If you are in this situation, there are a few payments you might be eligible for – Youth Allowance is intended for people aged 21 or younger looking for work, or temporarily unable to work, while the JobSeeker Payment is intended for those aged 22 and above. If you are working only a few hours a week, you can still receive some support via either Youth Allowance or JobSeeker – the amount will depend on how much you are earning in the part time or casual work you have.

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Many recipients of the Centrelink payments listed above are also eligible for a Low Income Health Care Card, or LIHCC. Having a LIHCC gives you access to discounted healthcare and medicines, a concession discount on your electricity and gas bills, concession price concerts and film tickets, eligibility for a public transport concession card, and many other discounts that depend on which state or territory you live in.

While Centrelink is designed to be a safety net, it doesn’t provide assistance to everyone who is struggling to earn enough money to live. And for those who do receive money from Centrelink, they may not always receive enough money to pay for everything they need. Centrelink can be a divisive issue – many Australian taxpayers are unhappy with the way it works, and the amount of help that Centrelink gives others. Some think Centrelink gives people too much assistance – and others too little. However, it’s important to remember that the core principle is that Centrelink exists to help Australians – so, while it’s an imperfect system, it’s still worth exploring if it can help you!

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Useful things to know

If you think you might be eligible for one of the Centrelink payments listed above, you should apply! Centrelink exists to help Australians, and can help you if you are in one of the situations outlined.

If you are thinking of applying for Centrelink, here are some questions to ask yourself first:

  1. Am I eligible? What am I eligible for?
  2. How much will I receive per fortnight?
  3. Where is the nearest Centrelink Service Centre?
  4. How will my Centrelink payment interact with any other money I earn?

The application process can often be long and drawn out – you might need to call or visit a Centrelink Service Centre more than once. But it’s worth getting on to it as soon as you can – while your first payment will be delayed until your application is approved, you will be paid for the entire time between the date you applied and the date your application was successful.

In most instances (but not all), Centrelink will require an income and assets test to determine whether an applicant really does need Centrelink support. Centrelink also often requires that you lodge your fortnightly work history and income prior to receiving a payment – this ensures that your payment is adjusted to reflect any income you received during that pay cycle. It’s important to make sure your records are correct when you lodge your income, because you may be penalised for inaccurate records, and forced to return some of your Centrelink payment.

If you are currently connected with Centrelink, and either applying for or receiving a Centrelink payment, here are some guidelines to help you when you are contacting someone at Centrelink:

  • Record who you speak with at Centrelink
  • Make notes of what is said in the conversation with staff
  • Ask for a receipt number every time you communicate with Centrelink
  • Make copies of all documents you provide to Centrelink

If you or someone you know are receiving Centrelink payments, but you think there has been a mistake, help is available. Depending on where you live, your state may have a community legal centre that specialises in providing legal advice about Centrelink (in Victoria, this is Social Security Rights Victoria, and in New South Wales, this is the Welfare Rights Centre). If you are over 18, you can also speak to a financial counsellor. You can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Spike receives Youth Allowance while they complete their undergraduate science degree. They also do some casual tutoring to supplement the money they receive from Centrelink. Because of the nature of their work, some fortnights Spike gets only a few hours’ work, while others work a lot more.

In the lead up to exams, all of their students wanted extra sessions, and Spike worked triple the hours they usually do! When they reported their income to Centrelink that fortnight, they were informed that their Youth Allowance payment for that cycle would be only $11. Spike was shocked and a little disappointed, but knew that it was a once off because of the unusual amount of work they had done recently – and they knew that the consequences of not reporting the work would be much worse!

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Services Australia

While it can be difficult to navigate, the Services Australia website has lots of information about the payments Centrelink offers, and their eligibility requirements. Some useful pages include:

DSP Help

If you or someone you know are considering applying for the DSP, you should check out DSP Help. DSP Help is a free online resource to help people understand the DSP, and to help people make better DSP applications and appeals.

Legal advice

If you need legal advice for something to do with Centrelink, you can connect with a community legal centre. In some states, there are CLCs that specialise in legal advice related to Centrelink, including Social Security Rights Victoria in Victoria, and Welfare Rights Centre in New South Wales.

Little Dreamers podcast

For more information about Centrelink and other financial benefits for young carers, listen to Episode 8 of Little Dreamers’ Money Matters podcast, What financial benefits are you entitled to?

Credit cards
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Credit cards

A credit card allows us to buy things without having the cash actually with us.

People often pay for things online, just by entering the credit card numbers and expiry date to complete a purchase. We need to be aware that when we pay using a Visa or Mastercard, we are also borrowing the money from the bank. We can have the item straight away and the credit card payment happens later. For allowing access to money on the credit card, the bank charges an interest rate, on top, which may be small, but compounds over time increasing the cost of your purchases. The monthly credit card bill details what has been bought and how much interest is accruing. It also tells you how much the minimum amount is that you need to pay.

Getting a fridge and couch ‘on finance’ directly from a big department store comes with similar credit card interest charges, and a repayment plan over many months.

Credit cards are a great way of making easy purchases, but it is important to understand that we are paying for items, later on. We need to be careful not to spiral deeper into credit card debt, which can happen because there isn’t enough money to pay the credit card off in full, or back to zero, and interest has accrued beyond our capacity to pay. All over Australia, there are people who find themselves in need of help with their credit card debt – in total, we owe billions! Yikes!!

You can calculate the interest payable on the link below.

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Useful things to know

  • We get to spend money on items at shops or online by simply tapping the card. You don’t need cash
  • We can use the card to pay for phone bills, subscription services and utilities
  • We can avoid the bank’s interest charges by paying back the money by the due date. This is called an ‘interest-free period’
  • We can set a credit limit amount on the card to avoid overspending
  • An alternative worth considering is a debit card. A debit card links directly to your bank account and only lets you spend money that you have
  • We enter into a credit contract with the bank with every purchase; therefore how much you can afford for an item needs to be carefully considered
  • There may be annual card fees and interest charges that make purchases more expensive than you first thought
  • The bank makes you pay interest for the use of the money you have borrowed. It’s usually a percentage of the total amount owed – this percentage is known as the rate of interest
  • We risk not being able to pay the bank’s monthly repayment amount. This could be for several reasons: your work shifts get cut, other expenses occur unexpectedly, or a friend borrows money from you
  • If we can only afford to pay the minimum amount required by the bank each month, it can take years to pay off the item we bought!
  • Losing your credit card, having it stolen or skimmed, means we could be hit with credit card debt from a thief’s unauthorised purchases
  • We need to keep a regular portion of income aside for paying off credit card debt each month
  • Have a think about your own ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. Taking time, an hour or even overnight, to consider whether you need to buy items can help to prevent overspending online (splurging!).
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Dami applied for a credit card with her bank.

Today the card arrived in the mail, and it happens to be orange, which is her favourite colour. A booklet has also arrived: What You Need To Know About Your Credit Card. It’s got tiny printing and a lot of pages. Dami files that booklet away in her room.

She neatly signs the back of the card and slips it into the inside of her phone cover. Dami feels 100% ready to shop…

Do you feel comfortable going shopping with Dami just yet? What would you like to say to her?

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Explore Further

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Find out more about using a debit card instead of credit card here.

Moneysmart also has a credit card calculator, to help you work out how much interest you will pay over time. You can access it here.

Employment
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Employment

Almost every single person in the world will need to earn money to live. Employment is the word we use to mean having a job and earning money.

While making money is likely the primary reason to get a job, it isn’t the only reason – employment can bring your life meaning and purpose, can stimulate you intellectually, and can help you build connections with your broader community.

Many young people work a few hours a week while they are still at high school or uni. Part-time work can be a fantastic way to gradually get work experience, while also learning new skills and increasing your confidence in the workplace. The earlier you get a job, the quicker you’ll start earning money and developing financial independence.

Although we must work, we don’t have to dislike working – remember the saying: ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’. We can factor in our sense of enjoyment and fulfillment when we’re choosing what we want to do as a job – it’s not all about money!

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Kinds of work

In Australia, there are rules about how much someone should be paid. The minimum amount someone can be paid depends on the person’s age, experience, the kind of work they are doing, and the industry they are working in. In each industry, the amount someone should be paid is outlined in that industry’s ‘award’ – this is a legal document that outlines rates of pay. However, some workplaces may also have an ‘enterprise agreement’, which outlines rates of pay and conditions of employment for that particular workplace – if you work somewhere with an enterprise agreement, it is the rates outlined in the agreement, rather than the industry’s award, that should be followed. To find out how much you should be paid in your job, you can use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s pay calculator (link below).

Employment is also categorised into different types: the most common types are full-time, part-time and casual. If you are about to start your first job, it’s important to understand what kind of employment you have, as this will impact your job security, and the financial consequences of taking a day off when you are sick or have caring responsibilities.

Full-time employees work an average of 38 hours each week, and are usually employed on a permanent basis or fixed term contract (this means their work is relatively secure). They are entitled to annual leave (a holiday!), sick leave, and carer’s leave. Part-time employees work less than full-time employees (that is, less than 38 hours each week), but have many of the same working conditions. This means their hours are fixed, their work is relatively secure, and they are also entitled to annual leave, sick leave and carer’s leave (on a ‘pro rata’ basis). Casual employment is a bit different: casual employees don’t have job security – instead, they accept a job offer knowing that there is no promise of regular and ongoing work. Casual employees are also not entitled to annual leave, sick leave, and carer’s leave (when they take leave, they typically do so without pay). Because of these uncertainties, casual employees are paid more than their full- and part-time counterparts.

Rights at work

If you have just started your first job – or are thinking about getting a job – it’s important to know about your rights and responsibilities as an employee. This will help you to have a positive work experience, and to feel respected in the workplace.

Everyone has the right to earn a living through work that they have freely chosen. As an employee, you have the right to:

  • Fair and equal wages
  • Safe and healthy working conditions
  • Equal opportunity for promotion
  • Rest, leisure and the reasonable limitation of working hours
  • Form and join trade unions.
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Useful things to know

Having a job and earning money means financial independence! Employment should mean that we have money coming into our rocket, ready to be spent or saved as necessary.

To make sure that this is happening properly, there are a few things we should ask ourselves:

1. What records should I keep and what should I communicate with my employer about?

You should keep a copy of your employment contract (this should tell you your award or agreement, and your employment type). You should also keep each payslip you receive from your employer.

Your payslip is a record of what you have been paid in a single pay cycle, including what tax (if any) you have paid, what superannuation your employer has contributed, and what leave you have accrued (you can find out more about Tax and Superannuation by visiting their planets in the Moneyverse!). If you aren’t receiving payslips, you should ask your employer to start giving them to you every time you are paid.

2. Am I being paid correctly?

Keeping records of your contract and payslips will help you make sure you’re being paid correctly. Have a look at each payslip and ask yourself:

  • Have all the hours I’ve worked been recorded?
  • Have all my penalty rates been recorded? (Penalty rates may apply when you are working on a Sunday, a public holiday, or after normal working hours.)
  • Has my superannuation contribution been recorded?

You can also use your payslip to make sure you’re being paid the award rate.

If you’re not being paid correctly (or your pay slip is incorrect):

  • Speak to your employer
  • Keep a written record of the hours and days you work – it may be helpful to email or text your employer with your hours each pay period
  • Use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s letter template tool (link below) to help you draft a letter to your employer.

3. Can I get Centrelink if I also already earn money?

The amount of money you are eligible to receive from Centrelink will likely decrease once you start earning money. There are helpful calculators on the Services Australia website to help you work out how your work will impact your Centrelink payment. You can also find out more by visiting the Centrelink planet.

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Fatima has just started working at her local supermarket. Because she’s still at school, she can only work one weeknight and one day on the weekend each week. Her roster comes out every fortnight – it tells her which days she will be working over the upcoming two weeks.

After two months at her new job, she notices that she gets paid a slightly different amount each pay cycle – when she works on a Sunday, she gets paid a lot more, and when she finishes late on a weeknight (her latest finish is 11pm), she also gets paid slightly more for every hour after 9pm. Because the amount she gets paid changes each cycle, she needs to budget carefully to make sure she has enough money for those weeks she doesn’t work late or on a Sunday. She also has to keep a small buffer in her account in case she is sick or has to take a day off to care for her brother – because if she takes a day off, her employer won’t pay her for the work she has missed!

What kind of employee is Fatima? Full-time, part-time or casual?

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Explore Further

Money Managed

The Australian Government’s Money Managed website has a section on working and getting paid for young Australians. It provides practical information about how to get and start a job, and has a useful page that will help you understand your payslip.

Fair Work Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s pay calculator will allow you to calculate the amount you should be getting paid, including your base pay rate and any penalty rates you might be entitled to. It can also calculate how much annual and personal leave you have accrued.

If you want a record of your employment contract or payslips, or you’ve noticed an error in one of your payslips, you should contact your employer. This template from the Fair Work Ombudsman will help you write a clear and appropriate email to your employer.

Young Workers Centre

The Young Workers Centre provides information to young workers about their rights, and assists if they are facing a workplace issue.

Workmate is a chatbot powered by the Young Workers Centre that will give you quick answers to questions about your rights at work, what you should be paid, and what you’re entitled to. If you have a simple question about your employment, Workmate is a good place to start.

What to do if you’re sick but work as a casual

If you are a casual or contractor working in Victoria, you can apply for paid leave via the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee. Remember – to receive sick pay via the Victorian Sick Pay Guarantee, you must sign up before you get sick – so it’s a good idea to sign up today!

Financial counsellors
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Financial counsellors

Regardless of how we are traveling with our money, there can be unexpected expenses or life events that cause us to ‘wobble’ off course. When this happens, a financial counsellor can help us understand the issues, get back on track and move towards our goals.

So who are financial counsellors? Put simply, they are professionals who will listen to your story to understand your debts or issues with money, explain your options and help you to get back on track. They don’t judge your situation and they will always respect your choices. Even though the financial counsellor will find out and explain your options, you make the decisions and you are always in charge of what happens with your money.

Just some of the more common issues that financial counsellors deal with:

  • Debts related to credit cards, for example when circumstances have changed and you can’t afford to make repayments anymore
  • When your ‘buy now pay later’ payments build up and you can’t afford all the direct debits from your account
  • When you can’t afford to pay your bank loan repayments
  • When you have taken out a payday loan (fast cash loan) and the fees and charges have made it impossible to pay back
  • When you have current utility (gas, water or electricity) debt, or old utility debt from previous places you’ve lived
  • When you have debts or fines that were caused by someone else, but are in your name.
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Financial hardship (being unable to pay for everyday expenses) is a different experience for everyone, and can happen totally unexpectedly. If you were to get sick and be unable to work, or if you suddenly had to take care of someone else, bills and expenses could build up very quickly. Dealing with your money concerns on your own can be isolating and overwhelming, especially if you have to juggle or prioritise one debt over another.
Sharing your story with a financial counsellor and working with them can really help to get you back on course.

Financial counsellors can also speak on your behalf (another word for this is ‘advocate’) if you aren’t sure how to talk about your issue with the bank or the company. It can be really hard to know what to say, or to know what your rights are when something has gone wrong. A financial counsellor can help by doing the talking and negotiating to try to get the outcome you’ve chosen. Options may include an affordable payment plan, a temporary pause on payments, a waiver, or a fair outcome that you agree to.

An added bonus is that you get to experience the financial counsellor working with you to prioritise the issues and take action. You will start to see how you can take action too! Being able to speak up, ask questions, and take back control of your money situation is very empowering. Learning about your money and your rights from a financial counsellor is like building your own money repair kit for the future.

There are some useful numbers below if you think you would like to contact a financial counsellor.

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Every night, Jesse comes home to a pile of envelopes on the kitchen bench, the same ones she’s been ignoring for a week. She’s feeling overwhelmed by overdue household bills, and a credit card that had been ‘maxed out’ to its limit. The unopened envelopes are sure to be stern, unfriendly reminders in red ink, or demands of some kind.

On top of everything else, Jesse recently received a small loan to cover the cost of a new fridge (the old one stopped working). The loan will incur big fees if she doesn’t make the repayments on time, and so she’s made that loan first priority over everything else. Even the electricity bill has dropped down the priority list. Jesse’s starting to think that there is just no way out of her situation.

And then one night – Jesse notices a story on TV about financial counsellors helping people who can’t afford to pay their mortgage repayments and bills. She wonders whether they may be able to help her too. Jesse plucks up the courage to speak to the National Debt Helpline…!

Phew! Good on you Jesse! Woohoo! High five!

(Gee, I really thought she was going to keep ignoring those envelopes, or just chuck them out! Awesome Jesse, that was the right decision to call the helpline!)

After Jesse explains her situation to the financial counsellor at the National Debt Helpline, the financial counsellor may:

  • Help Jesse to see where her money is being spent, and help her to set up a budget
  • Set up an affordable payment plan with the utility providers for Jesse’s bills
  • Take a look at loan documents and investigate the how the loan was issued and whether Jesse was even supposed to have been given the money in the first place
  • Speak to Jesse’s bank to set up an affordable repayment plan for her ‘maxed out’ credit card. This would mean that Jesse wouldn’t be able to keep buying things on the card, but she could pay off the debt in smaller, more affordable amounts
  • Give Jesse options for purchasing any future household items, like participating in the ‘no interest loan scheme’ (NILS), set up for low-income customers, with no fees or interest charged
  • Help Jesse to understand that she has options and can take care of things herself if she gets into difficulty again.

Jesse works with a financial counsellor over a few appointments, ticking items off her list. Some were once quite scary (including whether she could even keep the fridge), but she feels glad she has achieved her goals, and is able to manage paying her bills again.

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Explore Further

National Debt Helpline

To have an initial chat with a financial counsellor call 1800 007 007 or use the online chat on their website.

Financial Counselling Victoria
Fines
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Fines

A fine, also called an ‘infringement notice’, is issued if we are caught breaking the law.

The most common examples are:

  • Parking for too long where the parking signs display a time limit
  • Travelling on public transport without a valid travel pass or concession card
  • Not obeying a traffic signal while driving.

Depending on the type of fine, there are different ways we might receive the notice. It could be:

  • ‘On the spot’ – a good example of this is on the train, issued to you by a transport officer
  • Attached to your vehicle if you overstay, or park in the wrong spot
  • In the post – for example, if your car was photographed by a roadside camera, and the infringement notice has been mailed to the address where the car is registered.

Unfortunately, fines have to be paid. They don’t go away, even if you move house. If you just ignore it, it will become more serious and additional costs may be added.

It’s good to know that sometimes we can question whether we really are liable for paying the fine. For example, if you were not the driver of the car when it was speeding, or you had special circumstances for parking where you did (like an emergency). If you believe you have been unfairly issued with a fine or that there is a valid reason your fine should be withdrawn, you may be able to ask for the decision to fine you to be reviewed.

Read more about appealing a decision…

You may be eligible to appeal because of specific special circumstances. You can only expect to be eligible if you committed the offence, and can show that:

  • at the time of the offence you:
    • had a mental or intellectual disability, disorder, disease or illness
    • had a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or a volatile substance
    • were homeless
    • were a victim of family violence, or
  • you cannot deal with your fines because of severe disabling long-term circumstances.

It’s important to note that you must provide evidence that there was a link between your special circumstances, and the offending behaviour. The evidence needs to be supported by a qualified practitioner or agency; a doctor, social worker or financial counsellor. For more information on what is required and how to apply, see the link listed in ‘Explore further’ below.

Although incurring a fine can be a bit of a shock, there is help to deal with them, or appeal in special circumstances. But we do need to act, as a fine will not go away! If you’re over 18, you can see your local financial counsellor to help you through the process. You can also phone the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

Where the fine has become a court matter, the financial counsellor may refer you to a community legal centre for free legal advice.

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Useful things to know

If you have incurred a fine and you are able to pay, you must do so by the due date.

If you can’t pay, it’s important to contact the issuer of the fine straight away.

Ask about your options, such as:

  • an extension to pay
  • paying in instalments
  • Centrelink payment deductions via the Centrepay facility
  • doing unpaid community service, or personal development e.g. a ‘work and development permit’
  • getting a caution (for example, if you have a mental illness or an intellectual disability or are homeless).

Remember, there are also avenues to appeal if you do not think that the fine was valid. If you are in this situation, ask the issuer of the fine about appeal processes.

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Rasheed has been driving on a freeway that requires tolls to be paid. He can’t afford to pay due to some unexpected car repairs, and a dentist bill.
He doesn’t contact the toll company; he thinks it’ll be OK for a while until he can earn more to pay it off. Eventually a final notice is mailed to him which has extra fees added! His fine has increased!

If he doesn’t pay, or contact the company to explain his situation, Rasheed risks the debt being referred to the police. Rasheed realises he is actually experiencing ‘financial hardship’. He types those words into the toll company’s search bar. He finds their ‘hardship policy’ and a helpline number. He phones and has a payment plan set up, with small amounts that he can manage in his weekly budget. It’s a big relief for Rasheed.

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Did you know?

NASA was fined 400 dollars for littering in 1979, when a disused American space station called Skylab crashed to earth. Large pieces of metal debris landed around the town of Esperance in Western Australia, littering a large area. There was shock around the world at the news of all that mess! You can see the fine, and pieces of Skylab in the Esperance Museum. NASA didn’t pay the fine.

Do you think the fine of 400 dollars was enough!? How much do you think NASA would owe today, if we added all those years of late fees and charges!?

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Explore Further

National Debt Helpline

For more information about fines and special circumstances, or to speak to a financial counsellor, you can contact the National Debt Helpline here.

Note that where your fine has become a court matter, a financial counsellor may also need to refer you to a free Community Legal Centre.

Youth Law

You can access free advice and legal assistance from a great information hub called Youth Law: Help with fines

You can also phone: (03) 9113 9500 or email: info@youthlaw.asn.au

Your state or territory will have a webpage dedicated to the payment of fines and infringement notices. Find yours here:

Hardship
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Hardship

If you or someone you know is in financial hardship, then you may have noticed they are feeling stressed, and are saying something like:

‘I just can’t make ends meet!’, ‘I’m stuck in the red!’ or ‘I’m in it up to the eyebrows!’

Money is mixed up in our lives in so many ways, so when something impacts us in life, it will likely impact our money situation.

The great news is that in our community, there are systems and structures already set up to recognise that people experiencing hardship need to be supported to get back on track.

By definition, financial hardship means you are having trouble paying bills or loan repayments when they are due. Financial hardship can also impact your ability to pay for everyday essentials like your home or rent payments, food, your essential bills, and health needs. It can happen to anyone, and often quite unexpectedly.

So even if you are having trouble, you still have rights and you can access help – just like anyone else. There are also laws in place to protect you, and to make sure that banks, and other companies you may owe money to, treat you respectfully and help you to find a way forward.

An example of a system designed to help is the bank hardship assistance department. Did you know that every bank has a hardship assistance team who are there to help you if you are falling behind with payments? You just have to ask, and you can be connected to a helpful team member. Read below to find out more about other examples of assistance.

Here are some reasons that may cause someone to be in financial hardship
  • Having to manage through a natural disaster like flood or fire in your area
  • Falling off your bike and suddenly being unable to earn money
  • Moving to a new location where it’s harder to find a job
  • Having to pay for things entirely on your own after a friend leaves
  • Investing money in a business that doesn’t succeed
  • Having your money stolen by a scammer or false identity
  • Having expensive household bills because you are caring for someone with particular needs.
  • An unexpected change to your circumstances.
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I am in financial hardship, what rights do I have with my bank?

  • All banks have a special team called a ‘financial hardship assistance team’, who are there to help you. You have the right to ask about your options, like extra time to pay, or a repayment plan. The bank’s team will treat you respectfully, and help you find ways to manage and meet your obligations.

I am in financial hardship, what rights do I have with a debt collection agency?

  • If you didn’t pay your bill for a long time, the company you owe may have sent the debt to a debt collection agency. You have the right to be treated respectfully by debt collection agencies – this includes the right to speak to their hardship assistance department. There are also rules around how often a debt collector can text, phone, email or write to you.

I am in financial hardship, what rights do I have with my utility company?

  • If you owe money to a gas, electricity or water company, they also have a ‘financial hardship assistance team’. You just have to state that you are in hardship and need to speak to them about your options. They can make an arrangement with you to pay off the debt in instalments, make sure you are on the best deal and receive any concessions you are eligible for, and can help you to keep up with paying for your current usage.

If you think you may be in financial hardship, or if you are having trouble with banks, debt collectors or other companies, a financial counsellor can help you.

Check out our Moneyverse astronaut Financial counsellors to read about what they do!

If you need more urgent support for food or other daily essentials, check out our Moneyverse doggy astronaut Support for emergencies

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Explore Further

National Debt Helpline

To speak to a financial counsellor you can call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 or visit www.ndh.org.au to use the chat service.

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. You can visit the Moneysmart website to learn more about managing while in financial hardship.

Financial Wellbeing

Financial wellbeing is the opposite of financial hardship.

Financial wellbeing means having enough money for today, extra money saved for unexpected expenses, and money saved for our future plans.

So how much money do I need to stay financially healthy?

As a starting point, it’s a good idea to be prepared for unexpected events. While that can be difficult to put a sum of money on, start by setting up a savings buffer, or a ‘rainy day’ account.

Think about how an unexpected event may impact you. For example, if you pay rent, you need to avoid falling behind if something happens and you have unexpected expenses or need to take time off work.

Having at least one month of rent always set aside as a buffer, is a great way to avoid some of the impact of unexpected financial hardship.

HECS-HELP
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HECS-HELP

You may have considered that if you continue on from school to higher education, you are going to have to pay expensive course fees.

It is impossible to expect a young person to have many thousands of dollars ready to pay for their education. What can you do? To help young people pay for their study journey, the Australian Government has developed financial schemes, like HECS-HELP, to assist you.

Without any government assistance, you can be billed around $22,000 per year for a TAFE course, and an undergraduate university degree could be around $33,000! Most courses are three years of study!

Getting government assistance with your study fees means that many students have a HECS-HELP debt after their course is finished. This debt is carried through your study journey into working life.

Read More

To put it in a bit of context:
Studying at TAFE or university is a very exciting time. Every young person has a right to continue their education and build skills and knowledge for life.
There are many opportunities available once you discover what you would really like to study, leading to a job you love.

It’s a great idea to talk to family or friends, including your teachers. Do you know someone who is studying a course right now?

Ask at your local library for helpful resources to define the skills you already have, and the things you enjoy doing. This will help you to plan a worthwhile study path to take you forward into a career.

Now back to HECS-HELP –

Depending on the type of financial scheme and the course you want to enrol in, the government may pay for some or all of your course fees. Fees left for you to pay may be allotted to a long-term interest-free loan, where you are only obliged to start paying money back once you earn over a certain amount.

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Glossary

The words for government financial support schemes, and how they work, can be confusing at first. Here are some words to get to know:

Commonwealth supported place, or CSP

If you enrol into a CSP, the government pays for some of your university tuition fees. You don’t need to pay it back. This scheme is for Australian citizens.

HECS-HELP

A HECS-HELP loan is interest-free, (although the value of the loan is indexed each year according to the consumer price index or CPI) and you only start to pay it back once you earn more than a certain amount; currently it’s when you earn more than about $48,000 per year.

If you are enrolled in a CSP, the government pays some of your tuition fees, and the rest would become a HECS-HELP loan, meaning a student can enrol and study their whole course without the burden of making any repayments. Any money provided through this government loan scheme appears administratively on your enrolment and course documents; you don’t receive the loaned money yourself.

FEE-HELP

An interest-free loan (indexed reflecting CPI) that you pay back once you earn over a certain amount. It covers the cost of tuition, but not your textbooks, laptop or accommodation. Any money provided through this government scheme appears administratively on your enrolment and course documents; you don’t receive the loaned money yourself.

Vocational Education and Training, or VET

These are certificate level courses, like TAFE, to get you job-ready.

VET FEE-HELP

The loan available to students at TAFE who want to study at diploma level or higher (it’s not available at certificate level qualifications).

Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY, Rent Assistance

While you are studying, you may be eligible to receive fortnightly payments through Centrelink. Eligibility depends on your age and individual circumstances. Find out more about these payments in the links below.

Unique Student Identifier, or USI

A USI is your individual education number for life. You need to have this number to be eligible for government assistance. If you decide to enrol in other courses in the future, you will need to use this number again. It’s always free to get one.

Tax file number, or TFN

A TFN is an individual reference number that is used to identify you in tax, employment, super and other government payment systems. You need to have this number when applying for government assistance. It’s always free to get one. In future you’ll also provide this number every time you get a job. Note it can take some time to get the number at first, as you will need to provide some I.D. documents.

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With any decision about committing to study, it’s important to know what you may have to pay for your other living expenses. Finding out what equipment you are going to need or how you will attend classes before you enrol is a great way to work out how much money you’re going to need during your studies.

Depending on which state you live in, there may be other state government supports that are available to you. And once you have enrolled, your new uni or TAFE will have lots of support services for new students. Ask about what they can offer you. Often there are grants of money and scholarship payments, especially for students in particular circumstances.

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Useful things to know

  • Are you eligible for a HECS-HELP loan? Refer to the information in the links below
  • HECS-HELP loans are interest free and, if you don’t earn above the repayment threshold amount, you don’t make any repayments
  • Once you earn over the threshold amount, currently about $48,000 per year, a compulsory repayment from your work wages begins. The amount increases as you earn more.
  • There are other daily living expenses to consider when becoming a tertiary student. Find out as much as you can before you enrol. Working too much to pay for essentials while you’re trying to study can be very overwhelming for a student.
  • If you are studying something that you find interesting and engaging, that will assist you in finding a job in the field you would like to work in. You might feel that your HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP debt is totally ‘worth it’. If you don’t think your course is assisting to achieve your goals, it may not be worth the debt you are accumulating.
  • Are there any student scholarships or bursaries available for the course you want to complete?
  • Are you eligible for any Centrelink benefits while you study? These benefits include: Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY. Find out if these are available to you. Students with complex circumstances (including those who study remotely, must travel from a remote location, have a disability, have carer responsibilities, or are from a culturally or linguistically diverse background) may also be eligible for other financial support, such as travel allowances and respite care
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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. To help you work out how much money you’ll need as a student, go to the MoneySmart Budget Planner for university study.

CSP and HECS-HELP

Here is a quick guide, developed by the Australian Government, about CSP places and HECS-HELP and how to apply.

Services Australia

Head to the Services Australia webpage for information about how the Australian Government can support you while you’re studying. Some useful pages:

StudyAssist

This government website provides information for students about government support while they study.

Universal Student Identifier (USI)

Create a USI here.

Tax file number (TFN)

Apply for a TFN here.

Headspace

Are you thinking about what to study, and the kind of job you would like? Here is a good place to start exploring.

Helping others to manage
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Helping others to manage

What does it mean to ‘help someone to manage’?

When you care about someone, it’s natural to want to help them when they have a problem. This might mean making them a pot of soup if they’re feeling unwell, or giving them a lift to school if they’re running late.

But things can be trickier when money is involved. If a family member or friend finds themself in a tight spot – they lose their job, they’re struggling to pay off a debt, they receive an unexpected fine – they might come to you for help – or you might feel tempted to reach out.

Of course you’ll want to help someone in a difficult situation, but the solution doesn’t have to be just loaning them money! There are other ways to support someone you love who is experiencing a money problem. In fact, giving someone the ability to help themselves out of a tight spot can be empowering.

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Other ways to help

If someone you know has a money problem, you can provide them with information to help them find appropriate assistance. This might involve:

  • directing them to other safe ways of accessing the money they need
  • giving them resources to help them learn more about their situation
  • giving them the contact details of a professional who might be able to help.

The astronauts in the Moneyverse have information about all these support services – any support service listed that is useful for you will also be useful for everyone you know! Check out the astronauts Support for emergencies and Financial counsellors to find information that may help your friend or family member.

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Informal lending

But what if someone does ask you for money? Or you’re considering offering a loan to someone in a tight spot? Is it wrong to lend money to someone you know?

Of course not! But a word to the wise – loans between friends can lead to tension if both people are not on the same page…

People can have very different approaches to money and borrowing – and it’s completely normal that these differences exist! The way people have been brought up to view money can vary greatly – for example, some families might give weekly pocket money in exchange for chores, others may give pocket money for no chores, and others may give no pocket money at all! So, before you lend someone money, it’s important to have an open conversation about what your expectations for repayment are – and to see if they match the other party’s expectations.

Even if everyone is on the same page, there can still be emotional challenges when money is owed between friends and family – like feelings of guilt, shame and judgment. Bad feelings can also grow if someone comes to feel disrespected by the other party. Lending money can strain a relationship to the point of damage – and sometimes that damage can be beyond repair.

And even if everyone has the best intentions, it’s still possible that the person you lent money to won’t pay it back. To protect your relationship, it’s worth preparing for the worst-case scenario – what would happen if the money wasn’t returned? Ultimately, when you’re deciding whether to loan money to a friend or a family member, you should ask yourself ‘Can I afford it if I never see the money again?’ And then, perhaps, a follow-up question – ‘Can I accept it if I never see the money again?’ If you don’t think you’ll be able to move on in the event that your friend of family member does not pay you back, perhaps it’s safer not to loan the money in the first place.

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Useful things to know

So what should you do when someone you care about needs money? Should you loan them the money they need?

These steps can help you think through a tricky situation:

  • Assess your financial situation: Before agreeing to lend money, it’s important to understand your own financial situation. Take a look at your current expenses and determine whether you have enough money to lend. If you don’t, it’s okay to say no. If you do but still don’t feel comfortable lending the money, it’s okay to say no.
  • Consider alternative options: If you don’t think that lending money is the right choice, either for you or your friend/family member, there are alternative options you can suggest – check out the Moneyverse astronauts for more information.
  • Set clear boundaries: If you do decide to lend money, it’s important to set clear boundaries upfront. Discuss the terms of the loan, including the amount and repayment schedule. Put everything in writing to avoid misunderstandings later.
  • Don’t let guilt or pressure sway your decision: It’s natural to feel guilty or pressured when a loved one asks to borrow money, but it’s important to remember that it’s ultimately your decision. Don’t let guilt or pressure sway you into making a decision you’re not comfortable with.

Lending money to someone you care about can be a complicated situation, but by setting clear boundaries, being honest, and not letting guilt or pressure sway your decision, you can navigate the situation more confidently.

Julie’s phone rang – it was her friend Georgia.

“Jules, hi, have you got a minute? I have a question for you.” Julie sat down on the edge of her bed and Georgia went on. “I want to say first – I feel really embarrassed and awkward asking you this. And I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t really, really stuck. But – my car’s broken down. I’ve called a mechanic and explained the problem, and apparently it’s going to be about $750 to fix. Yeah, I know – it’s a lot of money. So the thing is – I’ve just paid rent this month, and I don’t have a lot of cash at the moment. I have $600 saved, which I’ll use – but that means I’m still short $150. And I just … I know you have a job – and I’ll pay it back in a month, I swear – so I was wondering, could I borrow some money? I’d wait until I had the money to fix the car, but I need it to get to work, and I’ll lose my job if I don’t go, and then I won’t have money for the car or for rent… I’m really sorry to ask.”

Julie felt sick. Georgia was one of the most generous people she knew. She was Julie’s only friend with a licence and a car, and she happily drove everyone around without ever expecting petrol money. And Julie knew that Georgia really would pay Julie back as soon as she could… But Julie didn’t even have enough money to pay her own bills, let alone someone else’s!

“That sounds so stressful, I’m sorry that happened,” Julie began. “Let me have a look and see how much money I have to help you out. I’ll call you back.”

Julie knew she didn’t have any money to give Georgia, but how could she possibly say no?
Feeling desperate, Julie opened her laptop and typed “unexpected expenses help melbourne” into Google. She trawled the results until she came across a website called Moneysmart. It had a short, clear list of helpful options for someone in Georgia’s position. Julie made a page of notes and then, when she was done, rang Georgia back.

“Georgia – I’m sorry, I can’t loan you the money. But I’ve found some information that I think will help you. Let me email it through to you and then we can talk about it.”

Explore Further

If someone you know is experiencing a money problem, help is out there! As a starting point, have a look at the astronauts in the Moneyverse Support for emergencies and Financial counsellors. They contain information about support services – any support service listed that is useful for you will also be useful for everyone you know!

Housing
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Housing

Moving out of home is a huge step for everyone.

Sometimes, it might feel that there’s just so much you have to know, and that it’s impossible to get your foot in the door (literally!) – particularly when all we seem to hear about are ‘rent crises’ and ‘interest rate rises’ (I mean – what even are those, anyway?)!

In this section, we take you through how the system works and what you need to know if you’re thinking of moving out of home.

In Australia, people typically live in homes that they either own or rent. Most young people moving out of their parents’ homes for the first time will move into a rental property – that’s because buying a house is extremely expensive (we’ll talk about that briefly below).

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Renting a home

‘Renting’ means living in a house or apartment you do not own, for a period agreed upon by both you and the person who owns the property (known as the landlord). Those living in the property (known as tenants) will pay rent to the landlord – usually in monthly instalments. While you are renting, you can’t make changes to the house or apartment, and you have to follow the rules laid out by the landlord (there are laws about what rules are reasonable and unreasonable to ask of tenants). In return, you, as the tenant, have the right to peace and privacy from the landlord for the duration of your tenancy.

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It is quite common for the landlord to rent their property through a real estate agent. This means that the landlord and tenants will have little contact with one another – instead, each will communicate with a property manager, who works for the real estate agent, who organises everything and passes information between the two parties.

The rules and responsibilities for both the landlord and tenant are set out in the lease. This is a document that both parties sign at the beginning of the tenancy. It outlines the agreed duration of the tenancy (typically – but not always – a year), the names of the tenants and landlord, the pets (if any!) permitted at the premises, and the condition of the property at the time the lease agreement commenced (this part is called the condition report). It’s important to read the lease agreement and understand all the terms outlined in it; it’s also important to make sure that the condition of the property is the same as what is listed in the condition report – take your own photos of the property at the beginning of the lease to make sure.

At the beginning of a tenancy, you will also have to pay a bond – this is approximately the cost of one month’s rent (but is in addition to your first month’s rent). The bond is kept by the bond authority (an official third party that is not related to either you or your landlord) for the duration of your tenancy. It remains your money (that is, the tenant’s), but acts as security for the landlord – if you damage the property, or are unable to pay rent, the landlord can use your bond to pay themselves the money they are owed. However, as long as you look after the house and pay your rent, your bond will be returned to you in full at the end of your tenancy.

Sometimes you might be renting but you won’t be on the lease – your housemate(s) may be instead. This is quite a common arrangement in sharehouses, where an original housemate may decide to move out before the lease finishes – you might move into their room, and take their position in the house. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s a good idea to chat to your housemates about transferring the lease into your name (in addition to the names of the current leaseholders) – this gives you more housing security, the ability to contact the property manager directly with queries and maintenance requests, and will start building your own rental history – which will make it easier to apply for your next house!

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Buying a home

For most people, buying a house is the most expensive purchase they’ll ever make. It’s not likely to be something you’re thinking about doing now. However, the housing market makes up a big piece of Australia’s financial system – and you’ve likely heard about parts of it in the news – so it’s worth explaining how it works.

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To buy a house in Australia, most people apply for a loan from a bank or other financial institution. This is because houses are so expensive that it’s unlikely someone will have the entire cost of a house sitting in their bank account. Borrowing money for a house is called ‘taking out a mortgage’ – a term that you may have heard before.

The amount a bank will allow someone to borrow for a house depends on that individual’s financial situation. They consider a person’s income, financial commitments, the amount they have already saved, their assets, and how well they have been able to pay back past debts. Different banks will also offer different interest rates. Because a home loan is such a big amount of money to borrow, interest rates really matter – and make a big difference to the total cost that the borrower will pay (for more information about interest and how it works, check out the Mobile phones and contracts planet in the Moneyverse). Your interest rate can be either fixed or variable – fixed rates are less flexible, but variable rates are subject to the ups and downs of the Australian economy. For instance – the Reserve Bank of Australia makes changes to interest rates as a way of strengthening the Australian economy. These changes filter down to the average homeowner with a mortgage, causing their monthly home loan repayments to increase. You may have heard of recent interest rate rises – and the stress this has caused many homeowners.

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Useful things to know

If you want to start looking for a house to rent, there are a few things you need to think about before you start applying:

  • Renting is expensive, so, if you’re thinking about moving out of home, it’s important that you have a steady income and a secure job. You will also need to know how much you can afford to spend on rent each month so you can look at rental houses within your budget. Check out the About my money rocket! section in the Moneyverse if you want to learn more about doing a budget.
  • You will need at least two months’ rent saved before you start looking for a rental property – when you sign a lease, you need to be able to pay one month’s rent in advance and the bond – all in one go.
  • Renting costs more than just your rent – you’ll also need to pay for household bills (electricity, gas, water usage and internet). It might be useful to develop a budget to see how much these will cost on top of your rent. If you are living with other people, remember that the person whose name is on each of the bills is liable for 100% of the bill even if it is the other housemates who don’t pay their share – so be careful! For more information about sharing expenses with housemates, check out the Sharing fairly satellite in the Moneyverse!
Tips for first-time renters

The rental market can be very competitive, and property managers and landlords will often prefer tenants who already have a rental history. However, there are ways of strengthening your application even if you have no rental history.

Before you start applying for houses, make sure you have:

  • Verification of employment and verification of income – these prove that you can cover the rental amount. It’s important to be able to show that you have a stable job and income, so you can assure the landlord that you will be able to pay your rent each month
  • Reference from your employer or another staff member – this proves your employment and also acts as a character reference for your reliability and responsibility
  • Reference from a neighbour – this is a very handy one to have as your neighbour can share how you are in your property
  • Personal references – these should not be from relatives and should speak to who you are as a person. Why should the property manager and landlord choose you?
  • Photo identification
  • A recent utilities or phone bill

If you have all of the above items ready to go when you start inspecting and applying for houses, you can complete each application as soon as you’ve seen the property. You should also inform your references that you’re applying for rental properties, so they know to be ready to receive a call from your property manager.

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Beatrice and Bernard are two friends who have been living in a sharehouse together for a year. Now, their lease is finishing and they have both decided to go their separate ways – Beatrice is off to Paris for a semester abroad, and Bernard is moving in with his boyfriend.

Before they move out, they complete a bond clean – this means emptying the house, cleaning it from top to bottom (including steam cleaning the carpets!) and returning everything to the state it was in when they moved in. If everything is in order, they should receive the full amount of their bond in a month or so.

A few weeks later, they receive an email from their property manager, who says that the landlord wants to withhold $600 of their bond because there is a scratch on the wall of the living room. Beatrice is immediately anxious – she’s just arrived in Paris, and has been counting on her proportion of the bond to help her get on her feet. But Bernard is relaxed.

“Bee, I checked the photographs we took when we signed the lease, and that scratch is in them! So we definitely didn’t do it – and we can prove it!”

Beatrice sighs in relief – she’d forgotten about the photos. When they first got the keys to the house, Bernard had insisted on taking photos of all the rooms and fixtures in the property. She’d rolled her eyes at the time – all she’d wanted to do was move her stuff in immediately and start her new, fun, inner-city life! But now she was incredibly grateful – she thanked Bernard.

“No worries, Bee. It was all thanks to Francis – he told me that it’s always a good idea to take your own photos of the property, even though the real estate agent will say it’s unnecessary, so that you have your own records of the condition of the place when you moved in!”

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Better Health

For a helpful summary of things to think about when moving out of home – and tips for first time renters – check out Better Health’s webpage on the topic.

Tenants’ unions

For comprehensive information about your rights as a renter – and assistance if you think your rights aren’t being respected – check out your state or territory’s tenants’ union. In Victoria, this is Tenants Victoria, and in New South Wales, this is the Tenants’ Union.

Getting your bond back

If you are already renting and having an issue getting your bond back, check out this page, on the Renters and Housing Union’s website.

Insurance
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Insurance

Insurance is a way of protecting ourselves from the full financial impact of something going wrong.

It works something like this: if we want to protect ourselves from having to pay everything to fix a situation after an unlikely (but possible) event or disaster, we can purchase insurance from an insurance company. Paying a yearly amount for the insurance means that, if the event ever occurs, the insurance company will protect us (or ‘cover’ us) financially from having to pay the entire cost of fixing things up.

When deciding whether to take out insurance, we are also considering the likelihood that a particular event (that is, a bad event!) will occur. Some young people think nothing bad will ever happen to them, so getting insurance might feel like a strange decision – but the possibility that something could happen to you, like an accident or injury, is quite real.

People make choices about how much insurance they need based on all sorts of reasons. Decisions may be influenced by the actual value of the item that we want to be able to replace, like a car. They may also be influenced by an event, or real experience, or the experience of someone we know.

Our decisions might also be informed by location and living situation; for example, a person living in a remote forest area may have very different insurance to someone living by the sea. Someone who cleans windows on skyscraper buildings may have different insurance cover compared to someone who manages a stable of horses. A person renting their home may have different insurance cover compared to someone who has a family to support and a large home loan to pay.

In all cases, insurance cover protects us from incurring enormous costs if something happens that changes our living circumstances, or prevents us from being able to work. Another way to describe it would be that we are putting the financial load of an incident onto the insurance company, while we pay a much lower price. The price we pay is called the premium.

Insurance companies can also add an extra payment that you pay at the time of the incident called an excess. Paying a higher excess means the premium is lower, but you’ll be lumped with the excess at the time of the incident when you make a claim. The details, terms and conditions of the insurance product is known as the policy.

There are different types of insurance, and although some are more relevant to people who already have a car and a home, it’s worthwhile knowing a bit about the insurance that is available:

Car insurance

If you have a bingle and need help to cover the costs of a car repairer. There are different types of car insurance – some may cover the cost of your car, some may cover the cost of the other car involved, and some may cover the cost for both of you.

Read more in the links below, and check out the Moneyverse asteroid Buying a car to investigate extra expenses, like insurance, that you need to consider when you want to get your first set of wheels.

There is also a link below that explains what to do if you have a bingle and you are not insured. It can be very expensive and have serious legal implications if you are out on the road while not insured.

Ambulance cover

Insurance to cover the cost of a trip to the hospital in an ambulance. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘ambulance membership’. This is because insurance is provided when you’ve paid to be a member of a state or territory’s ambulance organisation – for example, Ambulance Victoria.

Mobile phone insurance

To cover damage to your phone, including either replacement or repair.

Total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance

Provides a lump sum to help cover your expenses if you are injured and can’t work again.

Life insurance

If you pass away and can’t provide for your family anymore.

Home insurance

If you have a tree fall onto your chimney, you’re covered for repairs to your house.

Sometimes people separate the insurance for the home – that is, the building – from insurance for the contents, which refers to everything inside the house, including the fridge, TV, and any precious belongings.

Income protection insurance

If you need to cover lost income because you aren’t able to work.

Pet insurance

To help cover expensive vet bills if your dog or pet needs an operation.

Health insurance

To help cover the expenses in going to hospital, or getting new glasses.

Travel insurance

To help cover costs for unforeseen events while you are travelling, like getting you somewhere if a flight is cancelled, or medical care if you become unwell in another country.

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Useful things to know

Insurance premiums are usually paid once each year, so while paying the insurance premium is important, it can easily be forgotten. Make sure you have any yearly insurance expenses listed on your budget, and divided into monthly or fortnightly amounts that you can save for, so the bill doesn’t come as a shock! If you are having trouble paying important insurance premiums, ask the insurance company about paying in smaller amounts more often.

You probably don’t have to have a lot of insurance as a young person, unless you have particular complex health needs. It is important though to think about the sorts of things that could happen, like falling off your bike or getting injured playing sport, where you may need an ambulance to get you to hospital.

If you don’t think you need any insurance yet, perhaps just consider ambulance insurance – we hope that we never need it, but we want to be covered so we’re not billed for thousands of dollars if an ambulance is called to take us to hospital.

Did you know?

Australia has a health system that is made up of both public and private providers. The public health system is automatically available to all of us, and is paid for through taxes (your green Medicare card has a number on it for accessing the public health system). We also have a private health system, which is owned by private companies who offer a wide range of health services, but need to charge higher prices.

Having private health insurance means you are able to access private hospitals and other private health services not available in the public Medicare system.

You can read more about private health insurance and how to choose the insurance cover you may one day need here.

Do you have ambulance cover?

Check carefully to see whether you are covered for ambulance trips in your state.

In some states, like Victoria, you need a health care card, or ambulance membership, to be covered for short trips (the ambulance insurance cover is known as the ‘membership fee’). Paying a small yearly amount is well worth it because, without ambulance cover, you could be billed $1200 or more for your trip!

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What is the risk of our rocket crashing in space?

Very low I hope!

However, considering how many rockets there are in the entire universe, crashes probably occur quite often each light year. To an individual rocket owner, a crash is an enormous cost, but if we spread that cost across every rocket owner in the universe, we keep ‘rocket repair insurance’ premiums low.

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Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money.

You can read about different types of insurance on the Moneysmart website – here are some links to get you exploring:

  • Health insurance – read here for more about what you need to do to get ambulance cover (depending on your home state or territory)
  • Car insurance – read here for information about different types of car insurance and what to look out for
Ambulance Victoria

If you live in Victoria, click here to visit the Ambulance Victoria website and find out more about becoming a member.

Car accident when uninsured

If you have a car accident and you don’t have car insurance, there are important things you need to know.

Visit this page on the Financial Rights Legal Centre’s website to read more.

Investment
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Investment

Once we’re earning money, we start making decisions about what we’re going to do with that money.

We will use some of it to purchase the things we need to live, like food and housing, but we also need to decide what to do with the money we don’t spend.

Many of us will put the money we save in a bank account, where it will be safe until we need to access it. But others may instead decide to invest the money they haven’t yet spent.

Investment is the act of putting money into something with the expectation of making a profit in the future. People invest money with the hope that the original amount they invested will increase as the thing they have invested in increases in value. However, investing is a risk – if the thing that someone has invested in loses value, they may lose all or some of the original investment.

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How investing works

People invest because there is the potential to earn a higher return on their money than they would get from simply keeping it in a savings account. For example, if we invest $100 in shares that increase in value by 10%, we would earn $10 in profit. Over time, those small gains can add up.

However, investments can also fail to grow and provide the benefits we hoped for. For example, if we invest $100 in shares that decrease in value by 10%, we would lose $10. To combat this risk, people often ‘diversify’ their investments, which means investing widely in many different things, rather than putting all their eggs in one basket.

Another important concept to understand when it comes to investing is the concept of compounding. This is when we earn interest on our initial investment, as well as on any interest that we’ve already earned. Over time, this can lead to exponential growth in our investment. For example, let’s say we invest $1,000 in a mutual fund that earns an average return of 8% per year. After the first year, our investment would be worth $1,080. In the second year, we would earn 8% on that $1,080, bringing our total investment to $1,166.40. Over time, those small gains can compound to a significant amount of wealth.

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What sort of things can we invest in?

There are many different types of investments that people can make, but some of the most common include term deposits, shares, and real estate. Each of these investments comes with its own set of risks, hidden costs and potential benefits. Sometimes, people choose to invest in someone else’s business venture, which provides the business with some initial money to help get it off the ground, although this is more risky again.

We’ll now go through some of the more common kinds of investment.

  • Term deposits are a comparatively low risk investment, and are not dissimilar to a savings account you might have with your bank. However, unlike a savings account, when you invest in a term deposit, you lock your money away for a certain amount of time (the ‘term’), and cannot withdraw or access it before the end of that term. In return, you get a fixed interest rate, which is higher than most bank accounts. The longer the term, and the more money you invest, the higher the interest rate. However, you need to be sure you won’t need to access the money you put in a term deposit before the end of the term.
  • Shares are higher risk investments, which means that, while the return may be greater, the potential for loss is greater too. When we buy shares, we are buying a small share of a much bigger company. When the company is performing well, our small share of the business becomes worth more than we paid for it. However, when the business performs poorly, our share of the business may be worth less than we paid for it. As you may have noticed if you’ve ever looked at the ‘business’ section of the news, companies are constantly changing in value – every day, the value of a company changes slightly from its value the day before. Ultimately, when we invest in shares, the aim is to sell them for more than we paid for them, but this means they’re often a longer term investment – meaningful changes in value happen over a long period of time, so we will likely have to ride the highs and lows of fluctuating share prices in the meantime.

Many people also choose to invest in real estate. This means buying property, like a house, either to live in or to rent out. Of course, this sort of investing can only happen when you have already saved a substantial amount of money. Visit the Housing planet to find out more about how buying a house works.

There are also a few other, less common investments you might have heard of, including cryptocurrency, racehorses, paintings, gold, jewellery and watches.

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Useful things to know

If you’re thinking about investing some of your money, it’s important to remember that investing always involves risk. Although not all investments involve the same amount of risk, there is no such thing as a risk-free investment. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the expected return, the higher the risk of losing money.

If you are in a precarious financial situation and considering investing some of your money, it is worth thinking about whether you can afford a bad return on that investment. Can you afford to never see the money you have invested ever again?

If you are planning to invest, here are some golden rules, borrowed from the MoneySmart website, that will help you remain financially safe and secure:

  • Pay off your debts first — pay off any loans, like a credit card or personal loan, before you invest
  • Have emergency savings — aim to have enough set aside to cover three months’ expenses, so you won’t have to sell an investment if you need cash quickly
  • Develop an investing plan — define your financial goals, risk tolerance and investment time frame
  • Diversify your investments — spread your money across and within asset classes to lower your portfolio’s risk
  • Keep track of your investments — review them regularly and make sure you’re on track

And remember, past performance is no indication of future performance – an investment may have made good returns one year, but this is no guarantee that it will continue to make good returns in the future.

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Josie’s dream is to open a café. She’s spent the last ten years working in other cafes and restaurants, saving money and learning the tricks of the trade, and now feels ready to make her dream a reality. However, there are a lot of start-up costs – she’s found her dream premises and signed a three year lease, but still needs to buy furniture, two coffee machines, cutlery… the list is endless!

Luckily, Josie’s friend, Seth, wants to become her business partner because he believes that Josie has what it takes to make her café a success. Seth has invested money in Josie’s business, which means Josie has enough money at her disposal to buy all the things she needs to open the café. Seth now owns a share of the business, and he hopes that, when the café becomes a success, his share will be worth more than the initial amount he invested.

Of course, the risk is that Josie’s business may fail – in which case Seth’s share will be worth less than he invested, and he will have lost money. Seth has considered this risk but, as Josie’s friend, he believes in her completely – even though she’s never owned a business before!

Do you think Seth has made the right choice? What would you do?

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Money Managed

For more information about the benefits and risks of investing as a younger person, including practical tips for how to start, check out the Investing page on the Australian Government’s Money Managed website.

Money Managed is a website providing information about money and finances to young Australians.

Mobile phone plans and contracts
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Mobile phone plans and contracts

What’s the deal with mobile phones? There are so many ways to pay for them!

Having a mobile phone is an essential part of being an adult – it’s a way to keep in touch with your work, family and friends, and also a tool to help you navigate the world. Phones are often expensive, but there are lots of different ways to pay for them, depending on the kind of phone you’re looking for – and the budget you have.

Aside from choosing which phone you want, the biggest choice you’ll make is whether you want a prepaid or postpaid mobile phone plan. If you opt for a prepaid mobile phone plan, you will pay for your phone calls and data before you make them, which means you will only use what you can afford to pay for. If you opt for a postpaid mobile phone plan, you can use your phone as much as you like – and you will then be sent a bill for your usage at the end of each month. This bill also often includes a monthly instalment for the phone itself – particularly if the phone is the newest (and most expensive!) model. If you are postpaying your phone usage, you will have to sign a contract that locks you into paying for what you use.

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So what is a contract?

For lots of young people, a mobile phone purchase might be the first contract they’re asked to sign. But when you sign that contract at the Telstra shop, what is it that you’re really signing? What’s all that fine print about? Did you just unknowingly sign away your soul?

Sometimes we need – or want – to buy something that we can’t afford. When this happens, we might decide to purchase the item ‘on credit’, which means we pay some of the cost upfront, and agree to pay the money we owe in future instalments. A credit contract is a verbal or written agreement between a consumer (the person buying the item) and a provider (that’s the shop or seller). It outlines the amount the consumer has borrowed from the provider, the repayments that are due and the interest rate and fees. When you sign a contract, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions laid out in it – and these become your obligations upon signing.

But what does all of that mean? Let’s go through some of those key terms now.

  • The terms and conditions in a contract outline all the rights and responsibilities that both parties (that is, the consumer and the provider) have once the contract is signed. The consumer will need to indicate that they have read and understood these terms before they are allowed to sign the contract – most often, you can do this by ticking a box. Remember: it’s important that you understand what the terms and conditions of a contract are before you tick that box!
  • Repayments are payments that the consumer is required to pay back to the lender at regular intervals in order to settle the debt they owe. The contract will outline how big these repayments are – and how often they are due. Make sure you can afford the payment schedule as it is outlined in the contract.
  • Interest is the cost the consumer pays in order to borrow money (this is a cost on top of the amount of money they have borrowed). Interest is usually expressed as a percentage of the amount of money lent. The consumer most often pays this interest gradually, paying off a little bit with each repayment – but the overall cost of this interest can be fixed or variable. Fixed interest is determined in the contract and will not fluctuate over the term of the loan. In contrast, variable interest rates can go up and down over the term of the loan. If you’re thinking of signing a mobile phone contract, you actually don’t need to worry about interest – mobile phone contracts with telephone providers charge 0% interest. This means that we won’t have to pay an additional amount because we have borrowed from the phone company for the phone.
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Useful things to know

Entering into a credit contract allows us to take home an item that we would not have been able to afford upfront. While this is incredibly useful for expensive purchases that are essential for school or work – like a computer, for example – there can be risks too:

  • If we sign a contract, we commit ourselves to making regular payments for a number of months or years. It can be hard to anticipate how our financial situations may change over that time, so it can be risky to commit to large monthly repayments.
  • If our payments are late, we may be charged a fee (these are outlined in the terms and conditions), and these additional costs can get out of control quite quickly.

If we enter a two year mobile plan contract but then lose our job, we will still need to find another way to continue our repayments for the remaining two years. While it is possible to cancel a contract, this is accompanied by a large (and often unaffordable) early cancellation fee.

So when you’re choosing your phone, and how you want to pay for it, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help work out what phone is right for you:

1. What do you need your phone to do?

Think about the calls and texts you make, and the amount of data and kind of coverage that you need.

2. What is your budget? How can you afford to get a phone that does what you need it to do?

Depending on both your budget and your needs, you may prefer a prepaid phone over a plan. Simple handsets can be purchased using the prepaid option (for example, $30 per month) – this option is safer if your financial situation changes frequently, or if you don’t want to commit to paying off your phone for the next two years.

3. Do you really need all the features you think you do?

If you don’t think you can afford the phone you’d like, it might be useful to consider whether any of your mobile phone ‘needs’ may instead be wants – this can help you choose a more affordable phone and plan, which will reduce the risk of money trouble down the line.

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Josephine bought her first phone at the beginning of the year, when she was working five days a week and making a good wage. Now, she is in the middle of Year 12, and only works on Sundays. She’s fallen behind on her mobile phone bill, and decides she wants a different phone with a cheaper contract – something that is more within her budget.

Unfortunately, when she calls up her mobile phone provider, they tell her that she is locked in to her contract for another 18 months! It is her responsibility to find a way to keep paying her monthly bill.

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Explore Further

Moneysmart

Moneysmart is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money.

For more information about how to choose the right mobile phone plan for you, check out Moneysmart Choosing a mobile phone plan.

National Debt Helpline

For more information about your rights when entering a contract, see the National Debt Helpline’s page Know your rights.

And if you need help with a dispute about a mobile phone contract (and have already complained to the company), you can use the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s complaints line: 1800 062 058.

Scams
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Scams

A scam is a deceptive act that is designed to cheat someone out of something. Most of the time, scams are designed to trick someone into giving their money away. Someone who scams others is known as a ‘scammer’.

Scams can happen in many different contexts – in person, on the phone, at school, within families – and especially on the internet. Just as the internet makes it easier for us to do lots of everyday activities, it has also made it much easier for scammers to find victims and to hide their own identities while carrying out their crime.

Scams can be incredibly clever and convincing – for example, it’s not unusual to receive a scam text informing you that you have a package at a local post office exactly when you are expecting a package! Well-planned scams are often designed to catch us off guard when we’re busy or distracted, or to tap into an existing feeling or obligation that we have.

The trickiest thing about scams is that they’re constantly evolving, and scammers always seem to be one step ahead of the rest of us, looking for new ways to make their scams more realistic and effective. By the time we identify a new scam and work out how it works, you can bet that scammers are already developing an even newer scam that uses techniques we’ve never even heard of. This means that it can be hard to distinguish a scam from something real, because scams are becoming more and more lifelike.

Scammers contact people via all kinds of communication and social media channels, including phone, text, email, and online messaging platforms. Some of the common scams that you might encounter include:

  • ‘Hi mum’ or family impersonation scams – in these scams, a scammer convincingly impersonates a member of our family in a text message, and pretends that this family member has an emergency and is in need of a quick bank transfer.
  • Online shopping scams – these kinds of scams include fake billing or false invoicing, which is where a website claims there was an urgent problem with our payment and asks us to pay again. We should be careful buying online, particularly when using websites we’re not familiar with, and should look out for fake offers of discounts or prizes.
  • False parcel delivery – a common scam involves text messages that claim to be from Australia Post (or other delivery services) – be careful when opening links in texts like these.
  • Gaming and gambling scams – scammers may make contact with us through gaming platforms, gaining our trust, before they indirectly steal both our identity and our funds. So, we should be careful when making contact with gaming partners online.

But these are just a few examples – there are so many more!

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Useful things to know

Although scams can be scary, there’s no need to panic. Knowing about scams and the techniques that scammers use can help us to protect ourselves. There are also some ‘golden rules’, outlined in the ACCC’s Little Black Book of Scams (which you can access via the link below), that we can use to help protect ourselves:

  • Be alert to the fact that scams exist. This awareness will help you to navigate the internet with caution, and to recognise suspicious activity
  • Know who you’re dealing with
  • Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or emails – delete them
  • Keep your personal details secure. Do not share your passwords or credit card details with anyone, and be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites
  • Beware of unusual payment methods. These include payment by wire transfers, preloaded cards and even Google Play, Steam, iTunes cards and Bitcoin
  • Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. Use password protection on your devices, don’t share access with others, back up your content and avoid using public computers or WiFi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information
  • Choose your passwords carefully. Make a password that would be difficult for others to guess – or, even better, use computer generated passwords and two-factor authentication
  • Beware of any requests for your details or money. Never send money, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust
  • Be careful when shopping online. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust.

Sometimes you might have been incredibly careful, and have followed all the guidelines outlined above, and you might still fall victim to a scam. Falling for a scam often has nothing to do with how much you know – or how smart you are – instead, it can happen to anybody! If you think you might have been scammed, here are some easy steps to help:

  • Tell family or a friend
  • Change your passwords
  • Block the sender. If you suspect you have been scammed, do not reply to the scammer and block them – this will stop more emails or messages
  • Call your bank. Remember that if money is taken from you, your bank may pay you the amount that has been stolen – however, if you have transferred money to someone willingly (even under fraudulent circumstances) it is much more difficult to get that money back
  • Report the scam to IDcare, a charity that assists Australians and New Zealanders whose identities have been stolen
  • See a financial counsellor (if you are over 18) to help recover money you have lost.
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Riley got a call from her mum –

Riley? Why are you answering the phone? I was just calling to doublecheck it wasn’t working.”

What? Of course it’s working.”

This wasn’t the news Riley’s mum wanted to hear – she had just been messaging another phone number, someone who said they were Riley. This Riley had dropped her phone in the toilet, and had asked her mum to send her $500 to tide her over until she could get a new phone and bank card.

The real Riley’s phone was fine – and she hadn’t received any money…

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Explore Further

Moneysmart

Moneysmart is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here are a range of useful pages on internet scams, including:

Scamwatch

Scamwatch, run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), is a website that provides information about how to recognise, avoid and report scams.

The ACCC has also produced a very useful resource, The Little Black Book of Scams, which offers practical tips for avoiding scams.

IDCARE

IDCARE is a charity that assists Australians and New Zealanders whose identities have been stolen.

Safe is savvy

For more information about online scams, listen to Episode 9 of Little Dreamers’ Safe is Savvy podcast, ‘Theft: How do I stop people stealing from me online?’.

Sharing fairly
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Sharing fairly

What does it mean to ‘share fairly’?

Sharing fairly recognises that owing money to others is an important responsibility. Not acting responsibly impacts on our relationships. Sharing fairly also recognises that we may sometimes be generous and pay for others, but that that can also impact our own ability to afford things we need.

Getting together for snacks after a swim once meant having a few coins to share. Now we hardly ever have cash, but we still need to ‘play fair’ when it comes to sharing.

Some people think that another event will come along soon enough to ‘even up the score’; they might say ‘swings and roundabouts!’, or ‘it’ll all come out in the wash!’ Being a responsible adult and good friend acknowledges that casual arrangements like that can sometimes leave people feeling uncertain. Your friend may not be able to afford to wait until life ‘swings back’ to you, when it’s your turn to pay.

There are always going to be money transactions in life that require us to share or split money. Sometimes we’re paying others, and sometimes we’re collecting our fair share from others. Sometimes the two amounts might cancel each other out. In any case, we need to be responsible for our part in the transaction.

When sharing fairly, you may need to keep track of both who you owe, and who owes you. Keeping records may not only be helpful, but also the right thing to do. This is especially true when you encounter formal expenses like rent, and household bills, or even as friends going camping for two whole weeks.

Communicating with each other clearly and honestly when we have to talk about money helps our friendships and relationships. Everyone knows what’s expected of each other.

This is particularly true when you are living in a sharehouse. Click below to read more tips about sharing expenses between housemates.

Sharing fairly in a sharehouse

Housemates will often set up ‘house rules’, so that everyone is comfortable with the way costs are split. Listing which household expenses are going to be split, and the timing and frequency of the major bills is a great start.

What about the rent?

What is the system in your house to get everyone to pay rent on time? It’s always OK to pay a bit early, but never OK to pay late! It’s also important that when you do pay, your agent or landlord sends a receipt. That way all contributing parties acknowledge the transaction has been completed.

Is the rent at your house split evenly, or does the housemate with the biggest bedroom pay a bit more?

How should we split the electricity bill if one housemate is working from home and everyone else is out all day?

What’s the plan if someone moves out?

The answers to these questions can vary, but importantly, it’s good to have conversations early on, so everyone is clear about what’s happening money-wise. Casual ‘swings and roundabouts’ arrangements don’t apply when setting up house rules; you need to make sure everyone is clear about their responsibility for each transaction with each other.

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Useful things to know

Considering my impact on others:

What if there’s someone always paying for my meal, and I’m not really able to pay them back. Should I budget and grow my savings before I go out for dinner with them again, so I can offer to pay for both of us?

What if I am the one who keeps paying for everyone else? How will I start to feel when I can’t pay for my own expenses, while I wait for others to pay me back? How will I talk to my friend when I need to have a conversation about being paid back?

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Kaz has three housemates.

Frankie is really fit, super active and likes to eat a lot. Every morning, Frankie cooks an omelette that has two eggs and three extra egg whites in it. That’s five eggs a day. Three dozen a week.

Kaz can’t believe the number of eggs the housemates are buying. The cost is really starting to eat into the money they have all put aside for weekly shopping.

According to their house rules, each housemate must contribute equally to the weekly shopping and bills expenses. Frankie’s eggs are expensive and sometimes the housemates don’t have enough money to buy everything else on the list.

At first, Kaz thought it would be fine – healthy housemates are better than ‘couch potatoes’! But now she is starting to get cranky at the cost of Frankie’s big brekky routine.

Kaz has decided to start an open and honest conversation about personal spending and shared spending. The housemates have only agreed to contribute to shared spending. Kaz has been considering that Frankie’s eggs were a bit like Sarah’s hi-fibre, no sugar, exotic grain, GMO free, expensive granola from the market across town – Sarah’s special treat on her own special shopping list that she pays for herself.

Since they were all in this house sharing situation together, they decided to review their shared expenses and bills. It took an evening to sort out. Kaz was also in charge of electricity (the bill was in her name), but Sarah was in charge of water usage and the internet. They found an app that would track spending and calculate each person’s total amount owed, equally and fairly. It would also send a notification reminder about due dates, or if someone had forgotten to pay up.

Frankie can see that all their eggs are costing a lot. Thinking rather generously, they offer to cook everyone a daily super omelette…

‘Frankie!! That would mean twenty eggs a day, which is 12 dozen a week!! And who’s going to do all the washing up!!’

Perhaps not a practical or affordable idea. Frankie agrees to buy their own eggs for their own omelettes.

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Sharing life, like a total legend

Mum lets you borrow her car – legend, mum!

  • Always putting petrol back in it when you’re done – total legend!

Mary agrees to let you drink some of her oat milk – legend, Mary!

  • Buying her a bottle when you next go shopping – total legend!

Sam lets everybody know the due date for the rent is on the 12th of every month – legend, Sam!

  • You arrange to pay your share of the rent a bit early on the 9th – total legend!

Gareth has a party with music blaring – legend, Gareth!

  • Everyone brings bluetooth headphones for a late-night silent disco – total legend!
  • Gareth cleans up after the party the next morning – Wow, where can we find this guy!?
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Explore Further

Suggested Apps for Tracking and Splitting Expenses

You might like to investigate a short list of suggested apps for tracking and splitting expenses. These can be used for an event, a holiday, camping trip or sharing housemates:

More advice about Responsible House Sharing

If you would like more advice about responsible house sharing from the Share Housing Survival Guide: day to day living arrangements

Moneysmart

This guide on the Moneysmart website explains more about sharing money in our relationships, for example a close partner or someone who you are going to move in with: Relationships and money.

Superannuation
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Superannuation

Superannuation is a way to save money for retirement. You might think ‘Retirement?! That’s a whole lifetime away!’, but the truth is that it’s important to start saving for retirement early so that we can retire comfortably.

Luckily, in Australia we have a system that starts saving money for us: once we start working, it is compulsory for our employers to put some money away for our retirement each time they pay us. This money is called ‘superannuation’ and it goes into our ‘super fund’, where it is kept until we retire (or are given special permission to use it for an emergency). Our super fund should look after our superannuation, maintaining or growing its value by investing it.

The way that superannuation works means that we don’t have a choice about saving money for our retirement – the saving happens before we even receive our fortnightly pay! What’s more, the money we save early in our careers will increase in value over time because of compound interest – so the super we earn when we are 18 will have a greater value than the super we earn in our 50s. It can be hard to think so far into the future – and to make decisions that will benefit a version of ourselves that seems impossibly far away – which is why compulsory superannuation exists!

However, it’s worth noting that Australia’s superannuation system is not perfect. The amount of super we accrue is tied to the amount that we earn, which means that those who earn more – or who have been working for longer – will accrue more super over their lifetime. While on first glance that may seem fair, it also means that people who are unable to work due to illness, or parents (most often women) who take time off to look after children, will not be earning superannuation for the time that they are out of the workforce. Ultimately, this means that, on average, women have less superannuation than men (which means fewer options when they retire), while people who have been unable to work due to circumstance or illness have far less again.

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Useful things to know

When we get a new job, our employers ask what superannuation fund we want our super to be paid into – we can either nominate a super fund we want to use, or agree to use the default super fund suggested by our employer. It’s not at all unusual for a young person starting their first job to use the super fund their employer suggests. If someone has had multiple jobs, they might even have multiple superannuation funds.

Each super fund is different, charging different fees and making different choices about how to invest your money. As you become more familiar with superannuation, you may wish to investigate whether your current super fund is the best fund for you. It’s easy to change your super fund if you find one you prefer.

If you have a job, here are some important questions to ask yourself about your superannuation:

  • Is my employer contributing at least 10.5% of my income to my super fund? You can find this out by looking at your payslip.
  • How much am I paying in super fund fees? Depending on your super fund provider, your monthly fees may be eating away at the amount of super you have.
  • How many super funds do I currently have? If you have more than one, perhaps because you have had a number of jobs, you should consider consolidating your super to a single account. This will reduce what you pay in fees, and will make your super easier to manage.
  • Is my super fund aligned with my goals, values and line of work? There are a range of different factors to consider when choosing a super fund, including performance (how well a super fund is managing its clients’ money) and fees. Some industries also have industry-specific super funds. You may also wish to consider the kinds of investments your super fund makes – super funds invest in all kinds of companies, including those whose work harms the environment, and industries including armaments, tobacco and alcohol. If any – or all – of these investments don’t sit right with you, you may like to consider changing your super fund. To compare super funds in order to find one that suits your needs, check out the YourSuper comparison tool.
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Jessica has been working at her local juice bar for six months. She has been getting paid cash in hand, which her boss says is good for the business and good for Jessica – it’s all tax free! Then Jessica’s teacher ran a class on financial literacy, and Jessica learned about superannuation.

She realized that, if her boss wasn’t doing things by the books, she wouldn’t know how much – if any! – superannuation she was receiving from the juice bar. She was worried that she wasn’t getting paid what she was entitled to.

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Explore Further

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money.

For more information about superannuation, including how to consolidate your super funds, check out Moneysmart’s page on superannuation.

YourSuper

YourSuper is a comparison tool that will help you compare superannuation funds, fees and returns.

Little Dreamers podcast

For a clear explanation of superannuation, including tips for young people who have just entered the workforce, listen to Episode 5 of Little Dreamers’ Money Matters podcast, Understanding Tax and Superannuation.

Support for carers
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Support for carers

Do you look after someone? It may be your parents, your child with a disability, a sibling with mental health support needs or a relative or partner with a chronic health issue or age-related condition. If you do, you are a carer.

Around 11% of Australians provide unpaid care – including family members, friends and neighbours – that’s more than 2.65 million people. More than one third have been assisting someone close to them for more than a decade. It would cost Australia around $80 billion to pay for services to deliver the same amount of care. That’s a lot of zeros – ten, to be precise.

In many situations, care is provided by a number of people. The primary carer is usually the person with the main responsibility for the caring tasks. However, caring is often shared amongst a number of people, for example, parents, children, grandparents, and sometimes aunts, uncles and cousins as well. Anyone providing unpaid care is recognized by our community as a carer.

Being a carer can be challenging as well as rewarding. It takes time that might otherwise be spent on study, working or just having fun! Money can be tight, and being home all the time means the household bills are higher, and visits to doctors, hospitals and so on often involve quite high parking fees. Carers may find it difficult to juggle extra responsibilities along with their own needs, and may need extra money to make everything work. A visit to the dentist, an Uber trip to get home in time to take over… all of this costs money. And, at the same time, there is less time available for that part-time job.

If you are an unpaid carer of a family member or friend, you may often overlook your own wellbeing while putting the needs of the person you care for first. Support is available for you.

Recognising the value of unpaid care and the challenges that come with it, our community organises some carer supports. It’s not everything, but it may help – and if you are a carer, you deserve the assistance that is available.

Many people with a caring role do not identify as carers, and so do not benefit from the information, services, and supports they should have.

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It’s worth getting in touch

  • Little Dreamers: A wonderful organisation that supports young carers aged 4 to 25 with programs focussing on respite, health and wellbeing, social connection, education and employment and financial literacy.
  • Satellite Foundation: An organisation that provides support for children and young people where a parent has a mental illness or mental health challenge.
  • Carers Victoria: Carers Victoria is the peak body that represents all unpaid carers in Victoria.
  • Carers Victoria’s Carer Advisory Service is a free and confidential phone line that provides information, advice, and help accessing the range of carer specific services available to all Victorian carers and supporters. Call the Carer Advisory Service on 1800 514 845. This includes information regarding the Support for Carers program, funded by the Victorian government with local organisations providing respite and supports to Victorian carers.
  • Carer Gateway: This is an Australia-wide network of Carer Gateway service providers. Available to talk through what you need and help you to find services and support to help you. You can also call the Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737.
Support for emergencies
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Support for emergencies

Putting money aside for emergencies helps keep us afloat – some people call it having a ‘rainy day’ account. But saving for a rainy day is not always an option.

When something unexpected happens, there can often be unplanned expenses involved – and it’s not unusual for more than one thing to go wrong at once! Fortunately, there are immediate supports for you or your family to access.

Before we get on to the help available, here is a massive meteor-sized warning: when you are thinking ‘It’s an emergency! I need quick cash!’ STOP and THINK before you rush into applying for a quick loan.

Under pressure, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that quick cash is the only option. Believe me, you may actually make things worse by borrowing money you don’t have.

Quick loans may be quick, but they hang around like a bad smell, with excessive fees, and expensive penalties for late payments. Get help from safe sources instead – and avoid adding to your money stresses!

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Safe options to choose in an emergency

  • No interest loans (NILs) – As the name suggests, a NIL scheme is a program that can provide an interest-free loan to individuals and families on a low income. They are designed to help with emergency expenses, such as repair or replacement of essential household appliances, urgent car repairs, some medical costs and more. Community organisations across Australia offer NILs, which means there is a good chance that there is a provider near you. Some of the bigger organisations include Good Shepherd and the Salvation Army.
  • Utility relief grants – Depending on what state or territory you live in, you may be eligible for a utility relief grant. In this arrangement, the government pays an amount towards what you owe on gas, electricity and/or water bills. These grants are available to people on low incomes, or with a concession card, who are dealing with an unexpected event, such as losing a job or something breaking down.
  • Centrelink advance payment – If you are already receiving a Centrelink payment, you have the option of receiving some of your payment in advance. The total amount you can receive in one advance payment depends on the kind of payment you are currently receiving. Once you have been paid the advance, you will begin paying it back over the course of your next 13 fortnightly Centrelink payments – Centrelink will automatically reduce the amount of your payment to cover the repayments. For more information about advance payments via Centrelink, click here.
  • Food banks – Food banks are places where you can be given a free meal or food pack. If you or your family are having trouble paying for essentials such as food, bills, medication, you can visit a local emergency relief centre. Community organisations across Australia offer various forms of emergency relief; churches or other religious centres may also be able to assist you with meals.
    • Anglicare emergency relief locations – click here to see a map
    • The Salvation Army emergency relief program for immediate assistance – for more information, click here
    • Foodbank arranges food delivery to relief centres. Click here to look up the Foodbank directory of relief centres near you
    • St Vincent de Paul (Vinnies) emergency relief locations and other assistance – click here.
  • Your local council office, Neighborhood House, or library is also a great place to start if you are looking for immediate assistance locally. They may ask you a few simple questions to determine the right service for you.

If your changed financial circumstances have put you at risk of becoming homeless, or you are in need of mental health support, here are some more resources that can help:

  • Ask Izzy – This is a directory that is easy to use to locate services like housing, a meal, counselling and much more – it’s a really good website to save in case you need to look for other support in the future.
  • Moneysmart – This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information. Moneysmart has a useful section for getting urgent help not only for money but also mental health, housing and emotional support. Click on this page for information and links.
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Build your financial capability

Once the initial emergency has eased and you feel back on track, you may like to learn about ways to manage your money, including building up your savings buffer for any future unexpected emergencies.

Here are some good places to start:

MoneyMinded Online

ANZ MoneyMinded Online is made up of a series of eight interactive activities that are designed to improve your money management skills. Click here for more information.

Be The Boss

Money Wisdom for Life (downloadable workbook) is a step-by-step 76 page guidebook that walks you through important money conversations and considerations.

You can download the workbook and then begin working at your own pace: www.salvationarmy.org.au/need-help/financial-assistance/youre-the-boss

Saver Plus – ANZ and Australian Government

Saver Plus is a financial education and matched savings program for families and individuals on a tight budget. Its aim is to assist participants in developing life-long savings habits. Eligible participants who complete the program have their savings matched (up to $500) by ANZ, which can be used for education-related expenses for themselves or their children. Click here for more information.

MoneySmart

MoneySmart is a guidance and support website from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Australian Government agency for financial capability. MoneySmart covers many topics and provides resources, including calculators and tips to help individuals make better financial decisions. This includes an easy to use budget/money planner to work out where your money is going. Click here for more information.

The MoneySmart website also has Money Management Kits in 15 languages other than English.

Tax
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Tax

Have you ever wondered why people can get so worked up about tax?

Tax is money collected by the government from the money we earn. It is used to pay for services and facilities that the whole community benefits from, like:

  • a hospital that is built in your area
  • financial assistance for people who can’t work
  • a rescue helicopter
  • upgraded classrooms at your local school

This may not mean much to you personally, but all around us are examples of taxes being used to improve the lives of people in our community.

So why do people get worked up?

Put simply, the government decides how much of our income will be taken out as tax, and also decides how to spend it.

People want to know that the money they’re giving to the government is going to impact them directly, but the way the government chooses to spend our tax will impact different people in different ways.

Michael, who lives in the country, needs to travel over an hour every time he needs to see his doctor – so he would love to see his taxes spent on a medical centre in his town. Elizabeth would love to see her taxes spent on a solar battery for her whole street to share.

Read on!

The amount of tax a person pays is dependent on how much money they earn – so the more money someone earns, the more tax they pay. We can earn a little bit of money at first without paying any tax, but by starting a part-time job (with our tax file number!), soon enough we’re likely to start having tax taken out of our pay.

As an employee, our employer will deduct tax from each pay and send it to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on our behalf.

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In Australia, if we are aged over 18 and earn over $18,200 per year, tax will be charged on our earnings. The rate of tax increases once you start earning over certain amounts. Tax rates begin at 19 cents out of each dollar we earn, and then jump to about 32 cents if you earn over $45,000 per year, 37 cents if you earn over $120,000 and finally to 45 cents out of each dollar earned, for those on $180,000 per year and above.

The Australian tax system is a big beast and can be complicated, even for experts! If you need more information, always go to the Australian Tax Office website and click on the ‘Individuals’ tab to find out more about personal tax.

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Other tips for starting out:

  • Have a tax file number (TFN) ready, or an application for one submitted when you start a job. Employees without a TFN pay a much higher rate of tax.
  • You also need a myGov account that is ‘linked’ to the ATO (you might already have myGov linked with Medicare or Services Australia – in this case, you just need to link the ATO to your myGov as well)
  • You must lodge an income tax assessment (also known as a tax return) each year to record your income and the tax you have paid. You can do this once you have a ‘payment summary’ from your employer, which shows both your income and the tax they withheld over the year. Employers produce payment summaries for their employees in July, after the end of the financial year on June 30th.
  • After you’ve lodged your tax return, you might receive a tax refund. That means the ATO has determined that you have paid too much tax. Tax refund money is deposited back into your bank account by the ATO.
  • You may be able to claim tax deductions at tax time. A tax deduction reduces the income that can be taxed, if you can prove that you paid for expenses that you needed to do your job, according to what’s allowed by the ATO. You need to keep receipts in a folder, paper, or on the ATO app in readiness for tax time. Some of the allowable deductions related to your work expenses include car expenses, travel expenses, clothing, uniforms and self-education. For more information, head to the ATO’s website.

A further note of caution, now that you’re totally into tax:

There is a lot of tax ‘advice’, articles and clips on social media, but the advice may not be legally accurate for your circumstances. Always head directly to the ATO’s website, or download the ATO app.

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Useful things to know

Tax is something we all pay at some stage. It’s important to know the basics about the correct amount you need to be paid for the job you do, and the correct amount of tax you need to pay.

  • Check your pay slip to see how much tax has been withheld. You can access a handy online calculator from the government website Moneysmart to check that the right amount is being withheld
  • Create a myGov account and link to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Find out if you are eligible to deduct any work-related expenses from the ATO website
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Jono has started working at his local bakery. It’s his first job! There are some important tasks to do, for example getting a tax file number (TFN). He needs to complete the application and provide the documents requested by the ATO.

Even though Jono doesn’t have his TFN just yet, he can still work at the bakery.

Jono was given a tax file number declaration form on his first day, by his boss. The form allows you to tick the box to say you have applied for a TFN, but you don’t have it yet. Jono’s boss can take tax out of Jono’s pay at the correct rate for 28 days, while he waits for Jono’s TFN. Jono will notify his boss of the new number as soon as he gets it.

If Jono never provides a TFN, his wages will be taxed at a much higher rate!

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The Australian Taxation Office (ATO)

The Australian Taxation Office website has a lot of information about tax, including:

Moneysmart

This is a fabulous resource produced by the Australian government, which provides all sorts of information about money. Here is a simple calculator that helps you work out how much tax is being withheld from your pay.

MyGov

To create a MyGov account, click here.

Tricky relationships
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Tricky relationships

You know a relationship between family members or friends is ‘healthy’ when you always feel respected and safe.

What if you don’t always feel respected and safe? What if you have been saving for an important purchase only to find money missing from your account? What if someone else makes all the money decisions and you don’t get a say, but instead you just have to go along with it. Are you ever expected to rescue someone from a tight spot again and again? You may really want to keep things smooth, and avoid confrontation, but in fact these experiences are not OK!

Have you ever felt unsettled about money events or money decisions happening in your relationships? What was your ‘gut feeling’ at the time? It’s easy to ‘share fairly’ when everyone involved respects each other. But what if someone’s idea of ‘sharing’ is simply that you help them out all the time? Maybe they don’t ask or consider your situation, they just expect or even demand your help. Some people even go as far as to suggest that something bad may happen if you don’t go along with what they want. Perhaps the person does ask for help, but in a way that makes you feel like you can’t say ‘no’.

It’s important to take notice of how you feel, and acknowledge when things don’t feel right.

Being able to listen to yourself and trust your instincts is a healthy and important skill.

As captain of your money rocket, you should take sensible steps to protect your money and make sure all the decisions about it are yours – you have the final say.

Captain! – Conduct your rocket safety check!

  • Am I doing my own banking?
  • Do I check my statements regularly?
  • Am I confident using an ATM and EFTPOS?
  • Am I able to use internet banking or the banking app?
  • Are my passwords secret and safe?
  • Am I in control of online purchases?
  • Do I know where to go to get trusted advice or help?

You need to stay on top of things – it’s important to pick up any problems early! If someone else knows your password, or even if you suspect they might, then change it! Check your accounts regularly so you can pick up any withdrawals you don’t recognize or haven’t made yourself.

If someone wants you to borrow money for them to use, or to sign something, or to go along with a decision you haven’t been able to think about properly for yourself – STOP! You have the right to take some time to think. Seek out advice – you could call the National Debt Helpline 1800 007 007 or use the chat on their website. Their guidance is free, confidential and without conflict.

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Useful things to know

You need your money rocket to be in good order to take you all the places you want to go. Be aware that you may come across tricky instances that need investigation or expert repairs!

This may happen when someone disregards you and your needs, and makes decisions about your money. This can happen very quietly and slowly – so that little by little you find yourself losing control of your money rocket.

Regular safety checks are imperative! Captain, you must stay in control!

If you are conducting regular safety checks by asking yourself the questions listed above and things still don’t feel right, you may be experiencing financial abuse. If another person’s behaviour continues to make you feel disrespected and unsafe then you should take action. And remember, this can happen to anyone (and unfortunately, it does happen to many people). Remember the problem lies with their behaviour, not yours.

Financial abuse can include many things, like controlling and preventing your access to money, stopping you from getting a job, or forcing you to get loans you don’t want or don’t understand. Sometimes you might not even be aware that it is happening to you. This is because people who control others financially can often convince you that their way of “managing” money is for the best, They may also try to convince you that you don’t know how to manage money – and obviously, Captain, that is not true!

Remember – everyone has a right to feel safe and respected.

If you are ever concerned for your immediate safety or that of someone else please call 000.

Your community cares about you and your rights, and help is available.

Financial abuse

Domestic and family violence (which includes financial abuse)

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For the past week, Suyin’s boyfriend has been borrowing her car (again!) because his van has broken down. Suyin doesn’t know yet that her boyfriend has parked in a no standing zone and driven on the tollway multiple times (again!). She pays the toll bill monthly and, because it’s a direct debit payment from her account, she doesn’t always realise how much extra she is paying for his trips.

A few weeks later, Suyin receives some envelopes addressed to her. To her surprise, fines have been issued in her name, as she holds the registration for her car. The times of the fines indicate that they were issued during the week that Suyin’s boyfriend was driving her car.

Suyin would like to ask her boyfriend to pay the fines, and by the due date, because after that late fees will be added. She leaves the fine notices on the bench where he can read them, and brings up the subject of payment. He says ‘yeah, yeah, of course, I’ll get around to it’, but in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable in the pit of her stomach. She has already been paying his tollway trips for months now and he doesn’t seem to show responsibility toward paying them, or the fines. Everything has been going well and she really likes him, so it feels awkward when she asks him to pay, and she doesn’t want to ‘rock the boat’. As the due date gets closer, and her boyfriend has done nothing about paying the fines, she realises she will probably have to pay them herself.

What do you think is going on here for Suyin? Is it a good idea to keep paying for her boyfriend’s tolls?

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What is debt?
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What is debt?

Adults fear me but banks seem to love me! If you’ve ever heard a grown-up talking about me, you’ll have heard the quiver in their voice – is there anything scarier than those four little letters?

D – E – B – T!

But what is debt? What am I?

‘Debt’ refers to money that is owed and must be paid back. When you have your finances under control, debt can be manageable – you can work the repayments into your weekly or monthly budget.

But debt becomes scary when it becomes too big and you owe too much, or when something in your financial situation changes and you find you’re struggling to pay back your debt in the time you’ve been given to do so.

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If debt is so scary, why do people get themselves into it?

We often borrow money just because it feels so convenient. When we want to buy something but can’t afford to pay for it upfront, borrowing seems like a way of getting what we want without compromising. However, every time we borrow, we are actually getting into debt.

If you look throughout the Moneyverse, you’ll see that debt features across many planets and asteroids. Sometimes it forms part of a system that allows us access to something essential – like housing, a mobile phone, or even a university education! Other times, it is more dangerous, rearing its ugly head in precarious buy now pay later arrangements, or credit cards we’ve been sent that we can’t afford to use.

As you explore in your rocket, notice all the ways that borrowing and debt feature in our financial system. But remember – just because debt is normalised within our financial system, doesn’t mean that it’s ever without risk!

You’ll see debt pop up at each of the following destinations in the Moneyverse:

  • Banks
  • Bills
  • Buying and running a car
  • Buy now pay later
  • Credit cards
  • Hardship
  • Helping others to manage
  • HECS-HELP
  • Housing
  • Mobile phone plans and contracts
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But what happens when debt becomes a problem?

Borrowing and debt may be common elements of our financial system – but this doesn’t mean that borrowing money isn’t risky! If you, or someone you know, have a problem debt, a financial counsellor can help – check out the financial counsellor astronaut for more information, or call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.

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Learn More about Debt

If you want to learn more about debt and the risks of borrowing, check out some of the National Debt Helpline’s useful resources.

Young Carers
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Young Carers

Am I a young carer?

Let’s find out! Add a mental ‘check’ to the boxes that apply to you:

If you ticked the first two boxes and any/all of the other boxes, you are likely a Young Carer!

What support is available to me?

  • Fun school holiday programs and overnight camps
  • Help with your schoolwork
  • Group sessions to connect with other Young Carers
  • Leadership and personal development workshops and opportunities
  • One-on-one support and guidance for any life challenges you might be facing
  • An online community called the Dreamers Hub

How can I access support?

There are lots of free programs you can access as a Young Carer!

Head to www.littledreamers.org.au to find out how we can help!

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