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Making the most of your
deployment income

Who is this guide for?

This guide is for you if you’ve just returned from deployment and want to make the most of your deployment income, and check your financial health to make sure you’re in a good position moving forward.

How do I use this guide?

This guide is designed to be read from top to bottom. Some sections contain a short video that provides an overview of the topic. Some also have activities to help you get your money sorted. 

If you have limited time now, we suggest reading each section and watching the videos, and perhaps completing activities later. If you have more time, and are motivated to get started, you can read one section at a time, completing relevant activities as you go.

How long will it take?

We estimate it will take around 45-50 minutes to read the guide and watch the videos. Expect to take longer if you want to do some or all of the activities along the way.

Why does this matter?

After a deployment you are likely to have a sum of money that represents a unique opportunity to fast-track your financial goals. The question is, do you use it wisely, or do you blow it? 

A disciplined approach to your finances is an important part of reaching your financial and other personal and professional goals. Making good decisions now could set you up for financial success in the future. So take your time to consider your options and decide what’s really important to you.

Setting goals & budgeting

This video from our Principles of Financial Success series gives a simple overview to budgeting and goal setting. Watch it for tips on making the most of your deployment income.

Budgeting

Post deployment your income is likely to reduce, so now might be a good time to redo your budget. A budget helps you work out what your current expenses are, so you can make decisions about how to achieve the goals you set. An online budget planner or budget app can help you do this.

Knowing what you spend your money on and what’s left over, helps you decide what’s really important to you.

Reviewing your budget regularly will help you stay on track.

Activity
Download the Excel version of Moneysmart’s budget planner to your own device and complete a personal budget based on your post-deployment income and expenses.

 

Setting goals

Before you race out and spend all your hard earned cash, take some time to think about what you really want to achieve financially in the short, medium and long term. Stop and think through the possibilities of what this money could do for you and your family.

It’s common for ADF members to spend their deployment money on a new car, but perhaps there are more beneficial choices you could make with your money, such as getting rid of any high interest debt, or investing it so that it earns you money (instead of costing you money). You could use it towards a bigger purchase, like a property. It’s up to you what you spend it on, we’re simply suggesting you give it some thought so you don’t later regret your decisions.

Really want that car?

If you are thinking of buying a car take your time and do some solid research first. The MoneySmart cars app is a great tool for working out how much a car is really going to cost you when you take into account all the additional costs of owning a vehicle.

Tip: If you don’t already have an emergency fund, a good short-term goal might be to open an online savings account and put aside enough cash to cover of 3-6 months’ worth of expenses, to act as a safety net for when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Write a brief description of your goals, including how much each will cost and a timeframe for achieving them.

Activity

  • Set yourself at least one short, medium and long-term financial goal. Use Moneysmart’s savings goals calculator to work out how long it will take to reach each goal. Make sure the required monthly savings are within your budget. Monthly savings x 12 ÷ 26 = fortnightly savings
  • Write them down as a savings plan to help keep you focused.

The following table is an example of what your savings plan might look like if you start with a $50,000 deployment boost:

Goal Amount Sarting Balance Timeframe Fortnightly savings
Emergency fund $5,000 $5,000 Achieved $0
Replace car $30,000 $5,000 2 years $474
Investment property deposit $120,000 $40,000 7 years, 8 months* $226
Total Fortnightly savings to reach current goals $700

* To be reaseessed once car goal achieved.

Cover your possessions

Spending your deployment money? If you can’t afford to lose your new purchase, you need to insure it. This short video explains how insurance can protect your assets.

Insurance is a way of managing risk by protecting you from unnecessary losses. It’s easy to get caught up in the joy of buying something new and forget about insuring it. For example, if you spend $10,000 on new furniture, do you think to increase your contents insurance?

Some people try to keep the costs of insurance down by underinsuring their assets, without thinking through the implications of this decision. If something does happen, and you’re underinsured, you may still suffer a loss.

Car insurance

If you are thinking about buying a new car, or considering the insurance you have on a current vehicle, make sure you understand the different types of car insurance:

  • Comprehensive covers damage to your car and other people’s property.
  • Third party fire and theft covers damage caused by your car to other people’s property, and provides limited cover for your car for theft or fire.
  • Third party property only covers damage caused by your car to other people’s property, it does not cover your car at all.

You should always have at least third party property cover, but if you want to be covered for things like a tree falling on your car in a storm, or hail damage, you’ll need comprehensive cover.

Renewing an insurance policy

When renewing an insurance policy, we suggest doing three things:

  • Go to your current insurer’s website and pretend to be a new customer – you may be surprised to find the premium offered is cheaper than your renewal notice.
  • Use a comparison website to see how much you would have to pay for comparable insurance with another insurer.
  • Armed with this information, phone your current insurer and ask them to match the best price you’ve found for the cover you want. Be prepared to switch insurers if they won’t.

Many insurers offer a discount if you have more than one policy with them. You still need to be satisfied that even with the discount, you are getting value for money.

When comparing policies, take note of what is and isn’t included, insurance cover is not cheap if it doesn’t cover you for what you want covered. See our insurance money guide for more detailed information.

Activity
Make a list of your personal possessions and estimate how much they would cost to replace. Check your current polices to make sure you are adequately covered. Call your insurer to update your policy if necessary.

Debts & credit reporting

Managing debt is a critical part of good money management. Here’s a short video to help you keep your debts under control and create a positive credit history.

It’s important to keep your debts under control. In our pre-deployment guide we talked about making sure your bills and debts got paid on time while you were away. Coming home can be a golden opportunity to pay down any high-interest debt, such as credit cards or personal loans. This also improves your cashflow as money you would have spent on loan repayments can be directed towards other goals.

Sometimes debt is necessary. Taking on debt to buy an asset that is likely to increase in value, like a property, is not necessarily a bad thing, but taking on debt to buy an asset that is likely to decrease in value, like a car, can get you into trouble down the track.

If you do find yourself in financial difficulty, read our Problems with Debt money guide.

Credit reports and credit scores

One reason to keep on top of your debts is the affect it can have on your credit report and credit rating. Your credit report is a comprehensive record of your credit history. Along with all your personal details, it contains information about the credit products you currently have and the credit accounts you have had, or applied for, in the last 2 years. It also lists any missed or partial payments.

Credit reporting agencies use this information to give you a credit score. Lenders and other credit providers use your credit report and credit score to decide whether to lend you money, how much to lend you, and even what interest rate to charge you. People with a higher credit rating will often be able to negotiate better interest rates.

It’s a good idea to check your credit report and credit score when you get back from deployment to make sure there are no unauthorised transactions on your file. For example, someone having applied for credit in your name without your knowledge or authorisation.

You can get a copy of your credit report for free, once a year. It’s also free to find out what your credit score is.

Activity
Go to Moneysmart’s credit scores and credit reports page and use the links provided to get a copy of your credit report and find out what your credit score is. You can get your credit report and credit score from more than one company if you want to see how they compare.

Saving & investing

From savings accounts to shares and property, choosing the right investments can play a key role in managing your money. Watch this short video for a brief introduction to investing.

If you’re thinking about saving or investing your money, here are a few things to consider before you jump in, and some investment options you might not be aware of.

Savings accounts are great for emergency funds and short-term goals, however, if you are saving for a longer-term goal, other investments could get you there faster.

Investing in growth assets, like property and shares, should generate an income, but also have the potential for capital growth (or capital gain), which is an increase in the value of the investment over time.

Capital gains increase the amount of money you’ll have to spend in the future, relative to what you have today. Just remember that higher potential rewards, usually come with higher risk, so make sure you understand the risks and are comfortable with them before you hand over your cash.

Getting ready to invest

Before you invest it’s important to have the basics under control, so that you start from a position of strength and are less likely to get into financial difficulty. You’re ready to invest if you have:

  • Repaid any high-interest debt.
  • Created a buffer in your mortgage against future rate rises or unforeseen circumstances.
  • An emergency fund with 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in easily accessible cash.
  • Your home, contents and personal possessions adequately insured.

If you’re thinking about investing in shares or property but don’t have the necessary expertise to choose your own investments, you might consider some form of managed fund. In a managed fund, money from many investors is pooled together and a professional fund manager chooses which individual assets to buy and sell.

Many types of managed funds can be bought and sold on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). It’s very similar to buying shares in a company, only you buy units in a fund instead. Common types include Australian real estate investment trusts (A-REITS) and exchange traded funds (ETFs). You can learn more about these in our investing money guide or the ASX’s online education centre.

Activity
If you are thinking about investing, read our investing money guide.

Buying a home

Some ADF members will use their additional deployment income to put towards a deposit on a property. A property is one of the biggest purchases you are ever likely to make and it comes with high entry and exit fees, so do your research before you commit.

Buying a home to live in

Consider your and your family’s needs, for example, schools, shops, transport and recreational facilities. Check local council websites for socio-economic data and planned developments, you may not want to buy somewhere they’re planning to put a freeway. Is the area prone to flooding or bushfires, is it under a flight path? These are some of the questions you might want to answer when making such a large investment.

If you’re buying a home to live in, there are a number of grants and subsidies that might be available to you, depending on your circumstances and where you are buying the property. These include:

  • Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme (DHOAS) – a scheme to help ADF members own their own home. If you have a period of full-time service greater than 4 years, you may be eligible for assistance through the scheme. The assistance consists of a monthly subsidy paid directly into your qualifying home loan. The longer your service, the higher your potential subsidy. You can also take up to four years of subsidy as an up-front lump sum, providing you have enough service credit, but this may have tax implications, so consider getting tax advice first. A DHOAS loan is only beneficial if the interest rate is competitive. If you can get a cheaper rate on a similar loan elsewhere, you don’t have to use DHOAS. Alternatively, negotiate a better rate with a DHOAS lender.
  • Home purchase assistance scheme (HPAS) – payable only once during a member’s ADF service, this provides a one-off payment to eligible members if they buy a home in their posting location and live in it.
  • Home purchase or sale expenses allowance (HPSEA) – reimbursement to an eligible member of the reasonable costs of selling a home, purchased under HPAS, and purchasing another home they will live in at the next posting location.
  • First home owner grant – is a national scheme, administered and funded by each state and territory, which provides a one-off grant to eligible first home owners.

Investing in property

If you’re looking for an investment property, consider the investment potential, not just the tax breaks. Buy in markets you are familiar with or have researched thoroughly, after all, you’ll be putting a lot of money into a single asset.

Understand that if your property is negatively geared, it means you are making a loss. You only get a tax break because the loss on the property reduces your taxable income, which reduces the amount of tax you have to pay. See our investing money guide for more information.

Tax

Do you know what income ADF members must declare, or what expenses are allowed as deductions? This short video tells you what you need to know to get your tax right.

In Australia, the income tax (financial) year runs from 1 July to 30 June. Individuals completing their own tax return must lodge their return my 31 October each year. If you are using a tax agent or accountant, you will have until 31 March the following year.

Income and deductions

Generally you will need to declare all of your income, other than tax-exempt deployment or reservist income. You will have been notified before you deployed if your deployment income fell into a tax-exempt category. The ATO has guides for ADF members on what income must be declared, and what deductions are allowable.

For deductions to be allowed:

  • you must have spent the money yourself and not been reimbursed
  • it must directly relate to earning your income
  • you must have a record to prove it, or be able to demonstrate how you calculated the claim.

Don’t be tempted to make ‘dodgy’ claims, chances are you’ll be caught and issued with fines and other penalties. The last thing you need is a tax audit.

You can lodge your tax return for free through myGov.

Accounting & tax advice

For a simple tax return, a registered tax agent may be all you need. You can find a registered tax agent in your area by using the search function on the Tax Practitioners Board website.

If your financial affairs are more complex, you may be better off speaking to a qualified accountant that has completed additional professional training. You can find a list of appropriately qualified accountants on the websites of industry associations such as Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand or CPA Australia.

Activity

  • Review the detailed income and expense guides for ADF members at ato.gov.au.
  • If you haven’t already done so, make arrangements to have your tax return completed and submitted.

Getting financial advice

It’s always good to build your own knowledge and confidence when it comes to managing your money, after all, no one will care more about your money than you do. However, if you’re not confident going it alone, you might consider getting professional advice from an appropriately licensed financial adviser or stockbroker.

Financial advice normally includes clarifying your financial goals, identifying your attitude to risk, creating a financial plan and advice on specific investment strategies and products. You’ll find more information in our Getting financial advice money guide, or watch our video, Financial advisers: The Facts and the Fiction.

The ADF Financial Advice Referral Program may help you find a suitable financial adviser. Please be aware that any financial advice relationship is strictly a private arrangement between you and the adviser, and as such, Defence will not be responsible for any personal advice you may receive.

Checklist

Here’s a checklist with some actions to consider post deployment.

VIEW PDF »

Videos

Watch our short videos on topics relevant to you post deployment.

WATCH VIDEOS »

Resources

Here you’ll find calculators and other resources to help you manage your money post deployment.

TOOLS AND RESOURCES »

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