Ask Noel Whittaker


I’m 40, have a good job and have never married. I own a debt-free house and have $250,000 in super. Three years ago I moved in with a man who had left his marriage and who had few assets because of his divorce. Our relationship is now rocky and I’m concerned he will get a hefty share of my assets when we break up. How can I protect myself?

The Family Law Act 1975 applies to de facto relationships. Your situation matches the definitions under the Act, so you should be taking proactive steps now. Consult a family law lawyer to determine the extent of rights your partner may have against you and your estate. Your super is part of this. This should be a warning to anybody contemplating a serious relationship – taking legal advice before the domestic relationship starts could provide you with protection once a binding financial agreement is entered into.

I’m 27. When I was younger I got several loans with different banks, bought furniture etc through finance companies and applied for a credit card with a limit of $3000. I’m now in a stable job earning $65,000 a year but have personal debts totalling $8000. A relative suggested I get a consolidation loan but it seems no one will now take the risk with me. What would be the best way to pay these debts off in a reasonable time while still leaving me a living allowance?

You don’t save much interest by changing lenders if you can pay your loans back fairly quickly. I therefore suggest you focus all your energies on paying off the smallest debt – when this is done use the payments no longer needed for it to attack the next smallest debt. When all the debts are paid off you should have re-established your crediting ratings.

I’m 49 and run a home-based business, earning between $75,000 and $95,000 a year. My 52-year-old husband earns $130,000 a year and has $275,000 in super. I have no super. We have paid off the house, have no debts and are pretty conservative about risk. What should we do?

You are now in the perfect position to put a hefty sum of money away for your retirement. Your first task should be to talk to an adviser to work out when you want to retire and how much you will need to do this; then you could start adopting appropriate strategies. At your age you will probably find that tax deductible contributions to super will work best. For example, if you contributed $30,000 a year for 16 years and the fund earns 8 per cent, you would have $822,000 at 65 after the 15 per cent contributions tax was taken into account. Your husband is on track to retire with a hefty super balance and the extra $822,000 in super in your name would provide you two with a very healthy portfolio.

I’ll be 65 in 2012. My wife, 62, is already retired. Our financial assets including super, allocated pension, cash and shares total $400,000. We own our home and are debt-free. What is the best way to reduce tax when I retire and how do we get the best deal from Centrelink.

You should not have any problems with tax when you retire, because the income from the allocated pension will be tax-free, the shares may well pay franked dividends and the Senior Australians Tax Offset allows people of aged-pension age, who are eligible to receive an aged pension, to receive $26,680 each without paying tax. Your adviser will be able to guide you in maximising Centrelink benefits or you could talk directly to the financial information service people at Centrelink who are usually very helpful.


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