Frequently Asked Questions

General

What makes The Hopkins Group different to other financial planners?

The Hopkins Group is more than just a financial planning business. Yes, we provide financial planning advice but it doesn’t stop there. We are a boutique financial services company, taking a holistic approach to our clients’ financial journeys. We offer a range of services including financial planning, tax and accounting, mortgages and finance, property investment advice and property management. The beauty of this business model is that it’s client centric – we’re all under the one roof and work as a team to deliver the best results for our clients.

I hardly have any assets – what’s the point of seeing a financial planner?

You may not think you have many assets, but what if a financial planner could help you change not only that mindset, but also that reality? A financial planner can help you discover your financial goals and objectives and develop a strategy around trying to achieve those goals. It’s never too early to see a financial planner – with or without assets. Book your free financial health check

I have no money in the bank. How can I increase my savings?

Before you can walk, you have to learn to crawl – so likewise you need to start small before you can save big. If you don’t have any money in the bank, but you’re making an income, the first thing you’ll need to do is develop a budget. A sound budget will help you discern where your money is going, and where you can cut back on discretionary spending to redirect to savings. A financial planner may be able to assist with developing a budget and help to identify savings targets for your goals.

How do I get started?

Everyone’s journey is different, but more often than not, they all start with a conversation. The Hopkins Group offers free financial health checks which gives people starting out the opportunity to sit down with one of our financial planners to discuss their current situation – and where they want to head. It’s an obligation free appointment that covers the basics and helps us get to know you better so we can suggest a plan of attack that’s right for you.

Alternatively, if you know exactly the type of professional adviser you are looking for, be it an accountant or a property manager, you can contact us via this page or by calling 1300 726 082. No matter where you are on your financial journey, The Hopkins Group is here to help.

How much does it cost to see a financial planner?

Your first appointment with a financial planner at The Hopkins Group is free. In this initial appointment, you and your planner have an opportunity to get to know each other whilst talking through your personal financial circumstances. Once your goals and objectives have been identified and we have a better idea of what advice we can provide to help you get there, we’ll discuss fees with you based on your individual requirements. The cost of implementing the advice – that will ultimately be documented in a  Statement of Advice – will vary depending on the complexity of the strategy and the type of products you will be investing in.

Do you do tax returns?

Yes, we do tax returns – for individuals, businesses, and self managed super funds. Rachel Williams is The Hopkins Group’s Director of Accounting, leading a team of accountants who prepare hundreds of individual tax returns every year for our clients across many different professions. We are experts in what types of items you can claim against your employment and investment income, and pride ourselves on taking the time with clients to ensure they understand what they can claim to ensure that no appropriate deduction is missed. We’ve set up a checklist to make this process easier.

What do I need to bring to get my tax done?

We appreciate how time consuming it can be to go through all your paperwork to get ready for tax time. While we can obtain lots of information directly from the ATO we always like to check this against your records as sometimes the ATO information is incorrect!

To make life a bit easier, we’ve set up a checklist to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered before you meet with an accountant.

What are the different types of insurance and why do I need them?

The types of insurance that The Hopkins Group can advise on are not your ‘over the counter’ varieties like health or car insurance. Our financial planners provide specialist advice in relation to the type of insurance that will protect you financially in extreme circumstances eg. death, disability, sickness.

It is something you don’t necessarily want to think about but is important to have. You don’t want to be without it when you are at your most vulnerable. While there are many different products on the market, some of the key insurance types that can play an integral part in a financial plan include:

  • Life insurance – an insurance which provides a payout/support payment to your beneficiaries in the event of death or terminal illness.
  • Total Permanent Disability – an insurance providing financial support/payment in the event of total permanent disability.
  • Income Protection – an insurance providing financial support where, because of illness or other extreme circumstance, you are unable to work and earn the income you would be able to otherwise.

Trauma – an insurance which provides a lump sum payment when you’re critically ill.

Buying a House

How much money do I need to save as a deposit for a house?

You will usually need to have 10% of purchase price available as a deposit; however in some cases it can be as low as 5%. In addition to the deposit, you will also need to be able to cover legal costs and Stamp Duty on the property, so you will also need to factor this into your savings goal. You can calculate the stamp duty you are likely to pay via calculators available on your State Revenue Office’s website. For Victoria, this is available here.

Speak to one of our mortgage and finance advisers to find out what ballpark figure you should aiming for.

How much can I afford to borrow?

How much you can borrow will depend a number of factors. To calculate your borrowing capacity, lenders will look at your household income, savings, existing credit card limits, dependents, equity in any existing properties as well as any current financial liabilities (eg loans). The final figure will be a loan amount which lenders believe you will be able to afford repayments on. If you are looking to borrow money, speaking to one of our mortgage and finance advisers is a great place to start. You can also fill out our finance information form to get a headstart.

I’m a first home buyer – what incentives are available to me?

In Australia, first home buyer incentives vary slightly between states. You can view these incentives by state via the First Home Owner Grant website.

In Victoria, there are two incentives available to first home buyers. These include:

  • a First Home Owner Grant of $10,000 on new properties valued up to $750,000, and
  • stamp duty reductions on properties valued up to $600,000.

For more information on the specifics of these incentives, please visit the Victorian State Revenue Office’s website.

How does The Hopkins Group select its properties?

For over 30 years, The Hopkins Group has rejected most of the property presented to us for client purchase, and there are sound reasons for this.

We work from a set of stringent property rules derived from years of experience and research; from our understanding of the global history of quality property; and from our observation of the superior performance of thousands of properties purchased by our clients.

This rigorous, tried-and-tested criterion enables us to identify quality property suitable for acquisition by our clients.

Why does The Hopkins Group recommended ‘off the plan’ apartments?

We recommend primarily ‘off the plan’ property as we feel this type of property presents the most value for our clients, in most situations. Purchasers of off the plan property have less maintenance and restoration costs required upfront than those who purchase established property, as the property is held from new. Purchasers of this type of property also have the opportunity to save significantly on stamp duty costs. There are also often notable depreciation benefits, which become handy at tax time.

What is the difference between a ‘recommended’ property and an ‘endorsed’ property?

The Hopkins Group Recommended Property

This is premium property, carefully chosen in line with our rigorous prime property investment criteria. This property is then recommended to our clients for purchase as a long term investment at a level appropriate to their means.

Such premium investment property will always provide high returns, security and flexibility.

Such recommendations are obviously keenly sought by many of the country’s top property developers. This means we, and therefore you, often receive privileged access to the best performing properties. The Hopkins Group Recommended Properties can either be established or off-the-plan in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane.

The Hopkins Group Endorsed Property

This category of property recognises the reality that our clients, for varying reasons, may wish to purchase property that does not fit into our stringent category of Recommended Property. Such property, from any part of Australia, may not be explicitly designated for their long-term investment portfolio. It may be a rural or resort property, or a non-inner-urban metropolitan property. It could be a specific-purpose property or an investment property purchase undertaken as a decision on a client’s part to balance their portfolio.

In response to such wishes and requests, we identify and endorse such property for purchase by our clients only after the application of our expertise, experience and due diligence has resulted in a positive assessment.

The Hopkins Group Endorsed Property enables our clients to confidently purchase quality property, for investment purposes or otherwise, with the assurance that it accords with The Hopkins Group’s high standards.

Doing my tax

Do I need to lodge a tax return?

This typically depends on lots of different factors, but generally if you earn more than $18,200 per year then you will need to lodge a tax return.

If you determine that you don’t need to lodge a tax return you still need to notify the ATO that no return is necessary by lodging a non-lodgment advice.

If you’re not sure, it’s best to speak to an accountant.

This is the first year I’ve had an investment property. What information do I need to provide to my accountant?

We have a handy checklist to help you pull together all the information your accountant will need to complete your tax return, which you can download from our forms and downloads page.

Basically, you will need to provide:

  • Your rental property statement which shows your rental income and expenses paid your property manager
  • Body corporate fees paid
  • Council rates paid
  • Water rates paid
  • Interest paid on your mortgage
  • Bank charges on your mortgage
  • Any repairs and maintenance costs
  • A depreciation report that shows what depreciation claims are available.  If you don’t have one we can discuss with you whether it beneficial to purchase one.

If it is a newly acquired property, you will also need to provide:

  • Settlement statement or statement of adjustments provided by your lawyer at settlement
  • Your first loan statement

I’ve sold my investment property this year, what information do I need to provide to my accountant?

This depends on a lot of different factors but you will generally always need to provide:

  • Settlement statement or statement of adjustments provided by your lawyer at settlement of the sale
  • Sale contract
  • Settlement statement or statement of adjustments provided by your lawyer at settlement of the purchase
  • Stamp duty on acquisition
  • Agents fees on disposal
  • Legal fees on purchase and disposal

In the lead up to your appointment with our accounting team, we will be in touch to determine if any other information is required.

Managing my Investments

Should I live in my own property, or should I be an investor and rent elsewhere?

This is usually a personal choice, but it also depends on your financial situation. There are pros and cons with both options, so it is best to sit down and look at your goals and objectives before deciding which is right for you. For example, you may have found your dream home for the right price and want to take advantage of the first home buyer incentives available. Or you might like the choice of location renting affords, but want to own property as part of your investment portfolio.

A financial planner can help you work through the benefits of each to ascertain which option is best for you at this life stage.

How can I pay off my mortgage faster?

There are a number of different strategies that can be implemented, to help pay your mortgage faster, but it all comes down to which is the best way for you and your financial situation. One strategy involves changing the frequency of your repayments, e.g. from monthly to weekly repayments, thereby reducing the interest you end up paying on your loan. Another strategy is renegotiating your interest rate or comparing your loan with offers provided by other lenders.

Sitting down with a mortgage and finance adviser is a great place to start. At The Hopkins Group, our advisers have access to a range of different lenders and can help you navigate the lending finance market. Contact a mortgage and finance adviser.

What’s the best way to set up my mortgage? Interest only, or principal and interest? Fixed rate or variable?

Most owner occupier purchases are principle and interest so that the property is paid off in time. On the flipside, most investment properties are interest only to maximise tax gains.

A variable rate allows the borrower to make additional payments to clear the debt earlier and reduce interest costs over the term of the loan.

A fixed rate can be lower than the variable rate, but will incur penalty fees if the purchaser wants to pay the whole loan before the fixed term expires. While a fixed rate reduces the ability to make additional payments, the purchaser knows in advance what the repayments are and can budget accordingly.

Which loan type is right for you will depend on your financial situation, so it’s a good idea to seek advice.

How are my kids ever going to be able to afford to buy property? What can I do to help them get a foot in the door?

There are a number of ways you can help your children get a foot in the door of the property market, depending on what you can afford. A great starting place is instilling a sense of financial literacy in your kids early on, that way they’ve got a great foundation to build on.

Start them understanding the value of money as they grow and get them in the habit of saving. Down the track, you may want to provide them with an extra boost, by acting as guarantor on their first home loan or gifting a deposit.

There are also different loan products available, such as family pledge loans, which can act as a helping hand for your kids buying their first home. To understand how you can best help your children break into the property market, why not speak to an adviser today?

How do I get started on the sharemarket?

If you’re a first time investor, seeking advice from a professional adviser is a great place to start. While you can “do-it-yourself”, by establishing a trading account with one of the many brokers in the market, if you don’t understand the risks associated with your trades or uniformed about the share market in general, you may not be placing yourself in the position you want.

A financial planner can help you understand the share market, invest on your behalf, and develop a balanced investment strategy appropriate for your needs and financial situation.

Planning for Retirement

What is an SMSF? And should I have one?

An SMSF – or self managed super fund – is, as the name suggests, your own private super fund which you manage yourself.

It is an option for those who want to have complete control over their super, and because of this power, there can be a number of benefits with this kind of fund. Having said that, there is a lot to consider before you open an SMSF, both financially and legally.

It is beneficial to consult a financial planner to discuss your goals and motivations, and to decide whether an SMSF is right for you and your financial situation.

When can I access my superannuation?

You can access your super:

  • when you turn 65 (even if you haven’t retired), or
  • when you reach ‘preservation age’ and retire, or
  • under the transition to retirement rules, while continuing to work.

In extreme circumstances – e.g. disability, death and financial hardship – you may be able to access these funds earlier than outlined above.

How much money do I need to retire?

How much money you will need in retirement will depend on a number of different factors including your lifestyle, any outstanding debts, your life expectancy, health, and the projected cost of living in your retirement years.

It is best practice to look at current expenditure and decide how much money per annum you can afford to live on comfortably. A financial planner can help you calculate these estimates to help you plan for the future.

When should I start thinking about retirement?

From the moment you take your first job and your employer makes contributions to your superannuation scheme, you are passively working towards your retirement. But it’s important you take an active approach to your retirement plan and think about it beyond your regular pay cheque deductions. The earlier you start thinking about it, the longer you have to plan and set yourself up financially for those years you are no longer making an active income.

I have worked in lots of jobs and have no idea what superannuation accounts I have floating around.

With the help of a financial planner, you will be able to locate all your super funds, including those you’ve “lost”, with the aim being to roll them all into one fund. Consolidating your super into a single account will help to save you money on fees and therefore create a larger balance at retirement.

How do I transfer my UK private pension to Australia?

It makes sense to have your pension funds in the country in which you plan to retire – but more often than not, people move to Australia and leave their pensions back in the mother land. The Hopkins Group has a business partner in bdhSterling, a company specialising in cross border financial solutions and we work closely with them to plan a strategy for our clients to transfer their private pensions out here. For more information on bdhSterling, click here.

Renting

How do I apply for a rental property?

There are a few ways you can apply for a rental property.

1) You can complete an online application form using 1form. Links to these forms are provided on each property listing for your convenience.

2) You can complete a hard copy of our rental application form which a property manager can provide you with at our inspections, or you can download here <hyperlink to forms and downloads page>. This can be either handed to our staff in office or can be emailed directly to the property manager.

As a general rule, we always recommend applicants either inspect the property themselves or have a representative inspect on their behalf, before they apply. This way you will get a better feel for the property, its size and its facilities.

How much notice do I need to give to terminate my lease?

In Victoria, if your lease has expired, you a required to supply a minimum of 28 days’ notice. You can supply more, just not less.

Your notice must be submitted in writing and it must specify your vacate date. If fewer than 28 days’ notice is supplied, you will be charged the full four weeks’ worth of rent.

If you are still on a fixed term lease but decide to move out before the lease expires, you will be breaking your lease and will be required to pay lease break fees as set out in your lease agreement. This includes a pro rata leasing fee, any advertising costs and rent payments until a new tenant moves in, or the lease expires, whichever is sooner.

If you have been served a notice to vacate by the owner, you must vacate by the date they specify. This notice period will vary depending on the nature of the request i.e. rent in arrears, sale of property etc. If you are no longer on a fixed term lease agreement and have been served notice, you can submit a counter notice of 14 days.

For more information on landlord notice periods, please refer to the Consumer Affairs website.

What happens if I need to contact my property manager out of hours in a case of emergency?

Dependent on the emergency, our property managers can generally be contacted after hours on their mobile phones. However, in the case of fire always call the fire brigade first.

For break ins and any criminal or suspicious activity this should be reported to the police as a first point of contact, then to your agent for any repairs or restorations works.

In the event your agent is non contactable after hours and the situation is classed as an urgent repair, you – as the tenant – can call your own trade to attend.

We recommend tenants read their statements of rights and duties booklet supplied at the commencement of tenancy to get a better understanding of what is classed as an urgent repair.