“Tap and go” and then what?

“Tap and go” and then what?

Talk about hammering the plastic. In May 2017 Australia’s 16.7 million credit card accounts were used to make 239 million transactions with a total value of $29.2 billion. We are currently paying interest on $31.7 billion worth of credit card debt, running up an annual interest bill of over $5.4 billion (that’s $5,400,000,000!).

It’s not just the easy money that cards provide; it’s the easy form of delivery via “tap and go” that’s pushing our debt to extraordinary levels. The quicker the transaction, the less thought or planning required. Pay now and think about it (and deal with it) later.

Don’t become a statistic – here are some things to look out for plus a few tips.

Traps

  • Over 40% of credit card spending goes on groceries and utilities. While this isn’t a problem if you pay off your card balance in full each month, if you’re paying interest just so you can buy the necessities of life, it’s a real danger sign that you may be living beyond your means.
  • Most credit limits are well beyond cardholder needs. On average, Australians only use about a third of their available credit limits each month. However, by giving you a higher credit limit card issuers hope temptation will get the better of you. If that means you can’t pay off your entire balance each month you’ll end up paying them lots of interest.Also bear in mind that if you apply for a personal loan or mortgage in the future, lenders will look at your combined card limits, not just the balances. High credit limits will affect the size of loan approved. Reduce the temptation and reduce your limits to appropriate amounts.
  • Beware the bonus card. Yet another credit card may come with a new mortgage. Look out for annual fees or other costs and make sure you understand what’s involved. If you don’t need it, cancel it.

Tips

  • Financial institutions can only offer to increase your credit limit if you specifically ‘opt in’. This can be done in writing or over the phone. However, it’s prudent to withhold this permission to keep your limit under control. You can always apply for a once-off increase if you really need to.
  • Switch to a reloadable (pre-paid) credit card. Like a debit card it means you are using your own money with the added advantages that you can pre-set a limit on your spending and reduce the risks associated with buying online. Reloadable cards are available from banks, other financial institutions and major retailers.
  • If you sign up for a new card for a 12-month interest-free purchase, pay it off in the first year then cancel the card before the renewal fee is automatically charged. There is no point paying an annual fee if you’re not going to use the card.

And a myth

Many people think that it is only lower income earners who are susceptible to the siren call of easy credit. But like the Sirens of Greek folklore themselves, it’s a myth. In fact, higher income earners also rack up huge balances on gold, platinum and diamond cards, and can experience real difficulty in paying them off.

If your credit cards are more an enemy than a friend, we can suggest a range of solutions to get you back on track.

Sources: ASIC’s MoneySmart website www.moneysmart.gov.au

Top 3 reasons to have a Will

Top 3 reasons to have a Will

As you get older you might find yourself wondering whether or not you should have a Will, is it really that important? Well, the short answer is YES! It is very important and I’m about to tell you why.

So, what exactly is a Will? A Will is a legal document stating your wishes to be carried out when you pass away, it ensures that your hard-earned assets are distributed and managed according to those wishes outlined in the document. Surprisingly almost half of all Australian’s do not have a Will, so if they were to pass away unexpectedly there is no guarantee that their assets would be distributed in accordance with their intentions, instead an executor would distribute the Estate according to relevant legislation.

If you don’t have a Will, hopefully by the time you finish reading the Top 3 Reasons to have a Will you will change your mind.

  1. You get to decide how your estate is Distributed

As a Will is legally binding, you will get to set out exactly how you want your estate to be handled. This will ensure that no one can inherit a portion of the estate unless you have specified them in the document. If you do not have a Will there are laws stating who gets what and how much they receive.

For example: Let’s say you were to pass away without a valid Will, under Western Australian Law the estate will be inherited by your spouse if worth less than $50K. If it’s worth more, and you have children your spouse will receive a portion and then the rest will be split evenly amongst your children. If you don’t have children it then goes down the line looking at your parents, siblings, nieces/nephews and whether they are entitled to a portion of your estate. This may potentially result in someone you did not intend on, inheriting some of your estate.

  1. Minimise legal challenges & avoid a lengthy probate process.

All Estate’s go through the probate process, having a Will ensures this process can be sped up by informing the Court exactly how you want your assets divided. A probate court’s purpose is to administer your estate, and if you die as an intestate i.e. without a will, the court will then take a long time to decide how to divide the estate, possibly leaving your family in a bad financial situation.

Legal challenges may arise if you pass away without a Will, seeing people you did not intend inheriting some of your estate, or others fighting over how much they deserve to inherit. Unless there is a clear discrepancy in a Will, such as one child receiving 25% of the estate whilst the other receives 50%, it will not be successfully contested, and your Estate will be divided exactly how you wanted.

  1. To make a difficult time less difficult

Losing a family member is a difficult time already without the added stress of consulting lawyers or arguing with family members.  As tomorrow is never promised, having a valid Will can ensure that the process of distributing your Estate is not any more complicated than it needs to be with your intentions laid out to be followed just as you wanted.

If you don’t have a valid Will you should make it your New Year’s resolution to get it sorted!

Thinking about finances in your thirties

Thinking about finances in your thirties

Whatever the goal, reaching age 30 is a turning point for many of us. Whilst it may mean life is getting more serious, by the time we’re in our 30s we’re keen to retain our individuality and remain determined to have fun. With a little planning you can make this age even more enjoyable.

The following stories may inspire you to start now to build a stronger financial future.

And now there are three

Jake and Sara have just had their first baby and two salaries are now one. Expenses have shot up and together with the emotional challenges a young baby brings, they have to juggle their money to cope. Not wanting to return to full-time work yet, Sara applies for Family Tax Benefits to help make ends meet. Both now realise they should have thought of that earlier and adjusted their budget accordingly.

Getting treatment when you want it

Mike is an all-round sportsman and at age 35 his niggling injuries send him to the physio more often than he’d like. He enquires about private health insurance and learns that, on top of his premium, he will pay a Lifetime Health Cover loading of 2% for every year over 30 where he didn’t have private hospital cover. This means he will pay an extra 10%. Although he qualifies for a tax rebate which gives some reprieve, Mike wishes he had taken out health cover before he turned 30.

Play safe with loved ones

Lucy always wanted kids and now has three under the age of six. Being a stay-at-home mum is her passion. Husband Chris loves his young family and would do anything for them. One day he is knocked off his bike riding to work and spends a month in a coma after which he faces a long period recuperating. Chris had Total and Permanent Disablement cover in his super fund but it didn’t pay out because he is expected to recover. His leave entitlements were quickly used up and Lucy and the kids struggled. Income protection insurance would have made life more bearable for this family during this awful time.

Keeping what you’ve earned

34-year-old Jennifer has hit the jackpot. Her career took off two years ago and she’s earning more money than she ever imagined. But she’s horrified at how much tax she’s now paying. A friend refers Jen to a financial planner and she learns about strategies like salary packaging, salary sacrificing, and that investing in shares and property can save her tax as well as build her personal wealth. If only she’d asked earlier.

Every person will be at a different stage in meeting their lifestyle and financial goals by age 30. Regardless of whether you are well on the way, just getting started or haven’t even set your goals, there’s no time like the present to come and have a chat to us about how you can make the most of this exciting time in your life.

Spring cleaning your finances

Spring cleaning your finances

The sun is shining, the days are getting longer, flowers are blooming, the department stores are bringing in their Christmas stuff… yes, spring is finally here. Everyone knows that spring is the season of fresh starts. Most people will take the opportunity to do a bit of spring cleaning, getting to all those pesky once-or-twice-a-year jobs around the house. But right now is also a great time of year to review your finances.

Why now? Well, with the end of the last financial year and your tax return well behind you, you’ve got some great data to help you reset your goals and measure your progress by. You’ve also got a little breathing room before the end of the calendar year so hopefully you’ll be a little less pressed for time when you’re making some important decisions. It’ll also give you enough time to sustainably budget for bigger expenses in the new calendar year, from home improvements to holidays. Here’s how to get started.

Clear out the cobwebs
Take a minute to sit down and review your budget. Make sure you have all the relevant information from your bank statements, tax notice of assessment, budgeting app, etc. In the last twelve months, have you stuck to your spending and saving guidelines? If not, what patterns can you see that you’ll want to ‘clear out’ of your spending habits for the coming year? This is your chance to develop a plan for avoiding wasteful spending. For example, if you notice that you’ve spent a lot on takeaway meal delivery, perhaps you could try planning a week of meals or signing up for that cooking class you’ve always wanted to take.

Fix that safety net
Just like you fix all those broken hinges, cracked tiles and split frames around the house come spring, now’s a great time to fix your financial safety net – your insurance. The fact is, the various risks and liabilities in your life change all the time. Sometimes it’s a little more obvious, like welcoming a new baby, or moving house. But some of the risks you can insure against shift a little more subtly. For example, you may have made a few purchases that you should have included in your contents insurance, but didn’t add them individually at the time.

Plant seeds for the future
Herbs, fruits, veggies, flowers – all the best stuff is planted in spring for harvesting weeks or months down the track! While you’re in the ‘planning ahead’ mindset, have a think about your retirement income too. Chances are that by now, you’ll have received a statement from your super fund with the details of your contributions, returns, fees paid and more. Take this opportunity to review whether your super is on track according to your long term goals. Use the budget info you gathered earlier to see whether there’s room for you to make some extra contributions on a regular basis. If you do find that you’re on track, think about other ways to put your money to work for your financial future. For example, you may consider a type of investment that’s now right for your changed circumstances.

Reset and revamp
Working out whether you’re on track with your budget and goals is a great start. But when was the last time you thought about what those goals should look like? Everyone’s circumstances, desires and priorities change. It’s normal to not have the exact same financial goals from one year to the next. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your previous benchmarks, even if you don’t end up changing what you’re aiming for. Carve some time out of your schedule, sit down with your partner/family, and have a chat about your ideas of financial success or independence. Better still, make an appointment to come in and see us. We’ll help you get the fresh perspective you need for the coming year and beyond.

Mortgages: lock in certainty, or roll the dice on savings?

Mortgages: lock in certainty, or roll the dice on savings?

Over the last few years, interest rates have dropped dramatically. They’re now around a quarter of what they were a decade ago, and half of what they were just a few years ago. The Reserve Bank’s lowering of rates has got some economists and commentators talking; could it be time for a rate rise soon? Or will global conditions mean they have to keep pushing the interest rate down?

Nobody knows exactly when (or even if) the Reserve Bank will raise interest rates again. The good news, however, is that you’ve got a choice that allows you to hedge your bets. Whether you’re establishing a new mortgage or switching from an old provider, you’ve got an opportunity to choose between stability and predictability, and the potential for savings.

Australia’s economy improving
The Aussie economy has been growing slowly but steadily over the last few months. Though some experts are still cautious, others have pointed out that Australia has fared much better than other countries in terms of economic recovery.

Other countries similar to Australia have raised rates. Over the last few years the US has began slowly raising rates. But on the other hand, the European Central Bank has rates hovering around zero. Our Reserve Bank bosses say we’ve got a bit further to go in terms of economic growth before it makes sense to put rates up. But if history tells us anything, they won’t stay this low in the longer term.

Fixed rates = security
One of the main benefits of choosing a fixed rate mortgage is that you’ll have predictability over your repayments for at least the term that the rate is fixed for – usually three years. A fixed rate might be a good choice if you don’t have a lot of wiggle room in your household budget.

The main downsides are that fixed rates are usually locked in at a rate slightly above the current standard variable rate. This helps banks cover themselves in case of an upswing in the interest rate cycle. And depending on the product you choose, you may also be prevented from making extra early repayments without attracting a penalty. You will also generally not have access to offset accounts against a fixed loan.

Despite these downsides, fixed mortgages are still popular. Especially amongst the budget conscious, including first home owners and conservative investors. According to the ABS’s housing finance stats, the percentage of dwellings financed by fixed rate loans has grown slowly over the last yeari.

Variable rates = the potential for savings
Variable rates have the potential to help you save in two ways. First, if official interest rates go down, your provider’s variable rate may go down too. This means lower regular mortgage payments. Second, if you have a windfall or even just a generous salary bump, you’ll be able to make extra repayments to save on total interest, without incurring any penalties. Lower initial payments may also help make those first few years of mortgage repayments a little easier. Alternatively, home buyers may be able to afford to borrow more with a variable rate loan.

However, especially if your mortgage balance is quite high, a sudden jump in your variable rate could mean extra repayments that are tricky to fit in to your budget. Your repayments could vary by several hundred dollars if your interest rate changed by just a few basis points.

Comparing your options
Perhaps you’ve weighed up the pros and cons of fixed and variable rates, and you’re still wondering what you should choose. That’s fair enough – after all, saving money and having a predictable plan are both attractive options. Your decision could depend on a variety of factors, from your household budget to (if you’re investing) the other assets in your portfolio. We’re here to help you get it sorted, so make an appointment today to get on the right mortgage track.

i ABS 5609.0 – Housing Finance, Australia

Get ready for the new financial year

Get ready for the new financial year

The end of the financial year is always a busy time, whether you’ve been hanging out to do your tax return for months, or are struggling to piece together random receipts and paperwork at the last minute. However, it’s also a good time to review your financial affairs more broadly. After all, the best planning is done when you’ve got all the information in front of you.

How much tax are you paying?

Let’s be honest – it can sting a bit when you look at your pay slip and see how much tax you’re paying. To make the most of your tax return, you need to know ahead of time what you can claim and keep records to back them up. What you can claim will depend on whether you’re an employee or a sole trader operating a business. The general principle is that you can claim certain expenses incurred in earning an income.

Some frequently overlooked deductions include the cost of managing tax affairs (i.e. last year’s accountant or tax agent bill), depreciation on essential work equipment, and professional education costs. Just make sure you check the ATO’s guidelines or get professional advice if you’re not sure.
TIP: You may want to bring forward some expenses you were planning, or delay receiving some income (if you have a choice), in order to maximise your tax return. For example, you may be able to pre-pay up to a year’s worth of some expenses.

Are you making the most of your super?

This year is even bigger than most when it comes to sorting out your super. A number of changes enacted in last year’s federal budget may mean you need to make some tough but swift decisions in the lead-up to June 30. For example, the current concessional contributions cap ($30,000 per financial year, or $35,000 for members aged 49 or over) lasts until June 30. This is the same deadline if you are considering channelling some extra after-tax money in to your super. You’ve got until the end of the financial year to put up to $180,000 in to your super.
TIP: Make the most of higher superannuation caps before June 30. Consider making a personal super contribution (after-tax) and receive a government co-contribution up to a maximum amount of $500 if you are a lower income earner.

What are your long-term spending patterns like?

Whether you’re running a household or a business (or both), it’s hard to get an accurate view of your expenses based on any one month. Looking at your income and expenditure over the whole year can help you get some fresh perspective on where your money has been going. On the plus side, you’ll be able to identify opportunities to cut back on spending and save more towards your goals in the future. And the fun part (yes, there’s a fun part!) is that you can set fresh new goals to keep you motivated and disciplined.

TIP: It’s a good time of year to do a budget to see where your money is being spent and in doing so identify measures that can be taken to help you to achieve your financial goals.

Let us help…

 

Still feeling overwhelmed by end of financial year decisions? Or just wanting to make the most of the opportunity that this time of year brings? Either way we can help. Get in touch today to arrange a review.

i https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Income-and-deductions/Deductions-you-can-claim/

ii https://www.ato.gov.au/Forms/Deductions-for-prepaid-expenses-2016/?page=1#About_this_guide

iii https://www.ato.gov.au/super/self-managed-super-funds/contributions-and-rollovers/contribution-caps/

iv https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Super/Growing-your-super/Adding-to-my-super/Government-super-contributions/

Tips to make sure you’re financially prepared for a rainy day

Tips to make sure you’re financially prepared for a rainy day

Do you ever feel as though you’ve only just made it to pay day with a few dollars to spare in your wallet? According to the statistics, you’re not alone. Research has put the share of the population living pay day to pay day at between 32 per cent and 46 per cent.i What’s more, many Australians say they don’t have (or couldn’t raise) even $500 to pay for an unexpected expense.ii

In a way, these numbers reflect the laidback ‘she’ll be right’ attitude that pervades our culture. But the reality is that we all live with risks, both big and small, that we can’t avoid.

That’s where a financial safety net comes in handy. Making sure that you are prepared for financial setbacks or unanticipated costs does not come down to any single measure. Rather, it’s a comprehensive approach to risk that’s designed to protect you and your family’s financial wellbeing, come what may.

Maintain a rainy day fund

The first line of financial defence for households is to have some money tucked away in a ‘rainy day’ fund for emergencies and unexpected costs. If you are living from one pay day to the next and your hot water heater bursts or your car needs urgent repairs, the temptation is to whip out the credit card.

If you are only able to make the minimum monthly repayment you could be paying off that hot water heater for years to come. Whereas paying cash will save you money and make your financial goals that much easier to achieve.

Most experts suggest you aim to put aside three to six months’ living expenses. This can take a while to build up so one time-honoured strategy is to ‘pay yourself first’. It’s a good idea to keep your emergency cash in a separate account from your everyday money.

Reduce debt

Even with the best willpower in the world it can be difficult to save if you are weighed down with debt. The good news is that with interest rates at or near their historic lows, there is no better time than the present to tackle debt. Aim to pay down loans with the highest interest rate first – typically this will be your credit cards.

If you have a mortgage, aim to pay more than the minimum monthly payment. By keeping at least three months ahead of schedule you can build a buffer to provide some wriggle room with your lender if you experience financial difficulties.

Review insurance

No financial safety net is complete without adequate personal insurance. We tend to insure our car and our house before we think about our most precious possession, our health and our ability to earn an income.

While health insurance will cover some of your medical costs, it won’t pay the mortgage and food bills or take care of your family while you are unable to work. Worse still, what would happen if you were to die prematurely? That’s where personal insurance comes in, to cover your life, total and permanent disability, trauma and income protection. It’s possible you already have cover for some of these through your superannuation fund, but it may not be sufficient.

We can help you find the right approach for your lifestyle and circumstances, giving you peace of mind without breaking the bank. Contact us today to start the conversation.

i MLC, ‘Australia today: A look at lifestyle, financial security and retirement in Australia’

https://www.mlc.com.au/content/dam/mlc/documents/pdf/retirement/save-retirement-white-paper-release-1.pdf

Research from BT Financial Group as reported by Sophie Elsworth for NewsCorp, ‘Cash-strapped Australians are living pay cheque to pay cheque’ http://www.geelongadvertiser.com.au/business/cashstrapped-australians-are-living-pay-cheque-to-pay-cheque/news-story/0460424acc29452a13977eef1a641fa2

ii Finder.com.au, ‘How a $500 emergency could spell financial ruin for millions of cash-strapped Aussies’ https://www.finder.com.au/press-release-may-2016-rainy-day-savings

Time to prepare for super changes

Time to prepare for super changes

Time to prepare for super changes

Investors have a brief window of opportunity to make the most of the current superannuation rules before new contribution limits and tax rates come into force on July 1 this year.

The reform package announced in the 2016 Federal Budget and passed by parliament last year is the biggest shake-up of super in a decade. The changes summarised below are likely to affect most people to some degree, and wealthier Australians more than most. But there is still time to benefit from the current rules.

Pension account limits

Super has two phases, an accumulation phase where you build up retirement savings in a low tax environment, and a pension phase where no tax is paid on earnings or withdrawals. At present, there are no restrictions on how much money you can hold in super. But from July 1, pension account balances will be limited to $1.6 million.

If you’re retired and have more than $1.6 million in your pension account, the excess will need to be put back into an accumulation account where earnings will be taxed at 15 per cent. Alternatively, you could take the excess out of super entirely. Failure to do so could result in tax being applied to earnings on any excess amounts, which is a compelling reason to start planning early.

Even though you will have six months’ grace to remove excess amounts up to $100,000 without penalty after the July 1 deadline, you won’t be eligible for any inflation-linked increases of the cap in future.

Lower contribution caps

This financial year, tax-deductible concessional contributions of up to $35,000 are permitted for people aged 50 and over, or $30,000 for the under 50s. From July 1, the limit will be $25,000 for everyone.

Tighter rules will also apply to non-concessional (after tax) contributions. Currently you can contribute up to $180,000 a year, or up to $540,000 by bringing forward two years’ contributions. From July 1, these caps will be reduced to $100,000 or $300,000 under the bring forward rule.

These changes provide an incentive for anyone with spare cash to take advantage of the higher contribution limits before June 30. This is particularly so if you have an opportunity to make a large non-concessional contribution funded by an inheritance, the sale of property or other assets.

The situation is more complex if you already have close to $1.6 million in super. From July 1 you won’t be able to make any further non-concessional contributions and any excess above $1.6 million held in a pension account will need to be removed.

Changes to transition to retirement rules

Earnings in a transition to retirement (TTR) pension will lose their tax exemption from July 1. Instead, all earnings on income and capital gains will be taxed at the concessional super rate of 15 per cent. Capital gains on assets held for longer than 12 months will be taxed at the discount rate of 10 per cent.

If you’re using a TTR pension in combination with salary sacrifice to boost your super, the removal of the tax exemption may reduce the final amount you accumulate for your retirement. While a TTR strategy is still attractive, you may like to contact us to discuss additional ways to boost your savings.

More high earners to pay tax surcharge

Under the existing rules individuals who earn $300,000 or more pay tax of 30 per cent on their super contributions, compared with the 15 per cent everyone else pays. From July 1, the tax surcharge will kick in once you earn $250,000 or more.

If you expect to earn between $250,000 and $300,000 next financial year, then you have an added incentive this year to maximise your concessional contributions (within your age-based limit). As always, the devil is in the detail. If you would like to discuss how the new rules could affect you and your retirement, contact us so we can help put plan in place to make the most of the current and future rules.

Getting to know your ‘money personality’

Getting to know your ‘money personality’

Getting to know your ‘money personality’

Ever wish you could get to the root of why your budgeting habits are less than ideal? Or perhaps you’re out to master your investment decision making process.

Finding out your money personality is a great start to developing the management, saving and investment strategies that are going to work best for you. Understanding your financial attitudes, habits and dispositions can help you protect and grow your wealth more effectively.
What are some of the theories?

Psychologists and other academics have studied financial behaviour for several decades. Our attitudes to money are largely thought to be learnt over time and will depend on your childhood and the environment you grew up in. If you look at your parents’ attitudes to money, are you emulating them in your choices or actively taking the opposite approach?

You can also take advantage of models that have been developed to identify different ‘money personalities’ or distinct attitudes and approaches to managing personal finances.

The Nine Money Personalities Model proposes that everyone identifies with one of nine types: entrepreneur, hunter, high roller, safety player, achiever, perfectionist, money master, producer, or optimist.

More simplistic models fall along the lines of: savers, spenders, risk averse, gamblers and those not really paying attention.

Risk profiling

Some models focus purely on a person’s behaviour as an investor. Specifically, they try to make sense of different levels of risk-taking.

The study of peoples’ engagement with risk is a big part of investment psychology. When it comes down to it, risk and reward is a very primal thing; our relationship with risk is a factor in most areas of our lives, from romantic relationships to recreational activities. In investment, tolerance and/or appetite for risk plays a big role in how you approach wealth creation.

Perhaps the best known risk profiling theory divides investors into two groups: active investors and passive investors. Passive investors tend to be risk averse and less comfortable with the ‘peaks and troughs’ that can characterise some investments. They are likely to choose ‘safe’ or conservative options. Active investors, as the title suggests, are more comfortable with risk. They like to feel in control of their investments, staying active in researching, analysing and decision making.

The Bailard, Biehl and Kaiser Five-way Model is a little more complex.iiIt looks at investor confidence and preferred approaches to sort people into five groups. There’s adventurers (confident risk-takers), celebrities (hooked on the latest ‘hot tips’), individualists (confident but careful and analytical), guardians (conservative and focused on protecting their wealth), and straight arrows (average investors with a balanced approach).

How to work out where you fit (and then what to do about it)

Working out your risk profile or money personality, using any reputable scale or model, is a great way to better understand your unconscious biases towards money. Whether you want to fine-tune your everyday money management, get rid of bad financial habits or achieve better investment results, it’s an important starting point. For example, say you’ve found your investment returns limited because you can’t bring yourself to consider anything beyond the most conservative portfolio.

On the other end of the scale, if you’re tired of the ups and downs that tend to come with a more aggressive portfolio, knowing how and why your personality makes you predisposed to risk-taking is a good way to help yourself avoid situations where you make impulsive or overzealous decisions.

If you’re interested in exploring how your approach to money is impacting your wealth creation strategy, make a time to have a chat with us.

Boosting your brain health

Boosting your brain health

Boosting your brain health

Paul Taylor shares these tips to boosting your brain health.

I see a lot of advertising in the media for brain-training programs and games such as Luminosity, but are these things the best way to optimise your brain? The short answer is an unequivocal no. Aside from the fact that you are sitting on your butt to do these programs (which in itself is bad for your brain), there are much better ways to optimise that mass of jelly in your head! Some ways to boost your brain are well established in the research, and some other techniques are just emerging. Following is a well-rounded plan for getting the best out of your noggin.

  1. Exercise

This boosts critical growth factors such as BDNF, FGF, VEGF and IGF-1, and also provides blood flow and oxygen, which are critical for brain health. For BOOSTING YOUR BRAIN HEALTH best results, a combination of short duration, high-intensity interval training combined with a baseline of lots of walking. Avoid excessive endurance training due to increased oxidative stress.

  1. Nutrition

A diet based on real food with low processed food (especially sugar and processed carbohydrates) is critical for brain function. In terms of individual nutrients, the most critical nutrient for the brain is the omega 3 fat DHA from fish (the conversion of plant-based omega 3s to DHA is very poor), which help neurons to grow and communicate. Vitamin B12 also plays lots of roles important to brain function and iron is important for oxygen transport; good quality meat (especially organ meats) will provide lots of this. Lastly, curcumin seems to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. Sleep

Recent research has shown that sleep is critical for clearing toxins out of the brain, which is probably why chronically poor sleep is associated with greater incidences of Alzheimer’s, depression and other brain conditions. Aim for between seven and eight hours a night.

  1. Novelty

This is absolutely critical to drive neuroplasticity, which will make your brain healthy and robust. Learning a new language or a musical instrument is great, as is continual education and doing new things, meeting new people and seeing new places. A highly routined life is like death by a thousand cuts for the brain!

  1. Mindfulness meditation

Research has shown that this has a positive influence on gene expression and improves brain function. Recent research has shown that regular mindfulness practice can increase grey matter density in the brain!

  1. Stress management

While some stress is necessary for us to develop and grow, chronic stress creates an inflammatory cascade in the brain, so dealing effectively with stress is important for a healthy brain. Meditation, yoga, tai chi, exercise and other relaxation techniques are good ways to protect against too much stress.