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Grow what you’ve got: Savings and side-hustles

Checklist for week 5

Estimated completion time: 20 mins

  1. Consider at least 3 ways you can earn more money
  1. Open a high-interest savings account or term deposit
  1. Calculate how much super you’ll need for retirement and how to reach this goal

If you can complete these three tasks by the end of the week, you’ll have taken the all-important first steps towards building a bigger bank balance.

Step 1: Reclaim your money

According to the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC), Australians have around $1.1 billion in lost or unclaimed shares, bank accounts and life insurance. If you’ve moved house and forgotten to update your details with a financial institution or company, some of this money could be yours.

Reclaiming money that’s yours also involves getting back any cash owed to you. If a friend, relative or co-worker has borrowed money from you and forgotten to pay it back, asking them to repay you can get very tricky very quickly. You’ll need to be tactful when having this conversation, but don’t let your fear of awkwardness stop you from asking for what is rightfully yours.

Step 2: Ask for a pay rise

If you’re self-employed or if asking for a pay rise is not a viable option for some other reason, skip ahead to step 3.

The notion of asking your boss for more money might seem terrifying, but it could be well worth it. Have a think about how long you’ve been working in your current role, when your last pay rise was (if you’ve ever had one) and if you think you deserve a larger pay packet.

Here’s a quick guide on how to ask for a pay rise:

  1. Do your research. How important are you to the company? Does your salary meet industry standards? Write a list of the ways you have added value to the company or increased their profits. Note your successes and how hard you have worked, and also look at your original job description and note the different responsibilities you have taken on.
  2. Pick your time. Determine when would be the most likely time for the company to give you a pay rise – for example, what is the company’s highest earning season? Is there a salary review period? When the time is right, ask your boss if you can set up a meeting to discuss your remuneration.
  3. Have the conversation. Gather any research and notes you have prepared and make sure you keep the conversation on track. Confidence is crucial, but you’ll also need to go into the meeting prepared to hear a “no”

How much should I ask for?

A good benchmark is to add 15% to your current base salary so that your boss room to negotiate down to 10%.

Step 3: Consider ways to earn a second income

If you want some extra cash to supplement your existing salary, consider how you could earn a second income. This doesn’t mean spending your weekends working in a bar, or finishing your day job and heading straight to a night shift somewhere else – there are lots of simple ways to earn additional cash doing the things you love.


Freelancing is a great way to earn extra cash. Sites like freelancer.com.au and Upwork make becoming a freelancer easy. Whether you’re a writer, web designer, data entry specialist or skilled in some other field, all you have to do is sign up and offer your services. It may be difficult at first, but once you have a decent portfolio of work it will become easier to find jobs.

Online surveys

Online surveys are becoming a serious business and there are plenty of companies out there willing to pay you simply for offering your opinion and answering simple questions. The trick is to find out which companies are reputable and which ones aren’t, so check out some online reviews to make sure you’re dealing with a legit survey company. You won’t become a millionaire by completing online surveys, but it is an easy way to make a little extra cash.

Mystery shopping

Mystery shopping companies aren’t riddled with the problems that plague the online survey industry. There’s a whole heap of reputable companies offering shopping assignments, so you may want to consider signing up. Pay rates vary, but you can earn up to $25 for an assignment that only takes ten minutes.

Create a blog, app or Youtube channel

Got a special passion or skill you want to share with the world? Maybe you’ve just picked up some simple life hacks to help others save time or money in their everyday lives?

If you create and maintain a blog on something you’re passionate about, like raising a couple of kids, you might be able to sell advertising space and earn money from traffic. If you have a great idea for an app but don’t have the technical expertise, there are lots of online courses where you can learn how. If you create a Youtube channel and attract a loyal following, you can become part of Youtube’s partner program and earn money every time someone watches one of your videos.


You don’t have to be a professor to teach. There are lots of people out there eager to learn skills or subjects that you may be able to teach them.

Are you a keen amateur photographer? Can you play a musical instrument? Are you fluent in a second language? If so, you could sign up to a tutoring service that can help you connect with with clients, or maybe just hand out some flyers and find customers yourself.

Become an Uber driver

If you’re at least 21 years of age and have your own car, you could earn extra income by driving an Uber. Uber allows you to set your own schedule so you can bring in some additional cash without disrupting your everyday life. However, make sure you meet all vehicle, licence and insurance requirements before you apply.

Offer your services

The internet offers some incredible opportunities for making money. Sites like Airtasker specialise in helping their users outsource everyday tasks, while you can also find plenty of people on Gumtree willing to pay money for a huge variety of odd jobs. From assembling furniture to cleaning, you might be surprised just what opportunities are out there (and how much some people are willing to pay for a helping hand).

Sell your stuff

Clothes, DVDs, furniture, exercise equipment – we all have things lying around the house that we no longer need or use, so why not try selling some of your stuff to enjoy a little financial windfall?

Rent out your house or parking space

If you’ve got a spare room, you could rent it out through Airbnb or maybe to a permanent tenant. If your apartment comes with a parking space you don’t use, you might be able to rent it out to a commuter or someone in another apartment.

Get creative

Whatever your passions or hobbies, think about whether you can make money from them. If you’re an amateur jewellery designer, you might want to consider selling some of your pieces on Etsy. If you’ve got a green thumb, could you set up a stall selling veggies or flowers at a local farmer’s market?

Even earning an extra $50 a week might not sound like much, but these little victories can soon make a big difference to your overall financial position.

Step 4: Open a savings account

If you really want to maximise your money, hiding your savings under your mattress isn’t going to help. Instead, you’ll need to open a savings account that allows you to earn interest on the money you deposit.

Types of savings accounts

Savings accounts are specifically designed to help you boost your bank balance. However, there are several different types of accounts available, each of which is suited to a different type of saver:

  • Online savings accounts. Online savings accounts allow you to earn variable interest on your balance, and give you the freedom to deposit and withdraw funds whenever you wish.
  • Bonus saver accounts. Like an ordinary savings account, bonus savers allow you to earn variable interest on your account balance. However, they also allow you to earn bonus interest whenever you meet specific requirements – this usually means depositing a specified minimum amount each month.
  • Introductory bonus savings accounts. These are accounts that allow you to earn interest at a higher variable rate for a fixed introductory period, such as the first four months after opening an account. Introductory-rate accounts can be a good option for sporadic savers, but you’ll need to check what rate the account reverts to once the honeymoon period is over.
  • Term deposits. A term deposit allows you to “lock away” your savings for a fixed period ranging from 3 to 60 months, and earn a fixed interest rate for the duration. They’re a great option if you want to earn guaranteed returns and stop yourself dipping into your savings.
  • Notice saver accounts. Like term deposits, notice saver accounts allow you to lock away your savings for a fixed term and earn a high rate of interest. However, they also offer the flexibility of choosing how much notice you need to give your bank before you can access your funds – 31, 60 or 90 days.

How to choose a savings account

To find the savings account that’s right for you, consider a few key questions:

  • What are you saving for? If you have a specific goal, for example if you’re saving to buy a new car, the security and consistent returns of a term deposit might suit. If you just want to set money aside for a rainy day, consider an online account that allows deposits and withdrawals at any time.
  • What’s your starting balance? Are you starting with a large enough amount to satisfy the minimum requirement to open a term deposit (usually $1,000), or will you need an account with no minimum opening balance requirement?
  • What type of saver are you? Do you want to be able to dip into your savings regularly, or would you rather remove this temptation altogether? Do you put money aside in fits and starts or will you be making regular deposits?

Once you know the type of account you want, you can start comparing the features of individual accounts. Make sure you consider:

  • Fees. Check whether any account-keeping fees or other charges apply.
  • Interest rates. How much interest can you earn? Is the rate fixed or variable? Will you need to make regular deposits to earn the maximum rate?
  • Restrictions. Are you allowed to make withdrawals whenever you want? Will you need to meet monthly deposit requirements or maintain a minimum account balance? Will you have to open a linked transaction account with the same bank?

More tips on how to choose a savings account

Use our free savings calculator to find out how much you could earn

Step 5: Set up an automatic savings plan

Whatever you’re saving for, it’s important to set yourself a goal as to how much money you want to put aside each week. You can then set up an automatic transfer to save time and ensure that you stay on track to reach your goal.

First, establish a realistic savings goal. There’s no point setting up a transfer that is 20% of your weekly wage if you won’t be able to manage it, so make sure you’re realistic when deciding how much to put aside per week.
Second, set up an automatic transfer via online or mobile banking. It’s easy to set up a recurring payment from either your smartphone or computer, but the exact process you’ll need to follow varies between banks. You should be able to find an explanation of the steps you need to complete in your bank’s online help section, or you can contact their customer support team for assistance.

Step 6: Calculate how much super you’ll need for retirement

If you want to ensure a secure financial future for yourself and your loved ones, you’ll also need to start thinking about how much super you’ll need to survive in retirement. To help you get a better idea, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) calculates the Retirement Standard, which sets a benchmark for the annual budget needed by Australians in retirement.

According to ASFA:

  • “A modest retirement lifestyle is considered better than the Age Pension, but you’ll still only be able to afford fairly basic activities.”
  • “A comfortable retirement lifestyle enables an older, healthy retiree to be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities and to have a good standard of living through the purchase of such things as; household goods, private health insurance, a reasonable car, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment, and domestic and occasionally international holiday travel.”

To achieve a comfortable lifestyle in retirement, ASFA calculates that you’ll need:

  • A $545,000 lump sum for singles
  • A $640,000 lump sum for couples

* This assumes that you will draw down all your capital and receive a part Age Pension

To achieve a modest lifestyle in retirement, AFSA calculates that you’ll need:

  • A $70,000 lump sum for singles and couples

* This figure is relatively low because the base rate of the Age Pension (plus various pension supplements) is sufficient to meet much of the costs of a modest lifestyle.

At this point, check your current super balance – how close are you to building the balance you need to live the retirement you want?

How much is the Age Pension?

The maximum basic amount of the Age Pension in Australia is $826.20 per fortnight for singles, or $1,245.60 per fortnight for couples. Over the course of a year, that works out to:

  • $21,481.20 for singles
  • $32,385.60 for couples

However, whether or not you qualify for the Age Pension (and how much you’ll receive) is affected by the value of the assets you own. Check with the Department of Human Services to find out how your assets will impact your pension eligibility.

Calculate how much you need

Remember, the figures above from ASFA are only a guide, so you’ll need to consider your own situation and lifestyle before deciding how much you need to fund your retirement. Once you’ve got a rough idea of the amount of super you’ll need to live the life you want, you can then work out whether you’re on track to reach your goal.

ASIC’s MoneySmart service offers an extremely useful retirement planning calculator to help you work out how much income you’re likely to have from super and the Age Pension when you retire.

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Boosting your super

Keep the following tips in mind to help save more for your retirement:

  • Make voluntary contributions. Making extra contributions to your super out of your own pocket is a simple way to boost your balance. Better yet, if you earn less than $52,697 per year (before tax) and make after-tax super contributions, the government will make co-contributions into your account up to a maximum of $500 per year.
  • Find lost super. If you’ve changed jobs and failed to roll over your super into a new fund, you could have multiple super accounts. Rather than paying fees on each separate account, consolidate all your super accounts into the one fund. You can search for lost and unclaimed super through your myGov account.
  • Compare super funds. Are you getting the best value for money from your current fund? Compare the investments, insurance, fees and mid-term performance offered by a range of funds to see if your money could be better off elsewhere.

Step 7: Consider your investment opportunities

Once you start building a bigger savings balance, you may want to consider investing some of your money to make it work harder for you. Shares and property are the two most popular options for Australian investors, as they have the potential to provide larger returns than you can expect from your savings account.

However, with the potential for higher rewards comes a much higher level of risk, including the very real chance that you will lose money, so make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before committing any of your hard-earned cash.

The ins and outs of investing in shares and property go well beyond the scope of this financial bootcamp – they’d need a seven-week bootcamp all of their own. Depending on your situation, buying shares or property may also require a larger initial investment than you could afford.

With this in mind, you may want to consider a micro-investing tool such as Raiz Invest (previously Acorns Australia). Raiz automatically rounds up and invests your spare change in a mix of exchange-traded funds on the Australian Securities Exchange. You can also deposit lump sums or a recurring weekly or monthly amount, and your money is invested in a portfolio chosen based on your financial goals and appetite for risk.

If you’re interested in property investing but you’d like to start small, you could consider a service like Brickx. Brickx allows you to acquire small shares in residential investment properties for less than $100, so you can get a taste for how the property market works without committing huge sums of money.

Whichever approach you choose, just remember that there are risks and drawbacks associated with any type of investment. Do your research before deciding on the best place to invest your money.

By the end of this week you should:
  • Have tracked down any of your lost or unclaimed money
  • Know some ways to earn extra cash that fit in with your lifestyle
  • Have opened a high-interest savings account or term deposit
  • Know how much super you need for retirement

Coming up next week...

Next week we’ll turn our focus to protecting yourself against unexpected financial disasters and how to get a better deal on your car, home, health or life insurance policy.

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