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Pandemic fatigue! Do you have it and what to do about it?

Pandemic fatigue! Do you have it and what to do about it?

It has been months of stress and uncertainty. If you are anything like me, you are pining for normality.  Spring is only a few weeks away, but the end of the pandemic is not. Months of coping with a rollercoaster of emotions sparked by the stressors of quarantine, self-isolation, social-distancing, lock-downs, losses, grief, uncertainty, unpredictability and anxiety are taking a toll on our mental health.  Pandemic Fatigue is not an official medical term, as yet, however, it does describe the impact that COVID-19 stressors are having on our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. So what are some of the signs you may have Pandemic Fatigue?

Signs of pandemic fatigue

  1. From being a super diligent face mask wearer and always washing your hands, you find yourself dodging those sanitiser bottles or holding your breath when passing people in the hope of not breathing in any stray viral-ladened spittle missiles.
  2. Where social distancing was part of the new normal, you find yourself leaning into conversations at the coffee shop and going in for the hug.
  3. As much as you sleep, you still feel exhausted. Napping during the workday is also not helping nor are those sleeping tablets that you borrowed from your best mate a few months ago.
  4. You are feeling less patient and more irritated, snapping at those close to you like a chihuahua.
  5. You are feeling stressed by things that you ordinarily would take in your stride.
  6. You are getting more upset and emotional about the little things that previously wouldn’t have raised your heart rate.
  7. You are feeling more hopeless about the future, and there seems to be no light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
  8. You are eating more food, drinking more alcohol because what else is there to do and perhaps using more substances than usual.
  9. Your brain feels foggy and concentrating takes a significant effort, particularly if it has anything to do with your work to-do list, house chores, gym rosters and remembering to go shopping.

Our stress response is switched on 24/7

I know my attempt as humour needs work, however on a more serious note, if you said ‘that’s me’ to one or more of the above, you may just be feeling Pandemic Fatigue. Totally normal, understandable and expected. Our bodies were never designed to be ‘switched on’ in this stress mode for months on end.

Back in caveman days, our stress or survival response was triggered for only short bursts to get us out of danger and save us from the sabre-toothed tiger. It was never designed to be switched on 24/7! Our physiological stress response has been activated for a while now, and we are running out of energy. What we need are strategies to manage our Fatigue physically, mentally and emotionally. So what can you do to help minimise the impact of Pandemic Fatigue?

Some suggestions on how to get back on track

Protect yourself and others.  Wearing masks, washing our hands, and social distancing is making a massive difference when it comes to community spread. We hear this from all the experts on TV almost nightly. Put your masks on people! Remind yourself that by doing these necessary things, you are taking control of this otherwise uncertain environment.  This in turn will make you feel more hopeful as you will start feeling that you, your family and community will stay safer.

Clean up your sleep. Have a look at your sleep routine and try and maximise the quality and quantity of slow-wave and REM sleep, so that you can re-energise your brain and sort out those folders of new information that you have learnt that day. Remember the data is clear that consistency of sleep, i.e. the time you go to sleep and wake up every day, is the most effective way to get better quality sleep.

Also sleeping in a quiet and dark room, with a temperature of between 21-23 degrees Celsius makes for an ideal sleep environment. We know that 75% of insomnia is caused by stress and stress, in turn, causes insomnia! So focusing on your sleep and general wellbeing is a no brainer if you want to get through the next few months and curb this vicious cycle.

Push the pause button when emotional. When your brain switches into survival mode, your emotional part of your brain is in the driver’s seat. So feeling more sensitive and fragile is normal. If you find yourself cranky at the moment, and your emotions are getting the better of you, push the pause button and try and remove yourself from the situation or conversation.

Taking a few deep breaths also sends the message to your brain that you are calm and therefore must be safe. So the stress response switches down a gear, or two. Once you are feeling less emotional, then tackle the conversation or situation using your wonderfully developed pre-frontal cortex or thinking brain. Responding with thought versus reacting with emotion is vital.

Get active without a major sweat.
Choose activities that you enjoy but have perhaps let slide recently. Replace walking around the block and then kicking it under the bed, with a real walk in the fresh air and on the pavement! Exercise is fantastic for stress management, and the best part is you don’t need to be running on a treadmill at speed 15. Walking at a moderate pace 3-4 times a week has been shown to have a significant impact on our stress levels. If you are walking and talking and feeling a bit puffed out, researchers say you are walking too fast.

Nurture your creativity. Engaging in activities you used to enjoy is an excellent way to feel a sense of normalcy and reconnect to your sense-of-self. It can also be a good de-stressor that will improve your concentration and focus. Maybe pick up that project at home that you’ve been putting aside for a rainy day.

Perhaps a hobby that you used to spend lots of time doing and brought you enjoyment. Get those creative juices flowing. And if you have no idea what I am banging on about, watch a funny movie that gets you laughing like there is no tomorrow. We know from research that laughter increases our naturally produced happy chemicals, including endorphins, serotonin and oxytocin.

Connection is everything. Connecting with others is super important. I know I have said this so many times in the articles I have written; however, research has proven time and time again that we are DNA wired to connect and connection is crucial for good mental health. We prioritise connecting with our tribe above all else, even having a voice in the tribe. As humans, we crave belonging. So for those introverts who are reading this, remember that connecting with a friend or a family member gets that wonderful connection hormone oxytocin to levels that can truly make you feel happy and loved.

Be clear on what you need from others. Be honest with people that you are close to if you are struggling with negative feelings. Many of us are feeling pretty crappy at the moment and are frankly quite tired of this viral environment. Merely wanting to be ‘normal’ again seems a tough ask. Often sharing how are you feeling with someone that can hold the space for you can be the difference between feeling really lonely and feeling uplifted and supported.

To get the support you need, let the other person know what it is that you want and need from them. If it is merely to be a listening ear, ask them for this. If it is advice you are after, make this clear too. There is nothing more frustrating than sharing how you feel with someone who then promptly goes into solution mode and starts providing unsolicited advice. I have no doubt the intention is well-meaning, however by and large it is not helpful in the moment. So stand your ground, be clear and ask for the support you need.

No more mind-reading. If you wake up feeling a bit irritable and impatient, let your close loved ones into the secret. They are not mind-readers.  Knowing that you’re not quite yourself and you’re feeling a bit sad, frustrated or cranky helps them understand if you don’t want to talk, or if perhaps you respond in a sharper way than usual. This doesn’t mean that you treat your family like a punching bag metaphorically. You still need to manage your emotions as best as you can and of course, are responsible for your behaviour. This is not a chance to revert back to childlike behaviours and start throwing your toys out of the cot.

Protecting your relationships and those closest to you is very important. Having more intimate connections with others who better understand you will help nourish you emotionally and help protect you against those stresses and challenging circumstances that are often out of our control.

Reach out if you are feeling lonely. For those who live alone or do not have a family or friend support structure around them, please remember that there are places you can go for support and help. Australia offers some amazing online support and resources. Lifeline (13 11 14) is just one of many who are available 24/7 and are qualified to provide you with the help you need.

No one knows precisely when this pandemic will end. The news is currently rife with information on developing vaccines and that perhaps by early next year, we will have access to this vital resource. The head of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said only last night on the news that it would take around two years for the world to get back to a healthy state. Two years, what is he thinking? However, the reality is it may very well take this long for the world to settle.

And when you are having one of those days, focus on what you can be grateful for.  I keep on pinching myself that I live in Australia. Things could be so much worse. I am grateful every day that my family are okay, and I can put my running shoes on and go for a walk under the glorious sunshine. Many others don’t have this luxury and have suffered unimaginable losses. It is this fact that keeps me moving forward and hopeful that this pandemic too will come to an end.

 

Author: Dr Leanne Wall (MBBCh. BSc. Grad Dip Counselling)
m: +61 (0) 409 216 289
e: leanne@drleannewall.com
w: www.drleannewall.com
l: linkedin.com/in/leanne-wall-730a3142

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Binding Death Benefit Nominations

Binding Death Benefit Nominations

by Stephen Lynch, Somerville Legal

Just as it is desirable to maximise your wealth during your lifetime, it is important to ensure that in the event of your death your assets pass to the people you wish to benefit. For most people, superannuation is one of the most significant assets they have, and ensuring that it is paid to the appropriate people is a critical element of estate planning.

One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking that their superannuation is automatically an estate asset, and therefore covered by their will. In fact, superannuation is a separate type of asset that is held by the superannuation fund and paid out by the trustee of the fund upon the death of the member of the fund.

In fact, in most cases, it is the trustee, and not the member, which decides who gets the member’s superannuation death benefits, and in what proportions.

For most people, the only way to ensure they, and not the trustee, control whom their superannuation death benefits pass to upon death, is to make a binding death benefit nomination (“BDBN”), which is a specific form which directs the trustee how to pay the member’s superannuation upon death.

The advantages of having a BDBN in place include the following:-

  1. Control
    Just as having a will is important to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, most people would rather decide who should get their superannuation if they should die. Most super funds’ rules state that unless there is a BDBN in place, the trustee has complete discretion as to whom to pay the person’s superannuation, as long as the recipient is a dependant of the deceased member(such as a spouse, or child including adult child, of the member) or the member’s Legal Personal Representative (ie their estate).If you want to make the decision as to payment of your super, rather than leaving it to the trustee to decide, a BDBN is critical.
  1. Certainty
    For many people, it is not just that they don’t want the trustee of the super fund to decide who gets the person’s superannuation – it is that they have specific intentions about how all of their estate is to be distributed. For example, they may want a spouse to get the super, but the children to get the non-super assets. A BDBN allows the peace of mind that your wishes will be followed in relation to your super. This allows you to make other decisions, such as gifts during your lifetime that will even up the ledger.
  1. Flexibility
    According to the Commonwealth superannuation laws, superannuation death benefits can only be paid to a person’s dependants (such as spouse or children), or estate. If you want your super to pass to someone else, such as your parents, a sibling or a charity, you will need to have a BDBN directing the trustee to pay your super to your estate. Your will can then stipulate that the proceeds are to pass to the intended beneficiary.Or, if you want your superannuation to be held for the benefit of your children, but do not want them to have control until a later age – say, 27 – having a BDBN in favour of your estate and a will that establishes testamentary trusts for your children may be the answer.Without a BDBN, your will may contain very specific provisions as to how your superannuation is to be distributed, only for the trustee to bypass your estate altogether in which case the terms of your will would not apply.
  1. Speed of payment
    When a person dies, the executor of their will would in most cases need to obtain a grant of probate of the estate from the Supreme Court. Although probate is usually a relatively simple process, there can sometimes be delays in obtaining probate, for example due to a dispute over the terms of the will, or delays in obtaining the details about each asset that need to be disclosed to the Court. If there is a BDBN in place that directs the trustee to pay the superannuation to one or more dependants (ie not to the estate), the trustee may be willing to pay out the superannuation before probate is granted.Without a BDBN, even if the trustee was inclined to pay the superannuation to the deceased member’s dependants, the trustee may await probate so as to obtain the executor’s consent to the trustee bypassing the estate.Similarly, if there were no BDBN there may be competing claims from dependants (eg the deceased’s spouse vs his or her children from an earlier marriage). Before making a determination, the trustee would in all likelihood need each claimant to provide a substantial amount of information and would take some time to go over that information before making its decision. Such delays may be avoided if a BDBN is in place.
  1. Self managed super funds and BDBNs
    If a person has a self managed super fund (“SMSF”), there are several factors which will influence who would control that SMSF upon the person’s death. Without a BDBN, whomever controls the SMSF may have the same discretion to decide how the super will be paid. If that person is a dependant, they could exercise that discretion in favour of themselves to the exclusion of their other family members, regardless of the wishes of the deceased. There have been several instances where this has occurred, with devastating results for family relationships.Of course, a BDBN may not be the best way forward in your particular circumstances. There are some circumstances where flexibility is more important than control. In all cases, the decision as to whether or not a BDBN is appropriate for you should be made only after seeking the advice of your financial adviser and estate planning solicitor.

Beware the non-binding death benefit nomination
Many people believe they have a binding death benefit nomination in place, when in fact their nomination is a non-binding nomination. A non-binding nomination indicates your preference to the trustee, but the trustee is not bound to follow it.

If your nomination as to whom is to receive your superannuation death benefits was made by simply ‘ticking a box’ when you fill out your application for membership of the super fund, and was not done by way of a separate form with adult witnesses, then in all likelihood your death benefit nomination is non-binding rather than a BDBN.

There have been many cases where the trustee has acted contrary to the wishes set out in the deceased member’s non-binding nomination. Accordingly, non-binding nominations should be treated with extreme caution, and advice sought from your financial adviser and estate planning solicitor.

Beware the lapsing period of BDBNS
Many BDBNs will lapse after three years, after which they cease to be binding on the trustee. Others are called non-lapsing nominations and will remain in place until revoked. Be careful to ensure you know whether or not your BDBN needs to be renewed every three years.

At the end of the day, superannuation represents a significant part of most people’s wealth, and careful consideration needs to be given as to whom their superannuation may be paid to in the event of their death and whether they have any specific wishes as to how it is to be paid. A BDBN is a critical tool for many people in ensuring their superannuation is properly dealt with upon their death, and should be carefully considered after obtaining specialist advice.

If you need assistance please get in touch with one of our advisors on 02 9415 1511 or email reception@primeadvisory.com.au.

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Help for individuals

Help for individuals

Services Australia has an online payment guide that guides you through the payments available if you are impacted by COVID-19 and what you might be able to access.

Pandemic Leave Disaster Payment for Victoria
If you have to self-isolate or quarantine at home because of COVID-19 or are caring for someone who is, and cannot earn an income as a result, you might be eligible for a $1,500 payment.

Tightening of access to income support
From 25 September 2020, the assets test and the Liquid Assets Waiting Period (applies to those with assets such as cash savings worth over $5,500 for singles or $11,000 for singles with children and partnered people) will be reintroduced for access to income support payments.

In addition, partner income testing will resume from 25 September 2020, albeit with higher thresholds than those pre COVID-19. That is, you will not be eligible for income support if you are not earning an income but your partner earns $3,086.11 per fortnight or $80,238.89 per annum.

Job seeking requirements that were suspended from 24 March 2020 have been introduced from 9 June 2020. Some leniency has been provided for Victorians if you maintain contact with your employment service provider.

Coronavirus supplement
The Coronavirus supplement will continue, albeit on a reduced rate of $250 per fortnight (from $550), from 25 September until 31 December 2020 for eligible individuals.

27 April to 24 Sept. 2020 = $550 per fortnight
25 Sept. to 31 Dec. 2020 = $250 per fortnight

Your questions answered
During lock down I have had to work from home. I’ve set up a full home office with paintings, plants, a desk, computer equipment, a water tower and a sculpture. I presume I can claim everything I have purchased for this office and claim part of my mortgage and running costs?In general, home office expenses are designed for those who run their business out of home. If you are merely working from home and not running a business at home, then it’s unlikely you will be able to claim occupancy expenses such as mortgage interest or rent. Keep in mind that if you claim occupancy costs, this will impact on your access to the CGT main residence exemption.The water cooler is unlikely to be deductible as food and drink is considered to be private in nature. The items that beautify your office will generally only be deductible if they are displayed in open viewing areas in premises used for income producing purposes including reception areas, waiting rooms and foyers.If you are working from home and have set up a home office for this purpose, you can claim a deduction for your expenses based on the 80 cents per hour short cut method, the 52 cents per hour method (which excludes phone, internet, or the decline in value of equipment which are all claimed separately), or the actual method.

If you have any questions or need further support please get in touch via email reception@primeadvisory.com.au or call 02 9415 1511.

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Help for business

Help for business

The Government has announced further changes to the JobKeeper scheme. The good news is that employees that missed out on JobKeeper because they were not employed on 1 March 2020 might now be eligible. The proposed changes would enable employees employed on 1 July 2020 to receive JobKeeper payments from 3 August if they meet the other eligibility criteria. If you have employees impacted by this change, you will still need to work through the eligibility requirements including providing JobKeeper Payment Employee Nomination, but just remember that these changes are not yet law.

JobKeeper will also be extended beyond 27 September 2020. To receive JobKeeper from 28 September 2020, employers will need to reassess their eligibility with reference to actual GST turnover for the September 2020 quarter (for JobKeeper payments between 28 September to 3 January 2021), and again for the December 2020 quarter (for payments between 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021).

Most businesses will generally use their Business Activity Statement (BAS) reporting to assess eligibility. However, as the BAS is generally not due until the month after the end of the quarter, eligibility for JobKeeper will need to be assessed in advance of the BAS reporting deadlines to meet the wage condition for eligible employees.

However, the ATO will have discretion to extend the time an entity has to pay employees in order to meet the wage condition.

From 28 September 2020 the payment rates for JobKeeper will reduce and split into a higher and lower rate. Whether an eligible employee can access the higher or lower rate will depend on the number of hours they worked during a 4-week test period. The higher rate will apply to employees who worked at least 20 hours a week on average in the four weeks of pay periods prior to either 1 March 2020 or 1 July 2020. Between 28 September 2020 and 3 January 2021, the higher rate is $1,200 per fortnight, and $750 for the lower rate. Between 4 January and 28 March 2021, the higher rate is $1,000 per fortnight and $650 for the lower rate.

JobKeeper payment rate 30 Mar to 27 Sept 2020 28 Sept to 3 Jan 2021 4 Jan 2021 to 28 Mar 2021
< 20 hours $1,500 $750 $650
> 20 hours $1,500 $1,200 $1,000

Cashflow boost payments

If your business received the first cashflow boost tranche, you will receive a further cashflow boost for the June to September quarters of the same amount. If you report quarterly, the cashflow boost will be paid in two equal payments for June and September. If you report monthly, the cashflow boost is provided in four equal payments.

The cashflow boost is applied to reduce any liabilities in the same reporting period with any excess amount being paid as a cash refund from the ATO.

Support for business employing apprentices and trainees

JobTrainer provides a 50% reimbursement to eligible employers for the cost of apprentice or trainee wages up to $7,000 per quarter. Originally only for small businesses employing less than 20 employees, the subsidy recently expanded to include businesses with under 200 employees.

For small businesses (under 20 employees), the apprentice had to be employed on 1 March 2020 or on 1 July 2020 for claims after this date (claims are open now). For medium sized businesses (under 200 employees), the apprentice had to be employed on 1 July 2020 (claims open 1 October 2020). To access the subsidy, you will need to provide evidence of wages paid to the apprentice.

The subsidy is also accessible to larger employers employing apprentices let go by a small/medium business where that apprentice was eligible for the wage subsidy.

The subsidy is scheduled to end on 31 March 2021.

State & territory based support

In addition to general waivers, reductions or rebates on some Government licensing and fees, each State and Territory has some form of support accessible to certain businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Australian Capital Territory

Support Description Closes
Rate deferrals Rate deferrals for commercial property owners affected by COVID-19. 1 April 2021
Payroll tax deferral All ACT businesses with Australia-wide wages of up to $10 million can apply to defer their 2020-21 payroll tax, until 1 July 2022.

New South Wales

Support Description Closes
Payroll tax deferral Option of deferring 2019-20 payroll tax to October 2020. Instalment plans can be entered into after October 2020.

Payroll tax threshold has increased to $1m for 2020-21.

Small business recovery grant Grants of between $500 and $3,000 to help small business reopen safely. 16 Aug. 2020
Export assistance grants Up to $10,000 for up to 1,000 eligible small or medium NSW export businesses that have experienced disruptions to freight channels or reductions in orders. Opening soon.

Northern Territory

Support Description Closes
Business hardship package A package of concessions including payroll tax waiver or deferral, council rates, utilities and rate concessions. 30 Sept. 2020

Queensland

Support Description Closes
Adaption grant Funding of up to $10,000 for regional micro and small businesses to adapt and sustain operations. When allocation exhausted
Payroll tax relief Payroll tax deferrals for the 2020 calendar year. 31 Dec. 2020

South Australia

Support Description Closes
Support when employing apprentices A range of grants and support when you hire an apprentice – up to $5,000 for hiring an apprentice, $1,500 on equipment reimbursement, and up to $5,200 off the Group Training Organisation charge out rate. Generally 31 Aug. 2020

Tasmania

Support Description Closes
Small business sustainability Grants of up to $5,000 for businesses with fewer than 20 employees to reopen and rebuild. 24 Aug. 2020

Victoria

Support Description Closes
Business Support Fund One-off grant of $10,000 for employers in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire and $5,000 in regional local government areas. 14 Sept. 2020
Regional Tourism Accommodation Support Up to $225 per night up to a maximum of $1,125 per bookable accommodation for cancelled bookings during stage 3 restrictions. 19 Aug. 2020
CBD Business Support Fund $20m fund for CBD businesses. No details available as yet but register your interest.
Night-time economy support $30m fund for hospitality businesses. No details available as yet but register your interest.
Payroll tax deferrals Businesses with payrolls up to $10 million can defer their liabilities for the first half of the 2020-21 financial year.
Payroll tax refunds Eligible businesses can claim an emergency tax relief refund of payroll tax already paid in the 2019-20 financial year.

Western Australia

Support Description Closes
International competitiveness co-investment Matched funding of between $50,000 and $100,000 for existing exporters (under 200 employees) of food, beverages and services into Asia. 12 Aug. 2020
Payroll tax relief The tax-free threshold increased to $1m on 1 July 2020.

Automatic grants of $17,500 are being paid to employers with annual Australian taxable wages of more than $1m and up to $4m in 2018-19.

Support when employing apprentices A one-off payment of $6,000 for an apprentice and $3,000 for a trainee employed from 1 July 2020. 30 June 2021
Incentive to employee apprentices Incentive of up to $8,500 for employing an apprentice or trainee from 1 July 2019.
Local Capability Fund Fund to increase capability of SMEs for planning, improvements to internal infrastructure, plant and equipment and training. Current rounds include cost recovery for: PPE manufacturing (up to $500k) and feasibility (up to $20k), and general recovery and growth (up to $100k) for supply to certain industries. 30 June 2021

 

For further support please get in touch 02 9415 1511 or email reception@primeadvisory.com.au.

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NSW Government New $3k Grants for Small Businesses.

NSW Government New $3k Grants for Small Businesses.

From 1 July, the NSW Government will give further support to small businesses of between $500 and $3,000 to assist in safely reopening or upscaling their operations. These costs must be incurred from 1 July 2020. They can include business advice & continuity planning, cleaning products & additional cleaning services, fit-out changes, staff training & counseling, marketing, communications, and advertising.

This new grant comes as the NSW state government’s previous $10,000 grant comes to a halt at the end of the 2020 financial year. The first grant was taken up by 49,000 businesses totalling $490 million of support given by the NSW state government. This comes from a $750 million funding pool, in which the new grant will be funded.

Note if you have claimed the first $10,000 support grant previously you may also be eligible for this $3,000 recovery grant. To be eligible your business or not-for-profit will need to;

  • Have an Australian Business Number (ABN) as at 1 March 2020 registered in NSW
  • Have total Australian wages below the NSW Government 2019-20 payroll tax threshold of $900,000 as at 1 March 2020
  • Have fewer than 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff (including non-employing businesses) as at 1 March 2020
  • Have an annual turnover of more than $75,000 as at 1 March 2020
  • Have experienced a decline in turnover of at least 30% from March to July 2020 compared to the equivalent period (of at least 2 weeks) in 2019
  • Are in a highly impacted industry as at 1 March 2020
  • Have costs from 1 July 2020 associated with safely reopening or scaling up their business and can support these costs by providing invoices if required

If you are eligible, please apply online here.

Please note that the grant closes on 16 August, so if you need assistance in understanding if you are eligible for this NSW small business recovery grant, please contact us on 02 9415 1511 or email us.

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