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COVID vaccines saved millions of lives – linking them to excess deaths is a mistake

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-hunter-991309">Paul Hunter</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-east-anglia-1268">University of East Anglia</a></em></p> <p>A recent <a href="https://bmjpublichealth.bmj.com/content/2/1/e000282">study</a> has sparked another <a href="https://nypost.com/2024/06/06/us-news/covid-vaccines-may-have-helped-fuel-rise-in-excess-deaths-since-pandemic-study/">round of</a> <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2024/06/04/covid-vaccines-may-have-helped-fuel-rise-in-excess-deaths/">headlines</a> <a href="https://www.gbnews.com/health/covid-vaccine-side-effects-deaths">claiming</a> that COVID vaccines caused excess deaths. This was accompanied by a predictable outpouring of <a href="https://x.com/DrAseemMalhotra/status/1797922073798717524">I-told-you-sos</a> on social media.</p> <p>Excess deaths are a measure of how many more deaths are being recorded in a country over what would have been expected based on historical trends. In the UK, and in many other countries, death rates have been higher during the years 2020 to 2023 than would have been expected based on historic trends from before the pandemic. But that has been known for some time. A couple of years ago I wrote an article for <a href="https://theconversation.com/summer-2022-saw-thousands-of-excess-deaths-in-england-and-wales-heres-why-that-might-be-189351">The Conversation</a> pointing this out and suggesting some reasons. But has anything changed?</p> <p>The authors of the new study, published in BMJ Public Health, used publicly available data from <a href="https://ourworldindata.org/COVID-vaccinations">Our World in Data</a> to determine which countries had “statistically significant” excess deaths – in other words, excess deaths that couldn’t be explained by mere random variation.</p> <p>They studied the years 2020 to 2022 and found that many, but not all, countries did indeed report excess deaths. The authors did not try to explain why these excess deaths occurred, but the suggestion that COVID vaccines could have played a role is clear from their text – and indeed widely interpreted as such by certain newspapers.</p> <p>There is no doubt that a few deaths were associated with <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/25166026211053485">the COVID vaccines</a>, but could the vaccination programme explain the large number of excess deaths – 3 million in 47 countries – that have been reported?</p> <p>Based on <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/excessdeathsinenglandandwales/march2020todecember2021">death certificates</a>, during 2020 and 2021 there were more deaths from COVID than estimated excess deaths in the UK. So during the year 2021 when most vaccine doses were administered, there were actually fewer non-COVID deaths than would have been expected. It was only in 2022 that excess deaths <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/deathregistrationsummarystatisticsenglandandwales/2022">exceeded COVID deaths</a>.</p> <p>If the vaccination campaign was contributing to the excess deaths that we have seen in recent years, then we should expect to see more deaths in people who have been vaccinated than in those who have not. The most reliable analysis in this regard was done by the UK’s <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/excessdeathsinenglandandwales/march2020todecember2021">Office for National Statistics (ONS)</a>. In this analysis, the ONS matched death registrations with the vaccine histories of each death recorded. They then calculated “age-standardised death rates” to account for age differences between those vaccinated and those not.</p> <p>What the ONS found was that in all months from April 2021 to May 2023, the death rate <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/redir/eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJpbmRleCI6MSwicGFnZVNpemUiOjEwLCJwYWdlIjoxLCJ1cmkiOiIvcGVvcGxlcG9wdWxhdGlvbmFuZGNvbW11bml0eS9iaXJ0aHNkZWF0aHNhbmRtYXJyaWFnZXMvZGVhdGhzL2RhdGFzZXRzL2V4Y2Vzc2RlYXRoc2luZW5nbGFuZGFuZHdhbGVzIiwibGlzdFR5cGUiOiJyZWxhdGVkZGF0YSJ9.Cot-XDe8Rr07paGllBNnVVz1nTqnXfVafn2woA3tk0c">from all causes was higher</a> in the unvaccinated than in people who had been vaccinated at least once.</p> <p>That deaths from all causes were lower in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated should come as no surprise given that COVID was a major cause of death in 2021 and 2022. And there is ample evidence of the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10492612/">protective effect of vaccines</a> against severe COVID and death. But what is even more convincing is that, even when known COVID deaths were excluded in the ONS report, the death rate in the unvaccinated was still higher, albeit not by very much in more recent months.</p> <p>Some COVID deaths would certainly not have been recognised as such. But, on the other hand, people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, were a high priority for vaccination. And these people would have been at increased risk of death even before the pandemic.</p> <h2>Possible causes</h2> <p>If the vaccine is not the cause of the excess deaths, what was?</p> <p>The major cause of the excess deaths reported in the first two years of the BMJ Public Health study was deaths from COVID. But by 2022, excess deaths exceeded COVID deaths in many countries.</p> <p>Possible <a href="https://theconversation.com/summer-2022-saw-thousands-of-excess-deaths-in-england-and-wales-heres-why-that-might-be-189351">explanations</a> for these excess deaths include longer-term effects of earlier COVID infections, the return of infections such as influenza that had been suppressed during the COVID control measures, adverse effects of lockdowns on physical and mental health, and delays in the diagnosis of life-threatening infections as health services struggled to cope with the pandemic and its aftermath.</p> <p>We do need to look very carefully at how the pandemic was managed. There is still considerable debate about the effectiveness of different behavioural control measures, such as self-isolation and lockdowns. Even when such interventions were effective at reducing transmission of COVID, what were the harms and were the gains worth the harms? Nevertheless, we can be confident that the excess deaths seen in recent years were not a consequence of the vaccination campaign.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231776/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/paul-hunter-991309">Paul Hunter</a>, Professor of Medicine, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-east-anglia-1268">University of East Anglia</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/covid-vaccines-saved-millions-of-lives-linking-them-to-excess-deaths-is-a-mistake-231776">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

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Trying to save money? Our research suggests paying in cash – while you still can

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lachlan-schomburgk-1535737">Lachlan Schomburgk</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alex-belli-1538870">Alex Belli</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/arvid-o-i-hoffmann-1150527">Arvid O. I. Hoffmann</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p>Cash is in crisis. In Australia, it’s now only used for 16% of in-person transactions, down from <a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/bulletin/2023/jun/cash-use-and-attitudes-in-australia.html">about 70%</a> in 2007.</p> <p>The situation is so dire that on Monday, independent federal MP Andrew Gee introduced a <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/saving-the-lobster-prawn-and-pineapple-mps-fight-to-force-shops-to-take-cash-20240603-p5jit4.html">private member’s bill</a> that would force businesses to accept cash or else face big fines.</p> <p>The reality is that over the past decade, technological advancements have utterly transformed the way we pay for goods and services.</p> <p>Phones and smartwatches can now easily be used to pay by card, and buy-now-pay-later schemes and cryptocurrency payments offer further alternatives.</p> <p>The shift away from cash only <a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/06/29/covid-19-drives-global-surge-in-use-of-digital-payments">accelerated</a> throughout the COVID pandemic, as health experts recommended avoiding using it for hygiene reasons.</p> <p>Despite these big changes in <em>how</em> we spend money, Australians have perhaps been more focused on <em>how much</em> amid a stubborn cost-of-living crisis.</p> <p>In light of this, our research team wanted to investigate how our choice of payment method can interact with our actual spending habits.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022435924000216#bib0104">latest research</a> offers a simple solution for anyone looking to save money — carry more cash!</p> <h2>We pay less when we pay cash</h2> <p>Drawing on both academic and industry sources, our research team combined the results from more than four decades of prior research on spending behaviour and payment methods into a large dataset.</p> <p>This data spanned 71 research papers, 17 countries, and more than 11,000 participants. State-of-the-art meta-analysis techniques then allowed us to collectively analyse the results from all these prior studies, and re-examine their insights.</p> <p>We found that cashless payments were indeed associated with higher levels of consumer spending compared to cash transactions, something that is referred to in the literature as the “cashless effect”.</p> <p>This cashless effect was consistent across all other payment methods in the data set.</p> <p>Put simply, it doesn’t matter whether you use a credit card, debit card or a buy-now-pay-later service – you are likely to spend more money using cashless methods than when you pay with cash.</p> <h2>The pain of paying</h2> <p>Under the traditional economic view that consumers behave rationally, there should be no differences in spending behaviour between different payment methods – money is money after all.</p> <p>But the existence of the cashless effect shows that the payment methods we use do indeed influence our spending behaviour.</p> <p>The leading theory to explain this effect attributes it to differences in the “pain of paying”, a concept <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280711796_The_Pain_of_Paying">first coined in 1996</a> that describes the emotions we feel when spending money.</p> <p>Importantly, our choice of payment method can influence the level of pain felt.</p> <p>When paying with cash, we have to physically count out notes and coins and hand them over. Humans seek to avoid losses, and paying by cash sees us physically lose a tangible object.</p> <p>Conversely, nothing has to be handed over to pay cashlessly. We don’t lose anything tangible with a swipe or a tap, so it feels less painful.</p> <p>Preliminary neurological evidence suggests that the “pain of paying” isn’t just an abstract metaphor, and we may feel actual psychological pain with each transaction we make.</p> <p><a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2901808">Research</a> employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to observe brain activity in consumers has shown that paying activates brain regions related to experiencing psychological discomfort.</p> <p>Picture this: You’re at a theme park, excited for a fun day. You use your smartwatch to pay for snacks, souvenirs and rides. It’s all so convenient that you don’t realise how much you’re spending until you check your account later and see that you have completely blown your budget!</p> <p>This is the cashless effect in action − if nothing is physically handed over, it’s easy to lose track of how much is spent.</p> <h2>A great tool for budgeting – while it lasts</h2> <p>The cost of living crisis has made spending control front-of-mind for many people. Our meta-analysis suggests that returning to “cold hard cash” whenever possible could be one valuable tool to help.</p> <p>The increased friction felt when using cash could help people better control their money, even just by providing a moment to pause and consider whether a transaction is necessary.</p> <p>This could help individuals make more mindful decisions, saving money while they can in an increasingly cashless world.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/231499/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lachlan-schomburgk-1535737">Lachlan Schomburgk</a>, PhD Researcher in Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a>; <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/alex-belli-1538870">Alex Belli</a>, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a>, and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/arvid-o-i-hoffmann-1150527">Arvid O. I. Hoffmann</a>, Professor of Marketing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-adelaide-1119">University of Adelaide</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/trying-to-save-money-our-research-suggests-paying-in-cash-while-you-still-can-231499">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Australian superannuation changes and your retirement savings

<p>Superannuation has been a working retirement model plan for years, and the government makes constant changes to ensure these approaches remain feasible in today’s society. The Australian government announced changes to superannuation in February 2023, and since then, there have been new considerations for employers to deliberate over regarding super account plans for employees. Here is a look at the most recent alterations and what they mean for your super account and retirement plans. </p> <h2>Understanding Superannuation</h2> <p>Superannuation, or “super,” is money put aside in an account throughout an employee’s work experience. The sole purpose is for these individuals to have something to live on when they retire. </p> <p>For most people, it involves their employers taking from their salary and putting aside the dictated sum in a super account. These contributions are paid outside your wages or salary and are based on existing laws on how much recruiters must pay. There are also age and earning limits involved. For instance, you may not be eligible for a super account if you’re under 18 and work less than 30 hours weekly. Eligible individuals have to work over 30 hours weekly and have an earning cap of $450 or more (before tax) to be paid super. </p> <p>These funds are typically invested in assets like stocks, bonds, real estate, and others that can help yield interest over time. You can also manage your investments through the forex market using an advanced <a href="https://www.oanda.com/au-en/trading/platforms/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Australian trading platform</a>. </p> <h2>Recent Superannuation Changes in Australia</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/06/Australian-superannuation-changes-and-your-retirement-savings01.jpg" alt="" width="1280" height="720" /></p> <p> </p> <p>Following the introduction of the Superannuation Bill in 2016, a series of changes have been made to the annotation laws. </p> <p>On November 9, 2016, the Australian government introduced the bill, which was meant to help preserve the objectives of superannuation in the legislation. From the onset, this model aimed to provide income in retirement to replace or supplement the age-pending laws. The objective of this scheme has remained the same, and changes made over the years have been towards improving efficacy rather than impeding its relevance. </p> <p>The most recent of these reforms took place in 2013, and below is a summary of what these changes entail and how they affect retirees.</p> <h2>Superannuation on Paid Parental Leave</h2> <p>One of the first alterations was the announcement that superannuation would be payable to the Commonwealth’s Parental Leave Scheme to close the gender super gap. This means that superannuation will be paid on Government-funded Paid Parental Leave (PPL) for parents who give birth or adopt children on or after July 1, 2025. </p> <p>It’s easy to understand why this measure was introduced. When implemented, it is expected to benefit over 18,000 parents annually. Also, it will bring more balance to the ratio of payables between women and men. </p> <h2>Increase in Super Guarantee</h2> <p>The May 2024 Federal Budget also revealed the legislated increase of the Sper Guarantee to 12% will remain the same. From July 1, 2024, the fee will increase to 11.5%, after which an additional 0.5% will be added on July 1, 2025. </p> <p>Employees can look forward to this increase as some extra long-term payment to their retirement funds. Although it might seem like a slight increase, the addition over the long-term working period accumulates too much and could make a significant difference, especially with compound interest. </p> <h2>Super Payment at the Time of Salary and Wages</h2> <p><img src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/2024/06/Australian-superannuation-changes-and-your-retirement-savings02.jpg" alt="" /></p> <p>This particular change was proposed but is yet to be legislated. It states that from July 1, 2026, employers will be required to pay their workers suer at the same time they pay salary and other wages. </p> <p>This change aims to better track these payments and mitigate issues, such as non-payments or discrepancies. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) also revealed that monitoring compliance from employers to their employees will be easy. </p> <p>Furthermore, there are reasons to believe this will bring better yields on the end of the receivers since fees paid faster will compound better ad yields and higher interests. </p> <h2>Additional Changes to Be Legislated</h2> <p>From July 1, 2025, a 30% concessional tax rate will be implemented for future earnings for balances over $3 million rather than the usual 15%. </p> <p>This alteration will impact over 80,000 people between 2025 and 2026. Lastly, the existing 2-year freeze on deeming rates at 2.25% has been shifted forward until June 30, 2025. </p> <p>This translates to retirees <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/money/2024/mar/26/little-planning-for-looming-retirement-crisis-blackrock-chief-warns" target="_blank" rel="noopener">continuing to benefit</a> from the present rate of 0.25% until the new allocated time. This measure can help alleviate the cost of living and is currently benefiting over 876,000 income support recipients and 450,000 aged pensioners. </p> <h2>Maximising Your Retirement Savings With Super</h2> <p>Super savings were introduced to allow employees to save a percentage of their earnings towards retirement so they have something to live on in their non-working years. The recent changes will surely improve things, and all you have to do is be sure that your employee is paying your super and doing so at the expected time. You can use the <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/calculators-and-tools/super-estimate-my-super" target="_blank" rel="noopener">“estimate my super”</a> tool offered by the government to estimate how much your employee should pay. </p> <p><em>All images: Supplied.</em></p> <p><em>In collaboration with OANDA.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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"Not going to save anybody": Exit row passenger prompts plane evacuation

<p>A whole plane has been forced to disembark after a woman seated in the exit row refused to comply with safety instructions. </p> <p>Passengers were up in arms when they had to leave the plane, after the woman was overheard telling cabin crew that she would only save herself in the event of an emergency, before yelling at flight attendants. </p> <p>The interaction, which was captured by another passenger on video and posted to TikTok, shows the woman becoming heated while talking to cabin crew on the Frontier flight. </p> <p>The passenger can then be seen and heard progressively raising her voice to cabin crew, with fellow flyers pleading with the woman to disembark the plane.</p> <p>The traveller who filmed the altercation claims the woman said she was “not going to save anybody” when seated in the exit row, saying the disgruntled passenger had “attitude” and went on to say that if something were to happen, she would “only save” herself. </p> <p>“That was her attitude throughout the seating process. And I already knew something was about to pop off when she had that attitude,” the TikTok user said.</p> <p>The altercation only became more heated as the yelling progressed, before police eventually arrived on the plane to escort the woman off. </p> <p>The video then shows another Frontier employee approach the passenger and say, “I’m gonna ask you one more time, nicely, to get off, if not, we’re going to deboard the plane and police will come and escort you off.”</p> <p>When the cabin crew make repeated futile attempts to get through the woman, the pilot came down from the cockpit to try and call for calm. </p> <p>“You’re inconveniencing everybody else,” the pilot can be heard saying to the woman. as the pair continue to exchange words while he repeatedly points toward the front of the plane.</p> <p>Following the failed attempts, two police officers then make their way down the aisle and towards the passenger. </p> <p>Towards the end of the five-minute video, which has been viewed more than 80,000 times, all the passengers on board the flight were filmed disembarking the aircraft while the passenger at the centre of the ordeal exits with police from a separate door onto the tarmac.</p> <p>It is unclear if charges were laid.</p> <p><em>Image credits: TikTok</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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“We need a donor”: Parents' desperate plea to save young daughter

<p>The heartbroken parents of five-year-old Addison Kemp have made a desperate plea to save their young daughter. </p> <p>Addison suffers from a rare health condition called severe Aplastic anaemia, which means that her body’s bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells to carry out vital tasks like carry oxygen, control infections or heal after an injury.</p> <p>This means that even a simple nosebleed can be catastrophic for the young girl, as she's forced to spend days in hospital getting blood transfusions to stay alive. </p> <p>Her parents Bianca and Daniel have spoken about her condition in an interview with<em> A Current Affair </em>and explained how without a bone-marrow transplant, the condition could mean death for their young daughter. </p> <p>“She wouldn’t live,” Ms Kemp said.</p> <p>“We need a donor.”</p> <p>The couple first found out about their daughter's condition after she returned home from school with bruises all over her body. </p> <p>Addison was taken to the doctor for a blood test, and they found out about the devastating condition a day later and were told to immediately take her to Queensland Children’s Hospital. </p> <p>“I was gutted, I was devastated. Getting a phone call from the doctor saying you need to rush your little girl to the hospital. That wasn’t a phone call that I wanted,” Mr Kemp said. </p> <p>Addison now has to stay in hospital until she can be matched with a donor. </p> <p>Her little sister Crimson, misses her every day that they are apart. </p> <p>“She gets a bit upset every day that they are not home,” Mr Kemp said. </p> <p>The family said that their bone-marrow did not match up with Addison, and no registered Australian donors had matched up with her either.</p> <p>However, not all hope is lost as any regular Australian could help save a life. </p> <p>Lisa Smith, from bone marrow donation charity Strength to Give, said that the donation process is similar to donating blood which involves a short course of injections before the operation. </p> <p>“The vast majority of time, it is you sitting in a chair, having your blood filtered, while you are watching Netflix," Smith said. </p> <p>Ms Kemp begged Australians to sign up as donors. </p> <p>“I really want to put the message out there that if you can, do,” she said.</p> <p>“You could be saving a life, that’s the biggest thing you could do in the world.”</p> <p><em>Image: A Current Affair</em></p> <p> </p>

Caring

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Why millions of Aussies are falling behind on superannuation savings

<p>Millions of Aussies are falling behind on their superannuation savings, with nearly one in two Australians on track for a grim retirement. </p> <p>According to research from superannuation and investments company Vanguard, this huge number of Australians have no idea how much they are playing in fees to their super funds, which can greatly impact how much you have in savings when your retirement day comes. </p> <p>“We are coming up against a stubborn statistic in our retirement research again this year — almost one in two Australians still don’t know what they pay in super fees,” Vanguard Investments Australia managing director Daniel Shrimski said.</p> <p>Also adding to the confusion of how much is needed for comfortable gold year is different companies sharing conflicting numbers on what figures to strive for in your superannuation.</p> <p>Superannuation consultancy company Australian Retirement Trust’s latest research shows the average superannuation balance for someone age 35 to 44 is $92,700, however this should be closer to $156,000 to be on track for a “comfortable retirement”.</p> <p>The average worker aged 55 to 64 has $285,900 in super but a 60-year-old needs close to $453,000 in retirement savings, ART said.</p> <p>“In the past 12 months, only one in five of us has checked our super balance,” Australian Retirement Trust executive general manager Anne Fuchs said, adding 70 per cent of Australians feel they don’t have enough money to retire on.</p> <p>“We talk to members all the time who have reached the end of their working life full of regret, wishing they had done something earlier. Australia has a monster problem whereby not enough of us are engaging with our super."</p> <p>“The earlier you start paying attention and understanding how your money is invested ... then you’ll really be able to finish work and put your feet up.”</p> <p>Financial consultancy Link Wealth director and financial adviser Joshua Lee told <a href="https://7news.com.au/news/new-research-shows-aussie-superannuation-savings-falling-short-of-retirement-needs--c-14507773" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>7News</em></a> that one of the most important tips for Australians is to take notice and understand their superannuation payments and what they pay in fees.</p> <p>“Take notice of what your account is doing,” he said.</p> <p>“Look at your statement when it comes in every year so you can understand what fees are being deducted from your account because that will have an impact on how much money you have come retirement.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Retirement Life

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How niggling hip pain led a squash coach to life-saving cancer diagnosis

<p>Melbourne squash coach and player Malcolm McClarty had been experiencing frequent pain in his right hip area for about 12 months before he mentioned it to one of his clients, a top medical oncologist, in October last year.</p> <p>The 63-year-old father-of-three coaches Professor Niall Tebbutt at the Kooyong Lawn and Tennis Club in Melbourne. </p> <p>Despite having lost his younger sister to pancreatic cancer just months earlier, Malcolm had been brushing off the pain, thinking it was a niggling sporting injury. </p> <p>Now Malcolm credits Niall, who ordered a prostate-specific antigen test (PSA), with saving his life. </p> <p>Malcolm also coaches Weranja Ranasinghe, a urologist with the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand (USANZ), who has been his ‘unofficial second opinion’ throughout the journey. </p> <p>Associate Professor Ranasinghe says Malcolm’s diagnosis comes as the newly-released Lancet Commission on Prostate Cancer predicts cases worldwide will double from 1.4 million to 2.9 million by 2040. </p> <p>The USANZ says although the findings are alarming, Australia is well-placed to manage the spike thanks to availability of advanced diagnostic tools, improvements in treatments and quality control registries, but it needs to be coupled with more awareness. </p> <p>“Australia is better placed than many other nations to deal with a sharp spike in prostate cancer cases, but the urgent review of guidelines can’t come soon enough,” says Associate Professor Ranasinghe.</p> <p>“Prostate cancer is not commonly understood or spoken about, particularly amongst high-risk younger men, leaving too many in the dark about their cancer risk and that can be deadly,” he added. </p> <p>“Prostate cancer is already a major cause of death and disability, and the most common form of male cancer in more than 100 countries,” says Associate Professor Ranasinghe. “It’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia with over 25,000 new cases every year, and more than 11 deaths a day.”</p> <p>Malcolm was devastated to learn his cancer was aggressive Stage Four and had spread to three spots in the pelvic bone. He also experienced other symptoms including frequent and weak-flow urinating at night. </p> <p>He will begin radiotherapy, with chemotherapy on the cards as well. But his attitude is positive; he’s hoping to live for another six to 10 years. </p> <p>Malcolm’s message for other men is simple: if you’re 50 or older, get tested for prostate cancer now. He warns waiting can lead to complex and limited treatment options. </p> <p><strong>Five Risk Factors For Prostate Cancer</strong></p> <p><strong>1.<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Age</strong> - the chance of developing prostate cancer increases with age.</p> <p><strong>2.<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Family history</strong> - if you have a first-degree male relative who developed prostate cancer, like a brother or father, your risk is higher than someone without such family history.</p> <p><strong>3.<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Genetics</strong> - while prostate cancer can’t be inherited, a man can inherit certain genes that increase the risk.</p> <p><strong>4.<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Diet</strong> - some evidence suggests that a diet high in processed meat, or foods high in fat can increase the risk of developing prostate cancer.</p> <p><strong>5.<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>Lifestyle</strong> - environment and lifestyle can also impact your risk, e.g. a sedentary lifestyle or being exposed to chemicals. </p> <p>For more information, visit <a href="https://www.usanz.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.usanz.org.au/</a></p>

Caring

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“Let’s share it”: Karl’s wild idea to save the Brisbane Olympics

<p>Karl Stefanovic has become the unlikely face of a good idea, pitching a revolutionary way to save the Brisbane Olympics from disaster. </p> <p>The 2032 games will be the first time Australia has hosted the event since Sydney in 2000, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to make the pilgrimage to the sunshine state to watch their favourite sports. </p> <p>Despite the building excitement for the games, the Queensland government has copped backlash in recent weeks over the preparations for the event, after Premier Steven Miles announced he would bin a $3.4 billion plan to build a new inner-city stadium in Victoria Park in time for the Olympics.</p> <p>Instead, the premier plans to use the exisiting Suncorp Stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies, while the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre will host the athletics events.</p> <p><em>Today</em> host and Brisbane native Karl Stefanovic has labelled the plan as a “seismic international embarrassment” and in a strange turn of events, even offered up a good suggestion for how to fix it.</p> <p>“So how about we share the Olympics across the country, opening ceremonies in all the major already existing stadiums, events split among world-class facilities and the rest of the events showcasing this great country to the world,” he said.</p> <p>“We’ll have the triathlon on the Gold Coast, the cycling in Far North Queensland, the surfing at Bells Beach, the marathon past Uluru, the shooting in Longreach, it could be a magnificent two-week tourism ad for this country, leaving a legacy that’s cheaper."</p> <p>“Our athletes deserve the very best, so if Queensland can’t do it, let’s share it. ”</p> <p>It seems Karl isn't the only one up in arms over the decision to not build a new stadium, as a group of high-profile Aussie Olympians penned an open letter to the premier, imploring him to "revisit the decision". </p> <p>The letter states, "We all remember the magnificent event that Sydney put on in 2000. Queensland deserves something equally spectacular, without a centrepiece that would reek of compromise." </p> <p>The letter was signed by 14 current and former Australian Olympians including Grant Hackett, Sally Pearson, Leisel Jones and more. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Today </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Heroic great-grandma saves two-year-old from collapsed ceiling

<p>In a heart-stopping moment of bravery and maternal instinct, 88-year-old Nicky Panagiotidis shielded her great-grandson, two-year-old Harvey, from a collapsing ceiling in their Melbourne home.</p> <p>The incident occurred at Panagiotidis' residence in Ascot Vale, where she was caring for Harvey late in the afternoon.</p> <p>According to Harvey's mother, Nicole Brown, the terrifying ordeal unfolded suddenly. As the ceiling began to crack, Panagiotidis swiftly reacted, rolling over off the couch to cover young Harvey with her own body. Brown, overwhelmed with gratitude and admiration for her grandmother's quick thinking, remarked, "I just know that motherly instinct that she has went through her to be a hero - she is actually a hero for him," <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/ascot-vale-great-grandmother-saves-grandson-from-ceiling-collapse/9f2bd38f-5254-4f53-981b-e3fb4b9c1bd9" target="_blank" rel="noopener">she told 9News</a>.</p> <p>In a moment of urgency, Panagiotidis managed to contact her daughter, Julie Polimos, informing her of the dire situation: "The ceiling is on top of me and we can't move." Emergency services promptly arrived at the scene, discovering the pair with thankfully minimal injuries.</p> <p>Despite the trauma of the event, Panagiotidis displayed remarkable resilience. Despite suffering bruising on her back and shoulders, she managed to walk to the ambulance and was later discharged from the hospital.</p> <p>Speaking of her mother's strength, Polimos highlighted Panagiotidis' dedication to traditional values, noting her commitment to home-cooked Greek Mediterranean meals over takeaways. "She doesn't buy takeaways, she always cooks home meals... Greek Mediterranean meals," Polimos proudly stated.</p> <p>The family attributes the ceiling collapse to a water leak, which they had noticed a week prior, observing cracks and sagging in the structure. However, amidst the unfortunate circumstances, they are immensely grateful for the fortunate outcome and the selfless actions of Panagiotidis, which will undoubtedly be remembered as a testament to the extraordinary love shared within the family.</p> <p><em>Images: 9News</em></p>

Family & Pets

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Hall of Fame fighter hospitalised after saving elderly parents from fire

<p>In the heart of Ohio, a story of heroism and sacrifice has emerged from the flames of a devastating house fire.</p> <p>Mark Coleman, a revered figure in the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), found himself in the midst of a harrowing ordeal, where his actions transcended the octagon to demonstrate unparalleled bravery and love for family.</p> <p>On a fateful Tuesday morning, as the dawn painted the sky over Fremont, Ohio, tragedy struck the Coleman household. Details of the fire initially emerged through local news outlets, shrouded in anonymity. However, it wasn't long before the truth surfaced – it was Mark Coleman, the UFC legend, who had selflessly rushed into the inferno to rescue his elderly parents from imminent danger.</p> <p>Reports indicated that Coleman, aged 59, wasted no time in the face of adversity. With unwavering determination, he courageously carried both of his parents, Dan and Connie Foos Coleman, to safety, braving the engulfing flames that threatened to consume their home. Yet, his valour knew no bounds as he plunged back into the fiery abyss, driven by an instinctive urge to save another beloved member of the family – their loyal dog, Hammer.</p> <p>Tragically, despite his desperate efforts, the canine companion did not survive the blaze. Coleman's daughter, Kenzie, revealed on social media that Hammer's persistent barking had roused her father from slumber, ultimately saving his life. This heartbreaking loss added another layer of sorrow to an already traumatic event.</p> <p>As news of Coleman's heroic act spread, an outpouring of support and prayers flooded social media platforms. His second daughter Morgan, in an emotional Instagram post, recounted her father's selfless deeds and pleaded for continued prayers during this trying time. To the Coleman family, Mark wasn't just a UFC pioneer; he was a beacon of strength and resilience, a cherished father and a beloved friend.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C4bQHaopteq/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C4bQHaopteq/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Morgan Coleman (@mocoleman18)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Mark Coleman's legacy in the world of MMA is undeniable. Dubbed "The Godfather of Ground-and-Pound", he etched his name in the annals of UFC history as the organisation's inaugural heavyweight champion in 1997. His contributions to the sport earned him a well-deserved place in the UFC Hall of Fame in 2008, solidifying his status as a true icon.</p> <p>However, beyond the glitz and glory of the octagon, Coleman's journey has been marked by personal struggles and triumphs. In 2020, he battled a heart attack, a testament to his resilience in the face of adversity. A year later, he confronted his demons, seeking rehabilitation for alcoholism, and emerged stronger, embracing a healthier lifestyle.</p> <p>Author Jonathan Snowden, who shared a close bond with Coleman and was poised to document his remarkable life story, offered a glimpse into the aftermath of the fire. Through poignant images capturing the devastation, Snowden provided a raw and unfiltered portrayal of the ordeal. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is what's left of the house Mark Coleman and his family were in last night. </p> <p>Mark's dog Hammer woke him up to a house in flames. He saved both his parents and is fighting for his life. <a href="https://t.co/hicYhv7SDm">pic.twitter.com/hicYhv7SDm</a></p> <p>— Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) <a href="https://twitter.com/JESnowden/status/1767637195555299781?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 12, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p><em>Images: Instagram / Twitter (X)</em></p>

Caring

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12 super simple ways to save some cash

<p>Saving money is a lot easier said than done. Whether you’ve got a holiday you’re thinking about taking, or you just want to make day to day life a little less stressful, there is a range of strategies you can employ to put a couple of dimes together. Here are 12 tips to cut costs:</p> <p>1. Don't buy luxury, sometimes the budget brands are just as good and save you heaps.</p> <p>2. Read the junk mail and compare offers because you can get a better deal where you didn't think you could.</p> <p>3. Cut unnecessary expenses and reduce, if possible, the necessary expenses as well.</p> <p>4. Buy used goods, it's cheaper and you can haggle.</p> <p>5. See if you can switch power companies. I'm aware of several people who are saving $250 a year.</p> <p>6. Borrow books and movies from the library or movie store - it's free or low cost compared to buying new and it's fast.</p> <p>7. Barter with family and friends, it's free and everyone wins.</p> <p>8. Take advantage of specials, sales and deals including buying in bulk, it can save you more than you realise.</p> <p>9. Walk, bike or car pool or use other public transport, it's good for the environment and saves you money.</p> <p>10. Shop around for the best deal, it might be better elsewhere.</p> <p>11. Follow insurance company advice: Don't smoke, do have alarms and do get multi policies - it protects you and saves cash.</p> <p>12. Have a savings account with all the savings from this and don't touch it, you will be amazed at what you have saved in a short time.</p> <p><em>Written by John Murphy. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Money & Banking

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“What a legend”: Brave Aussie pensioner saves puppy from a snake

<p dir="ltr">An Aussie pensioner has gone the extra mile to save her terrified puppy from a carpet snake. </p> <p dir="ltr">Anne Murphy, a woman from NSW’s Lennox Head, captured the moment her 80-year-old mother went toe-to-toe with the slippery intruder who was terrorising her dog and shared the interaction on a Facebook page called Australian Country Memes. </p> <p dir="ltr">According to Anne, her mother bolted out the door one Monday evening when she heard her dog “screaming”, when she was confronted with the carpet snake. </p> <p dir="ltr">The non-venomous snake had wrapped around the small dog and bitten it on the chin, when the 80-year-old intervened. </p> <p dir="ltr">The woman was “bitten three times” by the snake, before she “caught the snake so it could be taken out to the bush and hopefully not make its way back to her place”. </p> <p dir="ltr">She then took her puppy to the vet, and got home three hours after the incident first happened.</p> <p dir="ltr">The post has since received over 2,000 likes and hundreds comments, hailing the 80-year-old as a “legend“, “gutsy” and a “wonderful woman.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“She is a true blue here. My hat is off to you, amazing lady,” one person wrote. </p> <p dir="ltr">Another added, “Way to go! That’s just what country people do. God love her, they don’t make them like that anymore.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images / Facebook</em></p>

Family & Pets

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"Too good to be true": Bank teller saves couple from losing $40k

<p>A Tasmanian couple have been saved from losing $40k into an online investment scam after a bank teller noticed the red flags. </p> <p>The couple visited the NAB branch in Rosny, Hobart after their account was blocked during an attempt to transfer the money to an ‘online investment firm’ in Perth. </p> <p>The payment was the first of two instalments that they were set to pay the "firm" but NAB Customer Advisor Erin Bugg saved them from a massive loss. </p> <p>Bugg became suspicious of the firm after they promised a 12 per cent return on their term deposit  and a guaranteed pay out if the firm went bust. </p> <p>“If there was a scam red flags bingo card, ‘online investment opportunity’ would be top of the list,”  the NAB Customer Advisor said. </p> <p>“Immediately, alarm bells went off for me. It sounded like an investment scam and I was concerned this couple could lose their life savings.” </p> <p>The couple, however, insisted that they weren't being scammed so Bugg decided to look into the matter further and found a website and article about the firm. </p> <p>When she looked into the rates they offered she realised it “was literally too good to be true." </p> <p>“No one likes to be told they’re being lied to, especially when they feel like they’ve done all the right things. They had done their own research, and even spoken to the company on the phone,” she said. </p> <p>She added that "alarm bells" started ringing when the wife explained that a man from the firm kept calling her to thank her for the investment and encourage her to open an account. </p> <p>The couple then rang the "firm" in front of Bugg to try and convince her it was real. </p> <p>“I declined to speak to the ‘firm’, but I could hear them telling the customers, ‘Oh, NAB always flags us as a scam’,’”  she recalled. </p> <p>NAB’s fraud team then informed them that the firm had a bank account at another bank, and to call the bank to confirm whether it was legit. </p> <p>After calling the other bank, they found that the account was not connected to the investment firm and suggested them to not transfer anything. </p> <p>“It was such a relief to hear from the customer that they’d avoided being scammed,” Bugg said. </p> <p>This comes after Scamwatch received  over 7,000 reports of investment scams collectively costing Aussies  over $275 million in the last year. </p> <p><em>Image: NAB </em></p>

Money & Banking

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14 personal finance tips you were never taught – but need to know

<p><strong>Take a day to think about large purchases to avoid impulse buys</strong></p> <p>“Delaying your purchases for a day gives you time to think about whether or not you really need the items, and it curbs regrettable impulse buys,” advises Marc Diana, CEO of MoneyTips.</p> <p>“Sale items may be an exception to this rule, but even then, question how badly you need the item compared to saving or investing the money you would use to purchase it. When times are tough, and you’re cutting expenses, would you rather have a rarely worn $300 pair of shoes or $300 cash?”</p> <p><strong>Budgets are freeing, not constricting</strong></p> <p>Says financial educator Tiffany Aliche, “Keeping a budget allows you to say yes to your goals in a strategic way. If you have a budget, you can save for the holiday, house or car you want to get. You can look at it as ‘No dining out,’ but I see it as ‘Yes to a trip to Paris.’ A budget is not a NO plan, but a YES plan with actual steps towards achieving your goals.”</p> <p><strong>Budget with the 50/20/30 rule</strong></p> <p>Lynn Toomey, co-founder of Your Retirement Advisor, suggests following this easy budgeting rule:</p> <p>Use 50 per cent of your income for non-discretionary necessities like food, rent/house payment, utilities, and transportation.</p> <p>Put aside 20 per cent of your income for an emergency fund (three to six months’ salary is a good target), retirement, savings, and to pay off any debts.</p> <p>Use 30 per cent of your income for discretionary (non-essential) spending such as entertainment, holidays and gifts.</p> <p><strong>Penny-pinching is not the road to wealth</strong></p> <p>Spending less doesn’t mean you’ll have more. Saving is a good way to stabilise your finances, but you still need to invest. “Pretend there are two islands,” advises Aliche, who is also known as The Budgetnista: “Financially Stuck Island and Wealthy Island.”</p> <p>She says that your savings can be like a car – you can’t drive off Financially Stuck Island without a bridge. Investing is the bridge to financial success. “To get from one island to another, you need to get in your savings car and drive it over your investment bridge.”</p> <p><strong>It’s OK to put yourself before your kids</strong></p> <p>Many people want their kids to go to university, says Aliche, “but it’s more important for you to save enough for retirement. Because the best gift you can give your child is not a free ride to school, but rather not to be a financial burden on them when it’s time to start their own family. Kids can get student loans; no one is going to lend you money without collateral when you’re retired.”</p> <p><strong>Financial advisors aren’t only for wealthy people</strong></p> <p>Millions of people have trillions invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other stock exchange investments, but just because you can easily make trades yourself doesn’t mean you should. “Why not do what you do best to earn money and let a trained professional invest it for you?” asks Brian Saranovitz, president of Your Retirement Advisor. “A recent Vanguard Investments study indicated that integrating proper retirement strategies can add as much as 3 per cent efficient return to a retirement portfolio.”</p> <p>Adds Aliche, “You need to purposefully seek out knowledge. If you break a leg, you know that you need to go to a doctor. With personal finance, people have got the notion that they could just fix it themselves. When it comes to investing, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.”</p> <p><strong>Get a clear picture of yourself at 80</strong></p> <p>Barring tragedy, you will live to a ripe, old age. Aliche recommends naming your 80-year-old image of yourself. “Mine is Wanda. I imagine Wanda sitting on the front steps in her yard. People feel disconnected from their older self. The more you can picture her, the better. I don’t want to see her mopping floors at 80. When I’m making a decision, I think, ‘How will this affect Wanda?’ If I dip into my retirement funds to buy an expensive car, that’s going to hurt Wanda.”</p> <p>If it’s easier, pretend you’re living with your grandfather or grandmother. “You’re not going to tell Granny, ‘You have to go to work. We need the money,’” she says.</p> <p><strong>You can never have too much retirement savings</strong></p> <p>Says Lynn Toomey, co-founder of Your Retirement Advisor, “Life is good. Retirement is better, if you are prepared.” She points out that retirement is laden with potential costs, such as healthcare, longevity, market volatility and inflation.</p> <p>“Even if you think you’re saving enough and have assets, it still may not be enough. The earlier you start saving and investing, the longer compound interest can work its magic to help you achieve a successful retirement.”</p> <p><strong>Don’t blow your tax refund</strong></p> <p>“What are you planning on doing with your tax refund?” asks financial advisor Mike Zaino. “If you’re like most people, the world of instant gratification is beckoning. It could be extremely damaging to your retirement account, however, especially given the time value of money and what Albert Einstein called ‘The eighth wonder of the world” – compound interest.”</p> <p><strong>Ask current lenders for a better rate</strong></p> <p>“Banks, credit unions and other lenders are keenly aware of their competition,” says Diana of MoneyTips.com. “If your credit score qualifies you for a better rate from another credit card issuer or lender, ask them to match the rate. There’s no downside to asking; the worst they could do is refuse.”</p> <p><strong>Asking for your credit limit to be raised can improve your credit score</strong></p> <p>Keep your credit utilisation – the amount of credit you use compared to your credit limit – low to boost your all-important credit, advises Diana. “You can borrow less, or you can ask for a raise in your credit limit.”</p> <p>A recent study from CreditCards.com found that only 28 per cent of respondents have never asked for an increase in their credit limit. However, a whopping 89 per cent of those who asked for a credit limit increase received one.</p> <p><strong>Unless they have a high annual fee, don’t close your old credit cards</strong></p> <p>“The longer your stable credit history, the better it reflects on your credit score,” explains Diana. “The age of accounts is averaged over all of your credit accounts, so closing an older account that is infrequently used actually harms your credit score in two ways: it lowers your credit limit, which raises your credit utilisation; and it lowers your average account age. If you have an old card with a decent credit limit, use it at least annually to keep it open. But don’t forget to pay the bill on time!”</p> <p><strong>Don’t ever co-sign a loan</strong></p> <p>“Co-signing a loan isn’t just vouching for someone’s character,” explains Toomey. “Understand that if the borrower doesn’t pay, then you’re responsible for every single missed payment. If they don’t pay, it’s your credit that will be ruined.”</p> <p><strong>Being debt-free should not be your goal</strong></p> <p>Says Aliche, creator of the Live Richer Challenge, “People focus on getting out of debt. If they use that money to grow wealth instead of getting rid of debt, they could be debt-free faster. Do you pay off your student loans to get debt-free, or invest money in your business to grow and secure wealth for yourself? If you focus on being debt-free, that’s all you’ll be. If you focus on building wealth, then you can be wealthy and debt-free.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://www.readersdigest.com.au/food-home-garden/money/14-personal-finance-tips-you-were-never-taught-but-need-to-know?pages=1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Reader's Digest</a>. </em></p>

Money & Banking

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It’s not just about accumulating super. Australians need to learn how to spend their retirement savings

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-olynyk-1493791">Marc Olynyk</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>Australia’s superannuation and retirement income system is complex and difficult to navigate.</p> <p>Retirees need to make decisions on numerous issues where they have less than full information and understanding, both financial and non-financial. They also require access to retirement products to help them manage and balance income needs against longevity risk.</p> <p>Recognising these issues, the government released a <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2023-441613">discussion paper</a> this month seeking views on three key issues:</p> <ol> <li> <p>helping super fund members navigate the retirement income system</p> </li> <li> <p>supporting superannuation funds to deliver better services</p> </li> <li> <p>making retirement income products more accessible.</p> </li> </ol> <p>Australia has one of the largest and most sophisticated pension systems in the world. Valued at more than <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/quarterly-superannuation-statistics">A$3.5 trillion</a> as at September 2023, and is the <a href="https://www.thinkingaheadinstitute.org/research-papers/global-pension-assets-study-2023/">5th largest pension scheme</a> in terms of asset size.</p> <p>It is also the <a href="https://www.mercer.com/insights/investments/market-outlook-and-trends/mercer-cfa-global-pension-index/">5th most highly rated retirement income system</a> internationally behind the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark and Israel.</p> <h2>What is wrong with the super system?</h2> <p>But while the super system ranks highly in terms of integrity and sustainability, the numbers are not as flattering when it comes to “adequacy”.</p> <p>Adequacy is the level of income available to retirees depending on their different circumstances. According to a recent <a href="https://www.mercer.com/insights/investments/market-outlook-and-trends/mercer-cfa-global-pension-index/">study</a>, Australia is ranked 20th out of 47 worldwide on the adequacy index.</p> <p><a href="https://www.investmentmagazine.com.au/2023/02/purpose-of-super-law-to-herald-tax-reform/">Reform</a> in the <em>pre-retirement</em> phase of Australia’s retirement income scheme is ongoing and designed to support accumulating wealth for retirement.</p> <p>These ongoing reforms have been designed to make superannuation easier to understand and to reduce much of the decision making required. They’ve been needed because of an apparent lack of skills, interest and financial literacy among Australians.</p> <p>While the message that we need to save to be comfortable in retirement is getting through, the lack of information about how to manage these savings once we retire means many retirees are left to navigate the complex system as best they can.</p> <p>Given the complexity and volatility of Australia’s financial system, it’s hardly surprising many of the decisions made by retirees don’t produce the best financial results. For example, more than <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2023-441613">84%</a> of retirement savings are held in account-based pensions which, if not properly managed, can run out. This is despite government and community awareness that outliving your savings is a real possibility.</p> <p>About 50% of retirees currently withdraw at the minimum pension rate, which means many people experience a lower standard of living than what would normally be expected with the super they have accumulated. This can result in wealth not being used and instead being passed on to the next generation.</p> <h2>Help is needed now because the retiree sector is booming</h2> <p>Over the next decade there is going to be a big increase in the number of people retiring and transitioning from the accumulation phase of their super to the pension phase. It’s estimated <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2023-441613">2.5 million</a> Australians will move to the retirement phase in this period.</p> <p>Following the 2014 <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/publication/c2014-fsi-final-report">Financial System Inquiry</a>, the government introduced the <a href="http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sia1993473/s52.html">Retirement Income Covenant</a> in 2022 to force super fund trustees to develop a strategy that would provide better retirement outcomes for their members.</p> <p>The strategy is based on retirees maximising their expected retirement income, managing expected risks to their retirement income and having flexible access to super funds during their retirement.</p> <p>A 2022-23 review conducted by <a href="https://asic.gov.au/regulatory-resources/find-a-document/reports/rep-766-implementation-of-the-retirement-income-covenant-findings-from-the-apra-and-asic-thematic-review/">Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission</a> found while trustees were providing more help to retirees, overall there was a lack of progress and urgency among trustees to improve retirement outcomes.</p> <h2>How the system could be improved</h2> <p>Several proposals have been put forward to improve the experiences and decision-making of retirees. These have included:</p> <ul> <li> <p>improved support from and education by superannuation fund trustees</p> </li> <li> <p>changing how people view their super savings from an accumulation of wealth to a system that enables drawdown of retirement savings over time to fund expenses.</p> </li> <li> <p>providing an automatic rollover of retirement savings into an income-stream instead of allowing a lump sum withdrawal on retirement</p> </li> <li> <p>expanding existing income products (that are starting to be offered by several financial institutions) which combine providing investment choice with a pension for life</p> </li> <li> <p>setting up a MyRetire product that would run parallel to <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/programs-and-initiatives-superannuation/mysuper">MySuper</a> and provide a simple and cost-effective retirement income system for less engaged members. MySuper only applies to the accumulation phase. Once a member starts an income stream in retirement, their MySuper account ceases</p> </li> <li> <p>improving access to financial planning advice which is shown to play a significant role in preparing Australians for retirement.</p> </li> </ul> <p>The government, superannuation industry and the community all have a greater role to play in improving the financial outcomes and experiences of retirees.</p> <p>With Australia’s ageing population, the need to better support retirees to achieve a dignified retirement is becoming more urgent.</p> <p>All Australians expect and deserve a financially secure retirement.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219217/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-olynyk-1493791"><em>Marc Olynyk</em></a><em>, Director of Financial Planning, Deakin Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/its-not-just-about-accumulating-super-australians-need-to-learn-how-to-spend-their-retirement-savings-219217">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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The cost-of-living crisis is hitting hard. Here are 3 ways to soften the blow

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ama-samarasinghe-1386754">Ama Samarasinghe</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p>As our wallets feel the strain from the cost-of-living crisis, many of us are looking for ways to soften the blow.</p> <p>While everyone’s circumstances are different, and ideally you should seek help from an accredited financial adviser, there are some tried and true ways to work out where all your money is going and why.</p> <p>Here are three practical tips to reduce the impact of the cost-of-living increases, and stretch every hard-earned dollar.</p> <h2>1. Hunt for a better loan rate</h2> <p>For many households, the biggest hit comes from the mortgage, so start there.</p> <p>Even a modest 0.5% reduction can translate into substantial savings. Call your bank today and just ask for rate reduction. If the answer is no, consider shopping around for a different lender.</p> <p>Your loyalty to your current lender might be costing you more than you realise. Banks often reserve their most attractive rates for new customers, leaving long-time customers paying higher-than-necessary interest.</p> <p>Even if your bank does agree to a rate reduction, explore the market anyway. There is a range of free rate-comparison websites, or you can directly check individual bank websites.</p> <p>If you find a lender offering a better rate, you might consider calling the competing bank to ask about switching your mortgage to them.</p> <p>Or, you might seek assistance from a mortgage broker, who can guide you through the process of securing a better deal (just remember they often take <a href="https://www.canstar.com.au/home-loans/mortgage-brokers-fees/">commissions</a> from lenders).</p> <p>Tread carefully and factor in any exit fees or charges from your current lender. Refinancing isn’t without risk, so a thorough cost-benefit analysis is important before making the switch.</p> <p>Also consider the value of features such as <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/glossary/offset-account">offset accounts</a>. An offset account, linked to your home loan, allows you to deposit money such as your salary and savings. This money is then “<a href="https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/smp/2015/aug/box-e-offset-account-balances-and-housing-credit.html">offset</a>” against your home loan balance.</p> <p>That means you only pay interest on the outstanding amount (the loan minus whatever salary and savings you put in the offset). This can accelerate loan repayment and reduce interest costs.</p> <p>Keep in mind that offset accounts are typically only available with variable interest rates. Offset accounts work best if you have considerable savings to put into the offset account that outweigh the additional fees and charges attached to offset accounts.</p> <h2>2. Trim your expenses and uncover hidden savings</h2> <p>It’s time to become a budget detective, identifying and cutting down on non-essential costs that might be quietly draining your wallet.</p> <p>Take a close look at those recurring memberships and subscriptions. How often do you actually use that gym membership or streaming service?</p> <p>Many banking apps have handy spending tracking features to help you set realistic budget goals for each spending category.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/selected-living-cost-indexes-australia/latest-release">Australian Bureau of Statistics</a>, insurance and financial services are among the top risers in living cost indexes (which measure the price change of goods and services and its effect on living expenses). So search comparison websites for better insurance premiums.</p> <p>Australia’s insurance market is competitive, and you can often get discounts by bundling your insurances together (for example, having your home and contents insurance with the same company that also provides your car insurance). However, don’t shy away from exploring different insurers for potentially better value.</p> <p>Don’t overlook energy costs, either. Use comparison websites like <a href="https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au/">Energy Made Easy</a> (or, if you’re in Victoria, the <a href="https://compare.energy.vic.gov.au/">Victorian Energy Compare</a> site) to find more cost-effective energy plans. Stay updated on rebates and concessions via the federal government’s <a href="https://energy.gov.au">Energy.gov.au</a> site, to ensure you’re maximising your entitlements.</p> <p>Use less energy, if you can. Small adjustments can make a significant dent in your bills. And for fuel costs, find websites and applications that allow you to lock in the lowest prices in your area.</p> <p>If you’re renting, ask yourself whether moving to a cheaper suburb or a cheaper home is an option.</p> <p>Many people use cashback sites like Cashrewards and ShopBack to accrue cashback incentives.</p> <h2>3. Maximise returns and tackle high-interest debts</h2> <p>While rising interest rates might make your mortgage climb, it also means high interest on your savings.</p> <p>Consider exploring high-yield savings accounts; with current interest rates, you could potentially earn around 5.5% with a bank savings account. Many people set up recurring transfers to help them stick to savings goals, increase deposits and maximise interest earnings.</p> <p>For those wrestling with high-interest debts such as credit cards or personal loans, prioritise settling outstanding balances to minimise interest payments. It can be hard to escape the long-term repercussions (such as a <a href="https://theconversation.com/payday-lending-trap-requires-a-credit-supply-rethink-39311">poor credit score</a>) of defaulting on <a href="https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2022/09/21/researchers-uncover--pecking-order-of-defaults--as-belts-tighten.html">high-interest loans</a>.</p> <p>And approach buy-now, pay-later services with extreme caution. They may seem tempting but the <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acfi.13100">debts can quickly add up</a>.</p> <p>And if you need more help, contact the government’s free National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/218118/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ama-samarasinghe-1386754"><em>Ama Samarasinghe</em></a><em>, Lecturer, Financial Planning and Tax, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/rmit-university-1063">RMIT University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-cost-of-living-crisis-is-hitting-hard-here-are-3-ways-to-soften-the-blow-218118">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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5 ways to avoid weight gain and save money on food this Christmas

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993">Nick Fuller</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>As Christmas approaches, so does the challenge of healthy eating and maintaining weight-related goals. The season’s many social gatherings can easily tempt us to indulge in calorie-rich food and celebratory drinks. It’s why we typically <a href="https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1602012">gain weight</a> over Christmas and then struggle to take it off for the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031938414001528">remainder of the year</a>.</p> <p>Christmas 2023 is also exacerbating cost-of-living pressures, prompting some to rethink their food choices. Throughout the year, <a href="https://dvh1deh6tagwk.cloudfront.net/finder-au/wp-uploads/2023/03/Cost-of-Living-Report-2023.pdf">71% of Australians</a> – or 14.2 million people – <a href="https://retailworldmagazine.com.au/rising-cost-of-living-forces-aussies-to-change-diets/">adapted</a> their eating behaviour in response to rising costs.</p> <p>Fortunately, there are some simple, science-backed hacks for the festive season to help you celebrate with the food traditions you love without impacting your healthy eating habits, weight, or hip pocket.</p> <h2>1. Fill up on healthy pre-party snacks before heading out</h2> <p>If your festive season is filled with end-of-year parties likely to tempt you to fill up on finger foods and meals high in fat, salt, and sugar and low in nutritional value, have a healthy pre-event snack before you head out.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015032/#sec-a.g.atitle">Research</a> shows carefully selected snack foods can impact satiety (feelings of fullness after eating), potentially reducing the calories you eat later. High-protein, high-fibre snack foods have the strongest effect: because they take longer to digest, our hunger is satisfied for longer.</p> <p>So enjoy a handful of nuts, a tub of yoghurt, or a serving of hummus with veggie sticks before you head out to help keep your healthy eating plan on track.</p> <h2>2. Skip the low-carb drinks and enjoy your favourites in moderation</h2> <p>Despite the marketing promises, low-carb alcoholic drinks <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hpja.531">aren’t better for our health or waistlines</a>.</p> <p>Many low-carb options have a similar amount of carbohydrates as regular options but lull us into thinking they’re better, so we drink more. A <a href="https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/K-013_Low-carb-beer_FactSheet_FINAL.pdf">survey</a> found 15% of low-carb beer drinkers drank more beer than they usually would because they believed it was healthier for them.</p> <p>A typical lager or ale will contain less than 1.5 grams of carbohydrate per 100 ml while the “lower-carb” variety can range anywhere from 0.5 grams to 2.0 grams. The calories in drinks come from the alcohol itself, not the carbohydrate content.</p> <p>Next time you go to order, think about the quantity of alcohol you’re drinking rather than the carbs. Make sure you sip lots of water in between drinks to stay hydrated, too.</p> <h2>3. Don’t skimp on healthy food for Christmas Day – it’s actually cheaper</h2> <p>There’s a perception that healthy eating is more expensive. But studies show this is a misconception. A <a href="https://southwesthealthcare.com.au/swh-study-finds-eating-a-healthier-diet-is-actually-cheaper-at-the-checkout/#:%7E:text=A%20recent%20study%20from%20the,does%20not%20meet%20the%20guidelines">recent analysis</a> in Victoria, for example, found following the Australian Dietary Guidelines cost the average family A$156 less a fortnight than the cost of the average diet, which incorporates packaged processed foods and alcohol.</p> <p>So when you’re planning your Christmas Day meal, give the pre-prepared, processed food a miss and swap in healthier ingredients:</p> <ul> <li> <p>swap the heavy, salted ham for leaner and lighter meats such as fresh seafood. Some seafood, such as prawns, is also tipped to be cheaper this year thanks to <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/goodfood/lobsters-up-prawns-stable-a-buying-guide-to-seafood-this-christmas-20231208-p5eq3m.html">favourable weather conditions</a> boosting local supplies</p> </li> <li> <p>for side dishes, opt for fresh salads incorporating seasonal ingredients such as mango, watermelon, peach, cucumber and tomatoes. This will save you money and ensure you’re eating foods when they’re freshest and most flavoursome</p> </li> </ul> <ul> <li> <p>if you’re roasting veggies, use healthier cooking oils like olive as opposed to vegetable oil, and use flavourful herbs instead of salt</p> </li> <li> <p>if there’s an out-of-season vegetable you want to include, look for frozen and canned substitutes. They’re cheaper, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157517300418">just as nutritious</a> and tasty because the produce is usually frozen or canned at its best. Watch the sodium content of canned foods, though, and give them a quick rinse to remove any salty water</p> </li> <li> <p>give store-bought sauces and dressings a miss, making your own from scratch using fresh ingredients.</p> </li> </ul> <h2>4. Plan your Christmas food shop with military precision</h2> <p>Before heading to the supermarket to shop for your Christmas Day meal, create a detailed meal plan and shopping list, and don’t forget to check your pantry and fridge for things you already have.</p> <p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4586574/">Eating beforehand</a> and shopping with a plan in hand means you’ll only buy what you need and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8206473/">avoid impulse purchasing</a>.</p> <p>When you’re shopping, price check everything. Comparing the cost per 100 grams is the most effective way to save money and get the best value. Check prices on products sold in different ways and places, too, such as nuts you scoop yourself versus prepacked options.</p> <h2>5. Don’t skip breakfast on Christmas Day</h2> <p>We’ve all been tempted to skip or have a small breakfast on Christmas morning to “save” the calories for later. But this plan will fail when you sit down at lunch hungry and find yourself eating far more calories than you’d “saved” for.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32073608/">Research</a> shows a low-calorie or small breakfast leads to increased feelings of hunger, specifically appetite for sweets, across the course of the day.</p> <p>What you eat for breakfast on Christmas morning is just as important too – choosing the right foods will <a href="https://theconversation.com/im-trying-to-lose-weight-and-eat-healthily-why-do-i-feel-so-hungry-all-the-time-what-can-i-do-about-it-215808">help you manage your appetite</a> and avoid the temptation to overindulge later in the day.</p> <p><a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24703415/">Studies</a> show a breakfast containing protein-rich foods, such as eggs, will leave us feeling fuller for longer.</p> <p>So before you head out to the Christmas lunch, have a large, nutritionally balanced breakfast, such as eggs on wholegrain toast with avocado.</p> <p><em>At the Boden Group, Charles Perkins Centre, we are studying the science of obesity and running clinical trials for weight loss. You can <a href="https://redcap.sydney.edu.au/surveys/?s=RKTXPPPHKY">register here</a> to express your interest.</em> <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219114/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nick-fuller-219993"><em>Nick Fuller</em></a><em>, Charles Perkins Centre Research Program Leader, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/5-ways-to-avoid-weight-gain-and-save-money-on-food-this-christmas-219114">original article</a>.</em></p>

Food & Wine

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Tiny chihuahua saves 90-year-old woman with heroic act

<p>In the world of unlikely heroes, step aside Batman, move over Superman, because Minnie the Chihuahua cross is here to steal the spotlight.</p> <p>This petite pooch from Kingston, in the South Australia's southeast, has recently been showered with praise for her unexpected, life-saving antics.</p> <p>Picture this: Minnie, a little dog with a heart as big as her bark, not particularly keen on hugs, found herself in a situation that required more than just a wag of her tail.</p> <p>On that fateful Friday, December 1, Minnie noticed that her 90-year-old owner, Joyce Gibbs, was in a bit of a pickle – struggling to catch a breath. Now, most dogs might just tilt their heads in confusion (you can picture it) or fetch a chew toy, but not Minnie.</p> <p>Untrained in any form of medical assistance, Minnie decided to take matters into her own paws. Whether by sheer luck or by innate instinct, the canine prodigy leaped onto Joyce’s lap and – brace yourselves –  <em>pressed the medical alert device hanging around her neck</em>. Yes, you heard that right; she hit the SOS button, sending out a message that would make any emergency service scramble into action.</p> <p>Lyn Gibbs, Joyce’s daughter, expressed her astonishment, “Minnie never jumps up in that chair when mum is in it..." she <a href="https://7news.com.au/news/chihuahua-praised-for-saving-90-year-old-south-australian-owner-struggling-to-breathe-c-12821344" target="_blank" rel="noopener">told 7News</a>. "Minnie knew she needed help, so she jumped up, trying to help her.”</p> <p>A stroke of genius? An incredibly lucky accident? Either way, Minnie became the the hero of the moment, saving the day like a furry little Avenger.</p> <p>As Joyce found herself in the hospital grappling with Rhinovirus, Minnie continued to be her unwavering companion. Doctors predicted a three-week recovery period, but after only four days, Joyce was back home, thanks to the vigilant care of her four-legged saviour.</p> <p>Lyn couldn’t help but gush about Minnie’s dedication, “Minnie’s been so good from the day I got her... she’s the best dog... she doesn’t leave her side.” Move over Florence Nightingale; we’ve got Minnie, the dedicated dog nurse, taking care of business.</p> <p>This heartwarming tale isn’t just about Minnie’s heroics; it’s a reminder of the importance of those pesky but life-saving medical alert devices. As Lyn says: “The medical alert is just so important for old people... a lot of them won’t wear them. They put them on the cupboard or on the table, but you really need them at all times, especially in the shower.”</p> <p>So, take heed: wear your devices and maybe, just maybe, you'll have a four-legged hero by your side, ready to leap into action when you least expect it.</p> <p>In a world where a Chihuahua can be the difference between a close call and catastrophe, we salute you, Minnie, for proving that heroes come in all shapes and sizes.</p> <p><em>Images: 7News</em></p>

Caring

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Trying to spend less on food? Following the dietary guidelines might save you $160 a fortnight

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p>A rise in the <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BriefingBook47p/CostOfLiving#:%7E:text=Consumer%20Price%20Index%20over%20time,but%205.1%25%20in%20the%20second">cost of living</a> has led many households to look for ways to save money.</p> <p>New research suggests maintaining a healthy diet, in line with the <a href="https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/guidelines">Australian Dietary Guidelines</a>, is cheaper than an unhealthy diet and <a href="https://southwesthealthcare.com.au/wp-content/uploads/SWH-HP-Healthy-Diets-ASAP-Protocol-Warrnambool-Report-2023.pdf">could save A$160</a> off a family of four’s fortnightly shopping bill.</p> <p>Poor diet is the most common preventable risk factor contributing to chronic disease in <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30752-2/fulltext">Australia</a>. So improving your diet can also be an important way to reduce the chance of developing chronic disease.</p> <h2>First, what are the dietary guidelines?</h2> <p>The guidelines provide information on the quantity and types of foods most Australians should consume to promote overall health and wellbeing.</p> <p>Recommendations include eating a wide variety of nutritious foods from the main five food groups:</p> <ul> <li>vegetables and legumes</li> <li>fruit</li> <li>grains</li> <li>lean meats and meat alternatives such as tofu, nuts and legumes</li> <li>dairy products.</li> </ul> <p>The guidelines recommend limiting our intake of foods high in saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.</p> <h2>What are Australians eating?</h2> <p>Fewer than <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/dietary-behaviour/latest-release">7%</a> of Australians eat sufficient vegetables, in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines. In fact, Australians have an average healthy diet score of <a href="https://www.csiro.au/-/media/News-releases/2023/Total-Wellbeing-Diet-Health-Score/Diet-score-2023-Report_September.pdf">55 out of 100</a> – barely passing.</p> <p>Foods that aren’t part of a food group are known as “discretionary” items, which includes alcohol, cakes, biscuits, chocolate and confectionery and most takeaway foods. Because they’re typically high in kilojoules, saturated fat, sodium and added sugars, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend they only be eaten occasionally and in small amounts (ideally zero serves).</p> <p>For many households, discretionary items make up a big portion of their grocery shop. Australians consume an average of <a href="https://www.csiro.au/-/media/News-releases/2023/Total-Wellbeing-Diet-Health-Score/Diet-score-2023-Report_September.pdf">28 serves</a> of discretionary choices per week (equal to 28 doughnuts, 28 slices of cake, or 28 cans of soft drink or beer). This is an increase of ten serves since 2015.</p> <p>One recent <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12966-022-01389-8">study</a> estimated 55% of Australians’ total energy intake was from discretionary items.</p> <h2>What did the researchers find?</h2> <p>Researchers from the Health Promotion Team at South West Healthcare <a href="https://southwesthealthcare.com.au/wp-content/uploads/SWH-HP-Healthy-Diets-ASAP-Protocol-Warrnambool-Report-2023.pdf">recently</a> visited four local supermarkets and takeaway stores in Warrnambool, Victoria, and purchased two baskets of groceries.</p> <p>One basket met the Australian Dietary Guidelines (basket one), the other aligned with the typical dietary intake of Australians (basket two).</p> <p>They compared prices between the two and found basket one would cost approximately $167 less per fortnight for a family of four at the most affordable supermarket. That’s equal to $4,342 a year.</p> <p>Basket one was sufficient to supply a family of four for a fortnight, and aligned with the Australian Dietary Guidelines. It cost $724 and included:</p> <ol> <li>fruit and vegetables (made up 31% of the fortnightly shop)</li> <li>grains and cereals (oats, cornflakes, bread, rice, pasta, Weet-bix)</li> <li>lean meats and alternatives (mince, steak, chicken, tuna, eggs, nuts)</li> <li>milk, yoghurt and cheese</li> <li>oils and spreads (olive oil).</li> </ol> <p>Basket two reflected the current average Australian fortnightly shop for a family of four.</p> <p>In the project, the team spent over half of the fortnightly shop on processed and packaged foods, of which 21% was spent on take-away. This is based on actual dietary intake of the general population reported in the 2011-2012 <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/australian-health-survey-nutrition-first-results-foods-and-nutrients/latest-release#:%7E:text=Food%20consumption,across%20the%20major%20food%20groups.">Australian Health Survey</a>.</p> <p>Basket two cost $891 and included:</p> <ol> <li>fruit and vegetables (made up 13% of the fortnightly shop)</li> <li>grains and cereals (oats, cornflakes, bread, rice, pasta, Weet-bix)</li> <li>lean meats and alternatives (mince, steak, chicken, tuna, eggs, nuts)</li> <li>milk, yogurt and cheese</li> <li>oils and spreads (olive oil, butter)</li> <li>drinks (soft drink, fruit juice)</li> <li>desserts and snacks (muffins, sweet biscuits, chocolate, ice cream, potato chips, muesli bars)</li> <li>processed meats (sausages, ham)</li> <li>convenience meals</li> <li>fast food (pizza, meat pie, hamburger, fish and chips)</li> <li>alcohol (beer, wine).</li> </ol> <h2>But a healthy basket is still unaffordable for many</h2> <p>While this piece of work, and other <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/11/2469">research</a>, suggests a healthy diet is less expensive than an unhealthy diet, affordability is still a challenge for many families.</p> <p>The Warrnambool research found basket one (which aligned with guidelines) was still costly, requiring approximately 25% of a median household income.</p> <p>This is unaffordable for many. For a household reliant on welfare, basket one would require allocating 26%-38% of their income. This highlights how the rising cost of living crisis is affecting those already facing financial difficulties.</p> <p>Around 3.7 <a href="https://reports.foodbank.org.au/foodbank-hunger-report-2023/">million</a> Australian households did not have access to enough food to meet their basic needs at some point in the last 12 months.</p> <p>Policy action is needed from the Australian government to make recommended diets more affordable for low socioeconomic groups. This means lowering the costs of healthy foods and ensuring household incomes are sufficient.</p> <h2>What else can you do to cut your spending?</h2> <p>To help reduce food costs and support your health, reducing discretionary foods could be a good idea.</p> <p>Other ways to reduce your grocery bill and keep your food healthy and fresh include:</p> <ul> <li> <p>planning for some meatless meals each week. Pulses (beans, lentils and legumes) are nutritious and cheap (a can is <a href="https://coles.com.au/product/coles-chick-peas-420g-8075852?uztq=46abcbb7e16253b0cdc3e6c5bbe6a3f0&amp;cid=col_cpc_Generic%7cColesSupermarkets%7cPLA%7cCatchAll%7cAustralia%7cBroad&amp;s_kwcid=AL!12693!3!675842378376!!!g!326304616489!&amp;gad_source=1&amp;gclid=CjwKCAjwkY2qBhBDEiwAoQXK5SceYhU2VtKepNLXWN218GH8Cp8Vs9cnYynCBwRqQPaW3UYNX2SVIBoC_6EQAvD_BwE&amp;gclsrc=aw.ds">less than $1.50</a>. Here are some great pulse recipes to <a href="https://nomoneynotime.com.au/healthy-easy-recipes/filter/keywords--vegetarian/p2">try</a></p> </li> <li> <p>checking the specials and buy in bulk (to store or freeze) when items are cheaper</p> </li> <li> <p>making big batches of meals and freezing them. Single-serve portions can help save time for lunches at work, saving on takeaway</p> </li> <li> <p>Australian supermarkets are <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/2023/jul/27/cost-of-living-grocery-store-price-rises-cheapest-fresh-produce-australia-woolworths-coles#:%7E:text=The%20results%20showed%20independent%20and,best%20place%20for%20affordable%20groceries">almost never</a> the cheapest place for fresh produce, so shop around for farmers markets or smaller local grocery shops</p> </li> <li> <p>buying generic brands when possible, as they are <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/public-health-nutrition/article/streamlined-datagathering-techniques-to-estimate-the-price-and-affordability-of-healthy-and-unhealthy-diets-under-different-pricing-scenarios/872EA6396533166E0C6FA94C809D9CAC#r">notably cheaper</a>. Supermarkets usually <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-science-that-makes-us-spend-more-in-supermarkets-and-feel-good-while-we-do-it-23857">promote</a> the items they want you to buy at eye-level, so check the shelves above and below for cheaper alternatives.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/216749/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> </li> </ul> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/emily-burch-438717">Emily Burch</a>, Dietitian &amp; Academic, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/southern-cross-university-1160">Southern Cross University</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lauren-ball-14718">Lauren Ball</a>, Professor of Community Health and Wellbeing, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-queensland-805">The University of Queensland</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty </em><em>Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/trying-to-spend-less-on-food-following-the-dietary-guidelines-might-save-you-160-a-fortnight-216749">original article</a>.</em></p>

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