Friday, 22 June 2007

The wedding at Port Douglas

We have all recovered from yet another virus! Nugget caught it somewhere in Port Douglas and we have all had it since. What the hell is happening to this family?

R&G have finally done it! They got married on the beach at Port Douglas (PD) on Saturday the 9th June at 3pm. It was a lovely affair. Planned to the last minute (of course), it went off without a hitch. But let me rewind.

We left for PD on Thursday the 7th June. The flight went at 7.05am, so it was a very early morning for us all. Nugget decided it was time to catch the plane at 12.30am when he woke up, and could not be convinced that we still needed to sleep for awhile before we could go, so it was a VERY early morning for us. Grandpa drove us to the airport (bless him), and we flew out with B&R and Finn, Kat and Matt, and Sister B and her crew. Apart from the terrible turbulence (I really was tossed out of my seat and the whole plane let out a collective scream at one point) caused by the lightening storm, it all went swimmingly. Nugget was a little bored with his cars after a little while and was pegging them around the cabin, but we managed to avoid any lawsuits with our very understanding fellow travellers.

We arrived at the house in the afternoon, after an extremely slow bus ride from Cairns on a bus that was about as old as I am. The house we stayed in with Sister B, Billy and the kids was amazing. Spacious and glamorous and easy to clean and right on the golf course. It had a pool, pavillion style accomodation and a fabulous outdoor barbeque area. Very nice. We were all very proud of ourselves for finding something so nice and so close to the Sea Temple too (where the wedding was being held). That night we had a BBQ at home and enjoyed the surrounds of our abode.

On Friday, the Geege and I got up early with the boys and went out for a walk. We found C&K's place (another gorgoeus home right on the beach). We sat around with them reading the paper and walking on the sand. Doo Dah had the world's longest sleep, so the Geege and Nugget headed back to our place, while I had a shower in the indoor/outdoor shower (awesome) and waited for Doo Dah to wake. The Geege played golf with the lads in the afternoon. All the golf widows and their kids came over to ours for a play. We had a lovely time. We provided beers for all on the 5th hole (which was right outside our door) and it was the first time we had seen the groom since our arrival. That night we went to Rob and Sam's rooftop for a BBQ. We caught up with all of the guests and had a great night of banter and shenanigans. Sister B and Billy minded the boys so we were free and easy.

Saturday was the big day. The Geege was off early in the morning to help R and the other groomsmen get themselves ready for the day. Doo Dah and I went to breakfast at G's. We then spent the remainder of the morning racing around getting the tables adourned, borrowing a car to get to the ATM to get money for the babysitter (I still didn't get enough out either), and then getting home to get Nugget down for a sleep before the babysitters arrived. Nugget went to the beach with the Sister B and the cousins. We managed to acheive all we needed to acheive, and I managed to get myself to the boardwalk in time to meet R's Dad Lother to take him to the wedding (he was in fact late, most unusual for a German).

The ceremony was lovely. G was the most beautiful bride I think I have ever seen (I mean that, she looked amazing). They wrote their own vows. They made us all cry. It was tremendous. The reception started with drinks and canapes in the villa, and was followed by a buffet on the verandah. The Sea Temple is a gorgeous resort with Asian style furniture, a pool that occupies most of the space not occupied by apartments, and a very impressive level of service. It was a superb night! I had a few too many drinks (poor ol' Doo Dah was over the limit again) and got into a fight with Uncle J by the end of the night, but apart from that... I had a swell time. The best bit was the awesome DVD that we made for the bride and groom (the one surprise in the whole night!) with a series of their life's highlights! It was hysterical.

Sunday was a day of recovery. The Geege wanted to spend the day at home by our pool, so I left Doo Dah with him (he was cranking out 2.5 hour day sleeps - probably to make up for the lack of sleep in the night) and Nugget and I headed into the PD markets. We had a quick look around (and bought a little pressie for super sis, Auntie B), but spent most of the morning until the shade of a tree looking out into the ocean, near the big pier, overlooking St Mary's Cathedral (or whatever the church is called there). We also had lunch with C&K and Jack at the Courthouse Hotel and met up with Welsh Sal and her parents and B&R and Finn. It was a lovely way to spend the day. When we got back to the house, we all went to the resort to see everyone for a quick drink by the pool, before heading home again. We babysat Maxi-Taxi and Capers that night and caught up of a bit of TV.

We had breakfast at C&K's on Monday morning. I also went past the resort for a swim in that amazing pool. Brad accompanied me and we managed to circumnavigate the entire pool. It was divine albeit a little nippy to begin. We concluded the swim with a glass of Cockfighter's Ghost at Amanda's place. A lovely way to spend the afternoon. I left at about 3.15pm and we had to be back at the reception to catch the bus at 4.05pm. One speed change later... we were travelling into PD to see George the Groper and have a lovely meal with all of the wedding party. It was a superb way to conclude a great few days in FNQ.

The Tuesday was pack up day and a bit more time on the beach with C&K and Jack. The Geege and Doo Dah went to the resort to say goodbye to everyone but I stayed at the house to help Nugget have one more sleep before we had to get back on the bus, back on the plane, in the car and home. Nugget was awake until the car trip, so he was a little beside himself on the plane. It was a looooong trip home. We arrived home at 11.30pm.

Nugget started chucking at 2.30am, so it was on for young and old. The Geege had to work on Wednesday morning, so it was up to me to deal with the two beds that had been vomited in, as well as the still vomiting child. Fun and games. We got through it. And then I got sick on the Friday, and The Geege got sick on the Sunday. It is now Friday and noone has been sick for a good few days now. Maybe we have finally rid ourselves of the dreaded virus...

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Bucking and henning...

Image from here
 So I turned 34 the other day. Kind of scary to think that it has already been four years since the night at the playboy mansion...

Birthdays don't really mean that much to me anymore (although I always seem to blog about them, so maybe they secretly do?), although it is always nice to get a few presents and toast another year.

I had laryngitis this year. The never ending virus morphed into another strain and after a lovely weekend at Wiseman's with some friends, I lost my voice. It was a fitting tribute to the world's greatest talker on her birthday. All in all it was a pretty quiet day (excuse the pun).

The weekend away was lots of fun though (I think I touched on this in an earlier post?). I think we have put the two friends who do not currently have children off from having any. There were about 7 children under 3 there and they made themselves known. None more than our very own Nugget who was found at midnight riding the ride-on lawn mower (long story but what does a person do?????).

Apart from that, the grown-ups all got some play time when the kids went to sleep, except Nugget (see above). We have a history of banning boardgames with our friends, due to fights. Risk, for example, is banned. But I hadn't seen the need to ban Cranium before. There have certainly been times when people have gotten a little "Monica" from Friends during the game, but this was something else. Needless to say, I will no longer be condoning Cranium. Looks like we are left with Poker only for games nights.

The other social things that have been happening are R's Buck's party and G's Hen's night. The Geege disappeared for a couple of days at R's function. They tell me they went to the races, then to the pub, then to the Cross, but really, what happens at a Buck's, stays at the Buck's so they could have been up to anything. The Geege came home in the same clothes that he left in and still had all of his pubic hair, so I was happy with that.

G's function was a lovely lunch down at Pyrmont wharf. It was all love and happiness with a good helping of fine wining and dining thrown in. The boys and Geege played at B&R'so that I could feed Doo Dah in the middle of the event (he still won't take a bottle). It all went well, although Doo Dah may have been a touch over 0.05....

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Money Matters #1 - Investing on a single or low income

I am an avid reader of the Sun Herald finance section, Money Magazine and, occasionally, other financial publications. For a non-capitalist, I have a real interest in money. I don't think I really want to make heaps of it, but I like the challenge of finding good investments and stretching the family income. Having said that, I don't invest very much. A case of, if I had any money, here's what I would do with it. But like all good financial managers, we do have a few small investments and hope that one day we can add to them. Once the kids grow that is. If I ever get back to full-time work that is. One day, that is.

In the meantime, I have a plethora of good reading material around the place. I thought I would write up some key points, rather than have to keep the paper-cpoies. A way for me to refer to them, without having to physically locate them. This house is getting way too small! Please note: if you are not me, and you are reading this, I am NOT a financial adviser and I take NO responsibility for whether or not these tips are helpful. I am just jotting them down in my own way so that I can refer to them again and make a decision about their usefulness.

So my first attempt at this comes from an article by Terry Ryder, published in this month's Australian Property Investor magazine, called (aptly) Investing on a Single or Low Income.

There are plenty of options for wannabe investors whose incomes present barriers to getting into the property market (I'm listening, Terry...). Investing is challenging for people on a single or low income, but not impossible. Especially if you have equity in your home. Low income earners cannot afford to take big risks and the reality is they have smaller borrowing capacity, but that doesn't mean you can't put together a property portfolio over time. It won't be high-end property, or even middle-of-the-road  property and you may not be able to buy lots of properties, but you will be able to create a property portfolio. (Still listening Terry... get on with it).

Here's a short-list of important considerations for you if you are in this situation:
  • Have realistic expectations of what you need: aim for lower-end properties. You don't need 100 properties, just a couple will do if you can sit on them and let time do its thing.
  • Check out 'ugly duckling' suburbs: every city, including Sydney, has areas with affordable homes. But don't just stick to cities, the whole of Australia is your market. Ugly duckling suburbs have cheap homes but also tangible reasons to grow and evolve into better locations. It may not be near where you live, or indeed somewhere where you would like to live, but it will be cheaper and will have better returns. Also think about units and townhouses, rather than a free-standing house.
  • Find positive cash flow property: try to find property that earns enough rent to cover the costs of owning it (positively geared) or close to cost neutral. Apparently it is still possible, although not as easy as it used to be, and will help with securing cash from a bank. This is not without its risks though. Most of these properties are in one-industry towns (like mining towns) where values are dependent on the longevity of the resources boom, and the entry prices are now becoming steep. Studios and one-bedders in the city often attract 7-8% returns in major cities, but they are hard to get investment loans for. Banks are reluctant to lend on properties under 50 s.m.
  • Understand what matters to financiers: It is not how much you owe on credit cards that matters, but the total limits of all the credit cards you have. Get rid of unnecessary credit cards and pay out any other loans. The less debt you have the better when applying for an investment loan. You don't need a 20% deposit but this will impact on your interest rate and the fees the bank charges. And there's stamp duty, mortgage insurance and legals to consider. Remember, you need to be able to pay back the money you borrow. Don't get in over your head. You need a regular, steady income.
  • Consider a shared equity loan: These are pretty new to the market. Buyers can acheive a purchase for less than the full price, they also have to forego a chunk of capital growth when they sell. The bank retains 10/15/20% share of the property but receives up to 40% of the capital growth. These are complicated loans but may be an option if you have no others available.
  • Consider low-doc loans: These loans allow you to state your income and sign a declaration to that effect. The lender then bases their assessment on the stated income figure. Mainly for self-employed people who don't meet usual lending criteria. You need to have been self-employed for 2 years with an ABN. You need to provide 20% equity for low-doc (and 30% for no-doc loans). You can go higher but the interest rate increases too. Use this cautiously though. It is not meant to be a way to borrow more than lending criteria would allow or more than you can pay.
  • Take a longer term to lower payments: 40 year loans are out there and these can springboard low income earners into the market. Longer terms lower the minimum payments on the loan, which may mean you can borrow a bit more, while still having the flexibility to pay back extra on your mortgage (should your situation improve). This may be a stepping stone to a standard-length mortgage after becoming established.
  • Buy property with others: Thought about partnering with a friend or family member to buy property? It is becoming more popular. Partnerships will distribute the liability, but are not without their issues. Address contingencies and I mean ALL contingencies (such as payment of rates, how the property will be managed, how maintenance costs will be paid and what happens if someone decides to sell out). You will need a tenants-in-common agreement. You don't need to have equal shares, one can take 40 percent and the other 60 for instance. You can finance your shares separately, but the partners are jointly and severally liable for the debt. All of it. A split agreement, where you are in control of your part, and they are in control of theirs is best practice. That way you can pay off your share at any rate you wish. Note: this sort of deal can restrict your future borrowings.
So there you have it. Terry's investment tips for young players. He makes it sound possible (albeit with some rather unorthodox methods), but I still think that with 2 kids, 2 PT jobs and a massive mortgage that I will have to hold onto this information for another day. What do you think? Are you ready to take the plunge?
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