Congrats, big shot. You made a mint resume, somehow charmed your way through an interview, and landed yourself a job. You’ll make your own money and you’re gonna start paying for your own movie tickets – you might even splash out and finally make an Uber Eats account. The problem is, you’ve never done this whole job thing before and your employer is asking for a bunch of numbers from you and you have no idea what it all means. Don’t worry, we’ve been there. We’ve got you.
Tax File Number (TFN)
The first thing you’re gonna need is a Tax File Number, which is a personal reference number that identifies you for tax and superannuation purposes. You’ll have the same TFN for your whole life, even if you change jobs, address, or name, so keep it safe and secure. TFN’s are essential to lodge your tax return online and they ensure you don’t pay more tax than you should. If you start a job without one, you’ll be paying waaaaay more tax than necessary, so get your hands on one ASAP.
Australian residents can apply for a TFN at an Australia Post outlet, a Department of Human Services centre, or by post. Read more here.
Superannuation is the money set aside for you when you retire. A superannuation fund is where you let a company manage your super by investing it, with the idea that it will grow beyond the actual contributions made so you have more money for your retirement. Seems like some way off now, but it’s definitely worth getting a bit of money stashed away as early as you can – that way you’ll have more cash to splash on hard-boiled sweets at the movie theatre when you’re 80.
If you are an employee rather than a freelancer or contractor (meaning you signed a full-time, part-time, or casual contract) you are entitled to regular super contributions from your employer. Legally, employers must pay at least 9.5% of your usual income and this is done automatically with each pay check. It’s also important to remember that your super contributions aren’t deducted from your income – these are additional payments made to your fund.
When starting a job, your employer will usually have a standard super fund they use that they’ll recommend to you. You’re welcome to take them up on this, and there’s nothing scammy about it, but it’s also worth having a look around at what other super funds offer to see if they’re better suited for you. This can depend on each fund’s specific benefits, fees, investment options, or even ethical nature. You can sus more info about it here.
Bank accounts & savings accounts
You’re also going to need a bank account so there’s a place for your employer to pay your wages. Chances are you’ve already got one of these, but on top of your everyday transaction account, you might want to think about getting a savings account too, where you can store all your hard-earned dosh away and start earning some nice interest on your money.
If you’re looking for a new transaction account or savings account, Westpac have some of the most competitive accounts around, especially for young people and students. Their Choice transaction account has no monthly service fees for under 21’s and students, and you’ll also get a free one-year student discount card that you can travel around the globe with (actually tho, this card gets you ace discounts overseas, so it’s perfect if you’re planning on a gap year or overseas trip sometime soon).
Along with a transaction account, you might consider setting up a savings account which will help you boost your balance with interest. If you really want to grow your cash, a Westpac Life account pays you bonus interest rate each month you grow your balance, on top of the nice interest rate you’ll earn all the time anyway. On the other hand, if you’re only looking to save for a short time, the Westpac eSaver account offers a very nice interest rate for the first 5 months. Most importantly, both accounts give you unlimited access to your money online via your Westpac Choice account.
Getting paid the right amount
You’re working for your money, so it’s only fair you get paid the right amount. Check out this nifty pay calculator to figure out your award, which is your industry’s minimum wage, penalty rates, and employment conditions. If you think your employer is trying to pay you less, it’s worth having a conversation with them with this information as your backup. Try not to be intimidated – the law is on your side and it’s very important you’re being valued as an employee. Find more info here.
It’s also worth keeping a record of all your hours and to check each payslip to see if they’re paying you the right amount. If you notice something abnormal, it might be just a mistake on their end, and if you point it out to them they should back pay you in your next pay check.
Taxes and tax returns
Taxes are a portion of your income that’s automatically deducted (unless you’re a contractor) and given to the government so they can spend it on things like our country’s education, health, and defence. Luckily for us, income tax is paid on a sliding scale which means we pay depending on how much we earn.
Your tax payment with each pay check is calculated as if you were to earn that amount every week for the whole financial year. Because you won’t often end up doing so (due to fluctuating hours or working less during the term dates), you’ll likely end up paying more tax than was actually required, meaning you’re eligible for a fat repayment sum called a tax return at the end of the financial year in July when you submit your tax return.
To lodge your tax return, you need a group certificate issued from your employer which is a summary of how much you’ve been paid in wages for the year and how much tax you’ve paid. Next you’ll need to create a myGov account, link it to the ATO, and use myTax to lodge the return.
Got some burning financial questions or want to know more about how to handle your money? Year13 and Westpac have teamed up to bring you FinLit, a financial literacy program teaching you everything about money that you never learnt in high school.
Whether you’re moving out, buying a car, muddling through your taxes or trying to sort your super, FinLit has the info you need. Suss it out here.
This information is intended to be general in nature and should not be relied upon for personal financial use.