Let’s get straight into it:
- Which super fund or funds am I with?
- Which investment option am I invested?
- Do I have any lost super?
- Do I have insurance through my super fund?
- How much do I think I need to retire?
If you can’t answer more than two of these, you aren’t alone! For most people, super isn’t a priority, but for women, super can be more important than you think. Having multiple super funds (that we don’t know about), taking years off to have babies or caring for parents where we may not be earning super, and potential dependence on our partner’s retirement are all real things for women that we don’t necessarily think about. But this stuff matters. If we don’t start taking interest in our super (yes – now!), we may suffer later for it. And it’s not as hard as you think! A few simple changes could impact the way and when you retire – as after all, don’t you deserve it?
Over the past seven years, I have worked in the financial services industry, more specifically, in superannuation – which has taught me a lot and provoked many thoughts about it – one of them being, why is super so complex?
Being passionate about super and helping women with their finances has always come naturally to me, and I’m finding that slowly more and more ears are listening in as people realise where almost 10% of their salary is going and how important contributing to your super really is.
I used to find it almost embarrassing as a marketer saying I worked in superannuation as most people begin to fall asleep just at the word ‘superannuation’. But I have subsequently learnt to change my ‘elevator pitch’ or ‘bbq chat’ to describe my work as ‘I’m looking after your retirement’ which has certainly changed people’s reactions over the years!
So enough about me, it’s time for you to learn some basics about superannuation and saving for your retirement. Let’s start simple, with an introduction to super and the importance of it, not forgetting the facts about the gender gap in super balances – yes, it’s real and it’s a concern!
What is super and why should we care about it?
Superannuation, or ‘super’, is a savings arrangement designed to help you provide for your own retirement. When it comes to super, size does count. Your employer’s super contributions may not be enough if you want to be financially secure when you retire. The amount of super you need depends on:
- How long you live
- What type of lifestyle you want
- Future medical costs
The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia Limited (ASFA) have developed a ‘Retirement Standard’, which provides detailed budgets of how much Australians need to fund either a comfortable or modest standard of living in retirement.
Money can be put into your super fund by you, your employer, your spouse and sometimes even the Federal Government. Typically, if you are working, your employer will currently contribute at least 9.5% of your salary to your super fund. This is known as compulsory superannuation guarantee (SG). The SG is the minimum amount of superannuation support your employer must provide to you by law.
Super is like forced savings, and for most people it’s their largest and most tax effective investment.
Also, given it’s the end of financial year in Australia, it’s important that we know about the different changes that occur with each year’s government budget. Every year the government announces changes to the budget that may impact your super, so it’s good to keep abreast of these as they may affect you. For example, they are bringing in a new contribution scheme called ‘First Home Super Saver Scheme’ which allows first home buyers to withdraw future voluntary contributions to fund a deposit.
For more information on the budget go to www.budget.gov.au
Why is super particularly important for women?
Australian women generally have significantly less superannuation savings than men, despite having a longer life expectancy.
An assessment of superannuation balances released in December 2015 showed that:
- The average superannuation account balance for women was $54,916, compared to $98,535 for men.
- The average superannuation balance at the time of retirement was $292,500 for men and only $138,150 for women.
The main reasons why there is this gap is due to the realities that:
- Australian women generally earn less than men
- Compared to men, more women work on a part-time or casual basis and;
- Women often have had or will take a career break at some stage in their working life to care for children and/or the elderly.
This pay gap means many women cannot build as much wealth, have less choice about their lifestyles and have significantly lower superannuation balances than men. Now that’s not cool is it?
So… how does super actually work?
Once your super fund receives your contributions (either from your employer and/or your own voluntary contributions), it invests this money either in a default strategy or one you have chosen yourself. Most super funds offer a number of investment options including a range of asset classes with different rates of risk and growth. You can choose how you’d like your money invested, if you want to. You can also transfer your money to a different investment option within the fund, or transfer to another super fund at any time.
Super funds do charge fees for the services they provide, usually as a dollar amount or a percentage of your balance. These include general fees such as administration, member and investment, as well as optional extras including adviser fees and insurance premiums.
Although the compulsory nature of super means your super should continue to accumulate (when you are working) without you having to do much at all, it is important you keep an eye on your super payments and balance to ensure your money is working as hard as it can for your retirement.
What can women do to boost their super?
I know retirement seems so far away, but wouldn’t you prefer to retire with more and have the choice of how you spend your time in retirement? Wouldn’t you prefer not having to work until 75 – or 80? We work hard, we deserve to enjoy those benefits too. Here are a few things you can start doing today to help you towards taking control of your super.
Review your statements
Check your balance, fees, employer payments and tax. If you don’t understand your statement, get in touch with your super fund early and ask questions. They are there to help you so use them.
Check your investment option is right for you
Speak to your super fund to find out more about investment choice and if you are in the right investment option for your risk appetite and life stage. These days’ super funds have lots of education on their websites, a member services call centre and access to financial planners which can all help guide you in some way.
Find your super
If you have changed jobs, moved house or changed your name, then the chances are that some of the $14 Billion in lost super (within Australia), is yours (shocking, right?) To check if you have any lost super, visit the ATO website and complete an online search for your super or call the ATO’s automated Super Seeker service on 13 28 65. Or even better; contact your super fund as most funds search for you on your behalf. All you need to do is provide them with your tax file number!
Consolidate your super
If you have your super in multiple funds, you’ll be paying multiple sets of fees; eating into your super. There is also a chance you will have more than one insurance policy. Combine your super into your preferred fund, making it easier to keep track of and reducing the number of fees you pay.
So whether you’re a full-time mum or a career woman, or a bit of both, start to take control of your super. As women we should be proud of our achievements and having adequate superannuation is vital for a comfortable retirement!
Annabel Johnston, based in Melbourne, is a marketing and communications professional and advocate for making super engaging, amongst other things. She is passionate about helping women get more informed about their super and in control of their finances. You can connect with her on linkedin at www.linkedin.com/in/annabel-johnston
If you have a general super question for Annabel she is more than happy to assist and promises not to use any complex super jargon!
Still awake and want to know more?
To compare how your super fund is performing against others visit https://www.chantwest.com.au/fund-ratings/super.
To see who the top ten performing super funds are, visit http://www.superratings.com.au/top-tens/returns.