Archive for the ‘Superannuation’ Category

Want to Access $20,000 From Super? Sell a Kidney First.

Sunday, April 26th, 2020

Ok, so selling a kidney is probably a little extreme (and I don’t know what the going price for a black market organ is), but before you go raiding your super, exhaust every other avenue first. Every avenue.

First you should get in touch with your lenders for any and all debts you have and ask for a repayment holiday. This should give you at least a couple of months breathing space. If you’re renting, ring the landlord/real estate agent ASAP and ask for a rent-free stay. Even if it means they would like you to paint the ceiling in exchange. Just because the premier/chief minister in your state/territory has said that all renters will be protected doesn’t mean you shouldn’t extend a hand of goodwill to the landlord.

Then you should do a search for any unclaimed money you may have that you don’t even know about. Yeah, there’s only a small chance that you will come across a windfall this way, but there’s $1.1 billion that remains unclaimed in Australia so it’s worth having a look.

If you find yourself sitting at home with bugger all to do, use it to clean your place up. You may have an exercise bike or massage table you haven’t used in years – clean it up and put it online. Even a couple of bucks is better than nothing.

If you are eligible, apply for JobSeeker or ask your employer if they have applied for JobKeeper.

Spend every dollar like it’s the last you will have in your wallet for a long time. If you have never bought the cheapest brands at the supermarket, now is a good time to start.

Get creative. Own a mower? Doorknock the neighbourhood to see if you can mow some lawns for a few dollars. Look into delivering pamphlets. If you live near a farm, enquire if they have any picking jobs going. There are still some work opportunities out there if you can think outside the box. It may involve doing the sorts of jobs you would never ordinarily think of doing, but these are not ordinary times.

Only after exhausting all the above should you even think about starting to look into accessing your super. Due to the effects of compounding, the setback to your balance at retirement of taking out $20,000 is huge.

Vanguard calculated that a 27 year old would be more than $200,000 worse off at retirement if they withdrew 20 grand now. And those calculations are based on returns to that hypothetical super fund of just 6% – the balanced option. Returns on growth options of 8-10%  would be significantly higher.

Never Been Better?

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

If you believe our fearless leader, there has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today. Bummer for those who died yesterday.

To an extent, Turnbull is right. 3D printers can make everything from heart valves to cars, educational opportunities are as high as they have ever been and the TV coverage of test cricket is absolutely amazing. Things are great, unless you can’t get your head around the Internet as every service you need these days is either online or has an online element. If you’re anything like me, you’ve helped your parents set up their new laptop so they can use Skype.

If you don’t yet have a myGov account, sign yourself up for one. Do this as a once off and you can have your Medicare, Centrelink and Australian Taxation Office records accessible in the one place. You need a myGov account to do your tax online through either e-tax or myTax and these days you receive your Notice of Assessment online too.

One of the great things about myGov is that if you have never gotten your act together to roll all your superannuation into one account, myGov makes it easier than ever before.

When you are logged in to your ATO account, click on the Manage My Super square as shown below and follow the prompts. So long as all your super funds have your Tax File Number it’s a really simple and quick process (if they don’t all have your TFN you’re being slugged heaps of tax).

Screenshot from myGov account showing ATO account page and the superannuation button to press.Before you close a super account you want to ensure that the life insurance coverage it provided is at least as good as the fund you’re rolling your money into, or that you have adequate insurance outside of super. But fewer super accounts means less money spent on managing super which means more money in your hands at retirement.

You won’t regret doing that when you’re planning the next round of lawn bowls and Bridge!

A Bloody Good Reason

Sunday, August 9th, 2015

There are plenty of reasons people have for setting up a self-managed super fund (SMSF), but bugger all of them are good.

According to the Vanguard 2015 Self Managed Super Fund Report, some of the bad reasons reported for wanting to start an SMSF included:

  • Following advice from my accountant (are they advising you because it’s in your best interest or for the extra work coming their way?)
  • Seeking more tax efficiency (shouldn’t be a difference between the tax treatment of a retail or industry fund and that of a self-managed super fund)
  • Wanting to choose direct shares (there are a growing number of retail and industry funds that allow you to invest in whatever shares you want, but if you wish to invest your super in direct property you do need to do it via an SMSF)
  • Saving money on fees (only really relevant for people who have a decent starting amount in super – see below)
  • Taking advice from a friend with an SMSF (probably the dumbest reason of the lot, unless of course the friend has the same amount in super, the same income, family circumstances and understanding of investments as well as the same ability to run an SMSF)

The number one reason people gave as to why they wanted to have an SMSF was to have more control over their investments. I can completely understand why a finance professional would want to take control of their super. Their knowledge and expertise would be greater than the average person’s and there is a fair chance they could achieve the same sort of return as a large super fund without the added expense of fees. But I just don’t get why there are so many people jumping at the complicated chance to handle their own super, especially those who are busy raising families and building careers. It’s a lot of work and the costs outweigh the savings unless you have at least $300,000+ in your super.

So next time a friend tells you that you should start your own super fund, politely change the topic.


Super Unhelpful

Monday, October 6th, 2014

APRA stands for a few things: Australian Professional Rodeo Association, Arizona Pylon Racing Association and Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. The boring sounding one is the one I’m interested in as their job is to oversee banks, insurance companies and most superannuation funds. Recently APRA released a report into the fees of MySuper funds which makes for fairly dry reading, even for those of us who like graphs, charts and all things superannuation. According to, MySuper funds are designed to be simple and cost-effective to make things as easy as possible for those who choose not to get informed and engaged with their super. They’re a really good idea as they are the default fund for employees who don’t choose their own fund, and as they are “cost-effective” it means that you could expect your MySuper fund to not rip you off when it comes to fees.

Surprisingly, the APRA report showed fees being charged on MySuper products was over a huge range. On a member balance of $50,000 the cheapest MySuper fund in the survey charges fees of $265, which is really good value for money. The most expensive fund charges fees on a $50,000 balance of a whopping $1,322. That’s an enourmous range for a product that really shouldn’t differ much from one provider to the other, and it’s another reason to ensure that you are aware of how much your fund charges you.

So, you may ask, which MySuper fund is charging the lowest fees? I dunno. Despite the APRA report going to 20 pages, it doesn’t actually tell us the names of any of the funds.

Thanks APRA. Super job.

Mining Your Retirement

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

With today’s repeal of the Mining Tax by the federal government comes bad news about your superannuation. How does that work? Well when Labor introduced the Mining Tax they attached a bunch of things to it to spend that tax revenue on, and one of those was attached to super increases.

Currently if you are an employee your boss has to whack 9.5% of what you earn into super on your behalf. That was to increase to 12% by 2019, or at least that was the plan before the 2013 election. Originally, Tony Abbott said there would be a two year delay before the next small increase in super (of just 0.25%). But today it has been announced that the delay in the increase will be pushed out until 2021. As I feared, the Abbott government would not stick to their two year delay and I still suspect that the eventual planned increase will not be honoured by them.

What this means for you is that there is a really strong chance that you will have to give more thought to putting more of your money into super. You’re better off doing that sooner rather than later and not relying on an increase that may never come. If you don’t whack more of your money into super, due to today’s repeal you will be worse off in retirement.

One Size Fits All?

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

If you’ve never looked at your super before there is a pretty good chance that the underlying investments are in what’s known as a balanced fund. This would see about 70% of your super invested in growth assets (property and shares) and the rest invested in defensive assets (like cash and bonds). A balanced fund is the default fund where your employer will whack your money if you don’t tell them what sort of risk you are willing to take with your super, and if you’re like around 80% of Aussies, your super will be sitting in a balanced fund. Is it the best option for someone in generations X and Y? I don’t reckon it is and neither do some super providers.

There are a few different super fund providers around who have a different approach to how your money is invested. They will offer a product where the risk that your super is exposed to (and the return you can expect) changes depending on your age. It means that younger people are exposed to higher returns (higher risks) by having a larger percentage of their super in growth assets. As you age and hit significant birthdays your exposure to growth assets lowers slightly such that by the time you are hitting your 60’s and 70’s your  super is protected by having up to 80% or more in defensive areas.

It makes good sense to ensure in the last few years leading up to retirement that you have a high total of cash and fixed interest in your super and only a small amount of shares. Plenty of people who were thinking of retiring just after the GFC hit realised too late that they were too exposed to shares that plumetted in value and left them without enough time in the workforce to recover their losses. In practice that meant eating more catfood in their twilight years.

But this doesn’t mean that as soon as you retire you should have no money in property or the sharemarket, as the trend towards longer life expectancies means a hell of a lot of us will live for 20, 30 or even 40 years after finishing work. It does mean that you should have enough in cash to see you able to ride out a downturn in the markets, so that would mean having at least three years of living expenses in defensive assets. The rest can be invested to provide the growth that you’ll need to see you through until it’s time to go into a wooden box.

I can sense that you’re thinking “This is too complicated, and I don’t need to worry about this stuff for decades.” Let me simplify it for you.

Give very serious consideration to investing your super in growth assets right up until you are within 7-10 years of retirement, then drop your risk back every year until it’s very low by the time you retire. Shovel away at least three years of living expenses into low risk assets while turning up your exposure to growth assets again on the remainder.

Obviously individual circumstances can play havoc with this type of approach, but to me it makes a lot more sense that the one size fits all approach of a balanced fund for life, or a product that will see you reducing your exposure to growth assets 20 years too soon.

Super Suggestions

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Warning: don’t read the following blog before bedtime. Don’t even read it out loud, especially if you are sitting in the passenger seat of a car and the driver doesn’t have ready access to Red Bull. The following blog contains some mild and conscience-changing language which is likely to send children into a boredom related stupor. Keep reading if you reckon you can handle some superannuation suggestions.

The super co-contribution is one of those rare things where you get something for nothing. If your income is below $31,920 and you make a $1,000 contribution to your super, the government will match it. That $1,000 isn’t part of the money your employer puts in or any you salary sacrifice. Once your income goes above $31,920 the amount the government chips in decreases until it cuts out entirely at $61,920. In theory it’s a good scheme, but in practice I don’t know many low income earners who have a lazy grand sitting around. From 1 July this year you will only be eligible for a maximum of $500 from the government for your own $1,000 contribution.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that if your income is below $37,000, from 1 July you will no longer have tax taken out of your employer contributions. Currently everyone’s employer contributions are taxed 15% as they go into your super account, but for low income earners that tax is being abolished. And the amount your employer has to put into your super will start to go up. Currently your boss has to put 9% of whatever you earn into super, but from mid this year it will go up to 9.25%, rising every year until it reaches 12% in 2019.

If you have a spouse earning less than $13,800 and you make a contribution to their super fund of $3,000 you can claim a rebate of $540, which is not much, but better than a poke in the eye with a rough stick. These contributions are not the ones that are eligible for super splitting. Most people are able to split the money paid into their super to their spouse’s fund (unless it’s a contribution they’re claiming a tax deduction or rebate from, like a spouse contribution. Yes, it all starts to get a bit complicated doesn’t it?)

Don’t forget that all money that goes into super these days stays there ‘til you hit retirement age. So don’t go whacking the money you had set aside for the when next credit card is due into your super, ‘cause you’ll need that bill paid before you are old and grey. The only time the tax office will let you get your hands on your super early is when you are about to die or you are completely financially stuffed. And I do mean completely stuffed. Super money is designed for retirement and the tax office makes it very hard to spend before you get there.

If you are self-employed, please please please don’t forget to pay yourself superannuation. You might see it as an unnecessary extra expense now but I can assure you that you won’t think of it that way in the years to come.

I hope you are still awake.

Mean medians

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Women have it pretty rough. They have to carry the baby, then push it out, they have to find a man who will not be unfaithful, and they have to juggle family and career in a way that’s acceptable to society. The statistics are against them.

At retirement, the amount that the average woman has in her super is half that of the average man. This is shocking enough ’til you look at these stats a bit closer.

If you have 10 people sitting in a room, one millionaire and 9 bankrupts, the average (mean) amount of money held by all these people is $100,000. But the median shows the amount of money the person in the middle has. Huh? Ok, your 10 people are spread out evenly across Australia from Perth (where the millionaire is) to Sydney (where the last of the bankrupts is). The median is the worth of the person who is (roughly) in Adelaide. The median tells you a bit more about the evenness of the spread – in this example the Adelaide person has $0. So if you have a small number of people with a lot of money and a large number with bugger all, the average will not show you this but the median will.

So, back to the average woman’s super balance. The median woman, at retirement doesn’t have half the average man’s amount. She doesn’t have a quarter. The median account balance for a woman at retirement is zero. Not a brass razoo. Looking at this another way, at least half of retiring women have no superannuation. Bloody scary stuff.

Does your super need some attention?

Super money for nothing

Monday, June 28th, 2010

With the end of the financial year approaching some people will turn their minds to last minute tax planning, including topping up super payments. If you earn less than $31,920 in the current financial year, you can contribute up to $1,000 out of your bank account (not salary sacrificed) and the federal government will give (yep, give) you $1,000. You can earn up to $61,920 and still get a partial payment from Julia Gillard (yeah, the red head’s the new boss. I’m still getting over that too!)

Now for the catch. Your super fund needs to receive the payment before close of business, June 30. If they get it after this time it will count towards next financial year. So unless you can give a cheque to the trustee of your super fund in person sometime over the next 2 days, you will need to rely on 2 things. The first is that you will be eligible for the co-contribution next year. And the second is that there will be no changes to legislation over the next year that effects this area of super.

Happy new financial year!