A new calendar year is a good time to look at your super account and think about how you will achieve your dream of a glorious retirement.
It’s important to consider three fundamental elements: your super fund, your investments, and your insurance. Super is a long-term investment but set-and-forget may not be the best long-term strategy.
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) provides comparative data on the performance of regulated super funds. It also has identified underperforming funds. It’s prudent to have a look at its tables to see how your fund is performing.
If you are ‘stapled’ to a dud fund it could cost you thousands of dollars at retirement. If you are in a dud fund, it is likely you will have received a letter advising you of the underperformance. It’s useful to check the one, five and 10-year investment performance of your fund to see how it compares with its peers.
You may also wish to check your fund’s position on ESG (environmental, social, governance) as well as a plan for net zero emissions by a certain date. If you are dissatisfied with your current or underperforming fund, you may wish to speak to a financial planner for assistance. It’s easy to switch funds.
What is your investment time horizon? Do you have 35, 25, 15 or five years to retirement? This timeframe could determine your risk tolerance. In general, financial planners advise higher risk investments when there is a long time to retirement as markets will go through many cycles before you retire – it is likely that downturns and losses will be corrected over time.
But if you have been through the highs and lows (consider the GFC) of market cycles, you may wish to lower your risk by investing in more conservative options in the lead-up to your retirement. It’s a balance between growth and defensive assets. Again, your fund’s position on ESG is an important consideration.
Insurance provided by your super fund is a genuine benefit and I have seen it help thousands of families in times of illness, accident or death. Most funds offer three types of insurance: income protection; life cover; and total and permanent disability insurance.
It is important to understand your insurance cover and the associated fees associated. In general you can increase your cover subject to acceptance by the insurer, and this is usually determined by the medical information you provide to the fund.
You can also cancel your insurance completely. So, as with investments, the key is to arrange your insurance according to your life situation. Do you have a large mortgage, several dependants, or no dependants?
Would your income protection (IP) insurance be adequate to pay your rent or mortgage? It is important to note that if you are in more than one fund and are paying IP premiums to both, you may be wasting money – if you need to claim, generally only one fund will pay.
It’s not possible to insure a salary greater than your pre-disability salary. It’s also prudent to consider your level of debt (including a mortgage) when looking at your life cover. Is your current cover adequate to pay off your mortgage? It is necessary to consider all these factors before you switch funds because you could lose or have reduced cover in your new fund. Again, financial planning advice is helpful.
So, on we go into the maelstrom of a new year! Let’s hope for the best and take some time to set up your super so you can walk into the sunshine of a glorious retirement.
Bernard O’Connor NGS Super