How would you describe your relationship with your super (pension)?
For most of us, it’s a love-hate relationship. We love the idea of having the security of retirement savings yet we hate being required to forgo some of our hard-earned money to build it.
Or perhaps it’s a non-existent relationship. Especially when we see retirement as a distant reality, super may not seem so relevant to us right now.
The thing is, it’s what you do with your super today that will influence the fruit it produces tomorrow. Like any relationship, it requires nurturing to see it grow and thrive.
There was a time when I had a love-hate relationship with plants. I loved the life and vibrancy they brought to any room, yet I hated the amount of maintenance and care they required. With this thinking, every plant that was ever in my care resulted in a tragic end to their short-lived lives. I didn’t trust myself to look after any plant.
One year, a friend who believed in me more than I believed in myself, gifted me a peace lily. She assured me it was a low maintenance plant and gave me simple tips for its care. All I needed to remember was that it needed natural sunlight, water every couple of weeks and my presence. Well, I can tell you now, it’s been over 2 years and that plant is flourishing!
All it required for me to keep the plant alive was to pay a little attention to it every now and then. It wasn’t as big a commitment as I thought it would be.
Super is no different. Make some upfront decisions, check in occasionally, keep informed and your super fund will take care of the rest.
So, how can you make the shift from working for your super to making your super work for you?
Please note, any views or opinions expressed are my own and don’t necessarily reflect the position of any agency, organisation, employer or company. I don’t receive any compensation for recommendations or links included in this post.
I don’t qualify as an “expert” in the area of superannuation and retirement savings. Any suggestions I make are for informational purposes only and don’t take into account your personal circumstances. They are not a substitute for any professional advice.
1. Combine your multiple super accounts
Let’s backtrack to the early years. You started your first job in retail, fresh and wide-eyed as a teenager. You knew nothing about super, except for that time it was mentioned in your Commerce class in year 9, not that you were paying attention. So, you let your employer choose their default fund for you.
Your next job was at the local café, bringing in some extra money as you completed the final year of your degree. Again, you decided your employer knew what was best when it came to super, so they opened another account on your behalf.
You then began a corporate job with benefits and everything! You were so caught up in the excitement of meeting new people and the future possibilities that you gave Payroll the reigns to establish a new super fund account for you.
Does this resonate with you? It’s a common story for many Australians. As we progress through our career journeys, we give birth to multiple super fund accounts along the way. In doing so, we allow multiple account fees and insurance premiums to eat way at our hard-earned savings!
Do yourself a favour and combine all your super accounts into one today. One account is all you need. Don’t know where to start? You can start by finding any super you’ve lost track of by using the ATO’s online services through myGov.
2. Make additional personal contributions
Research shows that based on the current employer compulsory contribution rate of 9.5%, most Australians won’t have enough savings at retirement. This leaves us with two choices: accept a lower living standard in retirement or boost our savings through additional contributions.
I’ve grown accustomed to a certain standard of living and my ability to change is likely to decrease even more by the time I hit retirement age, so I choose the latter.
If you can afford it, throw in some extra contributions to bump up your retirement savings. You can do this either by pre-tax contributions through your employer or post-tax contributions from your after-tax earnings. The ATO can tell you more about that here.
3. Apply for insurance through your super
Do you currently have insurance cover with your super fund? If so, how much? If you couldn’t answer at least one of those questions, you’re not alone.
Insurance is one of those things that is viewed as too difficult to understand or just another unnecessary expense, so we tend to avoid it altogether. What happens in the unfortunate event that we fall ill and are unable to work for 6 months? It sounds unlikely, but I’ve been there.
You might be lucky enough to already have default insurance with your super, great. Is it enough? Many super funds now offer online tools such as insurance calculators which guide you through choosing the right amount of insurance for your needs.
4. Read your annual member statement
Your member statement isn’t just a pretty piece of paper (or being digital-first, PDF) for the reflex response of “filing away.” Side note: I once had a colleague whose concept of “filing away” meant immediate deletion! It was too funny.
This document you receive from your super fund each year has important need-to-know information that you shouldn’t ignore. Some of this information can be tricky to interpret but at the very least, have a look at your account balance, insurance cover and transactions. Each year, compare it against the year before and take note of the changes.
If you want to deepen your understanding of your member statement, call your super fund and have a chat with their team. That’s what they’re there for!
5. Explore online member education materials
Your super fund is there to serve you, so take advantage of it. If you’re feeling self-conscious about calling your fund to ask your burning questions, then check out their online magazine or blog. Chances are, many of your questions will be answered as you take time to read the educational content curated for that very purpose.
Keep informed, stay educated and watch your financial confidence soar as you take control of your super. Your future self will thank you for it.
Implement these actions today and let me know how you go by leaving a comment! Also, don’t forget to share these useful tips with your social networks.
Oyelola is a freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She works closely with entrepreneurs and businesses in financial services, consulting and education, writing quality-rich content to engage their readers and motivate action. When not writing for clients, Oyelola provides insights on writing, wealth and work on her Phrased with Purpose blog and shares her faith journey on her personal blog, He Speaks, I Write.