Archive for 'Super'

Basics of SMSF investing

Posted on 20 January '21 by , under Super. No Comments.

Setting up an SMSF fund is the simplest step. Establishing a fund which delivers you consistent returns from your investments is much more difficult. 

Investing successfully involves determining precise goals and picking investments which will effectively achieve those goals. The advantage of SMSFs is that you can build a portfolio which reflects your short-term and long-term goals in response to changing market conditions.

In an SMSF fund, your investment options are:

  • Australian and international shares (listed and unlisted)
  • Residential or commercial property 
  • Cash and term deposits
  • Fixed income products 
  • Physical commodities
  • Property
  • Collectibles

Before you begin investing, consider what might be the best way to diversify your portfolio. How you portion your investments will depend on your funds, the market, and your goals. Regardless of what your plan is, diversification should be a priority. 

Choosing an SMSF as opposed to an industry or retail super fund provides you with more flexibility, but also with more responsibility. Researching before investing is key if you want the best out of your SMSF. 

Protecting yourself from super scams

Posted on 13 January '21 by , under Super. No Comments.

Superannuation is an attractive target for scammers as a significant volume of funds are placed into super funds by Australians. 

There are some straightforward steps you can take to protect yourself from super scams. 

Know the rules

  • Becoming familiar with the rules surrounding superannuation will alert you against scams which make false claims e.g. offering early access to your super
  • Keep up to date with the relevant authorities and so that you don’t put in your personal information into the wrong websites – always check that relevant institutions have verified their authenticity!

Check your balance and contact details

  • Check what your super balance is on a regular basis – if you notice something that doesn’t quite look right then immediately get into contact with your super fund and ask them about what could have happened.
  • Every once in a while, check that your super fund has the right postal address, email address and mobile number – this will help them get in touch with you if they spot any suspicious activity. 

Stop identity theft

  • Taking the steps to stop identity theft will also help protect your super
  • This does not have to be all too complicated e.g. shred important documents, change passwords every few months, etc.

Finding your lost super

Posted on 6 January '21 by , under Super. No Comments.

Changing of name, address or job can mean that you lose track of some of your super. This means that there is money that belongs to you that is not currently in your super fund. Finding your super will collate your previous lost funds with your current account.

It is likely that your lost super is held by the ATO. Create an account on myGov and link it to the ATO and select ‘Super’. 

Once you have done this, you will be able to see the details of all of your past and current super accounts including any lost or forgotten ones. You will also be able to find funds which have been held by the ATO on your behalf. Further, you will be able to consolidate your super funds into a single fund. 

Once you have found your lost super, remember to conduct research about which fund is providing you with the best returns before you choose which fund to consolidate with. 

Life insurance through your super

Posted on 16 December '20 by , under Super. No Comments.

Over 70% of Australians have life insurance through their super fund. This acts as a financial safety net through your super if something unexpected happens. 

There are 3 main types of life insurance that super funds usually provide:  

  • Life cover: Also known as death cover, this type of insurance pays a lump sum or income stream to beneficiaries when you die or have a terminal illness.
  • TDP (total and permanent disability) insurance: If you become disabled or it is unlikely that you will be able to work again then this insurance will pay you a benefit.
  • Income protection insurance: Also known as salary continuance cover, pays a regular income for a specified period (length of time or up to a certain age) if you are unable to work due to temporary disability or illness.

Pros of life insurance through super

  • Cheaper premiums: Super fund buys insurance policies in bulk so it is cheaper for their customers
  • Easy to pay: Automatically deducted from super’s balance
  • Fewer health checks: Super funds accept default level of cover without health checks – particularly useful if you have a high-risk job or health conditions. But, remember that you should check the product disclosure statement (PDS) to see exclusions and treatment of pre-existing conditions. 
  • Increased cover: You have the flexibility to increase your cover above the default level but you may need to answer some questions about your medical history.
  • Tax-effective payments: Employer’s super contributions and salary sacrifice contributions are taxed at 15% which is lower than the marginal tax rate for most people. 

Cons of life insurance through super 

  • Ends at age 65 or 70: While outside of super, your cover will continue as long as you are paying premiums, but TDP and life insurance tend to end at 65 and 70 respectively. 
  • Limited cover: Since default insurance isn’t specific to your requirements, your cover might be lower than what you would receive outside of your super. 
  • Cover can end: In some cases, changing your super fund can cause your contributions to stop or your super account to become inactive – this will end your cover and you will end up with no insurance.
  • Reduces your super balance: Since premiums are deducted from your super balance, you will have fewer savings for retirement. 

Conditions to accessing your super

Posted on 9 December '20 by , under Super. No Comments.

You may find that accessing your super is the best way to meet your financial needs in a given situation, for example in the early stages of the pandemic. Individuals are able to legally access the funds in their super earlier but there are conditions of release. 

Common conditions of lease:

  • Reaching your preservation age and retiring (preservation age is between 55 and 60, depending on the individual’s date of birth)
  • Reaching preservation age and starting a transition to retirement income stream (TRIS)
  • Ceasing employment once you are 60 or over (even if you don’t retire)
  • Being 65 or over (even if you don’t retire)
  • Death

There are more conditions of release that allow individuals to access their super early:

  • Suffering from financial hardship (more resources due to Covid-19)
  • Compassionate grounds
  • Diagnosed with a terminal medical condition
  • Temporarily/Permanently incapacitated
  • First Home Super Saver Scheme
  • Temporary resident departing Australia
  • If you terminate gainful employment with less than $200 in your super account

Self-managed super funds (SMSF) aren’t just about financial investment

Posted on 2 December '20 by , under Super. No Comments.

Individuals may be looking to opt for an SMSF because these provide entire control over where the money is invested. While this sounds enticing, the downside is that they involve a lot more time and effort as all investment is managed by the members/trustees. 

Firstly, SMSFs require a lot of on-going investment of time:

  • Aside from the initial set-up, members need to continually research potential investments. 
  • It is important to create and follow an investment strategy that will help manage the SMSF – but this will need to be updated regularly depending on the performance of the SMSF.
  • The accounting, record keeping and arranging of audits throughout the year and every year also need to be conducted up to par. 

Data shows that SMSF trustees spend an average of 8 hours per month managing their SMSFs. This adds up to more than 100 hours per year and demonstrates that compared to other superannuation methods, is a lot more time occupying. 

Secondly, there are set-up and maintenance costs of SMSFs such as tax advice, financial advice, legal advice and hiring an accredited auditor. These costs are difficult to avoid if you want the best out of your SMSF. A statistical review has shown that on average, the operating cost of an SMSF is $6,152. This data is inclusive of deductible and non-deductible expenses such as auditor fee, management and administration expenses etc., but not inclusive of costs such as investment and insurance expenses. 

Thirdly, investing in SMSF requires financial and legal knowledge and skill. Trustees should understand the investment market so that they can build and manage a diversified portfolio. Further, when creating an investment strategy, it is important to assess the risk and plan ahead for retirement, which can be difficult if one is not equipped with the necessary knowledge. In terms of legal knowledge, complying with tax, super and other relevant regulations requires a basic level of understanding at the very least. Finally, insurance for fund members also needs to be organised which can be difficult without additional knowledge. 
Although SMSFs have the advantage of autonomy when it comes to investing, this comes at a price. Members/trustees need to invest time and money into managing the fund and on top of this, are required to have some financial and legal knowledge to successfully manage the fund. 

Transition to retirement

Posted on 24 November '20 by , under Super. No Comments.

The transition to retirement (TTR) strategy allows you to access some of your super while you continue to work. 

You are able to use the TTR strategy if you are aged 55 to 60. You can use it to supplement your income if you reduce your work hours or boost your super and save on tax while you keep working full time. 

  • Starting a TTR pension: To start your TTR pension, transfer some of your super to an account-based pension. You have to keep some money in your super account so that you can continue to receive your employer’s compulsory contributions as well as any voluntary contributions you may be making. 
  • Government benefits and TTR: The benefits you or your partner receive might be impacted if you choose to opt for this strategy. How and what exactly will change might become clearer upon discussing this with a Financial Information Service (FIS) officer. 
  • Life insurance and TTR: In some cases, the life insurance cover you have with your super may stop or reduce if you start a TTR pension – check this before making any decisions or changes.

TTR can help ease your mind as you transition into retirement but it can be a bit complex. Before you choose whether you want to use TTR to reduce work hours or save on tax, or even if you want to use TTR altogether, you should figure out how this will impact all aspects of your finances.

Superfund categories and what they mean

Posted on 18 November '20 by , under Super. No Comments.

There are four different categories of super funds. These have different primary features and are more applicable to certain people than they are to others. 

Retail super funds

Anyone can join retail funds. They are mostly run by banks and investment companies:

  • Allow for a wide range of investment options.
  • Financial advisors may recommend this type of fund as they receive commissions or might get paid fees for them.
  • Although they usually range from medium to high cost, there may be low-cost alternatives.
  • The companies that own these funds will aim to keep some of the profit they yield

Industry super funds

Anyone can join bigger industry funds, but smaller ones may only be open to people in certain industries i.e. health.

  • Most are accumulation funds but some older ones may have defined benefit members
  • Range from low to medium cost
  • Not-for-profit, so all profits are put back into the fund

Public sector super funds

Only available for government employees

  • Employers contribute more than the 9.5% minimum
  • Modest range of investment choices
  • Newer members are usually in an accumulation fund, but many of the long-term members have defined benefits
  • Low fees
  • Profits are put back into the fund

Corporate super funds

Arranged by employers for employees. Large companies may operate corporate funds under the board of trustees. Some corporate funds are operated by retail or industry funds, but availability is restricted to employees

  • If managed by bigger fund, wide range of investment options
  • Older funds have defined benefits, but most are accumulation funds
  • Low to medium costs for large employers, could be high cost for small employers

Self-managed super funds

Private super fund you manage yourself. Many more nuances to this type of fund. Most prominent feature is the autonomy over investment. 

What is an annuity?

Posted on 11 November '20 by , under Super. No Comments.

An annuity provides guaranteed income for a number of years, or for the rest of your life. It is also known as a lifetime or fixed-term pension. 

You can buy an annuity from a super fund or life insurance company. You are able to choose whether you want the payments to last for a fixed number of years, your life expectancy, or the rest of your life. 

In order to buy an annuity through your super fund, you must be in the ‘preservation age’ which is between 55 and 60. Additionally. You are required to meet a condition of release e.g. permanently retiring. 

You are also able to buy an annuity in joint names using savings. Through this method, you can split income for tax purposes. If either you or your partner dies, then the survivor has ownership and access to the funds. On the other hand, buying an annuity using a super lump sum can only be in the name of the owner.  

When you buy the annuity, you decide the payment amount you will receive. This can increase each year by a fixed percentage or indexed with inflation. Further, you can also choose if you are paid monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly. There are some conditions the ATO has about minimum annual payments if your annuity is bought with super money e.g. must pay a certain percentage of the balance based on your age. 

You decide what happens with your annuity if you pass away. You can either nominate a reversionary beneficiary or choose a guaranteed period option. A reversionary beneficiary will receive your income payments for the rest of their life, usually at a reduced level. The guaranteed period option will allow your beneficiary to receive their payments as a lump sum or an income stream. 

An annuity will impact your eligibility for the Age Pension as it is accounted for in the income and assets tests which are conducted. You should discuss exactly how the annuity will impact Age Pension entitlement with a Financial Information Service (FIS) officer. 

Super scams: What to look out for

Posted on 5 November '20 by , under Super. No Comments.

The market for super funds is extremely competitive.Scammers take advantage of this by promising unrealistic benefits to acquire personal or account details. They are able to use this information to steal your identity or transfer your super to an account they can access. 

Scammers can approach you in various ways. You could receive a phone call, email or be contacted online. 

This is what you should be weary of: 

  • Advertisements promoting early access to super
  • Offers to ‘take control’ of your super
  • Offers to invest your super in property
  • Offers of quick and easy ways to access or ‘unlock’ super

The best way to spot a scam is to know what the rules about your super fund are. Knowing when you can legally access your super will protect you from false promises. Additionally, the ASIC website lets you check if someone is licensed, if they are not licensed, more likely than not, they should not be trusted. 

If you believe that you’re being targeted by a scam, then rather than simply ignoring approaches and not engaging, you should report the scam. You can do this by calling the ATO or completing the online complaint form on the ASIC website.