Paul Clitheroe
Paul Clitheroe

Think super's boring? You're in for a rough ride

NEXT time you've got a few friends over for a barbecue, try raising the topic of superannuation.

Chances are some people will pour themselves extremely large drinks, others will slip into a type of coma, and some will become extremely absorbed by a spoon or salt shaker.

Personally, I'm a big fan of super but new research shows plenty of Australians don't share my enthusiasm.

According to Suncorp's 'Attitudes to Superannuation' report, two out of five workers have never topped up their super and only one in 10 pay extra into their super each pay day. Almost 45% of people say they find super complicated.

I realise the situation isn't helped by successive governments fiddling with the rules. But the basics of super are quite straightforward.

Super is built up over our working lives from contributions by employers (and hopefully, topped up out of our own pockets) plus investment returns. It's lightly taxed - both to encourage our active contribution towards it and to increase the size of the payout at the end.

Yes, the fine print can be confusing, but the fact is we need super.

Eligibility for the age pension is being pushed out from age 65 to 67 by 1 July 2023. From the start of 2017, changes to the pension assets test will make it harder to receive a part pension.

The bottom line is that we're increasingly expected to fund our own retirement.

Interestingly, Suncorp's survey found 33% of people weren't engaged with their super because it's boring.

However as a colleague of mine who recently turned 50 pointed out, super suddenly becomes a lot more interesting as we age.

The trouble is, ignoring your super for much of your working life makes it a lot harder to grow a decent nest egg later on.

With your annual super statement likely to arrive in the next few weeks, taking a few simple steps can make a valuable difference to your super balance on retirement.

First, check the fund fees you're paying. If you think you're paying too much, consider switching to a low fee MySuper option - most funds offer these.

If you have more than one super fund, think about rolling the balances into a single account. It can save on fees and make it easier to keep track of your super. Be sure to check how this impacts your life cover especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition, which can make it hard to get life insurance with a new fund.

Finally, think about using the new financial year to kick-start some additional super contributions through salary sacrifice. Check out the superannuation calculator on the government's MoneySmart website to see how it can help grow your super.

Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.

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