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How do I plan for my retirement? Step one – start right away

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p>Planning for retirement is important because it will help you build the nest egg you’ll need to financially sustain your retirement years.</p> <p>Past <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epdf/10.1080/03601277.2012.660859?needAccess=true">studies</a> have shown that those who plan for their retirement are more likely to be better off at retirement compared to those don’t.</p> <p>The sooner the planning process gets underway, the better. This gives your money more time to grow by generating investment returns. And the income from your first job is your first opportunity to save for retirement. As the saying goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”</p> <p>As people <a href="https://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=15601">can expect to live longer</a>, they must save more for retirement so that they don’t outlive their savings. This is particularly true given that the pensions landscape worldwide has undergone some major changes.</p> <p>In the past, governments and employers provided retirement income for individuals through government social security benefits and employment-based retirement funds. Because of increasing life expectancies, pension plans that guaranteed a retirement benefit to employees are now rare. Employees are now responsible for making contributions towards their own pensions as well as choosing the investments offered by the pension fund.</p> <p>Since employers are no longer responsible for funding their employees’ retirement and governments lack resources to provide a universal state pension, each person is ultimately responsible for ensuring they have enough retirement savings. So it’s very important to know the basics of the retirement planning process.</p> <p>As a researcher, I’m interested in how people use financial products to overcome economic challenges and build wealth. One of the things I investigate is whether planning for retirement leads to better retirement outcomes. For instance, my <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bomikazi-Zeka-2/publication/340130176_Retirement_funding_adequacy_in_black_South_African_townships/links/5e8bf3924585150839c6408b/Retirement-funding-adequacy-in-black-South-African-townships.pdf?_sg%5B0%5D=started_experiment_milestone&amp;origin=journalDetail&amp;_rtd=e30%3D">research</a> has found that individuals whose financial affairs are in order are more likely to maintain their standard of living at retirement.</p> <p>Given that everyone’s financial situation is unique, it’s always a good idea to speak to a financial planner for tailored financial advice.</p> <p>If you haven’t given retirement planning much thought or don’t know where to start, here are four points to help get the ball rolling.</p> <h2>What are my retirement goals?</h2> <p>Retirement goals make you think about what you want to achieve by the time you retire and what you need to do to achieve it. Some people may have a goal in mind about when they want to retire, or how much wealth they’d like to have by the time they retire. And since wealth has different meanings for different people, others may think about maintaining or improving their standard of living at retirement.</p> <p>Once you’ve thought about your retirement goals, the <a href="https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/management/smart-goal/">“smart” goals</a> framework is a useful guide. It outlines that goals should be: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.</p> <p>When goals are clear, within reach, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive, they become a blueprint to help you turn them into a reality.</p> <h2>How do I start saving for retirement?</h2> <p>For those who have a job that comes with retirement fund membership, a workplace pension is used to provide for retirement. But there are also other options available to help you save.</p> <p>For instance, retirement annuity funds are voluntary retirement savings. Personal assets such as <a href="https://www.allangray.co.za/what-we-offer/unit-trust-investment/#fund-3">unit trusts</a> or <a href="https://www.gov.za/faq/money-matters/how-can-i-make-tax-free-investment">tax-free investments</a> can also be used as a savings tool. Unit trusts are generally better suited for people willing to take on risk because their value is tied to the movements of financial markets. In other words, they can generate positive returns but they can also lose value. The drawback of tax-free investments in South Africa is that they have a lifetime contribution limit. You can’t use them to save more than R500,000 (US$27,400).</p> <p>Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages and what works best for one person may not be best for another. But there are several ways to save for retirement depending on your financial situation and retirement goals. Getting professional advice will help you determine what’s best for you.</p> <h2>Will my retirement savings be enough?</h2> <p>Once you’ve set your retirement goals and have a retirement savings plan in place, you can calculate whether you are saving enough to achieve your retirement goals.</p> <p>For example, if your retirement goal is: “I want to retire at the age of 65 years with an income equivalent to R35,000 (US$1,900) per month” then you can use a <a href="https://www.sanlam.co.za/tools/Pages/retirement.aspx">retirement calculator</a> to track your progress and determine whether you need to make adjustments to meet your goals.</p> <p>You might have to increase the monthly amount you’re putting away for retirement or reconsider your retirement age. The retirement calculators are also a useful tool for regular check-ins on your progress should your financial situation change – for example, if you change employers and earn a different salary.</p> <h2>What other issues should I consider?</h2> <p>It’s also important to think about your lifestyle and priorities.</p> <p>For instance:</p> <ul> <li> <p>do you aim to retire with your mortgage settled?</p> </li> <li> <p>are there debts you plan to clear before you retire or children who need financial support at retirement?</p> </li> <li> <p>would you like to renovate your home?</p> </li> <li> <p>would you like to buy a new car when you reach retirement age?</p> </li> </ul> <p>Another important consideration is healthcare costs. Many people assume that they will be able to work indefinitely and overlook the fact that healthcare costs may increase with age.</p> <h2>Starting early matters</h2> <p>Many people plan to work after retirement age, while others don’t plan to retire at all. It may be that they can’t afford to. They may have accessed their retirement benefits too soon, made inconsistent retirement fund contributions, or had to pay high administrative costs that eroded the final value of a retirement payout.</p> <p>So best be prepared. Retirement may seem like a distant event to plan and save for, especially when there are more pressing financial needs. It’s important to think about the financial decisions you make now that may cost you in the future. If you start to plan for your retirement now, your future self will thank you for it.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230553/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, Assistant Professor in Finance and Financial Planning, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-do-i-plan-for-my-retirement-step-one-start-right-away-230553">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Retirement Income

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Why millions of Aussies are falling behind on superannuation savings

<p>Millions of Aussies are falling behind on their superannuation savings, with nearly one in two Australians on track for a grim retirement. </p> <p>According to research from superannuation and investments company Vanguard, this huge number of Australians have no idea how much they are playing in fees to their super funds, which can greatly impact how much you have in savings when your retirement day comes. </p> <p>“We are coming up against a stubborn statistic in our retirement research again this year — almost one in two Australians still don’t know what they pay in super fees,” Vanguard Investments Australia managing director Daniel Shrimski said.</p> <p>Also adding to the confusion of how much is needed for comfortable gold year is different companies sharing conflicting numbers on what figures to strive for in your superannuation.</p> <p>Superannuation consultancy company Australian Retirement Trust’s latest research shows the average superannuation balance for someone age 35 to 44 is $92,700, however this should be closer to $156,000 to be on track for a “comfortable retirement”.</p> <p>The average worker aged 55 to 64 has $285,900 in super but a 60-year-old needs close to $453,000 in retirement savings, ART said.</p> <p>“In the past 12 months, only one in five of us has checked our super balance,” Australian Retirement Trust executive general manager Anne Fuchs said, adding 70 per cent of Australians feel they don’t have enough money to retire on.</p> <p>“We talk to members all the time who have reached the end of their working life full of regret, wishing they had done something earlier. Australia has a monster problem whereby not enough of us are engaging with our super."</p> <p>“The earlier you start paying attention and understanding how your money is invested ... then you’ll really be able to finish work and put your feet up.”</p> <p>Financial consultancy Link Wealth director and financial adviser Joshua Lee told <a href="https://7news.com.au/news/new-research-shows-aussie-superannuation-savings-falling-short-of-retirement-needs--c-14507773" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>7News</em></a> that one of the most important tips for Australians is to take notice and understand their superannuation payments and what they pay in fees.</p> <p>“Take notice of what your account is doing,” he said.</p> <p>“Look at your statement when it comes in every year so you can understand what fees are being deducted from your account because that will have an impact on how much money you have come retirement.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p>

Retirement Life

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After a lifetime studying superannuation, here are 5 things I wish I knew earlier

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-thorp-214">Susan Thorp</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Amassing the wealth needed to support retirement by regular saving is a monumental test of personal planning and discipline. Fortunately for most Australian workers, the superannuation system can help.</p> <p>Superannuation uses the carrot of tax incentives, and the sticks of compulsion and limited access, to make us save for retirement.</p> <p>There are benefits to paying timely attention to your super early in your working life to get the most from this publicly mandated form of financial self-discipline.</p> <p>I’ve been researching and thinking about superannuation for most of my career. Here’s what I wish I knew at the beginning of my working life.</p> <h2>1. Check you’re actually getting paid super</h2> <p>First, make sure you are getting your dues.</p> <p>If you are working, your employer must contribute <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/businesses-and-organisations/super-for-employers/paying-super-contributions/how-much-super-to-pay">11% of your earnings</a> into your superannuation account. By July 2025 the rate will increase to 12%.</p> <p>This mandatory payment (the “<a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/tax-rates-and-codes/key-superannuation-rates-and-thresholds/super-guarantee">superannuation guarantee</a>”) may look like yet another tax but it is an important part of your earnings (would you take an 11% pay cut?).</p> <p>It is worth checking on, and worth <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/calculators-and-tools/super-report-unpaid-super-contributions-from-my-employer">reporting</a> if it is not being paid.</p> <p>The Australian Tax Office <a href="https://oia.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2023/05/Impact%20Analysis%20-%20Unpaid%20Superannuation%20Guarantee%20package.pdf">estimates</a> there is a gap between the superannuation employers should pay and what they do pay of around 5% (or $A3.3 billion) every year.</p> <p>Failing to pay is <a href="https://oia.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/posts/2023/05/Impact%20Analysis%20-%20Unpaid%20Superannuation%20Guarantee%20package.pdf">more common</a> among the accommodation, food service and construction industries, as well as small businesses.</p> <p>Don’t take your payslip at face value; cross-check your super account balance and the annual statement from your fund.</p> <h2>2. Have just one super account</h2> <p>Don’t make personal donations to the finance sector by having more than one superannuation account.</p> <p>Two super accounts mean you are donating unnecessary administration fees, possibly redundant insurance premiums and suffering two times the confusion to manage your accounts.</p> <p>The superannuation sector does not need your charity. If you have more than one super account, please consolidate them into just one today. You can do that <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-super-works/consolidating-super-funds">relatively easily</a>.</p> <h2>3. Be patient, and appreciate the power of compound interest</h2> <p>If you’re young now, retirement may feel a very distant problem not worth worrying about until later. But in a few decades you’re probably going to appreciate the way superannuation works.</p> <p>As a person closing in on retirement, I admit I had no idea in my 20s how much my future, and the futures of those close to me, would depend on my superannuation savings.</p> <p>Now I get it! <a href="https://www.nber.org/papers/w27459">Research</a> <a href="https://economics.mit.edu/sites/default/files/publications/pandp.20221022.pdf">shows</a> the strict rules preventing us from withdrawing superannuation earlier are definitely costly to some people in preventing them from spending on things they really need. For many, however, it stops them spending on things that, in retrospect, they would rate as less important.</p> <p>But each dollar we contribute in our 30s is worth around three times the dollars we contribute in our 50s. This is because of the advantages of time and <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/saving/compound-interest">compound interest</a> (which is where you earn interest not just on the money initially invested, but on the interest as well; it’s where you earn “interest on your interest”).</p> <p>For some, adding extra “voluntary” savings can build up retirement savings as a buffer against the periods of unemployment, disability or carer’s leave that most of us experience at some stage.</p> <h2>4. Count your blessings</h2> <p>If you are building superannuation savings, try to remember you’re among the lucky ones.</p> <p>The benefits of super aren’t available to those who can’t work much (or at all). They face a more precarious reliance on public safety nets, like the Age Pension.</p> <p>So aim to maintain your earning capacity, and pay particular attention to staying employable if you take breaks from work.</p> <p>What’s more, superannuation savings are invested by (usually) skilled professionals at rates of return hard for individual investors to achieve outside the system.</p> <p>Many larger superannuation funds offer members types of investments – such as infrastructure projects and commodities – that retail investors can’t access.</p> <p>The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) also <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/industries/superannuation">checks</a> on large funds’ investment strategies and performance.</p> <h2>5. Tough decisions lie ahead</h2> <p>The really hard work is ahead of you. The saving or “accumulation” phase of superannuation is mainly automatic for most workers. Even a series of non-decisions (defaults) will usually achieve a satisfactory outcome. A little intelligent activity will do even better.</p> <p>However, at retirement we face the challenge of making that accumulated wealth cover our needs and wants over an uncertain number of remaining years. We also face variable returns on investments, a likely need for aged care and, in many cases, declining cognitive capacity.</p> <p>It’s helpful to frame your early thinking about superannuation as a means to support these critical decades of consumption in later life.</p> <p>At any age, when we review our financial management and think about what we wish we had known in the past, we should be realistic. Careful and conscientious people still make mistakes, procrastinate and suffer from bad luck. So if your super isn’t where you had hoped it would be by now, don’t beat yourself up about it. <!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/217922/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/susan-thorp-214">Susan Thorp</a>, Professor of Finance, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-sydney-841">University of Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/after-a-lifetime-studying-superannuation-here-are-5-things-i-wish-i-knew-earlier-217922">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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It’s not just about accumulating super. Australians need to learn how to spend their retirement savings

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-olynyk-1493791">Marc Olynyk</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p>Australia’s superannuation and retirement income system is complex and difficult to navigate.</p> <p>Retirees need to make decisions on numerous issues where they have less than full information and understanding, both financial and non-financial. They also require access to retirement products to help them manage and balance income needs against longevity risk.</p> <p>Recognising these issues, the government released a <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2023-441613">discussion paper</a> this month seeking views on three key issues:</p> <ol> <li> <p>helping super fund members navigate the retirement income system</p> </li> <li> <p>supporting superannuation funds to deliver better services</p> </li> <li> <p>making retirement income products more accessible.</p> </li> </ol> <p>Australia has one of the largest and most sophisticated pension systems in the world. Valued at more than <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/quarterly-superannuation-statistics">A$3.5 trillion</a> as at September 2023, and is the <a href="https://www.thinkingaheadinstitute.org/research-papers/global-pension-assets-study-2023/">5th largest pension scheme</a> in terms of asset size.</p> <p>It is also the <a href="https://www.mercer.com/insights/investments/market-outlook-and-trends/mercer-cfa-global-pension-index/">5th most highly rated retirement income system</a> internationally behind the Netherlands, Iceland, Denmark and Israel.</p> <h2>What is wrong with the super system?</h2> <p>But while the super system ranks highly in terms of integrity and sustainability, the numbers are not as flattering when it comes to “adequacy”.</p> <p>Adequacy is the level of income available to retirees depending on their different circumstances. According to a recent <a href="https://www.mercer.com/insights/investments/market-outlook-and-trends/mercer-cfa-global-pension-index/">study</a>, Australia is ranked 20th out of 47 worldwide on the adequacy index.</p> <p><a href="https://www.investmentmagazine.com.au/2023/02/purpose-of-super-law-to-herald-tax-reform/">Reform</a> in the <em>pre-retirement</em> phase of Australia’s retirement income scheme is ongoing and designed to support accumulating wealth for retirement.</p> <p>These ongoing reforms have been designed to make superannuation easier to understand and to reduce much of the decision making required. They’ve been needed because of an apparent lack of skills, interest and financial literacy among Australians.</p> <p>While the message that we need to save to be comfortable in retirement is getting through, the lack of information about how to manage these savings once we retire means many retirees are left to navigate the complex system as best they can.</p> <p>Given the complexity and volatility of Australia’s financial system, it’s hardly surprising many of the decisions made by retirees don’t produce the best financial results. For example, more than <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2023-441613">84%</a> of retirement savings are held in account-based pensions which, if not properly managed, can run out. This is despite government and community awareness that outliving your savings is a real possibility.</p> <p>About 50% of retirees currently withdraw at the minimum pension rate, which means many people experience a lower standard of living than what would normally be expected with the super they have accumulated. This can result in wealth not being used and instead being passed on to the next generation.</p> <h2>Help is needed now because the retiree sector is booming</h2> <p>Over the next decade there is going to be a big increase in the number of people retiring and transitioning from the accumulation phase of their super to the pension phase. It’s estimated <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2023-441613">2.5 million</a> Australians will move to the retirement phase in this period.</p> <p>Following the 2014 <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/publication/c2014-fsi-final-report">Financial System Inquiry</a>, the government introduced the <a href="http://www5.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/sia1993473/s52.html">Retirement Income Covenant</a> in 2022 to force super fund trustees to develop a strategy that would provide better retirement outcomes for their members.</p> <p>The strategy is based on retirees maximising their expected retirement income, managing expected risks to their retirement income and having flexible access to super funds during their retirement.</p> <p>A 2022-23 review conducted by <a href="https://asic.gov.au/regulatory-resources/find-a-document/reports/rep-766-implementation-of-the-retirement-income-covenant-findings-from-the-apra-and-asic-thematic-review/">Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission</a> found while trustees were providing more help to retirees, overall there was a lack of progress and urgency among trustees to improve retirement outcomes.</p> <h2>How the system could be improved</h2> <p>Several proposals have been put forward to improve the experiences and decision-making of retirees. These have included:</p> <ul> <li> <p>improved support from and education by superannuation fund trustees</p> </li> <li> <p>changing how people view their super savings from an accumulation of wealth to a system that enables drawdown of retirement savings over time to fund expenses.</p> </li> <li> <p>providing an automatic rollover of retirement savings into an income-stream instead of allowing a lump sum withdrawal on retirement</p> </li> <li> <p>expanding existing income products (that are starting to be offered by several financial institutions) which combine providing investment choice with a pension for life</p> </li> <li> <p>setting up a MyRetire product that would run parallel to <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/programs-and-initiatives-superannuation/mysuper">MySuper</a> and provide a simple and cost-effective retirement income system for less engaged members. MySuper only applies to the accumulation phase. Once a member starts an income stream in retirement, their MySuper account ceases</p> </li> <li> <p>improving access to financial planning advice which is shown to play a significant role in preparing Australians for retirement.</p> </li> </ul> <p>The government, superannuation industry and the community all have a greater role to play in improving the financial outcomes and experiences of retirees.</p> <p>With Australia’s ageing population, the need to better support retirees to achieve a dignified retirement is becoming more urgent.</p> <p>All Australians expect and deserve a financially secure retirement.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/219217/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/marc-olynyk-1493791"><em>Marc Olynyk</em></a><em>, Director of Financial Planning, Deakin Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/deakin-university-757">Deakin University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/its-not-just-about-accumulating-super-australians-need-to-learn-how-to-spend-their-retirement-savings-219217">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Not all beer and pokies: what Australians did with their super when COVID struck

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-wang-ly-1380895">Nathan Wang-Ly</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ben-newell-46">Ben Newell</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>What happens when people withdraw their retirement savings early?</p> <p>We’ve just found out.</p> <p>During the first year of COVID Australians who faced a 20% decline in their working hours (or turnover for sole traders) or were made unemployed or were on benefits were permitted to take out up to <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Super/In-detail/Withdrawing-and-using-your-super/COVID-19-early-release-of-super-(closed-31-December-2020)/">A$10,000</a> of their super between April and June 2020, and a further $10,000 between July and December.</p> <p>Five million took up the offer. They withdrew <a href="https://www.apra.gov.au/covid-19-early-release-scheme-issue-36">$36 billion</a>.</p> <p>Most of those surveyed by the Institute of Family Studies said they used the money to cover <a href="https://aifs.gov.au/sites/default/files/publication-documents/2108_6_fias_superannuation_0.pdf">immediate expenses</a>. But definitions of “immediate” can vary.</p> <p>Real time transaction card data appeared to show early withdrawers boosted their spending by an average of <a href="https://www.illion.com.au/buy-now-pay-later-winner-of-stimulus/">$3,000</a> in the fortnight after they got the money.</p> <p><a href="https://www.stptax.com/emergency-super-withdrawal-spent-on-pokies-beer-and-uber-eats/">One interpretation</a> said they spent the money on “beer, wine, pokies, and takeaway food, rather than mortgages, bills, car debts, and clothes”.</p> <p>In order to get a more complete picture, we obtained access to millions of anonymised transaction records of customers of Australia’s largest bank, the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0313592622001060?via%3Dihub#bfn3">Commonwealth Bank</a>.</p> <p>The data included 1.54 million deposits likely to have been money withdrawn through the scheme including 1.04 million we are fairly confident did.</p> <h2>Who dipped into super?</h2> <p>The data provided by the bank allows us to compare circumstances of withdrawers and non-withdrawers including their age, time with the bank, and banking behaviour before COVID.</p> <p>We find withdrawers tended to be younger and in poorer financial circumstances than non-withdrawers before the pandemic. Six in ten of the withdrawers were under the age of 35, a finding consistent with data reported by the <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-25/coronavirus-early-access-superannuation-young-people/12282546">Australian Taxation Office</a>.</p> <p>Withdrawers tended to earn less than non-withdrawers, even non-withdrawers of the same age. Only 17% of withdrawers for whom we could identify an income earned more than $60,000 compared with 26% of non-withdrawers. And withdrawers had lower median bank balances ($618 versus $986).</p> <p>For those with credit cards and home loans, withdrawers were about twice as likely to be behind on repayments as non-withdrawers (9.7% versus 5.8% for credit cards, and 8.2% versus 3.4% for home loans).</p> <p>These characteristics suggest that, despite concerns of the scheme being exploited due to the application process <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-03/-are-people-being-allowed-to-access-their-super-without-scrutiny/12618002">not requiring any documentation</a>, most of those using the scheme genuinely needed the money.</p> <h2>Where did the money go?</h2> <p>Compared to non-withdrawers, those who withdrew increased their spending (on both essential and discretionary items), paid back high-interest debts, boosted their savings, and became less likely to miss debt payments.</p> <p>Withdrawers spent an average of $331 more per month on debit cards in the three months after withdrawal, and $126 per month in the following three months.</p> <p>They spent an extra $117 per month on credit cards during the first three months, which shrank to an extra $13 per month in the following three months.</p> <p>The average withdrawer spent 7% more per month on groceries than the average age and income matched non-withdrawer, 12% more on utilities such as gas and electricity, 16% more on discretionary shopping, and 20% more on “entertainment,” a Commonwealth Bank category that includes gambling.</p> <h2>Less debt, less falling behind</h2> <p>In the three months that followed withdrawing, withdrawers also averaged $437 less credit card debt and $431 less personal loan debt than age and income matched non-withdrawers, differences that shrank to $301 and $351 in the following three months.</p> <p>They also became less likely to fall behind on credit card and personal loan payments, a difference that vanished after three months.</p> <p>Our interpretation is that the scheme achieved its intended purpose: it provided many Australians in need with a financial lifeline and helped buoy them during uncertain and turbulent times.</p> <h2>Lessons learned</h2> <p>At the same time, our <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0313592622001060?via%3Dihub#bfn3">findings</a> identify areas of concern. The fact that most withdrawals were for the permitted maximum of $10,000 highlights the need to carefully consider the withdrawal limit.</p> <p>While these sums might simply reflect the true amount of money individuals needed to sustain themselves, it might be that many withdrawers were unsure of how much to <a href="https://cepar.edu.au/sites/default/files/Determinants%20of%20Early%20Access%20to%20Retirement%20Savings_Lessons%20from%20the%20COVID19%20Pandemic_BatemanDobrescuLiuNewellThorp_July21.pdf">withdraw</a> – not knowing how long the pandemic would continue.</p> <p>Another consideration is how to best support withdrawers after they have taken out the money. More than half were under the age of 35, and might find themselves with a good deal less super than they would have in retirement.</p> <p>The government has already introduced <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/super/apra-regulated-funds/in-detail/apra-resources/re-contribution-of-covid-19-early-release-super-amounts/">tax concessions</a> for withdrawers who contribute funds back into their retirement savings accounts. Super funds might also be able to help, by sending targeted messages to those who have withdrawn.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/190911/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/nathan-wang-ly-1380895"><em>Nathan Wang-Ly</em></a><em>, PhD Student, School of Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ben-newell-46">Ben Newell</a>, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/not-all-beer-and-pokies-what-australians-did-with-their-super-when-covid-struck-190911">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Women and low-income earners miss out in a superannuation system most Australians think is unfair

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/antonia-settle-1019551">Antonia Settle</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>Most Australians think the superannuation system is unfair, with only one in three agreeing the retirement savings scheme is fair for most Australians, according to a survey conducted for the University of Melbourne.</p> <p>In fact, only about half of those <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/publications/research-insights/search/result?paper=4630688">surveyed</a> agreed superannuation works well for them.</p> <p>These results contradict a conventional view based on earlier studies and held by academics and many in the personal finance sector, that Australians give little thought to superannuation.</p> <p>A 2013 survey found Australians have <a href="https://search.informit.org/doi/abs/10.3316/INFORMIT.285049750322819">poor knowledge</a> of how the superannuation system works, while another study in 2022 highlighted <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/4382057/HILDA_Statistical_Report_2022.pdf">low financial literacy</a> in general.</p> <p>Australians also showed <a href="https://behaviouraleconomics.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/projects/retirement-planning-saving-attitudes_0_0.pdf">little interest in superannuation</a>, according to a 2020 Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet survey, with few Australians showing interest in reading their superannuation statements, choosing their fund or making voluntary contributions.</p> <p>With Australian households seen as uninformed and uninterested, their opinions tend to be left out of the public debate. We hear much about the gender pension gap, for example, but little about what women actually think about superannuation.</p> <p>Similarly, the distribution of tax advantage in superannuation is hotly debated by economists but survey data tends to refrain from asking households what they think about equity in the superannuation system.</p> <p>The University of Melbourne survey of 1,003 Australians was undertaken by Roy Morgan Research in April.</p> <p>Its results show women and low-income households are widely seen as disadvantaged in the superannuation system.</p> <p>In fact, only one in five Australians see the superannuation system as well suited to the needs of women and of low-income households, while 70% believe super favours wealthy households.</p> <p><iframe id="5VX3K" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/5VX3K/1/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>This suggests although Australians may show little interest in the management of their super accounts and may report they find the system confusing or even <a href="https://www.professionalplanner.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Attitudes-to-Super-Report-May-2016.pdf">boring</a>, they are surprisingly aware of how superannuation is distributed.</p> <h2>Women, singles and low-income earners miss out</h2> <p>The federal government’s 2020 <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/publication/p2020-100554">Retirement Income Review</a> documents these gaps. Renters, women, uncoupled households and those on low-incomes fare poorly in the retirement income system.</p> <p>With little super to supplement the public pension, these groups are vastly over-represented in elderly poverty statistics, which are among the <a href="https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/d76e4fad-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/d76e4fad-en">highest in the OECD</a>.</p> <p>Mirroring the gaps in the superannuation system reported by the review, the University of Melbourne survey shows that it is outright homeowners and those who are married who believe the superannuation system works well.</p> <p>Concerns the system works poorly for women and low-income households are strongest among women and low-income households. Only one in three renters believe the superannuation system meets their needs.</p> <p><iframe id="N9GO6" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/N9GO6/1/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>This suggests individuals’ concerns about fairness in the superannuation system are driven by their own experiences of disadvantage, regardless of financial literacy.</p> <p>This is consistent with my own <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13563467.2023.2195159">research</a> into household attitudes to superannuation, which showed some resentment among women who were well aware their male partners had substantially higher superannuation balances than them.</p> <p>This all matters for policymakers.</p> <h2>Why public perceptions are important</h2> <p>In the short term, these results suggest public support for making super fairer is likely to be stronger than previously thought. Recent government changes to tax concessions on large balances, for example, could have gone much further without losing support from the 70% of households that think the system favours the wealthy.</p> <p>But it matters for the longer term too.</p> <p>Public perceptions of fairness, effectiveness and efficiency are crucial to policy sustainability. This is well established in the academic literature from <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/spol.12683">B Ebbinghaus</a>, 2021 and <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1911-3838.12171">H Chung et al.</a>, and accepted by the Retirement Income Review.</p> <p>The review assessed the public’s confidence in the system to both “deliver an adequate retirement income for them(selves) and (to) generate adequate outcomes across society”.</p> <p>As the review makes clear, the system must avoid a loss of public confidence from perceptions of unfairness.</p> <p>Yet perceptions of unfairness are exactly what the University of Melbourne results suggest. This would have been clearer to policymakers if they asked earlier.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/207633/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/antonia-settle-1019551">Antonia Settle</a>, Academic (McKenzie Postdoctoral Research Fellow), <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/women-and-low-income-earners-miss-out-in-a-superannuation-system-most-australians-think-is-unfair-207633">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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How to double your money just by shopping during Super-September

<p>Did you know you can effortlessly boost your retirement savings simply by shopping – no strings attached? It might sound too good to be true, but thanks to <a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Super-Rewards</a>, a leading cashback provider, this is now a reality. And what's more the process is free, with no ongoing costs, and is incredibly simple.</p> <p>Super-Rewards, a widely recognised program in the industry, operates much like typical cashback programs – but with one key difference: instead of receiving cash in your pocket immediately, your earnings are <a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">directed into your superannuation fund</a> for later use. </p> <p>The best part? There are no fees or hidden costs; it's essentially free money when you shop at one of Super-Rewards' 500 <a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC/category/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">online partner stores</a> or 1,000 <a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC/category/instore/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">physical stores</a> across the country – including big names like Apple, Catch, eBay, EnergyAustralia, Virgin Australia, The Good Guys, Petbarn, Big W, Appliances Online, BWS, Adore Beauty and more.</p> <p>Spanning categories like food and drink, health, automotive, clothing, beauty and more, you are literally being paid towards your retirement just for doing the shopping you were going to do anyway.</p> <p>The beauty of Super-Rewards <a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC/how-it-works/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">lies in its versatility</a>; you can link your cashback to any super account with ease. All you need to do is shop through the Super-Rewards app, website, or in-store, using their browser extension.</p> <p>"Boosting your super contributions has never been more crucial, especially in light of recent ASFA research showing an increase in retirement living costs," says Pascale Helyar-Moray, CEO of Super-Rewards.</p> <p>Super-Rewards presents a simple and effective solution for accumulating wealth in your super through everyday spending.</p> <p>"Whether you're male or female, employed or not, earning super has never been this straightforward," adds Helyar-Moray. "Super-Rewards is a 'set and forget' strategy for wealth-building, accessible to all Australians. It's incredibly user-friendly."</p> <p>And now Super-Rewards has launched <a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">"Super-September"</a>, during which users can earn a $10 bonus in their Super-Rewards account once they accumulate $10 in cashback between September 1st and October 31st. This offer is open to all Super-Rewards users, and cashback from all Super-Rewards retailers, both online and in-store, is eligible.</p> <p>Helyar-Moray explains, "We want to reward users with $10 for making responsible super contributions through Super-Rewards. While immediate cashback might be tempting, we understand that money spent today can't grow. Our mission is to foster responsible and sustainable wealth creation; we're excited to reward prudent super behaviour by contributing to our users' superannuation accounts."</p> <p>“This is about being smart in how you spend your money. You’re already buying groceries with MILKRUN, purchasing pet food at Petbarn, acquiring appliances at The Good Guys. It’s a no-brainer; you’re undertaking these activities anyway so you may as well be rewarded into your super for doing so, and let the power of compound interest help create a more financially secure retirement for you. It’s super – easy.”</p> <p><a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Super-Rewards</a> app is available for download on both the App Store and Google Play.</p> <p><em>This is a sponsored article produced in partnership with <a href="https://go.linkby.com/SNUFMPYC" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Super-Rewards</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Are bigger super funds better? Actually no, despite what the industry is doing

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/geoff-warren-3657">G<em>eoff Warren</em></a><em>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a></em></p> <p>Australia’s superannuation funds are getting bigger – and fewer. There were <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/aug/29/australian-superannuation-mergers-cut-number-of-funds-by-half-in-a-decade">close to 400</a> funds in 2010. With mergers, it’s now <a href="https://www.investordaily.com.au/superannuation/53144-are-mega-funds-poised-to-dominate-the-super-industry">closer to 120</a>. By 2025, according to industry executives surveyed last year, there will be <a href="https://www.investordaily.com.au/superannuation/50971-rise-of-mega-funds-set-to-intensify-erasing-100-funds-by-2025">fewer than 50</a>.</p> <p>The portfolios of the two biggest super funds, AustralianSuper and Australian Retirement Trust, are bigger than even the federal government’s Future Fund Management Agency, which oversees the A$194 billion <a href="https://yearinreviewfy22.futurefund.gov.au/performance-results.html">Future Fund</a> and several other funds worth a total $242 billion.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="0wOBb" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/0wOBb/5/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Underpinning this consolidation is the idea that larger scale is beneficial for superannuation fund members. But that’s not necessarily true. A bigger fund is no guarantee of better returns.</p> <p>I’ve examined the issue of fund scale with Scott Lawrence, an investment manager with 35 year’s industry experience. Together we’ve written <a href="https://theconexusinstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Does-Size-Benefit-Super-Fund-Members-24-March-2023.pdf">a report</a> for the Conexus Institute, an independent research centre focused on superannuation issues.</p> <p>Our conclusion: funds, large and small alike, succeed or fail depending on how well they formulate and execute their strategies.</p> <h2>Managing assets in-house</h2> <p>The first potential benefit of bigger size is that funds can manage assets using their own dedicated investment professionals, rather than outsourcing everything to external investment managers to invest on their behalf.</p> <p>For example, UniSuper (the higher education industry fund) manages <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/investments/how-we-invest/investment-managers">70% of assets in-house</a>. AustralianSuper, with more than double UniSuper’s assets, manages <a href="https://www.australiansuper.com/-/media/australian-super/files/about-us/annual-reports/2022-annual-report.pdf">53% of assets</a> in-house.</p> <p>This can be cheaper than paying fees as a percentage of assets to these external providers. It offers more control as the super fund can decide the assets in which they invest, rather than leaving the decision to someone else.</p> <p>But fund members will only benefit if the internal team makes investment decisions that are as good as the service they are replacing. For this reason, there is no reliable correlation between performance and degree of in-house management.</p> <h2>Investing in big-ticket items</h2> <p>The second potential benefit is it becomes more possible to become successful direct investors in “big ticket” assets such as infrastructure and property, instead of just focusing on shares and other assets traded on stock exchanges.</p> <p>For example, AustralianSuper owns <a href="https://www.australiansuper.com/-/media/australian-super/files/about-us/media-releases/australiansuper-increases-investment-in-westconnex.pdf">20.5% of WestConnex</a>, Australia’s biggest infracture project, having contributed $4.2 billion to the consortium that is building the mostly underground toll-road system linking western Sydney motorways.</p> <p>Opportunities like this are easier to access by large funds, and can help to diversify their portfolios.</p> <p>But such direct investment is costlier than buying shares and bonds. This limits the potential for fee reductions.</p> <p>For members to benefit, these investments must deliver attractive returns. This requires a fund developing capability in what are specialised markets. Size alone won’t deliver on its own.</p> <h2>Economies of scale and scope</h2> <p>The third potential benefit is that size brings economies of scale and scope.</p> <p>Scale can reduce fees, by spreading the fund’s fixed costs over a larger member base.</p> <p>Our review of the research literature confirms there are solid reasons to expect administration costs to reduce with size, as well as in-house management reducing investment costs.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="26cxr" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/26cxr/3/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <p>Economies of scope involve an organisation being able to improve or increase services, say by investing in better systems and more staff.</p> <p>But investing in better systems also brings potential pitfalls. Big visionary projects tend to run over time and over budget, and sometimes fail.</p> <p>An example is the disastrous attempts of five industry funds (AustralianSuper, Cbus Super, HESTA, Hostplus and MTAA Super) to develop a shared administration platform, called Superpartners. It was meant to cost $70 million, but development costs blew out to $250 million before <a href="https://www.investmentmagazine.com.au/2016/12/link-group-completes-superpartners-integration/">they gave up</a>.</p> <h2>Size brings its own challenges</h2> <p>Large funds also face some unique challenges. Because they have more money to invest, they have more work to do in finding sufficient attractive assets to buy.</p> <p>The risk is they need to accept some assets offering low returns to do so. They can also outgrow some market segments, such as owning shares in smaller companies.</p> <p>Large organisations are typically more complex, more bureaucratic and less flexible. They can find it difficult to coordinate staff to work towards a common purpose. These elements may create dysfunction if not managed.</p> <p>This may explain why, despite the potential increased scope of their offerings, surveys suggest large funds tend to deliver <a href="https://www.investmentmagazine.com.au/2022/08/members-willing-to-pay-for-better-service-post-retirement/">less personalised service</a>.</p> <p>So the idea “bigger is better” is not necessarily true. Large size is not an automatic win. Whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and challenges ultimately depends on fund trustees and management doing their jobs well so that members benefit.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/203417/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/geoff-warren-3657">Geoff Warren</a>, Associate Professor, College of Business and Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/australian-national-university-877">Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/are-bigger-super-funds-better-actually-no-despite-what-the-industry-is-doing-203417">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Government will require bosses to pay workers their super on payday

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michelle-grattan-20316">Michelle Grattan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p>A government change requiring superannuation to be paid on payday could mean a young employee will be several thousand dollars better off by retirement.</p> <p>The reform – which will not come in until July 1 2026 – will benefit the retirement incomes of millions of Australians, according to Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones.</p> <p>They give the example of a 25-year-old median income earner presently receiving their super quarterly and their wages each fortnight, who could be about $6000 (or 1.5%) better off when they retire.</p> <p>The ministers argue there will be benefits to bosses, as well as to the workers, in the change. “More frequent super payments will make employers’ payroll management smoother with fewer liabilities building up on their books.”</p> <p>They say payday super will mean employees can keep track of the payments more easily and it will be more difficult for disreputable employers to exploit them.</p> <p>“While most employers do the right thing, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) estimates $3.4 billion worth of super went unpaid in 2019-20.”</p> <p>The ATO will get extra resourcing to help it detect unpaid super payments earlier. Treasury and the ATO will consult stakeholders on the changes later this year.</p> <p>The ministers say the July 1 2026 start will give employers, superannuation funds, payroll providers and other parts of the superannuation system enough time to get ready for the change.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/204759/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michelle-grattan-20316">Michelle Grattan</a>, Professorial Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/government-will-require-bosses-to-pay-workers-their-super-on-payday-204759">original article</a>.</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Super has become a taxpayer-funded inheritance scheme for the rich. Here’s how to fix it – and save billions

<p>Australia’s A$3.3 trillion superannuation system is supposed to boost people’s retirement incomes. The government says as much in its <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2023-02/c2023-361383.pdf">proposed leglislated objective</a> for superannuation. The system is supported by billions of dollars of tax breaks each year, ostensibly to that end. </p> <p>But there’s just one problem – increasingly, much of what is saved is never spent.</p> <p>Our new report, <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/report/super-savings-practical-policies-for-fairer-superannuation-and-a-stronger-budget">Super savings: Practical policies for fairer superannuation and a stronger budget</a>, points out that without an overhaul, super tax breaks are set to do little more than boost the inheritances of Australians with well-off parents. </p> <p>Super contributions and super earnings are both taxed more lightly than other income. These tax breaks cost the budget about $45 billion (2% of Australia’s gross domestic product, or GDP) each year.</p> <p>Treasury predicts that figure will hit 3% of GDP by 2060, and that the cost of super tax breaks will overtake the cost of the age pension by as soon as 2036.</p> <p>Super tax breaks are also unfair: about two-thirds go to the top 20% of earners. </p> <p>This means the tax breaks provide the biggest boost to the super accounts of high earners, who will almost all have a comfortable retirement regardless, and who tend to save the same regardless of the tax rate imposed. </p> <p>The wealthiest 10% of Australians get a bigger boost to their retirement savings from super tax breaks than poorer Australians get from the age pension.</p> <p>But much of what is saved for retirement never actually gets spent in retirement. </p> <p>Earlier research by <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/news/balancing-act/">Grattan Institute</a> and the <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-02/p2020-100554-udcomplete-report.pdf">2020 Retirement Income Review</a> found that, for a variety of reasons, spending falls substantially during retirement. Retirees often end up leaving much of their nest egg untouched, bequeathing it to their children.</p> <p>This means billions of dollars in super tax breaks simply end up boosting the inheritances received by the children of well-off parents. It makes super a taxpayer-funded inheritance scheme. </p> <p>This problem is set to get worse. With the rate of compulsory superannuation legislated to rise from 10.5% of wages to 12% by 2025, future generations of retirees are set to retire with even larger nest eggs that they will never spend. </p> <p>Treasury projects that by 2059, one in every three dollars paid out of the super system will be a bequest, up from one in every five today.</p> <p>Big inheritances boost the jackpot from the birth lottery. They help richer children get richer. Among the Australians who received an inheritance over the past decade, the wealthiest fifth received on average <a href="https://grattan.edu.au/news/the-great-australian-nightmare/">three times</a> as much as the poorest fifth.</p> <p>To help reverse this, the government needs to rein in the super tax breaks.</p> <h2>How to make super fairer</h2> <p>The government’s policy, <a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/jim-chalmers-2022/media-releases/superannuation-tax-breaks">announced in February</a>, of taxing the earnings on balances bigger than $3 million at 30%, instead of 15%, will help. </p> <p>But the threshold ought to be lowered to $2 million. Balances between $2 million and $3 million are very unlikely to be spent in retirement, so winding back tax breaks on earnings on balances bigger than $2 million would further wind back taxpayer-funded bequests. </p> <p>And there’s more. Currently, many wealthier Australians receive a larger tax break per dollar contributed to super than many low income earners. </p> <p>Yet low earners have more to be compensated for. Putting money into their super cuts their age pension in retirement, and they live shorter lives, meaning less time to enjoy their super in retirement.</p> <p>The pre-tax contributions of people earning more than $220,000 a year should be taxed at 35%, instead of the 30% charged to those earning more than $250,000 currently. That would still offer a 10% tax break on super contributions for high earners (given the top marginal rate of 45%) and at least a 15% break on the contributions of low and middle earners. </p> <p>And the annual pre-tax contributions cap should be lowered from $27,500 to $20,000. Contributions above this level tend to be made by people close to retirement with already-high balances.</p> <h2>Tax earnings in retirement the same as while working</h2> <p>On the earnings side, the tax-free earnings enjoyed by retirees on their first $1.7 million ($1.9 million from 1 July this year) of their super should go.</p> <p>Superannuation earnings in retirement should be taxed at 15%, the same as superannuation earnings before retirement. This would save the budget at least $5.3 billion a year, and much more in future, and make taxing super more simple.</p> <p>More than 70% of this revenue would come from the top 20% of retirees. The top 10% would pay an extra $7,000 to $7,500 a year on average, whereas the poorest half would no more than $200 more each.</p> <p>Both sides of politics say they agree that super shouldn’t be a taxpayer-funded inheritance scheme. But there’s a long way to go before that vision is reality.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/super-has-become-a-taxpayer-funded-inheritance-scheme-for-the-rich-heres-how-to-fix-it-and-save-billions-202948" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Retirement Income

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Should I put more money into my super? What are the benefits and can I take it out before retirement if I need it?

<p>Superannuation is never far from the headlines lately, with the government recently calling for <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2023-361383">views</a> from the public on what the objective of super should be. </p> <p>The basic idea behind super is you set aside a portion of your pay over your working life, so you can build up a nest egg to see you through your retirement years. </p> <p>But what if you’re worried you might not have enough super by the time you retire? Yes, you could top up your super now and watch the nest egg grow through the magic of <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/saving/compound-interest">compound returns</a>– but what are the downsides?</p> <p>If you’re considering putting more money into your super, and want to know more about how the whole system works, here are the basics.</p> <h2>What are the rules about putting more money into my super?</h2> <p>First, make sure you know where your superannuation actually is and how much you’ve got so far. This <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/forms/searching-for-lost-super/">page</a> from the Australian Tax Office explains how to search for any lost super.</p> <p>The next thing to know is there are <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/super/in-detail/growing-your-super/super-contributions---too-much-can-mean-extra-tax/?page=2#Understanding_contribution_caps">limits</a> to how much you can contribute into superannuation. </p> <p>There are two types of super contributions you can make.</p> <p>The first category is called “<a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/grow-your-super/super-contributions">concessional contributions</a>”. These are taxed at 15%, which may be lower than the tax you’d otherwise have to pay on that money. So making these super top-ups can not only grow your nest egg, but save you tax.</p> <p>The amount of concessional contributions you can make is A$27,500 per annum. That figure includes all the super your employer puts in your super account and any extra contributions you make under a salary sacrifice scheme or where you are claiming an income tax deduction.</p> <p>The second category, known as “non-concessional contributions”, means money you pay into your super withoutclaiming a tax deduction. This could be, for example, money from savings, an inheritance or a lottery win.</p> <p>There is a limit of $330,000 over three years (or $110,000 per year), for these contributions.</p> <h2>What are the benefits of topping up my super?</h2> <p>Two words: compound returns.</p> <p>Compound returns are where you earn returns not only on the original investment you put in, but also on any returns on that investment. As the government’s <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/saving/compound-interest">Moneysmart</a> website puts it, “you get interest on your interest”.</p> <p>Over the years, this means you could earn a lot more than you would if you didn’t top up your super. </p> <p>How much more? Well, it depends on the investment return and fees of your fund.</p> <p>But as an example: thanks to compound returns, putting an extra $100 per month into your super from age 30 could <a href="https://www.calc.help/industrysuper/add-extra-to-your-super">mean you retire</a> with an extra $65,000 in your account (here, I’ve assumed investment returns of 7.5%, accumulation inflation of 4% and salary inflation of 4%).</p> <p>And the longer it is there, the more it will grow – so starting top-ups early might pay off. </p> <p>This is particularly important for <a href="https://theconversation.com/spirals-and-circles-snakes-and-ladders-why-womens-super-is-complex-103763">women</a>, whose super balances may look a bit feeble if they take parental leave or cut their hours while raising a family.</p> <p>Then there’s the tax benefits of super top-ups. If you would normally pay a net tax rate higher than 15% on investments such as shares, your money will grow more quickly inside superannuation than shares.</p> <p>You may also be eligible for government co-contributions that add to your balance if you make a non-concessional contribution during the year and your income is less than $57,016.</p> <h2>So what’s the downside? Can I access my superannuation before retirement?</h2> <p>Basically, no. You must meet a “<a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/super/in-detail/withdrawing-and-using-your-super/withdrawing-your-super-and-paying-tax/?page=2#Conditionsofrelease">condition of release</a>” before being able to access your superannuation.</p> <p>The most common is retirement, defined as reaching the age of 65 or leaving work after reaching “preservation age” (which is 60 for anyone born after July, 1964).</p> <p>There are some <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Super/Withdrawing-and-using-your-super/Early-access-to-your-super/">special circumstances</a> where you may be able to access your superannuation early.</p> <p>These are very narrow, and include serious financial hardship or necessary medical treatment that cannot be funded any other way. </p> <p>Death or terminal illness also qualify for release.</p> <h2>But what if I need a deposit for a house?</h2> <p>This is a dilemma for non home-owners. After compulsory superannuation guarantee deductions and HECS-HELP, it may be hard to save a deposit.</p> <p>One of the few circumstances where you access your superannuation early is through the <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/super/withdrawing-and-using-your-super/first-home-super-saver-scheme/">First Home Super Savers Scheme</a>. </p> <p>If you make voluntary contributions, you may be able to withdraw these contributions for a home deposit. </p> <p>However, this scheme is very tightly regulated. You can read more about the rules for this scheme <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/super/withdrawing-and-using-your-super/first-home-super-saver-scheme/">here</a>.</p> <h2>So… should I put more money into my super?</h2> <p>It depends. If you do, make sure you understand you will not be able to access that money until retirement.</p> <p>If you own your home (or intend to rent until retirement) you may want to put more into superannuation while you can afford it, knowing it is contributing to a secure retirement. </p> <p>But if home ownership is your goal, you should think carefully about choosing between superannuation and saving for a home deposit.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared in <a href="https://theconversation.com/should-i-put-more-money-into-my-super-what-are-the-benefits-and-can-i-take-it-out-before-retirement-if-i-need-it-201950" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Retirement Income

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Losing the natural world comes with major risks for your super fund and bank

<p>As the economist Herman Daly pithily said, the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment – not the reverse. Nature makes our lives possible through what scientists call <a href="https://theconversation.com/do-humans-really-need-other-species-185171">ecosystem services</a>. Think healthy food, clean water, feed for livestock, building materials, medicine, flood and storm control, recreation, and attractions for tourists. </p> <p>Despite this, Australian businesses and financial institutions have so far failed to track how their activities both rely on and affect nature. This means our investments and superannuation could be exposed to <a href="https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0667/">hidden financial risks</a>because of nature loss – and may also contribute to the destruction of nature. </p> <p>That’s set to change. The private sector is <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786">waking up</a> to nature’s value (and the risks of losing it). The world’s biodiversity rescue plan <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-historic-cop15-outcome-is-an-imperfect-game-changer-for-saving-nature-heres-why-australia-did-us-proud-196731">agreed to last year</a> could help motivate governments and businesses to clean up their investments by directing more money to protect nature and less towards <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/28/banks-lent-1-9tn-linked-to-ecosystem-and-wildlife-destruction-in-2019-report-aoe">bankrolling extinction</a>. </p> <p>There’s one crucial plank we’re missing though – mandatory reporting of how businesses both depend on and impact nature.</p> <h2>Nature and financial health are inextricably linked</h2> <p>Fully half of the world’s total economic activity – <a href="https://www.weforum.org/press/2020/01/half-of-world-s-gdp-moderately-or-highly-dependent-on-nature-says-new-report/">around A$61 trillion</a> – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services. </p> <p>In Australia, that figure is very similar: <a href="https://www.acf.org.au/the-nature-based-economy-how-australias-prosperity-depends-on-nature">around half</a> of our GDP – $896 billion – has a moderate to very high direct dependence on ecosystem services provided by nature.</p> <p>What happens when we breach nature’s limits? Ecosystem services seize up or collapse, eventually disrupting these sectors. The tireless pollination work of honeybees, for instance, is <a href="https://www.wheenbeefoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Karasinski-JM-2018_The-Economic-Valuation-of-Australian-Managed-and-Wild-Honey-Bee-Pollinators-in-2014-2015.pd">valued at</a> $14 billion a year. Or take Australia’s wheatbelt, where poor soil health is <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ldr.3130">now costing</a> farmers almost $2 billion a year in lost income. </p> <p>Ecosystem services are not hypothetical. They have real value – and we will absolutely notice if they are gone.</p> <h2>What does this have to do with my super?</h2> <p>Australia’s super sector is responsible for the retirement savings of around <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/about-ato/research-and-statistics/in-detail/super-statistics/super-accounts-data/multiple-super-accounts-data/">12 million Australians</a>. Super funds are directly exposed to <a href="https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/sustainability/our-insights/sustainability-blog/nature-risk-is-the-next-challenge-that-demands-a-global-solution">financial risk</a> from nature loss through their investment portfolios. </p> <p>Just as farmers can’t grow crops without healthy soils or pollinators, developers can’t build apartments without timber or environmental permits. In turn, that has implications for their value as investments.</p> <p>And because so many sectors are exposed, classic investment strategies such as <a href="https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-to-invest/diversification">diversification</a> may no longer protect your super from losses. </p> <p>So what are our super funds and banks doing about it?</p> <p>To find out, we <a href="https://www.acf.org.au/risky-business-report">surveyed</a> ten super funds and ten retail banks about their responses to nature-related risks. The survey – commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation – is the first time this has been done in Australia. </p> <p>The findings? Not ideal. Every participating super fund and bank agreed the loss of nature now presented a serious risk to investment returns. They all agreed it was part of their responsibility to members and customers to measure and manage these risks. But only 20% of super funds and 10% of banks had attempted to assess how exposed they were.</p> <p>Again, this is not abstract. Super funds often have large holdings in the big four banks. Together, these banks have $170 billion in exposure to agriculture, mining, fisheries, and forestry – sectors directly reliant on a functioning natural world. </p> <p>So why isn’t it a higher priority? One issue may be that many financial institutions are currently focused on climate change, given how rapidly impacts are mounting. But climate change and the breakdown of natural systems are twin crises. Nature offers far and away the largest method of taking carbon back out of the atmosphere, for instance. But that only works if salt marshes and wetlands and forests are intact. </p> <p>Net zero targets for our banks and super funds are not fully credible unless there is a commitment to end the <a href="https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/high-level-expert-group">financing of deforestation</a>. Only one organisation, Australian Ethical, had made such a commitment.</p> <p>You would think Australia’s super funds and banks would be interested to find out how exposed their investments were to this growing risk. Tools to do this such as <a href="https://www.ibat-alliance.org/">IBAT</a> and <a href="https://encore.naturalcapital.finance/en">ENCORE</a> are readily available. </p> <p>But to date, our survey findings don’t indicate banks and funds will do this <a href="https://www.greenbiz.com/article/why-more-firms-think-mandatory-biodiversity-risk-reporting-needed">voluntarily</a>. </p> <h2>Banks and super funds may soon have to report these risks</h2> <p>The biodiversity rescue plan agreed to last year – known as the <a href="https://www.cbd.int/doc/decisions/cop-15/cop-15-dec-04-en.pdf">Kunming-Montreal agreement</a> – is intended to set expectations for responsible finance and business globally, as the Paris Agreement did for climate change. </p> <p>That means Australia will be expected to introduce disclosure requirements. If this comes to pass, banks, super funds, and the businesses they invest our savings in will have to measure and publicly report their impact on nature – as well as how much they rely on nature to make a profit.</p> <p>First, though, the Australian government must introduce mandatory nature risk reporting. It’s already moving ahead with plans to make climate risk disclosures <a href="https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2022-314397">mandatory</a>. </p> <p>Treasurer Jim Chalmers has indicated nature is <a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/jim-chalmers-2022/speeches/address-australian-sustainable-finance-institute-sydney">also on his radar</a>.</p> <p>The question then will be whether making this information public will actually do what we hope it will and use money to help natural systems rather than extract from them.</p> <h2>What happens next?</h2> <p>Since taking office, the Labor government has pledged to take action on the perilous decline of the natural world with plans such as bringing the value of nature into our <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/dec/16/cop15-australia-us-commit-to-measuring-value-of-nature-and-reflecting-it-in-national-accounts">national accounts</a>. </p> <p>While positive, the real action won’t happen until nature risk reporting is mandatory, <a href="https://theconversation.com/complete-elation-greeted-pliberseks-big-plans-to-protect-nature-but-hurdles-litter-the-path-196287">environment laws with teeth</a> are introduced, and until both governments and private industry direct <a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/conl.12682">serious money</a> into helping nature, not harming it. Risky <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-government-hopes-private-investors-will-help-save-nature-heres-how-its-scheme-could-fail-193010">nature credit markets</a> aren’t going to cut the mustard. </p> <p>You don’t have to sit back and wait. Why not ask your super fund and bank what nature-related risks they are exposing your money to?</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/losing-the-natural-world-comes-with-major-risks-for-your-super-fund-and-bank-198669" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Retirement Income

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Gina Rinehart responds to $544m super rumours

<p dir="ltr"> It can be hard being rich. Sometimes you have to deny you have $544 million in your super, and other times you have your spokesperson do it for you. </p> <p dir="ltr">The internet has been hard at work trying to guess whose name is attached to the staggering <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/retirement-income/who-is-the-one-australian-with-over-500-million-in-superannuation">$544m superannuation fund</a> reported and thrust to viral heights by a graph-wielding tweet. </p> <p dir="ltr">The account holder’s name cannot be revealed as it is protected under the Taxation Administration Act of 1953, but the internet couldn’t be stopped from compiling a list of guesses, with Gina Rinehart taking the number one spot. </p> <p dir="ltr">The executive chair of Hancock Prospecting is Australia’s richest person, so it wasn’t a stretch for the internet to circle back to her again and again.</p> <p dir="ltr">However, it appears that people may have to get their magnifying glasses back out, and slap on their detective badges, as Rinehart’s spokesperson has reached out to tell <em>news.com.au </em>that the mining magnate is not the account holder of Australia’s richest superannuation fund. </p> <p dir="ltr">Simply put, they could “confirm that Mrs Rinehart is not the person with that $544 million super balance.”</p> <p dir="ltr">No further detail was provided, prompting some to question if the statement was just to throw them off the scent, though most were happy to take it at face value. </p> <p dir="ltr">They didn’t have much sympathy for the super rich Rinehart either way, despite the certainty that the government’s announced superannuation changes will impact her accounts. </p> <p dir="ltr">Under the changes, “Australians with over $3m in their super accounts have their <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/retirement-income/anthony-albanese-confirms-changes-to-superannuation">concessional tax rate doubled</a> - from 15 per cent to 30 per cent - and won’t be effective until around 2025-26.” </p> <p dir="ltr">Only 0.5% of Australians are set to be impacted, leaving a small pool of only 88,000 people to focus on while trying to figure out the $544m mystery. While the likes of Clive Palmer and Kerry Stokes seem quite likely, some have come to believe that the account holder may in fact be owned by someone in an opposing political party, and perhaps even one of the most vocally opposed. </p> <p dir="ltr">And at the end of the day, the general public don’t seem too fazed about it all - though it would be nice to get to the bottom of the account - as the average Australian can only dream of having the $3m threshold in their super fund anyway. </p> <p dir="ltr">And luckily for us all, you can’t tax a dream (yet). </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Getty </em></p>

Money & Banking

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Who is the one Australian with over $500 million in superannuation!?

<p dir="ltr">New data from the ATO, compiled by the <em>Sydney Morning Herald</em>, has revealed that there are 27 Australians fortunate enough to have $100m in their superannuation savings. </p> <p dir="ltr">A graph circulating online announced that in 2019 over 300,000 Australians had over $1m in their superannuation funds, with a staggering 11,000 people reported to have over $5m. </p> <p dir="ltr">One individual noted that the figures, which were from 2019, were shocking but actually may be even larger in 2023, writing, “these are pre-pandemic numbers so I'd guess the top few numbers on this list have grown somewhat.”</p> <p dir="ltr">However, it isn’t mere jealousy from the average citizen that has prompted a flurry of online activity over the figures, but instead one small detail in the findings: one extravagantly wealthy Australian is sitting on a balance of more than $544m.</p> <p dir="ltr">And as with all things on social media, a discussion quickly broke out, with many speculating exactly whose name could be attached to the standout account. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I’d love to know</p> <p>Who is the ONE AUSTRALIAN with over $544 MILLION in super? <a href="https://t.co/DwHyQQqT0p">pic.twitter.com/DwHyQQqT0p</a></p> <p>— The Spence (@adambspencer) <a href="https://twitter.com/adambspencer/status/1629097148724953088?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 24, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p dir="ltr">Mining magnate and Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart’s name was thrown about, as well as that of Australia’s seventh richest, Clive Palmer. Kerry Stokes, Peter Dutton, Gerry Harvey, and everyone’s favourite “data error” were also strong contenders for the people of Twitter. </p> <p dir="ltr">And one cheeky commenter had their own guess to share, telling the others that “it’s Alan Joyce’s 9% employer contribution since he became Qantas CEO.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Another didn’t think it would be quite so easy, reminding everyone that “there are quite a few candidates. There are 49 billionaires in Australia according to Forbes.” </p> <p dir="ltr">Many in the comment section of the tweet were on board with the recent <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/retirement-income/anthony-albanese-confirms-changes-to-superannuation">updates announced for superannuation funds</a>, with one writing of the $544m account holder, “one of 11128 people who could easily afford to pay a bit more tax.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“For most people,” said another, “even having $1m is an impossible dream.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“27 people have over $100 million in super. 1 person has $544 million. Last week I had to buy groceries with my credit card,” one wrote, before asking the question, “What happened to the lucky country?” </p> <p dir="ltr">Data suggests that the average superannuation balance for people aged between 60 and 64 is $157.925 ($178,800 for men and $137,050 for women), a sum that barely puts a dent in the savings of the super rich. </p> <p dir="ltr">“This information makes it clear that no one will lose an election over Super tax concession reform,” commented one individual with strong feelings on the matter, “the politicians who are defending this divisive tax minimisation are obviously the ones who fear losing large donations from the few in their voter base affected.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: Getty </em></p>

Retirement Income

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Anthony Albanese confirms changes to superannuation

<p>Australia’s super rich are set to pay more on their superannuation funds, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed. </p> <p>The announcement came <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/lifestyle/retirement-life/major-overhaul-of-aussie-superannuation-system-touted" target="_blank" rel="noopener">one week after Treasurer Jim Chalmers declared</a> there would be a review of the superannuation scheme’s future, and that the proposed changes would only impact about 0.5% of Australians, with the added benefit of saving the budget $2b. </p> <p>The changes would see Australians with over $3m in their super accounts have their concessional tax rate doubled - from 15 per cent to 30 per cent - and won’t be effective until around 2025-26. On average, Australians have about $150,000 in their super accounts. However, for the 80,000 individuals with over $3m to their name, the average rises to a substantial $6m. </p> <p>The remainder, the other 99.5 per cent of Australians, are set to continue receiving the same tax breaks as they were before, according to Chalmers. </p> <p>Albanese has now stated that this marks an “important reform” and would not alter the fundamentals of the existing system, and if anything would only serve to make it stronger. </p> <p>“With 17 people having over $100 million in their superannuation accounts, one individual with over $400 million in his or her account, most Australians would agree that this is not what superannuation is for. It’s for people’s retirement incomes,” he explained. “Confronted with this information, it would be irresponsible to not take any action whatsoever. This reform will strengthen the system by making it more sustainable.”</p> <p>In a statement, Chalmers expanded on the situation, saying, “the majority of these super tax breaks go to high income earners.</p> <p>“For instance, over 55 per cent of the benefit of superannuation tax breaks on earnings flow to the top 20 per cent of income earners, with 39 per cent going to the top 10 per cent of income earners.”</p> <p>Chalmers also explained how the government inherited $1 trillion of debt, and that it was becoming increasingly more expensive with rising interest rates. </p> <p>“We have persistent and growing spending pressures,” he explained. “Budget pressures are intensifying, rather than easing. This is the mess that we were left with and this is the mess we’re trying to clean up.</p> <p>“This announcement is part of the effort. Every dollar spent on a tax break with tens of millions of dollars in super, is a borrowed dollar that makes the deficit bigger.”</p> <p>He added that higher earners would still receive tax concessions, although people shouldn’t expect them to be quite as generous anymore. </p> <p>“I’m confident that Australians will see this change as modest, reasonable, and fair. But one which makes a difference to the sustainability and affordability of the superannuation system that we cherish.”</p> <p>Anthony Albanese assured Australians that the changes did not mean that the concessional tax would be altered for the remaining 99.5 per cent of Australians. </p> <p>“People can see what we’re doing here,” he said. “Which is why we’re proposing a change that will have an impact on 0.5 per cent of the population. There will be no changes this term [to super]. Even this change.</p> <p>“We can’t be clearer.”</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Jelena Dokic slams government superannuation legislation

<p>Jelena Dokic has lashed out at the government's proposed superannuation plan, saying it would stop women in vulnerable positions being able to get the financial help they need. </p> <p>On ABC's <em>Q+A</em>, the tennis champion-turned-commentator shared her own story of being forced to flee a violent home at the age of 19, and the financial burden of such a difficult situation. </p> <p>While she said she’d been lucky to have her professional tennis career to support her, she said most women did not have the financial means or stability to flee. </p> <p>Her comments come after Treasurer Jim Chalmers began a proposal to legislate a new superannuation objective plan, meaning superannuation money would exclusively be reserved for retirement income, with Aussies being unable to draw on these funds in times of crisis. </p> <p>Ms Dokic said the matter was not “black and white”. </p> <p>“There are a lot of different areas where I think you should be able to access it (super),” Dokic said.</p> <p>“I think there is so much we’re seeing today when it comes to domestic violence, for example; women are so afraid to leave and one of the reasons is because they feel like they won’t be able to start again – they won’t be able to set themselves up." </p> <p>“I was in that position when I was 19. I was just lucky with the fact that I was a professional athlete. I had the ability to go and earn a living, but I left home with nothing. I was basically on the street."</p> <p>“There are so many women out there that are in the same position, so maybe making it where you can withdraw $10,000 and put your money to use when you really need it."</p> <p>“There are so many people who are not even going to be able to get to retirement or be able to have a dignified retirement because they are not going to make it. They might not even be here.”</p> <p>As superannuation legislation currently stands, access to superannuation before the age of 65, is limited only to situations where someone is permanently incapacitated, has a physical or mental condition which prevents them from working, is dying, or their loved one is. </p> <p>There are also provisions for severe financial hardship, but domestic violence is not specifically mentioned.</p> <p>Dr Chalmers' proposal follows the release of $36 billion of Australians’ super during Covid-19, where early access was allowed during the initial months of the pandemic. </p> <p>To that, Dr Chalmers has vowed “never again”, saying his proposal would ensure Australians are less reliant on government subsidies in their retirement.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Q+A</em></p>

Retirement Income

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Major overhaul of Aussie superannuation system touted

<p>There may be a major change coming to Australia's $3.3 trillion superannuation system, with Treasurer Jim Chalmers looking to crack down on early access.</p> <p>Chalmers will be speaking to call for an objective for superannuation that will emphasise the need for it to be preserved until retirement.</p> <p>This would make it harder for Australians to access their funds early.</p> <p>The federal opposition are taking a different stance and have pushed for early access to remain open as part of a first home buyers scheme.</p> <p>John Kehoe, Australian Financial Review economics editor, told Today $36 billion had been withdrawn from Australians’ collective super during the COVID-19 pandemic.</p> <p>"That's something that Labor wants to shut the door on," he said.</p> <p>Kehoe said there were two sides to the first home buyers scheme, saying that people accessing their super early could drive prices higher.</p> <p>"The retirement income system showed the best way to have financial security in retirement is owning your own home," he said.</p> <p>"It is people renting in retirement that do it really tough.”</p> <p>Independent Senator Jacqui Lambie expressed her view on the proposal, saying life wasn't "black and white.”</p> <p>"There are things that happen in our lives where that money may come in handy, whether it is part of that money, or 20 per cent of that money, just to keep us afloat," she said.</p> <p>"And especially in the next two years, if we are going into recession, if there are guys out there who can dig in to make sure we can keep the roof over their head, to continue to pay their house rates, we have to be a bit more flexible than that when we are going through tough times."</p> <p>Image credit: Getty</p>

Retirement Life

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Retirement money mistakes everyone NEEDS to avoid

<p>Your retirement nest egg is the cornerstone of your later years and crucial to protect and grow. There are plenty of traps to fall into – here are a few to avoid.</p> <p class="NoteLevel1"><strong>Lost super and savings –</strong> As we move jobs, homes and life stages it’s easy to lose track of super and other finances.Changes to legislation have enabled the government to take control of money held in super, savings, shares and insurance accounts that has been untouched for a certain period of time. While this money is held by the ATO and can be returned with interest, claiming the money back can take time and effort. For this reason, it’s important to ensure your contact details for any financial products you hold are up to date. If you think you may have lost money being held by the ATO, then you should make enquiries with them now.</p> <p><strong>Over or under insured</strong> <strong>–</strong> Whether it’s private health insurance, home insurance or life insurance, premiums on such policies increase as we age. And while it’s tempting to decide you simply don’t need insurance any longer and cancel premiums, this can come back to hurt you in the longer term. A much more sensible approach is to regularly and systematically review the insurance policies you hold and calculate accurately what level of cover you need, and how much you can afford to spend to get it. There may be some compromises involved, but you’ll be surprised by how much you can save by getting it right.</p> <p><strong>Out-of-date documentation –</strong> Has it been a while since you updated your will? Has your chosen executor fallen out of your life? Do your chosen beneficiaries need updating? While there are other ways you’d prefer to spend you time, ensuring you have the correct documentation in place and that it’s up to date will help your family should something happen to you. A regular review of your estate planning arrangements could save your loved ones a lot of grief.</p> <p><strong>Underestimating how much money you’ll need –</strong> Many people think the age pension will fund their retirement, but for most people it’s simply not enough to live on. Even if people are planning to supplement the pension with their own superannuation, they don’t consider rises in the cost of living, which are usually around three per cent a year, and the rise in other costs such as medical expenses.</p> <p><strong>Burying your head in the sand –</strong> The biggest mistake many people make is to simply ignore the fact that retirement is on the horizon. It’s crucial to make a plan no matter what your age. The first thing to consider is the kind of lifestyle you’d like in retirement, then calculate how much money you’ll need to put away to achieve that, working backwards from there.</p> <p><strong>Cashing in too early –</strong> You can potentially begin to withdraw your super from the age of 55. When people realise this, they often get excited, take out the lot and pay off the last of their mortgage. But there’s one catch – before the age of 60, super withdrawals can potentially be taxed up to 20 per cent. But if you wait until 60 you could potentially take it out and pay no tax.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Retirement Income

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How to make your retirement money go the distance

<p>Retirement should hopefully be a long and rewarding experience and you’re obviously going to need to fund it. Here are a few tips to assist you and your nest egg in supporting your plans.                            </p> <p><strong>Planning</strong></p> <p>Planning for an unknown timeframe is a challenge, but the bottom line is the more effort you put into preparing and regularly reviewing your options, the better. </p> <p>A key starter is determining your needs. It might be worth sitting down with a financial planner to review your circumstances. Try to visualize the lifestyle you want during retirement – travel, moving house, new car, new hobbies, interests. Then look at the cost implications of this lifestyle and whether you’re going to be able to afford it based on your current income and spending.</p> <p><strong>Understand your retirement accounts</strong></p> <p>Take the time to review all your investments, accounts and other services to ensure they are the best fit for your retirement lifestyle. Rebalance your portfolio to align your finances with the most effective investments for this stage of life.                          </p> <p><strong>Income</strong></p> <p>An obvious choice for extending your income is deferring retirement. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean continuing with full time work – it could just be part time or casual work in order to create additional income. You might be surprised at the variety of work opportunities available as our workforce becomes increasingly focused on part time, casual and consulting roles. It may also be possible to make money from your hobbies or crafts.</p> <p><strong>Downsizing</strong></p> <p>While you might be comfortable with the lifestyle you have enjoyed for a while, downsizing on some aspects of life can assist greatly in getting more mileage from your retirement savings. Housing is the most obvious and usually the most beneficial in terms of boosting savings. This might be in the form of a smaller home but it may also involve looking at where you live. You might consider a more cost-effective suburb, shaving those mortgage repayments or bolstering your savings even further. The same downsizing might apply to cars, boats and memberships, just to name a few.</p> <p><strong>Health</strong></p> <p>As you may be requiring health services more often in retirement, remember that the most cost-effective way to approach this is through prevention by ensuring your ongoing health and fitness is as good as it can be. Keeping active with a healthy diet and regular exercise is the best way to stave off illness and health issues, often without spending anything extra. </p> <p><strong>Entitlements</strong></p> <p>Become aware of the broad range of concessions, discounts and entitlements that are available to you in retirement. Always keep your senior status in mind with future purchases and payments – it never hurts to ask!</p> <p><strong>Sell stuff</strong></p> <p>Now’s the perfect time to clean out the garage, attic and storage of all that accumulated stuff. While you probably want to save your biggest treasures for the family, sites like eBay, Gumtree and Craigslist are an easy way to make a bit of money out of items you no longer want.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Retirement Income

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Saving for retirement gives you power, and ethical responsibilities

<p>If you’re in a super fund, then, like it or not, you’ve got ethical decisions to make.</p> <p>More than <a href="https://www.ato.gov.au/about-ato/research-and-statistics/in-detail/super-statistics/super-accounts-data/multiple-super-accounts-data/">10 million</a> Australians have a superannuation account. Which means, effectively, more than 10 million of us are mini-shareholders with the capacity to influence future business decisions.</p> <p>With that power, however small, comes responsibility. And nowhere more apparent than in relation to climate change.</p> <p>Last month, the world’s biggest asset manager, <a href="https://insidestory.org.au/putting-the-heat-on-polluting-businesses/">BlackRock</a>, surprised Australia’s biggest electricity producer and carbon dioxide emitter, AGL, by backing a <a href="https://www.blackrock.com/corporate/literature/press-release/blk-vote-bulletin-agl-oct-2020.pdf">motion</a> that would have forced it to close its coal-fired plants <a href="https://www.accr.org.au/news/investor-briefing-on-shareholder-resolutions-to-agl-energy-ltd-on-coal-closure-dates/">earlier than planned</a>.</p> <div data-id="17"> </div> <p>The resolution at AGL’s annual general meeting failed, but when a global firm managing more than US$7 trillion in investors’ savings says it’s time to accelerate the exit from coal, it’s wise sit up and take notice.</p> <p>Interestingly though, some of Australia’s biggest industry super funds, among them Cbus, Hesta and Aware, refused to support the motion, which was put forward by the <a href="https://www.accr.org.au/">Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility</a>.</p> <h2>Work ‘behind the scenes’</h2> <p>It’s been a pattern with industry super funds. </p> <p>Rather than using their overt voting power to try to change corporate behaviour, or divest from companies altogether, they say they prefer to exert influence behind the scenes, through conversations in board rooms and executive suites.</p> <p>Take, UniSuper, to which I contribute. It says it <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/about-us/news/2020/09/14/a-sustainable-path-to-2050">engages with companies</a> “to encourage rapid decarbonisation of their operations and supply chains”.</p> <p>UniSuper is one of only three industry funds to commit to achieving net zero carbon emissions across its portfolio by 2050 — the others are Cbus and HESTA. </p> <h2>Yet doubling down on gas</h2> <p>UniSuper has joined eight other funds in <a href="https://www.marketforces.org.au/super-funds-october-2020-update/">divesting</a> from companies that predominantly make their money from producing coal for electricity generation.</p> <p>Yet if your retirement savings are in UniSuper’ default <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/investments/investment-options-and-performance/super-performance-and-option-holdings/balanced">balanced option</a>, then they are partly <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/banking-and-finance/unisuper-new-climate-policy-signals-move-away-from-coal-20200915-p55vxn.html">invested in Woodside</a>, a company seeking to build a huge new gas hub on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia.</p> <p>Woodside says the hub, which will operate for “<a href="https://www.woodside.com.au/our-business/burrup-hub">decades into the future</a>”, could process more gas than the entire volume extracted so far from another of its resource projects, the <a href="https://www.woodside.com.au/our-business/north-west-shelf">North West Shelf</a> which began operations 36 years ago.</p> <p>If you’ve chosen UniSuper’s <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/investments/investment-options-and-performance/super-performance-and-option-holdings/conservative">conservative</a> option, then you are not only invested in Woodside, but also in Santos, which is behind the contested <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-30/santos-narrabri-coal-seam-gas-project-approved/12716350">Narrabri</a> coal seam gas project in NSW. </p> <p>UniSuper’s annual <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/%7E/media/files/forms%20and%20downloads/investment%20documents/climate-risk-and-our-investments.pdf?la=en">report</a> on climate risk also reveals smaller investments in gas producers Origin and Oil Search.</p> <p>Experts say worldwide gas use needs to <a href="https://theconversation.com/a-single-mega-project-exposes-the-morrison-governments-gas-plan-as-staggering-folly-133435">peak before 2030</a> in order to keep global warming below agreed levels.</p> <p>It means UniSuper, and other big funds, are investing our collective retirement savings in firms whose corporate strategies threaten our collective future.</p> <p>UniSuper cites <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/%7E/media/files/forms%20and%20downloads/investment%20documents/climate-risk-management-unisuper.pdf">AGL</a> as an example why it stays with polluting companies. While it runs power stations fuelled by coal and gas, it also invests in renewable technology.</p> <p>It says, if it were to divest, its AGL shares might be acquired by investors with less concern for the environment.</p> <p>"It can be in the best interests of the environment and society for the assets to be held by a responsible and reputable entity."</p> <p>It’s a justification that could equally be used to defend running a gambling venue — if I didn’t install poker machines, someone else would, and at least I care for my customers. </p> <p>(As it happens, UniSuper’s “balanced” option <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/investments/our-investment-options/balanced">includes</a> shares in Aristocrat Leisure, a leading maker of gaming machines.)</p> <h2>Super funds have more power than they use</h2> <p>The justification sidesteps the question of whether the investment itself is defensible. </p> <p>And it ignores the opposing argument — that divestment by a leading super fund can send a powerful signal to the market that a company is not properly addressing climate risk or developing an appropriate strategies for a carbon-constrained world.</p> <p>Any company not doing these things is putting our savings at risk.</p> <p>According to expert legal opinion, its directors might be <a href="https://cpd.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Legal-Opinion-on-Climate-Change-and-Directors-Duties.pdf">breaching their obligations</a> under the Corporations Act.</p> <h2>We’ve got power ourselves</h2> <p>There are legitimate arguments to be had about the best way for super funds to push businesses to act more urgently on climate change, but as fund members, and the ultimate owners of our money, we need to make up our own minds and act accordingly. </p> <p>To sit back and let others do it on our behalf is an abrogation of responsibility.</p> <p>Superannuation may be compulsory, but we still have choices.</p> <p>We can find out which companies our retirement savings are invested in, and swap to a more sustainable option in the same fund.</p> <p>This can take some digging around, but as with <a href="https://www.unisuper.com.au/investments/how-we-invest/responsible-and-sustainable-investing/responsible-investment-policies-statements-and-reports">UniSuper</a>, some the information is available on the fund’s website or can be obtained by asking questions.</p> <p>Or we can consider switching to a different fund altogether. There are websites that <a href="https://www.marketforces.org.au/super-funds-october-2020-update/">track and compare</a> superannuation investments in fossil fuels.</p> <p>For a range of reasons, it’s <a href="https://theconversation.com/unisuper-take-note-theres-no-retirement-on-a-dead-planet-132194">more difficult</a> to switch to a new fund for UniSuper members.</p> <p>But even where it isn’t possible, we can write to our funds, urging them to engage more actively on climate change. It’s easy to find the addresses. They are forever sending us emails.</p> <p>It’s what they say they do with fossil fuel companies — engage them in conversations. We can tell them where we want our savings invested and how we want them to use their clout to influence company decisions and vote at shareholder meetings.</p> <p>We can do this as individuals, and we can <a href="https://unisuperdivest.org/">band together</a> with like-minded fund members to speak with one voice.</p> <p>With a combined <a href="https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/superannuation-statistics">A$2.9 trillion</a> in assets, one fifth of which are invested in Australian companies listed on the stock exchange, super funds own a fair chunk of Australia’s most important companies.</p> <p>It would be wrong for them not to take that responsibly seriously, just as it would be wrong of us not to take seriously what our savings are being used for.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/saving-for-retirement-gives-you-power-and-ethical-responsibilities-148349" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

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