How to Choose A Super Fund [5 key things to look for]

Retirement | Wealth

Many Australians forget to prioritise their super fund, assuming that it will be ‘doing its job’ and they won’t need to think about it for decades. It’s easy to focus on present needs and financial priorities. However, neglecting such an important (and tax-friendly environment) is a huge financial mistake too many hard-working Australians make.

The differences between Superannuation Funds alone can create enormous differences. For example, when your fees are just 0.5% higher in one fund compared to another, you could end up with over  $105,656 less at retirement than someone else on the same income, starting balance, and retirement age. That’s a big number. So today, let’s explore exactly what I think makes a good superannuation fund, and how you can take control of this important part of your financial future.

Key Takeaways

  • You can increase your retirement savings by choosing the right super fund for you and your needs.
  • Review your super fund’s past performance over the last 5-10 years and compare that to other funds to see how yours stacks up.
  • Risk patience and age can determine your superannuation choice.

Can I Choose My Own Super Fund?

The answer to this question is almost always, yes! Apart from a few very specific roles, many people don’t know you indeed do have the power to choose your superannuation fund.

The problem I see a lot (particularly in younger clients, is the fact that when starting a new role they generally just go with whichever super provider their employer chooses for them. This is what’s known as the default employer fund. Yet blindly selecting this option is a costly mistake. Plus, if you do that at each employer you have over the years, it’s easy to end up with multiple funds leading to unnecessary fees and confusion.

The good news is, that you have the power to choose your superannuation fund, and you’re able to pick one that aligns with your financial goals. This empowers you to take control of your retirement savings. Plus, if you have multiple funds, you can also merge these into the one you choose and avoid any extra fees. 

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What Should I Look For in A Super Fund?

When comparing which superannuation fund to switch to or go with, here are five essential points to consider:

1. The Fees and Cost

First, look into fees and costs. Fees and costs can significantly impact the performance of your superannuation fund. It’s essential to compare the fees charged by different funds and assess if they align with the services offered. Key research conducted by Canstar found that a difference of just 0.75% in annual fees could result in a difference of tens of thousands of dollars by retirement age. Therefore, choosing a fund with lower fees can have a significant impact on your long-term savings.

The key to comparing fees within superannuations lies in the investment choices available within the fund. When comparing super funds, focus on the overall fees. Paying attention to overall fees is necessary because they directly impact the amount of money you’ll have available for your retirement. High fees can significantly eat into your savings over time, potentially leaving you with less money when you need it most. 

You could also be assessing costs for the international index option, which typically has the lowest fees. Diversifying your investments across global markets can be a popular approach, given Australia’s small share of the global economy (less than 2%) and its reliance on banking and mining (about 44% of the economy).

When you’re comparing superannuation, it’s also important to look closely at the available fee structures. Pay attention to whether the fund charges a set fee, a percentage-based fee, or monthly fees. These fee structures can impact your overall returns in the long run. So, it’s crucial to understand how they work and how they relate to your investment choices. This way, you can make informed decisions about your superannuation and ensure it aligns with your financial goals. In the next few paragraphs, we’ll dive into the details of each fee structure and how they might affect you personally, based on your investment preferences.

Types of Fees

  • Admin Fees: Super funds charge administration fees to cover the costs of administering your account. Fees of this type are usually fixed and are not affected by factors such as the size of your investment or the length of time you hold it.
  • Ongoing Fees: These are charges that you pay regularly over time to maintain and manage your superannuation account or investment portfolio. These fees cover various services and expenses associated with the ongoing management which can include asset-based administration fees, investment management fees, and other expenses related to managing the fund. Ongoing fees can range from approximately 0.5% to 2% of your account balance per year. However, it’s important to note that this is a general range, and actual fees can be higher or lower depending on the specific fund you are invested in.
  • Advice Fees: Advice fees will only be a factor when you seek advisory services or personalised advice to match your retirement plan. Not every superannuation fund charges advice fees and whether such fees apply depends on the particular features and services they provide.

How To Choose A Superannuation Fund

2. Evaluate Investment Performance

Next, you’ll want to take a look at the historical performance. Think of this as a roadmap that tells you how well your retirement performance will be doing in the next couple of decades. Look for funds that have consistently delivered competitive returns, especially with high past performance figures in 5 to 10 years. Superannuation is a long-term game and performance should be assessed over an extended period rather than on short-term fluctuations.

To ensure an accurate assessment, it’s crucial to perform a like-for-like comparison. In other words, when evaluating your fund’s performance, compare it to similar investment options. For instance, if you’re assessing a balanced option within your fund, compare it with another balanced option, and strive to utilise the same time period for a fair evaluation. This approach allows you to gauge how your fund’s performance measures up in a manner that accounts for both time and investment strategy.

You can also make use of the tools and resources available through the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to assist you in your performance evaluation or speak with a qualified advisor in your local city.

Can I use my super to buy an investment property?

Yes, you can! But there’s a catch. It’s only possible through a Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF), not your regular super. Setting up and managing your own SMSF requires dedication and responsibility, as it’s not the simplest route. So, before deciding on this pathway, it’s crucial to determine if an SMSF is the right fit for you. Consult a financial advisor or legal expert to fully grasp the implications, weigh the pros and cons, and explore other investment options.

3. Compare Investment Options

Next, consider the investment options offered by each fund. Some funds offer a range of investment choices, from low-risk options such as cash and fixed interest, to higher-risk options such as domestic and international equities. Assess whether the fund’s investment options align with your risk appetite, time frame to retirement, personal preferences, and long-term financial goals.

A well-diversified investment portfolio can help manage risk and improve overall performance. It’s best to look for funds that invest in a mix of both asset classes and markets to achieve diversification. 

Please note: This is general advice that does not take into account your specific financial circumstances and risk tolerance, including the degree of risk associated with your individual goals and needs. Funds employing a more aggressive investment strategy may offer the potential for greater returns but also come with a higher level of risk. Make sure you speak with a qualified financial adviser today to determine the best strategy for you.

 

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4. Consider Insurance Options

Superannuation funds often include insurance options such as life insurance, total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance, and income protection insurance. As most super funds will only provide a default, it’s crucial to consider whether these insurance options meet your needs and if the premiums are competitive. It’s also important to consider any exclusions or limitations that may apply.

Here are the three types of insurance you may hold in your super and why they’re important:

  1. Life Cover or Death Insurance: This is here to help you protect your loved ones in the event you were to pass away. Death benefits can provide your loved ones with financial peace of mind during a difficult time or if you have a terminal illness.
  2. Total & Permanent Disablement (TPD): This type of insurance covers you if you’re unable to return to work after an accident or illness. TPD insurance is paid out in lump sum.
  3. Income Protection: Income protection insurance (sometimes called salary continuance) can provide you with partial compensation for your lost income if you’re unable to work due to a disability resulting from illness or a temporary injury. Successfully claiming your income protection insurance will help provide consistent monthly payments to assist you in covering your essential living expenses while you can’t work.

5. Customer Service & Support

Working with a professional superannuation fund that is committed to helping you build, grow and manage your retirement funds is incredibly important. When it comes to choosing a  fund that offers excellent customer service and support, there are several important factors to consider.

  • Accessibility: Is their platform user-friendly? The accessibility of their platform is important for tasks such as checking employer contributions and making your regular contributions. If their platform is hard to access, they might not be a good provider after all. 
  • Dashboard: A good superannuation app should offer a mobile-friendly dashboard with real-time investment information, asset value, fund performance, and account balance.
  • Communication: Can you easily reach their customer service via phone, email, or chat? Responsive service is crucial for assistance.
  • Reputation: Research customer reviews and testimonials. Positive feedback indicates a commitment to service, while negative reviews signal potential issues. Check if the superannuation fund has received any industry awards or recognitions. Awards can also be a sign of service excellence and reliability within the industry.

Is It Better To Have 1 or 2 Super Funds?

Consolidating your superannuation investments can be beneficial. You may end up paying multiple fees and charges or paying for more than one insurance plan. Having more than one fund often means that your retirement savings are reduced and the fewer accounts you have, the easier it is to keep track. 

However, you should only be consolidating your super when the timing is right. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of consolidating your super before making a decision and take into account the fees and charges associated with consolidating your super funds, as well as any benefits or pension options that may be lost. Before rolling over your super, you should first seek professional advice, since you may be missing out on benefits within your superannuation and insurance advice that you don’t know about. 

Seek Professional Advice

Choosing a superannuation fund is a significant financial decision, and seeking professional advice can be beneficial. Financial advisors can provide personalised guidance based on your specific circumstances and help you navigate the complexities of superannuation. They can assist in assessing your goals, risk tolerance, and investment options, and assist in comparing different funds.

At My Wealth Solutions, we protect our client’s wealth by using the C.A.R.E. Investment Philosophy where some superannuation funds may also have the investment philosophy. This is a ‘bucket’ approach that directs your funds into 4 specific buckets – each with their own purpose. Each of these buckets plays an important role in securing your financial future and growing your wealth. Depending on your personal goals, the length of time left until your retirement, and your risk appetite how your portfolio is constructed individually will be different. That means, with C.A.R.E., your investment strategy will always be uniquely tailored to you and your specific financial goals and provide superannuation advice that directs you to the right provider.

Conclusion

In conclusion, choosing a superannuation fund requires careful consideration and evaluation of various factors. By understanding your goals, comparing fees and costs, evaluating performance and investment options, considering insurance options, and seeking professional advice, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your retirement objectives.

If you would like a free assessment of your superannuation by one of the friendly advisors at My Wealth Solutions, you can book your free discovery appointment here.

 

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Hayden Wilson

Hayden Wilson - Financial Advisor

Graduating in 2009 from LaTrobe University with a Bachelor of Business, Hayden has worked in both corporate and self-employed roles. After running a series of successful businesses between 2013 & 2020, Hayden attended Deakin University to attain his Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning.

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