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Getting super fit: What to do if your super balance is lagging

During your working years, your superannuation works in the background to grow your nest egg and (hopefully) put you on track for a comfortable retirement. While it’s easy to assume it’s all being managed just fine without you, there are plenty of ways to be proactive. Check your super balance To start, it’s a good idea to check your balance to see if you’re on track to achieve your retirement goals. Whether or not it’s lagging can depend on the type of lifestyle you want later on in life — for example, do you intend to live modestly or will you be doing all the things you put off during your working years, like travelling the world? You’ll find plenty of estimates around how much super the average person will need to have a comfortable lifestyle at retirement. The government’s MoneySmart website puts it at two thirds of your pre-retirement income, assuming you own your home outright.¹ The Association of Super Funds of Australia (ASFA) goes into more detail. It estimates a retired couple will require around $70,806 per year to maintain a comfortable standard of living, while a single person will need around $50,207 (both cases assume retirees own their own home and receive a partial Age Pension).


ASFA estimates of how much you’ll need in retirement (June quarter 2023)


If your balance isn’t as high as you’d like it to be, there are ways you might be able to address this, such as salary sacrificing or making contributions from your take-home pay. Review your employer’s contributions According to a 2022 report by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), 95% of SG contributions are paid by employers without the ATO needing to intervene, so it’s fair to say that most employers take their duties around super seriously. But it’s still worth keeping an eye on things to make sure you’re not being shortchanged. Under current rules, employers must contribute to your super at least four times a year. But this is proposed to change on 1 July 2026 so that SG entitlements are paid on the same day that employees’ salary and wages are paid. If you believe your boss has fallen behind on their super payments, consider raising the issue with them before getting the ATO involved. Asking how much super is being paid, how often it is being paid, and which fund it goes to might be enough to remind them of their obligations. If that doesn’t work and your boss continues to pay your super late or not at all, don’t hesitate to contact the ATO. You can lodge an enquiry once your employer’s due date for lodging super has passed. And if you want to remain anonymous, the ATO also allows for confidential tip-offs. Check for lost or unclaimed super If you’ve ever changed your name, address or job, there’s a chance you might have lost track of some of your super. It may be sitting with another super fund in an inactive account, or it may have been transferred to the ATO for safekeeping (at which point it becomes ‘unclaimed super’). To check, log in to your myGov account and go to the ATO online services section. Under ‘Super,’ you can see the details of all your super accounts — including ones you’ve lost or forgotten about — and see if the ATO is currently holding any super on your behalf. Think about consolidating your super if you have multiple accounts It’s not uncommon for people who have worked multiple jobs to have their super spread across multiple accounts. Not only can this be difficult to manage, you might also be paying several sets of fees that are eating into your retirement savings. To consolidate your super, visit the ATO online services through myGov, select ‘Super’ and then ‘Manage.’ If you have more than one account, you will see the option to transfer your super. This will allow you to move all your super into a single account. Just keep in mind that any insurance you have through your old funds (such as life, total and permanent disability, and income protection insurance) will end and you might be unable to access the same types and levels of cover through your preferred fund. Review your investment options Finally, it might be worth reviewing your current investment option and asking whether or not it still suits your goals. Often, the answer will depend on how much risk you’re comfortable taking on and how far you are from retirement (risk tolerance and capacity). For example, investing in a large proportion of shares (and other assets with a high risk-vs-return trade-off) can help increase your super’s balance over the long-term, but it can also result in larger losses in bad years. Someone in their 20s or 30s might be comfortable with this as they will have more time for their super balance to recover, while someone approaching retirement age might be wary of anything that could knock their savings goals off track. If you’re wondering which investment approach works for you, consider speaking to a professional financial adviser. They can walk you through your options and let you know whether your current investment strategy still suits your needs or could use some adjustment.



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