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Superannuation: Make a list and check it twice

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2009 83(12) LIJ, p.75


To get the most out of the annual super statement, practitioners should follow a brief checklist.

Reviewing your annual super statement should be as routine as checking your credit card or bank statements or lodging a tax return. It keeps you in control of your super so your retirement plans remain on track.

There are three actions you should take when your annual statement arrives.

1. Open your statement (some people don’t even do this) and review the transactions, including the super your employer paid you and any voluntary amounts you paid yourself, fees deducted from your account including the cost of your insurance, government taxes deducted from your account, investment returns applied to your account and your balance at the end of the year, compared to the previous year. If something doesn’t seem right, call your fund.

2. Compare the competitiveness of your super fund with others. Compare investment returns over the longer term. Super is a long-term form of saving so performance comparisons should be done over five years or longer, not one year.

According to SuperRatings, across 101 “balanced” super funds the average return for five years to 30 June 2009 was +3.76 per cent per annum. Also, over five years to 30 June 2009 industry funds out-performed retail funds with +4.42 per cent per annum on average compared to +2.44 per cent per annum on average for retail funds.

Compare fees. According to ASIC, paying just one per cent more in fees over a 30-year period can reduce your retirement savings by up to 20 per cent.

According to The Heron Partnership,1 the average fee is 1.27 per cent for an account balance of $50,000, 1.35 per cent for a balance of $25,000 and 1.22 per cent for a balance of $100,000.

To calculate the total fees you are paying, identify the total fees on your super statement (i.e. investment fees and other management charges but excluding any fee for financial advice) and divide that by the average of your opening and closing balances. This gives you a percentage fee, which you can compare to the fees shown above.

For more information about your fund’s fees contact your fund or refer to the fee section of your fund’s product disclosure statement, available from its website.

3. Check account details and ensure they are up to date.

Some items you should check are:

  • Is your accumulated balance growing adequately to support your retirement plans? Many funds (including legalsuper) have projection calculators.2 By reviewing your accumulated balance and using the calculator you can determine if you need to increase your contributions. If you are thinking about contributing more, remember that contribution limits apply, over which penalty tax applies.
  • Are your super accounts consolidated? Multiple super fund accounts mean multiple fees and more paperwork.
  • Do you have any lost super? There are 6.4 million “lost super” accounts totalling $13 billion. For more information, see www.ato.gov.au/superseeker or phone 13 28 65.
  • Is your insurance adequate for your current circumstances? If your circumstances have changed (e.g. new dependants or more debt) it might be worth thinking about whether you should increase your insurance. If you die, your super will in most cases be paid to your dependants. Advise your super fund of the beneficiaries to whom you want your super paid. Some funds offer binding nominations which bind the trustee to pay your super to the person you have nominated.

Taking a few minutes to check your annual super statement will make a big difference to your financial security later in life. It’s worth a look.


ANDREW PROEBSTL is chief executive of legalsuper, Australia’s largest super fund dedicated to the legal profession. He can be contacted on ph 9607 9401 or aproebstl@legalsuper.com.au or see www.legalsuper.com.au.

1. Reported on 25 June 2009 in SuperReview. SuperReview is Australia’s leading information resource for the Superannuation and Funds Management Industry, see www.superreview.com.au.

2. See www.legalsuper.com.au/calculators/index.cfm.

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