Calling all university students: Turn off Game of Thrones, log off from Asos.com, take a break from your textbooks and put down your bowl of Mi Goreng – it’s time to get super-savvy.
While retirement may seem like long way off right now, your younger years are the ideal time to get your superannuation in shape. With first jobs abounding, even a position as a casual waiter or shop assistant can contribute to your future.
“Super is all about maximising contributions throughout your working life, so you can live comfortably in retirement,” Alison Lendon, ATO Deputy Commissioner, Superannuation, says.
So what are you waiting for? Follow these five simple steps for getting your super in shape and start picturing yourself enjoying early retirement.
1. Find a fund
Superannuation funds are personal. When the time comes to get one, put some thought into it.
Often when you start a job your employer will suggest a superannuation fund for you to use. But be warned – the easiest option may not be the most suitable, so it pays to do some homework.
“Even though your employer has a default fund, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best for you,” Andrew Proebstl, CEO of legalsuper, warns.
Before making a decision, do your research and ask around. Use Facebook to ask your friends what funds they recommend, or utilise comparison sites like Super Ratings or Selecting Super to pick the right one for you.
When you apply for a fund, ensure you provide your tax file number as it will help you keep track of your super.
“Providing your TFN is one of the best ways to avoid having lost super and reduce the tax you pay on super contributions,” says Ms Lendon.
2. Don’t be shy – ask for help
Superannuation can be a tricky topic to understand – so if nothing is making sense, you’re not alone.
“There’s a lot of jargon that’s pretty intimidating for people who don’t work in the financial industry,” Mr Proebstl admits.
“You want a fund that will demystify all of that and tell you what it means for you.”
Don’t feel weird about calling your fund and asking what may seem like a lot of dumb questions. Any fund that doesn’t want to answer them “isn’t worth being a member of anyway,” Mr Proebstl says.
Useful questions to ask include:
• “What is your performance record?”
• “What are my investment options?”
• “What fees do you charge?”
• “What insurance is included?”
Insurance is particularly important, according to Ms Lendon, as you may already have similar cover under another type of policy, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re not doubling up on unnecessary fees and charges.
3. Take risks
Because you’re young, you’re better placed to take some big risks. Growth assets like shares and property are more volatile, but often outperform other asset classes in the long term.
If you’re comfortable with the idea, Mr Proebstl suggests that you choose to invest in high-risk, high-growth assets to maximise your long-term performance.
Seek advice from your fund as to what these may be and make sure you understand the risks involved.
After all, #YOLO.
4. Be resourceful
You might not know it, but you have a lot of people on your side trying to help you out. Most super funds provide resources as part of your membership, like a free initial consultation with a financial advisor or one-on-one meetings with client service managers. Book an appointment and bombard them with questions.
Apply for an online log-in to your account so you can keep track of its progress, just as you do with your bank accounts. While it’s important to remember that you won’t see many short-term results, it will help you to understand how your investments and contributions are going.
The ATO also offers resources like SuperSeeker or this helpful summary video below to give you a better idea of where your money is going.
In addition, be sure to read your statements to ensure that your employer is putting the correct amount into your fund.
“Check that your employer is paying the correct amount of super on your behalf (9.25% of your gross pay),” says Ms Lendon.
“If you think there is an error in the amount, the ATO has processes in place to help you investigate this.”
5. Get in a long-term relationship
You may not feel ready to settle down when it comes to your personal life, but it’s a great idea in terms of your superannuation.
“Individuals should consider using one super fund and advising a new employer of their chosen fund when they start a new job,” says Ms Lendon.
Even if you’re not the most committed partner, it pays to keep in touch with your superannuation significant other.
“Younger workers are also prone to losing track of super through, for example, multiple changes of address,” a spokesperson from the ATO says.
“They should try to remember to always update their addresses with their super funds when they move house.”
Changing your super fund every time you move somewhere new or get a new job can lead to excessive and unnecessary fees.