The stakes are high – the difference between a comfortable retirement of relaxation and fun, versus penny-pinching and stress – so even if retirement is a distant dream, it’s worth learning from the mistakes others have made.
Not taking any interest
A survey for the Centre for International Finance and Regulation by Melbourne University found only one-third of the 1000 25-34 year olds surveyed even bothered to read their super statements.
Nobody would argue superannuation is sexy, but it’s not meant to be sexy, it’s meant to be a steady and sensible way to save for your retirement, and if you can’t be bothered taking advantage of a variety of simple steps to improve your situation, your 65-year-old self will want some stern words with your 34-year-old self.
Having multiple accounts
If you’ve had more than one job, you’ll probably have multiple super accounts. If they’re inactive, over time fees will erode them. Consolidating your super is now easier than ever.
Set up a MyGov account and link it to the ATO using your tax file number (you’ll be prompted to do this when you begin). Choose the super tab and you’ll find details of all your accounts. Choose the super fund you’d like as your primary and hit transfer.
Not salary sacrificing
Not everyone can afford to sacrifice any of their salary to boost their super, but you might be surprised at how little you need to give up for big rewards. For example, if at 35 you can afford to take home $13.10 less per week, you could end up with an extra $43,948 at retirement. The amount going into your superannuation will be $20 per week, thanks to a government tax break.
Don’t neglect your future just because you’re overseas
Working overseas is a rite of passage for many Australians, and if it’s just a gap year of casual jobs it probably won’t make a huge difference to your super. But if you stay overseas for a while, working in steady employment in a country without a strong superannuation tradition, you might find yourself well behind your peers when you return.
There’s nothing you can do about missing out on employer contributions, but consider making your own contributions to a super fund while you’re away.
Don’t pay too much
Fees are not all to look at when choosing a super fund, but it’s certainly worth taking them into account.
The average management fee is 1.3 per cent but some funds charge as much as 4 per cent. Even a 1 per cent difference can have a big impact on your final savings. Look for a fund which doesn’t charge large fees, and returns its profits to members, such as an industry super fund.
Pulling your money out as soon as you can
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. When presented with a lump sum that feels like a lotto win, it can be tempting to grab it and start ticking extravagant items off a bucket list.
But that money is meant to sustain you for what might be 30 years of retirement. Talk to your super fund or financial adviser and find out how to use your lump sum to provide you with a pension that lasts as long as you do.
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