Regardless of who you are or where you live in Australia, there's one thing you have in common with everyone else in the country — something that unites us all across geographic and cultural lines. It's not sport, and it's not a love of the sun and sand — though of course, many Australians are passionate about these subjects.
No, what unites all Australians is the yearly ritual of receiving their superannuation statement in the mail. Unfortunately, another thing many Australians have in common is that few of them read — or even look at — their statement, opting instead to simply throw it into the recycling.
However, reading over and understanding your statement is crucial to taking good care of your superannuation funds. Here is a quick rundown of what you're likely to find on your super statement and why it's important.
Generally, this is the part of your statement that your attention will gravitate to first. You want to see how much you've saved up in your super fund, so naturally you'll look at the account balance as well as your investments.
The balance will let you know how your fund has performed over the last year, or even years, and will show you the growth it has experienced. The list of investments, meanwhile, will allow you to determine if the asset allocation of your fund could be improved, and how.
Your statement will list any of the fees that your account provider deducts from your super savings to make up for the cost of running your fund. This typically means a management fee, as well as an administration fee and perhaps even an adviser service fee.
Obviously, you want to hang onto as much of your savings as possible, so the lower the fees, the better. It pays to have a look at the fees charged by other providers and see if you couldn't do better elsewhere.
Reviewing your superannuation contributions is crucial to determining whether you're on track to meet your retirement savings plan.
If you find your account balance somewhat lacking, it could be time to look at ways to increase the amount flowing in. There are any number of ways to do this, from undertaking salary sacrificing and making additional contributions, to having your spouse contribute a share of their super to your fund.
Insurance and tax
Insurance and tax are one of the other major expenses that will be deducted from your account. Most super funds have life insurance and total and permanent disability cover, and possibly even income insurance.
Have a good hard look at your cover and make sure that it's a sufficient level of protection. You might even compare your premiums with other providers.
As for tax, depending on how much of your super is going to the government, you might want to speak to an accountant or financial adviser to see how you can minimise your tax burden.