How do you lose $13 billion? Quite easily it would seem, if Australia's "lost" superannuation is anything to go by.
That tidy sum is the amount languishing in unclaimed superannuation, awaiting collection by forgetful employees. It's almost 20 years since the Keating government introduced the Superannuation Guarantee scheme, under which employers must make compulsory superannuation contributions on behalf of their employees, and now one in two Australians has lost or unclaimed superannuation.
Losing track of some of your super is surprisingly easy – it may happen when you change jobs, have more than one job at a time, change names or simply forget how many super accounts you have.
The Australian Tax Office makes a distinction between "lost" and "unclaimed" super. You may lose some of your super if you change your name, address or job. A super fund is considered "lost" if your account is inactive for five years, if the balance drops below $200 or if your super fund can't find you.
Unclaimed super, on the other hand, is money belonging to a member who is over retirement age but has not been claimed and the super fund cannot contact them.
Thankfully, tracking down and laying claim to your lost super isn't as hard as you might think. In the case of lost super, your name would have been reported by your super fund to the ATO, and listed on the lost members register (LMR). A member is recorded as "lost" when their account has been inactive for two or more years and at least two letters addressed to that member are returned undelivered. You can search for your lost super online using the ATO's SuperSeeker tool or by calling 13 28 65.
If you have reached retirement age and your super remains unclaimed, your name would be listed on the ATO's unclaimed super money register, and can also be tracked down on the SuperSeeker website.
If the amount in your lost super account is less than $200, you can withdraw it without paying any cash. A good idea may be to put that amount into a term deposit and add to it over time for extra income stream. At RateCity, you can search, compare and apply from over 8000 term deposit accounts.
Under new legislation introduced into the House of Representatives last month, you can now transfer any lost superannuation electronically, without having to fill out numerous paper forms. This can save you time and effort, so claiming your share of lost super has never been easier.