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Who can help you manage your superannuation?

Jodie Humphries avatar
Jodie Humphries
- 7 min read
Who can help you manage your superannuation?

Managing your superannuation can seem complex, which is why some Australians choose to get professional help from a financial planner. But it’s also possible to manage a lot of your superannuation yourself, whether by setting up a Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF) or simply by keeping track of your super account and contributions.

What is superannuation?

Superannuation or “super” is a way of saving up money while you work that you can use when you retire. It’s designed to ensure you can cover the costs of living and retire comfortably, even when you’re no longer earning an income.

Once you start working, your employer pays a percentage of your earnings into your super account (if you’re self-employed, you’ll have the responsibility of putting a portion of your wages into your account). Your super fund then invests this money into assets to help boost your balance so it’s nice and healthy when you retire.

Some super funds also offer insurance including death cover (life insurance), income protection (IP) cover, and total and permanent disability (TPD) cover. Death cover pays a lump sum or income stream to your nominated beneficiaries after your passing, while IP and TPD cover are designed to provide you with financial support if you experience an illness or injury and are unable to work, either temporarily or permanently.

Can a financial planner help manage my super?

Considering that super funds are dealing with money (your money for that matter), you may want to seek out a financial planner to help you manage your super fund. 

Financial planners can guide you through important processes that will help you maximise your nest egg, including consolidating your super funds, making personal contributions, and salary sacrificing. They can also advise on the different insurance covers and what options may be available to you.

Depending on what advice you’re after (general or personal), you’ll want to seek out the right service. Some Australian super funds offer free or low-cost general advice to their members, either over the phone, in-person or via video chat, which could be an easy and affordable way to receive professional advice on popular topics. If you’re after advice that considers your individual financial circumstances, then you’ll need to engage a financial adviser that can provide comprehensive advice and develop a detailed financial plan for your future.

Ultimately, tax and super systems can be complex, so seeking out financial advice can give you the confidence you need to take control of your retirement savings.

What is a Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF)?

If you like flying solo with your finances, you can manage your own super with a private self-managed super fund (SMSF). Regulated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), SMSFs are a way for you to take complete charge of your retirement savings by choosing the investments and insurance you want.

A SMSF differs from a traditional industry or retail super fund as you become the trustee and are responsible for complying with tax and super laws (you can get a corporate trustee but, either way, the fund is your responsibility).

Some of the responsibilities and risks involved with running a SMSF include:

  • SMSFs must only be used to invest for retirement; you can’t lend to fund members or relatives and fund assets must be kept separate from personal assets.
  • An SMSF can have up to four members and all must be trustees; if the fund has a corporate trustee, all members must be a director of the corporate trust.
  • As a member and trustee of a SMSF, you will be responsible for meeting tax and legal requirements and could face penalties if you fail to meet these requirements.
  • You only need to register your SMSF for GST if it involves a commercial property that receives over $75,000 in rent per year.
  • You must appoint an approved SMSF auditor to audit your fund each year, no later than 45 days before you need to lodge your annual return.

To open a SMSF, you’ll need to know what you’re doing (i.e. have financial and legal knowledge) and have 100 per cent confidence in your capabilities; you’ll also need to have enough time on your plate to manage the fund and understand all the potential risks involved. 

Remember, you can always chat to a financial adviser about opening a SMSF to figure out if it’s the right move for you.

How much does it cost to manage a SMSF?

Running your own SMSF may cost you more in fees and charges than investing in a professionally managed fund, especially if you have a small super balance. You’ll have to pay upfront fees to establish the fund and ongoing fees to keep it up and running, including compliance, administration and investment costs.

If you decide to stick with an industry super fund, there are a variety of ways you can keep track of its money.

Check your super

Simply checking your super details can be a good way to make sure your retirement savings are on track. Through the ATO’s online portal, you can:

  • view details of all your super accounts, including lost or unclaimed amounts
  • use the YourSuper comparison tool to see how your super fund compares to others
  • consolidate multiple super accounts (including any ATO-held super) into one account
  • withdraw your ATO-held super if you meet certain conditions of release.

Consolidate multiple super accounts 

Do you have multiple super accounts going at once? You may be paying multiple fees and charges, which could ultimately reduce your retirement savings.

An easy way to avoid paying more than you need to in costs is to consolidate your multiple super accounts, which you can do through the ATO’s online portal. Before you move all your super into one account though, you might want to seek advice on any fees this may incur or insurance cover you may lose as a result. It’s also important to select a super fund that suits you and your circumstances, so make sure to do your research before you choose ‘the one’.

How to make extra contributions to your super

If you want to grow your super, you can make contributions beyond what your employer is obligated to put in (up to a certain amount per year). Be aware though, there may be different options depending on your age, how much you want to contribute, and your current super balance.

The key ways you can make extra contributions to your super include:

  • Arranging a salary sacrifice with your employer, which is where an employee agrees to have part of their pre-tax income paid directly into their super account, which could also reduce your overall taxable income.
  • making personal super contributions (this may result in a government co-contribution of $500 if you're eligible)
  • having your spouse contribute super for you or splitting contributions with your spouse
  • making a downsizing contribution into super if you’re selling your home and are 65 years or older.

Too much super can mean extra tax, so it’s important to consider any consequences of making contributions on your own accord. In some circumstances, the government may make contributions to your super as a super co-contribution or low-income super tax offset; you don’t need to apply for these contributions as the ATO will simply work out if you’re eligible and put the money straight into your super account.

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Product database updated 23 Jul, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Mark Bristow before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.