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Why is my super going down?

Mark Bristow avatar
Mark Bristow
- 3 min read
Why is my super going down?

The balance in your superannuation account generally rises over time as you accumulate contributions from your employer. However, super fees and changing investment performance can lead to dips in your super balance. 

Fees

Many super funds charge fees to help cover the fund’s admin costs, which are taken out of your super balance. While these fees should have minimal impact on your super balance while you’re working and accumulating super contributions, inactive super funds could lose money over time as fees are taken out and no new money comes in.

This can be a particular problem for Australians who opened multiple super funds while job-hopping early in their career. Multiple accounts mean multiple fees, increasing the rate at which your retirement savings may be eaten up.

Super funds will report you as a lost member if they haven’t been able to contact you and the fund hasn’t received any contributions in five years. Lost and unclaimed super may be transferred to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) under certain conditions. 

To help limit how much of your super is lost to fees, you may want to look into claiming your lost super and consolidating your super into one fund. You can also nominate a stapled super fund that will follow you from job to job, rather than opening multiple super accounts and potentially losing your retirement savings to fees.

Investments

Money deposited into your super account doesn’t just gather dust until you retire. Instead, super funds invest your money into a variety of assets to help grow your retirement wealth further. This is similar to how a bank will pay you interest on money you deposit in a savings account so that the bank can use your deposited funds to help provide other financial services to customers.

But like any investment, there is no guarantee that your super fund will generate strong returns. Changes in the stock market can affect the performance of investments, which can in turn affect super balances.

If the stock market goes through an extended slump, such as it did during the COVID-19 pandemic, this could potentially lead to some super balances decreasing as the value of investments shrink.

Should you change your super fund’s investment allocation?

You may be offered a range of investment options for your super fund, with each offering different levels of risk. For example, a growth option could help to quickly increase your super balance by investing in higher-risk assets, though there is the chance that you could end up worse off than where you started. On the other hand, a conservative investment allocation could help to protect the super balance you’ve built up so far, though you’re less likely to increase this balance from investment returns.

If you’ve experienced super losses due to investment slumps, you may be interested in changing your investment strategy or even switching super funds altogether. Keep in mind that superannuation is a long-term investment, past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance, and that it’s not easy to predict the effect that today’s changes could have on your super balance in the future.  

Carefully compare super options and consider your financial situation and personal goals before making any decisions. You may also want to consider contacting a financial adviser and/or an accountant to get more advice before making changes to your superannuation strategy.

Compare super funds

Product database updated 21 Jul, 2024

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