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Learn more about superannuation

Why you should compare super funds

A lot of Australians don’t think much about their super fund, often simply accepting the default MySuper option assigned to them by their employer when they get a new job rather than nominating their own choice. This could mean that the super contributions from your annual salary aren’t being managed in a suitable way for your financial situation, which could lead to problems when you eventually retire. Additionally, if you have changed jobs a few times, you may have multiple super funds in your name, with fees on each account likely eating away at your savings.

Comparing different super funds and working out which option may best suit your financial situation may put you in a position to take control of your retirement savings. The right super fund can potentially be the difference between struggling financially in retirement or enjoying a more comfortable lifestyle with a consistent income stream, without having to rely on an age pension.

Even before you reach preservation age, a super fund with the right features and benefits can help make a difference in your everyday life. Some super funds offer special benefits, such as access to financial advice or types of insurance cover, which can change the way you think about your personal finances.

How to compare super funds

There are many ways to compare super funds. When you compare a super fund to other options, consider asking the following questions:

What type of super fund is it?

Are you more interested in an industry super fund, a retail super fund, a member-owned super fund, or another option? 

Industry funds may be limited to Australians working in specific professions, though many of these funds are now available to anyone. Retail funds are available from major banks, financial institutions and insurance companies.  Member-owned funds put any profits back into providing benefits to members, rather than paying dividends to shareholders as is the case with most retail funds. 

Other types of super funds are also available to choose from, including self managed super funds (SMSF). These allow you to manage your own superannuation investments, including property, though they often require more time, effort and financial expertise to manage.  

What has the fund’s past performance been like?

Has the fund’s investments grown in value in recent years? What investment strategy does the fund use? Keep in mind that past performance is not a reliable indicator of future investment performance.

What fees does the fund charge?

If your super fund charges low fees, more of your superannuation savings can go towards your retirement. Of course, super funds that offer more features may also charge higher administration fees, so it’s important to compare the costs and benefits.

Does the fund offer insurance?

Super funds may offer insurance policies that cover you if you die, experience permanent disability, or are put in a situation where you’re unable to earn income. It’s important to compare these policies, checking the insurance premiums, coverage, and exclusions to make sure they’re right for you.

What investment options are available?

What kind of risk and/or investment returns are you comfortable with for your retirement money? Are there specific industries you want your money invested into, or that you want to avoid? Different investment choices may better suit different Australians, depending on their stage of working life.

What other services does it offer?

Some super funds offer extra features and benefits, such as access to financial advice or bundle deals for other financial products. Find out if there are any fees to pay or other terms and conditions involved.

Should I compare super fund returns?

A super fund’s returns are important to most Australians, as this gives you an idea of how much your savings could grow by the time you retire.

A super fund’s past returns can be used as a general guideline of what a fund is capable of doing for your retirement savings. However, no investment is ever 100 per cent certain, and a super fund’s past performance does not guarantee you’ll enjoy similar performance in the future.

Some super funds offer a range of investment options to choose from, including growth funds, balanced option funds, and conservative funds. These options may be more useful to you at different stages of your career and working life, when you may be more focused on growing your super balance or protecting what you already have. 

Often the super funds offering the highest potential returns come with the highest risks. While these investments could see your account balance increase in value, they could also stay the same or even decline over time if the investments don’t perform as expected.  

As well as looking at a super fund’s returns, there’s plenty more to consider when comparing super funds, such as lower fees and charges, life insurance, income protection insurance and other member services. 

Check a super fund's product disclosure statement (PDS) before you consider switching your super account. If you’re not sure of the best super fund option to choose from, consider contacting a financial adviser for general advice on financial planning.

Frequently asked questions

What is a superannuation fund?

A superannuation fund is an institution that is legally allowed to hold and invest your superannuation. There are more than 200 different superannuation funds in Australia. They come in five different types:

  • Retail funds
  • Industry funds
  • Public sector funds
  • Corporate funds
  • Self-managed super funds

Retail funds are usually run by banks or investment companies.

Industry funds were originally designed for workers from a particular industry, but are now open to anyone.

Public sector funds were originally designed for people working for federal or state government departments. Most are still reserved for government employees.

Corporate funds are arranged by employers for their employees.

Self-managed super funds are private superannuation funds that allow people to directly invest their money.

What happens to my superannuation when I change jobs?

You can keep your superannuation fund for as long as you like, so nothing happens when you change jobs. Please note that some superannuation funds have special features for people who work with certain employers, so these features may no longer be available if you change jobs.

What are ethical investment superannuation funds?

Ethical investment funds limit themselves to making ‘ethical’ investments (which each fund defines according to its own principles). For example, ethical funds might avoid investing in companies or industries that are linked to human suffering or environmental damage.

How much extra superannuation can I add to my fund?

There is an annual limit of $25,000 for concessional contributions – that is, money paid by your employer and extra money you pay into your account through salary sacrificing. There is also a limit on non-concessional contributions. Australians aged between 65 and 74 have a limit of $100,000 per year. Australians aged under 65 have a limit of $300,000 every three years.

What is the superannuation rate?

The superannuation rate, or guarantee rate, is the percentage of your salary that your employer must pay into your superannuation fund. The superannuation guarantee has been set at 9.5 per cent since the 2014-15 financial year. It is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

Is superannuation paid on overtime?

As the Australian Taxation Office explains, there are times when superannuation is paid on overtime and times when it isn’t.

Here is the ATO’s summary:

Payment type Is superannuation paid?
Overtime hours – award stipulates ordinary hours to be worked and employee works additional hours for which they are paid overtime rates No
Overtime hours – agreement prevails over award No
Agreement supplanting award removes distinction between ordinary hours and other hours Yes – all hours worked
No ordinary hours of work stipulated Yes – all hours worked
Casual employee: shift loadings Yes
Casual employee: overtime payments No
Casual employee whose hours are paid at overtime rates due to a ‘bandwidth’ clause No
Piece-rates – no ordinary hours of work stipulated Yes
Overtime component of earnings based on hourly-driving-rate method stipulated in award No

What are personal contributions?

A personal contribution is when you make an extra payment into your superannuation account. The difference between personal contributions and salary sacrifices is that the former comes out of your after-tax income, while the latter comes out of your pre-tax income.

How is superannuation calculated?

Superannuation is calculated at the rate of 9.5 per cent of your gross salary and wages. So if you had a salary of $50,000, your superannuation would be 9.5 per cent of that, or $4,750. This would be paid on top of your salary.

The ‘superannuation guarantee’, as it is known, has been at 9.5 per cent since the 2014-15 financial year. It is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

Is superannuation taxed?

Superannuation is taxed. It is generally taxed at 15 per cent. However, if you earn less than $37,000, you will be automatically reimbursed up to $500 of the tax you paid. Also, if your income plus concessional superannuation contributions exceed $250,000, you will also be charged Division 293 tax. This is an extra 15 per cent tax on your concessional contributions or the amount above $250,000 – whichever is lesser.

What are reportable employer superannuation contributions?

Reportable employer superannuation contributions are special contributions that an employer makes on top of the regular compulsory contributions. One example would be contributions made as part of a salary sacrifice arrangement.

How much is superannuation?

Superannuation is currently 9.5 per cent – which means that your employer must pay you superannuation equivalent to 9.5 per cent of your salary.

The ‘superannuation guarantee’, as it is known, has been at 9.5 per cent since the 2014-15 financial year. It is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

What are my superannuation obligations if I'm an employer?

Employers are required to pay superannuation to all their staff if the staff are:

  • Over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • Under 18, work more than 30 hours per week and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

This applies even if the staff are casual employees, part-time employees, contractors (provided the contract is mainly for their labour) or temporary residents.

What is the difference between accumulation and defined benefit funds?

A majority of Australians are in accumulation funds. These funds grow according to the amount of money invested and the return on that money.

A minority of Australians are in defined benefit funds – many of which are now closed to new members. These funds give payouts according to specific rules, such as how long the worker has been with their employer and their final salary before they retired.

How do you claim superannuation?

There are three different ways you can claim your superannuation:

  • Lump sum
  • Account-based pension
  • Part lump sum and part account-based pension

Two rules apply if you choose to receive an account-based pension, or income stream:

  • You must receive payments at least once per year
  • You must withdraw a minimum amount per year
    • Age 55-64 = 4%
    • Age 65-74 = 5%
    • Age 75-79 = 6%
    • Age 80-84 = 7%
    • Age 85-89 = 9%
    • Age 90-94 = 11%
    • Age 95+ = 14%

If you want to work out how long your account-based pension might last, click here to access ASIC’s account-based pension calculator.

Is superannuation paid on unused annual leave?

If your employment is terminated, superannuation will not be paid on unused annual leave.

When did superannuation start?

Australia’s modern superannuation system – in which employers make compulsory contributions to their employees – started in 1992. However, before that, there were various restricted superannuation schemes applying to certain employees in certain industries. The very first superannuation scheme was introduced in the 19th century.

How do you calculate superannuation from a total package?

Superannuation is calculated at the rate of 9.5 per cent of your ‘ordinary-time earnings’. (For most people, ordinary-time earnings are their gross annual salary or wages.) So if you had a salary of $50,000, your superannuation would be 9.5 per cent of that, or $4,750. This would be paid on top of your salary.

As the Australian Taxation Office explains, some items are excluded from ordinary-time earnings. They include:

  • Overtime work paid at overtime rates
  • Expense allowances that are fully expended
  • Expenses that are reimbursed
  • Unfair dismissal payments
  • Workers’ compensation payments
  • Parental leave
  • Jury duty
  • Defence reserve service
  • Unused annual leave when employment is terminated
  • Unused long service leave when employment is terminated
  • Unused sick leave when employment is terminated

Although the superannuation guarantee is currently at 9.5 per cent, it is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

Am I entitled to superannuation if I'm not an Australian citizen?

Yes, permanent and temporary residents are entitled to superannuation.

Is superannuation compulsory?

Superannuation is compulsory. Generally speaking, it can’t be touched until you’re at least 55 years old.

What age can I withdraw my superannuation?

You can withdraw your superannuation (or at least some of it) when you reach ‘preservation age’. The preservation age is based on date of birth. Here are the six different categories:

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
From 1 July 1964 60

When you reach preservation age, you can withdraw all your superannuation if you’re retired. If you’re still working, you can begin a ‘transition to retirement’, which allows you to withdraw 10 per cent of their superannuation each financial year.

You can also withdraw all your superannuation once you reach 65 years.