Any time you or your employer make contributions to your superannuation, your money is put into investments by your super fund’s trustee. The way your money is invested depends on the investment option you’ve chosen or had assigned as part of a default fund.
A standard investment mix includes different asset categories, as well as single-sector options such as cash, property and shares. Certain super funds allow members to invest in international shares as part or all of their investment mix. People with self-managed super funds (SMSFs) can also choose to invest in overseas shares.
Benefits and risks of investing super in international shares
There are a number of potential benefits and risks to investing in the international share market.
- Wider choice – Investing in the global market opens you up to a wider pool of investment opportunities.
- Diversification – International shares allow you to diversify your asset classes, meaning a slowdown in a single market may not have such a significant impact on your returns.
- Currency exposure – Gaining exposure to foreign currencies can provide protection in the event of a downturn in the Australian dollar.
- Currency risk – Just as holding shares in a foreign currency can protect your super in certain circumstances, it can also expose you to higher volatility from fluctuations in the exchange rate.
- Higher volatility – International investments may come with a higher level of risk.
How can I see where my super money is invested?
You can find out what your investment mix looks like by checking your superannuation member statement or logging into your super account online. Most investment strategies fall into one of the following categories:
- Growth – A high-growth, high-risk option with a share of 80 per cent or more in shares and property, and the rest in cash or fixed interest.
- Balanced – A mid-growth, mid- to high-risk option with around 70 per cent in shares and property, and the rest in cash or fixed interest.
- Conservative – A low- to mid-growth, low-risk option with around 30 per cent in shares and property, and the rest in cash or fixed interest.
- Cash – A low-growth, very low-risk option with 100 per cent in cash investments such as term deposits.
Usually, you can choose one of the approaches above, or a combination. If your fund allows investment in international shares, it would likely fall into a higher-risk approach.
Should you invest your super in international shares?
Your age, super balance, financial knowledge and comfort with risk should all factor in when deciding whether or not to choose a superannuation investment with international shares.
For example, if you’re under the age of 40 you might decide to invest in global shares because you can afford to take on more risk and ride out the highs and lows of the market. As you move closer to retirement, you might choose to invest in more stable options such as cash deposits.
There’s no all-around perfect super investment strategy, so consider your financial profile and compare super funds to find an investment mix that suits your needs.