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Colonial First State
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Learn more about superannuation

Retail superannuation funds are just one of the many Australian superannuation funds on offer to Australian workers. They are run for profit and offer a wide range of investments.

Anyone can join a retail super fund, and just like all other super funds there are pros and cons. Retail super funds are the largest sector in the Australian superannuation market.

What is a retail super fund?

Retail superannuation funds are run by banks and other financial institutions. These superannuation funds, which are run by the likes of the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, Suncorp, ING and other Australian banks, are run to generate a profit for their shareholders.

There are a lot of investment options in a retail super fund with most funds offering hundreds of choices. The investments range from Australian shares, property, cash, international shares or could even be made up of a mixture of all these.

Originally retail super funds were developed by banks, investment institutions and insurance companies to cater for savvy people keen to save for their retirement.

Who offers retail super funds?

There are many Australia banks, big investment firms and insurance companies who operate retail super funds. The big four banks (Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ and Westpac) all have retail superannuation funds on offer.

Other Australian banks offering retail super funds include ING, Bendigo Bank, Suncorp and AMP. Some prominent financial companies offer retail super funds as well. Investment companies like Virgin Money, MLC and Perpetual have their own retail super funds as well.

Can anyone join a retail super fund?

Yes, retail super funds are open to anyone, but they are not always suitable for everyone. Always do your research before committing to a super fund.

Traditionally, retail funds were set up for white-collar workers who often worked for the institutions their superannuation was invested in, but today anyone is welcome to join retail super funds.

How does a retail superannuation fund work?

Just like other superannuation funds, members of a retail superannuation fund will have their money invested into different shares, stocks and investments. This is done by professional investment managers.

The money in your retail super fund comes from contributions made by your employer as well as any extras you put into it. This money is kept away and is accessed when you retire. 

Retail super funds are usually accumulation funds, which aim to grow funds that are held in the accounts over time. Due to the investments it is important to note that with an accumulation fund you run the risk that when you retire, your super payout can be lower if financial markets have recently fallen or continue to fall during your retirement.

What are the pros and cons of retail super funds?

Just like all Australian superannuation funds, there are pros and cons. If you are considering signing up to a retail super fund you should consider all angles and what super fund is best for you.

Pros

  • Anyone can join a retail superannuation fund.
  • They usually offer a large number of investment options and choices.
  • Wide range of costs for different funds means they are accessible for different levels of income and super contributions. 
  • Retail super funds are usually accumulation funds.
  • They can offer members a range of insurances on their superannuation funds.

Cons

  • Retail super funds are run to generate corporate profits, which are passed on as dividends to the company’s shareholders, not as profits to super fund members.
  • Accumulation funds can be impacted by global financial market turbulence.

You should always consider your personal retirement and lifestyle choices before committing to any specific superannuation fund.

What other types of super fund are out there?

A retail superannuation fund is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Australian super funds on offer. There are other types of funds, all with different pros and cons associated with them, each aimed at fitting different lifestyles and financial situations.

Self-managed super funds put you in the driving seat of your own superannuation. A self-managed super fund makes you the manager of your super finances instead of a professional investor or fund manager, giving you more control over your superannuation investments. Unlike other superannuation funds, a self-managed fund requires a lot of time and commitment, and there are risks involved in managing your own superannuation.

Industry superannuation funds are the main competition for retail superannuation funds. They are sometimes restricted to workers of a particular industry and tend to be run not-for-profit, meaning they give their profits back to their members. Industry super funds tend not to be operated by the Australian big four banks (Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ Bank and Westpac) because they are run not-for-profit.

Public sector superannuation funds are almost exclusive to employees of the federal and state government. They were created to cater to employees of many different government departments, who are often paid more than the normal contribution rate. Public sector super funds tend to have low fees and offer a medium range of investment options.

What should you look for when choosing a fund?

The number one thing you need to consider when choosing a retail super fund, or any other fund out on the market, is your own personal goals, lifestyle and financial situation.

It is always important to consider all super funds on the market so you can get the best possible deal and the most possible growth in your superannuation fund.

We all want to be able to retire comfortably, so setting up the right Australian super fund for you is important.

There are some questions you should ask yourself when choosing your Australian superannuation fund:

  • What are my long-term and short-term life goals?
  • Do I own property?
  • How much will I need when I retire?
  • What do I want to do in my retirement?
  • At what age do I want to retire?

These are some but not all of the things you need to consider when looking for the right super fund.

Always chat to your employer about your options, because depending on your employment situation you may or may not be able to choose your own individual superannuation fund.

How can I access my super?

When you retire, you’ll need to assess a few things about your superannuation. You need to decide if you want your super as a regular pension, a big lump sum or a combination of both of these options.

You access your super after you’ve retired. Each super fund offers different levels of access to your superannuation so it is best to always understand the ins and outs of each fund depending on your own retirement goals.

How much superannuation will I get?

Your final superannuation payout will depend on a few things:

  • How much your employer contributed across your life.
  • How much you personally contributed into your personal super fund.
  • The investment returns in your super fund.
  • The amount of fees and charges you paid on your account.
  • The amount of tax you paid across your lifetime.

There are always variables to all of these depending on your choice of superannuation fund.

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.

How many superannuation funds are there?

There are more than 200 different superannuation funds.

How is superannuation regulated?

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) regulates ordinary superannuation accounts. Self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) are regulated by the Australian Taxation Office.

How do I change my superannuation fund?

Changing superannuation funds is a common and straightforward process. You can do it through your MyGov account or by filling out a rollover form and sending it to your new fund. You’ll also have to provide proof of identity.

What happens to my insurance cover if I change superannuation funds?

Some superannuation funds will allow you to transfer your insurance cover, without interruption, if you switch. However, others won’t. So it’s important you check before changing funds.

What superannuation details do I give to my employer?

When you start a job, your employer will give you what’s called a ‘superannuation standard choice form’. Here’s what you need to complete the form:

  • The name of your preferred superannuation fund
  • The fund’s address
  • The fund’s Australian business number (ABN)
  • The fund’s superannuation product identification number (SPIN)
  • The fund’s phone number
  • A letter from the fund trustee confirming that the fund is a complying fund; or written evidence from the fund stating it will accept contributions from your new employer; or details about how your employer can make contributions to the fund

You should also provide your tax file number – while it’s not a legal obligation, it will ensure your contributions will be taxed at the (lower) superannuation rate.

How do you open a superannuation account?

Opening a superannuation account is simple. When you start a job, your employer will give you what’s called a ‘superannuation standard choice form’. Here’s what you need to complete the form:

  • The name of your preferred superannuation fund
  • The fund’s address
  • The fund’s Australian business number (ABN)
  • The fund’s superannuation product identification number (SPIN)
  • The fund’s phone number
  • A letter from the fund trustee confirming that the fund is a complying fund; or written evidence from the fund stating it will accept contributions from your new employer; or details about how your employer can make contributions to the fund

You might want to provide your tax file number as well – while it’s not a legal obligation, it will ensure your contributions will be taxed at the (lower) superannuation rate.

How do you create a superannuation account?

Before you create a superannuation account, you’ll need to check if you’re allowed to choose your own fund. Most Australians can, but this option doesn’t apply to some workers who are covered by industrial agreements or who are members of defined benefits funds.

Assuming you are able to choose your own fund, the next step should be research, because there are more than 200 different superannuation funds in Australia.

Once you’ve decided on your preferred superannuation fund, head to that provider’s website, where you should be able to fill in an online application or download the appropriate forms. You’ll need your tax file number (assuming you don’t want to be charged a higher tax rate), your contact details and your employer’s details (if you’re employed).

Can I take money out of my superannuation fund?

Superannuation is designed to provide Australians with money in their retirement. The government has strict rules around when people can take that money out of their fund because it wants to prevent people eroding their savings before they reach retirement.

As a general rule, you can only take money out of your superannuation fund when you reach:

  • Age 65
  • Your ‘preservation age’ and retire
  • Your preservation age and begin a ‘transition to retirement’ while still working

That said, you can take money out of your superannuation fund early based on one of these seven special conditions:

  • Compassionate grounds
  • Severe financial hardship
  • Temporary incapacity
  • Permanent incapacity
  • Superannuation inheritance
  • Superannuation balance under $200
  • Temporary resident departing Australia

How do I choose the right superannuation fund?

Different superannuation funds charge different fees, offer different insurances, offer different investment options and have different performance histories.

So you need to ask yourself these four questions when comparing superannuation funds:

  • How many fees would I have to pay and what would they cost?
  • What insurances are available and how much would they cost?
  • What investment options does it offer? How would they match my risk profile and financial needs?
  • How have these investment options performed historically?

How long after divorce can you claim superannuation?

You or your partner could be forced to surrender part of your superannuation if you divorce, just like with other assets.

You can file a claim for division of property – including superannuation – as soon as you divorce. However, the claim has to be filed within one year of the divorce.

Your superannuation could be affected even if you’re in a de facto relationship – that is, living together as a couple without being officially married.

In that case, the claim has to be filed within two years of the date of separation.

Either way, the first thing to consider is whether you’re a member of a standard, APRA-regulated superannuation fund or if you’re a member of a self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF), because different rules apply.

Standard superannuation funds

If your relationship breaks down, your superannuation savings might be divided by court order or by agreement.

The rules of the superannuation fund will dictate whether this transfer happens immediately, or in the future when the person who has to make the transfer is allowed to access the rest of their superannuation (i.e. at or near retirement).

Click here for more information.

SMSFs

If your relationship breaks down, you must continue to observe the trust deed of your SMSF.

So if you and your partner are both members of the same SMSF, neither party is allowed to use the fund to inflict ‘punishment’ – such as by excluding the other party from the decision-making process or refusing their request to roll their money into another superannuation fund.

This no-punishment rule applies even if the two parties are involved in legal proceedings.

Click here for more information.

Financial consequences

Superannuation funds often charge a fee for splitting accounts after a relationship breakdown.

Splitting superannuation can also impact the size of your total super balance and how your super is taxed.

Click here for more information.

What are reportable superannuation contributions?

For employees, there are two types of reportable superannuation contributions:

  • Reportable employer super contributions your employer makes for you
  • Personal deductible contributions you make for yourself

Am I entitled to superannuation if I'm a casual employee?

As a casual employee, you’re entitled to superannuation if:

  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

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 do you get superannuation?

You’re automatically entitled to superannuation if:

  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

How does superannuation work?

Superannuation is paid by employers to employees, at least once every three months. The ‘superannuation guarantee’ 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 guarantee 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.

Superannuation 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.

You can withdraw your superannuation when you meet the ‘conditions of release’. The conditions of release say you can claim your super when you reach:

  • Age 65
  • Your ‘preservation age’ and retire
  • Your preservation age and begin a ‘transition to retirement’ while still working

 

How can I withdraw my superannuation?

There are three different ways you can withdraw 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 (also known as an 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.

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.

What is superannuation?

Superannuation is money set aside for your retirement. This money is automatically paid into your superannuation fund by your employer.

What should I know before getting an SMSF?

Four questions to ask yourself before taking out an SMSF include:

  1. Do I have enough superannuation to justify the higher set-up and running costs?
  2. Am I able to handle complicated compliance obligations?
  3. Am I willing to spend lots of time researching investment options?
  4. Do I have the skill to make big financial decisions?

It’s also worth remembering that ordinary superannuation funds usually offer discounted life insurance and disability insurance. These discounts would no longer be available if you decided to manage your own super.