Why you should consider your super
When was the last time you thought seriously about your super fund? While our superannuation is often one of the most significant financial assets of our lifetime, many of us barely consider it until we’re thinking seriously about retiring, which is often too late to make significant changes.
What should I know before getting an SMSF?
Four questions to ask yourself before taking out an SMSF include:
- Do I have enough superannuation to justify the higher set-up and running costs?
- Am I able to handle complicated compliance obligations?
- Am I willing to spend lots of time researching investment options?
- 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.
How do I set up an SMSF?
Setting up an SMSF takes more work than registering with an ordinary superannuation fund.
An SMSF is a type of trust, so if you want to create an SMSF, you first have to create a trust.
To create a trust, you will need trustees, who must sign a trustee declaration. You will also need identifiable beneficiaries and assets for the fund – although these can be as little as a few dollars.
You will also need to create a trust deed, which is a document that lays out the rules of your SMSF. The trust deed must be prepared by a qualified professional and signed by all trustees.
To qualify as an Australian superannuation fund, the SMSF must meet these three criteria:
- The fund must be established in Australia – or at least one of its assets must be located in Australia
- The central management and control of the fund must ordinarily be in Australia
- The fund must have active members who are Australian residents and who hold at least 50 per cent of the fund’s assets – or it must have no active members
Once your SMSF is established and all trustees have signed a trustee declaration, you have 60 days to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN).
When completing the ABN application, you should ask for a tax file number for your fund. You should also ask for the fund to be regulated by the Australian Taxation Office – otherwise it won’t receive tax concessions.
Your next step is to open a bank account in your fund’s name. This account must be kept separated from the accounts held by the trustees and any related employers.
Your SMSF will also need an electronic service address, so it can receive contributions.
Finally, you will need to create an investment strategy, which explains how your fund will invest its money, and an exit strategy, which explains how and why it would ever close.
Please note that you can pay an adviser to set up your SMSF. You might also want to take the Self-Managed Superannuation Fund Trustee Education Program, which is a free program that has been created by CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand.
What is an SMSF investment strategy?
All SMSFs are required to have an investment strategy, which should explain what assets the fund will buy and what objectives it will pursue. This strategy must be reviewed regularly.
Issues to consider include how much risk the SMSF will take, how easily its assets can be converted into cash and how it will pay out benefits.
What contributions can SMSFs accept?
SMSFs can accept mandated employer contributions from an employer at any time (Funds need an electronic service address to receive the contributions).
However, SMSFs can’t accept contributions from members who don’t have tax file numbers.
Also, they generally can’t accept assets as contributions from members and they generally can’t accept non-mandated contributions for members who are 75 or older.
How are SMSFs allowed to invest their funds?
SMSFs can invest in conventional assets such as shares, term deposits, managed funds and property.
SMSFs can also buy ‘collectibles’ such as artwork, jewellery, antiques, coins, stamps, vintage cars and wine – although there are special rules that apply to collectibles.
Investments must be made on an arm’s length basis, which means that assets must be bought and sold at market prices, while income must reflect the market rate of return.
As a general rule, SMSFs can’t buy assets from members or related parties.
How are SMSFs taxed?
Funds that follow the rules are taxed at the concessional rate of 15 per cent. Funds that don’t follow the rules are taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.
Can I carry on a business in an SMSF?
SMSFs are allowed to carry on a business under two conditions.
First, this must be permitted under the trust deed.
Second, the sole purpose of the business must be to earn retirement benefits.
What compliance obligations does an SMSF have?
SMSFs must maintain comprehensive records and submit to annual audits.
How do I wind up an SMSF?
There are five things you must do if you want to close your SMSF:
- Fulfil any obligations listed in the trust deed
- Pay out or roll over all the superannuation
- Conduct a final audit
- Lodge a final annual return
- Close the fund’s bank account
What is an SMSF?
An SMSF is a self-managed superannuation fund. SMSFs have to follow the same rules and restrictions as ordinary superannuation funds.
SMSFs allow Australians to directly invest their superannuation, rather than let ordinary funds manage their money for them.
SMSFs are regulated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). They can have up to four members. All members must be trustees (or directors if there is a corporate trustee).
Unlike with ordinary funds, SMSF members are responsible for meeting compliance obligations.
What are the risks and challenges of an SMSF?
- SMSFs have high set-up and running costs
- They come with complicated compliance obligations
- It takes a lot of time to research investment options
- It can be difficult to make such big financial decisions
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).
How much superannuation do I need?
According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), here is how much you would be able to spend per week during retirement:
Here is the superannuation balance you would need to fund that level of spending:
These figures come from the March 2017 edition of the ASFA Retirement Standard.
The reason people on modest lifestyles need so much less money is because they qualify for a far bigger age pension.
Here is how ASFA defines retirement lifestyles:
|Holidays||One annual holiday in Australia||One or two short breaks in Australia near where you live||Shorter breaks or day trips in your own city|
|Eating out||Regularly eat out at restaurants. Good range and quality of food||Infrequently eat out at restaurants. Cheaper and less food||Only club special meals or inexpensive takeaway|
|Car||Owning a reasonable car||Owning an older, less reliable car||No car – or, if you do, a struggle to afford the upkeep|
|Alcohol||Bottled wine||Casked wine||Homebrew beer or no alcohol|
|Clothing||Good clothes||Reasonable clothes||Basic clothes|
|Hair||Regular haircuts at a good hairdresser||Regular haircuts at a basic salon||Less frequent haircuts or getting a friend to do it|
|Leisure||A range of regular leisure activities||One paid leisure activity, infrequently||Free or low-cost leisure activities|
|Electronics||A range of electronic equipment||Not much scope to run an air conditioner||Less heating in winter|
|Maintenance||Replace kitchen and bathroom over 20 years||No budget for home improvements. Can do repairs, but can’t replace kitchen or bathroom||No budget to fix home problems like a leaky roof|
|Insurance||Private health insurance||Private health insurance||No private health insurance|
How can I keep track of my superannuation?
Most funds will allow you to access your superannuation account online. Another option is to manage your superannuation through myGov, which is a government portal through which you can access a range of services, including Medicare, Centrelink, aged care and child support.
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.
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 MySuper?
MySuper accounts are basic, low-fee accounts. If you don’t nominate a superannuation fund, your employer must choose one for you that offers a MySuper account.
MySuper accounts offer two investment options:
- Single diversified investment strategy
Your fund assigns you a risk strategy and investment profile, which remain unchanged throughout your working life.
- Lifecycle investment strategy
Your fund assigns you an investment strategy based on your age, and then changes it as you get older. Younger workers are given strategies that emphasise growth assets
Is superannuation included in taxable income?
Superannuation is not included when calculating your income tax. So if you have a salary of $50,000, your assessable income would be $50,000, not $50,000 plus superannuation.
That said, superannuation itself is taxed. It is generally taxed at 15 per cent, although if you earn less than $37,000, you will be reimbursed up to $500 of the tax you paid.
Can I transfer money from overseas into my superannuation account?
Yes, you can transfer money from overseas into your superannuation account – under certain conditions. First, you must provide your tax file number to your fund. Second, if you are aged between 65 and 74, you must have worked at least 40 hours within 30 consecutive days in a financial year. (Australians under 65 aren’t subject to a work test; Australians aged 75 and over cannot receive contributions to their superannuation account.)
Money transferred from overseas will generally count to both your concessional contributions limit and your non-concessional contributions limit. You will have to pay income tax on the applicable fund earnings component of any money transferred from overseas. You might also be liable for excess contributions tax.