Introduced in 1991, superannuation is money paid into a long-term savings and investment account to provide for your retirement. Employers are required to pay 10.5% of your salary into superannuation. This was increased on July 1 2022 and will continue to increase by 0.5% each financial year until it reaches 12%.

While working, your superannuation is in the accumulation phase. During this period, your superannuation is inaccessible and continues to grow to fund your retirement. During the accumulation stage of superannuation, all contributions and investment earnings are taxed at 15%. Your superannuation will remain in accumulation phase until you reach the preservation age between 55 and 60 (depending on your date of birth). When you reach preservation age, you can access your superannuation.

Employees mostly have a choice as to which fund their contributions are paid. Some government employees do not have this choice as their contributions will be paid to a government fund. When starting a new job, provide your superannuation account details to your employer with a request to have contributions paid into that fund. If you do not nominate a fund, the employer will pay it to the default fund. Over time and with job changes, you may end up with multiple accounts. This is not a good idea as you may be paying extra fees and insurance premiums in each of the funds. This may lead to reduced benefits or a reduced superannuation balance.

When you join a fund, you can select life, total and permanent disablement and/or income protection insurance as part of your membership. The fund will disclose the premiums you will pay from the balance of your account. Depending on your age and stage of life, having insurance inside your superannuation is important. However, this is not always the most suitable option, and you should seek advice from a qualified professional to ensure your insurance cover is appropriate.

While your superannuation benefits are accumulating, your chosen fund manages the investment of your benefit, which is pooled with the benefits of many others if you have a retail or industry superannuation fund. Your fund will give you a few different investment options, which include a blend of shares, property and fixed interest. These investment options all hold varying levels of risk and produce different returns. All investments are subject to market volatility, you must be comfortable with the risk level of your investments throughout points of market weakness.

It is a good idea to make additional contributions to your accumulation account when you are in a position to do so. Contributions can be made using your pre-tax or after-tax salary. Contributing pre-tax salary to superannuation is called ‘salary sacrifice’ or ‘personal deductible contributions’. These pre-tax contributions are also known as concessional contributions which are capped at $27,500p.a.

Pre-tax and after-tax superannuation contributions are effective for high-income earners to reduce their income tax. These contributions may not be as effective for those in lower tax brackets. After-tax contributions do not lower your personal tax. These contributions must be made from money that you do not need as you typically cannot access it before reaching preservation age and a condition of release.

Even though your superannuation is not available to you for many years, you should always take an interest and monitor your balance.  It is real money and will matter when you enter retirement. When you enter retirement, you can convert your accumulation account into ‘pension phase’ and draw a pension or withdraw your superannuation as a lump sum. Once you get to this stage, you will be pleased that you have nurtured your account throughout your working life.

To learn more about how we can help you plan for retirement and manage your superannuation, please visit our Self-Managed Superannuation Fund (SMSF) page.

Please note, this article provides general advice and has not taken your personal or financial circumstances into consideration. If you would like more tailored financial advice, please contact us today. One of our advisers would be delighted to speak with you.