12 ways to give your super an annual check-up


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Ignoring your superannuation is never a good idea. After all, it is probably your biggest or second biggest asset if you own a home.

But because retirement is a long way off, some Australians adopt a set-and-forget approach, leaving it unchecked until their impending retirement. By then, it could be too late.

If super payments have been missed or you have been underpaid, it is almost impossible to fix.

12 ways to give your super an annual check up

No matter your age, it is a good idea to regularly review and get on top of your super.

The tax office recommends you check your superannuation every year around the time you are doing your tax return.

Here are 12 details to check on:

1. Confirm your personal details

Does the super fund have your correct name, date of birth, contact details such as phone number, email and postal address?

To pay the correct rate of tax on your contributions and earnings, the super fund needs your tax file number too, otherwise it will charge you too much tax.

2. Check the balance and contributions

What if your employer isn't paying your superannuation or it isn't the right amount, which is currently 11% of your pay?

Some $4.7 billion of superannuation isn't paid to employees every year by negligent employers or by error, according to research by Industry Super Australia.

Superannuation apps and online services help make it easy to check your super payments and balance regularly.

3. Make sure all your super is there

The tax office has an 'estimate my super' tool and the regulator's moneysmart has an 'employer contributions calculator' to help you work out how much super guarantee (SG) should be paid.

It tells you the four dates a year that your employer must legally pay the SG.

The SG is rising on July 1, 2024, from 11% to 11.5%. The super guarantee will increase by a further 0.5% on July 1, 2025. Be sure to check your super to make sure you're receiving these increases.

4. Check the fund

With superannuation fund mergers, your super fund could have a different name than before. (This happened to me when Media Super merged with Cbus. The Media fund name was dropped, and my superannuation is now with Cbus.)

5. Make sure your personal contributions are there too

Make sure your fund has any additional contributions that you have contributed either through salary sacrificing or direct payments.

6. Look for any unclaimed super

If you have ever changed your job, your name and your address, you could have stranded or lost super accounts.

Your lost super may be held by your super fund or if it is inactive and under $6000 as well as a few other reasons by the tax office. Go to the tax office via my.gov.au and link your myGov account to the ATO.

Then select super. It will show the details of all your super accounts, including any lost or forgotten. It will show whether the tax office is holding any super for you. It allows you to consolidate your super into one account too.

Consolidating your super funds may reduce fees and make it easier to manage. In some cases, it may make sense to have more than one fund because they have different features that you want to access.

Also check that the tax office has your correct name, contact number, email, address, bank details and tax file number. The tax office says that prevents any lost super in the future and it matches any super to you.

7. Check if your nominated beneficiary is up to date

The nominated beneficiary will receive your superannuation should you die. Is yours the right person?

There are 'binding' and 'non-binding' beneficiaries, depending on the rules of your super fund. The binding nomination is typically valid for only three years, so make sure it is up to date.

Circumstances change with marriage, divorce and having children so you may need to update it by contacting your super fund.

Non-binding is not formally binding and only acts as a guide for the superannuation trustee on how to pay out your death benefit.

8. Check on your Life and Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance

Most Australians hold their life and TPD insurance through their superannuation fund. But the automatic cover is only a basic amount. Your annual statement will show how much you have.

You may need to increase your cover and buy more insurance as your life changes, particularly if you have dependents and a mortgage.

It is easy to do this, and the premiums come out of your super fund.

9. Consider if you want income protection insurance

Some funds may offer income protection insurance to cover you if you become ill or injured and can't work.

You receive monthly payments to support you while you're not earning your regular salary.

10. Look at the long-term performance

It is compelling to see how your super fund performed over the last year. How much did your balance increase by?

Because super is a long-term investment, look beyond the short-term performance which could be hit periodically by weak share or property markets, and focus on the long-term performance. Don't jump funds based on short-term performance.

AustralianSuper's balanced investment option estimates there could be five negative returns every 20 years or one every four years. But in the long term the risk level for a 20-year period is low.

Before you react to what appears to be a poor return for your fund make sure you compare it to similar funds over the same period and read your funds explanation of the result.

Past performance is a poor guide to the future unless you can attribute it to a persistent characteristic of the fund, such as overly aggressive investment tactics, or excessive allocation to unlisted assets for example.

11. Check if your super is hitting your retirement goals

Whether you're close to retirement or it is way off, look at how much money you will need to fund your lifestyle in retirement.

Fire up the superannuation calculator at moneysmart to see if you are on track and if not, how you can get there.

12. Make sure you're not in a dud fund

You don't want to be in a continually poor-performing fund or paying above average fees. It really lowers your retirement savings.

There are ways to check how your fund stacks up against other superannuation funds. Look at APRA's annual performance test which highlights poor performers and high fees.

If you are in a MySuper fund, you can check your fund's performance using the ATO's YourSuper comparison tool.

There are super comparison websites offered by private companies. Also check the product disclosure statements for each fund.

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.