Ask Paul: Our adviser is charging us $9000 a year to manage our super


Dear Paul,

We are in our early 60s.

Our super is invested with MLC through our adviser, who charges 1.1%. This year our combined fees totalled $9000. 

ask paul clitheroe our mlc adviser is charging us $9000 a year in fees to manage our super

SuperRatings recently rated several industry funds well above MLC in performance.

I'm wondering if we would be better off switching to an industry fund, which would charge a much smaller fee and have that $9000 in our fund instead of in our adviser's pocket? - Graham

Goodness, Graham. I hope you are getting more than just someone looking at your statement twice a year!

$9000 buys a lot of professional advice; in fact, even at a very handsome $350 a hour, it should cover 25 hours of professional advice a year.

Before I leap in too harshly here, though, it is important that you do consider exactly what services beyond super, including professional advice, you are getting. It is all about value for money.

Most of the big funds have low-cost, balanced or other options based on indexing, meaning the fund captures whatever returns the markets generate. The annual costs on these are as low as 0.05% - yes, on an investment of $500,000 that is around $250 a year.

So, if you are paying 1.1% a year, you would want to be sure you are getting returns and other services that reflect the fees you are paying.

Here it is important I tell you that my employer from 1983 to 2018, ipac Securities, put employer contributions into a high-growth MLC fund.

I do not pay an adviser any fees, but the MLC fund obviously charges fees. It is very much dependent on which fund you are in with any manager, but the fund I am in has performed strongly, which has justified its fees.

That said, I am a strong supporter of using a big, low-cost industry fund with its huge, broadly diversified portfolio.

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Paul Clitheroe AM is founder and editorial adviser of Money magazine. He is one of Australia's leading financial voices, responsible for bringing financial insight to Australians through personal finance books, the Money TV show, and this publication, which he established in 1999. Paul is the chair of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and is chairman of InvestSMART Financial Services. He is the chair of Financial Literacy at Macquarie University where he is also a Professor with the School of Business and Economics. Ask Paul your money question. Unfortunately Paul cannot respond to questions posted in the comments section. View our disclaimer.
Marg R
January 19, 2022 9.30pm

Paul, you have me worried about my super in a not-for-profit fund described by as a low-fee super fund. The fund is always considered one of the top ones. My total fees are 1.06% across some growth but mainly balanced option.

When I checked the only way to get down to 0.05% you mention above is to have money in the cash option - really not much of an option with rock-bottom interest rates at the moment.

Or are there funds I am not aware of that would give you a balanced option with only 0.05% fees? I might add it is so hard to find exactly what fees you pay, as a PDS is almost impossible to navigate with different tables for a plethora of fees.

Peter B
January 20, 2022 10.20am

Might be worthwhile seeing an adviser Marg.

Ron B
January 20, 2022 10.48pm

Paul, if I have it correct, you were originally one of those advisers charging yearly fees before finding media fame, then started Ipac which again had financial planners who charged fees, before cashing in by selling it all to one of those big retail institutions, in essence all built on clients trust and fees.

Now years after banking your millions, you're really saying it's all terrible? Wonder if you'd still say that if you hadn't sold?

Paul Clitheroe
March 7, 2022 8.20am

Thanks for you comment, Rob. You are quite correct, along with my partners we started ipac as a fee for service financial advice firm back in 1983, some 39 years ago. I started doing commentary on money issues on radio about the same time and the Money TV show in 1993. Money magazine was launched in 1999, so my decades at ipac combined with my time in the media

I am very proud of ipac. It was arguably the first retail firm charging clients a fee for service and not commission on product sales, which I have argued for nearly 40 years, lead to bias and often poor outcomes for clients. Fee for service makes costs very obvious for we consumers. Hidden fees and commissions are terrible for consumers, whether it was with ipac or any other firm. I just want consumers to understand the fees they are paying and make an informed decision about whether they are getting value or not.

The point I made to Graham was simply what value was he getting from $9000 in advice fees? As I said, "It is important that you do consider exactly what services you are getting. It is all about value for money".

If Graham is coming to regular meetings with his advisor and receiving detailed, ongoing advice about planning their investments today and into the future, along with complete "lifestyle financial planning", which would include discussions about income in retirement, legislative changes, investments outside of super, estate planning and so on, this valuable advice and guidance would be well worth the annual fee.

But, as I said, if it meant the advisor was simply looking at a couple of statements a year from a single super fund, it is very poor value. Graham can look at what value he is getting and make his own informed decision. Put simply, is he getting $9000 a year worth of valuable advice or isn't he?

You are also correct in that we sold ipac to AXA nearly 20 years We started the business as 5 youngish guys, all in our mid to late 20s. Speaking for myself, after a couple of decades growing and running a complex business, as my 50 th birthday approached, it was very obvious to me that a business the size of ipac needed serious institutional backing and capital.

For 40 years I have very publicly pressed for financial services consumers to pay a know fee, not hidden commissions. 40 years ago people laughed at this "preposterous" idea, but now of course it is the norm. When it comes to paying a fee to ipac or any other firm, my position has been consistent. As consumers, when we pay a known fee, each and every one of us should consider the value of the services we receive and the cost of these services.

Fees are a certainty with investment and returns, in particular in the short term, are quite unknown. So if a consumer needs no advice, I will continue to suggest very low cost products, be this super or non super investments. As the Royal Commission demonstrated, many Australians have been paying for advice and not receiving any.

I have always strongly believed that advice can be very valuable. Personally, I pay quite high advice fees, but I receive very comprehensive and specific advice and portfolio monitoring. So if Graham or any other consumer is paying high advice fees and getting excellent advice and service, fantastic. If any of us is paying for nothing, or too little, time to move on.

Paul Clitheroe


Money magazine