Superannuation has provided most fund members with stellar returns since last year’s COVID lows. As always though, some funds performed better than others and recent government reforms make it easier to find out how your fund compares.
Indeed, you may have noticed recent media reports naming 13 super funds that failed a performance test conducted by the super industry regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
While the news may have come as a shock to members of those funds, it’s important to understand the aims and limitations of the new test.
Background to super reforms
Under the federal government’s Your Super, Your Future reforms passed in June, super funds that fail to meet an annual performance test must notify their members about their underperformance. Funds that fail the test for two consecutive years won’t be able to accept new members until their performance improves or they merge with another fund.
The government has also made it easier to compare funds. As of July 1, anyone can jump onto the ATO’s new YourSuper comparison tool, which ranks funds by fees and investment returns. For now though, the tool only compares MySuper funds which are the default products for employees who don’t choose a fund.
While it’s hard to argue with any initiative that aids transparency and protects people from poorly performing super funds, caution is needed when interpreting the super tool.
Compare like with like
When you compare super funds, it’s important to compare like with like. Awarding funds a simple pass or fail does not take into account a variety of factors such as the risk and return trade-off in investment options and whether the fund is a lifecycle product that reduces risk as a member ages.
Conservative options with a higher percentage of cash and fixed interest investments tend to deliver more modest returns in the long run but with a smoother ride along the way. Whereas balanced and growth options with a higher allocation to shares may deliver higher returns in the long run but with more volatility.
That means a fund may underperform in the short term but still provide members with their desired level of risk and returns. Working out the most appropriate option for you will also depend on when you plan to retire and how much longer your money will be invested in the market. Generally, the shorter your time frame, the more conservative you are likely to be.
The YourSuper comparison tool also doesn’t consider the value of insurance offered by funds or other member services.
The value of advice
While the government’s super reforms are aimed at those who may not be engaged with their super or understand how their savings are being managed, you don’t need to go it alone. This is where our expertise can assist, ensuring your choices are tailored to your circumstances and guiding your decision.
In fact, a recent study by Russell Investments quantified the value of advice. It found that financial advisers added an estimated 5.2 per cent in value to their clients’ portfolios in the tumultuous period from the beginning of the pandemic through to the market’s stunning recovery by mid-2021.i
The report broke down this figure of 5.2 per cent into five key elements:
Preventing behavioural mistakes, like switching to cash and crystallising your paper losses after a market fall (2 per cent)
Advising on appropriate asset allocation (1.1 per cent)
Optimising cash holdings (0.6 per cent)
Tax-effective investing and planning (1.5 per cent)
Expert wealth management knowledge derived from years of market experience – priceless.
The report found the beneficial impact for an investor who started 2020 with a portfolio worth $250,000 and stayed in the market until 31 May this year – rather than switching to cash when markets were volatile in March 2020 – was as large as $40,000.
The bottom line
It’s important for all investors to understand how their super is performing. Even more important though, is having a financial plan that takes into consideration not just your choice of super fund, but all your personal goals and circumstances.
If you would like to discuss your super in the context of your overall investment strategy, give us a call on (02) 9922 4448.