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How to maximise your super at any age


Whether you're 21 or 61 (or somewhere in between), there are steps you can take to get more from your super.

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Around 16 million Aussies have at least one superannuation account. But just because most of us have one, doesn't mean they're all the same.

In fact, superannuation accounts are actually a very personal investment. They can be tailored to suit our age, our income, our lifestyle and our family situation. They can be customised more than many people realise, and they can be made to work harder for us.

These tips give you a little insight into how you could get more from your super, in different periods of your life. Now, we know everyone hits milestones at their own pace, so we're just going on Aussie averages.

That means there might be some tips in any age range that could work for you – just take a closer look and see what resonates with you and your personal situation.

Teens and 20s

Do your research. Chances are, you'll open your first super fund in this age bracket. But don't just stick with your employer's recommended fund. Do some research and see if there's a fund with a better track record or one that is better fitted to your investment goals.

Look for low fees. Fees can make a big impact on your super balance, but this is particularly true when your super balance is low. SuperRatings' data shows the average fee for an account with a $5,000 balance is $154 a year, but there are cheaper options. For example, Sunsuper's annual fees are $126 for an account with $5,000.

Start early. You may have fewer financial obligations at a young age, so consider making extra contributions if you can. Thanks to compound interest, the money you put in while you're young will almost certainly grow to be much bigger by the time you retire. Plus, any extra contributions you make aren't necessarily locked in. You may be able to withdraw them to help with a house deposit in the future.

Example. You start your first job at 20, on a wage of $60,000. Your wage stays the same until you retire at 67. According to MoneySmart's Superannuation calculator, if your employer made 10% contributions, and your super had a 7.5% return, you'd have $477,033 by the time you retired. But if you salary-sacrificed $100 a month, you'd have an extra $82,954 in your nest egg by the time you retired, despite only putting in an extra $56,400 over that time frame. Remember, this doesn't take fees into account and real-life examples are rarely this simple, but you can play around with MoneySmart's Superannuation calculator to get a better idea of how it all works.

30s and 40s

Look at your insurances. Millions of Aussies have kids or buy a house in their 30s, which means you need a financial safety net more than ever. Super funds provide members with affordable life insurance options that can be tailored to their specific financial and family situation.

Go for growth. If you're not planning on retiring soon, growth funds can make a big impact on your super balance. For example, Sunsuper's Balanced fund (which is considered a growth fund) returned 20.7% for the year ending 30 June 2021.

Save on tax. Bumped up to a higher tax bracket? Salary sacrificing could pay off. Extra pre-tax super contributions are taxed at 15% for most people, which will be far less than your marginal tax rate, and it will also reduce your taxable income.

50s and 60s

Look at lower risk. As you approach retirement, it's usually a good idea to switch your super fund to a lower risk option. The last thing you want is a major market change just months before you retire, leaving you with a reduced nest egg after all this time.

Revisit insurance. By this age, you may be close to paying off your mortgage (if you have one) and your kids may also be financially independent. If this is the case, you might not need extensive insurance policies in your super anymore.

Get advice. There are rules surrounding when and how you can withdraw your savings, so it's a good idea to speak to a financial adviser. Your fund may even offer free help. For example, Sunsuper members can access financial advice about their super account for no extra cost.

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Compare other super funds hereDISCLAIMER: This article is general advice. It does not consider your own personal circumstances and may not be applicable to you. You should obtain professional advice and consider your own situation before acting on anything contained in our article.
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