Superannuation investment options

Here's how to choose between the different investment options offered by your super fund.

Superannuation is one big investment portfolio and you have a choice as to how it's invested. There are generally six main superannuation investment options to choose between: conservative, balanced, growth, high growth, socially responsible and a single-asset option. Some super funds offer more options than this, though these are the basic options offered by most funds.

If you're new to investing it can be confusing to work out the difference between all these investment options. In this guide we'll take you through these six options, explain what they are and what they invest in and offer some tips to help you decide which is right for you. You can also compare a range of popular super funds and see their past investment performance figures in this guide.

Virgin Money Super

Virgin Money Super - Lifestage Tracker (1969 - 1973)

  • MySuper fund available
  • Manage your account online 24/7
  • Automatic Death and TPD cover

Virgin Money Super

Boasting competitive fees and a choice of eight investment options, Virgin Money allows you to tailor a superannuation investment plan that meets your needs. Earn Velocity Frequent Flyer Points on eligible contributions (T&Cs apply) and receive personal advice through Virgin’s Helpline Advice Service.

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Compare super funds now

Name Product Past Performance - 1 Year Past Performance - 3 Years Past 5 year performance Calculated fees on $50,000 balance
New fund
New fund
Earn Velocity Frequent Flyer Points for making contributions to your super. T&Cs apply.
Enjoy discounted rates on banking products with ME Bank and health cover with GMHBA health insurance.
Choose between 14 different investment options, including a socially responsible option.
Socially responsible and ethical investment options available.
Pay no entry, exit or switching fees and enjoy a range of different investment options with QSuper.
New Fund
New Fund
New Fund
Superestate focuses on investing your super in residential properties and charges some of the lowest annual fees in the market.
Earn a Retirement Bonus of up to $4,800 when you open a new Income account. T&Cs apply.
Get access to one-on-one professional advice at no additional cost.
Choose investment options that align with your personal values.
Access offers, deals and discounts through the BT Super Benefits Now program.
Enjoy discounted health insurance with HCF.
Get fee-free advice on your superannuation as a BUSSQ member. T&Cs apply.
Receive a complimentary financial planning session with a Suncorp financial planner.
Enjoy discounted rates on banking products with ME Bank.
Access simple personal advice at no cost.
Gain access to lifestyle offers and benefits on NAB financial products and services.
Earn rewards and vouchers through the AIA Vitality program.
A flexible industry super fund for people who work in Australia’s higher education and research sector.

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The information in the table is based on data provided by Chant West Pty Ltd (AFSL 255320) which is itself supplied by third parties. While such information is believed to be accurate, Chant West does not accept responsibility for any inaccuracy in such information. Chant West’s Financial Services Guide is available at . Finder offers no guarantees or warranties about the data and we recommend that users make their own enquiries before relying on this information. Performance, fees and insurance data is based on each fund's default MySuper product. Where the performance, fees and insurance data for the MySuper fund vary according to the member's age, results for individuals between 40-49 years of age have been shown. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

*Past performance data is for the period ending December 2018.

How is superannuation invested?

Your superannuation is invested in a range of growth assets and defensive assets. Growth assets are considered to be higher risk, but also potentially higher return. Defensive assets on the other hand carry much less risk, but also don't offer very high returns.

Growth assets include

  • Infrastructure
  • Australian shares
  • International shares
  • Private capital including investments in private companies that aren't publicly listed
  • Property including commercial, industrial or real estate trusts

Defensive assets include

  • Cash products like savings accounts and term deposits
  • Fixed interest including corporate and government bonds
  • Hedge funds

Types of superannuation investment options

Most super funds will offer a choice between a number of pre-mixed, diversified investment portfolios or a build-your-own option for those who want to be more hands-on with their super. The pre-mixed investment portfolios will invest in a range of growth and defensive assets. Let's take a look at these options in a bit more detail.


With this option your super is invested in line with your age. As you get older the assets your super is invested in begin to change, as does the level of risk you're taking on. It's typically understood that when you're young a lot more of your super balance can be invested in riskier, high-growth asset classes like international shares.

If you're in your 20s or 30s you have a lot more time to ride the ups and downs of the stock market compared to someone in their 50s. As you get closer to retirement, a larger percentage of your super will be invested in safer assets like term deposits.


This pre-mixed investment option is a balance between growth and defensive assets, usually classed as medium to high risk. The balanced investment options will vary between different super funds, but they generally allocate around 65–70% of your super balance to growth assets and 30–35% to defensive assets. The balanced option is usually the default option offered by super funds.

Growth or high growth

The growth and high-growth investment options are high risk or very high risk, for potentially high returns. The growth investment option will allocate about 80–90% of your super balance to growth assets like shares and property. If your fund offers a high-growth investment option, this will likely allocate 100% (or close to it) of your balance to high-risk assets. These investment options are recommended for longer time periods of at least 7 to 10 years, or more.


The conservative investment option is low to medium risk and suited for people closer to retirement who want to protect their retirement savings. The conservative investment option will allocate around 20% to 30% of your super balance to growth assets like shares and property, while the remainder will be in lower-risk options like savings accounts and bonds.

Socially responsible

Some super funds offer a socially responsible or ethical investment option which aims to invest in socially responsible assets. For example, it might not invest in companies associated with tobacco production, gambling or ammunition manufacturing. The risk level and asset allocation will vary between different super funds, though this option is usually a similar level of risk as the balanced investment option (medium to high risk).

It's a common misconception that ethical investments don't perform as well as other investments, but this is not the case. In fact, socially responsible investment portfolios often deliver similar or better returns than other investment options.

Single asset classes

This option is for those who want a bit more say over how their super is invested. Rather than a pre-mixed investment option, some super funds offer this build-your-own option allowing you to select from a range of individual asset classes to design your own portfolio.

For example, you might decide to allocate 70% of your balance to international shares, 20% to Australian shares and the remaining 10% to property, creating your own high-risk investment option. Note that you can select the asset classes, eg, shares and property, but not the individual investments. That is, you can't select which shares or which property.

How to choose a super investment option

Here are the key things to consider when choosing your super investment option.

  • Your age. If you're young it's a good idea to invest in growth or high-growth options, which you can switch back into balanced and then conservative as you get closer to retirement.
  • Your risk tolerance. Regardless of your age, if the thought of your super being invested in high-risk assets will keep you awake at night, you might want to stick to a balanced option instead.
  • Your personal values. If you're passionate about particular industries and want to avoid others, take a look at where exactly your super will be invested with each available option. This detail should be available on the super fund's website.
  • The fees. Different investment options will charge different fees, so make sure to check how much you'll be paying for each investment option when making your decision.
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