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Superannuation investment options

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

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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.

AustralianSuper - Pre-mixed, Balanced Super Fund

AustralianSuper - Pre-mixed, Balanced Super Fund

Choose from an extensive range of investment options and enjoy discounted rates on select banking products when you join AustralianSuper.

  • 2019 Finder Awards Winner: Best Super Fund - Balanced
  • Join and consolidate your super with the easy-to-use mobile app
  • Australia's largest industry super fund
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Compare super funds now

Name Product Past Performance - 1 Year Past Performance - 3 Years Performance - 5 Years Calculated fees p.a. on $50,000 balance
AustralianSuper - Pre-mixed, Balanced option
0.56%
6.67%
7.37%
$411.18
AustralianSuper is an award-winning industry super fund and the largest super fund in Australia. The Balanced fund invests in a mix of different assets like shares, property and cash.
Virgin Money Super - Lifestage Tracker
-0.86%
6.46%
$358
Virgin Money Super's Lifestage Tracker invests in a range of different assets in line with your age, reducing your risk as you get older, and has some of the lowest fees in the market.
Sunsuper Lifecycle Balanced
-1.69%
5.7%
6.45%
$453
Sunsuper is an award-winning super fund with more than 1.4 million members. Its Lifecycle Balanced option invests your super in a mix of growth assets, and reduces your risk when you're near retirement.
QSuper Lifetime - Aspire 1
-0.35%
5.97%
6.91%
$315
QSuper is one of the largest member-owned funds in Australia. The QSuper Lifetime fund adjusts your investments each 7-10 years as you get older, so you're not taking on too much risk.
HESTA Balanced Growth
N/A
5.84%
6.27%
$538.53
HESTA is an industry super fund for the health and community services sector and open to all Australians. The Balanced Growth fund invests in a mix of asset classes without taking on too much, or too little, risk.
Spaceship GrowthX
11.93%
14.45%
$573
This is a high-risk investment option that aims to deliver high returns over the long term.
Spaceship's Growth X fund invests heavily in Australian and international shares, with a focus on technology stocks. Performance figures and fees supplied by Spaceship, not Chant West.
Australian Catholic Super Lifetime - Grow
-0.39%
N/A
$588
A Catholic super fund open to all Australians and designed for people working in Catholic education, healthcare or aged care.The Lifetime One fund option changes your investment mix as you get older.
Australian Ethical Super Balanced
2.77%
6.88%
6.88%
$622
Certified by the Responsible Investment Association Australasia.
Australian Ethical seeks to invest in companies that have a positive impact on the planet, people and animals, such as renewable energy and healthcare while avoiding investments in coal, oil, tobacco and gambling.
Aware MySuper Life Cycle Growth
1.33%
6.34%
6.56%
$549.42
Aware Super is a not-for-profit fund with more than 750,000 members. The MySuper product invests your super in a pre-mixed Growth fund until you’re 60, then it’ll switch to Balanced.
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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 https://www.chantwest.com.au/financial-services-guide . 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 June 2020.

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.

Lifecycle

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.

Balanced

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.

Conservative

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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