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Super catch-up
By Robin Bowerman
Smart Investing
19th  June 2009
Principal & Head of Retail, Vanguard Investments Australia

Are you in your late forties or early fifties and beginning to experience financial freedom for the first time in many years?

Perhaps your once-hefty mortgage has just been paid off and maybe your children have recently become financially independent?

If your answer is "yes" to these questions, you may well rank among the many Australians who decide at this point in their lives to boost their relatively meager superannuation savings.

But many superannuation funds and financial planners are concerned for fund members matching this profile of the possible impact of the federal Budget proposal to halve the caps on concessional super contributions.

Responding to such concerns, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) has made an innovative suggestion that members with low balances be allowed higher concessional contribution caps to help them catch-up with their retirement savings.

ASFA made this suggestion to the Senate inquiry considering several of the Budget measures. (Read the submissions to the inquiry).

This is the sort of innovative thinking is really needed in super; particularly given the rapid ageing of the population and the effect of the severe bear market on superannuation balances.

A difficulty with having blanket contribution limits is that no recognition is made of how much a member actually has in superannuation.

The over-riding driver behind ASFA's recommendation is that many older members in their countdown to retirement are often in the position to make sizeable contributions for the first time in their working lives.

Mark Spencer, chairman of Christian Super, gave evidence to the Senate inquiry that summed up the challenges that many fund members will face with the imminent lower caps on concessional contributions.

"Our average minimum balance is around $25,000," Spencer told the committee. "Around 1% of our members have balances of over $250,000. These are not big balances.

"We have a lot of teachers in our fund," he added. "Over 60% of our members are female and they have breaks during their working lives. A number of our members are missionaries who have been on missions overseas or in some form of Christian ministry, in particular in their early years, and they were earning very little if anything."

And then Spencer came to the crunch of his evidence: "Later on in life they have the opportunity to earn some more and to catch-up on their superannuation balances. I know people who are sacrificing significant proportions of their salaries into superannuation who will be affected by these changes to the caps.

"They are sacrificing lifestyle to put money into their superannuation because they know it is a good retirement savings vehicle," he said. "They are trying to do the right thing to ensure that they have sufficient retirement funds available."

Any decision to make large super contributions at certain times in our lives is, of course, a high personal one that depends so much on differing personal circumstances.

 

 

 

 



22nd-June-2009

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