How to check if your super fund is a good one

Hi Nicole,

I wonder if you can help. My husband and I are 32 and pulling out everything to save for our first home. Every spare cent goes into an online account and we are cutting back significantly to be ready as soon as we can. Hardly a smashed avocado ever! My worry is my super. I have been with Australian Super since my first job. Is it good? Once we have kids, I want to be in a position to stay home for at least a year and then work part-time before they go to school. While we're so focused on the shorter term, I want to make sure the long term is taken care of.

Monique, Redfern

We are so lucky in this country to have a compulsory retirement savings scheme - and one paid for by employers (Australians gave up actual pay rises so this could be so).

But full credit to you Monique; super lulls many Australians into a false sense of security.

The debate gets pretty fierce, but the architects of the system still say to fund a decent retirement, you need contributions of 12 per cent, and we are stuck at 9.5 per cent because of political reasons (the plan is to slowly resume lifting contributions from 2021).

An even bigger issue for you is your intention to take time off (paid) work to have a child. Ludicrously, there is no super on either the official government parental leave scheme or any employer top-up.

So that's a super "gap" year. Then you want to go part-time. And perhaps you'll end up doing it all again with a second child - they're pretty cute.

RiceWarner Actuaries has crunched the super numbers for that precise situation for the average woman and found they cost some $50,000 in super and contribute to a more than $200,000 shortfall from a comfortable retirement.

For this reason, the firm pays in 2 per cent more for its female employees at all times, something it had to go to the Human Rights Commission to approve.

And that's a great lead for you - and for all people who intend to have a break in their career, whether male or female. A 2 per cent salary sacrifice will cost you even less as it's pre-tax and before long you won't miss it.

Also, during any time out, investigate super "freebies" like the co-contribution and tax offset for a spouse contribution.

Then don't worry about your fund. Australian Super is one of the best with returns in the Top 10 over one, three and five years.

Keep tabs on this - you want performance better than the median fund over three and five years - at superratings.com.au.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is a money educator and consumer advocate: themoneymentorway.com. You can write to her for help solving your money problem, or with a consumer question, at nicolehelps@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

This story How to check if your super fund is a good one first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.