WHAT IS A SELF-MANAGED SUPER FUND?
A self-managed super fund (SMSF) is a superannuation trust structure that provides financial remuneration to its members in retirement. The main difference between SMSFs and other super funds is that SMSF members are also the trustees of the fund.
Self-managed super funds (SMSFs) are popular in Australia – in fact, they currently account for around 30% of all superannuation assets. This popularity isn’t surprising given the benefits they offer, which include:
- FLEXIBILITY – self-managed funds can accept contributions and transfers from other funds and provide retirement benefits to members in the form of a lump sum or a variety of types of pensions
- CONTROL – the trustee of a self-managed fund has a high degree of control over how the assets in the fund are invested.
Many also argue that the self-managed option is more cost effective than other alternatives. However this isn’t necessarily the case. For it to be true, the fund needs to have a substantial balance – upwards of $300,000. There’s a lot of administration required, funds need to be audited and annual returns submitted to the tax office – so the costs can certainly add up.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF SELF-MANAGED SUPERANNUATION?
The benefits of self-managed superannuation come with at least some disadvantages that need to be considered:
- As already suggested, the self-managed option can be expensive for small balance funds.
- Trustees (whom themselves are usually members) are subject to some fairly serious legal obligations. If not met, these can result in penalties such as fines or additional taxes payable by the fund.
- The many compliance and administrative tasks can be incredibly time consuming and require the trustee to be up-to-date with legislation.
- Trustees need to be aware they’re taking on the investment management responsibility for the fund. They need to establish an investment strategy and ensure that it’s correctly implemented and maintained. Even if they outsource some or all of this, the ultimate responsibility lies with the Trustees.
On this last point, there’s evidence of neglect. Of the total assets in self-managed superannuation, around 60% is held in either interest-bearing investments (cash and term deposits) or listed shares. That’s a lot allocated to just two asset types, and is probably not fully reflective of the risk and return profile of the total membership.
IS SELF-MANAGED SUPERANNUATION RIGHT FOR YOU?
While there can be advantages to the self-managed approach, clearly it isn’t for everyone. If you want more control over your retirement savings and have the time (and inclination) to allocate to the task, there are benefits to be realised. However, although it is possible to outsource much of what’s needed to keep a self-managed fund functioning, the costs can add up – and unfortunately, it can start to look more like the superannuation options it’s trying to avoid.
Source: Aon Hewitt Financial Advice Limited, July 2016