A Universal Superannuation Fund and NFPs
12 October 2009 at 4:29 pm
The Australia Institute has proposed the establishment of a Universal Default Superannuation Fund which would raise retirement incomes for many of workers on low income, including Not for Profit employees, who are not actively engaged in decisions about their superannuation it its submission to the Cooper review of the superannuation system.
The Australia Institute says it is relevant to workers in the community sector who are often on low wages, have fragmented work lives and do not always actively engage with their superannuation.
Since 2005, the great majority of Australian workers have been able to choose their own superannuation fund. While some people have taken advantage of greater choice in super, for many people choice is actually a burden.
The Australia Institute says widespread lack of engagement with superannuation means that competition in this sector is structured around intermediaries (like financial advisers) rather than consumers. As a result, fees on superannuation funds remain very high, at around 1.35 per cent of funds under management.
It says that although 1.35 per cent does not sound substantial, it actually represents a transfer of $14.3 billion per annum from fund members to the financial services industry. This equates to half the $28 billion cost of providing the age pension—a payment that accrues to over two million retirees. Administrative costs of 1.35 per cent have been estimated to reduce final super fund balances by up to 27 per cent or over $130,000 for a worker on the average wage.
For the majority of workers, the Australia institute says this is simply not value for money.
In order to reduce the costs of superannuation for those workers who do not exercise their right to choose a fund, The Australia Institute proposes that the government set up a universal default superannuation fund (UDF). This would protect those workers who are currently paying high fees, including people who have multiple or inactive superannuation accounts.
The UDF would apply to workers who do not have a default fund specified in an award or industrial agreement (between six and 16 per cent of the workforce). However, any worker would be able to opt into the UDF. Compared to a high-cost retail fund, a properly-designed UDF could add up to $100,000 to the superannuation of an average wage earner who utilises this option over the course of a lifetime. It would also help solve one of the most intractable problems in superannuation, the proliferation of multiple and ‘lost’ super accounts that erode the retirement savings of millions of Australians.
In addition to establishing the UDF, the Australia Institute proposes that fees for any super fund be capped at one per cent of funds under management. If funds wish to charge more than one per cent either in aggregate or for a particular plan or option, they would need to seek written approval from each member affected.
The Cooper inquiry headed by Jeremy Cooper, who’s currently the deputy chair of ASIC, was set up by the Federal Government in May 2009.
For more information on the Cooper inquiry go to www.superannuation.asn.au