Check out what you could do while you’re still earning an income and have time on your side, noting not everyone will be eligible for the government’s Age Pension when they retire.

Many of us turn a bit of a blind eye to super. We know it’s there and we know it’s ours. We just hope, or think, it’ll be enough when the time comes. If it isn’t, we’re probably somewhat familiar with the government’s Age Pension and might figure that could be a back-up plan
should we fall short.

Little do some of us know that not everyone’s eligible for the Age Pension, and if we are and plan to rely solely on it, we may have to live less than a modest lifestyle in our later years1.

So, approximately how much super do we need and how might we boost our super savings, while also making the most of the tax benefits generally available inside the super system? Check out the points below for info, as well as some other important things to be aware of. 

 

How much super do you need?

According to December 2020 figures from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), individuals and couples, around age 65, who are looking to retire today would need an annual budget of $44,224 and $62,562 respectively to fund a comfortable lifestyle, or $28,179 and $40,739 respectively to live a modest lifestyle, which is considered better than living on the Age Pension2.

Note, these figures are based on the assumption people own their home outright and are relatively healthy3.

Super contributions with benefits

 Tax-deductible contributions

Tax deductible contributions are voluntary contributions you may choose to make on top of what your employer might pay you under the super guarantee, if you’re eligible.

You make these contributions using after-tax dollars (such as when you transfer funds from your bank account into your super) and then claim a tax deduction for them when you’re doing your tax return.

Putting money into super and claiming it as a tax deduction may be of benefit if you receive some extra income that you’d otherwise pay tax on at your personal income tax rate (as this may often be higher).

Similarly, if you’ve sold an asset that you have to pay capital gains tax on, you may decide to contribute some or all of that money into super, so you can claim it as a tax deduction. This could help reduce or even eliminate the capital gains tax that’s owing altogether.

Co-contributions from the government

If you’re a low to middle-income earner and  have made an after-tax contribution to your super fund, which you don’t claim a tax deduction for, you might be eligible for a government co-contribution of up to $500.

If your total income is equal to or less than $39,837 in the 2020/21 financial year and you make after-tax contributions of $1,000 to your super fund, you’ll receive the maximum co-contribution of $500.

If your total income is between $39,837 and $54,837 in the 2020/21 financial year, your maximum entitlement will reduce progressively as your income rises.

If your income is equal to or greater than the higher income threshold $54,837 in the 2020/21 financial year, you will not receive any co-contribution.

Spouse contributions 

If you’re earning more than your partner and would like to top up their retirement savings, or vice versa, you may want to think about making spouse contributions.

If eligible, you can generally make a contribution to your spouse’s super fund and claim an 18% tax offset on up to $3,000 through your tax return.

To be eligible for the maximum tax offset, which works out to be $540, you need to contribute a minimum of $3,000 and your partner’s annual income needs to be $37,000 or less.

If their income exceeds $37,000, you’re still eligible for a partial offset. However, once their income reaches $40,000, you’ll no longer be eligible for any offset, but can still make contributions on their behalf.

Salary sacrifice contributions

Salary sacrifice is where you choose to have some of your before-tax income paid into your super by your employer, on top of what they might pay you under the super guarantee.

It does mean a reduction in your take-home pay. However, as you’ll only be taxed 15% on the money you salary sacrifice (or 30% if your total income exceeds $250,000), for most Aussies that means you’ll generally pay less tax on your salary sacrifice super contributions than you do on your income.

Downsizer contributions

People aged 65 and over can make a voluntary contribution to their super of up to $300,000 using the proceeds from the sale of their home (if it’s their main residence) – regardless of their work status, super balance, or contributions history.

For couples, both people can take advantage of this opportunity, which means up to $600,000 per couple can be contributed toward super. There are however, potential advantages, rules and other things  you’ll want to be across.

Additional pointers

Find your lost super

If you’ve changed jobs, your name or address over the years, or worked part-time or casual jobs, there’s a chance you may have lost track of some of your super.

If so, you may be paying multiple sets of fees for different super accounts. It’s worth checking if the ATO may be holding some unclaimed super on your behalf as well. This happens when super funds transfer the balance of small, inactive accounts directly to the ATO. Find out more about how to find your lost or unclaimed super

Consider whether consolidating your super could be worthwhile

There may be advantages to rolling multiple super accounts into one, but there are things to consider.

 Potential benefits

  • One set of fees
  • Less paperwork and admin
  • It may be easier to manage an investment strategy that meets your specific needs. 

Possible pitfalls

  • Some funds may charge exit or withdrawal fees
  • There could be tax implications
  • You may lose some features and benefits you currently have, such as insurance cover.

Are you eligible for the low-income super tax offset?

If you earn $37,000 or less annually, and your employer makes super contributions on your behalf, the government may refund the tax that was paid on those contributions back into your super account, up to a maximum of $500 per year.

If you’re eligible for the low-income super tax offset, the good news is it will be automatically calculated by the ATO and deposited in your super account after you lodge your tax return.

Review your investment options

Most super funds allow you to choose from a range or mix of investment options and asset classes, and choosing the most suitable option will typically come down to your attitude to risk and the time you have available to invest.

If you’re young, you may have more time to ride out market highs and lows, and therefore be willing to take on more risk in the hope of achieving higher returns. Whereas if you’re closer to being able to access your super, you may prefer a conservative approach, as a share market crash could be harder to recover from.

Look into other important aspects of your super

Your super should be working for you, so it’s important to review it at least once a year and check things like:

Important things to consider

  • There are limits on how much you can contribute. If you exceed super contribution caps, additional tax and penalties may apply. Read more about what contribution caps apply and changes that will come into effect from 1 July 2021.
  • If you’re over age 67 and wanting to make voluntary super contributions, a work test applies, whereby you must’ve worked for at least 40 hours within a 30-day period, unless you’re eligible for the recent retiree work test exemption.
  • The value of your investment in super can go up and down. Before making extra contributions, make sure you understand and are comfortable with any potential risk you might be taking on.
  • The government sets general rules around when you can access your super, which typically won’t be until you reach your preservation age and meet a condition of release, such as retirement.

Where to find help

It may be worth speaking to your adviser, or if you don’t have one, but would like some advice, our directory could help you find one nearby.

Speak to a super coach

If you’re a SignatureSuper, CustomSuper or AMP Flexible Super member and would like to know more about your super, you can book a complimentary 20-minute super coaching session. Book now.


1, 2, 3 Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia’s Retirement Standard December 2020 figures

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What you need to know

Any advice and information is provided by AWM Services Pty Ltd ABN 15 139 353 496, AFSL No. 366121 (AWM Services) and is general in nature. It hasn’t taken your financial or personal circumstances into account. Taxation issues are complex. You should seek professional advice before deciding to act on any information in this article.

It’s important to consider your particular circumstances and read the relevant product disclosure statement, or terms and conditions, available from AMP at amp.com.au, or by calling 131 267, before deciding what’s right for you. The super coaching session is a super health check and is provided by AWM Services and is general advice only. It does not consider your personal circumstances.

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