A helpful guide to understanding the basics of super.

Superannuation, commonly known as ‘super’, is money set aside while you’re working so you’ll have money for retirement. Your money is put into a fund, where it’s invested on your behalf by a trustee, to help you earn returns and grow your savings.

The amount of super you’ll end up with when you retire depends on a number of factors, including:

  • how much has been made in contributions
  • how long you super’s been invested
  • the type of investment option you’ve selected
  • the investment returns your money has earned, and  
  • the amount you’ve paid in fees.

Many people think of their super as an investment that takes care of itself but the choices you make about your super and investments could make a big difference to your quality of life in retirement.

What are super contributions?

A super contribution is money that’s deposited into your super account, either as an ongoing payment or as a one-off. Usually made by you or your employer.

Video transcript

We hear the words “super contributions” a lot, but what exactly are they?

A super contribution is an amount of money that is deposited into your superannuation account, either as an ongoing payment or as a one-off. Usually made by you or your employer.

There are two broad types of super contributions:

  • The concessional contribution, also known as a before-tax contribution, is typically paid into your super account before any income tax is taken out, and includes super payments your employer makes, such as super guarantee and salary sacrifice contributions. As well as any personal payments you make into your super that you choose to claim as a tax-deduction. 
  • Then there’s the non-concessional contribution, which is also known as an after-tax contribution, because tax has already been paid on this money and includes any personal payments you have not claimed as a tax deduction.

The good news is it doesn’t matter how you contribute to your super, it will help grow your retirement savings. Now here are a few important things you need to be aware of before making contributions into your super:

  • there are limits to how much you can add to your super every year. These are called contribution caps – and if you exceed these caps, additional tax and penalties may apply.
  • each type of contribution is taxed differently depending on your circumstance.
  • typically you won’t be able to access amounts you’ve contributed to super until you reach a certain age and retire.

To learn more about super contributions and how they work contact your super fund or visit the AMP or ATO websites.

What is the superannuation guarantee?

In most cases, once you’re earning more than $450 per month, your employer is required to contribute 10% of your before-tax income into a super fund. These payments are known as super guarantee (SG) contributions (also known as
employer super contribution), and they form the foundation of your super. You can find more information on the superannuation guarantee page.

Employer super contributions are taxed at a lower rate than most income tax brackets, so it’s important to provide your tax file number (TFN) to your super fund to avoid extra tax being taken out. You’ll also need to provide your TFN if you want to make any personal super contributions.

How can I make other contributions into my super?

In addition to your SG contributions, you can also contribute more money to your super account in the form of voluntary contributions. You can make these contributions using either before-tax or after-tax money. In many cases, they’re taxed at a lower rate than your income, so they can be a good way to build your retirement fund while being tax-efficient.

Keep in mind that there are caps to the amount you can contribute depending on your age and circumstances.

What types of super funds are available?

There are a number of different types of super funds on the market, including:

  • Retail super funds—typically owned and run by financial services companies and open to anyone to join.
  • Industry super funds—usually tied to a specific industry. Some are open to anyone, while others are only open to employees in that industry.
  • Corporate super funds—typically arranged by a company for its employees. Some are operated by the employer (under a board of trustees), while others outsource their operation to a retail or industry fund.
  • Public-sector super funds—usually only open to employees of federal and state government departments.
  • Self-managed super funds (SMSFs)—private superannuation funds that are managed by members (one to six people).

In most cases, you can choose which fund you’d like your super to be invested with – so it pays to do your homework and find a fund that offers the investment options and features you’re looking for.

How do I choose a super fund?

Most employees can choose their own super fund when they start a new job. 

You’ll typically have a choice between your employer’s default fund or one you select, which could be a fund you joined with a previous employer, an SMSF, or a new fund altogether. 

If you don’t choose a fund, your SG contributions will be paid into your employer’s default fund. Although, new laws from 1 November 2021 will mean you’ll generally take your super account with you when you change jobs, rather than have a new account automatically opened up for you.

There are a few things to consider when choosing a super fund. These include the fees charged, investment optionsinsurance cover available and its cost, and the fund’s investment performance. It’s a good idea to compare super funds online and weigh up your options.

Also remember that most super funds charge fees – so it might be worthwhile sticking to one fund even if you change employers to avoid doubling up on costs.

If you think you might have lost or unclaimed super, you can search for it via the Australian Taxation Office ’s super search service.

What’s MySuper?

Many super funds offer a simple and cost-effective super account called MySuper, which comes with low fees, basic features and a simple, default investment option.

If you haven't nominated a fund with your new employer, for now, your super will be automatically transferred into a MySuper account. This will change on 1 November 2021, when new laws come in.

You always have the option of moving your super to an account of your choice.

How can my super be invested?

When it comes to how your money is invested in super, many funds offer various investment options that you can choose from. Choosing the most suitable option will typically come down to your goals for retirement, your attitude to risk and the time you have available to invest. For example, you might decide to take on higher-risk investments with the potential for higher returns at a younger age, and transition to more stable investments like cash deposits as you move towards retirement.

When can I access my super?

You usually can’t access your super money until you reach what’s known as your ‘preservation age’ (typically around the time you retire). However, if you’re a first homebuyer and make extra contributions, you could be eligible to withdraw these contributions and put them towards a home deposit under the First Home Super Saver Scheme.

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, book a complimentary 20-minute super coaching session.

Important Information

The super health check is provided by AWM Services and is a general advice conversation only. It does not consider your personal circumstances.

Products in the Super Directions Fund and the Wealth Personal Superannuation and Pension Fund are issued by N.M. Superannuation Proprietary Limited (N.M. Super) ABN 31 008 428 322 (trustee), which is part of the AMP group (AMP). Before deciding what’s right for you, 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. Read AMP’s Financial Services Guide for information about our services, including the fees and other benefits that AMP companies and their representatives may receive in relation to products and services provided to you.

Products in the AMP Eligible Rollover Fund, National Mutual Retirement Fund, and NM Pro Super Fund are issued by Equity Trustees Superannuation Limited ABN 50 055 641 757 (trustee). Risk products are issued by AMP Life Limited ABN 84 079 300 379 (AMP Life), which is part of the Resolution Life group. AMP Life has proudly served customers in Australia since 1849. AMP Limited ABN 49 079 354 519 has sold AMP Life to the Resolution Life group whilst retaining a minority economic interest. AMP Limited has no day-to-day involvement in the management of AMP Life whose products and services are not affiliated with or guaranteed by AMP Limited. AMP Limited is not liable for products issued by AMP Life or any statements or representations made in the PDS for those products. “AMP”, “AMP Life” and any other AMP trademarks are used by AMP Life under licence from AMP Limited. Before deciding what’s right for you, it’s important to consider your particular circumstances and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or Terms and Conditions available from AMP Life at amp.com.au or by calling 133 731. Read AMP Life’s Financial Services Guide for information about our services, including the fees and other benefits that AMP Life and/or other companies within the Resolution Life group may receive in relation to products and services provided to you.

Any advice and information provided is general in nature, hasn’t taken your circumstances into account, and is provided by AWM Services Pty Ltd ABN 15 139 353 496 (AWM Services), which is part of the AMP group (AMP). All information on this website is subject to change without notice.

Any video content on this page was current on the date it was published. As a result of changes to the business from time to time, including changes to product, product issuer, services, trust, trustees and other entities, the information may no longer be current. For up to date information, we refer you to the relevant product disclosure statement and product updates.