How To Find Your Lost Super And Why You Should Care About It
With $13.5 billion in lost super around Australia right now, it’s a fair bet at least some of it’s yours. Here’s why (and how) you need to track it down.
Lost superannuation. Let’s face it – it’s not the sexiest of topics to talk about. In fact, according to a recent study by Westpac, 4 out of 5 people say that tracking down their lost super is like quitting smoking or exercising more, in that we all know we have to do it, we just don’t want to.
Well folks, here’s a reason to get off your butts and finally do something: Westpac’s 2016 ‘Lost Super Report’ has revealed an extraordinary 1.289 million lost super accounts around the country holding a whopping $13.5 billion in unaccounted for money.
Nationally, the numbers are even more shocking, with a phenomenal $42.4 billion set to be missed in savings by retirement age. For millennials, that means that for every $1 of super you’re not aware of, you’re missing out on $10 by the time you retire.
This is why – no matter how boring it might seem – we think it’s finally time Australia sat itself down, poured a warm cuppa and ‘had the chat’ about super.
So what is superannuation?
Superannuation is, quite simply, your nest egg. It’s an enforced type of saving designed to ensure that when you finally retire, you’ll have enough money in the bank to see you through the twilight years. Given the rising costs of, well, pretty much everything; it’s no wonder that 73% of Aussies wish they’d paid more attention to their super when they were younger.
Okay, you have my attention. How does it all work?
By law, employers are currently required to pay 9.5% of whatever you make from your job into a designated super fund. This is known as the ‘Super Guarantee’, and in the coming years that 9.5% will slowly edge its way up to 12%. As your super amount gradually accumulates, your fund then invests that money into a range of portfolios designed to increase everyone’s overall balance, and (ideally), the Government suggests you also contribute your own additional funds whenever appropriate to help maximise the amount capable of earning interest.
Seems straightforward – what’s the catch?
The catch, unfortunately, is two-fold.
First up, there’s the problem of ‘multiple funds’. Every time you shift from one job to another, that new employer will likely suggest you use their nominated super fund, which can leave you juggling multiple funds all over the place. Not only does that scatter your money about resulting in less overall interest, you’re also likely paying multiple sets of fees for each separate account, resulting in less money for your retirement.
The second problem with multiple funds is that we tend to lose track of them, and it’s from this that we encounter the behemoth that is ‘Lost Super’.
What do you mean by ‘lost’? Is my money gone forever?
No. ‘Lost’ doesn’t mean ‘gone’, it just means ‘misplaced’, and even then – it’s not as bad as it sounds. While it might be lost to you, the government knows exactly where it is, and – better yet – it wants you to get it all back.
An account is deemed ‘lost’ when (a) no contributions or rollovers have been added in the previous 12 months, and (b) either your super fund never had an address for you, or mail sent to you by your super fund has been returned unclaimed.
How do I know if I’ve got lost super?
If you’re wondering this, you’re not alone. Westpac’s report found that almost half of Australian workers (48% to be precise) don’t know if they’ve got lost super, which helps explain the $13.5 billion currently gathering dust instead of gathering interest for you.
And finding it is a lot easier than you’d think.
Send out the Search & Rescue!
To find your missing super, all you need to do is grab your Tax File Number, contact either your current fund or call the ATO on 13 28 61 and tell them you want to find it, then they’ll set about tracking it all down for you. Even easier, if you walk into any Westpac branch around the country (you don’t even have to be a Westpac customer), the staff can help you identify all your lost super funds and transfer them to the one account in a just matter of minutes.
The DIY option
Of course, if you want to do it yourself, there’s an easy option for that as well. Just log into (or create) your MyGov Account, click on ‘Services’ button and select to link your account to the ATO. That will then not only show you the details of all your super funds (as well as any money being held on your behalf by the ATO), but also let you combine them all into whichever fund you nominate. Customers can also search and combine online at Westpac.com.au/lostsuper.
And that’s it
There’s never been an easier way to track down and consolidate your missing super. Sure, it’s not as catchy a slogan, but it’s far more important and tangible to you, with the potential to have a profound impact on the way you live your life when you’re older. So pop the kettle on Australia – it’s time to start searching.
Sometimes it’s easier to have a little help. Here’s more information about how you can visit a Westpac branch to search for your lost super.
Tom is a former IP-lawyer and host of ABC’s ‘The Roast’. He is currently a political satirist, film critic and writer who believes cereal is an anytime food. Find him on Twitter@tomglasson