Paul's Insights: One in two in the dark about super changes

More than half of Australians have no idea about a shake-up of superannuation that's due to kick in from 1 July.

The clock is ticking towards the end of the financial year. That matters because from 1 July more than three million Australians may be affected when default life insurance is switched off in super accounts that have been inactive for 16 months.

This change is part of the Protecting Your Super package aimed at preventing unnecessary or unwanted erosion of super savings by life insurance premiums. It does this by ending cover for super accounts where there have been no contributions for 16 months or more.

More than 85% of Australians have life insurance through their super fund. Yet a new study by industry body ASFA found 53% are unaware of the upcoming change to life cover held in super.

Adding to the confusion, one third of Australians rarely or never read correspondence from their super fund. Not surprisingly, one in four have no idea what their super savings are worth, and 44% don’t know what insurance – if any – they have through super.

While holding life insurance through a super fund can provide an important safety net for your family if the worst should happen, paying multiple premiums out of different accounts doesn’t make sense. Premiums come out of your super savings, so they can eat away at your retirement nest egg. Paying several lots of premiums may provide no real benefit if you already have adequate cover in place through your main fund or if you have life insurance outside of super.

The key is to check your super before 1 July to see if you have life cover in place, and be sure you have the right level of insurance for your circumstances.

You can elect to keep your cover in place even if the fund is inactive, and sometimes there can be good reasons to do this, for example, if you have a pre-existing medical condition that would make it hard to get life insurance outside of super.

This can also be a cue to tidy up your super by rolling any small balances, or accounts that have been sitting idle, into your main fund. It’s a great way to save on fees and keep track of your super as well as cutting back on unnecessary insurance premiums.

The super industry has launched a new website, that can help you work out how you may be affected by the upcoming changes.

Paul Clitheroe is Chairman of InvestSMART, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.

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