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Learn more about superannuation

Many superannuation funds offer life insurance coverage for members. If you’re considering taking out an insurance policy, it’s worth first checking to see what (if any) insurance coverage is provided by your superannuation fund.

What types of super fund insurance are there?

Although coverage differs between funds, insurance offered by super funds typically falls into three categories:

  • Death cover – Also known as ‘life insurance’, this coverage allows your beneficiaries to access a benefit when you die, either as a lump sum or ongoing payments.
  • Income protection (IP) cover – If you can’t work temporarily due to illness or disability, you’ll be paid an income for a defined period.
  • Total and permanent disability (TPD) cover – If you become disabled and will likely not be able to work again, you’ll be paid a benefit.

Keep in mind that the default super fund offered by your employer must offer a certain level of life insurance. You can find more information about your coverage by reading your fund’s product disclosure statement.

In most cases, you can also choose to alter or cancel your insurance cover if you’d prefer to take out insurance elsewhere or not have to pay fees through your super.

Pros and cons of superannuation funds life insurance

There are a number of potential pros and cons to having life insurance through your super fund.

Pros

  • Easy to manage – Premiums are automatically deducted from your super balance rather than your bank account, which can make it easier to manage your cash flow.
  • Cheaper – Typically, life insurance through superannuation funds is cheaper because the funds can negotiate a group discount on policies and pass savings on to members.
  • Flexible – You can usually choose your level of coverage.
  • No health checks required – Some super funds don’t require a medical check to be eligible for insurance.

Cons

  • Limited cover – Depending on your fund, the available level of coverage may not be sufficient for your requirements.
  • Beneficiaries aren’t guaranteed – Some funds don’t offer binding beneficiary nominations, meaning the fund’s trustee decides who will get your money in case of your death.
  • Premiums come out of your super – Unless you choose to salary sacrifice the cost of your premium, it will come off the top of your super balance.
  • Slower payments – Because the insurance payout goes to the super fund before it goes to you, processing time for claims can be slower. This is especially the case for death benefits because the trustee has to reach a decision as to the correct beneficiary.
  • Ends at a certain age – Coverage usually ends when you reach age 65 or 70, whereas policies outside of super may cover you for longer.

How to find out if you have life insurance through your super

If your super is with the default fund offered by your employer, then you should have at least the minimum level of life insurance coverage for your age.

However, it’s worth checking the type of insurance cover you have, what you’re covered for, and the cost of your premium. You can find these details by looking at your member statement or logging into your super account online.

Also check how your insurance premiums are calculated to make sure they’re appropriate. For example, if you’re listed as a smoker even though you don’t smoke, you may be paying more than you need to.

How to make an insurance claim through super

If you’re the one making the insurance claim, you’ll likely need to fill out a claim form through your super fund. Claim forms are usually available on a super fund’s website, or you can call and request one.

When making a claim for income protection cover or total and permanent disability cover, you’ll need to provide documentation (such as medical certificates) to support your claim.

In case of your death, your estate or beneficiaries will need to get in touch with your super fund to find out how to claim death benefits. The claim process usually requires documentation to determine the correct beneficiaries of your super money.

How to find superannuation funds with life insurance

Finding the right superannuation fund with life insurance takes some research. Although you may already have life insurance through your fund, it’s important to make sure the coverage is appropriate for your needs. Consider:

  • What type of insurance is offered – death cover, income protection cover, and/or total and permanent disability cover
  • The level of coverage
  • The cost of premiums
  • How long you’ll be covered
  • Whether you can nominate a binding beneficiary

If you’re thinking about switching funds, you can use RateCity’s superannuation comparison tool to see what insurance is offered by different super companies.

Frequently asked questions

What happens to my insurance cover if I change superannuation funds?

Some superannuation funds will allow you to transfer your insurance cover, without interruption, if you switch. However, others won’t. So it’s important you check before changing funds.

How do I set up an SMSF?

Setting up an SMSF takes more work than registering with an ordinary superannuation fund. 

An SMSF is a type of trust, so if you want to create an SMSF, you first have to create a trust.

To create a trust, you will need trustees, who must sign a trustee declaration. You will also need identifiable beneficiaries and assets for the fund – although these can be as little as a few dollars.

You will also need to create a trust deed, which is a document that lays out the rules of your SMSF. The trust deed must be prepared by a qualified professional and signed by all trustees.

To qualify as an Australian superannuation fund, the SMSF must meet these three criteria:

  • The fund must be established in Australia – or at least one of its assets must be located in Australia
  • The central management and control of the fund must ordinarily be in Australia
  • The fund must have active members who are Australian residents and who hold at least 50 per cent of the fund’s assets – or it must have no active members

Once your SMSF is established and all trustees have signed a trustee declaration, you have 60 days to apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN).

When completing the ABN application, you should ask for a tax file number for your fund. You should also ask for the fund to be regulated by the Australian Taxation Office – otherwise it won’t receive tax concessions.

Your next step is to open a bank account in your fund’s name. This account must be kept separated from the accounts held by the trustees and any related employers.

Your SMSF will also need an electronic service address, so it can receive contributions.

Finally, you will need to create an investment strategy, which explains how your fund will invest its money, and an exit strategy, which explains how and why it would ever close.

Please note that you can pay an adviser to set up your SMSF. You might also want to take the Self-Managed Superannuation Fund Trustee Education Program, which is a free program that has been created by CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand.

What is an SMSF investment strategy?

All SMSFs are required to have an investment strategy, which should explain what assets the fund will buy and what objectives it will pursue. This strategy must be reviewed regularly.

Issues to consider include how much risk the SMSF will take, how easily its assets can be converted into cash and how it will pay out benefits.

What contributions can SMSFs accept?

SMSFs can accept mandated employer contributions from an employer at any time (Funds need an electronic service address to receive the contributions).

However, SMSFs can’t accept contributions from members who don’t have tax file numbers.

Also, they generally can’t accept assets as contributions from members and they generally can’t accept non-mandated contributions for members who are 75 or older.

How are SMSFs allowed to invest their funds?

SMSFs can invest in conventional assets such as shares, term deposits, managed funds and property.

SMSFs can also buy ‘collectibles’ such as artwork, jewellery, antiques, coins, stamps, vintage cars and wine – although there are special rules that apply to collectibles.

Investments must be made on an arm’s length basis, which means that assets must be bought and sold at market prices, while income must reflect the market rate of return.

As a general rule, SMSFs can’t buy assets from members or related parties.

What are the risks and challenges of an SMSF?

  • SMSFs have high set-up and running costs
  • They come with complicated compliance obligations
  • It takes a lot of time to research investment options
  • It can be difficult to make such big financial decisions

What should I know before getting an SMSF?

Four questions to ask yourself before taking out an SMSF include:

  1. Do I have enough superannuation to justify the higher set-up and running costs?
  2. Am I able to handle complicated compliance obligations?
  3. Am I willing to spend lots of time researching investment options?
  4. Do I have the skill to make big financial decisions?

It’s also worth remembering that ordinary superannuation funds usually offer discounted life insurance and disability insurance. These discounts would no longer be available if you decided to manage your own super.

How are SMSFs taxed?

Funds that follow the rules are taxed at the concessional rate of 15 per cent. Funds that don’t follow the rules are taxed at the highest marginal tax rate.

Can I carry on a business in an SMSF?

SMSFs are allowed to carry on a business under two conditions.

First, this must be permitted under the trust deed.

Second, the sole purpose of the business must be to earn retirement benefits.

What compliance obligations does an SMSF have?

SMSFs must maintain comprehensive records and submit to annual audits.

How do I wind up an SMSF?

There are five things you must do if you want to close your SMSF:

  1. Fulfil any obligations listed in the trust deed
  2. Pay out or roll over all the superannuation
  3. Conduct a final audit
  4. Lodge a final annual return
  5. Close the fund’s bank account

What is an SMSF?

An SMSF is a self-managed superannuation fund. SMSFs have to follow the same rules and restrictions as ordinary superannuation funds.

SMSFs allow Australians to directly invest their superannuation, rather than let ordinary funds manage their money for them.

SMSFs are regulated by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). They can have up to four members. All members must be trustees (or directors if there is a corporate trustee).

Unlike with ordinary funds, SMSF members are responsible for meeting compliance obligations.

What age can I withdraw my superannuation?

You can withdraw your superannuation (or at least some of it) when you reach ‘preservation age’. The preservation age is based on date of birth. Here are the six different categories:

Date of birth Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 – 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
From 1 July 1964 60

When you reach preservation age, you can withdraw all your superannuation if you’re retired. If you’re still working, you can begin a ‘transition to retirement’, which allows you to withdraw 10 per cent of their superannuation each financial year.

You can also withdraw all your superannuation once you reach 65 years.

How do you pay superannuation?

Superannuation is paid by employers to employees. Employers are required to pay superannuation to all their staff if the staff are:

  • Over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • Under 18, work more than 30 hours per week and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

This applies even if the staff are casual employees, part-time employees, contractors (provided the contract is mainly for their labour) or temporary residents.

Currently, the superannuation rate is currently 9.5 per cent of an employee’s ordinary time earnings. This is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

Employers must pay superannuation at least four times per year. The due dates are 28 January, 28 April, 28 July and 28 October.

What are my superannuation obligations if I'm an employer?

Employers are required to pay superannuation to all their staff if the staff are:

  • Over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • Under 18, work more than 30 hours per week and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

This applies even if the staff are casual employees, part-time employees, contractors (provided the contract is mainly for their labour) or temporary residents.

How is superannuation calculated?

Superannuation is calculated at the rate of 9.5 per cent of your gross salary and wages. So if you had a salary of $50,000, your superannuation would be 9.5 per cent of that, or $4,750. This would be paid on top of your salary.

The ‘superannuation guarantee’, as it is known, has been at 9.5 per cent since the 2014-15 financial year. It is scheduled to rise to 10.0 per cent in 2021-22, 10.5 per cent in 2022-23, 11.0 per cent in 2023-24, 11.5 per cent in 2024-25 and 12.0 per cent in 2025-26.

How do I change my superannuation fund?

Changing superannuation funds is a common and straightforward process. You can do it through your MyGov account or by filling out a rollover form and sending it to your new fund. You’ll also have to provide proof of identity.

Is superannuation compulsory?

Superannuation is compulsory. Generally speaking, it can’t be touched until you’re at least 55 years old.

Am I entitled to superannuation if I'm a part-time employee?

As a part-time employee, you’re entitled to superannuation if:

  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month

Who can open a superannuation account?

Superannuation accounts can be opened by Australians, permanent residents and temporary residents. You’re automatically entitled to superannuation if:

  • You’re over 18 and earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month
  • You’re under 18, you work more than 30 hours per week and you earn more than $450 before tax in a calendar month