Q&A, your way: Episode 10
In this episode we chat to the director of manager research ratings Annika Bradley answers Trent Alleyne’s question about superannuation fees.
Trent Alleyne: I've got a question about superannuation. So, why are the fees so high and what are you guys doing with all that money? And why should we be paying for your marketing?
Annika Bradley: I think this is a great question, because fees are a really important part of any investment decision as ultimately they reduce your net return and what you end up with in retirement. So, it's an important point to focus on. I would say though that not all super fees are high across the board, and I think that really comes down to understanding what you are getting for those fees compared to what you're paying.
So, let's start with those administration fees, so the fee that you're paying for a superannuation fund account. And let's assume you've got $50,000-odd in, say, the AustralianSuper Balanced option. Now, you're going to pay about $102 a year or $8.50 a month for the privilege of having that superannuation account. And why do I say privilege? Superannuation is an incredibly tax-advantaged environment for many investors compared to other investment options available. So, I think it's worth considering, firstly, just the access to the super environment for that $8.50 a month, which is in fact cheaper than a Netflix subscription without ads on a monthly basis. So, the super funds have to comply with government legislation that is actually changing reasonably regularly. And when a piece of regulation changes, the super funds need to absorb that regulation. The super system is over $3 trillion in Australia. So, it makes sense that it's a highly regulated environment and that the government really wants to ensure that that money is well managed and overseen by these large super funds.
So, what about the investment component? Well, the investment component comes down to the particular investment strategy that the superannuation fund is offering. So, if the strategy is a simple passive investment strategy that's looking to meet market returns, expect to pay less for that type of investment strategy. If the strategy is a more active strategy that's looking to provide returns in excess of market perhaps for lower risk, you should expect to pay a little bit more. So, it's really important that you understand the strategy relative to what you're paying.
As to the question of the marketing spend for funds – now, funds will argue that they need to spend marketing dollars to attract investors. I would say on this point that the regulator is all over it. And in July 2021, the regulator came out and said, if funds are spending marketing dollars, they need to clearly link this marketing spend with what is actually in the members' best interests.
So, in summary, it's worth keeping an eye on the fees that you're paying. All funds are not made equal. Some funds are charging much higher fees. Some funds are spending a lot more on their marketing. So, it's a really important point to dig into. Some of the funds' financial statements make for interesting reading. So, I'd encourage all investors to take a look at their annual statements and understand what they are paying for their super fund.