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Becoming socially conscious of where you super invest

Whether you are a newcomer to the workforce or have been working full time for 30 years, you must have come across the concept of superannuation. Chances are, you’ve already been steadily building your retirement funds in one of the 500 Australian superannuation funds but are still unfamiliar with how exactly your super is being managed and where your super fund is investing your money in.

With the beginning of a new decade and social issues on the rise, it is time to take a more conscious stance on what you are doing with your super and what causes you are supporting through the employment of your money through your super fund.

A recent investigation into Australian super funds by the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR), released in February 2020, found that 50 of the largest super funds in Australia are proxy voting against local climate-change initiatives. These organisations are instead approaching climate change from a global perspective, whilst ignoring more pressing domestic challenges to reduce carbon emissions..

The lack of support from Australian super funds for localised climate action is growing problematic, as Australia fails to address its appalling record on carbon emissions and is falling behind new-age global goals to fight against environmental degradation and climate change.

In contrast, some of Australia’s most environmentally and socially conscious super funds lack the reputation to attract long-term users. To look for more environmentally friendly Australian super funds, the Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) grades supers based on their ethical contributions and makes this information available to the public.

Instead of mindlessly joining Australian super funds that are neglecting growingly problematic domestic climate change issues, Australians need to become more conscious of our indirect actions and super investments. Rather than investing in an unethical super fund, looking into self-managed super funds may be another good option. We need to learn to take matters into our own hands and become more socially conscious of where exactly our money goes.

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Self-managed super funds (SMSF) aren’t just about financial investment

December 3, 2020

Individuals may be looking to opt for an SMSF because these provide entire control over where the money is invested. While this sounds enticing, the downside is that they involve a lot more time and effort as all investment is managed by the members/trustees.

Firstly, SMSFs require a lot of on-going investment of time:

Data shows that SMSF trustees spend an average of 8 hours per month managing their SMSFs. This adds up to more than 100 hours per year and demonstrates that compared to other superannuation methods, is a lot more time occupying.

Secondly, there are set-up and maintenance costs of SMSFs such as tax advice, financial advice, legal advice and hiring an accredited auditor. These costs are difficult to avoid if you want the best out of your SMSF. A statistical review has shown that on average, the operating cost of an SMSF is $6,152. This data is inclusive of deductible and non-deductible expenses such as auditor fee, management and administration expenses etc., but not inclusive of costs such as investment and insurance expenses.

Thirdly, investing in SMSF requires financial and legal knowledge and skill. Trustees should understand the investment market so that they can build and manage a diversified portfolio. Further, when creating an investment strategy, it is important to assess the risk and plan ahead for retirement, which can be difficult if one is not equipped with the necessary knowledge. In terms of legal knowledge, complying with tax, super and other relevant regulations requires a basic level of understanding at the very least. Finally, insurance for fund members also needs to be organised which can be difficult without additional knowledge.
Although SMSFs have the advantage of autonomy when it comes to investing, this comes at a price. Members/trustees need to invest time and money into managing the fund and on top of this, are required to have some financial and legal knowledge to successfully manage the fund.