How government services can kickstart superannuation planning

It’s a new year, and many people facing changes to the superannuation and pension rules in 2017 will want to improve their knowledge of both systems, and take advantage of opportunities they offer.

Planning your superannuation properly for retirement can seem like a daunting prospect, especially if you’re dangerously close to retirement age and you haven’t paid enough attention to super in the past. You may need to fund decades without work while wanting to live comfortably.

In these situations, a financial planner or an accountant can help you develop a detailed financial plan, but before you commit to such an action, there are several government services available to help you gain a more detailed understanding of super and retirement income. They can improve your confidence before setting up a relationship with a financial planner.

Free government services
One option is to attend a free seminar run by the Financial Information Service (FIS), a government service provided by the Department of Human Services. Alternatively, you can book a free one-hour appointment with an FIS officer or talk to an FIS representative on the phone.

FIS is designed to point you in the right direction, but its officers don’t provide personal financial advice. As counsellors, they can’t draft financial plans or recommend the services of any particular provider or fund. The FIS operates as part of Centrelink but you don’t need to be receiving Centrelink payments to access their services.

FIS has experts from the financial services industry to discuss general issues involved with superannuation and retirement planning, and the website includes sections on:

  • Understanding your financial situation
  • Earning how to save and plan for the future
  • How to start planning your retirement and the options available
  • Using credit in a sensible way

Additionally, the website explains what a financial adviser should do for you, making it a good step before making a more expensive and longer-term commitment to a planner.

An FIS adviser will let you know if you are entitled to a part pension even if you are a self-funded retiree or are still working, and if you are entitled to any pension payments if you have lived or worked outside of Australia for any length of time. You may be eligible for a payment under the Pension Loans Scheme if your capital is tied up in assets and you need additional income to live on.

Another good starting point is the Australian Taxation Office. Apart from all the obvious information regarding tax obligations, their website offers plenty of nuts-and-bolts information for individual super funds, employer funds, and self-managed super funds (SMSFs). Topics include:

  • Changes to super rules
  • Contribution caps
  • Keeping track of your super
  • Accessing your super
  • Unpaid super
  • Setting up and winding up SMSFs
  • Contributions and rollovers
  • Paying benefits
  • Administering and reporting funds.

The Australian Government website also contains a wealth of information on super, including:

  • How super and retirement saving works 
  • Choosing a fund
  • Searching for lost super
  • Consolidating super funds
  • Employers’ tax and super obligations
  • Superannuation complaints.

MoneySmart details retirement planning options
Perhaps the most valuable government website for content on superannuation and retirement income planning is ASIC’s MoneySmart website. MoneySmart offers a dedicated section on retirement income planning which includes making long-term financial plans, taking control of your finances, the financial and emotional challenges of planning for retirement, and finding ways to grow retirement income.

Its financial advice section also goes into some detail on the role of a financial planner, how financial advice can help you, and the Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms.

For those that have little or no experience investing in vehicles such as shares and managed funds, MoneySmart details the pros and cons of each investment and what’s more appropriate for your particular retirement stage. It also discusses goal setting and putting the right strategies in place.

Finally, MoneySmart offers a range of budget and savings calculators, loan, credit and debt calculators, mobile apps, and a large news section dedicated to the latest reforms to the superannuation system.

Use this opportunity to make 2017 the year you take control of your finances, especially learning more about your superannuation options.

Are you ready for the 2017 pension and super changes? 

Read more: