Are you one of many Australians with hidden superannuation?

Written by Annette Sampson for Australian Seniors. 

When it comes to retirement, every extra dollar can make a difference. So what would you say if you found out you had money hidden away that you weren’t aware of? It’s not as unlikely as it seems, especially when it comes to superannuation savings. 

In 2020 the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) reports it reunited one 68-year-old woman with more than $1.5 million that she’d lost touch with, and another woman, whose home had been destroyed in a bushfire, with more than $600,000. 

Most of us won’t get that lucky. But with more than $20 billion still sitting in lost and unclaimed super, says the ATO, it’s worth checking to find out whether any of it belongs to you.

How do I find lost super? 

Glen McCrea, the deputy CEO of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, says the myGov website now holds details of all your super accounts. Just log in or set up an account and click on ‘Manage my super’ to find out how many accounts you have. You can also use the site to consolidate accounts if you have old accounts you’d like to merge with your main super fund.

The ATO also has a lost super helpline on 13 28 65 – or you can download a form. “You can also ask your current super fund to search for any lost super, or rollover your super on your behalf,” says Super Consumers Australia spokesperson, Eleanor Barz.  

How does super get lost? 

“Lost super typically comes from people changing jobs and not taking their super to their new fund, living out of the country for a time, or being out of the workforce,” says Glen. Once an account has been inactive for 13 months, it can be transferred to the ATO, where it only earns interest at the inflation rate, he explains. So if you haven’t retired yet, but are not receiving super contributions, you should at least contact your fund and find out what you can do to ensure it is not deemed inactive. 

What can I do with the money? 

If you still have money in super, you could consider consolidating any lost super into your main super account so you’re not paying multiple fees, says Dixon Advisory managing director and head of advice, Nerida Cole. However she says it is worth checking whether the old fund has insurance or any other benefits that you may want to keep before you roll it over to your main fund. If you are eligible to withdraw your super, you can also have it paid directly to your bank account. 

“You can easily consolidate your super accounts yourself for free online via the myGov portal, or by asking your current super fund to help you,” says Eleanor. “If someone offers to help you consolidate your super for a fee, ignore them as this is likely a scam. Don’t hand over any personal information to someone who contacts you about your super, even if they claim to be from the ATO or your super fund. Hang up and call your fund on the official phone number listed on their website.”

Can I track down savings I may have overseas? 

Nerida says some countries have similar lost super schemes to Australia’s where you can track down lost retirement savings. These include the Pension Tracing Service in the UK where residents can find details about their personal pension scheme, and KiwiSaver in New Zealand. If no such scheme is available, you may need to go back through your records and contact your commercial provider.

Nerida says bringing overseas retirement savings back to Australia can also be complex as the rules on tax and when you can access your money may be different. She adds that rollovers from overseas funds to Australian super funds may be treated as contributions rather than existing retirement savings, which means they are subject to the contribution limits here. You may also need to pay tax before you can get the money out of the overseas jurisdiction.

“You may need to get [professional] advice as this is a specialised area,” she says. “If you are moving the money from one currency to another there may also be implications as currencies can move pretty quickly.” 

Can I track down a late loved one’s lost super?

If you don’t know where your late loved one’s super was held, the ATO can give that information to their executor or estate administrator, who can then contact the fund to arrange for the super death benefit to be paid to the eligible beneficiary.  Make it easier for your own loved ones by ensuring your next of kin information is up-to-date on your super account. 

Super does not automatically form a part of a loved one’s estate, so you may need to apply to the super fund to receive the payment, unless they have made a binding death benefit. If the ATO holds unclaimed super for your loved one, you can apply to the tax office for a third party payment. 

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