In Australia, Industry SuperFunds are amongst the largest shareholders in the country, and each superannuation fund has a team of investment experts working to maximise returns for its members. Each fund also has options that allow members to tailor their super investments to their own needs, goals and attitude to risk – from conservative (lower risk) to high-growth (greater risk). Some funds also allow members to choose the type of shares their money is invested in, such as ethical companies, sustainable industries, Australian shares etc.
It’s generally recommended that members take an interest, and a certain level of control over how their super is invested. However, if you choose to leave it in the hands of the fund, your super will usually be spread across a broad range of diversified investments – for example in Australian and international shares, cash, property trusts, infrastructure and bonds. This balanced approach is the default option for most Industry SuperFunds and is designed to cope with the fluctuations of each investment type, and see steady growth over the medium to long-term.
Taking control over how your super is invested, starts with having an investment strategy.
Your super fund probably offers a number of investment options, including balanced, growth, high growth, sustainable etc. and your fund’s website will usually have a page dedicated to these products, showing a breakdown (usually as a pie chart) of the investments. While it’s unlikely you’ll want (or have the means) to diversify as much as your fund does, they give a good picture of how different strategies work. For instance, a conservative option will show a heavier investment in cash and bonds, while a growth option will probably show a preference for Australian and international shares.
All good investment strategies have a level of diversity built in. That way, your investment risk is spread over different sectors, so that if one sector underperforms, your entire portfolio doesn’t suffer.
A sound investment mix would generally comprise both defensive and growth investments. These include:
Defensive – lower risk, lower growth potential
- Cash (e.g. savings accounts and term deposits)
- Fixed interest investments (e.g. government bonds)
Growth – higher risk, higher growth potential
- Australian shares
- International shares
- Direct property (e.g. buying an investment property)
- Indirect property (e.g. buying into a property trust)
Even within these investments, you may consider diversifying, for example, buying shares in a range of industries, or investment properties that attract different target markets.
Some investments, such as direct property require a high initial capital outlay, while others, such as term deposits and shares can be relatively inexpensive to get into. Your financial advisor will give you an idea of how you can best enter the various investment markets.
Once you establish an investment plan (preferably with the help of an independent financial advisor), it’s often useful to discuss it with your partner or family – especially if any of them are dependent on your income.
When considering an investment strategy, you should consider its appropriateness having regard to you objectives, financial situation and needs.
If you haven’t selected an investment strategy of your own, then your superannuation is likely to be held in your fund’s default investment option, which generally sits between growth (more aggressive and riskier) and defensive (conservative and less risky) investment options.