Don’t tell us we’re dreaming

In the normal course of my job I have to attend just about every presentation regarding superannuation, whether it is specific to SMSFs or not.

At these presentations the experts are often asked what they would like to see from the retirement savings system. More often than not the answer is for there to be no further tampering with the system.

It’s easy for the mob in Canberra to just consider it’s a throwaway line that is repeated all the time, but it really is about time they sat up and took notice.

If the politicians don’t want to believe someone like me, that’s fine, but I think the anecdote La Trobe University pro-vice chancellor Professor Phil Dolan shared at the recent SMSF Association National Conference 2018 demonstrates how ridiculous the current situation really is.

Dolan’s experience occurred when he was working at the University of Western Australia, where at the time he was putting together a unit for undergraduate students called “Managing your personal finances”.

During this process, his aim had been to include some material addressing superannuation, but even as the unit was being written, the rules governing the retirement savings regime kept changing.

This shifting of the superannuation goalposts was in isolation a difficult enough proposition for Dolan to deal with, but his task was made doubly problematic considering most of the students enrolled in the subject were around 20 years old and as such were at least 40-odd years away from retirement.

It made him realise the magnitude of the problem – that the chance the superannuation rules would be exactly the same when they were in their 60s was zero. So in the end, the retirement savings component of the unit was cut right down to just an acknowledgement students would be subjected to compulsory contributions to their chosen super funds.

Surely there is no clearer indication of how futile it is for younger Australians to have confidence in the existing superannuation process with a view to planning for their future – the very same people who need to make arrangements to fund their retirement from a long way out given the ever-shrinking contributions caps.

But it’s not a predicament applying to only younger generations. At the same conference, National Seniors Australia chief executive Dagmar Parsons revealed superannuation was not top of mind for the members of her organisation either.

While Parsons did not say this was because of the super system changes, she did reveal some of the angst stemmed from the uncertainty around pensions and what the government might do with them. Of course, the age pension is a mechanism that is supposed to work in conjunction with people’s superannuation savings, so the concerns about one of these elements cannot necessarily be assessed with mutual exclusion.

The upshot evidently is basically a lack of confidence in the overall retirement savings system at both ends of the age spectrum and, putting two and two together, it indicates perhaps not one single person has any faith in how the superannuation framework is being managed.

Of course, there is one fairly simple solution and that is for the government, regardless of which political party we are talking about, to stop the constant tinkering and manipulation of the system.

We are all superannuants and collectively it is what we are crying out for. So let’s hope our elected officials get this message sooner rather than later and don’t dismiss our calls, in effect imitating Darryl Kerrigan from The Castle telling us we’re dreaming.


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