In recent years the ability to recover and consolidate lost super has become much easier. Despite the ease the numbers for lost super are staggering in Australia, probably because people still think it’s too hard, not worth it or they place it at the bottom of their to do list. According to the ATO at June 2016 there was:
– 14.8 million people with Super
– 6.5 million had more than one account
– 600k had 5 or more super accounts
Not surprisingly as a result of this there are 5.7 million lost or ATO held super accounts with a total value of over 14 billion. One postcode (4740) in Mackay QLD had over 49 million dollars in lost super alone which averaged nearly $19,000 per lost super account in that area. If you have had more than one job, or moved address without updating your super fund then chances are you may have lost super and will want to find them.
How to Find your lost super?
Why you should find your lost super?
Clarifications on Lost Super
How to find your lost super
As I mentioned earlier finding and consolidation your lost super has gotten so much easier over the last decade. New ATO regulations on super funds means that super is well accounted for easier then ever to roll over.
- My Gov
- ATO Paper Form
- Ask Your Preferred Super Fund
- Old Employers
- Private Super Search Companies
Simple Super Searches
My Gov (replacing SuperSeeker)
The ATO use to have a search for lost funds called “SuperSeeker”. The benefit was that you did not have to have an online account with the government to make the search. However last year SuperSeeker was replaced by superannuation search through an individuals MyGov account in the ATO portal. If you have an account I will show you to do the search below, if you do not have an account you will need to sign up for one at https://my.gov.au/ and connect to the ATO portal through there.
Once you have done so
Step 1: Click on the ATO portal
Step 2: Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “View Details” next to the Super tab.
Step 3: This will bring up your super details including the total and the number of accounts. Click on the “Cpnsolidate Super” link.
Step 4: In this example there are 2 super funds. If you have more than one you would like to consolidate simply click on the “Transfer Super” button at the bottom of the page.
Step 5: The final step is to fill out the form to transfer your funds into your chosen fund. The ATO provide some things to consider before doing so which I will republish here in case you can’t see it in the image below:
Before you start
- Ask your super fund about exit fees, insurance cover and any other implications of transferring your super.
- If your super is being paid into this account, talk to your employer about changing the fund it is paid into. You can continue with this transfer but it will close the super account.
- Compare the performance of funds.
If the online thing isn’t for you the next step is to do the search manually. Simply fill out the searching for lost super form from the ATO and post it in. The form can be found at:
Ask your preferred Super Fund
Even if you have lost super chances are you are in a current super fund now. Most Super funds offer a search and consolidation service for free, the obvious benefit for them (besides customer satisfaction) is increased member contributions. Here are the search options for some of the top super funds:
1. Australian Super – Find Lost Super
2. Colonial First State – Find My Super
3. AMP – Online Consolidation
4. REST – Lost Super
5. SunSuper – Find my other Super
Difficult Super Searches
The first 3 options will cover the majority of people searching for Super, however there are times when things are not so simple. If you have changed your name or your tax file number, or if you are not a permanent resident or if old employers simply filled in your super details incorrectly you will need to do some extra work. Here are some other options that may help if you can’t find all your super accounts.
Employers are required to keep employee records for at least 7 years so if they have not paid your super, set up your super account or if they had incorrect details when setting it up you may be able to find your lost super. Unfortunately it’s not perfect but at the very least they should be able to provide the companies preferred superannuation fund after which you can follow up with them.
Private Superannuation Search Companies
The last option is to use the services of a number of private companies that specialise in locating lost super. These companies have taken a hit in recent years with the ease that the search can be done now but they do provide a useful service for people with complicated superannuation issues. A couple of these companies that may be worth trying are:
Generally the initial search is free but there may be cost or commissions involved so be sure to do your homework before you choose one.
Why You Should Find Your Lost Super
Legislation requires super funds to notify the ATO of inactive and uncontactable accounts, it also allows unclaimed super to be held by the ATO, all the while the funds are safely invested as they were previously. This leads many people to ask themselves why they need to bother finding and consolidating their super if it will still be there when they retire. Well the short answer why finding lost super is money.
- Paying multiple sets of fees
When you have more than one super account you pay multiple set of fees. Nearly all funds charge an Administration Fee and a Management Expense Ratio (MER) fee and on top of them many may charge other fees such as a contributions fee, performance fee and transaction fees. Obvioulsy having more than one super account means you are wasting money on unnecessary fees, but the problem can be even worse for any super account with a low balance as the fees may exceed returns and actually eat away all your funds until you end up with a negative balance.
- Planning implications – different super funds have different investment strategies
Generally spreading your investments out is good for diversifying risk. But it means you have little control over your investments and quite often competing funds may be betting against each other on investments which results in a zero sum game for you.
- Paperwork – where are all your superannuation statements? Are they up to date?
From a housekeeping perspecitve one super fund, with one member number and one investment strategy is a lot easier to manage then having multiple. It can become even more important if something tragic should occur, the amount of unclaimed super estimated from deceased estates or insurance policies not utilised because family members are unaware is far too high and something that should be avoided with a few minutes work.
- Insurance – many people have multiple life insurance policies in their super that have never been reviewed
Its not just that your family knows about it as mentioned above there are a number of other implications as well with having multiple life insurance policies. Firstly and most importantly is that many life insurance policies are voided if the individual has taken out other policies with other providers. This means that any fees from these policies are completely wasted and there could be possible complications when the insurance policy is claimed. Additionaly the policy may not be suitable at some point because of age or health requirements so its important to review the policy and obvioulsy easier to do so if you only have the one.
- Potential tax implications
There is not enough space here to cover everything tax, but your superannuation has a number of tax regulations applicable to it and its a lot easier to reduce your tax liability when you only have the one superannuation fund.
Clarifications on Lost Super
One thing that is rarely explained is how super becomes “lost” and the requirements on the super funds in these circumstances. Essentially lost uncontactable and lost inactive accounts are still held by super funds, whereas unclaimed super money and superannuation holding accounts (SHA) are transferred to the ATO.
So your super fund will hold your account if you are an:
- Uncontactable Member – Your super fund has not been able to contact you, and has not received any contributions or rollover amounts for you in the past 12 months
- Inactive member – Your super fund has not received a contribution or rollover into your super account within the last 5 years, and you have been a member of the super fund for longer than 2 years
- Existing lost member – The super fund has received your super money after being transferred from another fund as a lost member account and no new address has been found.
However Super funds must pay super accounts to the ATO as unclaimed superannuation money when:
- You are aged 65 or older and the super fund has not received an amount from you for more than 2 years, and the super fund has not been able to contact you after the end of a period of five years, after making reasonable efforts to do so.
- You pass away, and there is a benefit immediately payable for you, and the super fund has not received an amount from you for more than 2 years, and the super fund is unable to locate the person entitled to your benefit.
- Your spouse, is entitled to be paid an amount from the super account as a result of a payment split and the super fund is unable to locate the spouse entitled to receive the benefit after making reasonable efforts and after a reasonable period has passed
- You are a former temporary resident.
Thankfully since 2013, all superannuation funds have been requried to report details of all of their accounts to the ATO on an annual basis. This reporting includes accounts that are open, active, inactive, lost, in pension phase, as well as those closed to contributions or rollovers. This has been key with the improvement in finding and consolidating lost superannuation accounts.
Obviously there will be exceptions for funds that closed before this date or individual circumstances where name or tax file numbers are not applicable but for the vast majority of Australians not only is it likely that you may have some form of “lost super” but it is an incredibly easy and potentially valuable task that you should undertake.