The turmoil in the international stock markets is having a tragic impact on the retirement plans of many retired Australians.
For example, during September 2008, it was estimated by Super Ratings, a company that tracks the performance of super funds, that Australian super funds lost as much as 6% of their value. During the past year they lost 12% of their value.
The reason for the massive decline is the current superannuation rules which effectively place the Australian superannuation system in a virtual stock market strait jacket.
Over the years, The Investors Club has argued strongly that Australians should have greater flexibility in using their superannuation to invest directly in property and also to help pay off their mortgages.
This stock market strait jacket has been highlighted by a recent report from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) that tracked the performance of superannuation funds in Australia during the period 1997 to 2006.
Super woes highlighted
The report showed that the ten-year average annual return for super funds with assets more than $100 million was around 6.7% before they imposed fees and charges.
During the same period, figures produced by the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) show that the annual average returns (taking into account capital growth and weekly rents), for a three-bedroom residential home in the major capital cities varied from 11.2% to 16.8%.
The heavy investment in the stock market by super funds is underlined by the APRA report which showed that during 2006 nearly 60% of investments were in Australian or international shares.
The current superannuation rules virtually prohibit the use of superannuation for residential real estate and goes against the basic investment tenant of not putting all of your eggs in one basket.
By allowing Australians to use their super contributions to pay off their mortgage, this would encourage additional super contributions. For example, someone has to earn $150 and pay $50 tax before paying $100 off their mortgage.
It would also allow more first home buyers to enter the housing market at a time when Australia is recognised as having among the most expensive real estate in the developed world and the worst housing shortage.
Interestingly, financial advisers and stockbrokers are the prime beneficiaries of this share market splurge and it is no coincidence that they are major contributors to both political party’s election funds.
It is now time that ordinary Australians were given a greater say in where their superannuation is invested and this should include the option of investing in residential real estate which is a proven long-term investment to create wealth.
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