Editor’s Note Why should you care about superannuation in your early 20s when retirement is approximately 1 million years away? In this article, you’ll learn:
Cheers! Nat Brown Editor-in-Chief Ask me anything! [email protected]
At twenty-three, I still feel like a child… but try telling everyone else that. To the untrained eye I have a job, recently moved out of home, cook for myself and I even enjoy a good spring clean.
The first thing that I have learned as a gainfully-employed adult is that there are a lot of things about adulting that, well, kind of suck.
Like trying to do your taxes without calling up an accountant. Or figuring out if getting Uber Eats for the third night in the row is going to give my bank a heart attack.
When I was fifteen, my mum walked past a bookstore in Hurstville, a mere ten minutes out of my sheltered life in “The Shire,” and spotted a “STAFF WANTED” sign stuffed in the window corner. Being the legend that she is, she went in and told them about me — and a few days later they gave me the job without an interview.
Honestly, it wasn’t the most glamorous first position. The uniform was an ugly striped burgundy shirt (reminiscent of a fast food uniform), a pair of unflattering black pants, and my beaten up school shoes. And while I was an absolute boss at putting books into alphabetical order — I couldn’t run the cash register for shit and had an actual vendetta against the card machine. My only positive take-away from the entire experience is that, to this day, I still perfectly and painstakingly organise my own personal bookshelf.
During that first foray into the world of paid employees, I was, at some point, given a “new employee” sheet to fill in. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure it happened.
Clearly, at that point, I gave exactly zero fucks about the portion dedicated to “superannuation” and didn’t even bother Googling it to see what the word meant because, hey, some bloke was about to actually pay me actual money to simply arrange books and I better just fill in the stupid thing quickly before he changes his mind.
It was a mystery that was never solved. Chances are, it was entirely sucked up by fees within the first year of existing. In those days, I was more concerned about saving my hard-earned cash to buy as much Chatime as possible. I just assumed that all the other adult things were done automatically by actual adults. I wasn’t supposed to think about any of that stuff until I was a real adult with real adult responsibilities.
And so I continued not caring.
I have two older sisters, one is an artist, and the other is a part time yoga instructor. The only time I ever gave superannuation a second thought was when one of them mentioned off-handedly that I should always go with an ethical super company. So I shrugged, Googled “ethical super,” and signed up to the first one I found — without looking at fees, reading any terms and conditions, or really even trying to figure out what made them “ethical” in the first place.
Back in High School, each class was forced to do sessions with a special counselor called a careers advisor. The woman assigned to be mine was fairly pleasant and extremely talkative. So talkative, in fact, that she ran classes in which the content was completely comprised of her personal stories of different careers she tried and eventually failed. I was thrilled when one day she handed us a free tote bag with our favourite subject at school on it and the careers that it could lead to.
Throughout this entire series of “career-preparation”, I learned very little about the adult world of employment, other than if I stared at the tote bag long enough I could somehow figure out how to get a job as a historian and a radio DJ at the same time. Would a better use of this time have been to teach us about bloody superannuation? Perhaps… but I digress.
Now that I — and everyone else born in the late 90’s and early 2000’s like me — are real, bonafide adults, we’re all starting to move onto higher-paying and more stable jobs and doing adult things like moving out of home and into share houses in neighborhoods that reflect our personalities.
Even in this new stage of our adult-laden lives, most of us are still unsure of what the hell our super is — and because of that, each time we start a new job, we get automatically enrolled in whatever superannuation service that our new employers default us into.
Every time you get a paycheck, a percentage of your money gets put away into that super account — and then that money is put into investments which will theoretically build wealth so that when you’re all gray-haired and ready to sit invest in a quality comb-over, it will be there so that you don’t have to work into your golden years.
Most people my age have a few thousand dollars in their super accounts, maybe $20k at best. But still — that $20k or so that we each have is being used by banks and loaned to companies to fund something. It’s being invested into local and international companies. Super makes the world go round in the most unexpected way possible.
A lot of the time, these investments are just fine. But sometimes, they’re making things that are fucking up our planet and setting us back, and our money is letting them do it. Nuclear weapons, environmental waste, unethical production practices — all of these shit things are being funded by our super accounts at times.
Switching to a more ethical super fund is actually super simple. Just Google it — there are a ton of cool new funds out there that will align better with your values and put your money behind the things you actually care about.
Even if you’ve just started your first job, your employer is already putting money into it without you doing anything at all — so all you need to worry about is choosing the right fund to give it to.
I’m a trained film-maker and have been a creative person since birth, so I gravitate toward finding the irony in everything. It seems extra ironic that people are so quick to switch to reusable bags and metal straws — but their super could be invested in coal and they don’t even bother to change it.
It takes about two minutes to make the switch – that’s faster than pulling out a canvas bag at your local Cotton On. Honestly, you can research via the Google gods to find one that suits you, but a bunch are probably already popping up in your social feeds, so if you’re lazy just pick one of those that you like. Most of them have a super (pun intended) simple sign-up processes so you can just do it while you’re sitting on your couch while you’re watching Brooklyn 99 reruns on Netflix. It takes almost no effort.
Want to take action? Here are my top four tips for choosing a new super company, specifically for Gen Z’ers like me:
1. Values Heaps of super companies tailor their investments to fit specific values and support specific industries. Interested in tech? There’s a super for that. Passionate about the environment? There’s a super for that. The company that I work for, Zuper, lets you mix and match your portfolio based on your own interests.
2. Perks Some super companies provide discounts, run events or offer other things that will benefit you in the long run. At Zuper we offer discounts with major edu-tech providers, like General Assembly & Academy Xi, to help our members equip themselves with the skills they need for the digital workforce.
3. Transparency Most new super funds disclose what types of companies they invest in. If they don’t, they could have unethical investments or at the very least ones that don’t align with your values. Make sure you understand and agree with what your super money is going to be put towards.
4. Fees Compare the fees charged by the super fund you’re considering with other, similar funds. Some deals may sound too good to be true, or may cost you more to invest your super in what you want. And, if you have breaks from full-time work, these fees can creep up quick. Make sure the fees are low compared to others.
Lilliane Moffat is an actress, film-maker, screen-writer, and all around creative human born and raised in New South Wales, Australia. She dreams of New York, aspires to be a complete accent aficionado, and has recently learned what the term "superannuation" actually means after getting a job directing and editing films for Zuper.