The phenomenon of lost super is one that has garnered significant attention in recent years, as it has emerged that countless Australians may have lost superannuation money throughout the course of their careers. It follows that those who have been in the workforce for longer periods are more likely to have lost super.
There has been a strong promotional push in the last year or so by superannuation companies, encouraging people to find out if they have lost super. The amount of money in lost super at present is said to be a truly staggering $13b. Equally staggering is that it is estimated that one in two Australians have lost super.
What is lost super?
Hard-earned superannuation can be lost in a variety of circumstances. The most common must be if you have ever changed your name, job, address or some other personal information. The Australian Tax Office (ATO) has a register of people whose super funds have reported them as ‘lost’, meaning potentially large sums of money are sitting unclaimed. The ATO offers a special ‘super seeker’ tool for those who suspect they may have lost super.
It is important to distinguish, however, between ‘lost’ super and ‘unclaimed’ super. Unclaimed super is simply where money can be withdrawn from a fund where the individual would be eligible, and the company cannot contact the person, for whatever reason.
Generally, a super fund holder is regarded as ‘lost’ if the account has been untouched for two years or more, and at least two letters of correspondence have been sent to the address on record and been returned undelivered.
How do I find lost super?
As well as through the ATO, as mentioned above, there are various means of tracking down lost super. A number of super companies themselves have introduced means of locating the lost super you might have.
In addition, you can simply contact your old fund – often the quickest and most efficient way. It might be however, that you have forgotten whom your old fund was with, if so, you can contact your previous employers and ask them to look through their records and find out who your former super provider might have been.
If you are over 65 the lost super landscape changes a little. After this age, lost super is turned over to the state, whose responsibility it is to maintain the account. In this case, the individual must look for their lost super through the state in question.
There are also various third parties you can assist you with locating lost super, however, in these cases there will invariably a percentage fee you will have to pay – something the ATO’s service does not charge.
What to do with lost super
If it turns out that you do have lost super, it is a good idea to consolidate it all into one super account with your current super payments– a sound financial move in any circumstances.
This would mean that you are only paying one set of fees and other charges, as well as potentially increasing the overall interest.
Of course, another option for your lost super, especially if you are already retired, is to withdraw the money now and use it to help with the living expenses of your retirement.