Plug other options into your super

More and more industry superannuation funds are reacting to the rise of self-managed super funds (SMSFs) by offering members the option of investing in shares, exchange traded funds or term deposits.

This is a long-overdue improvement in the range of choices for those interested in making their own decisions about where their retirement savings are invested. Individual superannuation fund members will still be able to leave all the investment decisions up to their fund trustees, but those who are interested in the share market or who want to access higher-interest returns from term deposits could well benefit from the extended range of investment options.

The direct investment options will not be as extensive as those open to SMSF investors for several reasons. First, the available investments are confined to those on the fund's approved products list. Second, there's a limit on the amount or percentage of the portfolio allocated to any one investment. Third, key ways of increasing investment yields, such as high hybrid securities, are not included in the listed shares included in the ASX300 index.

Despite such limitations, the ability to choose individual shares does offer advantages in several situations. For example, SMSF investors have always had the option to transfer shares in personal names to their super fund. While this triggers any personal accrued capital-gains-tax liability, it has the advantage of reducing the personal income tax liability on the dividends received in the superfund. Such transfers can also free up money to reduce an outstanding mortgage or personal debts, while still retaining a beneficial interest in owning the shares. In the super fund, the investor can also concentrate on continued ownership of quality dividend paying shares.

Being able to purchase ASX300 listed shares in the super fund also allows the member to own diversified, quality listed investment companies (LICs). LICs, with some exceptions, provide higher fully franked incomes and lower management expense ratios than exchange traded funds and unitised investment options in public offer funds. Another advantage of the leading LICs is that they are long-term investors who do not regularly trade their portfolios. As a result, they have minimised their capital-gains tax bills, helping them to consistently match or outperform both index and managed superannuation portfolios.

Having access to term deposits for cash holdings can also help increase interest returns by up to 1 per cent a year, especially from smaller institutions forced to pay higher rates to attract deposits. For conservative investors, especially in today's low-interest-rate regime, this is also a valuable opportunity to improve their super fund's performance when they opt to allocate a considerable part of their portfolio to safer investments.

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Daryl Dixon

Executive Chairman

Daryl Dixon is one of Australia’s foremost investment experts and a well known writer and consultant. He has provided trusted advice to thousands of personal clients over more than 25 years and is an acknowledged expert in the areas of tax, superannuation (including public sector superannuation), social security and investments.

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