COVID-19 and Superannuation

Published on: Jun 18 2020

Across Australia, the unprecedented outbreak of COVID-19 (or coronavirus) is impacting everyone in our community. It is a distressing time, especially for retail staff who are ensuring Australians have food on the table and essential items. It is also challenging for those who work in businesses with temporary shut downs, slowing of trade and changing ways of shopping. For some workers, this means they may have had their hours reduced, been placed on leave, or worse, lost their job.

The impact has been felt hard in retail, fast food, warehousing, hair and beauty, and modelling. The McKell Institute found that nearly 60% of those immediately impacted were women and that low paid workers are least likely to have paid sick leave+. With a combination of panic hoarding, restricted hours, limited stock availability, item limits and COVID-19 anxiety, shoppers have continued to unload their anger onto retail workers.

You will have seen the SDAs ‘no one deserves a serve’ campaign continue through this time and other actions consistent with our ten-point health and safety plan, such as sanitiser at entries, social distancing, and promoting contactless transactions and personal protective equipment (PPE incl. screens at check-outs). The SDA and Australian Unions also argued strongly for a wage subsidy, which resulted in the JobKeeper payment. This will enable tens of thousands retail and fast food workers to keep their jobs.

The role of Super in responding

During this uncertain time, Super has continued to be one of this country’s greatest success stories – it offers insurance, advice and an opportunity to invest in Australian businesses to help us recover.

Insurance

If you are with Rest and have insurance as part of your super, you’ll continue to be covered as long as you have enough money in your account to pay the monthly premiums, even if you stop working. Insurance can be an important protection for you and your loved ones.

There is no exclusion for coronavirus in Rest’s Income Protection cover, which means illness, disability or death due to coronavirus is covered. Just keep in mind that income protection insurance covers you if you’re unable to work due to illness or injury for more than 60 days. So, you’d have to be sick and unable to work for 60 days before your claim could be accepted.

If you have income protection insurance, it’s important to let Rest know  if you haven’t been working for a while as your benefit is based on your income over a 12 month period, so it’s important that you’re only paying for cover that you can claim on.

To check the type of insurance cover you have with Rest, go to MemberAccess and click on the insurance tab.

Advice and early access

Your Super fund can help with advice regarding superannuation and retirement planning, but you can also get financial advice and counselling from other sources. The free National Debt Helpline is 1800 007 007 and is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. When you call, you'll be transferred to the service in your state.

If you're in financial difficulty because of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and need to access your retirement savings, be aware that you can only have early access to your super in very limited circumstances (e.g. as a result of the Covid-19 crisis you are unemployed, on JobSeeker payments, or have had your hours cut significantly). For details of these arrangements, contact your Super Fund. REST is the Super Fund for workers in SDA industries.

To make the choice that best serves your needs, it's important you know all the options including increased payments that are available from government. Consider accessing your super as a last resort, only if you really need it. Removing super from your account now could leave you worse off in the long run. Taking out money now means 'locking in' recent losses, while also losing the long-term benefits of having that money working for you. And, any insurance cover you have may end if there isn’t enough in your account to cover insurance premiums. According to CHOICE*, for a 30-year old, $20k in super today could become about $50k in retirement.

For more information visit: https://rest.com.au/member/manage/coronavirus-and-super/early-access

Economic Recovery

Finally, Super helps financial stability and long-term economic growth through: increased national saving; reduced reliance on foreign investment; providing additional funds for the federal budget and reducing reliance on it as we age; helping meet infrastructure needs and relying on sustainable returns; and helping smooth economic shocks. As of June 2019, household superannuation assets were around $2,657 billion. The Superannuation industry already does and will continue to invest in Australian business – be that retail, services, manufacturing, or rural. REST, for example, has investments in agriculture, buildings and housing service providers.

Impact on super balances

In addition to your guaranteed retirement savings from your workplace, your super balance is made up of compounding interest. In the economic shock following the pandemic being declared, Super balances have gone down.

Most Rest members have their super in the Core Strategy investment option. Core Strategy has returned an average return of 8.19% per year since it started in 1988 (as at 31 March 2020). This includes some of the recent market volatility, as well as major downturns like the global financial crisis in 2008. While past performance doesn’t indicate future performance, it’s comforting to know how Rest takes an active approach to managing members’ super through this crisis and other times of market volatility.

The main thing is to remember that your super is all about what happens over the long term, not the short-term ups and downs that happen along the way.

See the table below that compares Rest against its peers over the last 10 years.

^Product issued by Retail Employees Superannuation Pty Limited. Consider if it is appropriate for you and read the PDS available at rest.com.au/pds before deciding to join or stay.

+https://mckellinstitute.org.au/app/uploads/McKell-COVID-19-Initial-Impact-Assessment-on-Workers-.pdf

#http://www.sda.org.au/no-one-deserves-a-serve-sda-launches-major-national-campaign-to-stop-abuse-of-retail-and-fast-food-workers-this-christmas/

*https://www.choice.com.au/money/financial-planning-and-investing/superannuation/articles/early-access-to-super

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