Financial literacy is a minefield

YourLifeChoices member Lynne Dorney has worked for almost 40 years, attended financial information seminars and tried online super calculators. Yet she still describes financial literacy as a minefield.

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I am a long-time divorced 61-year-old woman living in Adelaide, who has spent nearly 40 years in the workforce.

My ‘first career’ super has been ‘growing’ at the Consumer Price Index since 2000, so very minimally! My ‘second career’ super is growing at a reasonable rate, but I am not allowed to transfer my earlier super into the higher returning scheme until I permanently retire from the workforce – too late. The end result will be comparatively modest, but enough to make a difference.

I will be retiring in five years or may have to resign earlier either for my own health or to care full time for my 86-year-old mother who lives with me.

May I humbly state that I am not silly. I have an IQ of 46 and am accomplished in many ways, but when I start to research superannuation my brain glazes over in the same way teenagers look blank when you start lecturing them about tidying their rooms.

I have attended several super information sessions and have always found them to be talking about someone else’s situation. I have completed countless ‘Will Your Super Last/Salary Sacrifice’ online calculators where they brilliantly show how if you put $100 in before/after tax, the effect will be X or Y. Good information if I could live on less than my take-home pay, which I cannot! I have already downsized the house to try to reduce the endless upkeep and bills.

I do believe I should get financial advice but who do you go to? Even our biggest financial institutions have been shown to include ‘rogues’. Should I really believe that because one group was caught (but not punished, it appears, which speaks volumes), the rest are squeaky clean? I fear if I go to someone, will I find out everything I need to know? Will they disclose the bottom line, the small print? Will I know enough to ask the ‘one last question’ that would have shown the flaws in their argument?

I read something recently that said simple advice will cost approximately $700-plus, more complex advice $3000-plus. That will buy me what? Advice? Opinion?

I understand no guarantees are possible, but even if the advice is sound and accurate today, will that change tomorrow due to legislation changes, or next year, or any time before or after retirement?

Life provides a myriad of “Yes, but not in your situation”, “Yes, but only if you had completed Form 26b before you submitted Form 25a” scenarios with results that pull you in too deep to avoid negative consequences.

I want to educate myself to know the right questions, all the right questions, enough to make the best decisions. But I cannot find explanations that really help. Information is either too basic or supposes you already understand. I need Superannuation 101 and then to build on that!

This is a minefield of mammoth proportions. Terrified to make the wrong choice, I make none at all. I am simply frozen with fear, and time is passing …

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