Super funds back from the brink

A strong June quarter has seen super funds recover from the depths of the COVID-19 crisis in March, however results for the 2020 financial year will fall shy of a positive return.

As major industry and retail funds begin reporting their returns up to June, the full impact of the virus thus far is starting to be revealed.

Pleasingly, funds have performed better than previous estimates suggested, with many scraping through with only small negative results.

According to estimates from leading superannuation research house SuperRatings, the median balanced option returned 0.8 per cent in June as markets continued to recover from their March lows.

Despite a promising comeback over the quarter, super funds were unable to muster the momentum to finish in positive territory.

Based on June’s estimate, members in the median balanced option have seen their super fall by around 1.2 per cent over the past 12 months.

While the financial year result will be negative, it is a relatively mild drop compared to previous years in which super has taken a hit.

“Super funds made a strong comeback in the June quarter, but the market remains challenging due to the degree of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic,” said SuperRatings executive director Kirby Rappell.

“While markets have shown signs of stabilising, which is good news for members, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.

“Members want to see a sustainable recovery in their balance, rather than a rapid rebound followed by another dip. Slow and steady is the way to rebuild.”

Super funds still have some way to go before recovering from the virus-induced sell-off in February and March this year.

Since the start of 2020, the median balanced option has fallen 5.1 per cent, while the median growth option is down 6.7 per cent.

The capital stable option, which includes more defensive assets like bonds and cash, has fared relatively better, falling only 1.6 per cent.

Pension returns have performed slightly better over the financial year, with the median balanced pension option down 0.8 per cent, compared to a fall of 1.4 per cent in the median growth option and 0.5 per cent in the capital stable option.

Mr Rappell explained that while the virus seems to have been contained in most of the country, Victoria’s recent spike in the number of cases and the lockdowns in some parts of Melbourne could mean more challenges are on the horizon.

“There have certainly been some positive developments recently, although we remain in challenging times as markets seek a way forward, with the low interest rate environment creating an extremely challenging outlook for those members near the retirement phase searching for meaningful and sustainable income,” said Mr Rappell.

“For members, it means they will need to be prepared for some more ups and downs. However, a patient approach has paid off for members over the long term with the median balanced-style fund returning 7.0 per cent per annum since the introduction of superannuation in 1992.”

According to SuperRatings’ data, over 15 years, since June 2005, a starting balance of $100,000 would now be worth $238,209 for members in a balanced option.

For a growth option this would be slightly higher at $239,089, and a member with full exposure to Australian shares would have seen their balance grow to $260,647.

In contrast, returns on cash would have seen their balance grow to only $158,492.

Are you concerned that the second wave of the coronavirus in Melbourne could send super spiralling down again?

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Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking
Ben Hocking is a skilled writer and editor with interests and expertise in politics, government, Centrelink, finance, health, retirement income, superannuation, Wordle and sports.
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