How does the stock market’s quick recovery affect super holders?

COVID-19 has caused chaos on the markets, including forcing people to dip into their superannuation far earlier than they should. Others have determined to move their super to cash, but the only time any investment loss is crystallised is when people sell out.

The bottom line when it comes to your superannuation in the context of COVID-19, or any economic meltdown, is don’t touch it.

That said, it’s not surprising that people felt compelled to look at other investment options including finding a less risk averse fund or moving their money to cash.

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The massive pullback in markets as COVID-19 hit, greatly impacted members’ superannuation balances

By March, COVID-19 had temporarily wiped out nearly $290 billion from Australia's superannuation system.

Between 20 February and 23 March, the stock market crashed by 36 per cent.

According to research and ratings agency Super Ratings, the median balanced superannuation fund (one with between 60 per cent and 76 per cent exposure to growth assets) fell 8.9 per cent in March, while the median growth fund (up to 90 per cent exposure to growth assets) which has a high exposure to shares plunged 14 per cent for the calendar year to date, and 6.4 per cent for the financial year to date.

Anyone who had hundreds of thousands of dollars in their super fund, saw it decimated in a matter of weeks.

The crash, if we can call it that, put fear into the hearts of investors (which is all of us when it comes to Super) and had them questioning if they were with the right fund.

If you kept your money where it is, you have done the right thing

This current recovery has been called the speediest stock market recovery in history.

Anyone who purchased a FTSE 100 index tracker fund on 23 March would have made a 27% gain in the last 11 weeks. Remember, late March was approximately the bottom of the market for the first stage of the Covid-19 crisis.

Furthermore, the S&P/ASX 200 has rallied 34.7 per cent since hitting its trough in mid-March. The benchmark closed above the 6000 level this week for the first time since the March low.

Investors are responding to the economic recovery: shops are re-opening, consumers are tentatively spending. The recovery is already exceeding expectations, despite the fact that even more jobs are likely to be lost.
“The ASX is through our target and embracing faster recovery scenarios,” said Morgan Stanley's Australian equity strategists.

So if you kept your super where it was, you made the right decision.

Most superannuation funds are heavily leveraged to the stock market and fluctuate with the market

Australian Super, which is Australia’s biggest fund, advises that members should expect to lose money five years out of 20.

That’s 15 years of positive momentum.

The average annual return on Australian Super’s balanced fund since 1985 is 9.68 per cent.

That is taking into account the downturns.

At the peak of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) Australian Super's balanced fund lost 13.4 per cent.

That was way back in 2009, which points to 10 years of consecutive gains, with seven of those years posting double digit increases.

Notably, if you had $10,000 in Australian Super's balanced fund and remained fully invested between July 2009 and December 2019, you would have received a 7.5 per cent return on that investment equating to $23,057. Interestingly, if you had moved your money into cash, your end balance would be almost $5,000 lower at $18,805.

Is there anything else you should do to safeguard your retirement?

First and foremost, don’t panic when the market fluctuates, even if it moves as wildly as it has done over the past quarter.

Remember, if you are aged between 20-40 you still have another 20 to 30 years of watching your savings grow. Superannuation will assist with this, like no other safe investment.

You should also talk to a financial advisor, who can assess your risk profile and suggest alternative funds that may suit that profile. A good advisor will steer you towards a long-term savings and investment strategy.

Disasters will come and go, but your super is a mainstay

The past 10 years has delivered the world SARS, MERS, swine flu, Ebola and COVID-19 for good measure. Throw in the GFC, along with drought and bushfires in Australia which have had their own economic impact and you’d be forgiven for thinking the world was ending and markets were unlikely to recover.

However markets do recover.

Sometimes it takes longer than expected, other times recovery is more rapid.

During these times, one thing is for certain, your super fund may struggle at times, but over the long term it will work hard to ensure your smooth transition into retirement.

There is no harm in thinking about switching super funds and researching which ones have a lower risk appetite than your current fund, but think hard before you change because essentially the law of averages suggest the fund you are with will increase your savings over time.


This update is not financial advice. This article is general news and information.

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