Are you in your 40s or older? Here’s why you should pay attention to your super

27 Aug 2021

By Contributor

Woman working on laptop in kitchen
Woman working on laptop in kitchen. Photo: Provided.

Your super is an investment for your retirement years and if you have many decades to go before you leave the workforce, it’s not surprising that paying attention to your retirement savings isn’t on your list of priorities. However, if you’re in your 40s or older, there are some aspects of your super that may be worth keeping an eye on. Read on to find out why.

Super contributions and returns

Typically, the change in your super balance consists of two components:

  • Contributions that you and/or your employer makes
  • The return on your investment.

In the early years of your work life, contributions make up a majority of the changes in your super balance. Given that the amount of super you have at this stage of your career tends to be small, negative returns resulting from volatile investment markets are not likely to have a material impact on your account balance at retirement.

As you get older and your account balance grows, the return on your investment can have a bigger impact on the change in your super. The hypothetical case studies below illustrate this impact.

Case study 1¹

27-year-old Cindy has been a full-time teacher for two years and has been receiving 9.5 per cent super guarantee employer contributions on her $80,000 salary. After receiving these contributions and returns on her investments, Cindy’s account balance was $13,772 at the end of the second year.

During the third year, investment markets took a turn for the worse and Cindy received a return of -10 per cent. Feeling worried, Cindy checked her account balance. She discovered that her investment losses of $1,693 were more than offset by her employer’s contributions of $6,987. This resulted in a closing balance of $19,033, a 38 per cent increase from her opening account balance at the start of the year. 

As the investment markets had softened, Cindy benefitted investing subsequent contributions from her employer at lower prices, which could make a difference to her account balance in the future.

Case study 2¹

46-year-old Samantha has been a full-time teacher since she was 25 and has not taken a career break since she began working. Like Cindy, Samantha has been receiving 9.5 per cent employer super guarantee contributions throughout her entire working life.

She now earns a salary of $109,365 and has a superannuation balance of $298,251.

Samantha’s super hasn’t been impacted by major downturns in the investment markets to date. Pleased with her excellent returns, she leaves her super in the current investment options and doesn’t review how her retirement savings are invested.

Unexpectedly, investment markets fall by 10 per cent and Samantha finds that her superannuation account balance had fallen by $20,189. This is because her employer contributions of $10,144 were not enough to make up for her investment losses of $30,332.

The impact of contributions and investment returns on the change to your super balance

The graph below illustrates Cindy’s and Samantha’s experiences. Typically, investment returns start to have a bigger influence than contributions on the change to your account balance around your mid-40s¹. Consequently at this stage of your life, it becomes even more important that you review that your super is invested in options that align to your risk appetite and goals. Visit to find out more.

Impact on your super if you’re female

If you’re female, there are additional factors that may impact your super, including:

  • Women earn less on average than men.
  • Women are more likely to take a career break to care for their family.
  • Women live longer on average than men.

Visit for tips on how you can get on top of your finances.

Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only, and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Prior to acting on any information in this article, you need to take into account your own financial circumstances, consider the Product Disclosure Statement for any product you are considering, and seek independent financial advice if you are unsure of what action to take.


  • A starting salary of $80,000 per year, which increases at 4.0 per cent per annum and is capped at $125,619 as per a Band 3 teacher under the Sydney Catholic Schools system.
  • Super Guarantee contributions were at a rate of 9.5 per cent.
  • No voluntary contributions are made.
  • An expected return of 4.5 per cent per annum (net of fees and charges) is assumed based on the return of Australian Catholic Superannuation’s Conservative Balance option and includes a 2 per cent rate of inflation.
  • Calculations include the 15 per cent super contribution tax.

These calculations are hypothetical. It does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. As a result, you should consider its appropriateness to your own situation and obtain independent financial advice before making any decisions about your superannuation.