I’ve been contributing to my superannuation since my first ever cafe job at 14, and I still don’t really know what it is and where it goes.
I’m always too embarrassed to talk about superannuation to anyone, because I feel like being a fully-grown adult, I should know more. But when are we ever taught about it? I don’t remember that being a part of our high school education and I honestly don’t think my parents ever told me what it was.
I guess I’ve always know the concept, but the big question for me has always been how to know what Superannuation fund to choose, and whether it actually makes a difference.
Given this, I decided to take this opportunity to finally break it down. Just in case you felt as confused as I did.
Superannuation is designed to set you up to have savings when you retire. Super is basically money set aside while you’re working, to support your financial needs in retirement. It’s also invested in a range of assets to help you grow this retirement balance, so you can have the best financial security possible.
This is a less clear answer.
Some super funds give you some choice on what your super is invested in, while other don’t. Most funds invest in things like shares, property, securities such as Exchange Traded Funds (EFTs) Listed Investment Companies (LICs) and term deposits.
Basically, they invest your money on your behalf to grow your superannuation.
For someone with minimal financial knowledge (like myself and many other people I know), this can be scary, as there is always the option of losing money when investing on trading. If your super is invested in something that goes bust, your super will suffer. It’s rare, but it’s possible.
It’s extremely important to do research into your super fund before you sign up with them. You should look into who you super fund invests into, how much, and whether or not you get a choice.
You should also look into their fees and their ratings, compared to other super funds. If in doubt, you can always book in to see a financial advisor. They’re not cheap but it’s worth a chat if you feel like a dud when it comes to money. One appointment is all you need.
A good example of a super fund that is investing in companies we can get behind is Verve Super. Known as an ethical super fund, Verve has just announced it’s going to begin allocating superannuation investments into Australian companies that perform the best on gender equality measures.
The Verve Gender Equality Investment Index will set a new standard of gender diversity and ethical investing by using data collected by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to inform their portfolio construction.
Verve is the only super fund in Australia that is taking gender equality into account, to determine which companies and opportunities to invest in, and which to avoid.
They hold the belief that the $3 trillion that Australians have in superannuation wealth can be invested to drive better social and environmental good like gender equality, as well as into their own financial futures.
As can be assumed, there’s a pretty strong moral argument for not investing in companies that fail to support women in the workplace, especially at such a critical time in gender politics. As women, why should we see our money go to companies that continue to put men on the pedestal? We’ve come to far in gender equality, but there is still a significant pay gap based on gender.
Given that there’s a moral argument for investing in gender-neutral and gender-equal companies, there is a strong financial argument too, as those companies are ones with progressive thinking and are destined to create more positive change. They’re also likely to become more successful in the future, if our society continues to grow with gender equality as the norm.
“For decades research has shown that companies that promote gender equality and inclusion perform better, yet no Australian super fund has previously taken that information seriously in terms of how they invest. That’s a major missed opportunity,” said Christina Hobbs, co-founder and CEO of Verve Super.
“Our members know all too well that money equals power, and they don’t want their own super savings invested in companies that are failing women. It’s not good enough to keep supporting the status quo – where there are more Andrew’s in CEO positions in the ASX 200 than women,” she continued.
“With so much frustration about the glacial progress on gender equality at a political level, we’re giving Australians the opportunity to use their collective superannuation power to put pressure on corporates to be better employers for women.”
Verve Super’s Gender Equality Index uses standardised data from private sector organisations with over 100 employees who submit an annual report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
Companies that meet Verve’s other broad ethical screens are assessed under five key pillars with a corresponding list of established criteria:
- Gender pay parity
- Anti sexual harassment & workplace safety policies and practices
- Formal commitments to drive change
- Inclusivity & flexible workplace practices
- Promotion of women into leadership
- Paid parental leave
In the research phase of the index, Verve found 96% of all their members considered it important they invest in companies creating a good workplace for women, demonstrating increased care for how companies are addressing gender inequality.
This new investment approach will likely see hundreds of millions of dollars shifted away from Australian companies performing poorly on gender equality over the coming years towards those with better practices – the impact could be significantly higher if other funds in Australia’s $3 trillion superannuation industry start following suit.
We hope they do. It’s time that we became more transparent about where our superannuation investments are going and more specifically, the values of the companies that are benefiting from our supers.