WHY A SMSF?
SMSF’s are increasingly becoming the choice for people who want to have a say in the control and management of their retirement funding. There are now around 600,000 SMSF’s and this number is increasing every day, with $600 billion in assets. Having control over the funding of their retirement has been a motivating reason why many, including baby boomers, have set up their own SMSF. There are also other benefits of having a SMSF.
A SMSF enjoys concessional tax treatment with a rate of tax of 15% on earnings which for most members is below their marginal rate of tax. Importantly investments of the fund can be made strategically to minimise tax payable by the fund and maximise the tax position of fund members in retirement, particularly through the use of franking credits on share investments. The fund lodges only one tax return on behalf of the fund irrespective of the number of fund members.
Whilst varying from fund to fund, the annual average administration costs for a SMSF is $2,000 – $2,500 per year. Retail super funds tend to charge as a percentage of the fund balance, generally in the range of 1-2% pa but depending on the fund managers. For example if you have $400,000 in your SMSF (keeping in mind this is the total of all member balances in the fund), the annual cost of administration will be in the vicinity of .6% which is below the cost of most (if not all) non SMSF funds. And the more you have in your SMSF, the greater will be the saving, so the more cost effective it is to have a SMSF.
Assets in your SMSF are protected (as with all super funds) against litigation and bankruptcy which is important in a world where litigation is on the rise. This protection continues even if you withdraw a pension from the fund to live on.
As trustee of your own SMSF you decide on your fund’s investment strategy and choose how your funds’ assets are invested. A greater choice of investments is generally available such as direct equities and business real property, including for business owners where the business premises are owned by the SMSF and rented to the business. You can tailor your investments to suit the member’s specific needs by investing in most asset classes although there are restrictions on some investments such as the fund purchasing a residential rental property from a member or a related party of the member.
ESTATE PLANNING FOR YOUR FAMILY
A SMSF provides an opportunity for effective estate planning strategies including leaving tax advantaged (sometimes tax free) income streams to dependent beneficiaries with control as to when they receive a lump sum and also provide for child beneficiaries in a very tax effective manner. Further, a member of a SMSF can make a binding nomination as to how their member balance in the fund is to be dealt with on their death, without the need for the nomination to be renewed, unlike industry and retail funds.
ACCUMULATION TO PENSION
It is easy for your super fund to change from its accumulation phase to paying a pension (or taking lump sums) when you retire. The fact you can take tax free income streams from your fund in retirement (subject to satisfying a super release condition) is a big incentive to keep your retirement funds within the superannuation environment.
Given the benefits of a SMSF it is easy to see why they are increasing in popularity as the preferred vehicle by many people for funding retirement.