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Retirement realities - 5 tips for rebuilding a super future

Australians will need to rebuild their superannuation and retirement savings, after withdrawing more than $36 billion in early super release payments in 2020, according to Colonial First State’s Retirement Realities Series.

The research found that the largest number of early super payments were made to Australians under age 40 with Australians under 30 receiving nearly one-third of these payments.

The research also revealed that Coronavirus had a big impact on the retirement savings of women, with the average super balances for men consistently higher than women - $110,000 vs $93,000 in December 2020, with a faster rate of growth for men.

But there is positive news. Our data revealed that Australians are taking back control. Half of Australians who withdrew their super early, have now made headway in making contributions either through their employer or by making their own contributions.

Despite the challenges there are a number of practical ways for Australians to get their super back on track and live a comfortable life in retirement.

5 tips to consider to rebuild your super

1. Make small and regular top-ups
Even a small contribution to your super makes a big difference in the long term and to how much money you have in retirement.

How does it work? Your employer can pay some of your salary into your super before tax is taken out, instead of our bank account. And yes, that means a tax benefit. It is also a very simple and effective strategy.

If you withdrew $10,000 from your super, making additional contributions of just $20 per fortnight pre-tax (salary sacrifice) at age 30, can mean an additional $25,000 at retirement1 .

2. Seek advice
Advice can come in different shapes and sizes. Make the most of free online resources and calculators that provide useful tips and information.

A financial adviser can also help you plan for your future. Our research found the difference this can make. Women who received financial advice made a 199% higher average voluntary contribution in 2020 compared with women who did not get advice.

Similarly, the research found that men who sought financial advice were 85% ahead of those who didn’t get advice.

3. Manage your debts
The majority of people who accessed their superannuation early used it to pay their mortgage or rent (29%), household bills (27%) or credit card bills or personal debts (15%)2 . It might be a personal loan, a credit card or a mortgage (or a combination of all). The general rule is that it’s always good to pay off any high-interest debts first.

4. Take an interest and get control
Understanding what measures are available can make a big impact on how much money you have in retirement. For example, if you earn less than $54,837 you may qualify for a government co-contribution of up to $500 where you make a non-concessional contribution in a year.

Other measures including spousal, after-tax and concessional contributions which again could deliver tax breaks or qualify you for government contributions. Talk to a financial adviser about the different ways you can grow your super.

5. Check in on your super with online reminders
Just like scheduling diary reminders for work or social events or for bill payments, set yourself diary reminders to check your super every month. It is easy to set up these regular reminders on your online balance. Think of it as a ‘reality check’ on whether you are on track for a comfortable retirement.


1Results are in today’s dollars and calculated using ASIC Moneysmart superannuation calculator with the default assumptions applied. Assuming a 30-year-old earning $100,000 per year, with a super balance of $50,000. Assumed age of retirement is 67 years of age. Reduction in after tax income is calculated assuming a marginal tax rate of 32.5% plus Medicare levy and ignores the temporary low- and middle-income tax offset.

2(2021) ABS media release: Early access to superannuation used to pay household bills, 21 April. Available at:

Taxation considerations are general and based on present taxation laws and may be subject to change. You should seek independent, professional tax advice before making any decision based on this information. Colonial First State is also not a registered tax (financial) adviser under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and you should seek tax advice from a registered tax agent or a registered tax (financial) adviser if you intend to rely on this information to satisfy the liabilities or obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under a taxation law.

Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (CFSIL) is the issuer of the FirstChoice range of super and pension products from the Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust ABN 26 458 298 557. CFSIL also issues interests in products made available under FirstChoice Investments and FirstChoice Wholesale Investments. This document may include general advice but does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. The Target Market Determinations (TMD) for our financial products can be found at and include a description of who a financial product is appropriate for. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) carefully, assess whether the information is appropriate for you, and consider talking to a financial adviser before making an investment decision. The PDS and FSG can be obtained from or by calling us on 13 13 36.