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Public service super can be sexy

By Serina Bird Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) - 12 February 2017 9

Superannuation

I thought I was financially savvy and understood investment. But then I found out this tip about superannuation. Why didn’t I know it before?

While Canberra has definitely moved beyond the stage where everyone is a public servant, it is certainly true that the capital has a large proportion of people working in the Commonwealth Public Service. And many of them have superannuation schemes that are much more generous than private sector superannuation schemes. But yet I find that most people I know who work in the public service don’t know much about their superannuation. It is sort of understandable as the concept sounds, well kind of boring. That is until you know how it works.

My Dad, who worked as a Commonwealth public servant for 52 years, was lucky to have contributed since the start of compulsory superannuation to the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSS). Now retired, he earns more per year via his superannuation pension than he did while working. That’s right – more. And he doesn’t need to go to work to earn it, ever. For as long as he shall live (and then a residual amount to his spouse). Oh, and he gets a lump sum as well. That has made for some pretty cool skiing and fishing holidays in retirement.

The successor of the CSS, the Public Sector Superannuation (PSS) Scheme is less generous but is still a good deal. The PSS has not been available to new Commonwealth public servants since 2005, when it was replaced by the PSS Accumulation Plan (similar name, different schemes). The PSS is a powerful investment tool; if you are lucky enough to have a scheme hold onto it like gold bars.

What is so special about the PSS? Well, it is what is known as a defined benefits scheme – basically you can elect to either receive a lump sum payment on retirement, or to receive an income every year for the rest of your life, with your spouse receiving 2/3rds of the salary after your death (should he/she survive you). Michael Miller from MLC Advice says that, unless you are likely to die young, it makes sense to take the pension.

“Say you live for a further 30 years after retirement. Well that is a further 30 years of guaranteed payment, indexed for CPI, with little or no risk.”

The other special thing about the PSS is that the rates that your benefit converts to a pension are high compared to options available to anybody with ordinary super. Michael says that the PSS takes the total value of the fund and divides it by a number determined by your age, to arrive at your annual pension amount. For example say the fund is worth $800,000 – if you retire at 60 you divide that by 11 and you have a figure of $72,727 a year. Similar commercial products providing a safe pension for life, and there are in fact some, would produce a much lower pension for the same amount invested.

Pretty sexy.

But there is more to come. The hot tip that I didn’t know about. This is known as the ten year rule, colloquially as ten for ten.

An employee can make a contribution to his or her super of between 0% and 10% of their salary. Their employer will then match that contribution, up to a cap of 5% in their first ten years of membership.

But after ten years of membership in the scheme, an employee is entitled to make additional contributions to superannuation of up to 10% and the Commonwealth government employer must match it dollar for dollar. That’s right your job will pay extra money for free into your superannuation account. It makes a big difference. Based on my salary and contributions, Michael Miller calculated that I would be $33,000 better off after ten years as a result of making additional contributions.

Superannuation is an important part of the pay and conditions of many Commonwealth public servants. Don’t wait until you retire to find out how it works. Understanding how it functions and how you can maximize it to your advantage could be one of the best investment decisions you ever make.

As well as speaking to your own financial planner, you can access free super seminars from the PSS that are run in public or via webinar (http://www.pss.gov.au/education-and-advice/free-seminars/).

What’s Your opinion?


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9 Responses to
Public service super can be sexy
JimCharles 7:37 am 15 Feb 17

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

I am a Rabbit™ said :

“For as long as he shall live (and then a residual amount to his spouse”

Yeah, not going to happen. The Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme is completely unsustainable and will collapse like all DB scheme eventually do. The changing political landscape will mean that the government isn’t going to save it either. Good riddance I say – it was universally abused, and now people are entlitled enough to think that future generations should bear the debt burden for it.

The CSS and PSS have been closed to new entrants for many years (1990 and 2005 respectively).

Saying that these schemes will “collapse” is saying that the government will not meet it’s obligations its current and former employees.

If something like this happens it would be the end of superannuation as we know it and the equivalent of the government appropriating the private assets of individuals with no compensation. There would be riots.

This isn’t about “entitled” public servants expecting future generations to pay, it’s about federal government failing to plan for it’s financial committments and funding their employees agreed wages. The Future Fund goes someway to fixing this issue but it will be an ongoing funding issue for the federal government for many decades.

What you are suggesting/predicting has happened in other countries so those on any form of pension/superannuation should not take it for granted.

They generally extend working lives by raising pensions ages, with the outcome that more people will die so removing them from the obligation list. It doesn’t really help them that with people living longer anyway, unfunded obligations are lengthened.
The other less obvious effect though, which is clear from working in several public departments as an incomer, is that that there are huge numbers of people sitting round waiting for their pensions.
These pre-existing super schemes deals are so fantastic that they have removed the incentive for people to change jobs and thus employers have lost the necessary amount of churn to keep improving their workforces. Every workplace needs churn to bring freshness and invigoration, but I’ve seen incredibly old-fashioned practices being maintained, because the workers are under no obligation to improve and they are sitting on decades-worth of super commitments which is the prime objective of the employment. It’s a real performance issue and leads to sick workplaces and cultures.

dungfungus 9:45 pm 14 Feb 17

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

I am a Rabbit™ said :

“For as long as he shall live (and then a residual amount to his spouse”

Yeah, not going to happen. The Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme is completely unsustainable and will collapse like all DB scheme eventually do. The changing political landscape will mean that the government isn’t going to save it either. Good riddance I say – it was universally abused, and now people are entlitled enough to think that future generations should bear the debt burden for it.

The CSS and PSS have been closed to new entrants for many years (1990 and 2005 respectively).

Saying that these schemes will “collapse” is saying that the government will not meet it’s obligations its current and former employees.

If something like this happens it would be the end of superannuation as we know it and the equivalent of the government appropriating the private assets of individuals with no compensation. There would be riots.

This isn’t about “entitled” public servants expecting future generations to pay, it’s about federal government failing to plan for it’s financial committments and funding their employees agreed wages. The Future Fund goes someway to fixing this issue but it will be an ongoing funding issue for the federal government for many decades.

What you are suggesting/predicting has happened in other countries so those on any form of pension/superannuation should not take it for granted.

Do you think we should be aspiring to be like those other countries?

Although I think we should also ensure that we differentiate between things like the old age pension in Australia (and its overseas equivalents) and an agreed employment benefit.

We are “aspiring by default”.

In other words, we have no say in the matter anymore. Move over Argentina, here we come.

Even if Australia can limit borrowings to $500 billion there is no plan and no way to repay the debt. Servicing the debt will become difficult.

A time will come when a call is made by a creditor or no one will accept risk anymore so onshore capital will have to nationalised (raided, stolen, appropriated).

No prizes for guessing where that money will come from. The only stash of cash left is private superannuation.

It has already happened in Argentina and Hungary; Ireland went close but instead it took harsh spending measures (the type entitled Australians refuse to accept) and has traded out of its problems.

With the X party in the Senate knocking back the latest attempt to limit the coalition budget deficit today it means the crisis is a lot closer. The government can’t govern and will have to call an election. This will unleash the wrath of our creditors and ratings agency.

Buy your holiday US dollars now.

chewy14 6:22 pm 14 Feb 17

dungfungus said :

chewy14 said :

I am a Rabbit™ said :

“For as long as he shall live (and then a residual amount to his spouse”

Yeah, not going to happen. The Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme is completely unsustainable and will collapse like all DB scheme eventually do. The changing political landscape will mean that the government isn’t going to save it either. Good riddance I say – it was universally abused, and now people are entlitled enough to think that future generations should bear the debt burden for it.

The CSS and PSS have been closed to new entrants for many years (1990 and 2005 respectively).

Saying that these schemes will “collapse” is saying that the government will not meet it’s obligations its current and former employees.

If something like this happens it would be the end of superannuation as we know it and the equivalent of the government appropriating the private assets of individuals with no compensation. There would be riots.

This isn’t about “entitled” public servants expecting future generations to pay, it’s about federal government failing to plan for it’s financial committments and funding their employees agreed wages. The Future Fund goes someway to fixing this issue but it will be an ongoing funding issue for the federal government for many decades.

What you are suggesting/predicting has happened in other countries so those on any form of pension/superannuation should not take it for granted.

Do you think we should be aspiring to be like those other countries?

Although I think we should also ensure that we differentiate between things like the old age pension in Australia (and its overseas equivalents) and an agreed employment benefit.

dungfungus 3:53 pm 14 Feb 17

chewy14 said :

I am a Rabbit™ said :

“For as long as he shall live (and then a residual amount to his spouse”

Yeah, not going to happen. The Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme is completely unsustainable and will collapse like all DB scheme eventually do. The changing political landscape will mean that the government isn’t going to save it either. Good riddance I say – it was universally abused, and now people are entlitled enough to think that future generations should bear the debt burden for it.

The CSS and PSS have been closed to new entrants for many years (1990 and 2005 respectively).

Saying that these schemes will “collapse” is saying that the government will not meet it’s obligations its current and former employees.

If something like this happens it would be the end of superannuation as we know it and the equivalent of the government appropriating the private assets of individuals with no compensation. There would be riots.

This isn’t about “entitled” public servants expecting future generations to pay, it’s about federal government failing to plan for it’s financial committments and funding their employees agreed wages. The Future Fund goes someway to fixing this issue but it will be an ongoing funding issue for the federal government for many decades.

What you are suggesting/predicting has happened in other countries so those on any form of pension/superannuation should not take it for granted.

dungfungus 3:51 pm 14 Feb 17

chewy14 said :

dungfungus said :

As long as the government keeps harvesting those trees that grow money you have nothing to worry about.

What exactly do you think the Australian dollar is and where that currency comes from?

Sorry, I don’t exactly understand your full question but our dollar is currently underwritten by vast amounts of borrowed money.

chewy14 12:17 pm 14 Feb 17

I am a Rabbit™ said :

“For as long as he shall live (and then a residual amount to his spouse”

Yeah, not going to happen. The Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme is completely unsustainable and will collapse like all DB scheme eventually do. The changing political landscape will mean that the government isn’t going to save it either. Good riddance I say – it was universally abused, and now people are entlitled enough to think that future generations should bear the debt burden for it.

The CSS and PSS have been closed to new entrants for many years (1990 and 2005 respectively).

Saying that these schemes will “collapse” is saying that the government will not meet it’s obligations its current and former employees.

If something like this happens it would be the end of superannuation as we know it and the equivalent of the government appropriating the private assets of individuals with no compensation. There would be riots.

This isn’t about “entitled” public servants expecting future generations to pay, it’s about federal government failing to plan for it’s financial committments and funding their employees agreed wages. The Future Fund goes someway to fixing this issue but it will be an ongoing funding issue for the federal government for many decades.

chewy14 8:24 pm 12 Feb 17

dungfungus said :

As long as the government keeps harvesting those trees that grow money you have nothing to worry about.

What exactly do you think the Australian dollar is and where that currency comes from?

I am a Rabbit™ 3:57 pm 12 Feb 17

“For as long as he shall live (and then a residual amount to his spouse”

Yeah, not going to happen. The Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme is completely unsustainable and will collapse like all DB scheme eventually do. The changing political landscape will mean that the government isn’t going to save it either. Good riddance I say – it was universally abused, and now people are entlitled enough to think that future generations should bear the debt burden for it.

dungfungus 11:54 am 12 Feb 17

As long as the government keeps harvesting those trees that grow money you have nothing to worry about.

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