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Jargon a barrier to super understanding

Reported by AAP
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Super-rich getting richerThe world's super-rich could actually be wealthier than anyone first thought.

If there's one thing worse than complicated paperwork, it's complicated jargon, especially when it comes to superannuation.

A recent survey released by Virgin Super found that although many Australians feel the need to know more about their super fund and the options they have, many are put off by the language used.

One in three of the 1,010 respondents surveyed said the term superannuation was "baffling" and "difficult to understand", while one in five of the younger age group (25-29) said it was "for people older than me".

But misunderstanding was widespread among the older respondents, too - with 39 percent of those aged 40-44 also saying the term was baffling.

Lack of engagement was also a concern, with 50 per cent of respondents saying they only checked their super account occasionally, while 22 per cent said they did not know much about their plan or where their money is invested.

Virgin Money commercial director David Curneen said that replacing the term "superannuation" could be a good starting point in addressing a lack of engagement.

"In Canada, they call it a Registered Retirement Savings Fund, and that might be a more suitable name," he said.

"Superannuation doesn't really describe the fund well.

"More than half of those we surveyed thought Retirement Savings Account would be a more appropriate name for super."

With Australia's superannuation framework being reviewed recently, Mr Curneen said he hoped language changes could be integrated into any reforms.

"I'm entirely confident the system could be adapted according to these findings, and that's why we want to start the conversation with government, the industry, our competitors and consumers," he said.

"The (government's) Super System Review is definitely a move in the right direction, and it does try and address engagement."

The federal government released the final report from its Super System Review in June 2010.

Mr Curneen said Virgin Super had already begun discussions with super research body Super Ratings about how terminology could be changed.

He added that people's lack of knowledge about their super funds could be costing them more.

"I was actually surprised by some of the results - 22 per cent said they don't really know much about their superfund, or where their money is invested," he said.

"That is a huge concern, and they should be concerned, particularly those who have multiple funds - they are paying multiple fees, and they don't have to."

Steve Mitchell, head of wealth management at financial services firm Canstar Cannex said superfunds often lost clients' interest early on.

"There's a total lack of engagement," he said.

"If you think about it, when a person joins an employer, they fill out a form, and that's it.

"The fund might come out and speak to people, and what they'll speak about is the industry jargon - risk profiles, investment allocations, and it's just blah blah blah."

A concerted effort by employers of funds to explain superannuation options could help, even with current terminology, Mr Mitchell said.

"The jargon itself needs to be demystified, but it's really about asking people about their options and needs," he said.

"Even with the jargon, realistically, it's not difficult to sit down and explain it to people.

"We know when people do get involved in the process, they're quite happy - it's more that they're daunted by all the conversation they're going to have."

Choice spokeswoman Ingrid Just agreed that people needed better explanations of superannuation products.

"There is a lot of confusion, not only around the language used, but also the contracts - understanding the terms and conditions, understanding the realities behind certain products," she said.

"As a result of being bamboozled, many people stick their head in the sand or are a bit unsure even what questions to ask at the outset."

03/09/2014 07:17Sydney, Australia. 3 September,2014
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