Superannuation - Losing Daily due to COVID-19 - What to do?

As probably everyone is experiencing (although not the same vicinity), superannuation has taken a massive blow. Particularly for myself as I have reached preservation age, I looked at my balance and almost cried, having lost more than $70,000.

I know the market will recover but as each day goes on, more and more is dropping. I’m worried I’ll be left with nothing or very little, which is depressing given I have been working 30+ years.

I’ve read that you shouldn’t change to cash now as it will crystalise the losses. Is it too late to switch to cash now to avoid further losses? What if I switch to cash now and then change back to balanced investment once the market picks up again.

If I was younger I wouldn’t worry much but I am nearing retirement. Probably within the next year or two. I guess this will change now :(

Any advice would be appreciated.

Comments

  • +49 votes

    Don't change and don't retire if you can at all avoid it for a few years.

  • +15 votes

    There is no easy answer. The RBA and US Fed are very busy printing vast amounts of cheap money to prop up the economy. Cash is devaluing quite rapidly too, by stealth. I personally chose to switch my super to cash, but it too comes with large risks into the future. Like gambling, don't chase your losses. :) Forget what you had. Life has changed.

    • +3 votes

      As said - there is no easy answer…

      Give it 2-3yrs and it could be back to where it is now - which I'm in your boat too, and hope for.

      That's if we dont have a full 1930's style Depression which could totally wipe out everyone's super, and home values etc. Things arent looking good for many industries long term.

  • +8 votes

    You could switch future contributions to cash. So everything your employer contributes from now will be in cash.

    What if I switch to cash now and then change back to balanced investment once the market picks up again.

    If you stuff the timing on this you will make your situation worse. You have no control over the exact timing for super either, you fill in a form to switch and who knows how many days later they process it. Say you think it is a good time to move back, the price might skyrocket whilst you are waiting for your form to be processed, and then you've sold low then bought back in high.

    • +1 vote

      i lost $70k last week and switched my super to cash. i did it online which took 2 days to take effect with my super fund to mitigate any further losses. will switch back when things start to improve.

      • +18 votes

        Your strategy is now entirely dependent now on you predicting the right time to get back in, 2 days before the majority of others making the same decision, and the massive rush of people getting back in pushing the price up high.

        It is possible you will predict it correctly and do well.

        It is possible you will come out about even.

        It is possible to lose a whole lot of money. Particularly at this time. If you were for instance in hospital when the markets started to recover you might not get online in time.

        Hope the roulette wheel spins your way.

      • +9 votes

        Not really a smart move but good luck to you sir.

  • +2 votes

    Believe it or not but if you'd already retired you'd actually be in worse condition (since you'd actually be drawing from it). As mentioned above, if you're worried make future contributions as cash and swap it over when you feel that the market is recovering.

  • +4 votes

    If only we knew which way the market will go from here then this would be an easy decision. I am leaning towards the market dropping some more.

    • +1 vote

      Situation is only getting worse by the day in the US & Australia. I think our markets will drop more before recovery. I would suggest just leave your super alone and hope it recovers with the market. As toniyellow said above it's basically a gamble on which way the market is going to move and with delays in changing your super it's best to just change your future contributions and leave what you currently have invested alone.

      •  

        Yep, we are not even on level 3 restrictions. The longer this goes for and the more business that have to close the loses will continue to mount.

  • +3 votes

    Imagine it is your last week of life, ask yourself "what will you regret?"

    I am turning 40 years old this year and I ask myself this question (as well as a few others) each and every day.

    Whatever my answer is, I make sure I do whatever I can to do the opposite.

    • +5 votes

      If it's the last week of your life of course you would withdraw the money and start spending it. Not the best question to ask in this regard when super is designed for long-term living.

      • +4 votes

        Some things do not require spending ;)

        These are some of my things I would regret, for example, not spending more time with my parents/family/close friends - so I do the opposite, I make sure I spend as much time as I can with them, or at least call them and see what's going on.

    • +1 vote

      I mean, if OP lived today like it was their last, I'm fairly sure tomorrow their answer to "what do I regret" will be something like "spending all my money and having to rely on the govt pension for the next 20-30 years".

      • +1 vote

        As I posted in another reply, not everything involve spending.

        Google the top 5 or 10 things people regret when they are about to die …. many never talk about wish they spent every single dollar they have

        https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-fiv...

        •  

          This is a pretty naive view though.

          Let's say I want to spend more time with family - an easy way to do that is to quit my job. It doesn't involve money per se, and in the short-term I'll spend more time with them. Long-term though I may actually be screwing myself entirely. No money to enjoy other things, I can't exactly live with family so now I can't spend more time with them…

          It's a nice thought, but just impractical advice here bordering on horrible advice if people start favoring short-term ideas instead of having the long-term view.

          • +2 votes

            @DingoBilly: Everyone has a different perspectives, wants and needs. You value money differently and that is perfectly OK / normal. There is nothing naive about choosing our own path in life, after all, we are all different.

            The OP said "If I was younger I wouldn’t worry much but I am nearing retirement. Probably within the next year or two. I guess this will change now :( " and many people would regret working too much, hence my question.

            It would be my belief that not many would ever says I wish I worked an extra two years. You might say I wished I worked a bit smarter, wished I worked smarter or climbed that career ladder in my 20's and 30's. Did things differently maybe, but working longer? ask yourself that.

            Now back to money, to some money isn't that important. It is however very difficult in this world we live in, with the constant comparison with our friends, people on social media, our neighbours, people we work with, everyone etc. We sometimes feel we aren't enough when we don't physically have things, we get something new, it's great we feel better, then it gets old, or someone else gets something better.

            I love money and what it can do, but I also love my time. Every second that pass we can't get back. Half the world's population has nothing, some have nothing and live on the beach. Some of us want to work till 65 so we can go live on the beach - then we get there and our knees don't work anymore.

            • +3 votes

              @TheMindsetTraveller: Well written!

              Something related:

              "Most things we think we need —and certainly everything we think we want— come from glancing nervously around at others"

              • +2 votes

                @LFO: Thank you, that quote certainly hit a spot for me.

                Another related quote that is often used by many motivators / life coaches

                "“We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like.”

            •  

              @TheMindsetTraveller: no-one on their deathbed has ever said "I wish I spent more time at the office"

              it's almost always about loved ones and relationships with those closest to you

  •  

    If you cash out now, then you'll at least have money for retirement and you won't have anxiety about the market crashing. I know a lot of people recommend waiting out and it's probably the most profitable option but it depends if you can handle fearing everyday you could lose even more. If cashing out now gives you greater sense of relief then do it.

    • +1 vote

      There is still at least 20 years of investment earnings that can be made.

      Moving to cash, when cash rates are less than how much prices are rising over a long term is just a bag idea.

      Take the risk, the the ups and downs. Keep money invested in super as long as possible - it's tax free in pension stage.

      • +1 vote

        It's very easy to be optimistic but who's to say there won't be a crash in another 10 years during retirement? OP is clearly very distressed and could potentially have a large mental toll on his health. He's very clearly been shocked by this and leaving it in the stock market will make him worry everyday for the next several years. I say, look at what you have, if it's enough for you to last throughout retirement take it out and forget about making anymore money as long as you can live comfortably. Everyone is too focused on money and just want as much as they can. I honestly don't believe that it would make people much happier. OP will sleep much easier if he takes the money and that's invaluable.

        •  

          Without superannuation, people would naturally be thinking about putting cash away for a rainy day. But it doesn't happen in general.

          Where else can you get long term returns of 6-8% P.a.? In some years there will be negative returns. In other years there will be positive returns.

          Long term financial well-being and hence not being in poverty when you reach 75 requires being in it for the ups and downs.

          I just wish the government and superannuation funds would help soften the anguish that people feel.

          •  

            @Newplace: You're right but my point and your point are very different. My aunty has her super mainly in cash, she's not making returns and infact losing due to inflation. But she's happy, she will make do with what she has without worrying about a crash.

            You just keep talking about gains, I'm talking about OP's mental health.

            •  

              @bkhm: In times like this its not about return on capital but return of capital

              •  

                @Icecold5000: So you think OP has lost more than he's put in? That sounds like chasing a loss, a gamblers problem isn't it?

                •  

                  @bkhm: No, not that at all.

                  •  

                    @Icecold5000: So you think he's actually lost money (less than he's put in) and that he should wait until he recoups it to pull out?

                    •  

                      @bkhm: Don’t know. All depends on his appetite for risk which is different for every individual.

                      •  

                        @Icecold5000: Yeah exactly and from OP's post, I think he would be much better off mentally if he took it out and just forgot about it.

                        • -1 vote

                          @bkhm: This is such bad advice. You’re basically telling OP to lock in a 40% loss for “peace of mind”.

                          From reading OP’s post, it doesn’t sound like he’s trying to crystallise a loss and then stick his head in the sand. He’s asking for advice whether it’s a good idea to switch to cash and then back to balanced investment when the market moves back. The answer is no (unless talking about future contributions) - you’re basically selling low and buying high.

  • +13 votes

    I'm in the same boat. 41 years in full time work working my klacker off. 58. Preservation age next year at 59 and intended to retire as I wasn't enjoying work.

    I am in high growth (and hence high risk). I've "lost" $270k so far (that's just superannuation without my share portfolio). I'm not changing a thing. I'll continue to salary sacrifice up to the $25k limit and also make a monthly after tax contribution. When the market starts to show signs of direction I'll be buying more shares.

    If I went to cash in Super now then I'm locking in my losses and not even get a capital loss to apply to my tax. hindsight is great but you should have gone to a more conservative asset allocation in Dec 2019.

    What has changed? I'll delay retirement until July 2022 or July 2023 at the latest. My work duties have changed slightly and the job is more enjoyable so I can live with that.

    • +12 votes

      "lost" $270k

      geesus your lost alone is way way more than most of us here will ever have on our super till we died………… you are so lucky!

      • +6 votes

        I would hope at least people here would have more than that in their super at preservation age.

        Say working from 25 to 60, that's 35 years. That's only $7.7k on average, including interest and returns on that investment.

        Your average annual income would only need to be around $50k over that period, and that's being conservative with the numbers.

        •  

          nah, most managers yes, but for average small potatoes/joes, i dont know many of my friends to have over $175k (that is, before corona).
          of course they are not 60yo yet, but they are also not under 28yo

          so yeah, trust me if you have over $400k consider yourself lucky.

        • +1 vote

          Assuming OP lost 30% on his or her super, that means the super balance is 900k..
          So thats about 26k pa.. not 7.7k over 35 years

          • +1 vote

            @OzFrugie: Was replying to this:

            your lost alone is way way more than most of us here will ever have on our super till we died

            Which referred to the $270k figure, not OP's total estimated super (which is in the 7 figures range).

          • +1 vote

            @OzFrugie: You're not accounting for compounding returns. If you assume a 6% annual return and you managed to put $7k into super each year, you should have $1.3m at around 35 years. I can't be bothered doing the tax calculation but that would be pretty close to $1m.

        •  

          The stats for average retirement funding through super are very sobering (available on all superannuation sites). Underemployment, time out of the workforce raising families or as unpaid carers, and rorting by some unscrupulous employers, mean that many people have under $200k in their super.

          •  

            @Lastchancetosee: You left out "people just not contributing to it or finding ways to get around mandatory contributions".

            Seriously, why do people go to such lengths to excuse individual's own failures of responsibility?

            • +1 vote

              @HighAndDry: Why? Because most people in those groups are employees who pay tax, and make regular contributions. Because sometimes individuals cannot control everything in their lives.

              When they were doing casual work, my own children were diddled out of their super in jobs, with no hope of recovering that money, so long term it will cost them thousands. Look at the recent case of Woolworths.

              • -5 votes

                @Lastchancetosee:

                Because sometimes individuals cannot control everything in their lives.

                Doesn't change the fact that adults are responsible for everything in their lives.

                When they were doing casual work, my own children were diddled out of their super in jobs

                Did they meet the requirements for supper?

                More to the point, would they rather have not had the job at all?

                And on top of that, what stopped them from making voluntary contributions to their super?

                • +3 votes

                  @HighAndDry: Adults are responsible for many but not all things in their lives. Shit happens sometimes. And, yes, some people are better prepared or have more resources than others. If you live on the breadline, it can be touch and go.

                  Re my children, obviously they met the requirements, or I wouldn't have mentioned it, and we duly reported the employers in question - both in the hospitality industry, who declared bankruptcy. One son lost a month's wages, in spite of following up numerous times with his employer. Not that it makes any difference to my point, but yes, they certainly do make voluntary contributions now, and have shares, etc..

                  Are you suggesting that you'd be happy not being paid super, as long as you had a job?

      • +13 votes

        As I said, I'm on the cusp of retirement so there is 40+ years of saving / investing (of various types).

        I started full time employment in 1979 but didn't get superannuation until 1989. I always added a bit extra ($100/w) from my post tax salary (no salsac available) and left that job in 2007 with $400k which I rolled over into an industry fund and promptly lost $120k in value due to the GFC. That took until ~2014 to recover the value.
        In the 2007 job I started salary sacrificing the same $100/w (you don't notice it after a while) and increased it whenever I got a pay rise. have been adding the SGA plus whatever I needed to hit the $25k cap for the past 5-10 years (again, you don't notice it if you never had it).

        Dad died in 2016 and I got a reasonable inheritance and have been maxxing out the $100k/pa after tax contributions in 2017/18/19.

        Plus I'm in a really aggressive asset allocation (60% global equities; 30% AU equities; 10% "other" with really low fees (<0.1%).

        Compound interest does the rest.

        Plus I've made some good investments over the years.

        The best analogy I can make is that I've been building a house for 40 years and was almost finished and a storm came and knocked the roof off. My foundations are still good so I can rebuild without too many problems.

      • +5 votes

        you are so lucky!

        I just noticed this.

        It's not luck.
        I worked my arse off to get where I am and I've been very careful what I do with my families money.
        I've applied for (and got) jobs that I was totally underqualified for and then spent the next 6 months crapping my pants every time I got to work hoping my lack of experience didn't cause a major system failure.
        I worked 60 hour weeks right through my twenties and shiftwork through my thirties and I taught myself about financial planning and tax.

        I work with guys that have had better paying jobs, less responsibility (single guys) than me that have much lower savings and super balances. You try and help them and they couldn't give a toss.

        I was one of those people at school that the teachers said "you'll make a great street sweeper". Stuff 'em

        •  

          Sorry brad1 -8tsi , I was writing mine when you posted yours……
          “lucky” people tend to think the same and have similar experiences. 👍

        • +2 votes

          I think luck plays into it more than you realize.

          Hard work gets you a long way there, but ultimately as you yourself say, you were lucky to get jobs you were completely unqualified for. What if you couldn't find that job? What if you were forced to take terrible jobs and then happened to get injured and couldn't work any more? I by no means say that hard work and smart saving won't help, but you also need to realize that luck has a massive impact where you end up. As someone mentioned below, you were lucky just inherently by having your genes, your education and everything like that from your parents which you had very little control over.

          • +2 votes

            @DingoBilly: Genes? I can't comment. I did have great parents though and I did have a nice, middle class upbringing but received no financial help from them from the day i left school - ever - until they died.

            I left school at the end of year 11. My best mark was 29/100, the worst was 19/100. So my formal education wasn't that great up to then. I did start fixing motorbikes when I was 13 and always wanted to do something with engines.

            When I started work in 1979 there was a mini-recession and huge unemployment which then morphed into the 1982 recession that then turned into Keating's "the recession we had to have" complete with 16% mortgage rates (1987?). Then the 1991 recession and the next one and blah-de-blah-de-blah. I did some really crap jobs and some really long hours back then.

            I think you make your own luck. That's what Mum always told me.

      • +2 votes

        He is not “lucky”, and if you think that you will never have his “luck”.
        He has patiently worked hard every day for possibly longer than your lifetime and given up lots of things to accumulate savings. He will do fine.
        Your statement pushes some buttons for me because I am in a similar situation (and like him will do fine) , and keep hearing this.
        There is no luck involved here. Work hard, limit spending on optionals.

        Remember, if you take the “lucky” cop out, you will never get “lucky”
        As an aside, it seems to work for smarts too. I met a young person a few months ago doing 3 simultaneous degrees. She was smart and hard working, and the harder she studied, the smarter she was getting…..

        • +8 votes

          Just to be a devils advocate, I'd argue everything comes down to luck in the end.

          Nature: no one chooses their inherent intelligence or abilities.

          Nurture: no one chooses their country of birth, their parents, teachers during formative years or sources of inspiration.

    • +4 votes

      I am in high growth

      FK me. At your stage you should've had at least a balanced risk profile for your super, if not a highly conservative one!

      • +10 votes

        For many this would be the right choice but I'm still comfortable with how I'm structured. If I hadn't gone aggressive I'd still be in 6 figures (almost back there again).

        I knew exactly where I was invested and how high the risk was.

        •  

          Fair enough. Also, look after yourself, we just reached 1000+ in NSW.

          • +3 votes

            @HighAndDry: I'm good. Having been working from home since last Tuesday and skyping into meetings.

            Have been going through the actions in old reports in our document management system and reviewing a lot of administrative actions (rather than the more useful "replace this important item" actions). It doesn't feel useful but will help when we get rolling again.

            We divided our maintenance team into 3 groups and gave them 2 sites each and they aren't allowed to go to the other sites or the office.
            Gave our electrical contractors on one of our upgrade projects a "first and final" because they had all their physical distance rules in place but weren't following them.

            Stay safe everyone. The virus has a long way to go and so does the financial recovery.

      • +4 votes

        Sounds like he knows what he's doing. If he's got 5-10 years worth of funds outside super he's golden.

        (But yes, in general you'd turn down the risk as you get closer to retirement)

    • +1 vote

      This.

      Defer spending. Defer retirement. Ride out the lows, to benefit from the highs.

      Remember superannuation does not end at 60. It ends at death - which could be age 80-90!

  • +4 votes

    When people don't know what to do they tend to do nothing. Doing nothing is probably what most people will do in OP's situation.

    In hindsight though if we can go back just two weeks then the correct answer then would have been a definite yes, switch to cash.

    Is switching to cash the correct answer now? I guess we will find out in a week or two.

    • +3 votes

      Actually, doing nothing (differently) is probably what the OP should continue with

      In 5-10 years time, they will be very glad they did.

  • +1 vote

    It will bounce back.

    •  

      You are probably right but nothing is certain. Nikkei index still didn't recover from its 1989 peak.

  •  

    Go back in time and convert to cash when the shit started to hit the fan.

  • +5 votes

    bikies

  • +1 vote

    Yeah Growth looking good

    Economy is strong
    Commercial Property booming
    Res property set to double
    The Unlisted entries in your super being revalued

    I went to cash

    •  

      Remember the past decade has given the strongest returned following the biggest downturn.

      Try to stick with a long term strategy.

  • +1 vote

    In a similar situation to OP.
    I'm too frightened to log onto my super account and see what I've lost.
    I know that's a bit of a head-in-the-sand attitude but knowing what I've lost on paper will only cause worry and angst. I'll just ride it out and work for a bit longer.

    It's all well and good to say super is a long term proposition (and it is) but when you're on the cusp of retirement when the market crashes is pretty poor timing. How can ever of us predict when we plan on retiring the market is gonna be up where we want it to be?

    •  

      It is just a generational gamble.

      But the real beauty is that retirement is the time to get the best tax free earnings in super.

      I just wish there was less panic so people are protected from themselves in pulling all money into cash or out when the market crashes

  •  

    I've switched mine to cash. Once it's at the bottom i plan on changing positions but yea…not looking good for us.

    • +5 votes

      Once it's at the bottom

      If you could answer that you wouldn't have "nomoneynoproblems"!

    • +1 vote

      When is the bottom? What if you miss a big upswing?

      •  

        Let me get my crystal ball…

        With the lockdown going on, massive lay offs, no cure and we haven't even reached peak infections it's only going to get worse for us. I think until a vaccine is on the cards, sentiment is still going to be down.

        •  

          Good luck to you. I hope you time it right.

          Just remember that markets overreact and then do correct. Not saying that there will be no losses, but nobody can predict the bottom.

          We're only 2 weeks in.

          When do you think the markets price things correctly?

          •  

            @Newplace: I have no idea, but I am sure that things will get worst before they get better so much so I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I think its funny that 99% of folks here are saying it's silly to go cash now like as if the economy is going to turn around over night. I'm all for the hodl but if you can cut your losses and buy back in when it's cheaper, you'd be in a better position. Why do you think we got here in the first place, big money saw the writing on the wall and sold off while us little guys are parroting about hodl.

            • +1 vote

              @nomoneynoproblems: At time of posting, US share markets up 20% in 3 days. Highest gains in almost 90 years.

              So much volatility.

              It is just too hard to pick the ups and downs.

              Economy and share market not always moving together. Share market is a NPV of what the future looks like. So forward looking outlook in some regards is priced in.

              Waiting for economy to pick up before re-entering is a crapshoot. And probably priced in to the share market when you try to get in.

              Good luck - I do wish everyone the best in whatever strategy they pick. What I do know is, the so called investment experts don't get it right 50% of the time. So what hope do I have?

    •  

      Please let us know when the bottom is.

      • -1 vote

        You know the old equities trader saying.. “people who try to pick bottoms just end up with smelly fingers”

  • +2 votes

    I'd starve before touching my super.

  •  

    Just work a few more years until you can get the pension because your assets outside of your home are so low!

  • +3 votes

    This could be just the start of the downward trend that lasts 20 years & Moving to cash maybe the best answer. It could also turn around and recover tomorrow like it has the last could of days. Financial markets are a gamble , no one really knows.. Hope it all works out.

    •  

      I am reading contradictory messages on this thread.

      I am in the same boat as OP, but not retiring.

      My super was in the process of being rolled over by the trustee of the employer plan right bang in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis starting here. I had no access to my funds (as the new member number was not setup) for over 3 weeks. During that period of time, my losses amounted to approximately $25K, and am still losing money each day, which is also the same for many super account holders. My investment strategy with the old provider was to set to Moderate, and the same settings carried over to my new provider.

      On Monday, as soon as I managed to get online access and saw the losses, I moved my account balance and future contributions to mostly cash and diversified fixed interest.

      After reading the replies at the start of this thread, I am thinking I should have left my account balance alone, otherwise I have forever cemented the $25K loss.

      QUESTION: Is it too late to change my account balance investment option to something like Conservative Moderate?
      As the commenters mentioned above, if the market rebounds my losses will then recover? Or, am I being an optimistic fool?

      Given the current circumstances (we are at the start of the COVID-19 curve), my colleague stressed to me that the market will not recover for a long period of time. Therefore, by not leaving my account balance in cash I could continue to incur losses to the point I have no funds left. Scary thought! Hence, I am somewhat confused.

      •  

        When do you need the money?

        If you need say $40k p.a. to be taken out (tax free) next year, then you should have $80k in cash.

        If you are in it for the long run, ride the ups and downs.

        Just pick a low fee, high quality superannuation fund and make sure your insurances are appropriate for you and the premiums are therefore not unnecessarily eroding your balance.

  •  
    Merged from My Super Is Going down Due to Covid-19

    I am on High growth @ Australian super and due to Covid-19 my super has gone down about $5k. Estimated amount is now less than the amount in last financial year.
    I don't have a clue how to handle super or shares market/investments etc.
    i still have about 25yrs to retire. Should i change my Super investment to cash or leave it as it is?
    Please input your suggestions.