Superannuation: the good, the bad and the cosmetic
Like a lot of people, I suspect, I’ve been putting off the task of working out my situation in relation to superannuation. The rules are so complex, and have been changed so often, that it seems easier to just keep making the automatic payments, pick a reasonable looking investment strategy from the four or five on offer and hope that something comes along to clarify the issues.
In one sense at least, that strategy has paid off. Costello’s Budget speech announced what are claimed to be the most radical reforms ever to superannuation policy. At the very least, they are big changes, and render most previous calculations obsolete, so I’m glad I didn’t make any. Moreover, Costello’s claim to have simplified the tax treatment of super appears to be correct, although we’ll have to wait for the devilish details of cliche to be sure. Given that complexity entails a wide range of social costs, simplification is good in itself.
The bad is that the simplification has been achieved by greatly reducing the tax paid by those with large amounts of super, while doing nothing much for the rest. The likely outcome, I suspect is an increase in import-intensive luxury consumption.
The cosmetic part of the story is the claim that this will encourage people to stay in the workforce longer. Like a lot of other commentators, I doubt this. The income effect (more money makes retirement more affordable) seems likely to outweigh any substitution effect from higher expected net returns.