Investment performance: Benchmarking super fund returns

Q: What you do is very important, thank you. I am 62 years, retired and draw an account-based pension. What I need is to get sound independent advice about whether I am in the best fund for my needs and how my super fund compares. I am considering changing super funds, but I need to know whether the super fund I am considering is secure and strong (as I believe it to be).

A: Many thanks for your words of support for SuperGuide. We believe we meet an important need by providing a free and independent site for consumers on superannuation. Our belief that such a site is necessary has been confirmed by the many emails that we receive, and the exciting growth in the number of new and regular visitors to the SuperGuide website. We have close to 2 million unique users referring to SuperGuide each year.

Since SuperGuide provides independent information on superannuation for consumers, we do not operate a financial advisory business, and we do not recommend particular advisers or financial products or organisations. We do however operate the SuperGuide Directory which allows advisers and other super-related service providers to list for free, and serves as a starting point for our readers seeking expert assistance.

I cannot provide you with specific financial advice about your investment options, or whether the super fund you’re considering is a secure option, or whether there are better options available in the market place. What we can do is provide general, current and comprehensive information on the top-performing funds, the monthly returns delivered by super funds, the long-term returns and plenty more data. The information is invaluable for anyone hoping to compare their super fund’s investment returns with other super funds in the market (to access these SuperGuide articles see our special section Is my super fund performing?. Listed below are a selection of articles from this special section on the SuperGuide website:

Checking the reputation of a super fund

We can also provide guidance on how to research a particular super fund, or compare several super funds. For example, if a reader is seeking information on whether a super fund is secure and strong you can visit the particular super fund’s site or phone the super fund and ask them this question. For an outsider’s view, many of the large super funds are reviewed by superannuation ratings agencies such as SuperRatings, SelectingSuper and ChantWest, which, depending on the rating a super fund receives, generally indicates the super fund is going to be around for awhile. You can visit the websites of any of these ratings agencies to find out what ranking a super fund has received. I also provide a periodic summary of the top-performing super funds in the SuperGuide article Investment performance: We’re the best super fund. No we’re the best…

Reviewing a super fund’s investment performance

If you’re seeking information on assessing your fund’s investment performance, then you need to be mindful of at least three factors that determine a fund’s investment performance – asset allocation, level of fees (after tax) and quality of investment management over the longer term. For example, a cash option is going to deliver a lower return over the longer term than shares or property, even though during the Global Financial Crisis, cash was king.

You can find out the performance of a super fund’s cash option, and other investment options on the super fund’s website. This particular page on the website may be a useful reference for anyone interested in comparing the returns of super funds because along with the specific returns delivered by a super fund, they often provide the benchmark returns for the different investment options, which you can measure against your own fund’s returns. Many super funds present the investment performance data in a similar format.

For some guidance on the top-performing super funds and asset classes, see the following SuperGuide articles:

You may also be interested in some of the following free or low-cost information services.

  • Our special section on investment performance on the SuperGuide website (Is my super fund performing?), where you can find all of our performance-related articles, including top-10 performers over the short term and longer term, monthly performance data, annual performance figures and data on different investment options.
  • Check out APRA whole-of-fund performance tables. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority releases league tables listing the investment performance of the 200 largest APRA-regulated super funds. Note that the APRA tables don’t report investments returns on pension accounts, or returns on the different investment options available within a super fund, Find out more about the APRA tables by clicking here.
  • Follow the daily newspapers. Monthly, or quarterly, many of the major daily newspapers publish tables containing the top performing super funds and what the benchmark returns are for the different investment options. We also publish the monthly performance statistics on the SuperGuide If your fund is missing from the top 10 or 20, that doesn’t necessarily mean your super fund is a dud performer because often the periodic tables are measuring the top performer for that month, or that quarter. What matters is whether a super fund is delivering a strong return over a long period of time.
  • Ask your super fund for advice. In July 2009, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) announced that super funds can provide a limited form of financial advice to its fund members, provided the super fund holds an Australian Financial Services licence. The motivation for introducing this cheaper advice service is to give Australians some guidance when making decisions about increasing super contributions, changing investment options, or taking out life insurance within a person’s existing super fund. This cheaper advice option does not allow your super fund to give you more complex retirement planning advice, or to give advice about switching funds. An early SuperGuide article explains what it means for consumers: Cheap financial advice available – what does it mean for consumers? Many super funds are now offering intra-fund advice, and in many cases this advice is provided free of charge. Ask your super fund what they can offer you in terms of intra-fund advice.
  • Check out ratings agencies. SelectingSuper, ChantWest and SuperRatings provide a consumer service rating funds on different levels. You can compare one or two funds against your existing super fund for a fee. For no cost, you can check out the ratings for most of the large super funds available in the marketplace. SelectingSuper also provides free information on the top-performing pension funds (click here).

How do I compare super funds?

You can find more information on comparing super funds in our special section on the topic by clicking on the tab ‘Comparing super funds’ at the top of this website or by clicking here.

How do I find guidance on seeking financial advice?

You can find more information on financial advice, and finding an independent adviser by typing in ‘financial advice’ in our search function at the top right-hand side of SuperGuide website.


  1. Scott Barlow says:

    What is the best fund for your superannuation needs? The answer will not be found by asking questions of the ‘strength’ of the Superannuation Fund, or how it compares versus others. The best Fund for your needs is the one that achieves your investment goals and objectives! As far as comparisons or benchmarks go the only benchmark that matters is your benchmark – “…are you on track to achieve YOUR goal and objective?” How your investment is faring relative to everyone else doesn’t matter a jot. If you’re not on track to achieve your goal and objective, nothing else matters. Good investment advisers should focus not on the features of the investment products that are available, or the relative value or performance of your investment versus another but (a) whether you’re on track to achieve your goal, (b) what to do if you’re not, (c) whether you are exposed to any risk that could permanently compromise your ability to achieve your goal and objective, (d) how to budget to achieve your objective, and (e) how to ensure you don’t outlive your savings. These are the things that are well within an Advisers influence or control and whaddayaknow…these are also the things that keep ordinary Mum & Dad investors awake at night. When you go to an Adviser, before you pay them any money…check this list. If the Adviser can’t demonstrate how they will address these 5 issues find an Adviser who can.

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