Do you fit the latest profile of a ‘typical’ SMSF trustee?

Note: We regularly update this article with the latest data on self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) issued by the Australian Taxation Office. This article contains the latest data available as at November 2015 (for data up to June 2015).

The latest ATO statistics on SMSFs (representing SMSF activity up to the end of June 2015) highlight some interesting observations that can be made about the current batch of SMSF trustees.

Although attempting to slot just over 1 million trustees running nearly 560,000 SMSFs into a box called ‘typical’ is an impossible task, the statistics do shed some light on the average SMSF balance, the ages of SMSF trustees, state of origin, gender balance and income levels.

Note: As at June 2015, the ATO estimates there were 1,049,840 SMSF trustees running 556,998 self-managed super funds.

Average is not always typical

According to the ATO, the total amount of wealth owned via SMSFs is nearly $590 billion ($589.9 billion) – just under a third (32%) of all money invested via superannuation funds!

The average SMSF balance is approximately $1,060,000, which means that the average fund balance for a SMSF has increased by a mere $25,000 over the past 15 months. Considering the comparison fund balance as at March 2014 ($1,035,000), this increase is very small, but note that it is an average balance, which possibly means new SMSFs with smaller balances may skew the average increase. Markets have also been volatile in recent months, although presumdedly this small growth in fund balances can also be linked to more SMSF members entering retirement phase, and low interest rates on cash savings.

The average account balance for a SMSF member is just roughly $560,000 ($543,128, as at March 2014). A typical SMSF has 2 fund members, although an ‘average’ SMSF supports 1.9 fund members (that is, dividing the number of SMSF trustees by the number of SMSFs).

The average fund balance however doesn’t necessarily represent a typical SMSF. Here’s a few interesting statistics:

  • One-fifth (20.3%) of all SMSFs have $200,000 or less in assets, with 6.2% of SMSFs (about 34,500 SMSFs) holding less than $50,000 in assets.
  • Another quarter (24.1%) of all SMSFs have between $200,000 and $500,000 in fund assets
  • Just under a quarter (23.8%) of SMSFs hold between $500,000 and $1 million in assets.
  • Just under one-fifth (18.4%) of SMSFs have at least $1 million in assets and up to $2 million in assets.
  • The remaining 13.4% have more than $2 million in fund assets with 0.5% of SMSFs holding more than $10 million. Note that 2.5% of all SMSFs (around 13,925 SMSFs) have fund balances worth $5 million or more.

The size of a SMSF can also be influenced by the number of fund members – presumably, the more members a SMSF has, the more likely the fund balance will be larger. For the record, more than two-thirds (69.7%) of SMSFs have two members, nearly a quarter (22.6%) are single-member SMSFs and 7.7% of SMSFs have three or four members.

Another significant trend is that the number of Australians setting up SMSFs is not stalling as predicted by many in the super industry only a few years ago – around 32,000 new SMSFs were established during the 12 months to June 2015 (and 33,762 for the 12 months to June 2014).

SMSF wind-ups: In the 12 months to June 2015, a paltry 1,350 SMSFs were wound up, compared to 12,135 SMSF wind ups in the previous 12 months to June 2014, and in marked contrast to the 15,063 SMSF wind-ups in the 12 months to June 2010. The spike in wind-ups during 2010 was also linked to compliance activity by the ATO.

Historically, the high wind-up figures for SMSFs in June of each year are due to individuals realising that running an SMSF is more work than they expected, and so they opt to wind up the fund, although some are linked to the death of the last member of an SMSF. I find the much lower wind-up figures for the 2015 financial year heartening because I interpret this trend as an indication that Australians are doing their research and making an educated choice when deciding whether to set up a SMSF, and whether such a hands-on super fund is appropriate.

SMSF trustees are getting younger…

Nearly two-thirds (62.6%) of SMSF trustees are aged over 55, but the latest statistics reinforce that the dominance by over-55s is slowly changing as younger generations discover the joys (and tribulations) of running their own funds. One quarter (25.1%) of new SMSF trustees (for funds established during the June 2015 quarter) are over the age of 55, which obviously means that three-quarters of new SMSF trustees are under the age of 55, and a significant 42.7% are under the age of 45.

Looking at both new and existing DIY super trustees, a massive 84.5% of SMSF trustees (roughly 887,115) are at least 45 years old, with a third (32.8%) of SMSF trustees aged 65 or over. When you look at the profile of new SMSF trustees (established during June 2015 quarter) however, only 57.3% of the new trustees are over 45, and nearly a third (29.5%) of the new trustees are aged between 35 and 44 years, with another third (32.2%) of new trustees aged between 45 and 54 years.

Where SMSF trustees live…

Typically, if you’re over 55 and live in New South Wales or Victoria, then you’re more likely than any other Australians to run a SMSF, according to ATO statistics. Nearly two-thirds of all SMSFs (62.8%) are based in Victoria and New South Wales, and nearly two-thirds (62.62%) of all SMSF members are aged 55 or over. If you’re under the age of 25 and live in Tasmania or Northern Territory, then you’re the least likely to run a SMSF with a mere 0.8% of SMSF members falling into the under-25 category and only 1.3% (7,241) of SMSFs being based in Tasmania, and 0.2% (1,114) in Northern Territory, according to the ATO.

Queenslanders, however, control a healthy 16.5% (91,905) of all SMSFs, and Western Australians run 10.1% (around 56,257) of the 556,998 SMSFs in Australia as at June 2015. South Australia isn’t far behind, with 7.1% of all SMSFs (39,547) being based in South Australia.

Earn less than $80,000…

Two-thirds (64.9%) of SMSF trustees have a taxable income of less than $80,000 a year although this statistic is likely to be distorted by the fact that SMSF trustees receiving payments from SMSF pensions are not required to include this pension income in personal tax returns.

More than half (53.9%) of SMSF trustees earn less than $60,000 a year, while just under half (41.4%) of all SMSF trustees have a taxable income of $40,000 or less. Nearly a quarter (22.5%) of all SMSF trustees earn less than $20,000, while a similar percentage (24.2%) of SMSF trustees earn $100,000 or more.

Note: The ATO does not have taxable income figures for 3.3% of SMSF members.

And for those curious about the gender balance within SMSFs, females are outnumbered by males, but only just —52.7 per cent of SMSF trustees are men, and 47.3 per cent are women, generally reflecting that many couples start a SMSF together. The gender breakdown for new SMSFs established 3 months to June 2015 nearly the same (53.3% men, 46.7% women) as the overall gender balance.

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