Q: I never understood the term ‘superannuation’. Is that our money or government money? If it is our money why can’t we do whatever we want with it? Isn’t it illegal to cut our rights when it comes to this matter?
I agree with you that the term ‘superannuation’ is confusing.
If you are employed, your employer must make superannuation contributions on your behalf to a super fund, assuming you earn more than $450 a month. A super account is opened in your name, and those super contributions and the earnings on those contributions belong to you (although you cannot withdraw from your super account until you reach a certain age).
You can also choose to make super contributions to your super account. Your voluntary contributions (if any) and the earnings on those contributions belong to you.
The deal with super is: although super is your money, your super account enjoys tax concessions (you pay a maximum tax within the super fund of 15%, in most instances, although if you earn more than $300,000 a year, then you pay 30% tax on your super contributions) which means the federal government has imposed special rules that mean you cannot access the money until you retire after a certain age, or you satisfy another condition of release. I explain the conditions of release in the article Accessing super early: 14 legal ways to withdraw your super benefits early.
For an explanation of some of the more common superannuation terms see SuperGuide article Super for beginners, part 22: How do you speak ‘superannuation’ (… in 20 words)?
You can find more articles explaining the basics of super in our Super for beginners section.