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Many Australians dream of packing up and moving overseas for work or other reasons. To make that happen there’s bound to be a lot to arrange and super might not be on top of your list of priorities, but doing a little organising before you go will ensure a hassle-free transition.
Your super needs to stay in Australia even if you don’t plan to return, unless you have met the conditions to cash it out or you’re a New Zealand citizen returning to New Zealand. In the latter case you may transfer your Australian super to your KiwiSaver retirement savings account in NZ.
Whether you’re heading away for a few years or it’s a more permanent decision, getting your account in order will ensure you don’t pay for anything you don’t need, and your fund can keep in touch to pass on any important updates. If you wish, you can even continue to contribute while you’re out of the country – unless your account is with an SMSF.
Step 1: Make sure you have online access
Accessing your account online is useful to keep track of your balance and make changes such as investment switches and address updates. You don’t want to deal with a time difference and international call costs waiting on hold for an Australian contact centre from overseas – so make sure your login details are working before you go.
Step 2: Update your details
Take the time to update your residential address, ensure your email is on file, and opt-in for electronic communication from your fund.
This way you will continue to receive statements and other important news while you’re away, so you can keep in touch and remain aware of changes that could affect your savings.
Step 3: Consider your insurance
If you have insurance cover with your super account, investigate how it operates for members who are overseas. Rules vary widely – your cover may continue indefinitely while you’re overseas, it may stop after a specified period, or it may only continue while you’re away if you notify your fund before you go.
Look at the insurance guide to find out the details and get in touch with your fund if you have any questions or want to cancel your cover before you leave Australia.
Choosing to cancel insurance before you leave will reduce the costs coming out of your account and help preserve your balance, but you should also consider whether it will be simple for you to obtain replacement insurance when you return to Australia. If you have a pre-existing health condition, reapplying for what you need when you return may not be simple, so it could be worth continuing to pay premiums while you’re overseas simply to ensure you are protected when you come home.
If there are no contributions to your account for 16 months, it becomes inactive for insurance purposes. This means you may be asked to opt in if you would like to keep your cover for longer. You could also make a contribution to reactivate your account and continue your insurance.
Step 4: Think about contributing
If you want to contribute to your savings while you’re overseas, this is easier to do from an Australian bank account – so keep one open. Most super funds are set up to accept contributions via BPAY, which is not available for overseas accounts. Your fund may be able to accept an alternative form of transfer, but there are no guarantees and it can lead to errors and confusion.
It is not compulsory to contribute or otherwise keep your account active while you’re away, but if you would like to keep saving, you usually can. Rarely, a fund has rules in the trust deed that prevent them accepting contributions from overseas members. Contact your fund to confirm.
If you will be submitting tax returns in Australia because of local income while you’re away, you can even continue to claim a tax deduction for your contributions.
Remember, it’s not recommended to contribute to an SMSF while you’re overseas because you could cause the fund to become non-compliant.
Step 5: Check fees and returns, and change funds if required
The last thing you need is for high fees and lacklustre returns to eat away your balance while you don’t have an employer making contributions. Make sure your account has low fees and potential for good returns to make the most of your savings.
Grab the Product Disclosure Statement for your account to check out the fees. If you’re in a special category of membership sponsored by an employer, find out if leaving that job to go overseas will mean your account is transferred to a separate division that will charge you more.
If you’re having ongoing financial advice fees deducted, consider whether you will be receiving any advice about your super while you’re gone. If not, you shouldn’t be paying fees for advice and can ask for deductions to stop.
Check the long-term returns for the best performing super funds and run a comparison to see how your current account compares. Many major funds offer free online comparisons, through services such as AppleCheck or RateMySuper.
If you decide your current account is not up to scratch, you can open an account with your chosen fund and transfer your savings using the myGov online service before you leave the country. Changing funds from overseas is also possible. However, if you can’t receive a text message on your Australian mobile while you’re away you will need to download the myGov code generator app to pass two-step verification when logging in.
Don’t forget that any insurance you have with the account you’re closing will be cancelled. Your new fund may allow you to transfer the cover across before you close the old account.