Understanding the risks of switching

20 October 2023

Negative news headlines make us all feel uneasy and it’s natural to question the impact these events may have on your super. In times of uncertainty, remember, super is a long-term investment. While it can be tempting to switch options, staying invested in a diversified portfolio may often be the best action you can take. 

Market uncertainty is sometimes triggered by changes in economic outlook and global events. Significant events can restrict growth, but it’s important to think long term. Market ups and downs are a normal part of investing. 

The risks of investment switching

 

Changing market conditions

When markets are rising, you may have concerns you are missing out. When markets are falling, you may feel anxious about potential losses. This is understandable and it can be hard to sit tight and not take immediate action. 

When markets go down, we often speak to members who are considering switching from a diversified investment option, such as AustralianSuper’s Balanced option, to a cash option. Many members think this is a safer place to be, but you could be locking in investment losses that may be harder to recover from when markets bounce back. A short-term view can have a long-term negative impact on your final retirement balance. 

 

Look past market turbulence

Looking past market turbulence can be challenging. But history shows that markets increase in value over the long term. By staying invested in a diversified portfolio your super has more opportunity to benefit when markets recover1

Members who stay invested in diversified portfolios can end up in a better position in the long term, compared to those who switch investment options. The below examples highlight this. 

Looking past market turbulence can be challenging. But history shows that markets increase in value over the long term.

History shows that markets bounce back

Despite short-term ups and downs in the market, members' super has grown over the long-term. Overall, staying invested has resulted in a good outcome.

AustralianSuper Balanced option – long-term performance over 20 years

The chart below shows the performance of the Fund’s Balanced option over 20 years, from 30 September 2003 to 30 September 2023. It uses a starting balance of $100,000 and shows how – over 20 years – that balance has grown to $462,176.

The chart shows the performance of the Fund’s Balanced option over 20 years, from 30 September 2003 to 30 September 2023. It uses a starting balance of $100,000 and shows how over 20 years that balance has grown to $462,176.
AustralianSuper investment returns are based on crediting rates, which are returns less investment fees and costs, transaction costs, the percentage-based administration fee and taxes. Returns don’t include all administration, insurance and other fees and costs that are deducted from account balances. Returns from equivalent investment options of the ARF and STA super funds are used for periods before 1 July 2006. Investment returns aren’t guaranteed. Past performance isn’t a reliable indicator of future returns.

 

Investing for the long term

The Balanced option, where most members are invested, has generated a 10-year average return of 8.04% and a 20-year average annual return of 7.95% as at 30 September 2023. This performance result includes investing through economic downturns like the Global Financial Crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, while continuing to provide long-term growth for members.

If a member had invested in AustralianSuper’s Balanced option over the 20 years to 30 September 2023, they would’ve more than quadrupled their investment1.

Case study: Members who switched investment options 

Below are two hypothetical examples that demonstrate the difference between staying invested in a diversified option (the Balanced option), compared to switching to the Cash option. The time period covers the March 2020 market downturn, which was brought about in part due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In each scenario the member invested in the Balanced option from 31 December 2019. 

Claire – switched to the Cash option from the Balanced super option

Claire is 56 and on 31 December 2019 she had a balance of $350,000 invested in the Balanced option. 

On 23 March 2020, Claire decided to switch from the Balanced option to the Cash option. Her concerns about the market sell-off fuelled this change. Claire stayed invested in the Cash option until 30 September 2023.

The chart below shows the growth of Claire’s super in the Cash option, compared to the Balanced option. If Claire stayed invested in the Balanced option, her balance at 30 September 2023 would’ve grown to $425,286. Instead, by switching to the Cash option, she ended up with a balance of $309,264.

Switching and staying in Cash left her $116,022 worse off than if she stayed invested in the Balanced option through this period.

Claire’s super savings in the Cash option compared to the Balanced option
The chart shows the performance of a hypothetical member, Claire, who switched from the Fund’s Balanced option to the Cash option. This switch meant Claire was worse off through this period.
AustralianSuper investment returns are based on crediting rates, which are returns less investment fees and costs, transaction costs, the percentage-based administration fee deducted from returns from 1 April 2020 to 2 September 2022 and taxes. Investment returns aren’t guaranteed. Past performance isn’t a reliable indicator of future returns. Doesn’t include all administration and other fees and costs that are deducted from account balances.

 

Brent – switched to the Cash option in retirement with an account based pension (Choice Income)

Brent is a retiree aged 67. On 31 December 2019 he had $750,000 invested in the Choice Income Balanced option, AustralianSuper’s account based pension

An account based pension lets you access your super as needed. Brent took monthly withdrawals based on an annual amount of 5% of his financial year-end balance. Withdrawal amounts are identical in both scenarios, based on the investment in the Balanced option.

Brent also switched his investment option to Cash on 23 March 2020.

Before he switched, Brent’s account was earning returns from a diversified investment portfolio, the Balanced option. These returns meant he wasn’t dipping too far into his savings. He was living off the returns that were helping to grow his balance.

Investing in the Balanced option actually boosted his balance, despite him withdrawing cash regularly. On 30 September 2023, his balance would’ve grown to a total of $770,038, even after almost $142,000 in withdrawals, if he remained invested in the Balanced option.

Brent’s decision to switch to the Cash option in 2020 meant his savings earned a lower return. As a result, his withdrawals reduced his balance to $510,438 on 30 September 2023. The difference between staying in the Balanced option or switching to the Cash option was $259,600.

Brent’s retirement (account based pension) savings in the Cash option, compared to the Balanced option
A line graph showing the difference in performance between the Balanced and Cash options from 31/12/2019 to 30/09/2023 with a starting balance of $750,000 in Choice Income.
AustralianSuper investment returns are based on crediting rates, which are returns less investment fees and costs, transaction costs and taxes. Doesn’t include all administration and other fees and costs that are deducted from account balances. Investment returns aren’t guaranteed. Past performance isn’t a reliable indicator of future returns.

These examples demonstrate the potential negative impact that switching to cash can have to your retirement balance. 

 

Investing for the long term – AustralianSuper’s investment approach

AustralianSuper has an in-house team of over 330 investment professionals as at 30 June 2023. These experts continually assess economic and investment data to help formulate and adjust their investment strategies. 

By investing in a mix of assets, the team aims to further reduce risk, maximise investment opportunities and grow members’ retirement savings over the long term. 

 

Before switching investment options 

If you’re considering making a change, talk to a financial adviser. They can help you make the right investment choices for your personal goals and risk appetite. A financial adviser can also guide you when investment markets are bumpy, providing reassurance. This could help you stay focused on the long-term and ease any worry you may have. 

 

CONNECT WITH AN ADVISER

 

Explore all advice options

When faced with uncertainty, sticking to a long-term investment plan may be the best course of action.  
 

1Investment returns are not guaranteed. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future returns.

This may include general financial advice which doesn’t take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Before making a decision consider if the information is right for you and read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement, available at australiansuper.com/PDS or by calling 1300 300 273. A Target Market Determination (TMD) is a document that outlines the target market a product has been designed for. Find the TMDs at australiansuper.com/TMD.


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