As investment market volatility continues, what does this mean for Australians’ retirement savings?
The COVID-19 (coronavirus) crisis has caused uncertainty in many areas of life, not least on investment markets. Share prices have been fluctuating wildly as investors react to unfolding global events.
From its high point in March the Australian All Ordinaries Index shed more than a third of its value before recovering some ground towards the end of June.
And just as concerning have been the day-to-day swings. The coronavirus pandemic has created the largest daily fluctuations since the Great Depression, with the US S&P 500 Index experiencing an average daily change of 4.8% in the five weeks to 8 April 2020 —higher than both the GFC and the 1987 share market crash.
Why this could affect your super
You may not think of yourself as an investor in stocks and shares. But most Australian super accounts are invested in shares to some degree because of their potential to deliver strong long-term gains. So share price ups and downs are still likely to affect your finances, and many people’s super balances have taken a hit as a result of the volatility.
Many working Australians have their super in a balanced option, where your super is spread across a mix of investments—from ‘growth’ assets like shares and property, which can deliver higher potential long-term returns but with higher risk, to ‘defensive’ assets such as bonds and infrastructure, which can potentially provide some level of protection against share market downturns.
So, the good news is your super may not have been quite as affected by the COVID-19 volatility as the headline share price numbers you see in the media.
But it’s important to check with your super provider exactly how your retirement savings are being invested. Different super funds define ‘balanced’ in different ways and it’s possible up to 80% of your retirement savings could be invested in growth assets such as shares, even in a balanced fund.
When will your super bounce back?
We can’t be sure. Market movements are difficult to predict, even for experienced investors and economists.
AMP Capital Chief Economist Shane Oliver says, “Short-term sometimes violent swings in share markets are a fact of life but the longer the time horizon, the greater the chance your investments will meet their goals.
“So, in investing, time is on your side and it’s best to invest for the long term when you can.”
Should you think about switching your investment mix?
It’s tempting to react to short-term market movements by changing your investment strategy. But it could be worth bearing in mind that if you sell out of shares when prices are low you may end up crystallising your losses and missing out on any future upturns.
As Shane Oliver says, “We’ve seen recently growth assets like shares have periods of bad short-term performance versus bonds and cash. But they provide superior long-term returns, which is essential to grow retirement savings. It makes sense for superannuation to have a high exposure to them.
“The best approach is to simply recognise that super and investing in shares is a long-term investment.
What’s lifecycle investing?
One option to consider could be a lifecycle investment strategy. This is where your super investment mix is automatically adjusted as you get older to reflect your changing tolerance for risk—from when you’re just starting out with plenty of years ahead of you in the workforce to when you’re approaching retirement and you have less time to play catch-up after a downturn.
If you’re concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on your super investments, speak to us for quality financial advice based on your current situation and future needs by clicking here.