Retirement Planning - Do what you like and get paid for it!
As the baby boomer generation moves from the age fifty plus age bracket
to the sixty-plus age bracket more attention is being focused on retirement
Having recently changed my employment status I have had occasion to review
my superannuation situation. I always knew that fees differed between
funds and this could impact on the final payout, but I didn't realise
how large this factor was until I did my sums.
of my super is in an industry fund which provides services for
employees in the education sector. Let's call them Super Fund
A. They have above average returns and very low fees. On the few
occasions I have had to deal with them the staff were courteous
I have had some money in another fund, Super Fund
B, for quite a number of years. I accumulated some funds in it
while I was at a previous employer. The fees were high but I was
locked into the fund because of high exit fees until I turned
I decided to consolidate my funds in preparation
for developing a comprehensive retirement plan. So I decided to
roll my money over from Super Fund B into Super Fund A. I have
done similar things in the past with minimal fuss. You just fill
in a standard form and send it to the fund where you want the
money to end up. They contact the other fund and it's all fixed
in a couple of days. Well that's how it works in most cases.
But this didn't happen with my ex friends at Super
Fund B. They received my request to roll over my money and decided
to milk me one more time.
First step was to ignore the request for a few days.
Then the General Manager Advisor and Customer Service, let's call him
Chuck Berry, wrote a letter full of spurious and irrelevant information.
I received it six days after the date on the letter even though I live
in the same city. The letter says some forms are being prepared and
will be sent in a few days, meantime I could consult my financial advisor.
I decided enough was enough and rang Customer Service.
Where are the "forms"? Other companies don't have forms they just comply
with the instructions of their clients, why can't Super Fund B?
This was a very enlightening experience. After speaking
to several drones and drongos I demanded to speak to Chuck Berry, author
of the letter so I could explain that it was my money, Super Fund B
was being paid to manage it, not to obstruct my written instructions
and, if necessary, to comment on his parentage.
I was told Chuck Berry was not available, but that everyone
just sent out mail over his signature. Ah, I see, but does he really
exist? I never found out.
I put on my best telephone shouting voice and demanded
the "forms" be couriered. To my surprise they were sent. But they turned
out to be a scrappy six page letter, again from Chuck Berry, full of
the same nonsense but seeking no further information than what was on
the original form they received from Super Fund A. It didn't contain
any instructions on returning the "form."
So I put
on my telephone shouting voice again and said I was coming into
the office to hand deliver the "form" and to collect the cheque.
I managed to convince one of Chuck Berry's offsiders to expect
me at 3pm.
So when arrived at Super Fund B's office I asked
for Chuck Berry's offsider, cooled my heels in reception and waited
a few minutes. He didn't appear, but the office boy brought down
another letter from Chuck Berry, and the cheque. They were not
in the slightest interested in the "forms" thus confirming what
I already knew - they were a meaningless prop, used to cover up
I walked to the other end of the city and deposited
the cheque in Super Fund A. What a relief! Although I had lost
a couple of hundred dollars due to stock market changes over the
two-week saga I had last disentangled myself from Chuck Berry
and his crew.
I learnt a few lessons from my experience.
Higher fees doesn't give better service. Super Fund
A costs me less than $3 per week in fees, Super Fund B, with a
lower balance used to cost me about $10 per week.
Featherbedding and overstaffing leads to lower levels of service. The
overblown bureaucracy at Super Fund B invents procedures and "forms"
in an effort to convince management that it is performing a service.
Inevitably a bureaucracy in this mode becomes a haven for people with
little idea of service, but with a strong determination to stick to
the rules and to cover up for colleagues and organisational malfunctions.
The public and the company suffers as declining morale and shoddy practices
replace cheerful efficiency.
A bit of determination goes a long way. If I had waited
for the slow grinding of the wheels in Super Fund B I may have eventually
got my money, after I had paid them a couple more weeks of "management
fees" I feel I have had a moral victory in that I have partially thwarted
the schemes of Super Fund B to deprive me of my rights.
I hope this little tale helps someone who is being done
over by people who are being paid to help us.
About The Author
Darby Higgs is a Melbourne-based web writer. He is the manager and editor
of its-our-money.com a website
aiming to empower investors in retirement funds to take a more active
role in the governance of their money.