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Sam, 25, shares her financial plan

Published 1 July 2017

Sam Aldenton is saving for a house deposit and putting extra into her super to ensure her financial independence, writes Sylvia Pennington.

Communications professional Sam Aldenton (pictured) is playing superannuation catch-up after a four-year stint working as a journalist for a fashion and retail intelligence firm in New York, during which she made no super contributions.

The 25-year old returned to Australia in early 2016, and embarked on a savings and investment regime shortly after scoring a full-time role with national travel agency Flight Centre.

"I’m very aware that I want to be financially stable when I’m older," Aldenton says. "I think that comes from looking at my parents and the way they’re set up – that’s had a big influence.

"It’s important to me to know that I can get myself into a good position, independently of a partner or anyone else, and that I’ve got an investment in my future that’s working for me."

Aldenton has moved back in with her folks to enable her to save a house deposit by 2019, and she’s contributing $200 a month to her super on top of her employer’s compulsory contribution of 9.5 per cent.

It's a top-up that should get her retirement savings back on track after her time abroad.

Make compound interest work for you

The average super balance for Australians aged 25 to 29 was $21,372 in 2015–16, according to The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia. Those aged 20 to 24 had an average of $5508 in their retirement pot.

Compound interest – described by Albert Einstein as the eighth wonder of the world – means that young folk who tip extra into their super early will be amply rewarded decades down the track, says ANZ financial planning associate and fellow Millennial Daniel Thompson.

"For people our age, retirement is so far away, and there are more pressing short-term priorities like saving for a house or kids," Thompson says. "So unfortunately super does tend to get pushed down the list.

"A lot of the time people think they need to do big drastic things [to make a difference to their super], but it’s those little changes, like putting aside an extra 1 or 2 per cent of your pre-tax wage, that can do a lot.

"You can put off doing anything until you're a bit older or earning more or the kids are in school, but the truth is doing something small, but doing it now, can be more effective.

"I encourage people to start early, build the savings habit and increase their contributions over time as their income increases and they become more established."

Salary sacrifice contributions are only taxed at 15 per cent (up to a limit of $25,000, which includes all employer contributions).  This means that for those on average incomes, an extra $20 tipped into the pot each week equates to the loss of just $13 or $14 in the hand.

Playing catch-up

Aldenton started taking her finances more seriously when she returned to Australia from travelling.

"I was interested in making sure I was doing what I needed to, to move forward financially," she explains, "and part of that was making sure my super was in check.

"I’d worked two jobs part time to save up to go overseas, as well as studying full time, so I [only] had a little bit of super – not much at all, really. It wasn’t on the radar for me as a younger person – I was just focused on finishing uni and getting out of Australia as quickly as I could, and super was very far down my list of priorities. So basically I was starting from scratch upon my return."

To figure out a catch-up plan that would work for her, Aldenton read a book on personal finance and investment, and sought professional advice.

"[My adviser] said it would be a good idea if I could add a bit on to the contributions my employer makes, to try to make up for those four years I was overseas and paying nothing," she says.

Once committed, the funds are not missed, according to Aldenton: "You can relate it back to how much you might spend on coffee in a week. If you bought one coffee a day, every day, at work, that can be over $20 a week. It’s not that much – for me it’s quite affordable.

"It doesn’t have to be a big amount, it just has to be something, and over time compound interest will work."

Aldenton plans to review her account balance later this year, and hopes to be in a position to increase her contributions within the next couple of years.

"I’m in a stable job and want to set myself up for the future, so there’s no reason not to be thinking about my super."

Follow Sam's steps to be independent and fly solo

  1. Identify the financial goals you want in life and seek advice to fulfil them.

  2. Set yourself up to achieve them, e.g. cut rent to save for a deposit.

  3. Make it a habit to add extra to build your super balance.

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