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How to take a career break without hurting your super

How to take a career break without hurting your super

Whether you’ve decided to travel, study, be a carer, raise a family or simply escape the daily grind, taking a career break doesn’t necessarily have to set back your super savings.

You may not receive Super Guarantee (SG) contributions from your employer while you’re not working, but there are things you can do to give your super balance a boost and help keep your retirement savings on track.

1. Make voluntary contributions to your super

Being proactive about increasing your super while you’re still working can help you make up for the SG contributions you miss out on while you’re taking time off.

One way to do this is to set up a salary sacrifice arrangement with your employer in the lead up to your break or after you return – or both. This is where you make voluntary contributions to your super from your before-tax salary (i.e. a concessional contribution).

The impact on your long-term finances will depend on the length of your break and your own financial circumstances, so taking steps to increase your super can be important. 

Career breaks to care for children and raise families, or look after other family members such as elderly parents, can greatly reduce your overall lifetime earnings capacity.

The amount you need for retirement will depend on your own financial circumstances, life expectancy and what sort of lifestyle you’re aiming for.

Super contributions and tax

If you salary sacrifice, your contributions up to certain limits are generally taxed at just 15%, which may be lower than your income tax rate.

This means you could reduce your taxable income and pay less tax overall.

If you're making additional contributions, there are contributions caps to look out for.

If you go over the concessional contributions cap, your excess contributions will be taxed at your marginal tax rate instead.

Keep in mind that concessional contributions also include your employer’s SG contributions.

You could also make contributions from your after-tax pay or savings, known as non-concessional contributions.

Non-concessional contributions are not subject to tax when made to your fund, except where you go beyond the non-concessional cap, in which case tax of 49% can apply on the excess amount.

If you exceed the cap, you can withdraw your excess non-concessional contributions, plus 85% of a deemed earnings amount. 100% of the deemed earnings amount is assessable to you personally, with a 15% tax offset.

2. Get a helping hand from the government

Your career break may involve some part-time or casual work.

Under specific earnings thresholds set by the Federal Government and certain requirements including whether or not you put some of your after-tax savings into your super, you could qualify for a co-contribution from the government.

You can find out more at the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website.

3. Consolidate your super

Have you got more than one super account? If so, you’re paying multiple administration fees.

You can search for your super by contacting the ATO, but Essential Super customers can provide their tax file number (TFN) when they apply and a SuperMatch search of the ATO data base can be done for no cost.

This can find any other super accounts you might have and any money being held by the ATO and you can choose to consolidate them if you want to.

If you’d like to switch super funds at any stage in your life, take into account exit fees, investment implications and how it could affect any insurance arrangements. Speak to a financial planner if you're unsure.

Also be sure to consider any tax implications of switching super funds.

4. Starting a small business?

If you’re looking to start up your own venture during your time out from your day job, don’t forget about your super.

There might be tax deductions that you could claim on the amount you contribute, but check with a tax specialist or find out more from the ATO website.

Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s a good idea to check with your accountant or financial planner before you act.

A career break doesn’t have to mean putting the brakes on saving for retirement. There are a number of ways to keep building that nest egg for when you stop working for good.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice. Investors should consult a range of resources, and if necessary, seek professional advice, before making investment decisions in regard to their objectives, financial and taxation situations and needs because these have not been taken into account. Past performance is not indicative of future performance. Commonwealth Financial Planners are representatives of Commonwealth Financial Planning Pty Ltd ABN 65 003 900 169 AFSL 231139 a wholly owned but non-guaranteed subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 (the Bank). Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFS Licence 232468 (Colonial First State) is the issuer of interests in Commonwealth Essential Super ABN 56 601 925 435. This information is not financial product advice and does not take into account any person’s individual objectives, financial circumstances or needs. You should read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for Commonwealth Essential Super and consider talking to a financial adviser before deciding whether to acquire or continue to hold this product. Download the PDS (https://www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/commbank/personal/apply-online/download-printed-forms/EssentialSuper_PDS.pdf), collect one from any branch of the Commonwealth Bank or call us on 13 4074 and we’ll post one out to you. Colonial First State is a wholly owned subsidiary of 'the Bank'. The Bank and its subsidiaries do not guarantee the performance of Essential Super or the repayment of capital by Essential Super. An investment in Essential Super is via a superannuation trust and is therefore not an investment in, deposit with or other liability of the Bank or its subsidiaries. An investment in Essential Super is subject to risk, loss of income and capital invested. Taxation considerations are general and based on present taxation laws and may be subject to change. You should seek independent, professional tax advice before making any decision based on this information. Commonwealth Bank is also not a registered tax (financial) adviser under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and you should seek tax advice from a registered tax agent or a registered tax (financial) adviser if you intend to rely on this information to satisfy the liabilities or obligations or claim entitlements that arise, or could arise, under a taxation law.