I HAVE a superannuation fund with a balance of zero.
Last week, I decided to open a letter from one of my super funds. To be honest, I assumed I only had one. Turns out, I had two and, in one of them, I had accumulated $2246.
But this letter advised me that the "balance of your account has reached $0 … and as a result your account has now been closed".
The account had been active since 2004 when I must have opted for my first employer's preferred fund.
I had a couple of different jobs, all of which were contributing to the same fund, until 2008 and, after that, when my balance which was at its peak of $2246, it started to decrease.
When you're in your teens and early 20s, who really takes notice of their super? Clearly I didn't.
That same year (2008) I got another job and that employer had its preferred fund.
What I didn't realise, until last week, was that first fund had been active for the past 13 years but because neither me nor an employer had made any contributions, I lost whatever money I had in it. This is because the balance was getting eaten alive by fees and charges.
In 2015, I copped the most in fees, a ridiculous $491.40 for insurance costs. It's criminal, considering it was calculated against such a low balance.
An operator told me that administration and insurance fees increased with age. "As you age, your risk increases and your premium goes up as well as your cover," he said.
Bessie Hassan, money expert from finder.com.au, tells me I'm not the only one. Only 42 per cent of Australians know exactly how much is in their super fund.
"Aussies often 'set and forget' when it comes to their super and too often it's put in the too-hard basket," she said.
It's such an issue that a central theme of the 2018-19 Budget was to protect Aussies' savings from steep product fees associated with having multiple super accounts.
"The government has put a laser focus on superannuation and plans to introduce measures like banning exit fees and capping nominated fees on accounts with balances less than $6000 - an initiative that will largely benefit young Australians," Ms Hassan said.
"If these changes are passed in parliament, it will have a positive impact on working Australians by ensuring their hard-earned cash isn't eroded by product fees or ill-suited insurance products."
But there is a way to prevent this you super fund from dwindling away: consolidate your funds. I have now learned it's pretty simple and easy.
It can be done through the MyGov website or your super fund can help you transfer from other accounts.
It may also help to simply open any super-related letters and update your personal information such as mobile numbers and emails. I didn't do this, and so I didn't receive updated information.
Finder.com.au's recent survey of 2306 Aussies also revealed that 14 per cent of Generation Y didn't know how to check, had never checked their super fund or simply were not bothered.
Ms Hassan said starting a new job was a good time to re-evaluate your super options, advice I have now taken on board. After all, it is money that is coming out of your hard-earned pay. And not only that, it will benefit you when you decide to travel the world when you retire.
"Think about whether a retail or industry fund would best suit your needs, review the historical performance of the fund and keep a close eye on the fees attached, including the admin and contribution fees," she said.
The majority of Aussies workers (82 per cent) opt for their employer's preferred super fund, but alarmingly, nine per cent are "unsure" about whether or not they have an account with their employer.
Consolidate. Do. It. Now.