Many people who dipped into their superannuation under the early release scheme did not understand the long-term ramifications of their decision, with a new study finding fund members were half as likely to withdraw when they sought out information.
The research from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research has drawn upon survey results of more than 3,000 Cbus members, who withdrew some or all of their retirement savings in the first phase of the COVID-19 early release scheme between April and June.
Most respondents were seen to withdraw towards the upper limit of $10,000, with only 9 per cent of respondents taking less than the limit while preserving more than $1,000 in their account.
The majority (70 per cent) took $10,000, leaving less than $1,000 in their accounts.
Around 25 per cent of surveyed members cleared their entire account balance, but 43.2 per cent of respondents had taken 20 per cent or less.
Immediate financial need (59 per cent) and concerns for future expenditures (27 per cent) were the main reasons members gave for accessing savings.
Susan Thorp, professor of economics at the University of Sydney Business School, co-authored the study. She stated some members expressed uncertainty around the long-term consequences of their actions.
“Around one-third of respondents said they were unsure about the impact of their withdrawal on their retirement balances, or had not thought about that, or did not care,” Ms Thorp said.
Around half of the survey respondents either underestimated or didn’t estimate the impact of the withdrawal on their super balance at retirement, when their estimates were compared with a projection of the early release impact based on assumptions made in a Cbus guidance.
A third (33.3 per cent) overestimated the impact of the withdrawal and 17.1 per cent guessed correctly.
Another co-author, Hazel Bateman, professor of economics at the UNSW School of Risk and Actuarial Studies, said the findings demonstrated that many withdrawers either “could not or did not evaluate the impact of their decision”.
“However, another finding is that those who spent longer thinking about their decision and consulted more information sources before withdrawing their savings, held more realistic expectations of the impacts on retirement wealth and were half as likely to withdraw within one day or less than members who used no information sources,” she said.
“This shows that more attention to information is related to an attempt to assess impact on retirement balances.”
The members that sought information gained it from Cbus and other sources, such as news services and social media.
Around 48.1 per cent of respondents had spent longer than a week considering the decision before they withdrew, compared with 20.7 per cent that took a week and 13.8 per cent that applied as soon as they heard they could.
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