How super works

Superannuation, or ‘super’, is money saved now, for you to enjoy in your retirement.

Super is saving for your retirement

Ordinary time earnings (OTE) is what you’re paid for the usual hours you work. It generally includes things like annual leave and most bonuses, but not overtime.

Take a look at how the ATO classifies OTE

Over time, contributions paid to your super can help increase the amount of money you have when you retire.

Your employer has to contribute at least 9.5% of your ordinary time earnings into your super under Superannuation Guarantee (SG) legislation.

This money is managed by a super fund (like UniSuper). You might be paid a higher rate of super than the compulsory 9.5%, depending on your employment arrangement.

Super funds look after your money

UniSuper, like other super funds, helps your retirement savings grow over time.

In simple terms a super fund invests your money to generate returns (which could be positive or negative depending on how the investment options perform). The aim is to help you retire with more money than you started with. The way your final super balance is calculated depends on the type of super product you have.

UniSuper has three accumulation products, and a defined benefit product.

Accumulation-style super

Accumulation is the most common style of super.

If you have an accumulation account, your contributions will be invested based on your investment choice. Your final balance will generally depend on:

  • contributions received into your account
  • investment returns (which may be positive or negative depending on how the investment markets perform)
  • the fees and costs that you pay. 

You're usually free to choose where your money is invested. Most funds have several investment options on offer and also a default investment option where your super is invested if you don’t make a choice. UniSuper’s default investment option is the Balanced (MySuper) option.

UniSuper has three accumulation-style products:

Defined benefit-style super

If you have defined benefit-style super, the amount of money you can get when you retire is generally determined by a formula.

UniSuper’s defined benefit product is called the Defined Benefit Division (DBD).

Super benefits paid in the DBD are usually made up of two components – a defined benefit component and an accumulation component.

DBD members have so far been protected against negative market performance. However, UniSuper’s rules allow for the reduction of DBD member benefits if the DBD doesn’t have enough assets to meet all obligations.

You should read more about the UniSuper Rules that allow for DBD benefits to be reduced and the possibility of reductions being made.

Super is a long-term investment

How much are you likely to need in retirement?

Use our Retirement adequacy calculator to find out.

If you can, putting some extra money into your super can really pay off over the long term. The sooner you start, the more your super is likely to benefit from compound interest.

It’s important to remember that investment returns are subject to the performance of the investment markets, which can experience periods of negative returns. You should not rely on past performance to indicate future performance.

It's never too late to boost your savings

No matter what your life stage is, it’s never too late to help your retirement savings grow. Many people who reach their retirement age enjoy their work and so decide to keep working.

Find out about ways you can boost your super as you approach retirement, or even in retirement:

Transition to Retirement 
The Government Age Pension

Boosting your super savings

Over time, your super is likely to be one of your most valuable investments. By taking a few simple steps, you can help your savings grow so hopefully in the future you’ll have more to retire with. 

You may be able to boost your super by making extra contributions with your own money.

  • Making contributions

Having your super contributions matched

In some cases, you might even get some of your contributions matched through the government co-contribution scheme.

Insurance and super

Many super funds also provide members with access to death, disablement and income protection insurance cover through insurance policies the fund takes out with an insurance company.  

The clever thing about having insurance cover through your super is that it’s generally cheaper than taking out your own insurance policy.

Depending on your UniSuper membership category and whether you satisfy the eligibility requirements you may automatically receive one unit of death and/or total and permanent disablement insurance cover when you join UniSuper.

Withdrawing your super money

The money you get from your super when you retire is often referred to as your ‘benefit’ or ‘final benefit’.

Super is a long term investment, so the government has placed restrictions on when you can withdraw your benefit. You can generally only access your entire benefit when you reach a certain age –  known as your preservation age, which depends on your birth date (see below) – and you permanently retire from work.

 Date of birth  Preservation age
Before 1 July 1960 55
1 July 1960 - 30 June 1961 56
1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 57
1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 58
1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 59
1 July 1964 or after 60

Getting your super early

Under certain limited circumstances, you might be able to receive part of your super savings before you reach your preservation age.


You’ve worked hard. You have hard-earned savings put away. Wherever you want to be and whatever you want to do in retirement, chances are your super will form a large part of your retirement income.

UniSuper                        1800 331 685
UniSuper Advice             1800 UADVICE (1800 823 842)