WHOLE OF LIFE SUPERANNUATION

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1 WHOLE OF LIFE SUPERANNUATION Challenging the status quo NOVEMBER 2012

2 INTRODUCTION There is no question that Australia is one of the most mature Defined Contribution markets in the world. But while Australia has been relatively progressive, and one of the first countries to introduce more diversified balanced funds as the default fund for members, innovation of late has been quite scarce. Will the existing system continue to meet the future needs of today s superannuation members, and assure the financial wellbeing of Australian retirees? CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO Static asset allocation approaches, such as 70% attributed to growth assets and 30% to defensive assets, are commonly used as the default strategy for superannuation fund members in Australia. There is also typically no draw-down (income generating) default after retirement so the majority of members continue to be invested the same way after they retire. Mercer is a firm believer that this one-size-fits-all approach where a 20 year old and 70 year old are invested in the same fund despite having completely different risk tolerances and income requirements simply makes no sense. Given that the majority of Australians are disengaged on the issue of their super, we need to challenge the status quo of static default strategies. If we don t, the average Australian is in danger of being unable to meet their income needs in retirement and could be taking unnecessary risk with their accumulated savings in their retirement years. Based on our research, a dynamic approach, where, over the course of their life, the member s assets are typically switched from a growth investment strategy to a more defensive investment strategy in a pre-determined fashion, provides the member with a better opportunity to enhance their retirement outcomes than today s typical static asset allocation default fund. At Mercer, we believe that a whole of life investment strategy provides the framework to create an adequate and sustainable income in retirement. Mercer advocates for the superannuation industry to adopt default investment options which take the member through the full journey from saving for retirement to an income in retirement: a whole of life approach to superannuation. TAKING THE WHOLE OF LIFE JOURNEY A whole of life strategy can be defined as changing a member s investment strategy as their circumstances change throughout their whole life. The reality is that there are a number of different circumstances or stages we go through in life, many of which are age-related. It therefore makes sense that we create dynamic superannuation products which reflect these different life stages and age-based solutions are a logical first step. Age-based defaults are the most common type of default option in the UK and US and are recommended by the OECD 1 ( Better Policies for Better Lives ) as suitable default strategies for pension plans. In Australia, MySuper legislation has also allowed age-based investment strategies as a default MySuper strategy. We acknowledge that there are more innovative whole of life investment approaches than age-based default strategies that are being developed. These involve creating individual member strategies based on a number of factors specific to their circumstances. However, these strategies have a number of practical hurdles around implementation and require member specific information such as other assets, other super balances, etc. These are currently only really appropriate for members who are sufficiently engaged to provide additional information. Whilst a whole of life strategy that is tailored to an individual should be the ultimate goal, we believe that a whole of life age-based default strategy is appropriate for disengaged members. 1 Mercer fully supports all of the OECD s recommendations although some have particular challenges e.g. annuities, because there is no developed lifetime annuity market in Australia. The following is a link to these recommendations. Mercer s objective is to design a better default for members, to offer a better chance of adequate and sustainable income in retirement via: Delivering better investment results for the majority of members who do not exercise investment choice compared with existing alternatives. Providing an appropriate risk/return trade off through the expected lifetime of the member. Mitigating the downside risk and volatility of the member s retirement benefit prior to key decision points in the member s life, particularly retirement. Including strategies for post work to provide adequate income streams in retirement. 2 3

3 TAILORING THE INVESTMENT GLIDEPATH DESIGN TO CREATE AGE-BASED SOLUTIONS The general concept behind a whole of life solution is that an investor s asset allocation changes as they get older. This change in asset allocation is known as the glidepath. There is no hard and fast blueprint for a glidepath, rather the configuration is determined according to unique objectives. Specialist expertise is also required to design glidepaths to ensure that unique member profiles are accounted for and they deliver the intended results. Figure 1 demonstrates the glidepath concept by comparing the allocation to growth assets for both a static 70% growth and 30% defensive default fund and a simple whole of life age-based default fund. The allocation to growth (equity-like) assets gradually reduces as a member ages and is replaced with more defensive (lower risk) assets. Figure 1: Example of a simple glidepath design versus a static 70/30 default % GROWTH ASSETS STATIC 70:30 DEFAULT Higher risk, relatively more equities. Long term focus. Lower volatility. Protect capital. Reflect zero tax status in allocation, higher yield focus. GLIDEPATH APPROACH AGE The following principles underlie Mercer s glidepath design for its clients. TAKE A WHOLE OF LIFE VIEW We consider retirement savings from a whole of life perspective. In doing this we look at pre and post retirement age separately as well as holistically. REDUCE EVENT RISK The likelihood of the default member experiencing considerable variability of returns immediately prior to significant life milestones (known as event risk ) should be minimised by adjusting the investment strategy throughout a member s life. MEMBER OUTCOMES MATTER It is important to start from the objective of achieving an adequate and sustainable income in retirement. Therefore, we need to look at what might be considered adequate income. As part of the process of designing the glidepath investment strategy it is important to test what the probability is of achieving certain income thresholds (eg. the ASFA modest and comfortable income levels). YOUNGER MEMBERS CAN AFFORD MORE RISK Given their relatively long investment horizon (a 25 year old has over 35 years before they are likely to retire), younger members can afford to take more investment risk than those members nearing their retirement age. They should therefore invest a higher proportion of their assets in growth asset classes for as long as possible. AGE DRIVES MEMBER CHARACTERISTICS There are a number of characteristics that change over the course of a members life. These include the following: Age everyone gets older. Risk tolerance everyone s investment time horizon reduces with age. Growth versus income there is a focus on growing wealth when working and creating a sustainable retirement income when approaching retirement. Liquidity needs with a long investment horizon, younger members can afford to access illiquidity premia whilst in retirement there is a need for liquidity as a member is likely to be drawing down on their capital. Tax efficiency members in retirement are more focused on income generation and tax efficiency (no longer paying tax on retirement savings) and this needs to be factored into the investment strategy. DIVERSIFY INTELLIGENTLY A well diversified portfolio of assets may generate the same expected return as a highly concentrated portfolio, but with a lower likelihood of realising adverse outcomes. NO FREE LUNCH As risk is related to return, achieving higher returns typically requires accepting greater investment risk. Investors must therefore accept that there is a wide possible range of investment outcomes, including adverse ones. 4 3

4 MEMBER BALANCE AT RETIREMENT MANAGING EVENT RISK The Global Financial Crisis reinforced the event risks that can impact members balances when they get close to retirement. Figure 2 helps to illustrate the event risk faced by a member nearing retirement where a static investment approach is employed i.e. where a large proportion of their retirement balances are exposed to volatile assets such as equities. The chart plots the development of identical members fund balances over the final ten years before retirement. It is important to note that the starting position and fund balance for each member evaluated is exactly the same, it is just the performance of the market and the date of retirement that impacts on their fund at retirement. This illustrates the point above of the importance of minimising the volatility of members balances ahead of key stages in their life, such as retirement when members are likely to have the highest balance, and there is less scope to recover losses. Figure 2. Impact of event risk on member balances $450,000 $400,000 $350,000 $300,000 $250,000 $200,000 $150,000 $394,733 $288,028 $372,133 27% 44% $209, WHOLE OF LIFE MODELLING In developing whole of life default strategies Mercer s dedicated lifecycle team conduct significant modelling and analysis that incorporates both the working life and the subsequent retirement experience of the typical member. The ultimate risk to a member is that they will not have an adequate and sustainable income stream in retirement. Our modelling and process for setting a glidepath design focuses on how to reduce this risk. Other risks such as the volatility of returns, liquidity, etc. are also considered. The results from the modelling of expected cumulative balances (in present value) at retirement under the static approach and the whole of life glidepath approach are compelling. We expect that the average balance of a typical member that works from age 22 until age 67 would improve if the member is invested in an appropriate whole of life age-based strategy as opposed to a static 70% growth/30% defensive strategy. We have included the projected results for an illustrative glidepath in the Appendix. Our modelling demonstrates that a well designed glidepath is not only expected to deliver higher accumulated member balances at retirement, but that the probability of losing money in the five or 10 year period before retirement reduces significantly when compared with a typical default fund 2. CONCLUSION Mercer s modelling and analysis has demonstrated that a well designed whole of life option delivers superior investment outcomes when compared with a static default investment option. Not only does an intelligent whole of life option improve the level of the expected cumulative growth of members assets, it also delivers better outcomes for the risk measures assessed. These include the probability of achieving negative annual returns shortly before retirement, the risk of not having enough income in retirement and the variability of the expected balance at retirement. Thus, Mercer believes that a whole of life investment strategy provides the framework to create an adequate and sustainable income in retirement. Given that the majority of superannuation fund members in Australia are disengaged, Mercer is advocating that trustees adopt default investment options that take the member through the full journey from saving for retirement to an income in retirement. Mercer also believes that an age-based strategy is the best place to start when building a dynamic default option. Younger members can afford to take more risk because they have a much longer investment horizon. This will create a structure that defaults members into an age-based fund. It will also enhance the value of a member s superannuation benefit, whilst mitigating the downside risk and volatility of the member s retirement benefit prior to key points in their life, particularly retirement. It will also reflect the members needs at various life stages. For example, lower volatility and capital preservation closer to retirement with liquidity and tax considerations incorporated into post retirement design. Please speak with your Mercer consultant for further information. 2 See our modelling results in Appendix 4

5 APPENDIX In this section we compare the modelled results for a typical whole of life glidepath strategy with that of a typical static 70:30 approach at retirement. It is important to note that the design of the glidepath needs to be tailored to best meet the investor s targeted objectives and, therefore, there is not a single glidepath solution that would be suitable for all situations or investors. The ideal glidepath strikes a balance between risk and return, which dynamically changes as a member ages, in order to meet the investor s overall objectives, for example to achieve and maintain a suitable level of income in retirement. Therefore a glidepath designed to finish at retirement ( To Retirement ) should by design be expected to differ from a whole of life ( Through Retirement ) glidepath that continues on after the member retires. The comparison of projected member outcomes is based on stochastic modelling analysis carried out using Mercer s proprietary software tools. Analysis based on a starting age of 57, starting salary of $60,000 p.a and starting fund value of $100,000. Actual market returns used to simulate the returns achieved by a static asset allocation of 70% equity, 30% bonds/cash. Mercer assumptions were used to model salary increases, the impact of tax and investment fees. Mercer assumptions were used to model the asset class returns, salary increases, impact of tax and investment fees. The investment strategies shown below are as follows: Static 70:30 strategy: The asset allocation of this strategy represents a typical, diversified Australian balanced investment option. The growth assets in this strategy comprise a combination of Australian and international equities, as well as alternative asset classes such as property and infrastructure. The defensive assets comprise a blend of Australian and international fixed income and cash. Whole of life glidepath: The initial asset allocation of this glidepath is predominantly in high growth assets. This allocation is maintained until 17 years before the target retirement date, after which it gradually declines in favour of more defensive asset classes. The universe of asset classes included in the glidepath strategy is consistent with those asset classes included in the Static 70:30 strategy. The glidepath s asset allocation at retirement is 50% growth assets, 50% defensive assets. COMPARISON OF KEY CHARACTERISTICS AT RETIREMENT The following charts compare the expected member balances at retirement under the two investment strategies modelled. It can be observed that the glidepath s projected distribution of member outcomes at retirement is an improvement over that of the static 70:30 approach. Not only is there an uplift of the expected balances at retirement (median of the distribution), but the potential upside is also higher without compromising on the downside. However, these expected balances should not be viewed in isolation, as the risks of achieving these expected returns are particularly relevant. The expected investment return is therefore only one side of the coin and, from a glidepath design perspective, it is arguably more important to assess the level of protection against key downside risk events around retirement. The final charts indicate that, when compared to the static investment approach, the whole of life glidepath considered is expected to significantly lower the probability of achieving a negative annual return in the years around retirement. This is a significant result and highlights the value a Lifecycle default investment option as a framework for mitigating the impact of negative market events when a member s fund balance is at its greatest, but also when the member is least able to recover from significant market downturns. GLOSSARY OF TERMS Aged-based defaults: Member default funds which have pre-determined shifts in asset allocation according to a pre-determined age. Event risk: The likelihood of the default member experiencing considerable variability of returns immediately prior to significant life milestones. Glidepath: The investment strategy behind the change in asset allocation as the member ages. Lifecycle: Changing a member s investment strategy as their circumstances change throughout their life. OECD: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Target Date: Funds which work toward a particular investment objective for a specified date. Whole of life: The full superannuation journey from saving for retirement to an income in retirement. 5

6 COMPARISON OF KEY CHARACTERISTICS AT RETIREMENT (CONTINUED) STATIC 70:30 Glidepath Asset Allocation 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% AGE Growth Assets (%) Defensive Assets (%) WHOLE OF LIFE GLIDEPATH 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% AGE Growth Assets (%) Defensive Assets (%) Member s Fund Balance at Retirement age (age 67) 1,200,000 1,200,000 1,000,000 1,000,000 1st quartile A$ 800, , ,000 1st quartile 2nd quartile 3rd quartile 4th quartile A$ 800, , ,000 2nd quartile 3rd quartile 4th quartile 200, ,000 Risk Chart Probability of Negative Return in the 5 years around retirement 18% 16% 14% 12% 10% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0% <0% < 5% < 10% 5 years before 5 years after 18% 16% 14% 12% 10% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0% <0% < 5% < 10% 5 years before 5 years after 6

7 A GLOBAL COMPARISON OF TARGET DATE/WHOLE OF LIFE FUNDS The US Target Date approach This approach is often referred to as Target Date funds, whereby the investment strategy reflects specific target retirement dates with the growth/defensive balance being progressively tilted towards defensive assets as the particular target date approaches. It is expected that members of such funds would invest in the fund where the target date most closely approximates their intended retirement date. There are two types of Target Date funds common in the US. The first type has an allocation that varies with the actual retirement target date, whilst a second type has an allocation that varies with the target date plus a certain number of years (e.g. target 2025 plus 15 years). This second type of Target Date fund is designed to cater for the member s retirement years. The existence of the pre-retirement and post-retirement Target Date funds has caused a level of confusion about the investment strategies that should be employed by Target Date funds. However, recent regulation around reporting has allowed for greater comparison between similar funds. It has also become clearer around which funds are to retirement and which funds are through retirement. The European (primarily UK) Glidepath approach Under this approach, the growth component of the investment strategy remains constant at a high level until n years (or months) prior to retirement. Once the relevant date has been reached, the growth content reduces, generally on a linear basis, over the last n years to retirement. Historically, n years has been a period close to 10 years, but more recently n has reduced to between 5 and 7 years. The key difference in the UK is that, until recently, it was compulsory to purchase an annuity at retirement, so the typical Glide Path ended up with 100% in defensive assets. 7

8 For further information, please contact your local Mercer office or visit our website at: Graeme Mather Partner (02) Adam McKenzie Principal (03) Important notices Copyright 2012 Mercer LLC. All rights reserved. References to Mercer shall be construed to include Mercer LLC and/or its associated companies. This contains confidential and proprietary information of Mercer and is intended for the exclusive use of the parties to whom it was provided by Mercer. Its content may not be modified, sold or otherwise provided, in whole or in part, to any other person or entity, without Mercer s prior written permission. The findings, ratings and/or opinions expressed herein are the intellectual property of Mercer and are subject to change without notice. They are not intended to convey any guarantees as to the future performance of the investment products, asset classes or capital markets discussed. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Mercer s ratings do not constitute individualised investment advice. This does not constitute an offer or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell securities, commodities and/or any other financial instruments or products or constitute a solicitation on behalf of any of the investment managers, their affiliates, products or strategies that Mercer may evaluate or recommend. For the most recent approved ratings of an investment strategy, and a fuller explanation of their meanings, contact your Mercer representative. For Mercer Investments conflict of interest disclosures, contact your Mercer representative or see Mercer universes: Mercer s universes are intended to provide collective samples of strategies that best allow for robust peer group comparisons over a chosen timeframe. Mercer does not assert that the peer groups are wholly representative of and applicable to all strategies available to investors. The value of your investments can go down as well as up, and you may not get back the amount you have invested. Investments denominated in a foreign currency will fluctuate with the value of the currency. Certain investments carry additional risks that should be considered before choosing an investment manager or making an investment decision. This document has been produced by Mercer Investments (Australia) Limited ABN , Australian Financial Services Licence #

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