First home buyers: Devil is in the detail for super funds

Asset consultants and industry associations alike are applauding the introduction of the First Home Super Savers Scheme which they say will help young people to get a foothold in the property market.

The scheme, announced as part of the Federal Budget on Tuesday night, will allow first home buyers to use up to $30,000 of voluntary superannuation contributions, plus the earnings generated from those savings, to place a deposit on a home.

In its post-Budget analysis, asset consultant Mercer described the scheme as a positive measure which will encourage younger members to engage with the industry and their retirement savings.

"We are optimistic that this measure will increase younger members' engagement with superannuation and encourage a routine of contributing additional amounts to superannuation, ultimately leading to increased retirement incomes," the report stated.

The SMSF Association appeared similarly pleased with the scheme, noting that the proposal strikes the right balance between encouraging young people to save for a first home deposit in a concessional tax environment, but also protecting their retirement savings for the longer-term.

However other industry participants have given lukewarm reactions to the scheme, noting that for superannuation funds and members - the devil is in the detail.

NGS Super chief officer Anthony Rodwell-Ball slammed the policy as "logistically impossible" to implement by 1 July 2017 in a "cost-effective manner". He also notes the various complexities and administrative infrastructure costs which funds will now incur.

Rodwell-Balll also raised questions around the risks associated with investing first-home savings in a period of negative returns, and how funds will best educate their members.

"Given the nature of the savings, an educational campaign will need to be run so that members are aware of the risk inherent in investing this portion of their savings in options which may yield a negative return," Rodwell-Ball said.

"A differentiated and more conservative investment strategy will need to be considered by members for this portion of their savings. This further adds to the complexity of this proposal."

Superfund Partners director Mark Beveridge is skeptical the complexities of the scheme will mean that superannuation funds won't play a part in promoting the scheme to their members.

"One of the reasons the Labor Party's First Home Saver Account failed was that it was complicated and the banks never really promoted the special accounts that were required for the deposits to go into," Beveridge said.

"You can bet software architects at superannuation funds are spitting chips right now about the new coding they are going to have to write to accommodate this new type of contribution."

Beveridge also questions whether the scheme will actually help first home buyers save in a meaningful way. Comparing the position of a first home buyer before and after the budget, he notes that maximum savings benefit for an individual over two years, who puts in the maximum amount, will be less than $10,000.

Industry super fund Equipsuper has already begun surveying its members' thirst for the scheme.

Read more: AssetdevilFirst Home Super Savers SchemeAnthony Rodwell-BallEquipsuperFederal BudgetFirst Home Saver AccountLabor PartyMark BeveridgeMercerNGS SuperRodwell-BalllSMSF AssociationSuperfund PartnersTuesday
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