Barefoot Investor Superannuation – The Best Australian Super funds

Barefoot investor superannuation – Everything you need to know about low fee Superannuation funds to save you hundreds of thousands

Barefoot Investor super funds

The Barefoot Investor has some great advice when it comes to your Superannuation. Scott Pape highlights the powerful long term financial benefit of making two incredibly simple changes to your Superannuation. Firstly, The Barefoot Investor agrees with finance celebrity Dave Ramsay and states you should be making additional contributions to your super – recommending you boost your contributions to 15% of your wage*. Secondly, The Barefoot Investor states you should be investing it into a broad market diversified index fund with ultra low costs – Like HostPlus’ Index Balanced option.

Making smart changes to your superannuation early in your career can be the difference between adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to your Superannuation retirement fund, or needing to rely on the aged pension (which will likely be phased out for the majority of us in the workforce anyway).

This article will explore The Barefoot Investors superannuation recommendations, what is his ‘Don Bradman retirement Strategy’, why the Barefoot recommend Hostplus, whether there is any potential conflict of interests here and what are your other choices.

The Good

  • Low fees maximise your total return
  • Most of these funds have millions of members
  • Well known PDS
  • ‘Good enough’ solution
  • Index investment options

The Bad

  • Most are pooled trust fund style – tax inefficient due to provisioning
  • One size fits all may not be the optimum choice for you
  • Some TPI and income protection career exclusions (Eg PILOTS!)
  • Low fee investments does not always align with low fee insurance – some compromise in price is necessary

Verdict: These super funds are some of the best options in Australia

*NB the current concessional cap is $25,000, roughly correlating to 15% of a $166K salary. Any contributions above the cap are taxed at marginal rates.

Barefoot investor superannuation

The Barefoot Investor

Scott Pape, Author of the Barefoot investor and the Barefoot for Families writes no frills, no nonsense financial advice. The Barefoot Investor claims impartiality, and simply ‘calls it how he see’s it’! If you want to see whether or not the barefoot investor works, read my article about how he changed my life.

When it comes to your Superannuation, Scott Pape promotes the powerful long term financial benefits of making additional super contributions by boosting your contributions to 15% of your wage, and investing it in a low fee, broad market index fund. The Barefoot says if your paying more than .85% in fees – your being taken advantage of and need to switch!

The Barefoot Investor previously worked for Hostplus in the ‘Ka-ching Ka-ching’ educational scheme ran by Hosplus as part of their marketing division. These days though, The Barefoot Investor publicly states that he has no affiliates or relationships with any companies, he has shut down his stock tipping website ‘The Barefoot blueprint’ and he now runs a not-for-profit financial counselling service.

Despite his previous connections, The Barefoot Investor has publicly expressed his fondness for Hostplus’s Indexed Balanced Fund as Australia’s leading superannuation fund and states that this is the Super fund he has his superannuation in. Although, for legal purposes he also says he doesn’t recommend or endorse it – just that it is the best – he doesn’t want to get sued or get in trouble with ASIC I suppose!

The Barefoot Investor does point out though that it isn’t the only cheap super fund offering index fund investing options, and so in this article we will explore his other suggestions, what the funds hold and what they are currently charging.

Choosing an Australian superannuation fund

Choosing a super fund is a pretty important step for all Australians. Disregard all the glossy brochure bullshit, what you really want to know is do they offer an index fund option, what does the fund hold (breakdown of Australian shares, International shares, Bonds or fixed interest and cash) and what are the management fees.

Super funds annoy me, because they often don’t give you a straight answer. They crap on about Indirect cost fees, Management fees and accounting fees. Super funds – if you are reading this – WE DON’T CARE! We just want to know a bottom line, no nonsense answer about what the fees are in simple to understand terms.

And the fees can be ridiculous! I have seen super funds charging in excess of 2% fees which to be honest, should be a criminal offense!

Fees can have a substantial impact on members — for example, an increase in fees of just 0.5% can cost a typical full-time worker about 12% of their balance (or $100,000) by the time they reach retirement”

Super Guide

Why then, would you pay in excess of 2% on your super when you could be paying as little as .06% ? This can be the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars – potentially nearly half a million dollar – to your retirement!

On average, 40% of Australians investment returns are gobbled up by fees, which means instead of you enjoying the benefit of your hard earned dollars, they are siphoned away into the pockets of HUGE financial corporations and paid out as million dollar bonuses to executives. This was one of the reasons for the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry

Best Australian Superannuation Funds

There are a number of great Australian Superannuation funds to choose from, and here are 5 of the best funds currently available in 2020 with a bit of a brief run down on each.

Remember though, its SUPER important that you do your own research and look into each of these funds to find out whether it might be right for your personal circumstances. My advice is to start with their website, track down their Product Disclosure Statement and then give their sales department a call and get them to talk you through each of the options – make sure to stress you want to know exactly what is in the fund, what indexes it tracks and the exact fee structure and breakdown.

The general trend within super funds is to move towards index strategies, and the management costs are decreasing with a general trend towards negligable or zero management costs – which is a no brainer since indexes don’t really need managing! Super funds are still charging administration fees and creaming profits on their insurance policies though, so that should still keep them in buisness!

Hostplus Index Balanced

Just like how The Barefoot Investor says he uses the Dutch multinational ING Bank, Pape also uses Hostplus for his super, investing through their Index Balanced fund. I also use Hostplus and think they seem pretty good.

Fees: To invest in the Hostplus Balanced index fund costs .06% p.a., plus $78 per year ($1.50 per week)

Barefoot investor superannuation
Hostplus Indexed Balanced fund asset breakdown

Whilst The Barefoot has always been on Hostplus’ side and did previously work for them, recently he did take aim at their Balanced fund – which is COMPLETELY different from their index balanced fund. The Balanced fund contains a lot of unlisted assets (think: tollways, bridges, airports and properties) which the Barefoot Investor says are very difficult to value, and it has MUCH higher fees. It is also very easy to confuse the indexed balanced and the balanced option, so a lot of people who think they are in the low fee index option actually arent! He had criticized Hostplus for lack of transparency on this.

“And why shouldn’t he feel free to criticise the super fund? Everyone knows past employment is no guarantee of future endorsement.”

Michael Rodden, Australian financial Review

Make sure to check out their Product Disclosure Statement and go to Chapter 6 – Fees and Costs to check out all the Fees and Services associated with Hostplus, and give their customer support line a call to grill one of their operators. Furthermore, if you like tinkering then Hostplus also offer ChoicePlus, which is a way to directly invest in ETFs through Hostplus, giving you more control similar to a Self Managed Super Fund but without all of the headaches, administrative burden and costs.

REST Super Balanced Index

Fees: To invest in the REST Super Balanced fund costs 0.00% p.a, plus $78 a year ($1.50 per week)

REST has removed the management fees for their index investment options – Balanced Index, Australian Shares Index and Global Shares index, leaving only the $1.50 per week administration fee.

REST Super Balanced – Indexed contains a default mix of 45% global shares (ex tobacco), 30% Australian Shares, 20% Bonds (fixed interest) and 5% cash.

Barefoot investor superannuation
Breakdowns for Rest Balanced – Indexed, Australian, and Global share options
Barefoot investor superannuation
Rest Superannuation Management Fees

Check out Rests Product Disclosure statement for the total breakdown.

AustralianSuper Indexed Diversified

Fees: To invest in the AustralianSuper Index Diversified fund costs 0.18% p.a., plus $117 a year ($2.25 per week admin fee).

Barefoot investor superannuation
Australian Super Indexed Diversified Super Fund

Be sure to critically analyse AustralianSuper’s fees and costs on their Product Disclosure Statement.

Vision Super Sustainable Balanced

Fees: To invest in the Vision Super Sustainable Balanced fund costs 0.15% p.a., plus an admin fee of $78 per year, plus a reserving margin of 0 to 0.02% p.a.

Barefoot investor superannuation
Vision Super Sustainable Balanced (index) option

Check out Vision Supers Product Disclosure Statement for a full breakdown of Fees and Costs.

SunSuper Balanced Index

Fees: To invest in the SunSuper Balanced Index fund costs 0.26% p.a., plus $78 a year, capped at $800,000 balance.

Barefoot investor superannuation
SunSuper Balanced Index asset allocation

Check out SunSupers Product Disclosure Statement for a full breakdown of Fees and Costs.

The Barefoot Investor Superannuation Don Bradman Strategy

“The aim of the Donald Bradman Retirement Strategy is simple: to ensure you’ll never run out of money.”

Scott Pape, The Barefoot Investor

The Barefoot Investor Don Bradman Superannuation retirement strategy is a technique for Australians to retire comfortably without needing to have over $1 Million in their superannuation funds like conventional financial planners espouse. According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), a comfortable retirement will cost $59000 a year for couples, or $43000 a year for singles.

‘You need $1 million in retirement,’ say most financial planners. ‘$2 million might not even be enough,’ wrote a financial planner in the newspaper recently. If you’re in your 50s these retirement figures will likely scare the bejeezus out of you. After all, the average Aussie couple retires with $200,000 in super. Let me be clear: you do not need a million dollars in super to retire. A million dollars is way above what you actually need.

Scott Pape, The Barefoot Investor

So, without a conventional balance exceeding $1 Million to fund your retirement, the The Barefoot Investor Don Bradman strategy aims to supplement this using a paid off house, some superannuation income, the aged pension and casual work. The strategy is as follows;

  1. You need a fully paid off house (Primary Place of Residence) to live in
  2. You need at least $170,000 in your superannuation for Singles, or $250,000 for couples
  3. Claim the full Aged Pension through Centrelink. Currently the maximum rate of Age Pension is $34252.40 per year for couples and $22721.40 for singles.
  4. Work one day per week – earning up to $6,500 per year for singles or $13,000 per year for couples before it impacts the aged pension amount.

Currently, if you exceed the superannuation balance the ATO will deem you to have an income, and if this and your income exceed the income tests then your aged pension payments will be reduced accordingly. If your work is really lucrative, and you earn more than around $29K per year (singles) or $58K per year (couples), then you won’t get the pension and you will even have to start paying tax.

So what is an example of how this might look like when all is said and done?

“You’ve paid off your home.

You’re getting the Age Pension of $34252.40 (per couple) a year, indexed for life.

You’ve got $250000 in super which will pay you a tax-free income of $12500 a year.

You and your partner each work just one day a week to bring in a combined $13,000 a year, completely tax free.

Total: $59 752. That’s almost $1000 more than you need for your comfortable retirement! Ker-ching!”

Scott Pape, The Barefoot Investor

Insurance Through Superannuation

Now this is one of the quirks of Australian finances. Most superannuation companies give you the option to purchase insurance through superannuation – this usually includes income protection (if you need to take time off work due to a recoverable injury for example), Total and Permanent Disability (TPD or TPI) if you have a serious and permanent accident or illness, and life insurance which covers a payout to your dependents in the instance of your death. Because it is done through your superannuation you save on some tax (super is only taxed at 15% vice your marginal rate).

For example if you have significant debt, a mortgage or various other liabilities, then having these insurances can be important to a lot of people for peace of mind – knowing that if something does go ‘wrong’, that the insurance will cover it and their dependents or children won’t get lumped with this responsibility.

Personally, I think insurance in general is a bit of a dishonest industry and that it is quite scammy. It is easy to sell fear, and insurance providers know this and are happy to lick their lips and rub their hands together to cash in on your insecurities. Secondly, it doesn’t automatically cover everything you might think (or might reasonably be led to think) it does – so you really need to understand your policies Product Disclosure Statement. Thirdly, many superannuation insurance providers have exemptions – for example HostPlus wont provide insurance to LPG tanker drivers (I guess because they consider them at higher risk of being blown up?) as well as a whole Host of other occupations – (check HostPlus’ insurance career exclusion list here).

My dearest mother for example – paying thousands of dollars per year on comprehensive insurance for a $3000 vehicle, paying thousands of dollars per year on home insurance for a grossly inflated level of contents cover (who needs $200K of content insurance alone – sorry but no reasonable persons clothes and old daggy furniture is worth that much!), and of course my pet peeve… Pet insurance that never ever paid out and left her with a $12,000 Vet bill! I took much glee in slashing these useless insurances and unnecessary line expenses from her budget, and working with her to get a much more appropriate level of cover for her retirement.

This being said, some insurances are very important. If, like the majority of us, you derive your income from working, and not being able to work would be financially devastating to you and your family – then you probably need some level of income protection insurance. I firmly believe you should only insure against things that would financially devastate you (like driving your car into a Ferrari, your house burning down or permanent impairment) and for everything else you should maintain a solid emergency fund, low cost of living and create additional streams of passive income. These things help deal with life’s ‘little annoyances’. A big enough emergency fund can help turn a stressful emergency into a frustrating annoyance – you effectively ‘self-insure’ and get to keep your premiums, and never pay an excess!

You need to work with your super provider to know exactly what level of income protection, TPD and life insurances you need for your personal circumstances, as well as what these policies cover, time frames and anything that might void them (such as exclusions). Remember that having multiple superannuation accounts with multiple policies may actually be a voiding condition – in this circumstance if there is an event requiring insurance, they will often ’round table’ it, each super fund arguing over who is liable and paying out the lowest level of cover, regardless of the other policies. Sometimes they use this as a loop hole to pau out nothing and leave you to rely on public healthcare and social security.

Workers Compensation insurance

You should bear in mind that there are government agencies which regulate mandatory workplace insurance which is separate to your superannuation insurances, which must be provided to employers by their employers.

“Workers compensation is a form of insurance payment to employees if they are injured at work or become sick due to their work.”

Australian Fair Work Ombudsman

Workers Compensation Insurance is administered in Australia by the following agencies;

If there is an injury, illness or serious accident at work, your superannuation fund, relevant workers compensation agency, employer and your employers workplace insurance provider will usually start a legal shit fight and the loser has to cover your costs. This can be a very drawn out process requiring extensive interviews, assessments, medical examinations and even lengthy legal court cases which can be extremely stressful. Take it from experience, my family has been through three of these cases (Car accident, Workplace bullying and harassment, and Cancer treatments). My Mum’s emergency fund and income protection insurance was invaluable to help get her through these tough times.

Disability Support Pension vs TPD cover

Finally, yes there is the Disability Support Pension (DSP) which is the Australian social security backup to TPD insurance. Should you find yourself totally and permanently disabled and do not have TPD insurance, you might be able to rely on the Australian government DSP Centrelink payment so that you have enough money to eat and don’t die. But take it from someone who has a family member on long term DSP due to a crippling chronic illness – the DSP is not dignified lifestyle and it is barely enough to live on without being extremely frugal.

Where do I invest my superannuation?

Personally, the majority of my superannuation is invested in a pension (annuity) scheme through my company – I can’t actually change this for now, as this is what I agreed to in my contract. Even if I could though, I wouldn’t – this pension scheme is great. I worked out it is better ROI and lower risk than many of the other direct invested schemes I was offered, and when I resigned contracts I was asked several times to switch into a shittier fund (which I did not). The annuity is basically an insurance product (sometimes called a defined benefit), and when I reach the preservation age for the fund I will start getting paid out the annuity for the rest of my life. It has more than adequate insurance (income protection, TPD and life insurance) attached to it, although the fees are way too high for my liking (I’m afraid to even mention them for fear of being stoned to death by the FIRE community) but the pension payoff at the end more than makes up for these fees.

However, I have also previously contributed extra payments (concessional contributions) towards my superannuation because it was tax effective for me at the time (and because to be honest, I didn’t know any better). Now this is building in a separate, directly invested fund. I don’t make extra super contributions anymore because I am focused on FIRE and building up my taxable investment accounts to fund early retirement. So I was looking for somewhere good to park this and let it grow for the next 30+ years.

Because of all the hype around HostPlus I looked into it. I opened a HostPlus account, and initially looked into their ChoicePlus options (As the Barefoot Investor puts it – SMSF Lite) so I could replicate my FIRE portfolio. However, when I explored it in more detail, it looked like too much of a pain in the arse: it wouldn’t let you invest more than 80% of your fund in one option, it had high brokerage fees, the cash account COSTS YOU MONEY (Negative interest rate!!), and you would need a significant investment in it to break even when compared to the basic index options due to the higher ChoicePlus fees.

So, instead of ChoicePlus I am in the process of rolling my direct invested superannuation portion into a mix of 50% of the IFM Australian shares* fund (index Australian shares MER = .03%) and 50% of the International Index fund (MER = .12%). I am using this split because I don’t like how much cash the Indexed Balanced fund currently holds – I think there is still too much tinkering going on and wanted more exposure to stocks rather than fixed interest.

*Dont Confuse the IFM Australian shares (index fund) with the IFM Australian Infrastructure fund (unlisted property fund). Also, do not confuse these fund names because HostPlus also rather shockingly offer the managed fund versions of these with VERY similar names and it is very easy to accidentally select the actively managed version with hideously more expensive fees rather than the index version.

I have recently helped both of my parents (who are separated just to add duplicity!) navigate through sorting out their Superannuation and social security (aged pension) applications. After meeting with a financial advisor for peace of mind (FYI they were pretty useless) and then a few super fund providers in person to grill them about fees and charges, we ended up doing what I am doing with my personal super.

We switched theirs over to Hostplus into the indexed Australian shares (IFM Australian shares) and indexed international funds, as well as taking out a big chunk to pay off the mortgage for their peace of mind. Dealing with the team at Hostplus was fairly pain-free, I called them about four times just to clarify everything and then used their website to set up an account and request a roll-over which took about 10 minutes to complete, and then about two weeks for the funds to settle. I also didnt reveal who I was or that I was secretly judging them for my blog haha!

So Finally, what about insurance? As I mentioned earlier, insurance through your super can be a very contentious issue. If you fuck it up, you are at risk of not being covered at all, having too much expensive cover you don’t need, or not having enough cover. This is why if you are not 100% confident in what you are doing and your ability to digest a Product Disclosure Statement or confront salespeople on the phone or in person, you should look to consult a professional financial advisor. A professional financial advisor can give you specific personal advice tailored to your unique circumstances, which is incredibly valuable – my advice would be look for a reputable, fee for service (hourly rate or agreed project cost) financial planner that does not stick you with ongoing contracts or percentage based fee structures. Of course, make sure to remind them that legally they need to disclose any affiliate relationships or kickbacks from any products they recommend.

With that out of the way, I have chosen not to take out any insurance through my HostPlus account – I simply ticked the ‘No insurance’ box when I was setting up my account online – this is because I have insurance through my companies super policy and I did not want to muddy the waters by getting secondary unnecessary policies. Secondly, my parents also chose to do the same – they are both retired, have paid off their homes, have no debt, and have ‘passive’ income streams from their superannuation, social security (and weirdly enough – also by selling solar power back to the grid from their panels).

Frequently asked questions

Answers to frequently asked questions about the Barefoot Investor and Superannuation funds.

What super fund does the Barefoot Investor recommend?

The Barefoot Investor doesn’t recommend any fund due to legal concerns, but he publicly states that he uses the Hostplus Indexed Balanced fund for himself and his family.

How much super do I need Barefoot Investor?

According to the Barefoot Investor, Singles need at least $170,000 and couples need $250,000 in their super for a comfortble retirement when used in conjunction with a paid off home, the aged pension, and casual work of one day per week.

Which Super Fund has lowest fees?

According to the Barefoot Investor, RestSuper currently has the lowest fees with a their Balanced Index fund not charging a management fee at all, and only costing $78 per year in administrative fees.

What is the best super fund in Australia 2020?

The Barefoot Investor suggests Hostplus, Rest, VisionSuper, AustralianSuper and SunSuper as the best super funds in Australia in 2020.

Cheapest super fund in Australia

Rest is currently one of the cheapest super funds in Australia.

When can I retire in Australia

You can retire as soon as your passive investments cover your cost of living. If you do not invest outside of your super, you will have to wait until preservation age to access your superannuation entitlements (unless you are granted early release due to injury or other extenuating circumstances). Your preservation age depends on your birth year, however for most Australians it is 65 years old.

Barefoot investor superannuation contributions

The Barefoot investor recommends you contribute 15% of your wage into your superannuation accounts. This is 5.5% above the legal minimum requirement of 9.5%.

How much superannuation does the barefoot investor recommend?

The Barefoot investor recommends at least $170,000 in your superannuation for singles, and $250,000 for couples. This is part of his ‘Don Bradman Retirement Strategy’;

  1. You need a fully paid off house (Primary Place of Residence) to live in
  2. You need at least $170,000 in your superannuation for Singles, or $250,000 for couples
  3. Claim the full Aged Pension through Centrelink. Currently the maximum rate of Age Pension is $34252.40 per year for couples and $22721.40 for singles.
  4. Work one day per week – earning up to $6,500 per year for singles or $13,000 per year for couples before it impacts the aged pension amount.


The Barefoot Investor agrees with finance celebrity Dave Ramsay and states you should be making additional contributions to your super – recommending you boost your contributions up to at least 15% of your wage (noting the current concessional cap is $25,000 per year and above that you will not receive the discounted tax rate and have to pay your full marginal rate tax on contributions). Secondly, The Barefoot Investor states you should be investing it into a broad market diversified index fund with ultra low costs.

So where should you invest your superannuation? Its up to you! Good options currently include Hostplus’ Index Balanced option, as well as Rest, VisionSuper, AustralianSuper and SunSuper, whom all offer low fee index fund investment choices. Make sure you understand exactly what you are buying into and the underlying assets, the fees and costs you are paying and their impact on your returns, and also to have a good understanding of your level of need and policies on income protection, TPD and life insurances policies (level of protection and costs) associated with your super.

Making smart changes to your superannuation early in your career can be the difference between adding hundreds of thousands of dollars to your Superannuation retirement fund, or needing to rely aged pension (which will likely be phased out for the majority of us in the workforce anyway). It also means should some unexpected accident occur, that you can be covered more appropriately.

If its still feeling a bit mystified for you – I highly highly recommend you track down a good, independent, fee-for-service (hourly rate) financial advisor. I don’t know any of these, but maybe if you know any you could leave a comment below.

Further Reading

eBusiness Institute review
pearler review

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3 thoughts on “Barefoot Investor Superannuation – The Best Australian Super funds

  1. The Barefoot Investor suggests bumping super contributions to 15%. If I was earning over $166k, is this no longer effective? Or put another way once you are contributing $25k to super per year is there a better use of any excess money such as straight ETF so you can access the money earlier if needed?

    1. Hey Sean. Yeah $25K is the max concessional contribution you can make, and there are also some rules around using up previous years contributions if you haven’t maxed them out already. Best bet is to talk to an accountant. Personally, I have made lots of contributions to super in the past, however these days I prefer to invest my money outside of super which maximises my options and gives me the flexibility to ‘Retire Early’, or more to the point to be ‘Financially Independent’. Still, super is a great idea and if you are on a high income or in the first few years of your career it is probably a good idea to tuck some away into it and then it can compound in a tax effective environment. Check out my NW posts to see how I am investing my money. Cheers

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