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The end to the means - defining the ‘purpose’ of super

Updated: Oct 7, 2022

MYMAVINS recently conducted a poll of superannuation members in Australia (September 2022 n= 401) to gauge latest expectations of the purpose their super savings should serve.

We found unsurprisingly that providing strong returns with low fees are (as ever) critical functions of super - however there is clearly more to it than that.

Australians are arguably becoming more cognisant of the ‘end to the means’ their super should provide – the ultimate purpose it delivers. While preparing for retirement is undoubtedly its core function – exactly how it achieves this transcends simply optimising returns.

There is overwhelming support (among 9 in 10 superfund members surveyed) for super to play a greater role in supporting quality of life in retirement beyond just providing investment returns.

4 in 5 also feel how their super is invested is just as important as the returns.

What does 'purpose' look like?

Digging into these preference a little further reveals some intriguing nuances, highlighting the importance of how the increasingly ubiquitous ‘pursuit of purpose’ is framed and defined.

Interestingly while the majority of members want their super to support improvements to the aged care system, affordability of housing and environmental sustainability in Australia – at the same time most are averse to their super savings being used by the ‘Government’ to solve poorly defined ‘social issues’.

Presumably this apparent paradox is because they may be cynical about political agendas once the ‘G” word is mentioned or simply because they need to personally resonate with a specific ‘purpose’ to get on board. There is an emotional element here and a need to align with personal values.

Possibly most importantly though, it’s because it's their money and they want to feel they retain some control. There is little joy in supporting purpose if you feel disempowered from participation in the decision to pursue it (reminds me of a Ricky Gervais gag about goat gift cards...).

  • 73% want their super to support improvements to the aged care system

  • 70% want their super to support environmental sustainability in Australia

  • 64% want their super to support improvements to the affordability of housing for Australians


  • 75% feel the Government should not be using Australians’ money in super to solve social issues

Implications for promoting purpose

While members rationally tend to look at returns and fees as gauges of value, the reality is most don’t even really know how their fund compares to others in these respects (do you?).

While qualitative and subjective, members can intuitively assess the emotional value they experience (and for most this makes more sense than the hard numbers). They want to feel more confident about their future quality of life. They want to reinforce their self-identity and sense of personal agency by aligning their decisions and actions to their values.

Purpose beyond returns is a powerful value driver for superfunds but must be delivered with ‘proof of purpose’ beyond marketing lip service. Efforts are also likely well served by promoting a sense of inclusion in the commitment to pursuing well defined purposes that truly resonate with superfund members.

Tai Rotem is a Consulting Partner at MYMAVINS.

Reach out to him at

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