Should I pay off my mortgage or contribute to super?

All / 12.04.2018

Should I pay off my mortgage or contribute to super?

One of the most popular questions we are asked by our clients is whether it’s best to pay off their mortgage first or salary sacrifice money into their super fund – or can they do both? The answer to this question is never the same considering that everyone’s needs are completely different, but we thought we’d provide an explanation with some examples to give you an idea of how both options work.

It’s not really a sacrifice

Salary sacrifice means arranging for your employer to pay part of your salary into superannuation instead of paying it to you in cash. It can be tax-effective because most of the personal income tax rates are higher than the 15% superannuation tax rate.

To explain, the table shows the difference for three people who invested $10,000. The top line is for someone on the highest tax rate. They would have $3,200 extra invested – a whopping 60% more by using salary sacrifice. The other lines show people on lower tax rates – you can see they both will have more invested by “sacrificing”.

IncomeMarginal tax rateInvested after taxInvested by salary sacrifice Difference 

Salary sacrifice is made even more attractive as superannuation payouts for people aged 60 and over are tax-free.
If your employer allows salary sacrificing, talk to us before implementing an arrangement. You need to be sure you will still have sufficient income for everyday living; you won’t need that money before you retire; and other employment conditions are not adversely affected.

Should I pay off the mortgage or pay more into super?

The easiest way to show the difference is by using a case study.

Consider Christine who earns $100,000 a year. She is aged 50 and plans to retire at age 60. Christine is worried about paying off her $175,000 mortgage. The mortgage interest rate is 4.5% and she is paying $21,764 a year so it will be paid off in ten years.

An alternative strategy is to pay interest only on the loan and salary sacrifice into superannuation so her disposable income remains the same. Christine’s accumulation in super will grow faster and she can pay the loan off when she retires. The table compares the cash flows of the two strategies.

 Pay mortgage Maximise super
Salary sacrifice$0$15,500
Taxable income$100,000$84,500
Tax and Medicare$26,632$20,700
After tax income$73,368$63,800
Mortgage payments$21,764$7,875
Disposable income$51,604$55,925

With her current strategy she pays tax of $26,632 and has $51,604 left over after paying the mortgage.

Christine has an upper limit of $25,000 on the amount of concessional contributions she can make into super. This includes the total of her employer’s Superannuation Guarantee contributions and any salary sacrifice amount.

Assuming Christine’s SG contributions are $9,500pa and she sacrifices an additional $15,500 from her salary, which is within the maximum allowed amount, and pays interest only on the mortgage, this is what she will achieve:

  • She will have $4,321 more disposable income and will pay $5,932 less tax.
  • She will have $15,500 extra per year going into superannuation.
  • The super fund will pay 15% tax so $13,175 will be invested. If the fund earns 7.5% per year after tax, her super will grow by an additional $213,000 in 10 years.
  • When Christine retires at age 60 she can cash out $175,000 from her super tax-free to pay off the loan and be more than $38,000 ahead of her current strategy.

It is important to note that the outcomes for different people will vary, and will depend on such factors as interest rates and investment returns. To find out what will work best for you, talk to your licensed financial adviser.

Note: all tax calculations include Medicare levy of 2%

For more information or to speak to one of our Financial Advisers please contact TNR Wealth Management on 02 6621 8544.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The information and any advice in this publication does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness having regard to these factors before acting on it. This article may contain material provided directly by third parties and is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be reliable but has not been independently verified. It is important that your personal circumstances are taken into account before making any financial decision and we recommend you seek detailed and specific advice from a suitably qualified adviser before acting on any information or advice in this publication. Any taxation position described in this publication is general and should only be used as a guide. It does not constitute tax advice and is based on current laws and our interpretation. You should consult a registered tax agent for specific tax advice on your circumstances.