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Managing the financial
impact of COVID-19

Support for you in these extraordinary times.

The COVID-19 crisis has affected all Australians.

We recently surveyed both clients and the public about the effect of the COVID-19 crisis. The survey told us the financial implications of the pandemic were more worrying than health issues.

That’s why we’ve created this space. It will feature information on market and fund performance, Government support measures, insights into how our investment managers are reacting to the crisis and much more.

As always, if you’re worried about money, we encourage you to seek financial advice.

At MLC, we’ve been helping Australians obtain financial security for over 130 years—through fires, floods, and health crises. Reach out to us if we can help.

Read a message from Jonathan Armitage Chief Investment Officer, MLC Asset Management

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Insights and information

Market updates & insights    

Latest market information keeping you up to date on your investments.

Government responses    

How will the government help the country recover from the effects of the pandemic?

Super & investment strategies    

Keep your finances in good health and ways to get your super back in check.

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Share markets lost ground against rising global infections

Share markets weakened in September against a backdrop of global COVID-19 infections nearing 300,000 per day, and uncertainty over the future of government economic support measures.

FAQs

Coronavirus & early access to super

  • Once you have applied, here are the next steps for successful applications:

    1. The ATO assesses and approves the request
    2. The ATO provides MLC/Plum with a determination, optimally the next business day
    3. MLC receives the information from the ATO and processes it
    4. MLC makes the payment into your nominated bank account, targeting within five business days
    5. If we have your mobile number, we’ll let you know via SMS once we’ve completed your payment

    We have been receiving files in batches from the ATO since 21 April and the process between the ATO and MLC is up and running. Our teams are focused on processing money accurately and safely to our members’ accounts.

  • We can only process transaction requests when we receive all required information.

    If accepted, generally transaction requests received by us before 3:00 pm (Sydney time) on any Business Day will receive that day’s unit price. Requests received after 3:00 pm will generally receive the next Business Day’s unit price.

    We usually calculate unit prices as at the end of each Business Day and release them the following Business Day.

    Generally, withdrawal requests will be actioned by us promptly to enable us to make payments within 10 Business Days. Actioning of withdrawal requests and payments may be delayed, for example, if underlying assets need to be sold. In certain circumstances, such as when there are adverse market conditions, we may suspend withdrawals. We may also process requests in instalments over a period of time and may also suspend processing of requests we have already accepted. In certain circumstances we may refuse a withdrawal request. Where withdrawals are delayed, suspended or being paid in instalments, the unit prices used for a withdrawal will be those available on the day the withdrawal takes effect, rather than the day of the withdrawal request.

Coronavirus & the impact to your super & investments

  • There’s no such things as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer on what the best thing to do is.

    As a generalisation, people close to retirement or in retirement often have many years ahead of them. In those situations, having some exposure to ‘growth assets,’ like shares, is important as their higher return potential, can help to maintain people’s spending power. But having growth assets like shares in your retirement portfolio may expose you to increases in value but it also exposes you to market falls like the ones we saw earlier this year. The more you invest in growth assets the greater the fluctuations in your capital.

    Yet the more stable investments tend to have much lower returns. Take term deposits for example, they may provide relative stability in your capital value but the low interest rates payable on term deposits over the past decade have certainly made it harder for people nearing retirement or in retirement to rely on them to keep pace with the cost of living.

    When investing, you need to be prepared for all sorts of outcomes. Understanding the level of fluctuations your investments may experience will help you be prepared for changes when you’re drawing a pension from your superannuation.

    MLC offers a range of portfolios with varying risk and return characteristics to suit different needs.

    We recommend you discuss your situation with your financial adviser who can help you choose the right investments for your personal requirements. There are also a range of investment, tax, social security and lifestyle strategies that may help you adapt your strategy as you progress through your retirement. If you don’t have a financial adviser, please call us.

  • COVID-19 continues to dominate economies and markets around the globe.

    Heavy government-imposed restrictions were put in place to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases.  While many countries are now easing restrictions (including Australia), economic growth has stalled, unemployment has risen dramatically and certain industries (travel, international education) are still effectively closed.

    The COVID-19 crisis has been a rapidly evolving event. The market response has been equally fast.

    Until the worst of the pandemic is clearly passed (ie. a vaccine is found) markets are likely to remain volatile. Depressed economic growth and high unemployment will damage many companies but the unprecedented amount of stimulus in the markets—and virtually zero interest rates—has helped share markets recover from the mid-March lows.

  • COVID-19 is a major economic event and could have a significant effect on your super savings. How much of an effect depends on factors, including:  the length and severity of the crisis, the effectiveness of government and central bank policies, medical innovation, how companies and investment markets react to the evolving economic conditions, whether you’ve drawn on your super or changed your investment strategy, etc.

    There are things you can do to reduce the impact the crisis has on your retirement plans—particularly in areas like investment strategy and your response to events.

    Super is a long-term investment—measured in decades. If you’re many years from retirement, this crisis may have less of an effect than you think, as you will have plenty of time to recover from falls in your super portfolio—you may even benefit from investing in assets that are now cheaper. If on the other hand you are approaching retirement, the sudden fall in your retirement capital is more challenging.

    Consider talking to an adviser who can provide investment, tax, social security, and lifestyle advice that can help you adapt.

    Remember, it’s painful to watch your investments fall in value when markets correct, but history teaches us that markets do eventually recover from major crises.

    Prior to the current crisis, the 2008/09 GFC is the most severe investment downturn in recent memory. It was followed by 10 years of strong share market returns:

    • The Australian market (S&P/ASX 300 Accumulation Index) returned 111% for the 10 years to 31 December 2019.
    • The global share market (MSCI ACWI Index (Net dividends invested, in Australian dollars), returned 197% for the 10 years to 31 December 2019.

    These returns are not indicative of future performance.

  • MLC Asset Management, the manager of MLC, has been managing Australians’ savings since 1985, and are applying all their knowledge, experience, and skill to both defend the value of our clients’ investments from the worst effects of market falls and to also position them to benefit from the recovery that will eventuate. 

    Although share markets have regained a large portion of the ground they lost in March, there’s still so much economic and business uncertainty. This being the case, we continue to manage portfolios with an intensive focus on risk-management.

    Consistent with this, we’ve been increasing exposure to investment-grade US corporate bonds. A corporate bond is a type of fixed income investment that is issued by a company. The company gets the capital it needs and in return the investor is paid a pre-established number of interest payments at either a fixed or variable interest rate.

    Corporate bonds are generally regarded as being less risky than shares.

    We have also been relying on derivative strategies to participate in share markets. Through derivatives, we can hedge against downside risks while also capturing some of the upside when markets rise.

  • Some of the key indicators our investment experts at MLC Asset Management are watching include:

    • Conclusive evidence of a second wave of infections could have a negative effect on investment markets due to the impact on economic growth, employment and company profits. Conversely, evidence that transmission/deaths are falling would see more effort focused on re-opening economies and be positive for company earnings.
    • Real progress towards a vaccine that can be produced cost-effectively would be a major boost to economies and markets. Similarly, cheap effective treatment options might reduce the stringency of preventative measures and open economies more quickly.
    • At some point government support mechanisms may become too expensive to maintain. Judging how to handle this ‘cliff edge’(when households and businesses come off government support) will be a major political and economic challenge.

    As events unfold our investment experts continue to evolve the potential scenarios that could unfold, and adjust the positioning of MLC’s multi-asset portfolios to either improve potential returns or reduce risks.

  • Yes, the buy-sell spreads of some managed investments are fluctuating daily due to current market conditions. Any changes to fees and costs are updated regularly and can be viewed at mlc.com.au/buysellspreads

    For MasterKey investments and MLC Wrap and Navigator products, you should first speak to your financial adviser. You can also refer to the fund manager’s website as well as the information contained in the investment’s PDS which is issued by the fund manager.

  • Buy-sell spreads are linked to transaction costs within a fund.

    When investors deposit or withdraw money from investment products they are in turn creating costs for the fund. For example, the brokerage costs involved in buying or selling shares for the fund.

    The buy-sell spread ensures that these costs are incurred only by unitholders who transact. MLC and the fund managers don’t profit from these spreads.

    Buy-sell spreads can change and are often higher when markets are volatile—as they are today. 

  • An increase in the buy-sell spread will increase the cost associated with selling or switching an investment and may also be reflected in a lower valuation of the investment.

  • Buy-sell spreads are located within the investment menu of the products PDS (Product Disclosure Statement) for MasterKey. However, given that fund manager buy/sell spreads are changing on a frequent basis we’ve made this information available on mlc.com.au/buysellspreads so that you have the most up-to-date information. Please check the buy-sell spreads on this page before transacting.

    For the latest available information on your MLC Wrap & Navigator investment options, as well as MLC MasterKey Investment Service Fundamentals and external options in MLC MasterKey Investment Service, please speak with your adviser or check the underlying Fund Manager’s website and PDS for the most up-to-date information on fees and costs before transacting.

  • If you’re invested in a MLC MasterKey Superannuation or Pension product, you’re likely to hold an investment in one of MLC’s many multi-asset portfolios offered. If this is the case, you may have some exposure to unlisted assets. Private equity is one of the main unlisted assets in MLC portfolios. Our investment experts at MLC Asset Management, who are responsible for managing our MLC investment options, include private equity in portfolios because they believe:

    • private equity has higher longer-term return potential than listed global share markets,
    • a well-structured private equity portfolio provides access to industries and companies not available on listed share markets, and
    • private equity provides diversification from listed global shares and fixed income markets and thus contributes positively to long-term returns after taking into account the risks.

    Private equity is a relatively small component of MLC Horizon and Inflation Plus portfolios with the rest invested in assets that are listed on a public market like the share market or bond market. Listed asset classes are valued on a market and their values incorporated into unit prices each day. That’s one of the reasons your account value changes from day-to-day. Private equity is valued a lot less frequently because it’s invested in private companies.

    MySuper has private equity and some additional investments in unlisted property.

  • All asset classes have been affected by COVID-19, including unlisted assets. Private equity is one of the main unlisted assets in MLC’s multi-asset portfolios.  

    MLC Asset Management conducted an out-of-cycle revaluation of private equity assets, which resulted in a reduction to private equity values in early April. This has had a flow-on effect to certain multi-asset portfolios with decreases in investment option unit prices ranging from 0.14% to 1.39%. The lower the allocation to private equity, the less the impact on the unit price. 

    The private equity revaluation ensured that asset values were fairly reflected in unit prices for any members choosing to switch, add to, or redeem monies in affected investments, and thereby protected the interests of members. It was included in the unit prices of our investment options and is reflected in account balances.

    MLC Asset Management continues to monitor investment markets closely to ensure the pricing of unlisted assets remains appropriate for the circumstances as they evolve and to ensure all investment values reflect ‘fair value’ across all member account balances.

Other information

  • As part of our commitment to supporting our members at this extraordinary time, we’ve extended access to MyCoach to MLC members until 31 December 2020. Through MyCoach, members can access three independent, professional counselling sessions to help manage challenging issues and enhance emotional wellbeing. Please call 1300 574 759 to speak with a Benestar Clinician.

  • The Government’s initial support measures were estimated to be around $259 billion1 — that’s equivalent to around 13.3 per cent of annual GDP. By global standards, and on a per head basis, this was an exceptionally large government response.

    JobKeeper to support employees

    One of the most high-profile support schemes is JobKeeper.

    JobKeeper gives businesses significantly affected by the Coronavirus crisis a subsidy to help them continue paying employees. This means employees can keep their job and earn an income—even if their hours have been cut.

    Under the JobKeeper program, eligible employees (and the self-employed) receive $1,500 each fortnight, up to 27 September 2020.

    After this date, JobKeeper payments will continue until 28 March 2021 but the payment amount will reduce over time and be paid at two rates. The two rates relate to whether you’re considered to be a full-time or part-time worker for this purpose, and is intended to be determined based on the hours you worked in the applicable test period. Depending on your circumstances, this test period will be either February or June 2020. Full-time workers are those who have worked 20 hours or more in the applicable test period.

    From 28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021:

    • the payment rate will fall to $1,200 each fortnight for full-time employees, and
    • $750 each fortnight for part-time employees.

    From 4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021, the JobKeeper payment rate will be:

    • $1,000 each fortnight for full-time employees. 
    • The rate for part-time employees will fall to $650 each fortnight over this period

    For more information, visit the Treasury website.

    The Government expects the expanded JobKeeper program will bring the total estimated costs of the program to about $86 billion.

    Income support

    The Government has temporarily expanded eligibility for income support payments including JobSeeker.

    You may be eligible for a JobSeeker payment if you’re:

    • a permanent employee and have lost your job
    • a sole trader, self-employed, a casual or contact worker and your income has reduced
    • caring for someone who’s affected by coronavirus.

    In addition, the Coronavirus Supplement of $550 per fortnight is available until 24 September 2020, after which it will reduce to $250 per fortnight and continue to be paid until 31 December 2020.

    You will be paid the Coronavirus Supplement if you receive an eligible social security payment or benefit including:

    • JobSeeker Payment
    • Youth Allowance
    • Parenting Payment (Partnered or Single)
    • Austudy
    • ABSTUDY (Living Allowance)
    • Farm Household Allowance
    • Special Benefit or Department of Veteran's Affairs Education Scheme, and
    • New Enterprise Incentive Scheme participants.

    Superannuation

    People who meet certain eligibility rules can request an early release of up to $10,000 from super from 1 July 2020, which represents the second stage of the early release of super program.

    Originally, applications for a lump sum in the current financial year needed to be submitted by 24 September but the Government has extended this date to 31 December 2020. You’ll need to apply for the release online via MyGov at my.gov.au

    Retirees

    For many retirees, the significant losses in financial markets as a result of the COVID-19 crisis are having a negative effect on the account balance of their superannuation pension or annuity.

    To assist retirees, the Government has reduced the minimum annual payment required for account-based pensions and annuities, allocated pensions and annuities and market-linked pensions and annuities by 50% in the 2019–20 and the 2020–21 financial years.

    Need Help?

    You can find out more about the Government’s support packages for individuals and households here.

    If you want to discuss withdrawing a lump sum from your super under the new temporary financial hardship – Coronavirus condition of release, we suggest you speak to a financial adviser. It may have implications for your retirement lifestyle down the track.

    For more information on the super withdrawal rules, see the Government’s outline.

  • MLC is aware of COVID-19 themed emails and text messages circulating which contain malicious software, lead to phishing sites or asking you to donate money to a bank account.

    The emails and text messages may purport to be from legitimate organisations, including government agencies, and request you to click on links, open attachments or donate money to a bank account. Please see two examples below.

    If you have clicked on links or attachments in a suspicious email or SMS, or sent funds based on a request received from a suspicious email please call MLC on 132 652.

    If you receive a suspicious message, do not click on any links or attachments. Please forward it to phish@nab.com.au and then delete it.

    You can also read our article for more information on investment and super scams, or visit the Federal Government's Australian Cyber Security Centre website for more information about COVID-19 related scams.

    This information is current as at April 2020.

  • MLC is aware of current scam phone calls targeting Australians. The caller may claim to be from an organisation that can assist you to get early access to your superannuation. The caller may ask for your personal and superannuation details.

    If you ever have any concerns as to the legitimacy of a call, hang up and call the company back on a publicly listed number.

    If you have received this type of call and have provided information about your superannuation, please contact MLC immediately on 132 652.

    If you receive a text message saying your superannuation fund is going to release your super, and you did not request this, contact us.

    If you have provided personal or banking details, please also contact your financial institution.

    You can also read our article for more information on investment and super scams, or visit Scamwatch website for more information about this scam.

    This information is current as at May 2020.

Get in touch

We appreciate the impact of events like these can be unsettling, and that everyone’s situation is different. We recommend you discuss your investment approaches with your financial adviser. If you do not have a financial adviser, please call us.

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