What Is a 401K in Australia? The Definitive Guide

What Is a 401K in Australia?

Australia is a wonderful place to retire. It boasts moderate climates, friendly people, and an outdoor lifestyle. 

But to benefit from this paradise, one must have an adequate retirement fund set up. This begs the question, “What is a 401k in Australia?”

What Is a 401K and How Does it Work?

In the US, a 401K plan is a pension account that is sponsored by employers. The funding comes out of the employee’s paycheck and may be matched by employers. 

This type of retirement account is similar in Australia. The equivalent of a 401K in Australia is called superannuation, or super. It refers to pension benefit funds that workers can use after retirement.

What Is an Australian Superannuation?

Superannuation is a retirement fund that is compulsory for all working Australians who earn more than $450 a month. The super funds are created by deposit deductions of the worker, as well as employers’ regular contributions. A Unique superannuation identifier or USI is assigned to you when your fund is opened

If you’re interested to know how to find your unique superannuation identifier you can usually find it on your annual super statement or your super fund’s website.

The typical places employees may keep their income deductions: 

  • Industry Fund: Not-for-profit mutual funds that are managed by industry stakeholders
  • Retail Fund: For-profit commercial funds that are managed by financial institutions
  • Self-managed super funds

The amount the employer must contribute is dictated by Australian law. The percentage is on top of wages and salaries. Currently, a minimum of 9.5% of what you make will go into your retirement fund or superannuation. This minimum contribution will increase incrementally from 9.5% to 12% by 2025.

What’s the Difference Between 401K and Australian Superannuation?

Both 401Ks and superannuations are pension plans built for retirement. Latest data reveal that superannuation is the primary source of income for 30% of retired men and 17% of women. But what exactly is the difference between 401k vs superannuation?


A 401K tax procedure varies from superannuation. There are two types of 401Ks

  • Traditional 401K – does not require any taxation when contributing and growing the fund, but requires taxation upon distribution of the fund. 
  • Roth – taxed when contributed to, grows tax-free, and then not taxed upon distribution. 

Unlike a traditional 401K, Australia requires the fund to be taxed upon contribution (15%), is taxed as it grows, and then there is no tax obligation upon distribution of the fund at retirement. 

Employer Contributions

In Australia, the government has mandated a set amount of 9.5% of employer contribution to the fund. Some companies may pay even higher. 
In contrast, 401Ks in the US will match a certain percentage, as long as you contribute that same percentage of pre-tax income. This amount is capped and the employer will not go above it, even if you do. The average cap for 2022 is 6%.

Fund Choices

For a 401K in Australia, you can choose from any number of industry funds, retail funds, or even manage your fund which greatly opens your investment options. It is easy to change your fund if you aren’t happy with the returns or fees.

For more information on what is a super fund and how to get the most out of one, read this useful guide

However, in the US, there is less choice in where your 401K funds go. Smaller companies’ 401Ks usually have high expense ratios, while larger companies have better funds where you can roll over your account when you leave. In this way, you can put the money into mutual funds or stocks of your choice. 

Contribution Limits

In 2022, 401ks have a limit of $20,500 in employee contributions and $6,500 yearly if you’re over 50. Employers cap is $61,000 and $67,500 if the employee is over 50. This includes the $20,500 employee contribution. 

Differing from a 401K, Australia has a higher cap contribution. They start at $25,000 as a base and then get higher as you get older

To Sum it Up

What is a 401k in Australia? Though not the same thing, a 401K in Australia is called superannuation. This refers to contributions made by employers and employee to the fund to build a pension. This fund will eventually allow the employee to retire. 


1. Is 401K the same as superannuation?

A 401K is not the same as a superannuation. They differ in the way they are taxed, employer and employee contribution limits, and fund choices among other things. 

2, What is a 401K called in Australia?

In Australia, a 401K is called superannuation. 

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