Self-managed super is growing in popularity for all age groups. But how do you know if it is right for you?

Increase-your-risk-if-youre-under-50With membership surging through one million in 2014, SMSFs seem to be the hip and cool fashion accessory for investors.

But be warned. This is not like spending some coin to join the trendoids with the latest shades, shoes, or road bike.

SMSFs are not just about taking investment control of your super.

Running a SMSF is like running your own part-time business. You are ultimately responsible for everything, including the performance of accountants, auditors and investment managers. You have to consider insurances and develop written investment strategies.

You open yourself to potentially huge risks, including massive fines, a greater chance of fraud, loss of investor protection and a time vacuum of paperwork.

If you’re after investment control, there are plenty of super platforms that will give you broad investment choices without the hassle.

But SMSFs offer advantages not available to other funds, including buying direct residential and commercial properties. Currently, borrowing is allowed. But this might be banned soon.

And … if a property developer recommends you set up a SMSF to buy one of his properties, run away, quickly. If geared property investment in a SMSF interests you, see an impartial financial adviser.

Other SMSF advantages include greater control over super tax and estate planning benefits.

It also allows up to four people (most commonly family members) to pool their money to invest. And for big enough funds, the overall costs can be cheaper.

Some older Gen Xers are getting super balances big enough to justify setting up a SMSF, if they are prepared to take on most of the extra work involved.

Bruce Brammall is the principal adviser with Bruce Brammall Financial ( and author of Debt Man Walking.