Paint-stained and barefoot, Peter Ridgeon scours over documents which detail how his $26,000 super fund withered to a mere $4699 in just three years.
He looks over papers that show $10,891 was deducted in a single year for death cover and permanent disability premiums. Until a few weeks ago, the 55-year-old painter-plasterer trusted his super was plodding along nicely.
With no internet at his Lavington home and a mobile phone that couldn’t open attachments – he didn’t check the emails AMP sent him.
For that, Mr Ridgeon says, he’s at fault.
But, he asks, how did the people who were managing his money, the advisers, allow this to happen – without a single call to let him know?
“I should have been more vigilant about that super account, I was careless,” Mr Ridgeon self admonishes.
His wife Jenny interrupts, “Is it careless or is it trusting of others?”
After the father and grandfather got a new mobile phone he checked his AMP Flexible Super account, for which DBK Financial Solutions is the local contact.
Mr Ridgeon knew because he took out a modest $315,000 insurance policy in 2013, his super savings would have decreased by 2018.
But he expected to see at least $15,000 – not $4699.
“In this instance DBK and AMP were not working in my interests at all and didn’t care,” he said.
“Particularly last year when the insurances took nearly $11,000 … they weren’t concerned at all.”
The trouble appears to have started in 2015 when Mr Ridgeon left a job and was taken off his employer’s plan. That is when his premiums began skyrocketing.
Back in 2015 he was sent a letter about the change, but Mr Ridgeon believes he should have been called so he could sit down with a financial planner.
But the call never came, not then, and not in five years following.
“I have no doubt that in six months’ time I would have got my phone call, but it would have been saying ‘It’s all gone, mate’,” Mr Ridgeon said.
“I know they’ll come back and say ‘you should have checked’, well yes. But you’re the financial planner, you’re the one that gets the master brokerage fees, the service fees and the ongoing trail commission.
“If they're prepared to be managers of those funds there needs to be some type of accountability, commercial intelligence and culpability or duty of care towards the people whose funds they’re managing.”
In the first half of 2018, AMP recorded a net profit of $115 million.
An AMP spokesman, who said they were handling a response for AMP and DBK, said they were very disappointed Mr Ridgeon suffered financially.
The spokesman did not respond to questions about whether Mr Ridgeon would receive a ‘service fee’ refund.
He said the company took their responsibility to clients ‘very seriously’. He said a formal complaint had not been lodged but his financial adviser ‘is happy to help’.
Mr Ridgeon said he raised the issue with DBK but they made no offer to investigate what happened, and could not explain his high premiums nor why he was not called.
He said in the end, everyone made money from his super and insurance policy – expect for him and Jenny.
While Mr Ridgeon is a calm but tired force, his wife Jenny, a nurse, is the fire in the hearth.
“I’m angry and feel ripped off – I feel robbed for him,” Mrs Ridgeon said.
“He worked really hard to get what he was paid and I don’t know these people but they don’t work as hard as he does, they don’t go out and sweat and bleed.”
Mr Ridegon doesn’t believe he’s alone. He wants small super funds protected so they are not eaten up by fees or premiums.
“I know $20,000 is not a big deal, but it’s all I had,” he said. “It wouldn’t have mattered if I have millions of dollars. But for little people like myself – that’s all we’ve got. To take 80 per cent of it like that…”
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