The future seems further away than the past. That’s a psychological phenomenon which behavioural and neuro-economists try to exploit, along with other quirks of human nature. So, let’s look at the next 20 years of superannuation.

CMSF has decided to focus on the next 20 years at its 20th anniversary conference in Brisbane March 15-17, with several sessions looking at both the likely future landscape of the industry and the consequences of change for members.

Various psychological studies show that people tend to project from their current circumstances when predicting the future in the short-term but have a lot of difficulty in projecting far into the future. They tend to imagine much more change than is actually likely to occur in their lives.

They also do not allow for what is known as “adaption”, whereby humans familiarise themselves with changed circumstances, whether good or bad, more quickly than they would expect.

People also tend to think of the past more glowingly than they actually thought of those past experiences at the time.

And when looking at the past, it literally seems “almost like yesterday”.

If you question this, then do this exercise: imagine your life in 1990 – your job at the time, your family, where you were living. Now imagine the same things in 2030.

Chances are your life was not much different in 1990 than it is now, but you’re expecting a lot of change between now and 2030.

Such are the human impediments to forecasting.

Meanwhile, at CMSF, Paul Howes, the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union and a trustee of AustralianSuper will deliver the initial plenary address on the challenges and opportunities for Australia over the next 20 years, including for superannuation policy. Twenty years ago, this position on the agenda was filled by the then Treasurer, Paul Keating.

Jeremy Cooper, the chair of the Super System Review, will outline the background to his inquiry, which will be discussed by a panel, and former High Court judge Michael Kirby will look at the outworkings for society of an aging workforce.

Mark Fulton, global head of climate change investment research for Deutsche Asset Management, will look at the state of play and implications for investors following last year’s Copenhagen conference, and Justin Wood, of head strategic solutions for BlackRock, will look at ways to increase retirement incomes beyond the Superannuation Guarantee.
This year’s CMSF will have a total of 12 plenary sessions and five series of concurrent workshops.

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