How to set up an SMSF

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on September 14, 2021
How to set up an SMSF

Choosing a Self Managed Super Fund (SMSF) can be a huge step for any Aussie in taking control of their own Superannuation.

However there is a specific process to setting up an SMSF, with strict ATO regulations. It’s important to understand these steps before making the decision to go it alone.


Looking to take control of your retirement? This table below features SMSF loans with some of the most competitive interest rates on the market.

Advertised rate Comparison rate Monthly repayment Rate TypeOffsetRedrawOngoing FeeUpfront FeesLVRLump Sum RepaymentAdditional RepaymentsPre-approval

VariableMore details


  • Easy refinance process
  • No application fee and no settlement fee
  • No monthly, annual or ongoing fees


  • Easy refinance process
  • No application fee and no settlement fee
  • No monthly, annual or ongoing fees
VariableMore details

Freedom SMSF (Interest Only) (LVR < 70%)

VariableMore details

Liberty SuperCredit SMSF (LVR < 60%)

VariableMore details

SMSF Residential

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, fixed, principal and interest (P&I) home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. However, the ‘Compare Home Loans’ table allows for calculations to made on variables as selected and input by the user. All products will list the LVR with the product and rate which are clearly published on the Product Provider’s web site. Monthly repayments, once the base criteria are altered by the user, will be based on the selected products’ advertised rates and determined by the loan amount, repayment type, loan term and LVR as input by the user/you. *Comparison rate is based on a loan of $150,000 over a term of 25 years. Please note the comparison rate only applies to the examples given Rates correct as of December 7, 2021. View disclaimer.

How to set up an SMSF

1. Choose your members and structure

An SMSF can have no more than six members. Once you’ve chosen how many members there’ll be and who they are, you’ll need to choose whether you’ll have a corporate trustee structure or an individual trustee structure. A corporate trustee structure means each member is a director of the fund. An individual trustee structure is simply bound by the rules that comes with being a trustee.

2. Create the trust deed

The trust deed sets out how the SMSF will be run and its objectives. It includes the names of members, all of whom must sign and date it.

The ABS considers a trust deed:

A legal document that sets out the rules for establishing and operating your fund. It includes such things as the fund’s objectives, who can be a member and whether benefits can be paid as a lump sum or income stream. The trust deed and super laws together form the fund’s governing rules.

The trust deed must be:

  • prepared by someone competent to do so as it's a legal document

  • signed and dated by all trustees

  • properly executed according to state or territory laws

  • regularly reviewed, and updated as necessary

3. Apply for an ABN

An SMSF is required to be registered with the ATO within 60 days of its creation. This can be done by a trustee or accountant applying for an Australian Business Number (ABN) to the ATO.

4. Set up an SMSF savings account

An SMSF savings account works like a regular savings account does but allows each trustee access, and is used to receive contributions and pay benefits. It’s also a legal requirement.

Many regular savings accounts are not permitted to be used by trusts or for superannuation purposes, so SMSFs are generally limited to accounts specifically catered for them, which greatly narrows the range of accounts available.

5. Arrange contribution system

You’ll need to set up an electronic service address for employers to pay contributions. You’ll also need to organise arrangements for the rollover of funds from other super funds.

6. Create investment strategy

SMSFs are legally required to have a documented investment strategy, to satisfy the sole purpose test and guide trustees' decision-making. It should have personal details of the trustees and their financial situation, benefits and liquidity of intended assets and the insurance requirements of trustees.

An SMSF investment strategy should set out why and how you’ve chosen your investments, and how these investments are going to meet your retirement goals. With this also comes the responsibility of regularly reviewing this strategy - at least once per year or as circumstances change.

According to the ATO, there are five things you must cover:

  1. Risks involved in making, holding and realising, and the likely return from your fund’s investments regarding its objectives and cash flow requirements

  2. Composition of your fund’s investments including the extent to which they are diverse (such as investing in a range of assets and asset classes) and the risks of inadequate diversification

  3. Liquidity of the fund’s assets (how easily they can be converted to cash to meet fund expenses such as the cost of managing the fund and income tax expenses)

  4. Fund’s ability to pay benefits (such as when members retire and require a lump sum payment or regular pension payments) and other costs it incurs

  5. Whether to hold insurance cover (such as life, permanent or temporary incapacity insurance) for each member of your SMSF.

The ATO also states that the document should be ‘tailored and specific’ to your circumstances rather than merely tick legislative boxes.

7. Create exit strategy

Every investment should have an exit strategy prior to the investment being made - an SMSF is no different. This should account for the fund no longer being cost-effective, trustees becoming ill, dying or moving overseas, relationship breakdowns, or wanting to move to another fund.

8. Appoint an auditor

SMSFs are legally required to be independently audited by an ASIC-licensed auditor. Appointing one when setting up the fund can save time and stress, rather than down the line.

How long does it take to set up an SMSF?

With SMSFs required to be registered with the ATO in 60 days, funds will typically be up and running in before this period elapses. However, issuing an ABN can take anywhere from 2-58 days, so the time it takes to set up is very dependent on the ATO.

A Self Managed Super Fund (SMSF) is different to traditional super because the members of an SMSF run it for their own benefit and are responsible for complying with the super and tax laws themselves.

But is an SMSF right for you?

Image by Sam Williams via Unsplash


The entire market was not considered in selecting the above products. Rather, a cut-down portion of the market has been considered. Some providers' products may not be available in all states. To be considered, the product and rate must be clearly published on the product provider's web site.,,, and Performance Drive are part of the Savings Media group. In the interests of full disclosure, the Savings Media Group are associated with the Firstmac Group. To read about how Savings Media Group manages potential conflicts of interest, along with how we get paid, please visit the web site links at the bottom of this page.

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Aaron joined in 2021. He is a finance journalist with a keen interest in property, the share market, and improving financial literacy in young Australians.


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