Alchemy? Nah, Fool's gold, instead!

We hope you enjoyed our little joke.

A little girl wearing a gold crown sulks and pokes her tongue out.

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I hope you saw our press release, sent out yesterday.

The one talking about the launch of a brand new service, Motley Fool Alchemy: an offering to help politicians buy our votes, and to help Australians use Super for lots of things, including jetskis and, well, more. Maybe even retirement.

I hope you realised it was April 1; April Fool's Day – The Motley Fool's favourite day of the year. I'm pretty sure you did.

Because as is our tradition, each year we try to have a little fun with our announcements, starting off somewhat plausibly, then laying it on thicker and thicker until the joke is laid out so plainly that we hope our readers can't avoid the realisation.

And we try to centre it around an important point: something we want to put into stark relief by making a joke that's not all that far from reality.

This year, the target was simple: the ongoing temptation for politicians – from both sides of the House – to try to get their hands on Superannuation; either directly, or as a way to convince you to vote for them.

In the past couple of years, we've seen Super grabbed for discretionary spending during COVID (hello jetskis and flatscreen tellies) and earmarked for aged care spending, affordable housing investment, diversion to emergency funding for domestic violence victims, and – most recently – proposed to be used as a housing deposit for first home buyers.

Why do they do it? Because it's there… and, for governments, it's costless. They get to buy our votes (or, more generously, solve some societal problems) without using the Federal Budget.

And some of the time, we fall for it. The 'well, it's your money' line is pretty convincing. But that ignores the concessional taxation on contributions and concessional tax on earnings, for a start. It also ignores the reality that the money has been set aside specifically for retirement.

But, more insidiously, they use it against us because we're evolutionarily not prepared for thinking about the long term. Essentially, our biology means we're very good at thinking about now, and Future Me is too abstract a concept. The flatscreen TV feels good, now, and the cost for our retirement is far less obvious… so we shortchange our future selves.

Not only because it takes money out of the account today, but also because it steals from future compounding, which would otherwise result in us having multiples of today's account balance at retirement.

So, there are many worthy (and more than a few unworthy) things that a responsible government could fund. Including much of what I listed above, and more, besides.

But governments should resist the urge to take the easy option – the bait and switch of using our retirement savings to solve unrelated problems. Yes, a house is better than Super. But you know what's better? Both. Yes, we should do everything in our power to assist those leaving abusive relationships. But we shouldn't ask them to trade off their retirement savings for physical and emotional safety.

As a mature, wealthy country, we need to reject the notion that these things are 'either/or' decisions. They must be 'and' outcomes, instead. That's what we're asking our politicians to do, and what we're making sure you're aware of.

We hope you enjoyed our little joke, and we hope you also value the serious issues behind it.

Now, to start planning for next year…

Motley Fool contributor Scott Phillips has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia's parent company Motley Fool Holdings Inc. has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Scott Phillips.

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