Superannuation funds in 2013 had their best year in 20 years.
Superannuation research and consultancy firm Chant West says the bulk of super funds investing in growth assets generated returns of 17.5 per cent as share markets surged.
Chant West director Warren Chant says super funds have generated positive returns in nine of the last 11 years.
One of the two negative years was during the global financial crisis (GFC) in 2008 when the median growth fund sustained a 21.5 per cent loss.
"Funds have bounced back strongly from that setback and now stand about 21 per cent above their pre-GFC high achieved in October 2007," Mr Chant said in statement on Tuesday.
"They've gained an impressive 64 per cent since the GFC low-point, which came at the end of February 2009."
Mr Chant said listed shares and property were the biggest components of growth funds' investments, so share market performance was the main influence on overall performance.
In 2013, international share markets outperformed the Australian bourse, and the Australian dollar fell in value against the greenback.
Consequently, the funds that performed the best were those that had significant investments in international shares and had a lower portion of their foreign currency exposure hedged.
Unhedged international shares delivered a 48 per cent return, Australian shares returned 19.7 per cent, and Australian real estate investment trusts gained 7.3 per cent.
Mr Chant said a 17.5 per cent overall return from growth funds was an exceptional result and could not be expected every year.
He said a typical return objective for a growth fund was to beat inflation by three to four per cent and to post a negative return no more than once every five years.