How much superannuation is enough?

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What have you got planned for your retirement? For some of us it might be international travel, indulging in a new or favourite pastime, or simply spending time with the grandchildren. Others may be hoping to retire earlier because their current job is physically demanding.

Whatever your retirement goals, making sure you fulfill them is largely down to how much you have saved in your super. The government Age Pension may seem like a reassuring safety net, but it’s not really designed to fund the standard of living you’re probably hoping for.

With life expectancy for a 60 year old expected to rise from 86 for men and 89 for women now to 91 and 93 respectively by 2055, many of us will spend more than a quarter of our life retired.1 And as our population ages, it’s likely age pension entitlements will continue to change – making it more important than ever to be self-sufficient in retirement.

The life expectancy of Australians continues to rise, so you could spend more than a quarter of your life retired.

When can I retire?

The first decision you need to make is when to retire – and this will depend on many personal considerations. Start by checking your age pension entitlement age and ‘preservation age’ (when you can access your super) here

For example, if you’re born in 1957 you’ll be eligible for the age pension at 67 but you can access your superannuation savings from the age of 55.

The amount of super you will need once you retire depends on:

  • the lifestyle you want
  • your health and medical bills
  • how long you live after retirement
  • any other one off or ongoing repayments or financial responsibilities.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) Retirement Standard2 benchmarks the annual budget needed by Australians to fund either a comfortable or modest standard of living when they retire, and is updated quarterly.

ASFA defines three levels of living standards, and assumes you own your home outright and are relatively healthy.

Comfortable

A comfortable retiree could afford a decent annual holiday in Australia and eat out regularly at good restaurants. You would be able to make home improvements, have a reasonable car and hold private health insurance.

Modest

A modest lifestyle could afford you short holiday breaks in Australia, with some cheaper eating out at local restaurants. You could repair your home but wouldn’t have the funds for any major improvements. You might have an older car and private health insurance.

Basic

If you need to rely solely on the age pension, you would find additional expenses such as car repairs, leaking roofs and holidays a challenge. Even heating bills could cause you financial stress. 

How much money will I need?

According to the ASFA Retirement Standard, a couple that owns their home and is relatively healthy needs $34,051 a year for a ‘modest’ lifestyle. For more ‘comfortable’ this rises to $58,784 a year. You can take a look at how this budget works out here.

Saving enough for a comfortable retirement could be a challenge for a couple on the average wage. According to a 2015 report from the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST), a full-time worker on average wages from 1992 (when compulsory super began) to 2014 should have super assets of around $131,000, based on compulsory employer superannuation contributions alone.3 So without additional voluntary superannuation contributions being made by that full-time worker, they are likely to have a significant funding gap between their current super assets and the amount they need.

Remember, the ASFA figures are benchmarks that exist to help you work out if you have the super savings to fund the retirement lifestyle you want, and everyone’s expectations are different. Another approach is to assume you need two-thirds of your current salary to keep living the same sort of lifestyle you currently have.

It’s never too late to save

Even if you make modest additional contributions to your super later in life, it could still make a difference to the type of retirement you enjoy.

So, if you’ve identified a difference between your super balance and the benchmark figures required to provide for the sort of retirement you want to lead, it’s never too late to look into ways you can increase your super.

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