finance

'I want to retire like my aunt did. It turns out I need to earn $44k a year to live comfortably.'

QSuper
Thanks to our brand partner, QSuper


I’ve watched my aunty move into retirement over the last few years, transitioning from uncertainty and worry at what her new world would look like, to lately, really embracing this new chapter of her life.

In fact, she’s really helping me to redefine what it looks like to be retired.

The old cliché is that retirement means whiling away your days playing golf, buying a caravan to tour Australia and joining a Bridge club.

But my aunty is a divorced woman, and for her, retirement has so far been about making travel plans, trying new things, and volunteering her time in the community.

That's my fabulous Aunty. Image: Supplied.

Luckily, she had a long and successful career in education, and made some really smart choices with her super long ago which are now paying off.

I am taking note, as a single woman myself, newly self-employed! – and I realise watching her now, that it’s so important to plan for your retirement earlier rather than later.

I spoke to Damian Lillicrap, Head of Investment Strategy at QSuper, who moonlights as the Bare Naked Economist, about the latest thinking on how much money we need to retire comfortably.

The industry releases figures every few months calculating what a ‘comfortable’ retirement costs.

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“For the record it’s currently an annual income of around $60,000 for a couple, and $44,000 for a single,” Lillicrap tells Mamamia.

“Ultimately though, comfort for one person might be complete luxury for another, or barely existing for someone else. So it’s about you and what you want your best retirement to look like.”

Lillicrap suggests that planning for retirement isn’t one grand gesture, rather “it’s about small, thoughtful actions you can take at any stage of life, to make a difference.”

So what is the best way to maximise our super for retirement in the next 10 years?

“The best move anyone can make when it comes to super is to take an interest in it. Don’t let it be an ‘out of sight, out of mind, until it's too late’ investment,” Damien says.

“Taking an interest in where your money is invested and comparing the fees you’re being charged, for example, are two easy ways to make a difference.

“Last year’s Productivity Commission, for example, found that an increase in fees of just 0.5 per cent can cost a typical full-time worker about 12 per cent of their balance (or $100,000) by the time they reach retirement.”

The ASIC Money Smart website has some great resources including a Super Decisions guide and calculators to help you make good choices with your super.

Damien also agrees that women – like my Aunty – do need to think about retirement differently to men.

“It’s a generalisation, but women are more likely than men to take unpaid leave from the workforce. They also have a longer average life expectancy,” he shares. “Those two things combined mean that they do need to plan to potentially do more with less. Everyone can benefit from taking an interest in their savings as early as possible. For women, I think that early interest is even more important.”

Demographer Bernard Salt recently noted that it’s around age 50 when Australians suddenly start to think quite seriously about their superannuation. He calls what happens next "super shock syndrome" when they realise that perhaps they should have paid attention a bit sooner.

Me and some of the women in my life, who all deserve a good retirement. Image: Supplied.
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Lillicrap thinks that Australians are generally becoming more well-informed when it comes to their super.

“At QSuper we have some very engaged members at every life stage, which is great to see,” Lillicrap says. “It’s so easy nowadays to be actively involved in your superannuation. It’s as easy as logging in to your account online.”

And you can be as active and involved as you choose to be. QSuper’s Accumulation account – Lifetime, uses your age and account balance to set a more personalised investment strategy, so you don’t need to worry about changing your investments as you get older.

One thing to look for, Lillicrap notes, is a super fund with a diverse investment strategy.

“At QSuper we changed our investment strategy about eight years ago, which has resulted in about half the risk, size of the ups and downs in returns, compared to the previous standard approach,” he says. “The fact that we continue having strong returns shows that astute diversification hasn’t cost returns.”

Ultimately, planning for your retirement is really important – because like my aunty, you want to be enjoy it when you get there! Not be worried about how you’re going to pay the bills and manage everything financially.

My Aunty has it all worked out, from how many times she can eat out a week, to what she can live off into the future.

She did try Bridge but she’s since discovered yoga… The only tricky part now is finding times to see her, because she’s busier than me now!

What's the best advice you've had about superannuation or retirement? Tell us below.

This content was brought to you with thanks to our brand partner, QSuper.

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