For most Australians, superannuation is one of their biggest and most important financial assets, often second only to owning their own home. But as you generally don’t see your superannuation until you retire, it often seems to be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. As a result, most people are not saving enough to have the lifestyle they desire during retirement. According to the peak body for superannuation in Australia, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), longer life expectancies mean many people now spend over a third of their lives in retirement – but often do not plan accordingly.
“Currently most people are retiring with superannuation savings considerably lower than they need to support a comfortable standard of living in retirement,” Pauline Vamos, CEO of ASFA, said.
ASFA Retirement Standard figures show singles will need $21,587 a year, and couples $31,263 a year, to live even a modest lifestyle in retirement. And this assumes home ownership.
For a comfortable lifestyle, which includes extras such as international travel from time to time and better quality clothing and household goods, singles will require $39,852 a year, and couples $54,562. The average retirement balance of a person with an accumulation superannuation account (the kind most people have) is about $140,000.
“Fifty per cent of men are currently retiring with less than $90,000 in superannuation savings, while 50 per cent of women are retiring with less than $55,000,” Vamos said.
For those on defined benefits, the picture is slightly different, with an average super balance around $180,000 at retirement. Although most are now closed to new members, some educators are members of defined benefit (DB) schemes and have been for some time.
As they take length of membership into account, DB funds can provide a more substantial retirement benefit than standard accumulation schemes receiving only employer contributions.
Even so, most Australians’ final balance remains well below what is estimated to be needed to live comfortably in retirement. But there are plenty of things people can do now to take control of their superannuation now to ensure they reach their desired retirement lifestyle.
“To get the most out of the magic of compound interest, it’s best to start early and take advantage of all the tax breaks, rebates and Government schemes offered to help Australians build their retirement balance,” Vamos said.
The Government is also looking to increase the compulsory superannuation contribution rate from nine per cent to 12 per cent.
According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) modelling, Australia’s current super settings will generate relatively low retirement incomes by international standards.
ASFA research shows raising the Superannuation Guarantee to 12 per cent would provide an extra: $36,000 for someone on a wage of $30,000; $61,000 for someone on a wage of $50,000; and $121,000 for someone on a wage of $100,000.
“An increase in the Superannuation Guarantee to 12 per cent will deliver substantially more adequate outcomes for individuals and households,” Vamos said.
ASFA’s top 3 tips for getting the most out of your super:
- Consolidate your super accounts and look for lost super.
For most people, it doesn't make sense to have multiple super accounts, unless perhaps the low-cost provided by some funds is important to you. By rolling all your accounts into one, you could save more than $100 a year in fees. If you’re not sure where all your super is, try the ATO’s SuperSeeker (at www.ato.gov.au or call 13 28 65) or contact your previous employer/s.
- Start contributing early and contribute what you can, when you can.
The earlier you start building your super balance, the more time you have to take advantage of compound interest. If you have left it till later and your balance needs a boost, ask your employer about salary sacrificing a percentage of your wage (before tax) into super.
- Take advantage of the Government Co-contribution.
If you’re eligible and make a voluntary contribution to your super account, the Government will match those personal contributions up to $1,000. The $1,000 limit is reduced by 3.3 cents for each dollar of income over $31,920 and phases out at $61,920.
Australia has the fourth biggest superannuation savings pool in the world, with close to $1.4 trillion. And this number is only set to grow as Australians entering the workforce benefit from almost a lifetime of compulsory superannuation savings.
ASFA provides a range of superannuation and financial services courses across Australia from introductory courses right through to specialist training. For 21 years, ASFA’s Superannuation Principles course has been the benchmark industry course for graduates and new super professionals looking to advance their skills.
ASFA Learning also offers:
- Diploma of Superannuation
- Advanced Diploma of Superannuation
- Diploma of Financial Planning
- RG 146