10 October 2012

Don’t depend on working longer to save for your Retirement Income

Many clients believe delaying their retirement is a solution to inadequate savings, but they often find themselves out of the workforce sooner than they’d planned. None of us has that crystal ball!

It is likely that the shortfall in retirement savings here in Australia stems in part from our “she’ll be right” attitude towards life, which leads us to believe that we do not need to start saving early and that somehow it will all work out ok.

Delaying retirement can be a powerful boost to your superannuation nest-egg. But relying on the ability to work for a few extra years to stretch retirement savings out a little longer is fraught with risk and does not reflect personal and family health or other issues that may arise. As an example I have had some clients forced to retire to look after their grandchildren due to the illness of the parent.

If you played with any retirement planning calculator or have spoken to an adviser, the “work a little longer” solution would have been investigated and many put it forward as the solution to the GFC “dip” (read plunge) in savings.

The concept is easy to grasp: By working longer then you originally planned, you get more years of concessionally taxed growth in your superannuation accounts especially if you used a Transition to Retirement Pension from 55 or 60. You can also continue to salary sacrifice and make non-concessional contributions while getting the benefit of the Senior And Pensioners Tax Offset (SAPTO) that we mentioned a few weeks ago here.

The idea is the longer you work and save and more you get into a superannuation income stream then your capital will last longer and you may also benefit from more Age Pension when required.

Back to reality with a jolt!

But there is a huge disconnect between workers’ expectations and retirement reality. Over half of the retirees surveyed in a US study last year said they left the workforce earlier than planned, and just 8% of them said that positive factors — such as the ability to afford early retirement — prompted the move. For the vast majority of early retirees, negative circumstances, such as personal or spouse health problems or company downsizing played a role.

40% of Australians will suffer a critical illness before age 65 (Cologne Life Re – 2002 study). They will most likely survive but their retirement funding will be devastated.

Clearly, workers relying on delayed retirement are rolling the dice. Yet, most people discount the future so much that they’re willing to take that gamble. May hope that an inheritance will save the day but do not realise that age care costs and parents living longer may eat heavily into any expected inheritance.

Strangely the people most likely to plan on working a few more years to boost their retirement security may actually have the least ability to postpone their retirement. People who suffer an illness or injury  are more likely than those in good health to have pushed back their expected retirement date in recent years, according to  a report from consulting firm Towers Watson. Yet health problems or disabilities were cited by more than half of retirees forced to retire earlier than planned.

Don’t put you head in the sand – start now

As psychologists are quick to point out, we all have that inner voice that loves to procrastinate who loves to put off till tomorrow what we should do today – beause its “all too hard to get your head around”. Saving more today is a sure thing, and extra years in the workforce are anything but. If you know you don’t have enough, you should start saving more today, because that’s by far the less risky alternative.

Let’s look at an example using the Retirement Planner on the MoneySmart.gov.au site for a 55-year-old pre-retiree with just $30K in superannuation. If she earns $80,000, makes $17,500 annual salary sacrifice contributions (in addition to Employers SGC contributions of 9%)  and earns a 7.5% return pre retirement and 6.5% after, she could be looking at an Income in retirement of $32,479 by age 67 including the Age Pension. If she’s forced to retire at that point, she’s still in better shape than most Australian’s. And if she can continue working, she should count improve on this lifestyle income.

A final don’t is cancelling Life, TPD or Income Protection insurances to save money while in your most productive earning years (read here for more on that subject). The loss of 5-10 years of earnings potential is one guaranteed way to destroy your lifestyle in retirement.

For further information on the issues raised in this blog please contact our Castle Hill SMSF Centre or Windsor Financial Planning Office.

We hope this guidance has been helpful and please take the time to comment. Feedback always appreciated. Please rebolog, retweet, like on facebook etc . As always please contact us if you want to look at your own options. We have offices in Castle Hill and Windsor but can meet clients anywhere in Sydney or online via Skype.

The author is an employee of Verante Financial Planning in Castle Hill, Corporate Authorised Representative of Magnitude Group Limited, Licence No 221557, Magnitude Group Limited ABN 54 086 266 202.

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