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The uncomfortable truth about your retirement

Challenger logo Challenger 8/03/2018
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No matter how you crunch the numbers, the Australian population is getting older.

The 2016 Census revealed some staggering findings about our country's ageing population, including the fact that one in six of us is aged over 65 — a stark contrast to 1911, when it was only one in 25.

Even when you look at more recent comparisons, the trend is hard to miss.

In 2017, there were an estimated 3.8 million older Australians (making up 15% of the total population) — an increase from 2.2 million just 10 years earlier.

Advancements in modern medicine and an increased awareness of healthy lifestyles means older Australians are fitter, stronger and more able to enjoy an active lifestyle than previous generations.

With longer lifespans, however, comes the reality that we'll need a similarly healthy retirement income.

And that's where we can run into trouble.

A recent survey by National Seniors Australia, the consumer lobby for older Australians, found that around 26% of participants 'hadn't planned at all' for an increasing lifespan, while almost half of senior Australians still working are concerned they will outlive their savings (with 34% worried savings will run out, and 14% extremely worried).

How much is enough?

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) calculates that to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle a retiree couple will need income of $60,457 per annum, while a single retiree will need $44,011 per annum.

ASFA estimates that to produce these levels of income retirees will require $640,000 of savings at retirement for a couple while singles should be covered with $545,000.

These lump sums assume constant investment returns of 6% per annum and a continuation of the current Age Pension rules.

ASFA defines a comfortable lifestyle for retirees as one that involves a broad range of leisure activities, the ability to pay for private health insurance, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment and household items, and enough money left over for travel both within Australia and internationally.

While the overall amount may vary depending on your own hobbies and lifestyle preferences, the ASFA estimate is a reliable guide.

To better assess how much your own spending is likely to differ from that, you can look at your habits and spending before retirement and realistically assess how they are likely to change in retirement. Will you be spending less on transport and clothes?

Or perhaps more on golf and travel?

The key to ensuring you don't run out of money in retirement is understanding (and planning) what you can afford to spend each year against your available resources.

Consider your options.

You've probably heard financial planners speak to the benefits of diversification when it comes to wealth management, and the same applies to managing your retirement income.

Investing in shares, property and bonds can help boost any income you receive from the age pension and can help you fund your retirement lifestyle.

To complement these retirement income sources, and for additional peace of mind, particularly if the safety of a regular and stable income is a concern for you, annuities are an option worth considering.

An annuity is a secure financial product available in Australia through life insurance companies such as Challenger.

With an annuity, you can choose whether you want the income to last for your lifetime or for a fixed number of years (1-50 years), and whether you receive payments monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly. In addition to providing peace of mind, another benefit of annuities is that they can keep pace with inflation, if you choose.

That's a big plus when you consider that rising inflation can significantly diminish the purchasing power of your savings.

Living life to the fullest.

No matter what retirement looks like to you, having enough money to see you through it is an important factor. Products such as annuities can guarantee an income for life, making sure that your retirement income lasts the distance.

Then the hardest decision you'll have to make is whether to cruise around the Pacific or explore the delights of the Mediterranean.

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