Super can seem overwhelming. There are all kinds of annual caps and limits to remember, not to mention the frequent legislation changes. It can be hard to keep up. Plus do you have enough super? How do you know what you’re aiming for?
What you need to know can ultimately be broken down to 4 big questions. Let’s have a look at them:
What will I spend in retirement?
A couple of different retirement targets are published regularly to help you work this out.
If, for example, you wish to live the ASFA Comfortable Retirement Standard* when you are retired (this is spending $50,980 a year in retirement), you need to have $595,000 when you retire at age 67 (as a single home-owning person). If you are in a home-owning couple, you need to have $690,000 at age 67 between you to live on $71,720 a year together for the same ‘comfortable’ standard of living.
Super Consumers Australia also produces retirement targets for people who own their home. They say that if you want to spend $59,000 a year (as a single person) in retirement, you need $777,000 at retirement.
Think you’ll spend something different in retirement?
Am I on track?
If you are aiming for the ASFA Comfortable Retirement Standard* in retirement (remember that is $50,980 for a single person or $71,720 for a couple), you can use the Super Guru Super Balance Detective Calculator.
This calculator allows you to enter your year of birth. It then tells you approximately what your super balance should be at your age to reach that comfortable standard at 67. While this is a great place to start, it’s based on a gross annual working income of less than $65,000 and it assumes that you’ll earn 6.7% on your super until the age of 67. Use it as a guide only as it is unlikely to be a true reflection of your actual situation.
If you earn more or less than the default income amount used in the calculator, or if you earn a much higher or lower average return on your super (our Balanced Growth option returned 7.55% over the 10 years to 30 June 2023), you can instead use our online calculator. By entering your age, current super balance and current salary and updating the average returns your super is actually returning you, you will be able to see your projected retirement balance.
It will also show you how long that money may last through retirement by entering how much you plan to spend each year. See the annual spending figures used in the ASFA Retirement Standard or the Super Consumers Retirement targets to give you an idea of spending.
These calculators will show you if you’re on track to hit your retirement goals.
If you aren’t on track, there are things you can do, such as making additional contributions. Read more about making contributions on our website.
Your options at retirement
Once you are familiar with the projected amount you might have at retirement, you have the choice of what you will do with your super. There are 4 overarching things you can choose from:
You could draw on your super as a regular income
This could be through opening something like an Income Stream. Read more about what an income stream is in our story “What is an allocated pension or income stream”.
You could withdraw your super as a lump sum
You may have debts to pay down or another plan for your money when you retire. If this is you, you are welcome to withdraw your super in a lump sum at retirement.
You could draw on your super as a regular income and take some as a lump sum
Choose to open an Income Stream to draw a regular income from and take a lump sum or lump sums out to spend however you wish.
You could leave it
If you have another source of income, you could choose to leave your super in your super account. It could be income from investments you plan to live on or perhaps you’ll rely on your spouse’s income.
The age pension
You may also be eligible for an age pension, even while you are accessing your super. Your income and assets will be assessed when you apply for the age pension. You do not have to exhaust your super before you consider applying for an age pension. Your super and the age pension can work together to support your lifestyle in retirement.
What will I spend in old age?
It’s a long way off, but when you reach your later years you may find that your spending patterns and needs change. In fact, the ASFA Retirement Standard uses different spending measures for calculating the financial needs of people over 85.
For example, where the comfortable lifestyle for a couple aged 65-84 costs $71,724 a year, the comfortable lifestyle for a couple aged 85 or older costs less, at only $65,555.
This is because it’s expected that by the time you reach your mid-80s your lifestyle will have changed. You are less likely to still be driving so your car costs disappear to be replaced by taxi or Uber costs, your health and medical out of pocket health costs are likely to be higher as you access more health services, and you are unlikely to be taking the same number of domestic and international holidays.
The age of 85 is also about the time people start to think about aged care. For many people there is the option of aged care services in your own home before you move into an aged care facility. If you do need to move into an aged care facility, however, there are many different levels of service at different facilities. Some aged care facilities even offer different levels of service within the same home. We have a couple of short videos to help you wrap your head around the complexities.
You can also find more at myagedcare.gov.au.
*The ASFA Retirement Standard figures quoted in this article are from the September 2023 quarter.