Your 7-point retirement planning checklist

You might feel emotionally ready to retire but you’ll want to make sure you’re financially ready too. Socialising with mates, enjoying leisurely activities and indulging in the odd trip away are all things that have likely crossed your mind when thinking about how you’ll spend retirement.

Beyond that though, have you given much thought to the logistics and what it’ll cost? If you haven’t, there are a number of big points worth considering, which is where this checklist may come in handy.

  1. Do I have to retire by a certain age?

The retirement age in Australia isn’t set in stone. You can retire whenever you want to, but factors that could play a part might include:

  • your health
  • financial situation
  • employment opportunities
  • your (and your partner’s) individual preferences
  • the age you can access your super.
  1. What’s on my to-do list?

Think about what you may like to do in retirement and what the bigger and smaller priorities may be. Consider things such as:

  • your social life and recreation
  • staying active and healthy
  • different retirement living options, which might include relocating to a new city
  • helping the kids, if you have any.
  1. How much money will I need?

According to March 2021 figures from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), individuals and couples, around age 65, who are looking to retire today, would need a certain annual budget to fund a comfortable lifestyle versus a modest one.

ASFA figures are based on the assumption people own their home outright and are relatively healthy. Check out the suggested annual budgets below compared to current maximum Age Pension rates being paid by the government.

  Comfortable lifestyle Modest lifestyle Full Age Pension rate
Single (annual budget) $44,412 $28,254 $24,770
Couple (annual budget) $62,828 $40,829 $37,341

 

  1. Where will my money come from?

The money you use to fund your life in retirement will likely come from a range of different sources, such as:

Your super fund

Generally, you can start accessing super when you reach your preservation age, which will be between 55 and 60, depending on when you were born, and retire. Knowing your super balance is a crucial part of planning for retirement, as it’s likely to form a substantial part of your savings.

Investments, savings or an inheritance

You may be planning to sell or use income you’re generating from shares or an investment property, or use money you’ve saved in a savings account or term deposit to contribute to your retirement. An inheritance or proceeds from your family’s estate may also help in your later years.

Government benefits

Depending on your circumstances, as well as your income and assets, you may be eligible for a full or part Age Pension from age 65 to 67 onwards (depending on when you were born), or you mightn’t be eligible at all.

Along with your savings, government benefits, such as the Age Pension, as well as Carer’s Allowance and the Disability Support Pension, could be an important part of your retirement income.

Concession cards, which are provided if you receive certain government income support payments, or the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card could also help you access discounts on health care and other things.

  1. How can I withdraw my super?

Depending on how you withdraw your super and at what age, there will be different tax implications worth investigating, which will depend on your individual circumstances.

In the meantime, some of the options you’ll have around withdrawing your super include:

Transition to retirement pension

A transition to retirement pension enables you to access some of your super via regular payments (once you’ve reached your preservation age), whether you continue to work full-time, part-time or casually.

Account-based pension

If you’d like to receive a regular income when you do retire from the workforce, an account-based pension (also known as an allocated pension) could be a tax-effective option, noting the value of it will be based on the super you’ve saved, so won’t guarantee an income for life.

You also won’t be limited in what you can take out, but each year you’ll need to withdraw a minimum amount. Note, you can only transfer up to $1.7 million in super into this type of pension too.

Annuity

Another option is an annuity product, which generally provides guaranteed payments over a set number of years, or the rest of your life, depending on whether you opt for a fixed-term or lifetime annuity. They tend to be a more secure option as they provide a guaranteed income regardless of what might happen in financial markets. However, you’ll be sacrificing some flexibility as you can’t usually make lump sum withdrawals and your life expectancy may also be a consideration.

Lump sum

Taking some or all of your super savings as a lump sum can be tempting, particularly if you want to pay off debt, assist the kids, or go on a holiday. However, it might not be the best option for everyone, as you’ll need to consider how you fund your lifestyle after the money is gone. While you may be eligible for government entitlements, such as the Age Pension, it might not cover the type of lifestyle you’d like to have after you finish working.

  1. What other matters will I need to address?

Existing debt

When planning retirement, you may want to consider what outstanding debt you have and ways you may be able to reduce it while you’re still earning an income.

Insurance

You might have personal insurance, possibly tied to your super fund, but it’s worth checking you have the right type and that it’s appropriate for you. After all, what you require in retirement could be quite different to when you’re working.

Investment preferences

Investments are part of many retirement planning strategies, and when you’re retiring, it’s worth reviewing your investment style and the options you’ve chosen.

For instance, in retirement, you might consider a more conservative approach with less risk, as when you’re younger you generally have more time to ride out market highs and lows.

Estate planning, including your will

It’s important to think about your estate planning needs. For instance, have you documented how you want your assets to be distributed after you’re gone and how you want to be looked after if you can’t make decisions later in life?

  1. Do I want to make any final super contributions?

The more you can put into super before retiring, the more money you’re likely to have when you retire. You may also be interested to know that when you reach age 65 or over, you can make a voluntary contribution to your super of up to $300,000 using the proceeds from the sale of your main residence.

For couples, both people can take advantage of this opportunity, which means up to $600,000 per couple can be contributed toward super. There are however, downsizer contribution rules you’ll want to be across.

Source: AMP

Ashley Collins