It’s long been considered that the retirement age in Australia is 65 years. At least, that’s when most of us would like to think we no longer have to work a nine-to-five job, having already done so for more than 40 years.
But what happens during those golden years when we can no longer rely on the ‘steady income’ that comes from your fortnightly pay cheque?
A man who turns 65 today can expect to live for another 22 years and six months, according to the averages, while a woman will outlast her male counterpart by a further two years and two months.
So a good question to ask yourself is: will you have sufficient post-work funds to last close to a quarter of a century?
Although baby boomers are often referred to as one homogeneous demographic, the fact is many of us are in very different financial boats.
Some are living the high life, experiencing smooth sailing due to a long history of sound investment decisions, while others are up the proverbial creek without a paddle as they edge ever closer to the precipice of retirement.
Whatever your current circumstances might be, the following nine tips should give you some guidance when it comes to planning your future fiscal fortunes.
1. Expect to live a long life
Keeping in mind that you could live well into your eighties, how will you pay the bills for another two decades or more? With a potentially long road ahead of you in retirement, planning your wealth journey doesn’t stop when work does.
Take some time to think about where you are right now, whether you have the necessary measures in place to meet your cashflow objectives in retirement and what you might have to do in order to better your situation if necessary.
2. Seek advice
It can be challenging to work through today’s investment minefield and know what products and assets are most suited to your specific needs goals and risk profile.
Independent professional advice can give you the necessary confidence and guidance to invest wisely and with purpose, but beware of advisers who just want to sell you something for their own self-interest.
3. Keep inflation in mind
One of the big mistakes I see people make is to forward plan based on what things cost today.
Inflation rates are likely to halve the spending power of a fixed-rate pension in the next 12 to 15 years, meaning the pension alone will generally not be enough to provide a comfortable lifestyle when you’re no longer working.
Sure, there’s your superannuation fund, but will that money last as long as you do? If you haven’t already done so, it’s important to look at alternative investment options depending on your life stage and situation.
4. Step down from work slowly
If you won’t have enough money stored away in your nest egg to fund the type of retirement you envisioned when you reach 65, perhaps you need to consider phasing your exit from the workforce, transitioning slowly from five days a week to part-time hours. Just make sure you use that extra income wisely.
5. Don’t retire!
In Australia your employer has no legal recourse to force you to give up work just because you reach preservation age. If you love what you do and feel you want to continue working in order to generate an income, then know your rights as an employee and be prepared to defend them if required.
6. Think about the future
And I don’t just mean your future, but that of your entire family.
Baby boomers are often referred to as the “sandwich generation”, looking after their elderly parents while helping out adult children by inviting them back to the family nest to save some money.
Planning as a family unit can have many benefits, particularly in ensuring your assets end up where they should be – providing greater financial security for your children and grandchildren.
7. Use your equity wisely
Generally, one of the most certain sources of ‘wealth’ for retirees in Australia is their own home.
We’re all taught from a young age that you buy a home and pay it off as quickly as possible, with the intention of owning it when you cease working.
I know many baby boomers are hoping to downsize when their children leave the nest, hoping to use some of the equity in their home to see them through their retirement years.
But that’s not usually the case. Most find they now have an old home and if they downsize to a modern townhouse or apartment there is little – if any – change left over from the move.
Instead, they should consider using the equity in your home as a deposit to buy an investment property while they are still working and can afford to service loans – that’s a better use for their idle equity.
8. Make a Will – the sooner the better
It’s interesting that many people never seem to give a lot of thought to their financial future until they sit down to make a Will and really have to think about how they are placed in terms of income and assets.
A Will is necessary to save your children the grief of having to battle authorities for the bequest they’re entitled to, as well as potentially hefty inheritance tax bills. But it will also act as a catalyst to discuss important investment and tax-planning issues that you may have overlooked until now.
9. Don’t procrastinate
While it might be daunting to sit down and look long and hard at your future financial prospects, the longer you take to do it, the less time you have to make any necessary changes to better your situation.
Ignoring the inevitable certainly won’t make it go away.
Deal with all of these considerations today to avoid a lot of uncertainty tomorrow. After all, you’ve worked hard and deserve some peace of mind and security in those golden years.
Michael Yardney is a director of Metropole Property Strategists, which creates wealth for its clients through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He is a best-selling author, one of Australia’s leading experts in wealth creation through property and writes the Property Update blog.