Finance Your Super Off the sauce: Binning booze to boost your super
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Off the sauce: Binning booze to boost your super

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There’s nothing quite like an ice-cold beer, a beautifully-aged cab sav or a smoky Scotch whiskey.

Enjoyed in moderation, a tipple or two at the end of the working day is one of life’s small pleasures.

Inevitably, however, some of us overdo things, or simply allow alcohol to gain too much of a hold over our lives.

The sickening feeling after a big night out is only part of the problem – the financial hangover from regularly over-indulging should make you feel just as nauseous.

Quitting the booze altogether is a challenge for some of us, but going teetotal for a month is a great way to give your finances a boost. (Not to mention the many health benefits of detoxing for a bit.)

Jason Bragger, a senior financial planner from Dolfinwise in Brisbane, sees just how much better off people can be by saving their money rather than squandering it at the local pub.

The ASIC MoneySmart website estimates that the average 35-year-old Australian spends $24 a week on alcohol, or $104 a month.

Mr Bragger believes this figure is somewhat conservative, with many people consuming the equivalent of seven $8 drinks a week – the equivalent of $56 per week, or $242 a month.

Bear in mind there are often associated costs, such as the cab home (definitely no drink driving) and late evening kebab.

If you put these funds into a super account with an eight per cent earning rate for forty years – a return that’s in line with a moderately aggressive diversified investment portfolio in a low-inflation, low-interest environment – you could be as much as $750,000 better off by the time you retire, according to Mr Bragger’s calculations.

“There’s no question that by saving little bits consistently over a long period of time that the effect of compounding interest on even small amounts of savings can magnify the benefit,” Mr Bragger told The New Daily.

“Saving $56 a week is actually only $113,000 over forty years, but with the earnings on that it ends up as $750,000.

“Small amounts of savings compounded can make huge differences.”

That’s a fair bit of extra coin when the time comes to hitch up the caravan and hit the road as a grey nomad – or whatever else you might choose to do when your working life is over.

The lower health costs of an alcohol-free, or at least alcohol reduced, lifestyle are another factor.

“Reducing alcohol can make big differences to your health which saves on medical costs and can also mean you are able to work for a lot longer,” Mr Bragger said.

To put this in perspective, an Australian Institute of Criminology report on the health costs to society of alcohol-related problems in 2010 was estimated at $1.686 billion – and that’s excluding car accidents.

But perhaps the best thing to reflect upon is this advice from ipac Western Australia chief executive Patrick Canion.

“The best way to ensure you are never poor is to take control of your money, and the best way to save is in super because the government has set up special tax rates,” he said.

“If you can miss one bottle of wine a week or one slab of beer, or even by as much as $50 a week, and get your employer to put the extra money in super, you may not necessarily be fabulously wealthy, but you’ll ensure you are never poor.”

Going cold turkey is no easy thing.

But cutting back on the booze help you out massively in the future.

If you saved $242 that would otherwise be spent on alcohol each month and invested it in a super account with an eight per cent return, it’s estimated that you’d end up with the following amount:

10 years: $42,184.87 10;

20 years: $133,258.84;

30 years: $329,880.71;

40 years: $754,372.58. *

You can do your own calculations using the ASIC/MoneySmart superannuation calculator or the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia SuperGuru Contributions Optimiser.