The most recent figures on superannuation from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, for 2013-14, show that at retirement age, men have an average balance of $322,000 compared to $180,000 for women.
While the situation for women is dramatically worse than for men, both those averages show both men and women on average don’t have the sort of retirement capital they need to fund their retirements independently.
But the situation is improving as the super system matures and savings grow as a result of workers having a longer period to build up super savings at higher Super Guarantee levels than the 2.5 per cent the system started out with in 1992.
The workforce, as well as the super system, is maturing with Australians now retiring at record levels. But while superannuation balances are growing they are still far from a level which can provide an independent retirement for most people as the figures below show.
Roy Morgan’s most recent State of the Nation report on Financial Risk showed that 415,000 people are estimated to be planning to retire in the 12 months to September 2017. That’s 27 per cent more people than retired in 2008, while the population has risen only 12.9 per cent over that time.
As a result, the budgetary costs of the ageing population are growing dramatically despite the rise in super balances.
Spending on income support for seniors will balloon by 19 per cent to $68.75 billion by 2018-19 as the population ages, according to the budget papers. Total spending for the top 20 programs making up 66 per cent of the budget will grow by only 14.9 per cent over the period.
Matt Linden, public affairs director with Industry Super Australia, says “what we do know at the moment it that the super system benefits a growing number of people”.
“Super benefits paid out to members exceed the Age Pension at the moment and that will grow,” he said.
And while the pension might currently cost taxpayers $57.7 billion, tax expenses on the super system cost the Treasury $26.03 billion in 2015, according to Industry Super Australia.
Those people are significantly better off than the same cohort back in 2008, with their super balances averaging $197,000 compared to $119,000 eight years ago. That’s a rise of 65 per cent.
The data shows that overall wealth of retirees, excluding the family home, is up 32 per cent to $306,000. Interestingly, non-super investments held by retirees are shrinking, both in real terms and as a percentage, with the non-super component for 2016 down 2.7 per cent to $109,000.
Super, by comparison, made up 64 per cent of retiree wealth in June 2016 compared to 52 per cent in 2008.
Net debt for retirees is a relatively low $25,000, bringing average retirement balances to $281,000.
While that’s an improvement, it still leaves the average retiree well short of the ability to lead a comfortable, independent retirement.
The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia says using its model of retirement a comfortable lifestyle for a couple would demand savings of $640,000 and $545,000 for a single person.
A modest lifestyle demands a far lower retirement balance. For a couple it is $50,000 and for a single it is $35,000. Obviously, both the modest lifestyle options would rely heavily on the Age Pension.