Do I really need $1 million to retire?

25 March 2024

How much money do you need to retire? It’s a question most Australians ask themselves at some stage. You might have heard you need $1 million – it’s the figure that’s often thrown around as the financial retirement ideal. But the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all. A comfortable retirement will look different for everyone.

While 7 figures in superannuation may sound great, the reality is most people heading into retirement won’t have anywhere near that amount. According to the Australian Tax Office, Australians aged between 60-64 have a median super balance of $211,996 for men, and $158,806 for women1.

The Government Age Pension acts as a safety net for those that need additional income, to sustain them during retirement. However, it’s still important to have a figure in mind as your ideal retirement savings goal. The exact amount will vary from one person to the next.  

A great starting point when working out your ideal retirement savings goal is understanding what a ‘comfortable retirement’ looks like to you. Once you know that, you can work out how much money you may need to retire. By thinking ahead, you can also plan for what can help boost your future balance – including growing your nest egg with extra super contributions3.  

Want to learn more? You can also register for ‘Do you need $1 million to retire?’, a webinar, for no additional cost with our AustralianSuper Education team. This session will have a live Q&A. Non-members are welcome to join. 

 

webinar - register today

 

How to figure out how much money you need to retire  

If you’re unsure how much super you’ll need to retire, there are a few things you could consider. This may include your lifestyle and expenses – both now and in retirement – and how long you’ll spend in retirement. 

Think about the kind of lifestyle you want in retirement

The type of lifestyle you want to lead in retirement plays an important role in determining how much money you need for life after work.

For some people, retirement means slowing down and enjoying more time with loved ones. For others, it could mean new hobbies or doing all the big-ticket things you never had time for, such as travelling overseas.

If you’d like to live with the same level of comfort as you did during your working life, you may want to figure out how much you need to cover those expenses – minus any work-related costs. Or, if you’re happy to live more modestly after you retire, you may not need as much.

A ‘comfortable’ and ‘modest’ retirement will mean different things to different people, which is why it can be helpful to have a ‘standard’ to compare against.

Compare a ‘comfortable’ vs ‘modest’ retirement

The ASFA Retirement Standard provides an estimate on how much money you need for a ‘modest’ or ‘comfortable’ retirement, for both singles and couples. It also explores what a comfortable retirement looks like, versus a modest one. The table below also compares these standards to the Government Age Pension. (Note: these estimates assume you own your home.)

Budgets for various households and living standards

  ‘Comfortable’ retirement ‘Modest’ retirement AGE PENSION-BASED RETIREMENT
What can it afford?
  • Regular leisure activities
  • Occasional restaurant meals, home-delivery meals, take-away coffee
  • Own a reasonable car
  • Budget for home improvements
  • Domestic and occasional overseas trips
  • Premium private health insurance
  • Occasional leisure activities
  • Limited meals out at inexpensive restaurants, infrequent home-delivery or take-away
  • Own a basic car
  • Budget for small home repairs
  • One annual domestic holiday or a few short breaks
  • Basic private health insurance
  • No or low-cost leisure activities
  • Inexpensive takeaway or local club special meals
  • Limited budget to own, maintain or repair a car
  • No budget for home repairs
  • Very short breaks or day trips in your city
  • No private health insurance
Single household budget
(FOR THOSE AGED 65-84)
$51,278.30 per year $32,665.66 per year $28,514.20* per year
Couple household budget
BUDGET(FOR THOSE AGED 65-84)
$72,148.19 per year $46,994.28 per year $42,988.40* per year
*Includes the pension supplement and energy supplement and is subject to eligibility.  Services Australia. Applicable from 1 February 2024.

Source: ASFA Retirement Standard, December 2023.
Know where your money goes – day-to-day expenses

Calculating how much super you need to retire can depend on your lifestyle and daily expenses. To work out your daily expenses, consider:

  • How much do you spend on groceries and everyday items?
  • How often do you eat out at a restaurant or cafe?
  • How many local, domestic or international holidays do you take each year?
  • Does your house need some work done?

Beyond your everyday expenses and the odd splurge, you also need to plan for unexpected costs, such as healthcare-related expenses. If you’re still paying off your mortgage, you also need to factor any outstanding debts into your budget.

Consider how long you'll spend in retirement

Thanks to better nutrition, public health and medical advances, Australians are living longer. For example, women who are 65 today are expected to live to 87.8 years old and men who are 65 are estimated to live to 85.2 years old2.

 
Life expectancy 
Current Age Male Female
45 82.8 86.2
65 85.2 87.8
85 91.5 92.5

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Deaths in Australia – Life expectancy

Life expectancy is used to estimate how long you might live, so you can prepare for funding your retirement. But it's important to remember data calculations work with averages so they can't predict how long you'll actually live. So it may be better to estimate that you will live longer than the average when calculating your retirement income needs.

Track your current super savings  

To estimate how much super you might need to retire, and how your current super savings are tracking, you can use a super projection calculator. The calculator can help you work out if you have enough income for your retirement goals, and how long your super could last. It can also show you how a few changes today can make a huge difference in the long run. 

For help planning your retirement, contact the AustralianSuper team.

Other strategies for a more comfortable retirement

If you’d like to boost or supplement your super savings, you’ve got options. This could include making extra contributions, checking your eligibility for the Government Age Pension and transitioning into retirement.

Make extra contributions

If you think you’re not on track for a comfortable retirement, there are some ways you can grow your super3.  

  • Salary sacrifice – Extra contributions from your before-tax pay. 
  • After-tax contributions – Additional contributions from your after-tax salary, tax refund or inheritance. 
  • Spouse contributions – Add to your partner’s super if they’re not working or working less.  

 

Grow your super

 

Supplement your income with the Government Age Pension

If you don’t have enough financial resources, such as super, to fund your retirement, the Age Pension can help. The Age Pension is a government payment – described as a ‘safety net’ – for people who meet the age and residency requirements. Around 2.6 million Australians over 65 receive a full or partial government pension4.

The amount you receive depends on a range of factors, such as your assets, how much super you have and any other income you may receive in retirement, for example rental returns.

READ MORE: AM I ELIGIBLE FOR THE GOVERNMENT AGE PENSION

LEARN MORE ABOUT: SUPER AND THE AGE PENSION

 

Consider a transition to retirement 

For some people, completely stopping work once you hit retirement age can be a massive shock – from a lifestyle, self-worth and financial perspective. Instead, you might like to consider easing your way into retirement. This is where a transition to retirement (TTR) strategy comes in. It allows you to access your super while you keep working. If you’ve reached your preservation age and are still working you can do this to supplement your income while working fewer hours. If you’d like to keep working full-time, you could boost your super while saving on tax.

If you’re worried you won’t have enough super saved for your ideal retirement, a TTR strategy could be an option. You can use TTR income payments to top-up your take-home pay to work less or save more.

Transition to Retirement (TTR) can be complex and isn’t suited to everyone. It’s a good idea to get financial advice before deciding if a TTR Income account is right for you.

 

Find out more: TTR strategy

 

 

Get the right advice for your retirement planning5

Everyone’s retirement story is different, and it’s never too early or too late to think about life after you finish working. Whether you’re in the stages of planning or are already retired, find out how AustralianSuper can help build the retirement lifestyle that’s right for you.

Seeking help from a financial adviser can help you can make the most informed decisions about managing your super in retirement. They can also answer your questions and provide relevant information tailored to your personal circumstances and financial goals.

FIND A FINANCIAL ADVISER


References:

  1. ATO 2023/21 Median Super Balance by Age
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Deaths in Australia – Life expectancy (2020-2022)
  3. Before adding to your super, consider your financial circumstances, contribution caps that may apply, and tax issues. Salary sacrifice may affect some Government benefits and employee benefits. Consider getting financial advice before deciding what’s right for you. 
  4. Income support for older Australians - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au) 31 March 2023
  5. Personal financial product advice is provided under the Australian Financial Services Licence held by a third party and not by AustralianSuper Pty Ltd. Fees may apply

 


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