The super industry has long assumed people view their savings, investment returns and spending as the main influences of confidence in retirement. But the Retirement Confidence Index, a study from AustralianSuper and Monash University, tells a different story.
The Retirement Confidence Index shows several non-financial aspects of retirement have a big impact on how retirees feel.
The AustralianSuper-Monash University Retirement Confidence Index
The Retirement Confidence Index, now in its fifth year, has surveyed over 5,000 Australians aged over 50. This first study of its kind, it aims to gain an in-depth understanding of how Australians think, feel, and behave as they approach or experience retirement. On behalf of Australians planning for and heading into retirement, the Retirement Confidence Index aims to help improve retirement outcomes for everyone.
- About 50% of participants are pre-retirees and the other 50% are retirees.
- The study will run for 10 years and paint a clear picture of Australians’ attitudes toward retirement.
- It shows 4 key factors that influence how confident you feel in retirement – no matter your financial position.
The Retirement Confidence Index score
Each year, the Retirement Confidence Index produces a score. The score indicates general retirement confidence and is estimated from the key socio-demographic variables captured in the study. It’s calculated out of 100 – with zero being least confident and 100 being most confident.
How the Retirement Confidence score is created
The Retirement Confidence Index survey questions fit into 4 key groups:
- Financial awareness and skills
- Health and wellbeing
- Social connectedness
- Retirement awareness and planning.
The score is created using participants’ answers to questions in these groups, combined with personal factors, such as living situation (renter or homeowner), education level, and gender. The Retirement Confidence score is the average result from all respondents.
AustralianSuper created an interactive quiz, where you can adjust the 4 factors as they relate to you and see your score compared to the average Australian.
4 key findings from the 2021 Retirement Confidence Index
Now in its fifth year, and with hundreds of participants having taken all 5 surveys, we can track changes in confidence yearly.
The Retirement Confidence Index continues to show the fear of retirement often subsides after you’ve retired. Most retirees say they feel more confident about their goals than pre-retirees.
1. Financial literacy remains lower for women, compared to men
While financial literacy among women increased (up 0.3 points to a score of 56.8), the gender gap remains significant at 14.6 points in 2021 – with men also reporting a rise (up 0.5 to 71.4).
Financial anxiety remains higher for women (up 2.8 points to 75.1) than men. In 2021, the gender gap in financial anxiety remains significant at 5.5 points. But financial anxiety reduces for women and men as they approach retirement, and in retirement.
Financial literacy increased among pre-retirees (up 1.3 points to 63.7) and remained stable among retirees (up 0.1 to 64.4). This means financial literacy increases as people head towards retirement and remains stable during retirement.
2. People reported better life satisfaction and felt more positive in early 2021
Life satisfaction dropped in 2020. This coincided with the start of social distancing measures during the first COVID-19 outbreak in Australia. The 2021 survey (captured from April to May 2021) showed life satisfaction had recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
‘Financial behaviours and attitudes’ also dropped (down 3.6 points to 59.2) during the first COVID-19 outbreak in Australia in 2020. This measures financial management skills, including attitudes towards financial planning. In 2021, ‘financial behaviours and attitudes’ recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
The 2021 survey also showed the ‘future uncertainties’ component of the index recovered to pre-pandemic levels after a small decline in 2020 (down 0.7 points to 51.8). ‘Future uncertainties’ measure how connected people are to their future needs and wants, including an understanding of how their current decisions could impact their financial future.
3. COVID-19 affected retirement plans
As a result of the pandemic, 15% of participants made changes to their retirement plans. This includes 10.5% who have delayed retirement and 4.4% who are retiring earlier than planned. Factors such as a change in super balance or job loss may have prompted these actions.
Even before COVID-19, many Australians retired earlier than planned. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the average age people plan to retire is 65. But the actual average retirement age is closer to 551. If your retirement plans have changed, there are things you can do to prepare and feel more confident about the next step.
4. A focus on seeking professional advice in times of change
The 2021 study found that more than 33% of super members took at least one action to cope with the economic consequences of the pandemic. The most common action taken by both pre-retirees and retirees was to seek professional financial advice.
If you’re after financial advice to help you feel more confident about retirement, AustralianSuper offers members different types of advice to suit the level of help you’re looking for. This ranges from simple super advice to putting you in touch with a trusted financial adviser.
Plan your retirement and feel confident
A little planning goes a long way when it comes to understanding your retirement needs. Take some time to understand your finances and consider what you want from the retirement chapter of your life. The AustralianSuper team is here to help you get started.