We receive many questions from readers, and some of those questions relate to how much money is needed to create a comfortable life in retirement. At SuperGuide, we regularly update our ‘how much super is enough’ articles and these articles cover scenarios for those seeking modest, comfortable or more luxurious lifestyles. A list of our suite of articles appears at the end of this article.
We are fortunate in Australia that we have a taxpayer-funded Age Pension which sets a minimum income for retired Australians, and many Australians rely on the Age Pension for their main source of income in retirement. A significant percentage also rely on the Age Pension to supplement a primary, private source of income. For some Australians (around 25% of retirees), they can expect to receive no Age Pension in retirement.
For most Australians however, a FULL or PART Age Pension will feature prominently in retirement plans, notwithstanding the recent harsh changes to the Age Pension assets test which took effect since January 2017 (see SuperGuide articles Am I eligible for the Australian Age Pension? and How do I apply for the Australian Age Pension?).
For those Australians seeking a much higher level of income, say, an annual retirement income of $100,000 a year, they can expect the Age Pension will play a much smaller role, if any, in their retirement plans. Anyone planning to live on $100,000 a year in retirement will need a hefty amount of superannuation savings, or other form of savings, to finance this type of lifestyle for 25 to 35 years, or perhaps even longer. In such circumstances, an individual or couple can only expect a PART Age Pension in their eighties or nineties, if at all.
For example, if you’re single and plan to live on $100,000 a year for 35 years (until after age 101), then you are likely to need $2.5 million. A small Age Pension entitlement only comes into play at age 96, assuming your investment assets are held within the super system. This scenario also assumes that the $2.5 million retirement balance is invested in assets that generate returns of 5% a year.
In the table below, we provide the retirement lump sums necessary if you want your annual income (and the savings that support that income) to last 25 years or 35 years. The table includes different lump sums, depending on whether your retirement savings generate investment returns of 3%, 5% or 7% a year.
Note: You can also access the information contained in the table below, by using the SuperGuide How Much Super Is Enough Reckoner. The How Much Super Is Enough Reckoner allows you to discover how much superannuation you need in retirement to deliver your ideal indexed annual retirement income (including PART Age Pension, if eligible). You can also compare the impact of different investment returns (7% or 5% or 3%) on your expected annual income.
Aiming for $100,000 a year in today’s dollars
If you are expecting to live on $100,000 a year in retirement, then you will also need to consider that $100,000 in 25 years’ time will buy a lot less than $100,000 today. Adjusting your annual retirement income for increases in prices (inflation), enables you to cushion your plans with an annual income that maintains its purchasing power after 10, 20 or 30 years, to ensure you are still receiving $100,000 a year in today’s dollars. What this means is that you factor in the effect of inflation, and increase your annual income each year.
For example, if we assume inflation is 3% a year, then in year 1 of your retirement, your annual income is $100,000, but in year 2, your annual income will need to be $103,000, and in year 3, your income will need to be $106,090, to ensure that the same lifestyle is maintained each year. An annual income of $106,090 in year 3 is the equivalent of $100,000 in year 1 (that is, in today’s dollars), assuming inflation has been steady at 3% a year. (For more information on the importance of planning for an annual income in today’s dollars, see SuperGuide article Retirement income: Today’s dollars, and why $1 million can’t last forever.)
Investment returns matter
Another important consideration when planning your retirement lifestyle is the level of investment returns you expect to generate on your retirement savings. The lower the investment return, the larger the starting retirement balance will need to be to ensure your target annual income lasts for the timeframe you have in mind.
If your retirement savings are invested in low-return investments, such as term deposits (or other investments) returning 3%, then you will need a larger retirement starting balance compared with the scenario where retirement savings are returning 5% a year or 7% a year.
Note: If you plan to work part-time in your early years of retirement, you will need a smaller lump sum on retirement because your working income supplements the income you can generate from your superannuation assets (or other assets).
How long do you want your income to last?
Your expected life expectancy may influence the timeframe you use for your retirement plans: for example average life expectancy for a woman aged 66 years is 21.18 years (until 87.18 years of age), or for a woman aged 67 is 20.33 years (until 87.33 years of age). For a man aged 66 years, his average life expectancy is 18.41 years (until 84.41 years of age) or for a man aged 67, his average life expectancy is 17.62 years (until 84.62 years of age) (see SuperGuide article Understanding your life expectancy).
Note: Age Pension age is no longer age 65. Age Pension age has increased to at least 65.5 years (for those born after June 1952), and will eventually increase to 67 years by July 2023 (for those born after December 1956).
Seeking a set level of income for a longer timeframe also affects the amount of money you need to kick off your retirement. If you want your $100,000 a year (indexed each year to account for inflation) to last for 25 years (until you turn 92 assuming you retire at age 66, or earlier if you retire before age 66), or to last 35 years (until you turn 102 assuming you retire at age 66, or earlier if you retire before age 66), you would then rely on the Age Pension solely from the age of 92, or the age of 102 respectively.
Choosing a ‘running out of savings’ age that is earlier, means you will need a lower starting balance compared with a plan where you want your annual income to last until you reach at least age 100.
The table below lists the lump sum you need on retirement to generate an annual income of $100,000 (indexed at 3%) a year, and you want the income to last until the year after you turn 91 (receive income for 25 years, and runs out from age 92, assuming retirement age is 66), or you want the income to last until after you turn 101 (receive income for 35 years, and runs out from age 102, assuming retirement age is 66).
The table below also provides several options depending on whether you are single or a couple (in later years you may be eligible for a PART Age Pension), and also depending on whether your retirement savings are generating a return of 3%, or 5% or 7%.
Note: The table below assumes an Age Pension age of 66, but if your Age Pension age is older than 66, then just move the 25-year period or 35-year period accordingly. For example, if your Age Pension age is 67 years, then the 25-year period runs from age 67 to age 93 (money runs out from age 93), and the 35-year period runs from age 67 to age 103 (money runs out from age 103). The PART Age Pension entitlement is minimal in most cases.
Living on $100,000 a year (indexed): Lump sum required
|Lasts 25 years||Last 35 years||Lasts 25 years||Lasts 35 years|
|Money runs out:||After age 91||After age 101||After age 91||After age 101|
|7% return||$1.45 million||$1.8 million||$1.57 million||$1.88 million|
|(pAP age 78)||(pAP age 88)||(pAP age 85)||(pAP age 95)|
|5% return||$1.81 million||$2.4 million||$1.96 million||$2.51 million|
|(pAP age 80)||(pAP age 90)||(pAP age 86)||(pAP age 96)|
|3% return||$2.31 million||$3.33 million||$2.5 million||$3.5 million|
|(pAP age 81)||(pAP age 91)||(pAP age 86)||(pAP age 96)|
|pAP = part Age Pension from age X (or count back from your Age Pension age, if higher than 66 years. For example, if Age Pension age of 67, then add 1 year to Part Age Pension starting age in table.)|
Notes on Table (click to open and close)
For more information on how much super you need for retirement…
The following SuperGuide articles provide more guidance on how much super is enough to live the lifestyle you want in retirement:
- How much super do you need to retire comfortably?
- Reality check: How much does it cost to live in retirement?
- Retirement income: Living on more than $60,000 a year
- Retirement income: Come on, how much super do I really need?
- How Much Super Is Enough Reckoner
- Retirement Income Reckoner
- Crunching the numbers: a $1 million retirement (7% and 5% returns)
- Low yields: A $1 million retirement on 3% or 2% returns
- Crunching the numbers: a $1.6 million retirement
- Retirement: Today’s dollars, and why $1 million can’t last forever
- SMSFs: Can $1 million last longer than you?
- How to plan for your retirement
- Understanding your life expectancy
- What is the retirement age in Australia?
- The super challenge: At what age should I retire?
- Retirement Age Reckoner: Discover your preservation age and Age Pension age
- What age can you access your super (Preservation Age)?
- What is the current Age Pension age?
- Am I eligible for the Australian Age Pension?