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Thinking about it can send even the most financially savvy among us to sleep, but making a comprehensive budget is one of the most valuable steps in your retirement planning process.
Without delving into your spending habits, estimating the income you want to retire on can be like throwing darts at a dartboard – you may not land in the right place.
Happily, there are tools and resources available that can make the process simpler and set you on your way to understanding what you are likely to spend.
ASFA retirement standard
Many of you will be familiar with the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) retirement standard, which updates the estimated cost of retirement every three months. But how many people actually drill down into the sample budgets ASFA uses to arrive at its estimates?
The retirement standard estimates spending needs of retirees seeking either a comfortable or modest standard of living, with different figures for singles and couples.
The detailed budgets that accompany the standard are a good starting point to prompt you to think about your own needs.
For example, the comfortable standard builds in the cost of an annual domestic holiday and an overseas trip every seven years. Looking at the detailed budget breakdown, you’ll find that the annual amount put aside for overseas holidays for a couple is $1,950 – amounting to $13,650 after seven years to cover the cost of a trip.
That may be enough for many of us, but if you’re thinking more along the lines of business class to Europe, African safaris or more frequent overseas jaunts, the numbers are going to need adjusting.
Wherever you sit on the spectrum, a look at ASFA’s detailed budgets can get you thinking about all the categories of spending you should consider and whether the estimated figures are more or less than you personally aspire to.
Look at the ASFA retirement standard and scroll down to download detailed retirement expenditure breakdowns.
While the standard is great for getting you thinking, it’s unlikely to match your spending needs exactly. Maybe you have an expensive hobby or need a long list of medications. Perhaps you want to run more than one car. All these things influence your true retirement budget. This is where making a detailed plan for your unique needs and aspirations comes into its own.
There are a range of handy budgeting tools available free of charge that can help you estimate your needs. Most of the big banks provide a version on their websites and the financial regulator ASIC also has a budgeting tool on the Moneysmart website.
Our video demonstration below walks you through how Moneysmart’s Budget planner works.
Using a budget planner helps ensure you don’t miss any expenses and allows you to easily revisit your numbers later if you need to collect more information.
It’s a good idea to have your latest bills in front of you before you start. Remember annual items like car registration. If you pay most of your expenses with a credit card, your last few statements will be a great source of information.
Remember to adjust any expenses that will change after retirement such as including more travel, lower registration, insurance and fuel costs if you plan to reduce the number of family cars, and higher energy use if you’re going to be at home more.
You may also become eligible for senior discounts on items such as council rates, car registration, public transport and medications.
Check if you’re on track and adjust
When your budget is complete it’s time to plan how to reach the retirement income goal you’ve come up with. Your super fund may provide a retirement calculator, or you can try the Moneysmart retirement planner.
These calculators can predict your likely retirement income based on your current level of super contributions, predicted future investment earnings and fees. A good calculator should include your Age Pension entitlement too.
If the predicted income isn’t enough to cover the expenses included in your budget, it’s time to think about adjusting your super contributions to bridge the gap. Add what you can afford to contribute into the tool to see how much closer you can get to your goal.
What if my goal is unreachable?
If your budgeted income goal seems impossible, there are a few clear options: