Australian retirement age - what to consider

While most of us dream of retiring early, there are a number of factors that play a part as to when we actually do. 

Australian retirement age – what to consider

While most of us dream of retiring early, there are a number of factors that play a part as to when we actually do. Some people may retire when they become eligible for the Age Pension, while others do so once they can access their super.

When thinking of retirement, you may want to consider:

  1. What is the average Australian retirement age?

  2. What is the Age pension and am I eligible?

  3. What is the preservation age and how does it impact my super?

  4. What are some other things to consider when planning for retirement?  

While there’s no hard or fast rule as to when you should retire, there are a few things to consider when planning to do so. 

What is the average Australian retirement age? 

According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian retirement age for people aged 45 years and over in Australia, is 55.3 years. However, when looking at those who have retired more recently, the average age is actually 62.9 years.[1]

This could be because Australians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. Because of this, having enough money in retirement is really important.

Will I be comfortable with a comfortable retirement?

The AFSA Retirement Standard is published by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), and provides a guide on the approximate income you may need for a modest or comfortable retirement.

The figures show that a single person (aged 65) requires an annual income of $27,648 for a modest retirement lifestyle and $43,317 for a comfortable lifestyle. For a couple (around 65 years of age), the figures rise to $39,775 and $60,977 – approximately 42 per cent higher.[2]

A modest retirement lifestyle is considered better than the Age Pension, but where you are only able to afford fairly basic activities.  A comfortable retirement lifestyle enables an older, healthy retiree to be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities and to have a good standard of living through the purchase of such things as household goods, private health insurance, a reasonable car, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment, and domestic and occasionally international holiday travel. If either of these sound like you, then there is a starting point to reference.[3]      

Find out what income you may need to match your retirement lifestyle.

What is the Age pension and am I eligible?

The Age Pension is a source of retirement income available to eligible Australians to help them cope with the costs of living once they’ve retired. To be eligible, you will need to be age 65 and a half or over, and meet income and asset means tests requirements.

It’s important to note, the qualifying age will gradually increase by six months every two years, to 67 years by 1 July 2023. Therefore, the age you’ll be eligible to apply for the Age Pension will depend on your date of birth.[4]

If you were born between 

You qualify at

1 July 1952 to 31 December 1953

65 years and six months

1 January 1954 to 30 June 1955

66 years

1 July 1955 to 31 December 1956

66 years and six months

From January 1957

67 years

[5]

What is the preservation age and how does it impact my super?

You can start to access your super (on a limited basis if you continue to work) when you reach your ‘preservation age’, which is anywhere between age 55 and 60 depending on your date of birth (see table below). In certain circumstances you can access your super benefits earlier than your preservation age, such as in cases of severe financial hardship or permanent disability.[6]

Date of birth

Preservation age

Before 1 July 1960

55

1 July 1960 to 30 June 1961

56

1 July 1961 to 30 June 1962

57

1 July 1962 to 30 June 1963

58

1 July 1963 to 30 June 1964

59

From 1 July 1964

60

[7]

Once you do retire, there are three options to manage your super account. You can choose one of these options, or a combination of the three. You can:

Leave your money in your super account

By leaving your money in the accumulation phase of super, your retirement nest egg can continue to be invested, with investment earnings taxed at a maximum of 15%.

Start an income stream or pension

A pension product provides you with the comfort of a regular income payment. The investment earnings in the pension account are not subject to tax and the pension payments made to you are tax-free, provided you are 60 or older.

Withdraw cash from your super account

Once you have met a full condition of release, such as retirement after your preservation age, you can access your superannuation whenever you like. Depending on your circumstances, you may prefer to withdraw to pay off debt, or invest outside of super. No tax is payable on withdrawals from super once you are 60 or over. 

What else to consider when planning for retirement

Managing your finances and sorting your debt

This stage of your life presents an opportunity to start planning how you may contribute to your savings, repay debt such as a mortgage against your home, or plan any final super contributions to boost your retirement savings.

While your super is likely to form a cornerstone of your retirement income planning, it doesn’t need to be the only piece of your retirement plan. Savings and investments outside of super can also be used to provide you with alternative financial resources for your retirement, often taxed effectively, with the benefit of tax offsets available to eligible senior Australians.

Repaying as much of your debts as possible can make a big difference in retirement. While building your retirement savings, also consider a plan to proactively clear your debt by redirecting free cash flow to reducing the amount you owe, thereby strengthening your financial position.

Stopping work

Whether you choose to gradually wind down work, or take the plunge into full time retirement, being mentally prepared for retirement is important. Along with the need to stay busy, it is also important to consider the financial aspect of retirement. This may mean learning to live on a reduced income or a less regular, predictable income than in your working days. Also keep in mind retirement can come a little sooner than expected through redundancy. Speak with your financial adviser for help in how to make the most of any redundancy payment you receive.

Either way, get a feel for what lies ahead by drawing up a retirement living budget, and try living on this level of income, to see how well you manage. But don’t forget, many Australians are entitled to additional income support through the Age Pension as well as enjoying other senior concessions.

For more information, download our PDF, or speak to your financial adviser.

Next: Retirement age 45 or 65?

[1]  http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6238.0
[2] https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/retirement-standard
[3] https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/retirement-standard
[4] https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/superannuation-and-retirement/income-sources-in-retirement/age-pension
[5] https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/eligibility/age-rules
[6] https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/superannuation-and-retirement/how-super-works/getting-your-super
[7] https://www.ato.gov.au/rates/key-superannuation-rates-and-thresholds/?page=11

It’s up there with buying your first home and having a child when it comes to life’s big moments. But when is the right time to enter retirement?

A comfortable lifestyle means different things to different people. Use our calculator to work out what lifestyle you want in retirement. 

It could be fair to say that many Australians aspire to at least a "comfortable" retirement. Do you know what annual income would provide “comfort” by your standards?
Are you afraid you’ll never be able to retire? Despite the news headlines, a comfortable retirement might not need a balance of $1 million. You could retire with less.
How do you make sure your hard-earned retirement savings last? There are a range of steps before and after retiring you can take to make the most of your retirement income.

Important Information
This information does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation and needs having regard to these factors before acting on it. BT cannot give tax advice. Any tax considerations outlined above are general statements, based on an interpretation of the current tax law, and do not constitute tax advice.  This information may contain material provided by third parties derived from sources believed to be accurate at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, no company in the Westpac Group accepts any responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of, or endorses any such material. Except where contrary to law, we intend by this notice to exclude liability for this material. BT are representatives of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714 (Westpac). BT is a part of Westpac. Information current as at 5 April 2019.