Australian retirement age - things 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.

Once, it was normal to retire around the age of 55. But the right age is different for everyone. No matter what age you choose, a number of considerations are likely to go into your decision.

What is the average Australian retirement age?

According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian retirement age in Australia, is 55.4 years1. With the life expectancy2  of a 65-year-old now 84.9 years for men and 87.6 years for women, many of us can expect to be retired for a long time. Which means it’s important to think through how we are going to fund our retirement.

Will I be comfortable with a comfortable retirement?

The AFSA Retirement Standard3, published by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), provides a guide on the approximate income you may need for a modest or comfortable retirement.

The figures, which assume you own your own home, show a single person (aged 65) requires an annual income of $28,220 for a modest retirement lifestyle and $44,183 for a comfortable lifestyle. For a couple (around 65 years of age), the figures rise to $40,719 and $62,435.

A modest retirement lifestyle is considered better than the age pension and means you can afford basic activities. A comfortable retirement lifestyle means you can be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities to have a good standard of living. You will have the means to buy household goods, private health insurance, a reasonable car, good clothes, a range of electronic equipment and take holidays here and overseas. These guidelines are a good starting point to think through which category you want to be in to help determine how much money you need.

What is the Age pension and am I eligible?

The age pension helps some people to pay for the cost of living once they’ve retired. You need to be 66 or older and meet income and asset means tests to be eligible.

It’s important to note, the qualifying age will gradually increase4 by six months every two years, to 67 years by 1 July 2023. So, the age you’ll be eligible to apply for age pension depends on your date of birth.

If you were born between 

You qualify at5

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

When can I access my super?

You can access your super 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 disability6.

Date of birth

Preservation age7

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

There are three options to manage your super account once you retire. You can choose one of these options or a combination of the three. You can:

  1. 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%7.

  2. Start an income stream or pension
    A pension gives you 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 older8.

  3. Withdraw cash from your super account
    You can access your superannuation whenever you like once you have met a full condition of release, such as retiring after your preservation age. You don’t pay tax when you withdraw money from your super once you are 60 or over9.

What else to consider

Managing finances and debts

The years before you retire are an opportunity to contribute more to your savings and plan any final contributions to boost your super.

While your super is likely to be a cornerstone of your post-work income, it doesn’t need to be the only piece of your retirement plan. Savings and investments outside super can also provide alternative financial resources.

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 using any free cash flow to reduce the amount you owe to strengthen your financial position.

Stopping work

Being mentally prepared is important, whether you choose to gradually wind down work or take the plunge into full time retirement. You may need to learn to live on a reduced income. Or retirement may also come sooner than expected through redundancy. If you are made redundant, it’s a good idea to speak with a financial adviser to make the most of any payment you receive.

It’s also sensible to get a feel for what lies ahead by drawing up a retirement living budget. Try living on this level of income to see how well you manage. Whatever path you choose in retirement, the earlier you start planning the better. That’s the best way to ensure you have the best retirement possible.

For more information, contact BT today.

Next: Retirement age 45 or 65?

1 The Australian Bureau of Statistics, accessed 09/08/20, https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6238.0
2 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, accessed 09/08/20, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/life-expectancy
3 ASFA, accessed 09/08/20, https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/retirement-standard
4 Department of Social Services, accessed 09/08/20 https://www.dss.gov.au/seniors/benefits-payments/age-pension
5 Australian Taxation Office, accessed 09/08/20, https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/super/in-detail/withdrawing-and-using-your-super/withdrawing-your-super-and-paying-tax/?page=2
6 Australian Taxation Office, accessed 09/08/20, https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/super/withdrawing-and-using-your-super/early-access-to-your-super/
7 ATO, accessed 09/08/20, https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Super/In-detail/Super-changes---FAQs/
8 ASIC’s Money Smart site, accessed 09/08/20, https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-super-works/tax-and-super
9 ASIC’s Money Smart site, accessed 09/08/20, https://moneysmart.gov.au/how-super-works/tax-and-super 

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 10 September 2020.