8 Retirement Mistakes - and how to avoid them

Retirement is a phase of life most of us look forward to. It’s a chance to pursue other interests, travel and maybe do some part-time work or volunteering.

Thanks to more than 30 years of compulsory superannuation, we are also retiring with more savings than previous generations and have higher expectations of the lifestyle we wish to enjoy. But that also brings its challenges.

According to the government’s Retirement Income Review, the average age of retirement in Australia is around the ages of 62 to 65.i At the same time, today’s 65-year-old men and women can expect to live to 85 and 88 respectively, on average, and many will live well into their 90s.

To make the most of your retirement years, it’s important to have confidence that your savings will last the distance. The best way to achieve that is to have a plan that will help you avoid some common and preventable retirement mistakes.

Mistakes people make

While it’s impossible to predict what financial challenges lie ahead, these eight common retirement mistakes remain the same:

1. Not knowing your living costs

When you are receiving a regular income, you may be tempted to focus less on keeping a track of your living costs. When the regular income stops at retirement, you can be unaware of whether your investment income and/or pension payments will support your lifestyle costs.

Knowing what your living costs are before you retire can help manage expectations accordingly.

2. Not looking at your super until just before retiring

What if your super was invested in conservative assets throughout your working life? It could mean that your super would not have grown to the level needed to fund your retirement. What if your super’s insurance premiums and fees consumed the returns?

It is vital to review your super account as early and as regularly as possible to ensure it is appropriate for each stage of your life.

3. Underestimating the impact of inflation

Australia’s rate of inflation hovered around 1 per cent to 3 per cent per year between June 2012 and early 2020. Since the onset of the global pandemic in March 2020, inflation has jumped to more than 7 per cent.ii This along with a disruption to the global supply chain and the Russia-Ukraine war has lifted the cost of living to levels that require you to reassess your retirement planning.

4. Not understanding your government entitlements

If you’re age 66 or older, you may be eligible for a full- or part-Age Pension. However, even if your level of wealth puts you above the pension limits, you may still be eligible for other entitlements.

These can include the Seniors Card, Pensioner Concession Card, income tax offsets or pensioner stamp duty exemption/concession.

5. Letting the noise affect your investment decisions

Negative news grabs headlines, such as talk of billions being wiped off share markets, but you rarely read about the billions made during the rebound. There is no denying that the financial markets face volatility during periods of uncertainty. However, as history has shown, over the long run the market trends upwards.

All this noise makes it difficult to stick your long-term strategy, when in fact such events can present opportunities in the markets too.

6. Trying to time the financial markets

"We haven't the faintest idea what the stock market is gonna do when it opens on Monday — we never have," said legendary share investor Warren Buffett. Say you invested $10,000 in the ASX 200 index by trying to time the market and you missed the 40 best days between October 2003 to October 2022, your investment would be worth $9,064, whereas if you remained fully invested it would be worth $46,099.iii

Trying to time the markets is never a good idea, especially with your retirement savings.

7. Being asset rich and cash poor

You may have built up a strong balance sheet of assets, but in retirement it is income you require. For many Australians, their family home could be their biggest asset and its value is sometimes unlocked by downsizing into a smaller home, but many Australians remain living in a family home that has surged in value while they struggle to find enough income to live on.

Are your assets generating enough income to support your lifestyle? This income can include rent from an investment property, share dividends or managed fund distributions. If the income is insufficient, you may have to sell some of your assets to provide that liquidity or tap into the equity in your home by taking out a reverse mortgage-style loan.

8. Not consulting professionals

Financial advisers, accountants and other financial professionals can help set you on the right path by navigating the complexities of superannuation, investments, constant rule changes and other factors that affect your retirement. A good retirement plan, implemented correctly, can set you up for life.

Start Planning

Whether it’s due to lack of time or awareness, too many people tend to make these same mistakes when entering retirement which can lead to unwanted financial surprises.

A phase of life you have looked forward to for so long deserves careful planning. So please get in touch if you would like to review your retirement income needs.



i Retirement Income Review Final Report, July 2020 page 63 Retirement Income Review Final Report (treasury.gov.au)

ii https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/latest-release

iii From 31 Oct 2003 to 04 Oct 2022, Fidelity Australia Timing the market | Fidelity Australia

Can you afford your dream retirement?

Planning your dream retirement can be an exciting time. The chance to travel overseas or around Australia without having to rush back to work, time to pursue new hobbies, learn a language or spend time with the grandkids. The possibilities are endless, but what will it cost?

Working out how much you will need to live the dream, and what you can afford will come down to a variety of factors. These include whether you own your home, the value of your superannuation and other investments, the return you earn on those investments and your spending patterns. You may also have a younger spouse who will be dependent on income from your investments after you die.

And that’s the big unknown, because none of us know how long we will live.


Plan for a long life

Today’s 65-year-olds can expect to live to an average age of 84.6 years for men and 87.3 for women, or roughly 20 and 22 years respectively in retirement. That’s a long time, and it’s only an average. Half will live longer than that, many into their 90s.i

The challenge is to ensure your cash lasts the distance, however long that may be. You may retire at age 65 but your money needs to keep working to produce the returns you need to live out your days in the style to which you have become accustomed.

A good way to begin thinking about your retirement needs and working out a budget is to visit the ASFA Retirement Standard, where you will find detailed budgets for different households and living standards.ii The budgets are updated quarterly and assume people own their own home.


Adding up the costs

As at June 2018, the ASFA Retirement Standard calculated that singles aged around age 65 would need $27,425 a year to live a modest lifestyle while couples would need $39,442. A comfortable lifestyle would cost $42,953 for singles and $60,604 for couples. The comfortable budget allows for higher spending on things such as health, insurances, home improvements, clothing, eating out, entertainment and travel.

To put this in perspective, the full age pension is currently $23,823.80 a year for singles and $35,916.40 for couples.iii As you can see, this does not stretch to ASFA’s modest budget, let alone a comfortable lifestyle, especially for pensioners who are paying rent or still paying off a mortgage on top of other expenses.

Of course, everyone’s income needs and lifestyle will be different. Some people may need to spend more on their health, while a contented gardener and homebody may need less money than a keen global traveller with a season ticket to opera, theatre or football.

It’s also important to recognise that your spending patterns are likely to change in predictable ways over the course of your retirement, determined by your health and mobility.


The three stages of retirement

Most people go through three phases of retirement. The timing of each phase will be different for everyone, but the sequence is the same.


Chart 1: Typical spending during retirement

Seek professional help

Australians are living longer, healthier lives which means many of us can expect to enjoy almost as many years in retirement as we did in the workforce. And that requires careful financial planning.

Before you can set financial targets and investment objectives, you need to work out what your dream retirement might cost.

If you would like help to make your retirement dream a reality, give us a call.


ii https://www.superannuation.asn.au/resources/retirement-standard

iii https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/age-pension/eligibility/payment-rates

Ease into Retirement

You might simply want to wind back your working hours to give your mind and body room to breathe. Or you may want to leave your full-time job but keep your career ticking over with part-time or consulting work. Others may dream of leaving the nine to five to run a B&B or buy a hobby farm.


Changing retirement patterns

There are already signs that people’s retirement plans are changing.

In 2019, the average retirement age for current retirees was 55 (59 for men and 52 for womeni), but the age that people currently aged 45 intend to retire has increased to 64 for women and 65 for men.ii

There are many reasons for this gap between intentions and reality. Only 46 per cent of recent retirees said they left their last job because they reached retirement age or were eligible to access their super. Substantial numbers retired due to illness, injury or disability (21 per cent) while others were retrenched or unable to find work (11 per cent).iii

Retired women were also more likely than men to retire to care for others. But for people who can choose the timing of their retirement, there can be good reasons for delay.

Reasons for delaying retirement

As the Age Pension age increases gradually from 65 to 67, anyone who expects to rely on a full or part pension needs to work a little longer than previous generations.

We’re also living longer. A man aged 65 today can expect to live another 20 years on average while a woman can expect to live another 22 years.iv So the longer we can keep working and building a nest egg the further our retirement savings will stretch.

And then there’s COVID. If you lost your job or your hours were reduced during the pandemic, you may need to work a little longer to rebuild your savings. Even if you kept your job, you couldn’t go anywhere so you may have postponed your retirement plans. But now the COVID fog is lifting, and borders are reopening, retirement may be back on the agenda.

Whatever shape your dream retirement takes, you will need to work out how much it will cost and if you have sufficient savings to make it happen.

Sourcing your retirement income

The more you have in super and other investments the more flexibility you have when it comes to timing your retirement. If you plan to retire this year, you will need to be 66 and six months and pass assets and income tests to apply for the Age Pension. But you don’t have to wait that long to access your super.

Generally, you can tap into your super once you reach your preservation age (between age 55 and 60 depending on the year you were born) and meet a condition of release such as retirement. From age 65 you can withdraw your super even if you continue working full time.

But super can also help you transition into retirement, without giving up work entirely.


Preservation age

Born before 1 July 1960 - Age 55

1 July 1960 - 30 June 1961 - Age 56

1 July 1961 – 30 June 1962 - Age 57

1 July 1962 – 30 June 1963 - Age 58

1 July 1963 – 30 June 1964 - Age 59

From 1 July 1964 - Age 60

Source: ATO


Transition to retirement

If you’re unsure whether you will enjoy retirement or find enough to do to fill your days, it can make sense to ease into it by cutting back your working hours. One way of making this work financially is to start a transition to retirement (TTR) pension with some of your super.

Case study

Ellie, a teacher, has just turned 60. She wants to reduce her workload to three days a week so she can explore other interests and gradually ease into retirement. Her salary will drop but if she starts a TTR pension she can top up her income with regular monthly withdrawals.

Most super funds offer TTR pensions, or you can start one from your self-managed super fund (SMSF). You decide how much to transfer into a TTR pension account, but there are some rules:

One of the benefits of this strategy is that while you continue working you will receive compulsory Super Guarantee payments from your employer. A downside is that you will potentially have less super in total when you finally retire.

Retirement is no longer a fixed date in time, with far more flexibility to mix work and play as you make the transition. If you would like to discuss your retirement options and how to finance them, give us a call.

i, iii https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/retirement-and-retirement-intentions-australia/latest-release

ii https://newsroom.kpmg.com.au/will-retire-data-tells-story/

iv https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/life-expectancy