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Most Aussies concerned they won’t have enough money to retire: research

Retirement. It’s a time most people look forward to with bliss.

It’s traditionally been the time when the mortgage is paid, the kids are finally off your back, and one can look forward to sipping wine while watching the sun setting over Uluru. (Well maybe that’s a cliche, but you get the gist.)

But according to a survey ANU conducted of nearly 3500 adults in early 2021, most of us (55.7 per cent) “who aren’t yet retired are worried [they] won’t have enough savings to live comfortably when they stop working”.

ANU’s Centre for Social Research Methods conducted the study, which also asked Australians whether current JobSeeker and superannuation arrangements were sufficient.

“In early 2021, as Australia was continuing to emerge from the COVID-recession, the majority of Australians who weren’t currently retired thought that they will not have enough money when they do,” Professor Nicholas Biddle said.

“Of those Australians who say they are worried about not having enough money in retirement in 2021, females, people who hadn’t finished year 12, and those living outside capital cities were most concerned.

“Our study shows a large increase since the last time we asked this question in 2015, when only 39.6 per cent of Australians thought they would not have enough money to live comfortably.”

While the percentage of Australians who think they’ll have enough savings for retirement has barely changed since 2015, the percentage of people who are definitely sure they will have enough money for their ‘golden years’ has shifted dramatically.

“We have seen a very large decline in the per cent of people who said they definitely would have enough money – 21.3 per cent in 2015 compared to just 6.1 per cent in 2021,” Biddle said.

The study found that it’s a much different situation for those Australians already in retirement, with nearly three-quarters (71 per cent) saying they will “definitely” or “probably” have enough savings to live out their retirement comfortably. 

The survey also asked respondents whether the current arrangements for JobSeeker and superannuation were appropriate, as well as how COVID-19 had affected their financial situation.

Despite the recent rise in JobSeeker payments, most of the survey participants thought the current unemployment benefit of $620.80 per fortnight for single people with no children was still too low; on average, respondents believed $711 per fortnight for a jobseeker in the same circumstances was “more appropriate”. 

On the topic of superannuation, more than half of Australians believe the current legislated rise from 9.5 per cent to 12.5 per cent in 2025 was appropriate. However, the study also found that more than 20 per cent of participants believe the superannuation rate should be higher than 12 per cent. 

“Asked whether they would use their superannuation for other purposes if they could access their savings early, 47 per cent of people said yes,” the survey found.

“Of those, 26.9 per cent said they would use it to purchase a home or reduce their mortgage, while 10.2 per cent said they would use their savings to meet current living expenses.

“Young Australians aged 18 to 24 years and older Australians (aged 55 years and above) said they would be less likely to use their superannuation for a home purchase, whereas those born overseas in a non-English speaking country said they would be more likely to.”

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