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How much super should I have in my 50s?

Effie Zahos continues her 3-part series on super, offering simple strategies for those of us aged in our 50s to boost our super savings on the road to retirement.
By · 14 Dec 2023
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14 Dec 2023 · 5 min read
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There’s a lot to love about our 50s! For many it can be a time when some of life’s biggest expenses are behind us, and we have more disposable income to focus on ourselves.

Our 50s is also a time when retirement becomes a not-to-distant possibility, and we suddenly become highly engaged with our super. 

So, how much should you have in super by age 50?

As Table 1 shows, a man aged 50 in 2023 has average super savings of $158,860. For a woman the same age, the average is considerably lower at $119,205.

Table 1 How much super should you have – age 50

Gender

Actual average balance

Estimated balance needed at this age for a comfortable retirement at age 67

Average shortfall

Men

$158,860

$281,000

$122,140

Women

$119,205

$281,000

$161,795

Source: www.canstar.com.au – 30/05/2023.*

The common thread is that both these averages are well below the levels that super industry body ASFA says we need for a comfortable retirement at age 67 – $595,000 for a single, or $690,000 for a couple.

However, these figures don’t take into account the Age Pension.

Once you factor in possible pension payments, Super Consumers Australia (SCA)[1] says a single person may need as little as $91,000 in super to earn retirement income of $36,000 annually. A couple may only need $116,000 in super to pocket $52,000 annually.

Bear in mind, income derived from super can be extremely lightly taxed. So, $36,000 can go a lot further in retirement than during our working days.

Even so, $36,000 is not a lot of money. It doesn’t leave much room for luxuries, and even less for emergencies.

You deserve better than that, which makes it worth looking at ways to boost your super.

Here are five ideas for 50-somethings to turbocharge their super savings:

1. Grow super for tomorrow, save on tax today

You may be able to claim a tax deduction for voluntary super contributions.

These ‘concessional’ contributions are capped at $27,500 annually though this total includes your boss’s compulsory super contributions as well as any salary sacrifice contributions.

If your employer adds $20,000 to your super, for example, you can only claim a tax deduction for $7,500 worth of personal contributions in a financial year.

You may also be able to claim catch-up contributions for unused caps from the past five years as long as your super balance is below $500,000[2].

2. Consider downsizing your home

From age 55 you can make a downsizer super contribution worth up to $300,000 ($600,000 for a couple combined) if you sell the family home and move to something more manageable.

You won’t get a tax break for a downsizer contribution but the money won’t count towards the usual contribution caps.

3. Review your insurance through super

If the kids have left home and your mortgage is close to being paid off you may want to review the level of life cover you have through super.

Scaling back your cover means more money goes towards your retirement, and less is paid out in premiums.

4. Think about bringing forward non-deductible contributions

If you have received an inheritance or sold a major asset, you may want to give your super a top up through a non-concessional contribution.

Normally, these contributions are limited to $110,000 annually. But under bring-forward rules, you can make up to three years’ worth of contributions ($330,000) in a single year as long as you have less than $1.68 million in super.

5. Consider if you really need a SMSF

The latest Tax Office data[3] shows that in the September quarter of 2023, over one in four (26%) new self-managed super funds (SMSFs) were set up by people aged in their 50s.

Running your own fund can hold plenty of appeal. It can also involve a lot of work plus extra costs especially if you outsource the administrative or investment tasks associated with SMSFs.

The upshot is to think carefully before deciding to manage your own super.

Crunch the numbers to check if you would be better off leaving your nest egg with a well-run, low-fee fund. It may not make for exciting dinner party conversations, but sticking with a professionally managed fund could see you with more money to live on in retirement.  

 

 

[1] https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5d2828f4ce1ef00001f592bb/t/64ed362463ac8b42713b9033/1693267492975/Retirement targets updated for cost of living - MR.pdf

[2] https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals-and-families/super-for-individuals-and-families/super/growing-and-keeping-track-of-your-super/caps-limits-and-tax-on-super-contributions/concessional-contributions-cap

[3] https://data.gov.au/data/dataset/self-managed-superannuation-funds/resource/a7d1701d-787e-44d6-b87d-33de10aa318a

*Average balances based on those reported in the APRA Annual Superannuation Bulletin (June 2022). Balance required today for comfortable retirement based on the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) Super Balance Detective calculator for a person who turned 30, 40, 50 or 60 in 2023. Gap calculated as the difference between the average balance and the current balance required for a comfortable retirement. Comfortable retirement assumes ASFA’s Comfortable Standard balance of $595,000 (in today’s dollars) by age 67. ASFA assumes future pre-tax wage income of around $65,000 and then upon retirement the retiree draws down all their capital and receives a part Age Pension. Other assumptions include: Investment returns (nominal), before investment fees and taxes are 6.7%, investment fees are 0.7% of assets, the tax rate is 4.5%, administration fees are $100 per annum and insurance premiums are $100 per annum. The reported required balances are intended for illustrative purposes only.
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