Typically your forties is a time of established careers, teenage kids and a mortgage that is no longer daunting. There are still plenty of demands on the budget, but by this age there’s a good chance there’s some spare cash that can be put to good use. As you pass the halfway mark of your working life, it’s time to give retirement planning a bit more attention.
This third article in the 4-part series on superannuation through the generations calculates how much will be needed for retirement in 20 years, how to increase the balance, salary sacrifice vs paying off mortgage, government contributions, and insurance through super.
A 45-year-old today will reach ‘retirement age’ in 22 years. Taking inflation into account a couple will, by then, need an income of around $115,472 per year if they want to enjoy a ‘comfortable’ retirement. With the government expecting us to be self-sufficient in our old age, the nest egg required to fund that lifestyle could be close to $2 million . So, what can you do to have $2 million waiting for you in two short decades’ time?
A beneficial sacrifice
At this age, a popular strategy for boosting retirement savings is ‘salary sacrifice’ in which you take a cut in take-home pay in exchange for additional pre-tax contributions to your super. If you are self-employed, you can increase your tax-deductible contributions, within the concessional limit, to gain the same benefit.
Salary sacrificing provides a double benefit. Not only are you adding more money to your retirement balance, these contributions and their earnings are taxed at only 15%. If you earn between $90,001 and $180,000 per year that money would otherwise be taxed at 39%. Sacrifice $1,000 per month over the course of a year and you’ll be $2,880 better off just from the tax benefits alone.
It’s important to remember that if combined salary sacrifice and superannuation guarantee contributions exceed $25,000 in a given year the amount above this limit will be added to your assessable income and taxed at your marginal tax rate.
What about the mortgage?
Paying the mortgage down quickly has long been a sound wealth-building strategy for many. Current low interest rates and the tax benefits of salary sacrifice, combined with a good long-term investment return, means that putting your money into super produces the better outcome in most cases.
One caveat – if you think you might need to access that money before retiring don’t put it into super. Pay down the mortgage and redraw should you need to.
Let the government contribute
Low-income earners can pick up an easy, government-sponsored, 50% return on their investment just by making an after-tax contribution to their super fund. Not surprisingly, there are limits , but if you can contribute $1,000 of your own money to super you could receive up to $500 as a co-contribution.
Another strategy that may help some couples is contribution splitting. This is where a portion of one partner’s superannuation contributions are rolled over to the partner on a lower income. Your financial adviser will be able to help you decide if this strategy would benefit you.
Protect what you can’t afford to lose
With debts and dependents, adequate life insurance cover is crucial. Holding cover through superannuation may provide benefits such as lower premiums, a tax deduction to the super fund and reduced strain on cash flow. Make sure the sum insured is sufficient for your needs as default cover amounts are usually well short of what’s required.
Also look at insurance options outside super. They may provide you with greater flexibility, such as level premiums, which might be better value in the long run.
Finally, review your superannuation death benefit nominations to ensure they remain relevant. You can make binding nominations that may see your dependents receive their benefit more quickly than waiting for probate to take its course.
Seek professional advice
The forties is an important decade for wealth creation with many things to consider, so ask your licensed financial adviser to help you make sure the next 20 years are the best for your super.
1. Value of $60,264 today – the income calculated to provide a couple with a “comfortable” level of income as calculated by The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) (March 2018) – in 22 years at 3% inflation.
2. Sum required to fund an annual income of $115,472 for 30 years at a return of 4% pa after inflation, fees and tax, disregarding any age pension.
3.The super co-contribution high income threshold for 2018-19 is $52,697.
Disclaimer: This article has been prepared by Count Financial Limited ABN 19 001 974 625, AFSL 227232, (Count) a wholly-owned, non-guaranteed subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124. Information in this article is based on current regulatory requirements and laws, which may be subject to change. While care has been taken in the preparation of this document, no liability is accepted by Count, its related entities, agents and employees for any loss arising from reliance on this document. This document contains general advice. It does not take account of your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider talking to a financial adviser before making a financial decision.