Data crunching reveals who salary sacrifices into super

Saving for a realistic target for retirement makes it more of a molehill rather than a mountain to be climbed.

It's a fair bet that those making most contributions to super are still workers, especially the over-50s.

Figures from SuperChoice, which administers super contributions between employers and employees, show just how tight the link is between voluntary contributions and age.

SuperChoice analysed its data on super payments and broke the data down for salary sacrifice contributions by age cohort for the five years to June 30, 2016.

What the data reveals is the extent to which younger workers generally don't contribute and how little is contributed by those younger workers who do.

Those in their 60s who salary sacrificed, sacrificed about $12,000 on average, a year, while those in their 20s sacrificed $2,300.

For the age cohorts in-between, it is as expected with the amount increasing with age.

SuperChoice figures show 13% of fund members in their 50s made salary sacrifice contributions to their super, while almost 17% of those in their 60s salary sacrificed.

Less than 3% of 30-somethings made salary sacrifice contributions and only one in 100 of those in their 20s made contributions.

Research by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) shows those younger than 29 reckon they will need $625,000, on average, for a comfortable retirement, while those aged 60 years expect they will need nearly $1 million.

There are all sorts of estimates of how much is needed, ranging up to $2 million for a professional couple who are used to a more expensive lifestyle.

As I have written, actuary Milliman has analysed real-world expenditure data of more than 300,000 Australian retirees, which shows those aged 65 to 69 spend a median of $31,068 a person each year.

Milliman estimates that to fund this expenditure with 75% certainty would require a super balance of about $130,000 invested in a balanced superannuation investment option.

This figure takes into account the substantial contribution of the age pension, set at a maximum of $20,745 a year, including the energy supplement, which funds a substantial portion of most retirees' spending.

As Milliman alluded to in a recent article, the problem is that people are likely to become disengaged when confronted with a big number, as they lose all hope of achieving it.

"This isn't to say that $130,000 should be a goal – it shows that even small differences in savings can have a hugely positive impact on members' actual retirement lifestyles," Milliman says in the article.

You would want more, as it's 75% certainly of funding expenditure, based on the history of markets.

And those renting in retirement are likely to need a lot more, especially those living in our most expensive cities.

But it is more of a realistic target. It makes saving for retirement more of a molehill to be climbed than a mountain to be scaled.

This article was originally published by The Age on 29 August 2017. It represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.

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© AMP Life Limited. This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.