This post is written from the perspective of a 77 year-old who retired from a medical practice 13 years ago with superannuation savings in a self-managed superannuation fund with his wife after selling his practice, of about $700,000. For nine years the two of them were able to manage without any pension support.
But for the global financial collapse (GFC) they might still be financially independent. 2008 and 2009 were catastrophic years for retirees, having to continue to sell to derive an income as share-prices fell. The outcome was a decline in asset capital of the order of 50%. They were extremely grateful to then qualify for a part-pension and the associated concessions. Of course their superannuation capital continued to decline reaching the $200,000 threshold of viability. At the beginning of the current financial year, the super fund was closed, and the assets transferred into their personal accounts.
These observations and comments are for general information only and do not constitute financial advice; readers needing guidance on these issues should consult a qualified financial adviser.
The pressure for change is mounting
The former Labor government proposed to leave pension benefits unchanged, and to meet its growing budgetary deficit by cutting taxation concessions on superannuation. Revenue was to be raised by through a new tax on investment income in retirement over $100,000. Painted as a tax on wealthy retirees only, there was very little public outcry over this measure.
The Productivity Commission investigation requested by Labor before the election added a note of cogency to the debate. It suggested that retirees could live an extra 10 years after retiring at 65, to around 94 within the next fifty years. This was at odds with the Bureau of Statistic’s more conservative expectation for little change. The Commission recommended lifting the pension age to 70, with retirees being required to use home equity first to fund their extended care.
Other leading economic consultancies are now adding their weight to the case for cutting retirement benefits.
- Economic consultancy firm Macroeconomics has urged the government to target the middle and upper classes, “hard and early”, to meet $16 billion in spending cuts a year to bring the budget back to a sustainable surplus. “It says the family home above a certain value should be part of the assets test for the age pension, and supports indexation of the pension”.
- The Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research has suggested a quite different approach; government guaranteed longevity insurance policies with statements focused on the income stream and not the lump sum, and marketed perhaps through Australia Post. This measure would seem to be at odds with the Coalition’s mantra of encouraging private enterprise.
Joe Hockey himself has added to the pre-budget speculation that Australia’s 3.3 million Seniors, representing 1 in 7 of the population, will bear the brunt of changes to reduce spending, including spending on welfare.
“Those members of the community that are able to do so must make appropriate contributions to the cost of government services,” Hockey said.
“And all members of our community must be encouraged and assisted to enter and stay in the workforce.
“We must not assume that age, disability or language are automatic impediments to workforce participation.”
This is a clear statement that the aged must work longer to enjoy a retirement.