Our contribution to Treasury’s Retirement Income Review

Industry Super Australia asked us to conduct some research among retirees and pre-retirees because they were preparing a submission to the Treasury Retirement Income Review and wanted to test some hypotheses about life in retirement.  Their submission to the review is here including our report as Attachment 7.

Key findings from our survey

The survey tells us how much superannuation our sample of pre-retirees have, as well as how much they owe in debt.

Over a third of recent retirees are not making ends meet or are on a very tight budget 

For these retirees, life in retirement can be tough. It is probable that the next cohort of retirees will have a tougher time because they are carrying much greater levels of debt into retirement than was previously the case.  Indeed, the average mortgage debt is greater than the average superannuation balance for pre-retirees as we defined them.

About half of retirees retire earlier than they expected to because their work opportunities ran out or because of their or someone else’s health problems


These retirees:

  • Retired with significantly less super than people who chose when to retire
  • Were more likely to be on a very tight budget or not making ends meet in retirement
  • Were more likely to have spent their super on paying their debts when they retired, and
  • Were less likely to have done any formal preparation for retirement.

It seems to us as if the cultural norm for pre-retirees in Australia is to take part in some form of retirement education (and more rarely, formal planning)  a year or so before retirement, with a mindset of ‘how to manage the money I have at retirement’.  The problem is that some people retire before they ever get to this point.

Making sense of retirement qualitatively

As a separate exercise, Suzanne and I are busy preparing our presentation on sensemaking in retirement to the QRCA Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research which will be held in Brussels in May 2020.

We think that retirement decision-making suits sensemaking theory perfectly. Sensemaking is a uniquely human thing to do. People are active sense makers who often 'wade into' complex or ambiguous situations before taking any kind of rational, considered action. That is what many retirees do!

If you are interested in our findings, give Sue a call and we can talk you through them.


 For more on sensemaking, refer to our website or contact Sue.







Tags: Surveys , sense-making, Ageing, Retirement decisions

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