Retirees too conservative with spending

Retirement drawdown rules need to be better designed to ensure retirees are not too conservative in their spending, Willis Towers Watson believes.

The advisory firm’s head of retirement solutions, Nick Callil said the aim of the overall retirement income system needed to encompass age pension and related benefits, and compulsory and voluntary superannuation, rather than just looking at superannuation, to promote better integration.

Callil said in an analysis titled ‘Superannuation is for spending’ that often the amount taken into retirement acted as a “capital base” to generate investment earnings which could be spent but often remained untouched.

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“Often there is an assumption (generally unspoken) that assets individuals have accumulated for retirement are not to be drawn down during the retirement years,” he said.

However, a “spend the income” mindset for most retirees was unrealistic.

“Living off the interest income from term deposits or the dividend income emanating from a share portfolio sounds attractive but for most retirees (who have little in the way of income-producing assets outside superannuation) this sort of strategy is unlikely to produce an income they might regard as adequate,” he said.

To create a more comprehensive aim of retirement income Callil said the industry and government needed to look at:

  • A retirement income objective that concluded that the retirement provision should be in income form and that capital balances should be spent down over retirement;
  • Retirement income estimates that were mandatory for super funds with some sensible limited exceptions at the fund and individual level;
  • Careful use of the term ‘income’ which could confuse members with the dual meaning of investment earnings and income received from a fund during retirement phase. “Drawdown” or a similar term would be a more appropriate term to refer to amounts paid to retirees in pension phase;
  • Well-designed drawdown rules to ensure they were not too conservative and did not promote inappropriately low spending; and
  • Better retirement products to allow retirees with meaningful balances to spend their savings more confidently earlier in retirement only if they are sufficiently comfortable that they will not run out of money in advanced old age.



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