Planning to retire in 2024? If so, read this first

As people get older, they don’t always want the hassle of an investment property.

As people get older, they don’t always want the hassle of an investment property. Photo: Getty/TND

There’s nothing like a holiday break to make you wonder if you every want to go back to work again.

The summer holiday break means time with family and friends as well as time out to contemplate your plans for the coming year.

Over the festive season thousands of Australians will contemplate changing jobs. Or quitting completely.

So if you, too, think that 2024 is the ideal time to retire, here’s a checklist to consider as you move to your next life stage. 

Retirement is not for sissies. 

And there’s a reason for that.

Unlike the cliched images of silver fox males and their glamorous partners happily clinking champagne flutes, retirement is a continuation of real life with all of its ups, downs and family challenges.

This means that planning and negotiating a successful retirement will require some careful research and clear thinking.

Here are five questions to help you get started.

1. Why are you stepping back?

There are many reasons why you may be keen to give up your day job, but if you are not truly ready for total retirement, then this can present problems later on.

Temporary burnout is  usually treatable, so not always the best reason to take a leap.

Thinking about what you like about work as well as what you don’t is a great starting point. Making a list of pros and cons can allow you to see how powerful the ‘pros’ are, how negative the ‘cons’. And some of the cons can perhaps be changed or renegotiated.

Such a list may lead you to the conclusion that cutting back on full-time work is better than a total work place exit.

Whichever you decide leads us to the ‘when’…

2. How do you time your transition?

As with so many other aspects of life, timing is everything.

One of the most significant retirement triggers is Preservation Age. This is the age at which you can gain access to your super.

It varies according to your date of birth, but for most people it’s when they turn 60.

Access to super is heady stuff. So it’s important, before you jump in, that you fully understand the financial ramifications of withdrawing funds in a lump sum or a retirement income stream (most often by starting an account-based pension) or a combination of both.

Seeking guidance on how to manage this decumulation phase of your superannuation is critical.

Until now, mandatory super contributions by your employer has meant that your involvement with super has been relatively passive.

Now you need to be more actively engaged to ensure your decisions will suit your longer-term needs.

There are other factors in timing a retirement, many of which will depend upon the needs of your partner or other family members.

Perhaps your partner wants to work on, or to give up work and you both want to travel? Projecting retirement income forecasts will be necessary.

Deciding whether both partners or only one will switch their super from accumulation to the spending phase can have Centrelink repercussions, so this is worth checking.

If you have unpaid leave or other entitlements, deciding to retire before or after June 30 can also make a difference to your ultimate financial outcome.

3. Where will the money come from?

This is a big question for most pre-retirees.

The rules of retirement income can seem overly complex and the way different retirement income streams combine is similarly obtuse. 

Today’s retirees will often draw income in many different ways. There are five main ‘pillars’:

  • The age pension 
  • Superannuation drawdowns
  • Private investment earnings 
  • Work income, and 
  • Home equity. 

Not everyone will have access to all of these sources.

The age pension is available to Australian residents aged 67 and over who pass the means test.

Typically, nearly 70 per cent of people will be on a pension by this age, and 80 per cent of Australians will receive at least a part-age pension when they are in their 80s.

It’s worth understanding your likely age pension entitlements both now and in the future.

Although there are many criticisms of age pension rates and delivery, it does provide an indexed safety net for the majority of older retirees.

4. What not to do

Not knowing what you don’t know is perhaps the greatest oversight when planning and managing retirement income.

Because the rules are complex and often interdependent is no reason to ignore them.

Here are some of the main rules you’ll benefit from understanding, as sooner or later they could have a major effect on your financial situation:

5. What next?

Taking one step at a time is often the best way to approach retirement.

The main thing to think about is your actual retirement readiness.

If you’re in any way unsure, then exploring ways of working part-time is a smart move.

Most of us need to maintain a sense of purpose and knowing we are continuing to make a useful contribution is often how we do this.

While still working it’s a great opportunity to foster your community connections and perhaps start some volunteer or not-for profit activities.

Those who volunteer often benefit from improved mental health.

This is also when the ‘Transition-to-Retirement’ (TTR) strategy makes sense.

It’s not for everyone, but those who wish to keep working but also want to access their super often find this a perfect financial solution to stepping back, rather than stepping down. 

On the other hand, if you’ve thought about all the above but remain convinced that a total exit from the workplace is best for you, then go for it.

But first seek advice from your super fund so you know exactly how much retirement income you can expect, and how your savings might last the distance.

Now grab the hat, the sun cream and the Esky, pack the car … and head off.

Above all, remember that retirement is not a destination; it’s a journey. Enjoy yours.

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