Retirement daunting for many Kiwis

By Ben Chapman-Smith

New research shows 22 per cent of retired New Zealanders never travel overseas. It shows a 'no frills' retirement in the city requires an income of  $241.35 per week. Photo / NZ Herald
New research shows 22 per cent of retired New Zealanders never travel overseas. It shows a 'no frills' retirement in the city requires an income of $241.35 per week. Photo / NZ Herald

Nearly half of New Zealand's retirees feel they are not in a strong enough financial position to meet their retirement needs, according to a new report.

The Financial Education and Research Centre (FinEd Centre) - a joint initiative between Westpac and Massey University - today released its Retirement Expenditure Guidelines.

It showed that 47 per cent of retirees did not feel they had adequate financial resources to meet cope with retirement.

The report, produced in conjunction with Workplace Savings NZ, also showed 33 per cent were not satisfied with their retirement and 46 per cent said retirement was not meeting their expectations.

FinEd Centre director Pushpa Wood described the survey as "a wake-up call" for people who needed to consider what sort of lifestyle they would like to have in their retirement.

"The good news is we all have the power to dictate our retirement lifestyles if we start saving early enough," she said.

The report showed what retirees were actually spending, said Massey University senior lecturer Claire Matthews.

"We can't continue as New Zealanders to rely only on NZ superannuation," she said.

Almost half of those surveyed said they spent more than 60 per cent of their income on basic living costs.

"There were lots of comments about the fact that basic living costs keep going up," Matthews said.

A two-person household in Auckland or Wellington would need $241.35 per week for a 'no frills' retirement, meaning a basic standard of living including few, if any, luxuries.

A couple in provincial New Zealand living the same lifestyle would need $244.24 per week.

NZ superannuation payments for a couple are currently $536.80 per week.

For a two-person household to live a lifestyle that included some luxuries, the cost would be $761.56 per week in metropolitan areas, and $693.83 per week in regional New Zealand.

Rent would be an obvious cost on top of this, as would rates, Matthews said.

She said the the question was whether people wanted to be able to have some choices or whether they wanted to just live a very basic lifestyle.

"Some people might be happy with that basic lifestyle," she said.

Ten per cent said they had a very comfortable standard of living and had no concerns about their financial situation.

At the other end of the spectrum, 6 per cent said they struggled to find sufficient income to meet their basic living costs.

Workplace Savings NZ chairman David Ireland said the retirement findings were "sobering stuff".

"This is one of the most important pieces of research to come out in the retirement savings space in recent times.

"The guidelines provide a great resource for financial advisers to pull out of their tool bag as part of the advice process."

Ireland said people living on the 'no-frills' budget were "pretty much on the poverty line".

"It's pretty grim. It's not a happy experience for people living on that level."

Food costs were shown to vary greatly, depending on whether a person or couple wanted a 'no frills' or 'choices' standard of living.

For a retired couple to stock their pantry with basic food, it would cost $93.67 per week in cities and $96.34 in the provincial areas.

Living a better lifestyle meant food costs were up to $216.75 per week in cities and $170.51 elsewhere.

More than one-third of retirees surveyed said they almost never ate takeaways.

"Takeaway and restaurant meals are almost non-existent for people on the 'no-frills' level," said Matthews.

Two-thirds said they visited a restaurant only a few times a year, and 22 per cent said they never travelled overseas.

Around half of retirees had income in addition to their NZ superannuation.

More than a quarter topped up their income with some type of paid employment.

Matthews said comments also suggested a significant number of retirees were supplementing their income through borrowing, often for one-off costs like surgery.

There were also indications that medical insurance was unaffordable for some.

"A number of respondents said they cancelled their medical insurance at 65 because premiums had gone up," Matthews said.

The survey involved 517 people, 60 per cent from a Westpac Customer Voice panel and the remainder from a Camorra Research panel.

The full report will be available tomorrow.

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