Tamsyn Parker

Tamsyn Parker is the NZ Herald's Money Editor

Super's no-frills retirement

Those who fancy a glass of wine with dinner in retirement should start saving now, say researchers. Photo / Thinkstock
Those who fancy a glass of wine with dinner in retirement should start saving now, say researchers. Photo / Thinkstock

If you want to have a glass of wine or beer with dinner or be able to buy new shoes in retirement you need to start saving now, according to a Massey University study of retirement in New Zealand.

The figures, based on spending by households through Statistics New Zealand research, found a two- person household in Auckland or Wellington would need $241.35 a week for a "no-frills" retirement, while a couple in provincial New Zealand living the same lifestyle would need $244.24 a week.

The cost for a two-person household to have more choices that include some luxuries was $761.56 a week in metropolitan areas, and $693.83 a week in regional New Zealand.

But that doesn't include housing costs like rent, a mortgage or rates and maintenance.

New Zealand superannuation for a couple is $536.80 a week after tax, leaving a significant shortfall for those who want to do more than just get by.

According to the Sorted website a couple wanting to live off $761 a week would need to have saved a lump sum of $206,608 between them by the time they retire to top up their NZ Super to that amount.

Massey University lecturer Claire Matthews, who carried out the research on behalf of the Financial Education and Research Centre - a joint venture between Massey and Westpac Bank - and Workplace Savings, the industry body for the savings industry, said the findings revealed a clear message.

"If you are not saving you need to start saving," she said. "If you are saving you need to review it to see if you are saving enough."

Matthews, who teaches personal finance, said while the simple answer might seem to be an increase in New Zealand Superannuation payments, from a national perspective that was not realistic.

"It's not something the country can afford."

She said the data showed a person could live off NZ super alone. "It's not going to give you a great lifestyle but you can get by.

"If you want more than that you have got to take ownership."


Matthews said in the past the general guideline for predicting how much a person needed to live off in retirement was around 70 to 80 per cent of their pre-retirement income.

But it was too hard for young people to know what their pre-retirement income would be.

"How is a 20- to 25-year-old going to work out how much they will need?"

She said spending was also more important than income because many people close to retirement put a lot of their income into savings.

Matthews said it was never too early to start saving for retirement but admitted it was probably a difficult message to get through to those in their early 20s.

"It's going to be a struggle.

"There is some awareness in that age-group but it will probably be those more in the 30- to 35-year category who pick it up.

"Once you are 55, there is only 10 years until you are eligible for NZ super. You can do something about it but the earlier you start the better."

Matthews said she had been surprised at how low the no-frills level was.

At just $113 a week for a one- person household that would leave $236 remaining from NZ super.

But she said that could easily be eaten up by housing costs.

The research did not include housing costs because they are so variable.

An accompanying survey by Westpac of 517 retired people found 79 per cent had some additional income to supplement NZ Super.

Matthews said comments from retirees showed NZ Super was enough to live on but other income was needed for the luxuries such as eating out and travelling.

The survey found 26 per cent were still in paid employment although only 38 per cent said they had to work for financial reasons. The remainder worked because they wanted to keep busy or liked their job.

The full report will be available later today at http://www.workplacesavings.org.nz or http://nzcpse.massey.ac.nz

The budget will be updated quarterly to reflect inflation and cost increases. Savers can work out the total amount they will need to save by retirement age by going to www.sorted.org.nz.

- NZ Herald

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