How much do you need to retire?

How much do you need to retire? - Stewart Group

By Geoff Wilson, KiwiSaver Adviser

The $64,000 question – and everyone's answer will be different – but $64,000 certainly won't be enough!

Determining how much you will need to save for retirement will depend upon several variables, including your current age, health, income and level of debt. Here are a few guidelines to help you evaluate your retirement needs.

Define your retirement goals: Retirement guru Barry La Valley defines retirement, not as an age, but when you have the freedom to "do what you want, when you want and how you want".

So, determine your goals in retirement – be it travel, or pursuing leisure interests – and calculate how much you will need to fund them. Bear in mind, your retirement may last nearly as long as your working life; statistically, 80 per cent of 65-year-old men can now expect to live to 90, and 65-year-old women to age 94. Unsurprisingly, healthcare in older age can have a big impact upon retirement expenses.

Start saving early: As a general guide, it is recommended you aim to have saved the equivalent of your annual salary by age 35, three times annual salary by 45, and five times annual salary by age 55. Thus, the earlier you can implement a regular savings plan, the better the chance of accruing sufficient funds.

Pay off debt: If you are a homeowner, chances are you will have a mortgage on the property. Most people will also utilise loans and/or credit card facilities. Typically, debt repayment terms are at higher rates than can be consistently achieved through investment returns. So, it makes sense to pay down as much debt as possible prior to retirement.

It's also prudent to establish a readily accessible emergency cash reserve fund to cover any unforeseen events and thus mitigate the need to incur additional loans. Three to six months equivalent to living expenses is generally recommended.

Invest other savings:

Most of us have KiwiSaver as a low-cost fund to accumulate our retirement savings. The Government has recently enabled two additional employee contribution rate options of 6 per cent and 10 per cent of gross salary (3 per cent, 4 per cent and 8 per cent also remain). Where possible, ensure you secure the "free" Government contribution of $521.43 by contributing at least $1042.86 annually before June 30 (equivalent to $87 per month).

NZ Super: Currently, the Government supports eligible Kiwis over the age of 65 with fortnightly payments at a weekly rate ranging from $316 to $411 depending upon qualification (refer Work and Income NZ website).

Whilst there is no indication that this support will be discontinued it would be prudent to consider the payments as separate to the retirement expenses you are calculating.

Seek financial guidance: If all the above seems daunting, your local financial adviser should be able to assist you determine your future retirement needs.

No matter your circumstances, the earlier you consider your retirement goals, the easier it will be to evaluate and achieve your retirement savings target.

  • Geoff Wilson is a Registered Financial Adviser and KiwiSaver Adviser at Stewart Group – a Hawke's Bay-based independent financial advisory firm based in Hastings. Stewart Group provides Wealth Management, Risk Insurance and KiwiSaver services.

  • The information provided, or any opinions expressed in this article, are of a general nature only and should not be construed or relied on as a recommendation to invest in a financial product or class of financial products. You should seek financial advice specific to your circumstances from an Authorised Financial Adviser before making any financial decisions. A disclosure statement can be obtained free of charge by calling 0800 878 961.