‘We invested in something useful instead of our super’

Nov 06, 2018
Instead of building up their super fund, Brian and his wife are making the most of it now! Source: Shutterstock

You’ve only got to look at a few of ABBA’s hit songs to see how they all relate to superannuation! ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!’, ‘Money, Money, Money’, ‘The Winner Takes It All!’. As a freelance radio/TV producer/recording engineer, I have had the privilege of working in several countries since starting in radio at a very young age.

Over the years I managed to work in the United Kingdom, the United States and Spain, so there were no super contributions during all that time. Finally, settling back here in Australia I didn’t realise I had literally ‘blown’ the best part of any possible employer contributions – including my own – to my super fund.

As a ‘life concept’ I had – and still do have – no intention of ever ‘retiring’. In a James Corden Carpool Karaoke video I saw recently with Elton John he said: “Once you stop, you die!…” and: “You’re never too old to do anything”. That pretty well sums up how I feel.

Yet ageism is alive and well in Australia and it seemed the best option going forward was to set up a small business rather than trying to go for something fulltime. Call it a micro-business where you are a gun for hire – a freelancer.

Overall work has been pretty good, on and off. I bought a very old house in western Sydney back in the early 1990s with the help of my wife, who coincidentally is also a freelancer. Thankfully our day-to-day costs working from home means our expenses are reasonably low, but with a lot of freelance work you need to be able to go with the ebb and flow of work. The super fund therefore didn’t always see quite as much as maybe it could have with full-time work over the years!

Not that we were ever broke at all, but by 60 I felt I’d rather use that money now, so with the advice of an accountant friend I started the transition-to-retirement thing. This is where you can withdraw up to 10 per cent of your superannuation to help with the cost of living.

How is 10 per cent of $??k Whoo hoo … It’s not to be sneezed at, right? Money is money and we all need it to live/survive, yes?

Anyway we got to a stage where we thought, ‘this is stupid’. We own a house outright, we have a reasonable income for what we do and, more importantly, what we want to do, and we’re not getting any younger or doing anything special. We love travelling and experiencing new things so how about … a caravan!

Long story short, we figured ‘investing’ into something we can use and enjoy now i.e., a self-contained home on wheels, plus a suitable vehicle to tow it, as a better use of super funds than keeping it so our kids could put it towards a fancy casket of some kind!

When I think back to some friends who said, “I’m so worried, we need to have a $1 million in super to retire!”. I think ‘really?’. We’re about to hit the road as a blonde and grey nomad couple with plans to do plenty of work on the road, but more importantly to have fun and enjoy life today. Would a million dollars actually make us any happier?

What work we do currently do is all online so we can and do literally work from anywhere. I guess what I’m trying to say here is stop worrying about how much you have in super or in the bank for that matter. If it’s a lot that’s great – use it wisely. If it’s meagre, look at what other assets you might have that can help supplement your later years. I don’t feel it’s any good having a flash house if you’re broke and unhappy.

I’d even consider moving to a more cost effective area if you are tied up in the great metropolises like Sydney, Melbourne or even Brisbane. If your family loves you they will come and see you. You just need to let them know it’s open house anytime. Our kids live in Darwin, Brisbane and Melbourne respectively so it looks like we have a few trips ahead to plan for …

More importantly live each and every day today. As Elton John said, “you’re never too old to do anything” and “once you stop, you die!” …

Does having a lot of super matter to you? How are you living for today?

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