‘Super duper! What I learned about superannuation and retirement growing up’

Jul 23, 2020
Super duper! Julie spent many afternoons listening to discussions about the merits of superannuation. Source: Getty Images

Carefully, my mother poured the afternoon cups of tea for my grandparents, my dad, my sisters and for me. After that ritual, “Here we go!” I thought, in silence. Yes, the older generation launched into their favourite topic — superannuation.

Long afternoons of our childhood, looking politely interested in their ongoing discourse about the merits of superannuation, becoming self-funded retirees versus the benefits of being on an Age Pension or part-pension. For years, these public servants toiled away, saving hard, with leave loading, and allocations of part of their salary to their superannuation entitlement for their retirement funds.

My grandfather, for example, retired and had all his superannuation. He lived to a ripe old age, managing with a part pension as well.

Did he enjoy it all? Fate played him a cruel hand. My beloved nanna passed away suddenly, only two months before he was due to retire, so my grandfather was a sole widower all those days his ageing years. Not so super duper.

I grew up, eventually, and surprise! Yes, I married a public service clerk.

In our early days of holy nuptials, we participated in dinner parties and barbecues with his workmates and their spouses. After a few beers, ‘the boys’ would swing the conversation around from football or cricket to superannuation.

Super duper. As the beers flowed into red wine and port, we chicks had to discuss womanly matters, whatever we had in common. Meanwhile, the great superannuation conversations poured forth with the libations. We were all young then, living in the 1970s.

Those ‘boys’ were all champion ex-footballers, but were running to flab, smokers and drinkers. They built all their plans and hopes upon early retirement, and ways to enjoy their golden years in the future as self-funded retirees, independent of the vagaries of being pensioners. Waiting for their golden handshake.

Once again, fate played its cruel hand. Four of those once young blokes never made it past 40 years of age. They died very young of cancer, or leukaemia, or the complications of Type 2 diabetes. All their aspirations just vanished.

It was very sad for their young widows, left to raise their children, with only a certain pro-rata allocation of the much awaited superannuation, with not enough annual increments. It was all pursuant upon how many years their husbands had worked in the public service. These ‘boys’ never got to retire and enjoy holidays, relaxing after years of being serfs to the taxation system. Super duper, not.

Of course, these days, there are more self-funded retirees in Australia, as we enter our golden years. We did work hard at various jobs in the workplace or at home, so we should have financial support. It is either from superannuation, sometimes with a part-pension, or the full Age Pension. There are many advantages if Baby Boomers do have super duper, but pensioners like me do manage, limiting our expectations.

I can still hear sometimes those endless conversations by the shades of the past. Some of them just never aged enough. Still, the survivors are all here, we grew old. Yeah, we made it! Super duper.

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