The Backpage: A super let down!

There was a time when my gaze was instantly drawn to any headline containing the words “sex” or “naked”. Now

There was a time when my gaze was instantly drawn to any headline containing the words “sex” or “naked”. Now its “super”.

If the headline manages to feature “naked” as well as “super,” that’s a bonus but it’s “super” that has become the focus of my existence.

There are a number of stages in a person’s “super” life. The first is when you think it’s only for old people and as you are never going to get old, you won’t need it.

The next occurs when you realise that in spite of your best efforts to the contrary, the intervention of the medical profession will ensure you do get old.

You tell the doctors that you haven’t got any super and can’t afford to get old but they insist on treating your life threatening conditions and prolonging your existence.

At this point you realise you have a problem and start salary sacrificing into a super fund.

Suddenly, you are in your late 50s and find yourself going online and checking your super balance twice a day.

Every time the share market hiccups, you get palpitations and have to go and lie down.

As retirement nears, you think that you have managed to dodge a financial bullet and by the slimmest of margins accumulated enough for what economists like to describe as a “comfortable” retirement.

The moment you think this, interest rates start heading towards the floor while politicians start talking about changing the super rules.

That “comfortable” retirement becomes a mirage shimmering in the distance. You can see it but the closer you get to it, the further away it becomes.

You turn on the six o’clock news and an economist is telling you that the money sitting in your super fund is not enough to fund a comfortable retirement.

Then a politician appears and tells you that because you have sweated blood for the past 15 years building a super balance, you are now classed as a rich person and your super earnings should be taxed.

You find this confusing because the economist has just finished telling you that the money in your super isn’t enough to fund that elusive “comfortable” retirement. How can you be rich?

Why, you wonder, when you have tried to be self sufficient are you now being portrayed as an enemy of society who must be punished for having saved money on which you have already paid tax?

You have that lump sum in your super, the one you’ve watched go up and down with your blood pressure for the past 15 years and are about to grasp it with both hands when another politician appears on the TV screen.

“We’re going to have to change the rules”, he says. Why? Because, he says, there’s a chance that if you get your clammy hands on that money, you’ll blow it all on $10,000 a night hookers and first class airline tickets.

Then, when it’s all gone, you’ll go on the pension and become a burden on society.

The thought of doing this has never entered your mind but suddenly, it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.

“We’re going to give you a pension from your super and you can live off that” says the politician, who when he retires under one of the most generous parliamentary superannuation schemes in the world, will have to struggle by on $200,000 a year.

You wonder if he’ll manage to have a “comfortable” retirement and guess that this is highly likely.

My wife and I have the retirement discussion several times a week. “When we will retire?” I ask.

“Another couple of years”, she replies. “Then we’ll have enough for a comfortable retirement.”

The problem is that neither of us has any idea just what this is. Cask wine or bottles? Holidays on Stradbroke Island or the Isle of Capri? Restaurants or takeaways? Fillet steak or recipe number 25 from 101 Ways To Use A Slow Cooker?

I’ve a feeling that the mirage will continue to shimmer, slipping away just when we are about to grasp it.

We’ll both be shuffling along on our walking frames in 25 years time having the same conversation every day.

“When will we retire?” I’ll ask. “Not long now”, my wife will reply. “We have to be comfortable”.

“How’s the super?” I’ll ask. “What’s super again?” she’ll say.

“I don’t know,” I’ll reply. “I can’t remember”.


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This article was written by renowned journalist and author, Mike O’Connor. His most recent book Life on a Column is a wry, amusing and sometimes poignant look at life as seen through the eyes of a newspaper columnist and according to Mike, would make an excellent Christmas gift. Click here to purchase.
  1. Our super earnings have dropped to an alarming level but the government is going to pretend our interest is a higher amount and tax us on that fictitious figure. That is adding insult to injury. The government would rather we blow all our money on risky shares than invest cautiously and be satisfied with modest interest rates.

  2. You hit the nail on the head, however some of us are left no choice as to how long we can continue to work towards our retirement because we may have been forced to retire early due to health problems, in which case the word comfortable means being on a full pension plus drawing just enough to make sure you can pay the everyday bills plus maybe an outing for lunch on occasions with your friends. If you are one of these people who are waiting to be comfortable in retirement then you are going to be very disappointed because unfortunately I have come to realise that the only people who can achieve this is usually the RICH AND POLITICIANS, so my advice would be if you are over the retirement age, embrace what you have and enjoy what time you have left, we don’t all have to live like KINGS to be happy.

    • Trish my husband had to retire in 1991 due to ill health….he had worked in an industry that only gave the opportunity for super investment i had worked but if course being female i was not even considered for super ( in the early nineties it was still considered that a husband would provide for a wife) so we retired early and we hsd no super not a lot of savings and no prospect of other income. Fortunately my husband was eligible for the DSP and then he reached 65 and we got the age pension …like so many other age pensioners we have to make do and be happy with fact that we could pay the rent feed ourselves clothe ourselves and buy christmas pressies for the family . We were able ti pay the bills and car rego insurance and maintenance….BUT….like other pensioners in the same place as us we cannot afford outings except ones that cost nothing we cant hace holidays we cannot afford to have friends to dinner… in fact we just get by. Oh for a nice comfortable???? retirement.

    • I agree Joan, and it is much harder for those of us on the single age pension as our household bills are the same as for couples with only a portion of a couples pension!

  3. Dont be conned into salary sacrifice. Super is a con, has been since day one. Do your own investing, do it sensibly and you’ll come out far better off than any super fund will have you. I place financial advisors in the same category as Lawyers, Accountants, Politicians, Real Estate Agents and Second Hand Car Dealers. So be very wary.

  4. So well written and so true, with all forms of investment currently showing such poor or risky returns it is a terrible time for the Government and other politicians to cut the eligibility to the aged pension. Not to mention all the other related ideas they are floating like insisting on people accessing their home equity as a means to fund retirement and further reduce pension outlays. Don’t the younger generation realise they won’t be getting any inheritance. This is stealth death duties! As usual governments want to penalise those who have been thrifty, got some super and a home. Those renters with few assets get max pension, full health care and free entry to nursing homes when the time comes – again our house have to be sold to fund the exorbitant entry fees demanded by these mostly privately owned profit driven companies.

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