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”.