Retirement income: will property give a good return?

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Paul and his wife are considering buying an investment property, but want to know if this really is a wise way to make money for retirement.

Q My wife and I are in our early 50s and are looking at ways to boost our retirement income. We have enough equity in our home to enable us to buy an investment property and hold on to it for the next 10 years. As we both work, we could consider salary sacrificing directly into our super as another option. What would work best for us?

A As people progress toward retirement many look at different ways and options to increase their retirement nest egg. They might be at a stage where the mortgage is paid off, the kids have left home and their disposable income is higher than before. At this stage people can consider ways to make effective use of that disposable income for their retirement years. This is the scenario for YourLifeChoices readers who, with retirement not too far down the track, are looking to boost their retirement income.

So what options do people have? The most common option for those looking forward to retirement is superannuation as most Australians already have some form of super savings and many find the advantages worthwhile. But investments not held in superannuation may also offer advantages. It is important to remember that superannuation is an ‘investment vehicle’ and most investment assets can be held either within or outside superannuation. In some cases using a number of strategies can be effective in achieving this goal.

In determining which course of action is best, you need to consider your own needs and objectives. For example, how much do you need to keep aside for emergencies? Do you want to achieve higher returns or is safety and low volatility more important? Do you want to manage it yourself or would you prefer to have it professionally managed? In this article we will look at the readers question and list the common needs and objectives as well as other issues that they should consider when looking at boosting their retirement nest egg options.

Security – This refers to the safety of the investment. It is not just a question of ‘Can I lose my money?’ but also ‘Will the value and/or returns of my investment fluctuate?’ The security of superannuation can vary according to the member’s chosen asset allocation. In other words holding cash and fixed interest assets within super will offer less risk and/or fluctuations than growth assets such as shares and property. The level of safety in buying an investment property will be determined by the area, the ability to maintain good tenants, interest rates and overall market conditions and sentiment. Investment properties, like shares, are growth style assets which can fluctuate in value. It is important to note that even if the chosen asset isn’t growing in value it still may produce a decent income. During the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) some property and shares still produced quality income despite the value of the asset reducing.

Income – With either form of investment the level of income will vary according to the type of asset and market conditions. The income consideration here though is more about if they need access to the income produced. Income produced in superannuation will remain preserved until a condition of release is met whereas income produced by an investment property can be accessed and utilised.

Liquidity – This refers to the ability to access the capital when required. Either option put forward could prove problematic if liquidity was of high importance. To access superannuation, members must meet a condition of release. You must be 65 to permanently retire and access capital or, if accessed through a Transitional Retirement Pension (TRP), would have restrictions on amounts accessed. Investment properties can also have liquidity issues as you generally cannot access capital unless the whole asset is sold ie; you cannot sell a portion of the property to access a small amount of capital.

Capital growth – This refers to the value of the assets increasing over time. If this is a priority then they will generally need to think long term and be prepared to ride out the ups and downs. This applies to both investment properties and growth assets held within superannuation.

Fight inflation – The term inflation refers to the general cost of living increasing over time. It is generally accepted that even with events such as the GFC, growth assets over a long period have more chance to fight the effects of inflation than non-growth assets such as cash or fixed interest. Investment properties can offer capital growth over time when market conditions are favourable as can growth assets held within superannuation.

Flexibility – This refers to the ability to change investment options during the investment term. This may be due to a number of reasons such as an unexpected life event or a change in investment attitude. With most superannuation funds you can switch investment options and/or change the assets that make up the members fund. An investment property however doesn’t really allow for this.

Potential tax advantages – This is often a major selling point in determining which option is best however other objectives listed here shouldn’t be overlooked. Both courses of action may offer some taxation benefits but the extent of the benefit depends on personal circumstances.

Salary sacrificing money into super (taxed fund) reduces the tax paid on that portion of the wage sacrificed, from their marginal tax rate (MTR) to 15 per cent. Any earnings the fund generates is taxed up to a maximum of 15 per cent. As with the super guarantee, salary sacrifice contributions are concessional contributions which are capped at $30,000 pa for those below 50 and $35,000 for those over 50. So care needs to be taken not to exceed the concessional contribution cap or penalty tax will apply. If they then wait until they reach 60 years before accessing the funds then no tax will apply to the withdrawal. This strategy is more advantageous to those on higher MTR.

With regard to the taxation treatment on investment property, any rental income received is taxed at the individuals MTR although an offset for allowable costs (deductions) can reduce the liability. Upon sale, capital gains tax applies which is charged at the individuals MTR but a 50 per cent discount applies if the asset was held for more than 12 months.

Ease of management – For some, the time and effort they put into managing their finances can be rewarding. Others would prefer to have the money/funds professionally managed. This involves reviewing and maintaining the asset as well as ensuring that all the documentation requirements are met.

Both of the options put forward can allow for either scenario as superannuation can be managed and administered by a professional super fund or run by the member with a Self Managed Super Fund (SMSF). Investment properties can also be managed by the owner or with assistance from professionals such as property managers or agents and accountants.

Apart from considering these objectives, questions such as the following need to be answered:

  • What is their current income? Is their income high enough to see a benefit to salary sacrificing and/or cover loan repayments?
  • How long do they expect to continue working for? Are they likely to work past 65 leaving the door open to super contributions or if they continue for a short period will they need to change strategy?
  • Are they willing to borrow and carry debt if they buy an investment property? Will this be a burden on their cash flow?
  • Can they meet the repayments if the property is vacant for any length of time? Are they willing to, and do they have the resources to cover the debt obligations?
  • Do they wish to utilise income streams, access the funds as a lump sum or keep the money in property during their retirement? If they sell the investment property will they want to consider using super with the proceeds?
  • Are there estate planning considerations?
  • Is their employment income likely to change leading up to retirement? Will this allow for higher contributions and/or debt repayments later on or will a reduction affect the value of the chosen strategy?
  • Will contribution caps hamper the investment property strategy if they wish to use the proceeds from the investment property to purchase superannuation income streams down the track?

At the end of the day either option or a combination of both may help toward building wealth for retirement, but what seems like a straight forward choice is quite a complex one.

The best option for them depends on their personal situation, attitudes and aspirations. The best option chosen can only be determined after much consideration is given to the above points. Seeking professional advice with this would be highly recommended so the various strategies can be compared taking into account all of the above.

All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness having regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that impact your financial and legal circumstances. 

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Total Comments: 13
  1. 0

    For a great many ways now and even more in the future (IF we allow it) YOU invest and the GOVERNMENT will will try and weasel in on YOUR RETURN. Before ANY investment, if you are retired, consider firstly the risk involved for the possible return and, more importantly, possible loss, then taxes on the return (capital gains, income, provisional, etc), probable loss of Age Pension and some/all associated benefits, and your time, effort, emotional fortitude put into a project which has almost become a wasted venture due the dis-incentives the government has been penalising those who want to get ahead in life – except for the politicians themselves, that is. They remain exempt, untouchable, living by their own book of rules, and out of reach from any legal or moral transgression.

    • 0

      I can relate to some of what you (rightly) mention Eddie. It’s no fun working hard all of your life and then being robbed of a pension because you own a property which pays less than the pension. I do expect that governments will get increasingly greedier as they run short of cash and I think we all have concerns going forward.
      Now what is my life expectancy……………

      Actually this piece sounds like a real estate agent spiel to sell property. No mention about proposed changes to negative gearing, capital gains tax laws or the potential deflation of our real estate bubble.

    • 0

      Property investment seminar stuff.

    • 0

      If you were to buy an investment property in your 40’s or 50’s and it increased in value, wouldn’t you be better off to sell it and put the proceeds of the sale into your superannuation fund before you retired?

  2. 0

    It also depends if you want to hold the property once you are retired. I was made aware that once retired a lot less deductions are allowed, only interest, rates, and repair and maintenance. There are no more depreciation allowances nor insurance costs and other smaller deductions. This for me looks like a disincentive to own an investment property to fund retirement. Also physically I am not likely to be doing as much work myself than I used to, and paying for labour is a major cost in maintaining a property. I decided to go for super instead.

    • 0

      You might want to check that again Franky. Why would insurance costs not be tax deductible as this is a direct cost of running the investment?
      You are pretty spot on with the repairs and maintenance as we age. It gets tougher and tougher. But then I do ten times as much around my own home and every year when we return from a trip I get into a major renovation. This year the garden and replacing all screws on roof plus pressure clean of same. Nearly killed me but mostly done. Last year full repaint. Year before roof extensions. You sort of get the gist. The only problem with the super option is that this is fine until you have the next GFC or until our government decides to cannibalise your money because it has wasted its tax income. Horses for courses.
      Hope you made the right call. Not an easy decision.

    • 0

      The only reason these deductions would not be taken into account would be since you are retired your income is low and you pay little if any tax. A deduction is useless if you don’t pay tax.

  3. 0

    People just do not trust our present government and have come to a stop as to super and other investments, a lot of money is being horded and given away to kids. retired people are really afraid of this government.

  4. 0

    A professional article. Thank you.

  5. 0

    Unless the Centrelink rules have changed a second property, even if it isn’t an investment property and a caravan are classed as assets. I know a couple who sold both and used the funds to renovate their residence they lived in.

  6. 0

    Governments will co,me and go over the years so things can change regarding pensions retirement and investmentts.

  7. 0

    We all need to wake up and realize what’s good and what’s not good for us I’ve come to realization that no matter how good you want to be there are some people out there who would still take advantage of you being good. When I began trade with this company I enjoyed every single bit of their services I was able to withdraw and make deposits when I wanted but I didn’t know it was a trick to win my trust after some time they requested my account information which I provided afterwards trading was still going well but after 2 weeks of the whole scene my account got locked i contacted them and they rectified the situation but to my surprise my whole money was gone God this made me miserable I called them to notify them and I was told it was a system upgrade error which I believed was the truth I thought the whole thing would be over within a short period of time but I got it totally wrong they stopped picking up each time I called I couldn’t deal with the depressing state I was so I had to sought a solution I checked the best ways to get money back from brokers and I bumped into rendering the services of and i reported the case via email to [email protected] , I believed it was a lie because I felt once bitten twice shy but fortunately it wasn’t what I thought I was lucky enough to get my money back through their aid and I’m glad they didn’t make me lose my trust in them.



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