More needs to be done to support retirees through the pandemic: advocacy group

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Older Australians looking forward to a comfortable retirement are instead facing the prospect of working longer, losing swathes of super or being reliant on government assistance.

And many of those already retired also face a gloomy financial future.

They face a loss of more than $100 billion in vital income streams as the coronavirus crisis crushes superannuation, personal savings and share dividends.

Many self-funded retirees have already lost up to 30 per cent of their retirement savings at the outset of the pandemic when stock markets collapsed.

Some losses have been somewhat recovered. Some haven’t and may not come close. Many will see far lower returns for the foreseeable future. Those who once lived comfortably off dividends and franking credits will have a far lower income in the short term and possibly longer.

The stock market crash has forced many retirees to sell up to guarantee sufficient funds to live off for the near future.

And, for the first time, many once self-sufficient retirees will rely on the Age Pension and other forms of government assistance and tighten their belts until they can risk investing again.

And while some may have seen a glimmer of hope at the start of last week, by the end of the week the share market fell again for the first time in almost two weeks after recovering from March’s seven-year low. 

female retiree reading the business section of a newspaper

Many self-funded retirees, such as Brisbane retiree David Warner, wait nervously to see which way the retirement rollercoaster goes next.

“We’re sitting on tenterhooks at the moment, just waiting to see what might happen,” Mr Warner told the ABC.

“We won’t know that until we know what the impact of the government removing its various levels of subsidies is.”

Like many other retirees, exposure to the share market can change longer-term plans to age in place rather than go into an aged care facility.

“The matter of having money and saving money is critically important to us,” he said.

“It’s not about saving so that we can spend it on new cars and overseas holidays.

“At our time of life, it’s very much about making sure that we have an adequate amount of money to provide us with a reasonable quality of care.”

Mr Warner and his wife Liz are one example of the many older Australians becoming increasingly vulnerable to the financial throes and fits caused by COVID-19.

According to the ABC, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) estimated that self-managed super funds lost $66.7 billion in the March quarter and dropped $28.6 billion when compared to March 2019.

“For many self-funded retirees, dividends paid from listed equities make up a substantial proportion of their annual income,” said Self-Managed Super Fund (SMSF) Association chief executive John Maroney.

“Combined with lower interest from bank deposits and possibly reduced rent receipts from property investors, many have experienced a substantial reduction in their income.”

Self-funded retirees are being left out of government stimulus assistance, say experts. About two million retirees receive no part of full Age Pension and about half of them rely solely on income derived from shares or super.

The impact on those who depended on share dividends need more support, says the spokesperson for the Alliance for a Fairer Retirement System, Ian Henschke.

The group calls for a lowering of the Pension Loan Scheme rate to encourage more people to use the program to top up their pension, a further reduction to the deeming rate, re-thinking taper rate changes introduced in 2017 that helped save billions in pension payments and expanding the eligibility criteria for the Commonwealth Seniors Card.

“What we’ve witnessed over the past four months has been a massive shock to the whole economic system, but what it has done is that it’s actually revealed the weaknesses in our retirement income system,” said Mr Henschke.

“The risk of retirement for many of them is carried by the individual and unless they carry with them one or two years’ worth of cash in the bank to ride over that shock, they have to sell their assets.

“What I think we should not forget is the role that older Australians play in the overall economy, because there are 3.8 million Australians in the retirement sector.

“If they are affected by this, then they won’t be spending money and that doesn’t stimulate the economy.”

The alliance, which represents millions of retirees and older investors, has written to key government figures urging reforms to measures previously introduced to relieve pressure from the federal budget.

It says the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically hit retirees to such an extent it now puts the nation’s economic recovery at risk.

“Retiree spending, and willingness to spend, will have critical impacts on the economy in any post-stimulus recovery phase,” stated the alliance in a letter obtained by The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age.

“However, under the current market conditions, there is a risk older Australians will further withdraw from the economy, slowing the recovery. Retirees are unlikely to have the confidence to spend if they continue to face significant impacts on their income.”

The alliance fears the financial impact on retirees caused by the coronavirus “could extend for years”.

Do you think the government is doing enough to help retirees and older Australians?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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71 Comments

Total Comments: 71
  1. 0
    0

    Retirement savings have been going down, down, before the corona virus. With Interest rates going down to 0.25%. Term Deposit with a bit of luck 1.40%. Pensioners have been getting an increase every year and rightly so, but Seniors’ income has been declining for years and years. Every one deserves a pension! The people who saved for their retirement should be a little better of.

  2. 0
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    Just received my Superannuation Review. We are SFR and the review estimates that the fund earning will be down by 50% next year. Looks like we will have to draw down on capital or reduce our income by 50%. Very worrying situation which I guess I am sharing with many others who thought they had enough saved for a dignified retirment. It would seem that SFR are the only Australians not to be showered in largesse by the government during this pandemic.

    • 0
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      Yes, it does seem that way. However I can guarantee you that anyone working outside the public sector is absolutely hurting at the moment.
      I look at this way. We are OK for now and hopefully, like the GFC, its just a temporary slide.

      As for our children – this is going to have a devastating impact long term. They have accessed super, deferred home loan repayments, used up all their holidays to teach their children and then the Government $60B loan has to be paid back.

      There has been nothing fair about this pandemic however at least, for most, we are not burying our loved ones.

    • 0
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      When did the LNP ever do anything for self funded retirees?

      In fact Hockey and Cormann began the attack back in 2014 and they haven’t ever stopped.

      What has working inside the public sector got to do with it?

      The Federal public service has been all but fully privatised. There is barely a public service left now.

    • 0
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      True, Rae. But Labor introduced the hideous means tests and continues to support the current system – in fact wanting to make it harder for self-funded retirees.

    • 0
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      nothing wrong with the concept of a means test, it’s how it is applied that is important. And if we are honest about it, who had an issue with the taper before it was changed in 2017? We had the opportunity to vote against it in 2016 after Hockey announced the change in the 2015 budget but did not. Choices have consequences.

    • 0
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      We lived in a different world before 2016, Farside. But a lot of people fought hard to stop the change. Unfortunately, the idiot Greens shafted all of us. Too stupid to see the obvious terrible consequences of Hockey’s lazy, sloppy grab for an illusion of budget improvement. I wrote to every politician in parliament at the time. ONE replied, with a phone call at 6am on the day of the Senate vote asking me to explain further. When I did, he expressed shock and horror and said he would have to explain to his colleagues, as none of them understood the implications of the proposal. They voted it through anyway. If politicians were too dumb to understand it, how the hell were voters supposed to? Even many who were impacted didn’t understand what was happening until it was too late. Not that we had a choice anyway. We DID NOT have the opportunity to vote against it. We only had the opportunity to vote for another unsatisfactory party with far less satisfactory policies, or for a minority that was never going to be able to do anything constructive (and in the case of the Greens, didn’t WANT to do anything good).

      And there IS a lot wrong with the concept of a means test. It is inherently dangerous because it rewards failure and punishes striving. It drives increased need and increased manipulation to create an illusion of need. There is a very good reason why most countries DON’T means test their aged pension. Most DO means test unemployment benefits, which has the unfortunate effect of keeping people on benefits because they simply can’t afford the risk of striving to escape the welfare trap. And means testing benefits paid during a short-term crisis has the effect of forcing people to drain their savings, leaving them nothing for the next crisis or for old age. Basic welfare should be accessible to all in need, but pensions should be paid to anyone unable to earn an adequate income if they have a history of working and paying tax. NOBODY should be punished for having saved if they are unable to generate an income greater than that enjoyed by those relying on the taxpayer for support.

  3. 0
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    My Super is about back to where it was in January, but I did move most of my super into Cash, and then moved it back just after the unit prices got to where I thought was the bottom(I was correct). The down side- I notice that all fresh food is more expensive now thanks to the virus. My dozen eggs cost $1 more. My apples were $4.99 kg, and now $5.99. meat is more expenisve as well. can’t win- in one hand and out of the other.

    • 0
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      The virus or the drought and fires?
      Country Australia has been devastated by apocalyptic events over the last 4 years. The virus has been just a glitch compared to what they have been through.

    • 0
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      I don’t think most SMRs wish to have to play the market to keep their heads above water, and many would not even now how or wish to learn as they go through their 70s and 80s.

      Personally I am now worse off than various friends who now get the Age Pension, govt grants, rate and Insurance relief and multiple health benefits.
      I obviously worked too hard so as not to get the pension but not hard enough to be above the inflated safety net.

  4. 0
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    I guess you’ve highlighted the problem with only being able to offer non-specific information other than that publicly released.

  5. 0
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    Self funded retirees seem to want to capitalise their gains but socialise their losses. Part of the deal with owning shares is that they rise but also fall. So what if you have to draw down your Capital that is what it is there for after all. To many look on their capital as something to hand down to the children instead of something to use to fund their retirement. Most retirees are not in that fortunate position so be happy with your lot instead of being controlled by your assets.

    • 0
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      All the new compulsory superannuation schemes are reliant to the Stock Market. However because they are manipulated globally by the hedge fund managers they bare little relation to the profitability of the company.
      Its rather like a famous painting or a house in Sydney. Neither have any relationship with cost of the manufacture to the price paid.

    • 0
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      It is certainly not a good idea to draw down one’s capital with another 30 years of retirement to go. So it has nothing to do with leaving an inheritance at all but all to do with making one’s money last with inflation taking a toll as the year pass.

    • 0
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      only because most retirees spent money on private schools and expensive sports, or buying better homes and cars, etc for years instead of saving. We all had the same saving opportunities. How come savers now miss out on the support the spenders take for granted?

    • 0
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      It was predictable that we’d see a nasty comment ranting about SFRs wanting to hand down to children. We should expect some here to be delighted to see SFRs suffering hurt.

    • 0
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      And NO, Tanker. My capital is NOT there to draw down on now. Nor to leave to my children. It’s there to fund health care and household help when I need it. It’s there to pay for chiropractic and physio treatments and dental treatments and optical treatments that I saved to be able to afford because I knew I would have those needs. It’s there to pay for home repairs and maintenance 20 years from now when things start to fall apart. But because of GREED and SELFISHNESS, I can’t use my savings for the things I saved for.

    • 0
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      SFRs concerned about longevity risk might consider reorganising retirement strategies and put some of that long term money into deferred lifetime annuities payable 20 years hence rather than holding out for fundamental policy reform. It might even help them with the assets test.

      And some SFRs don’t want to keep capital for legacies, yeah sure.

    • 0
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      There is no way I’d touch an annuity let alone put money into one.

    • 0
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      Likewise, RW. I equate annuities to rolling up piles of $100 bills and throwing them in a fire. They are grossly overpriced and not nearly as secure as one would hope they should be given the cost.

  6. 0
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    In the very first paragraph there are 2 words that cost me a lot of money and those 2 words are “working longer”. I did this and i was injured at work at the age of 68 and both my employer and the insurance company CGU used the Victorian Workers Compensation Act to get out of being forced to make a payout amount because at the time the Victorian Workers Compensation Act had the maximum age of cover set at 65 and therefore I was not entitled to any payout through the courts. The judge could not do anything about it and now I have to live with a permanent disability and loss of movement and the employer and insurance company walked away from their responsibility because of the wording in the Victorian Workers Compensation Act, which was set at the retirement age of 65. If the Victorian Government had of kept up with the changes with the increase of the retirement age then they would have done the same as all the other states and removed the retirement age figure completely so that anyone who work at any age was covered for any injury that happened at work.

    • 0
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      Your life Choices should write an article about your experience Russell to warn other older workers of this loophole. Workers can be injured at any age, but to not receive compensation after you are injured because you are too old is wrong. Oh for an OLD LIVES MATTER campaign…

    • 0
      0

      I retired at age 63, then worked parttime for about 2.5 years. Investigated insurance and workers comp, and even though the retiring age kept going up, there was no workers compensation after 65, no sick leave working parttime, and decided the risk to me of having an accident, did not bother working anymore. This was 11 years ago. Nothing has happened since then except that the retiring age keeps going up. The NDIS came in about that time, but again, not covered people disabled for any reason if over 65.
      Back then, during the GFC, was on a part pension which supplemented the superannuation pension drawdown at 50%, but now, no point in using the 50% drawdown super pension, because I cannot live on that amount, which again is going to be lower substantially because the value of investments have dropped so much in March.

    • 0
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      If your employer is negliant then you have a civil claim against them regardless of workers compensation.

    • 0
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      Good luck with that RW. What happens to your civil claim when the employer shuts down and declares bankruptcy (after cleverly transferring assets to avoid liability)?

    • 0
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      I actually took out a civil claim against an employer and it was not long before I was negotiating a settlement. Without filing that civil claim I would have got nothing.

    • 0
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      Lucky you. I was not offered a settlement because the employer knew court processes take forever and delays gave him time to rearrange his business so he would appear not to have funds to pay.

    • 0
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      You have to name your employer’s actual individual owner as well as the business when you take out a civil action.

    • 0
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      The owner protected their assets very effectively RW. It’s easy enough to do. The system protects those who manipulate to deprive others.

  7. 0
    0

    Let’s just wait and see. Like everyone else who relies on a portfolio linked to either Real Estate or the Stock Market we are waiting to see how it snaps back.
    On the upside those who still command a guaranteed income from the old pension/superannuation schemes are sitting pretty. So all their money is being spent in Australia for a change. So that has to be a bonus – yet I would imagine its nothing compared to our loss of tourist dollars from foreign travelers coming to Australia.

  8. 0
    0

    The share market is being kept afloat by the stupidity of the Reserve Banks who continue to pump money into the market via their low rates and easing shenanigans. The reality is that this has all been speculative and there is actually negative growth in the real economy. The real economy has barely recovered from the GFC and the next shock will be cataclysmic. There is no way to know when this will happen and the only safeguard is to cut your losses and get your money out of speculative investments and into cash to at least save some capital. If you take the risk and keep it in speculative investments then they will eventually crash. Some will win by sheer luck and most will lose. Be sensible and trust your own judgement.

  9. 0
    0

    Interesting.

    We all had a choice of how to invest any savings for our retirement – super fund of one sort or another, a bank, or share market. Some chose the super conservative option with banks as if nothing could ever affect bank interest; others went much more risky in the share market and bet on their own judgement and skills (or their financial advisor) hoping to increase their savings and income over time; and people who knew they would not become experts, didn’t want to make those choices in ignorance, wanted balance, went with a super fund. Some super funds are better than others, but most provide good data about the choices they offer, and personal advice if required.

    Now the risk takers in the share market are screaming unfair (when has the financial system ever been fair) when their conscious choices turn out to be not so good after all, and the ultra conservatives with the banks (despite years of evidence re their corrupt practices) have joined the scream. It seems the government should be blackmailed into compensating their unwise judgements somehow so they don’t have to use some capital to live on while the bad times pass through.

    There has been plenty of warning that this ‘recession/depression’ was coming through and still they hung themselves out there. I have no doubt that there are genuine cases of hardship out there beside the entitled ones, but the age pension is there to back them up if they are genuinely needful and not too proud. Maybe they could have considered a good super fund to mitigate the sort of situation we are facing, where people who know what they are doing make the detailed decisions.

    We are all suffering from poor governance by neo liberal regimes across the world, corporate malfeasance, and the innate boom and bust cycles of capitalism, let alone capitalism on neo liberal steroids. Any senior who doesn’t remember the 1890’s drought and depression, 2 world wars, the Great Depression, and the market crashes of the past few decades, has had his head under a pillow for too long. None of this requires a tertiary education.

    Yes, there are anomalies in the retirement income regime, but most were designed to encourage the unwary into exactly the sort of ‘investments’ that are now causing pain. You all wanted to hang on to your franking credits etc., screamed blue murder when it was suggested they be discontinued, and now you are stuck with the consequences. At least my super fund will mitigate the consequences for me as I take a hit, but it doesn’t mean wipeout of my tiny savings. My children will not be getting an inheritance because I will have to use my small capital and perhaps have to sell the house as well if I live long. I don’t expect the government to change the laws again or compensate me for the inevitable losses from the way our country has chosen to manage its governance and financial system.

    • 0
      0

      Gee you must have over $3 million in your super fund.

    • 0
      0

      Very true Travellersjoy. There has been a mismanagement of global economies for decades.

      My fund, not super, hasn’t lost too much because of the bond portion cutting in as stocks fell.

      I think those who relied on bank shares and the dividends and franking credits or anyone relying on rents are in strife.

      If the banks survive what’s coming it will be a miracle.

    • 0
      0

      my super fund is back to levels around beginning of 2020. Diversification in investments beats speculation in the long run. Borrowers love this low interest rate environment.

      Travellersjoy, are there really seniors on here that remember the 1890’s drought and depression, first world war or second world war?

  10. 0
    0

    Another classic example of a journalist taking a fact and creating a lie. Particularly the part that says ‘the coronavirus crisis crushes superannuation, personal savings and share dividends’. The coronavirus did not crush superannuation, I monitor my wife’s small superannuation (less than $200k) at least weekly and the reality is that her superannuation has lost something about 1.5% in value since January 1 2020, but earnings since June 1919 are around 1.4%. Not fantastic news but nowhere near ‘crushing’. Personal savings interest rates have been minimal long before we ever heard of coronavirus. While I have no personal knowledge of share dividends I would acknowledge that dividends are most likely diminished due a recession attributed to the to coronavirus but recessions come and go with monotonous regularity they are a normal part of the financial landscape.
    As for those people who complain they may have to go on public assistance all I can say is if you are eligible for the pension then apply, it cannot be that hard as millions of people have previously successfully applied. You have, I presume, paid your taxes during your working life therefore you are entitled to the benefits, it is not charity.

    • 0
      0

      Correction: the line that includes ‘reality is that her superannuation has lost something about 1.5% in value since January 1 2020’ should have read ‘reality is that her superannuation has lost something about 4.5% in value since January 1 2020’. Sorry!!

    • 0
      0

      Well, it crushed mine, Eddy. And it crushed a lot of other people’s too. Your wife is lucky. And applying for a pension IS hard when your super fluctuates constantly and Centrelink looks at your past income, not your present. It is also hard when Centrelink employees get things wrong, and they seem to do that a lot.

    • 0
      0

      I should add, however, that if things get much worse I’ll get a pension and have nearly double the income. What an idiotic system we have!

    • 0
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      Younagain, there is no shame in applying for the Pension. It is your right if you meet the criteria. Centrelink look at current income, they revalue Super once a year at least without you having to do anything.

    • 0
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      Eddy, my super is back at 1 Jan 2020 levels as well … the losses are transitory and will recover with time. My wife’s fund (Hesta) has performed similarly and I would expect little difference among the industry funds.

    • 0
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      Youngagain, crushing, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
      I understand that CentreLink is only interested in what your financial situation is now, not the past. If you are entitled to a pension then apply, and you will also get the pension concessions. If CentreLink staff get things wrong the worst result is you may have to repay some money but at least RoboDebt hopefully has gone to the dustbin of history.

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