Retirees pessimistic about future

According to the AMP Happiness Survey, Australian retirees are the happiest people in the nation, with humour, financial security and leisure time the factors responsible for their satisfaction.

The survey of over 1040 existing AMP customers revealed that 79 per cent of them are happy with their lives – 68 per cent of those surveyed even said they were ‘thriving’.

That’s the case right now, but notions of the future aren’t so bright.

When the survey participants were asked how they thought they’d feel in five years’ time, over half (51 per cent) said they were pessimistic about the future.

When it comes to retirement satisfaction, economic security is consistently one of the most important factors. With the changes to super rules and threats of Age Pension cuts, it’s not so surprising then, that the future for many Australian retirees seems ‘uncertain’.

“Having a solid foundation in place is important but it’s not just about how much you have, but also how informed and confident you are with your choices,” said AMP Director, Superannuation, Retirement and Investments, Vicki Doyle.

“Being actively engaged with your finances and having a plan in place can go a long way towards achieving economic security.”

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • 71 per cent said they were either “satisfied” or “slightly satisfied” with their life
  • around one third of respondents say they are happy every day
  • 77 per cent said they were happy several times a week
  • those with an income greater than $250,000 are 14 per cent happier than those with an income of $80–99,000 (78 per cent versus 64 per cent).

According to Ms Doyle, Australians need to set goals to improve their level of optimism.

“Having and setting goals is a great motivator and gives people more satisfaction and happiness,” she said.  “Whether your goals are financial, relationship, or health related, getting your goals clear and putting them in writing makes them more likely to be achieved!”

Opinion: proof of older Australians’ resilience

Although they’re happy right now, Australian retirees have a right to be concerned about the future, especially as they seem to be a consistent financial target deemed ripe for the picking.

Changes to super rules, most of which kick in from 1 July 2017, and more recently, the speculation over the Liberal Party’s plans to cut Age Pensions, have many retirees worried about their future. Add to that the possibility that the family home could one day be added to the assets test and you have a recipe for concern.

YourLifeChoices regularly conducts surveys of its members and, consistently, health and money are their two major concerns. In the YourLifeChoices Insights Survey 2017, 31 per cent said that the timing of their retirement was mostly influenced by health, followed by money at 27 per cent. Still, the majority of respondents rated their health as good (59 per cent) and excellent (18 per cent), with 18 per cent rating their health as fair.

In the Retirement Affordability 2017 survey, YourLifeChoices members were asked how they rate their standard of living in retirement. Although around 61 per cent said it was ‘about what they thought it would be’, 23 per cent said it was ‘worse than they thought it would be’, with just 12 per cent saying it was ‘better than they thought it would be’.

Perhaps what is more telling is the state of their retirement income. This is where the real worry for the future lies.

We asked our members what they find are the most challenging aspects of retirement affordability. They are, in order:

  • housing affordability
  • budgeting
  • affording small indulgences
  • understanding the connection between age pension and superannuation.

So, housing affordability is a major concern. And with our rapidly ageing population and the lack of housing options, that concern will only grow over time. When our members were asked if they could afford to meet their weekly needs if they didn’t own their home, 31 per cent said no and 26 per cent said they would struggle.

The current line of thinking is that housing affordability is a problem for younger families. Tell that to the 15,000 homeless older Australians and, especially, the estimated 2000 Australians over the age of 75 who are sleeping rough on any given night.

When asked how they felt about their cost of living, 79 per cent feel that their cost of living is rising faster than the inflation rate.

Around eight in 10 of Australian retirees are unsure of, or know that, their retirement savings will not last as long as they will, with 62 per cent saying that what they have is not enough to live a reasonable lifestyle.

For 39 per cent of YourLifeChoices members, the Age Pension is their largest source of income. When asked if it was enough to live on, a resounding 79 per cent said “no”. So, it’s probably no surprise that 77 per cent of respondents believe that the Government is not doing enough to support retirees.

And it’s little wonder that older Australians are worried about the future.

I was talking to someone the other day and she said to me that the barometer for a fair and successful developed nation is how it treats its elders. Suffice to say, our older population seems to be looked upon as either a burden or a cash cow. It’s time that thinking changed.

Pessimism aside, according to the AMP survey, Australian retirees are still the happiest people in the nation. Financial hardship, waning relationships and public image are not enough to bring our older population down. Now that really says something about resilience, perseverance and a positive attitude.

Maybe younger generations could learn something from their forebears?

Are you happy? What are the most important factors that contribute to your happiness? How do you feel about the future?

Related articles:
Five steps to a happier life
What happiness meant 80 years ago
Can money buy happiness?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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