Retirees reveal what they wish they knew about retirement

Is there anything you wish you knew before you retired? What would you tell your younger, pre-retirement self? How did retirement differ from the vision in your head?

These were the questions considered by life insurance company TAL in its latest report, What I Wish I Knew About Retirement, which analysed the expectations of Aussies approaching retirement versus the lived experience of those already there.

To get that picture, TAL surveyed 1000 adults aged 55 and over and found that by and large, both pre-retirees and those already retired wished they had a better understanding of their finances and of what investments would bear fruit.

Pre-retirees want help with planning

When searching for that financial understanding, TAL found 51 per cent of pre-retirees and 39 per cent of post-retirees primarily seek financial advice from their superannuation fund, highlighting the important role funds play in retirement planning.

Ashton Jones, TAL general manager of growth, says that by understanding the expectations and concerns of pre-retirees and the realities of retired life, super funds have an opportunity to help more people enjoy a financially secure retirement.

“Our research shows that while three-quarters of pre-retirees are engaged or highly engaged with their finances, one in three don’t know what they will do with their super when they retire,” he said.

“Super funds can play a pivotal role in helping these members attain the retirement lifestyle they want and deserve.”

People retiring earlier and living longer

The paper showed some stark differences between what people want (and plan for) versus what reality dishes up.

The average life expectancy in Australia currently sits at 81.2 years for men and 85.3 years for women – much longer than when the superannuation system was first introduced. Survey respondents indicated they are worried that their money won’t last until the end of their life.

The research showed most people intend to retire between the ages of 65 and 69, but six out of 10 people (59 per cent) are forced into retirement earlier than that.

Most people answered that they’d like to retire ‘gradually’ by decreasing their workload over time rather than going straight from full-time employment to full retirement.

But again, life has other ideas, with only 30 per cent of retirees able to move from full-time to part-time work. Main reasons given for forced early retirement were redundancy, sickness and an inability to find work.

“When retirement arrives sooner than expected, it can derail a person’s ability to prepare as much as they’d like to,” Mr Jones says.

“Some common themes that emerged for retirees were that many wish they’d put more into superannuation when they had the chance, or that they’d started salary sacrificing earlier.”

One-third of retirees surveyed expected to live longer than they thought they would when they first retired. The research showed many retirees felt most confident about their finances in the early days of retirement.

This led to a marked increase in financial stress among 32 per cent of retirees over age 80 as they use up their retirement savings.

What else are retirees worried about?

Besides running out of money, the TAL research showed declining physical and cognitive health are some of the biggest concerns. In particular, respondents were worried about their ability to make financial decisions in the future.

When asked if they had confidence in their financial decision-making abilities right now, only 10 per cent said they had low confidence. But when asked if they thought they would be able to make those decisions in 20 years’ time, 42 per cent said they weren’t confident.

Mr Jones says this suggests that retirees would feel more secure in making financial decisions early in retirement in case they experience cognitive decline later on.

“With 2.5 million Australians approaching retirement in the next decade, it is essential that we do everything to ensure they are well equipped for the realities of life after work,” Jones said.

How confident are you that your money will last your whole retirement? What do you wish you knew before retiring? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: How do your retirement plans compare to the rest of Australia?

Brad Lockyer
Brad Lockyer
Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


  1. Our money should last us out but, of course, that depends on whether or not one of us needs to enter a nursing home and the amounts they withhold on departure.
    My idea of retirement having been retired for 10 years now was spending time travelling, particularly within Australia, and spending more time with family.
    We had a couple of trips within Australia before Covid hit but, post Covid, my husband
    doesn’t want to travel – he is 86!. Our family are busy with their life and we do not live close by now.
    So we see more of local friends and live an acreage that keeps us busy.

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