07 Aug 2017

Aussies pledge to pay off debt and save as concern for retirement savings jumps

An increasing number of Australians believe they will fall far short of being able to fund their retirements, which may be leading to a greater focus on paying down debt and putting more aside in savings, according to the latest research from MLC.

Between the fourth quarter of 2016 and first of 2017, the MLC Wealth Sentiment Survey Q1 2017 recorded an increase in Australians who think they will have “far from enough” in retirement, up from 24 per cent to 32 per cent of respondents.

The research also identified a significant disconnect between the retirement Australians want and the one they expect to have. Most respondents described their ideal retirement with words like “relaxed”, “comfort” and “travel”, while one in five used words like “stressful”, “worried”, and “difficult” to describe how they expect their retirement will be.MLC Wealth Sentiment Survey Q1 2017

“While economic indicators are quite strong, at an individual level it’s apparent that Australians aren’t feeling confident about their finances, and this may be causing anxiety about retirement,” MLC General Manager of Customer Experience, Superannuation, Lara Bourguignon, said.

“What’s interesting is that respondents said they need over $1 million to retire on, but even small super balances help in retirement, so instead of being worried and fearful, people should feel motivated and empowered to take the little steps that make a big difference.”

More Australians paying off debt, saving

The survey also shows Australians are now taking debt and saving more seriously.

Overall, 21 per cent of Australians plan to pay off more debt in the next three months, outweighing those who intend to pay off less debt (13 per cent) than they were previously. Further, 26 per cent intend to save more and 19 per cent save less.

“With people reporting they are concerned about having enough in retirement, it may be that Australians are taking a closer look at debt and implementing savings strategies that will help improve their overall financial position,” Ms Bourguignon said.

“While the catalyst may be a lack of confidence about funding retirement, getting in control of your finances is very empowering, and so we may see people feeling a lot better about their money in the long run.”

Australians don’t feel wealthy enough to seek financial advice

Another key insight from the research was that Australians believe they need to be wealthy in order to seek financial advice, a finding that may be holding many back from reaching their financial goals, Ms Bourguignon said.

“Many respondents said they would visit a financial adviser if their needs were more complicated, or if they earned more or had money to invest. But tackling debt or implementing a savings plan is actually the ideal time to engage a financial adviser.

“We certainly need to start changing our view around advice being only for the wealthy; it’s for all of us.”

Other key findings:

  • Women are more pessimistic than men about having enough for retirement – 62% don’t expect to have enough to retire on, compared with 52% of men.
  • Despite concerns about funding retirement, three in four Australians haven’t seen a financial adviser in the last five years.
  • Only three in ten Australians are comfortable borrowing to invest, with a third of these preferring investing in property.

About the MLC Quarterly Australian Wealth Sentiment Survey

The MLC Quarterly Australian Wealth Sentiment Survey interviews more than 2,000 people each quarter. It aims to assess the investment environment by asking questions related to current financial situation, investment intentions, level of concern related to superannuation and other investments, change in life insurance, and distance to retirement and investment strategy.

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