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Retirees facing steep increases for basic items

The ASFA Retirement Standard benchmarks the annual budget needed by Australians to fund either a 'comfortable' or 'modest' standard of living in the post-work years. It is updated quarterly to reflect inflation and provides detailed budgets of what singles and couples would need to spend to support their chosen lifestyle.

What does modest and comfortable mean?

A modest retirement lifestyle is considered better than the age pension but still only able to afford fairly basic activities.

A comfortable retirement lifestyle enables an older, healthy retiree to be involved in a broad range of leisure and recreational activities and to have a good standard of living through the purchase of such things as:

  • household goods
  • private health insurance
  • a reasonable car
  • good clothes
  • a range of electronic equipment
  • domestic and occasionally international holiday travel.

The June quarter 2019 figures indicate that couples aged around 65 living a comfortable retirement need to spend $61,522 per year and singles $43,601, up 0.8% for each on the previous quarter. At the modest level there was an 0.6% increase for singles and a 0.5% increase for couples.

These various changes are more or less in line with the All Groups CPI 0.6% increase between the March and June quarters.

Over the year to the June 2019 quarter, costs were up around 1.5% for couples at both the comfortable and modest levels, compared to the 1.6% increase in the All Groups CPI. This equates to couples needing to spend $918 more a year, and for singles the amount is $648.

Budgets for older retirees rose from the previous quarter by around 0.7% at the comfortable level and by 0.5% at the modest level.

Many retirees would have welcomed the recent decision to decrease the deeming rate in the asset test for the age pension but at the same time they have been facing increased costs of living and lower returns from investments, such as term deposits. Having sufficient savings in superannuation to support the lifestyle Australians want and deserve in retirement is an imperative. Moving to 12% for the Superannuation Guarantee is a necessity for those not yet retired.

Prices that have risen substantially

However, while the increase in the headline rate of the CPI might not look large, retirees have been facing significant increases in the price of many necessities of life. The drought has impacted the prices of a range of foods, the cost of private health insurance continues to grow at around twice the general rate of inflation, and petrol prices are up.

The costs for retirees that increased substantially over the last 12 months are:

  • Price of bread up by 4.8%
  • Price of beef up by 6.0% and lamb up by 13.5%
  • Price of milk up by 2.9%
  • Price of fruit up by 4.9%
  • Price of vegetables up by 6.2%
  • Price of beer up by 2.5%
  • Property rates up by 2.3%
  • Price of hairdressing up by 2.9%
  • Price of private health insurance up by 3.25% on average
  • Price of dental services up by 2.3%
  • Price of domestic travel up by 3.5% and price of international travel by 4.1%

The most significant price increases in the June quarter were automotive fuel (10.2%), medical and hospital service (2.6%) and international holiday, travel and accommodation (2.7%).

The figures in each case assume that the retiree/s own their own home and relate to expenditure by the household. This can be greater than household income after income tax where there is a drawdown on capital over the period of retirement. All calculations are weekly, unless otherwise stated. Annual figure is 52.2 times the weekly figure.

More information

Costs and summary figures can be accessed via the ASFA website. ASFA provides individual calculators to help Australians plan for retirement. Australians can find out more about superannuation on the independent Super Guru website.

 

Martin Fahy is Chief Executive Officer of The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), the peak policy, research and advocacy body for Australia’s superannuation industry. This article is general information and does not consider the circumstances of any person.

 

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5 Comments
Geoff
August 20, 2019

I've run my personal numbers for (retired) life at 60 and they're certainly way, way higher than the comfy / miserable numbers that are forever being touted and upgraded by ASFA. I can't see that all that much will change between 60 and 65. People should interrogate them and come up with their personal costs and work backwards from there. Guidelines, not rules.

You just don't get two phones, an internet connection and a "sinking fund" style allowance for replacing a couple of laptops and/or tablets every five years or so for $30.34 a week (communications/comfy/couple/65). Not even close. And that's modern day essential for a cohabiting couple, I'd suggest.

And is wine under food, health or leisure? :)

Roger Farquhar
August 17, 2019

I would think that these sums are conservative and are dependent on what you consider to be comfortable. Our housing - rates and insurance - are far more than allowed and then there are the inevitable replacements due to wear and tear.

Yes there are retirees on the road - they crawl along in high gear to save fuel and budget from one park to the next.

Graham W
August 16, 2019

What a load of rubbish that retirees need $65k pa. I know many pensioners solely receiving the age pension that have full and active lives. As long as you own your place of residence this is pretty much a given,apart from mainly the capital cities. We maintain a large home ,3 vehicles and lots of holidays towing a luxury caravan,more like $50k pa.
We all started as frugal baby boomers and know how to make a quid stretch ,without economising too much.The north of WA is chokka with caravanners enjoying the good life,few need $60k pa to live a life in their unit doing little but watching the goggle box.Economists are rubbish.

Peter W
August 18, 2019

Graham W,
I would suggest that you may not represent all retiree's. I think I can make a number of assumptions about you.
You are obviously blessed with extremely good health as health can be a major cost to a retiree. Also i wonder if you even have private health cover which is another cost. You don't have any diet issues as the cost of food if you have an intolerance is much higher than usual. Also you obviously don't travel overseas or if you do it is to very low cost destinations on a low budget and a rare occasion. Also when I consider you own three vehicles and a caravan and considering the depreciation, running costs and the maintenance cost on your home I would like to see look over your finances to see how you manage on $50k a year. Sorry but I very much doubt your costing.

Frank
August 15, 2019

Most important to realise is all these numbers assume you own your own home. This will become increasingly uncommon putting a lot of pressure on older folk.


 

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