Until you’re on the home stretch with just a couple of years to go, retirement can seem more like an abstract concept rather than something you’ll actually reach. That feeling can then make it difficult to want to put time into understanding your super and how it’s going to work for you in retirement.

We recently conducted some research to understand how our members feel about super and preparing for retirement, and we heard the same kind of things over and over:

  • I’m too young to think about retirement yet
  • Super is in the too-hard basket
  • I have other financial commitments
  • It’s hard to know the ‘magic number’

Does any of that sound familiar? If any of those thoughts resonate with you, don’t worry – there are a lot of quick, easy things you can do to get in control of your super, no matter your situation.

If you think you're too young...

You don’t need to have your whole retirement plan mapped out when you’re 31, 41, or even 51, but there are a couple of things you can do to set yourself up properly now so that when you do get closer to planning age, everything is in place and ready for you to go.

After all, as the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the next best time is now. If you can, why not plant the tree now for future you 20 or even 40 years down the line?

Here are a few things to do to set yourself up:

  • Combine your super: By combining all your super into one account, you could save on fees and charges. This means more of your money stays invested in the super system, growing over time to support your future savings and lifestyle.
  • Review your investment options: The way your super is invested can have a significant impact on your balance at retirement, so it’s important to make sure your investment options meet your changing needs and lifestyle goals.
  • Consider your insurance needs: If you’re over-insured, paying premiums for cover you don’t need can deplete your super balance. If you’re under-insured, you may not have enough to protect your family in the event of an unfortunate event.
  • Understand your potential entitlements: If you’re eligible for any government offsets and co-contributions, then you should consider taking advantage of them.

If you’re worried about the magic number…

The good news is that there isn’t actually a magic number.

While the $1 million figure often comes up, rest assured there’s no official decree that says the magic million is a must.

Like many other aspects of super, how much super you need in retirement depends on you and your personal circumstances – in particular, what kind of lifestyle do you personally want to live in retirement?

In other words, what does your super actually have to be able to pay for?

As a rough guide, the Association of Super Funds of Australia (ASFA)’s Retirement Standard estimates that a couple will need a lump sum of $640,000 in combined super savings at retirement in order to enjoy a ‘comfortable’ retirement. A single person, meanwhile, will need a lump sum of $545,000 in super savings.

A ‘modest’ lifestyle will require a lump sum of $70,000 in super savings at retirement.

Our retirement income calculator can help you play with different scenarios to see what kind of income you could have in retirement.

If you have other financial commitments…

Super is just one part of your financial puzzle, with other expenses or investments taking priority at different points in life – but there’s no reason why you can’t make valuable contributions to your super while also working on paying off your mortgage, for example, or saving for your dream holiday.

Where people tend to get bogged down is in thinking that the only way to contribute to super is to make big contributions, and make them regularly – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Thanks to the magic of compound interest, even small amounts you contribute now, either on a regular basis or the occasional one-off, can help give your balance a boost when you get to retirement.

But don’t just take our word for it. If you want to see the power of compound interest in action, MoneySmart’s calculator can help you picture how an amount as little as $20 per month can grow.

When making voluntary contributions, remember that caps apply and that your super will be preserved until you reach retirement age, so it’s important to think about your ongoing commitments before making a contribution.

If you’ve put super in the too-hard basket…

We know super is full of terminology and rules that can be difficult to wrap your head around.

That’s why we’ve put together a range of easy-to-understand resources on our Learning Hub.

Whether you prefer to read or watch, we’ve got simple explainers on everything from how investing works through to the different types of contributions you can make, how insurance in super works, how to access your super in retirement, and more.

If you’d prefer to have a chat to someone, we’ve got you covered there too – you can book a one-on-one appointment over the phone with our Super Advice team. In just 30 minutes, they can help you understand the ins and outs of your super and answer any super-related questions you have.

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If you need help with making a decision about your super, you can get simple advice over the phone or face to face. It’s included as a part of your membership so there’s no extra cost.