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Investing your money is one way to make the most of your savings and provide an income in retirement. But if you’re expecting savings and investment earnings to help cover your expenses, it’s important to get your strategy right.
Why timing matters
When accumulating super for retirement, you can afford to be patient. With years ahead to top up your super, you can stay invested during falls in the share market and wait for markets – and your assets – to bounce back. For the few years just before and after retirement, it’s a different story. This period, known as the ‘retirement risk zone’, is the time when you have most to lose from a fall in the value of investments. Your super has likely reached its peak in value and you want to make the most of these savings for your future retirement income.
In order to protect your savings and provide you with income throughout your retirement, it’s important to be aware of three key risks:
1. Living longer
Australians are living longer than ever before. Life expectancy has grown by more than 30 years in the last century1. Living off retirement savings for 20-30 years or more introduces the very real risk of running out of money. So it’s no wonder more than half of Australians aged 50+ are worried about outliving their savings according to a 2019 National Seniors Australia survey.
We’re lucky that we live in a country that if your retirement savings run out; the Age Pension is there as a safety net. But these regular payments may not be enough to maintain the lifestyle you’ve been enjoying in retirement. You could also be left with limited funds and options for aged care, if you should need it. That’s why it’s so important to make a financial plan early in your retirement so that you can help to protect your income now and in the future.
Inflation measures the change in the cost of living over time and represents an important and often underestimated risk to your financial security in retirement. Given your retirement could last 20+ years, there's a good chance your savings and income will be affected by inflation. At an average annual inflation rate of 2.5%2, a dollar today is worth roughly half what it was 25 years ago. Even this modest year-on-year rise in the price of goods and services can put you at risk of having an income that no longer covers your living expenses from year to year.
3. Market volatility
Market volatility is a risk for investors with exposure to investments such as shares, bonds and commodities. If you’re worried about another potential market collapse similar to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008, you’re not alone. A 2018 National Seniors Australia survey found that 7 out of 10 older Australians share your concerns.
Falls in the value of investments are impossible to predict and can make a big difference to income and financial security throughout your retirement. When investments earn negative returns, your retirement savings are falling in value. Crucially, if you also need to make regular withdrawals to pay for living expenses, it’s a twofold blow for your overall financial position in retirement. Less savings now means more potential for outliving those savings later in life.
Protecting your income and future in retirement
Diversifying your investments – balancing growth and defensive assets for example – can limit the impact of market risks and inflation on your retirement savings. However, even with a well-diversified portfolio, your super and Age Pension may not provide you enough income for your entire retirement. If you’d like the peace of mind that comes with a guaranteed income for life, a lifetime annuity might be right for you.
Using a portion of your savings or super, you can invest in a lifetime annuity and receive regular, guaranteed income payments for life. It can act as a safety net ensuring that you will receive income for life, regardless of how long you live or how investment markets perform.
Talk to an adviser about the benefits of a lifetime annuity and whether it might be right for you.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Life Expectancy improvements in Australia over the last 125 years, 18 October 2017.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 70 years of inflation in Australia, Andrew Glasscock, 2017. Fig 2.