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It's never too early to plan your retirement 'dreams'

HOW much super do I need to retire?

Faced with that question, Evan Poole, Manager Advice Operations at Sunsuper said people should first ask themselves what they want to do in retirement and "what does that look like"?

Evan said while it can be hard, people should try to really "get out of the day-to-day and get to a place where they can think about what their goals and their dreams for retirement might be."

"How many times can I go overseas a year? Do you want a fishing shack to live in? Talking about what you want to do helps you to work out where you need to aim to get there," he said.

Evan said customer data showed the earlier people started to plan their retirement and to seek independent financial advice, the better the choices they tended to make around their investments and the better the results when retirement came around.

While it's difficult to put a single monetary figure on how much anyone needs to retire, the industry has created a variety of models to help break that concept down into more manageable bites.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission's Money Smart website refers to a model developed by The Australian Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) that offers a guide to the two extremes of retirement - modest at one end, comfortable at the other. That model assumes retirees own their own home at the point of retirement, retire at 65 and live until they are 85.

Under the ASFA model, a comfortable retirement would pay $60,264 per annum for a couple and $43,764 for a single. At the modest end of the scale, it's $39,208 for a couple and $27,248 for a single.

At Sunsuper Evan said they found working across four segments made it a little easier for people to find one close to where their retirement dreams lay.

Those segments, outlined in the SunTracker model are: Doing Ok, Comfortable, Doing Well and Premium.

Putting figures next to them, Doing Ok is an income of $24,500 p.a. for a single or $35,500 p.a. for a couple. It's saving hard for one or two short breaks near home a year, occasionally eating out with budget options, relying on public health and free benefits, enjoying low-cost leisure activities and a life centred around the kids and grandkids.

Comfortable ($34,500 p.a. for a single and $48,000 p.a. for a couple) is saving for an annual domestic holiday, regular café meals, public health and free benefits, gym membership, movies, travel and spending time with friends and helping family.

The Doing Well lifestyle ($44,500 p.a. for a single and $61,000 p.a. for a couple) has retirees planning for one domestic or overseas holiday a year plus regular short breaks. They're eating out at local restaurants and cafes and entertaining at home. With access to private health care, sport and fitness facilities, they enjoy socialising, cooking schools, entertaining and travel.

At the Premium Lifestyle stage, ($58,000 p.a. for a single and $77,000 p.a. for a couple) it's about regular overseas holidays and helping family travel, eating out frequently at a variety of places, being able to afford medical treatment whenever it's required, a bit of part time work and time spent with family, travelling, cooking, shopping and spoiling the grandchildren.

Evan said everyone could benefit from having a closer look at how they had structured their superannuation, even those who had recently retired.

He said while people at different ages and stages of life would be facing different pressures on their personal or family cash flow at any point in time - simple, low cost, or no cost actions such as consolidating super accounts into one fund could save money on annual fees and grow the size of the retirement benefit available when the time came.

Sunsuper's 2017 Value of Advice report ( ) outlines a range of case studies demonstrating the benefits of advice have had for customers over the years - ranging from adding $240k to the retirement outcome of family of four who had advice when the parents were 33 and 36 years old, to a couple in their early 50s who were $78k better off for having acted on advice before they turned 55.

So, it seems, regardless of what age you are, if you're asking yourself the question "How much super do I need to retire?" now is the time to start visualising what retirement looks like for you to seek out independent advice to help guide you on the way. Most super funds will offer free advice on your super or your financial adviser will be able to help guide you on your way.

If you're keen to see how you're tracking now, there are a host of online tools available on the various super fund websites that are well worth exploring. See for an example, and check out this video ( for a bit more information on the question of how much super is enough.

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