Easy retirement floating further away for many

Five years into his retirement, things were looking pretty sunny for a man named Les as he enjoyed a game of golf with a friend in Sydney.

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“Fantastic. I don’t know how I had time to go to work basically. I always have plenty of things to do, and, yeah … (I) love it.”

But that is a reality out of reach for many other Australians.

A policy paper commissioned by the super fund REST shows the cost of supporting family members is forcing many working Australians to either delay retirement or retire in debt.

REST chief executive Damian Hill says those feeling the biggest burden are the so-called “sandwich generation.”

“And these are people aged 50 to 65, and not only are they continuing to support their adult children they will never get off their hands, they’re also having to start supporting their parents, their retired parents, who have not saved enough in retirement.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggested last year wealthy parents could, as he put it, “shell out” to help their kids enter the property market.

But the survey shows the expectation on parents to help out their adult children may be part of the problem.

The study shows, among Australians over age 50 still in work, as many as one in five plans to retire with a mortgage.

It shows more than half have debts, including credit cards, still owing.

On their lunchbreaks in Sydney, these office workers offered a mix of approaches to planning retirement.

(First:) “Yeah, it’s something I do think about, but not planning to save yet for that. Still working on saving for a house.”

(Second:) “Yeah, I do contribute extra into my superannuation. So, yeah, I do think about the future.”

(Third:) “It’s something that concerns me, but I’ve done nothing about it. I tend to leave everything to the last minute. You know that saying, ‘If it wasn’t for the last moment, nothing would get done.’ So we’ll see about it in maybe 20 years’ time.”

But financial adviser Colin Lewis of Perpetual Private says it is never too early to start planning for retirement.”

“Just that little bit each year, it will help. The power of compound interest says it all, basically. The sooner you start, the more you’ll have at the end of the day.”