Here’s how much super Aussies need in their accounts right now to retire comfortably

Did you know there is a large gap between the amount of super most people have saved up and how much they actually need to retire? Research shows how much you’ll need to comfortably afford travel and the occasional game of lawn bowls in retirement.

If you’re feeling out of touch with your super, you’re not alone. In fact, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) recently found more than one third of Aussies don’t open any emails or letters from their super fund, resulting in 26% having no idea what their balance is and 44% not knowing what insurance they have in super.

Whether you’re 18, approaching your 30s or a few years off from retirement age, it can be important to get familiar with your balance.

To help give you a picture of where you stand, here’s an estimate of how much super is needed to retire comfortably, what the gap is between current super balances and what you may actually need, and an analysis of why it’s important to consider your super fund’s investment options and fees now.

How much super will I need in my account at retirement?

ASFA estimates the average superannuation balance required to achieve a comfortable retirement would be $640,000 for couples and $545,000 for singles, assuming you withdraw your super as a lump sum and receive a part Age Pension. How much super you need will vary, though, according to the standard of living you want to maintain at retirement.

ASFA defines a comfortable retirement as when a retiree can afford to be involved in a range of recreational activities, buy household goods and pay for top-level private health insurance, a mid-range car, electronic equipment and occasional travel.

How much do I need to have in my super account now to live comfortably after retirement?

Canstar data suggests many Australians could be likely to suffer from a shortfall in superannuation savings when it comes time to retire – if they want to retire comfortably. The research shows that to be on track for this lifestyle, 30-year old men and women would need to have around $61,000 in their super account today, but on average, they are currently between $37,000 and $41,000 short of that balance.

Women currently in their 60s face the biggest super gap of more than $282,000, based on this data.

The below table estimates how much super people of different ages ‘should’ have in their balance today to be able to afford a comfortable retirement, which might allow you to eat out more regularly, travel further and enjoy more luxuries than would be feasible in a more modest retirement.

How Much Super Should You Have?
Gender Age Average Balance Balance Required Today for Comfortable Retirement Gap
Male 30 $23,696 $61,000 -$37,304
40 $51,054 $154,000 -$102,946
50 $102,800 $271,000 -$168,200
60 $170,445 $430,000 -$259,555
Female 30 $19,947 $61,000 -$41,053
40 $41,408 $154,000 -$112,592
50 $80,307 $271,000 -$190,693
60 $147,143 $430,000 -$282,857
Source: www.canstar.com.au, ASFA & APRA – 30/10/2019. Average balance per APRA’s 2018 Annual Superannuation Bulletin. Balance required today for comfortable retirement based on ASFA’s Super Balance Detective calculator. Gap calculated as the difference between the average balance and the balance required today for a comfortable retirement. Comfortable Retirement per ASFA guidelines for a single person aged around 65 (retirement income of $43,601 p.a.).

Canstar money expert Effie Zahos said if consumers find there is a gap between how much super they currently have and how much they ‘should’ have at their age, then now could be a great time to do something about it.

“While it’s never too late to change your financial future, it is much easier to play catch-up sooner rather than later,” Ms Zahos said.

Ms Zahos said the super system is still maturing, as Superannuation Guarantee (SG) – where your employer has to pay you super – only came into effect in 1992.

“Many Aussies have not received the full SG benefit over their entire working lives, so they still need to contribute over and above compulsory contributions if they want to achieve what ASFA says is the magic number for a comfortable retirement,” Ms Zahos said.

How do I boost my super account balance so that I can retire comfortably?

If you have found your super balance isn’t on track, Ms Zahos said there were a few things you could do to bump it up:

  1. Check for any lost super. But a new set of rules around superannuation accounts means some low balance, inactive super accounts will now be automatically merged with active accounts, or the money will be held by the Australian Tax Office.
  2. Give your fund a quick four-point health check. That is, make sure you’re in the right investment profile for your needs, check the level of insurance you have, be sure you’re not paying too much in fees and that your fund’s performance is on par with its peers over the long-term (bearing in mind that past performance is not necessarily indicative of future performance).

You may also enjoy: New pain-free ways to boost your super

How are super funds tracking now to deliver a comfortable retirement?

We now know how much is needed for a comfortable retirement and how much the average Aussie has in their super. The Canstar Research team has also crunched the numbers on a range of super fund investment options and fees to see how much average balances could grow by the time a person reaches retirement age. Inflation and cost of living increases have been taken into consideration. 

The data shows it can be worthwhile weighing up your investment option and fees, because they could make a real difference to your nest egg by retirement.

Projected Superannuation Balance by Age and Gender
Gender Age Average Balance Projected Balance at Retirement by Investment Option & Fee Level
Balanced Investment

& Low Fees

Balanced Investment

& High Fees

High Growth

& Low Fees

High Growth

& High Fees

Male 30 $23,696 $423,047 $291,492 $459,861 $313,946
40 $51,054 $337,230 $248,875 $360,368 $264,471
50 $102,800 $283,404 $224,853 $297,856 $235,749
60 $170,445 $246,044 $217,575 $252,615 $223,299
Female 30 $19,947 $362,951 $250,360 $394,493 $269,620
40 $41,408 $286,704 $212,086 $306,230 $225,275
50 $80,307 $234,285 $186,491 $246,031 $195,365
60 $147,143 $212,142 $187,632 $217,810 $192,571
Source: www.canstar.com.au, APRA & ASIC – 25/10/2019. Based on the average superannuation balance for each gender and age bracket per APRA’s Annual Superannuation Bulletin (June 2018). Projected Balance displayed in today’s dollars, and assumes an annual inflation rate of 2.0% and a cost of living increase of 1.2% per year (ASIC).  Assumes average adult full-time earnings based on gender (ABS: male $89,840 p.a., female $77,256 p.a.), with the government superannuation guarantee increases of 0.5% p.a. to 12% by July 1, 2025, in line with current legislation. Projected balances calculated using ASIC MoneySmart Super Calculator with returns and fee assumptions as follows: Balanced investment scenario assumes 4.8% investment returns, 6.5% tax on earnings and 0.5% investment fees, High Growth investment scenario assumes 5.3% investment returns, 4.1% tax on earnings and 0.7% investment fees, Low Fees scenario assumes $50 admin fees, and High Fees scenario assumes 4% contribution fee and 2% indirect cost ratio.  All projected balances assume retirement age of 67.

The super balance projections for those aged 60, which is getting close to retirement age, shows why some Australians may be reliant on receiving additional support via the Age Pension to fund their retirement.

Do Australians rely on the Age Pension?

On average, Australians receive the Age Pension over a longer timeframe than ever before.

When the Age Pension was introduced in Australia in 1909, the nation’s 4.3 million people had an average life expectancy of just 55 years, and few people were expected to reach the Age Pension age of 60 for women or 65 for men.

In 2019, the qualifying Age Pension is age is now 66 for both genders (although it is gradually increasing to 67), while our life expectancy at birth is more than 80 years of age for both men and women, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

It’s therefore likely that retirees will rely on their superannuation, and possibly the Age Pension as well, for a number of years, making it all the more important to act now to set yourself up well for a comfortable retirement.

Need more information about how to safeguard your retirement? The following read may help: When should you retire and how much money will you need?

Follow Canstar on Facebook and Twitter for financial updates.

Additional reporting by Tim Smith.

Image source: Ed Phillips (Shutterstock)

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