How much super should I have at my age?

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

Whether you’re fresh into the workforce, approaching your 40s or a few years off from retirement age, it can be important to get familiar with your super balance. That’s arguably now more important than ever for those who were able to access up to $20,000 in super early last year, to help provide financial support after facing a sustained period of unemployment or reduced income due to COVID-19.

Analysis by Canstar Research showed there could be considerable long-term costs of accessing super early, with a 25-year-old who had $20,000 in superannuation anticipated to lose up to $102,824 by retirement if they had withdrawn the full amount as part of the scheme.

More than 225,000 workers in New South Wales alone effectively “wiped out” their retirement savings with early withdrawals – the most in the nation – according to research by Industry Super Australia based on Australian Taxation Office (ATO) data.

If you think your super needs a boost in 2021 to get you back on track, it could be helpful to get a picture of where you stand.

How much super do I need to retire?

The Association of Super Funds of Australia (ASFA) estimates the average superannuation balance required to achieve a comfortable retirement would be $640,000 for a couple and $545,000 for a single person, assuming they withdrew their super as a lump sum and received a part Age Pension. How much super you personally 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.

What are the average super balances for Australians by age?

Here’s how much the average Australian currently has in superannuation based on their age, according to APRA data:

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Age Average balance (male) Average balance (female)
30 $27,182 $22,850
40 $67,179 $54,765
50 $130,066 $101,560
60 $198,482 $165,986

Source: – 21/06/2021. Average balances based on those reported in the APRA Annual Superannuation Bulletin (June 2020).

As we can see, there is a large difference between males and females when it comes to super balances. But how does this measure up to the amount it is recommended for Australians to have?

How much super do I need at my age?

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, that is. The research shows that to be on track for this lifestyle, 30-year old men and women would need to have around $54,000 in their super account today, but on average, they are currently between $26,000 and $31,000 short of that balance.

Women currently in their 60s face the biggest super gap of more than $249,000 based on this data.

The below table estimates how much super people of different ages ‘should’ have in their balance today to be on track 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?

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Gender Age Average balance Balance required today for comfortable retirement Gap
Male 30 $27,182 $54,000 $26,818
40 $67,179 $143,000 -$75,821
50 $130,066 $257,000 -$126,934
60 $198,482 $415,000 -$216,518
Female 30 $22,850 $54,000 -$31,150
40 $54,765 $143,000 -$88,235
50 $101,560 $257,000 -$155,440
60 $165,986 $415,000 -$249,014

Source: – 21/06/2021. Average balances based on those reported in the APRA Annual Superannuation Bulletin (June 2020). Balance required today for comfortable retirement based on ASFA’s (The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia) Super Balance Detective calculator for a person turning 30, 40, 50 or 60 in 2021. Gap calculated as the difference between the average balance and the current balance required for a comfortable retirement. Comfortable retirement assumes on ASFA’s Comfortable Standard balance of $545,000 (in today’s dollars) by age 67. ASFA assumes future pre-tax wage income of around $65,000 and than upon retirement the retiree draws down all their capital and receive a part Age Pension. Other assumptions include: Investment returns (nominal), before investment fees and taxes are 6.7%, investment fees are 0.7% of assets, the tax rate is 4.5%, administration fees are $100 per annum and insurance premiums are $100 per annum. The reported required balances are intended for illustrative purposes only.

Find out more about how much super you should have at your age:

If you’re comparing superannuation funds, the comparison table below displays some of the products currently available on Canstar’s database for Australians aged 30-39 with a balance of up to $55,000, sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), followed by company name (alphabetical). Use Canstar’s superannuation comparison selector to view a wider range of super funds.

Fee, performance and asset allocation information shown in the table above have been determined according to the investment profile in the Canstar Superannuation Star Ratings methodology that matches the age group specified above.

→ Related article: 2020 Superannuation Star Ratings

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, Canstar money expert Effie Zahos said there were a few things you could do to help bump it up:

  • Check for any lost super. But relatively new rules around superannuation accounts mean some low balance, inactive super accounts will now be automatically merged with active accounts, or the money will be held by the ATO.
  • Give your fund a quick 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). Also, think about any other opportunities you could take advantage of to boost your super balance.

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

The Canstar Research team 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 may be worthwhile weighing up your investment option and fees, because they could make a significant difference to your nest egg by retirement.

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. Moneysmart advises that if you are five years or less from retirement and are concerned about your super balance being impacted following an uncertain period for investment markets, it’s a good idea to avoid hasty decisions and seek guidance from a licensed financial adviser, your super fund or a Services Australia Financial Information Service officer. It could also be worth seeking out this type of assistance if you are feeling nervous about your super balance after making an early super withdrawal in 2020.

Projected super balance by age and gender

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Gender Age Average balance Average annual Life & TPD insurance premium Projected balance at retirement by investment returns and fee level
Balanced returns (8.50% p.a.) and low fees (0.22% p.a.) Balanced returns (8.50% p.a.) and high fees (2.13% p.a.) Growth returns (10.50% p.a.) and low fees (0.22% p.a.) Growth returns (10.50% p.a.) and high fees (2.13% p.a.)
Male 30 $27,182 $304 $1,045,821 $620,294 $1,759,643 $1,025,892
40 $67,179 $413 $736,920 $485,687 $1,108,044 $726,679
50 $130,066 $446 $547,937 $407,855 $726,628 $543,631
60 $198,482 $427 $376,094 $325,707 $430,399 $376,430
Female 30 $22,850 $275 $815,253 $481,535 $1,377,232 $799,426
40 $54,765 $383 $577,290 $379,057 $870,963 $569,058
50 $101,560 $403 $423,843 $315,177 $562,544 $420,471
60 $165,986 $368 $310,043 $268,284 $355,112 $310,124

Source: – 21/06/2021.  Based on starting gross annual income of $67,600 for males and $52,000 for females (based on median weekly income, ABS; Aug 2020), growing 2.5% annually, retiring at age 67. Employer contributions are presumed taxed at 15%. SG contribution amounts per Government announced rates. Returns based on the average, and fees based on the min and max fees of Balanced and Growth investment options on Canstar’s database for products available for a 30-year-old, with returns rounded down to the nearest 0.5% and fees represented as a percentage of a $50k balance. Life and TPD insurance premiums are based on super products in Canstar’s database by age profile and gender. Premiums are assumed to be charged at the end of each year (increasing with inflation of 2.5% p.a.). End balance at retirement is shown in “today’s dollars”, i.e. it has been adjusted for inflation (assumed to be 2.5%). Please note all information on income, annual superannuation fees and performance returns are used for illustrative purposes only. Actual returns and the value of your investment may fall as well as rise from year to year; this example does not take such variation into account. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Do Australians rely on the Age Pension?

On average, eligible 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 2021, 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.

→ Related article: When should you retire and how much money will you need?