How to retire gracefully

How to retire gracefully

With the May 13 government budget announcement looming, there is lots of speculation surrounding retirement as Treasurer Joe Hockey casts an eye over the age pension, retirement age and superannuation – so what can you be doing to set yourself up for retirement?

Depending on your age, retirement may be a distant event you pay scant thought to or it may be arriving sooner rather than later. Either way, it’s a significant life milestone that requires some preparation.

The first thing to tick off your graceful retirement list should be debt, according to Greg Pride, financial adviser with Centric Wealth.

“Don’t go into retirement with debt because debt is a guaranteed expense and if you don’t have a guaranteed income that’s not a good match,” he said.

Paying off the mortgage should be your biggest priority before you head towards retirement – and the sooner you pay it, the more able you’ll be to divert money towards savings and superannuation. Credit card debt, car loans or personal loans should also all be paid off well before retirement.

How much is enough?

To retire gracefully you will need a comfortable retirement income. The obvious question is: how much money will you need?

The answer will to some extent depend on your pre-retirement lifestyle and what you are used to – do you travel regularly or prefer to stay close to home? How often do you like to eat out and how much do you spend on entertainment, for example?

Nevertheless, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) offers a helpful guide on how much is enough. The so-called “retirement standard” suggests that a single retiree needs to spend $23,175 a year to support a modest lifestyle in retirement and $42,158 to support a comfortable lifestyle.

For couples, the standard is $57,665 a year for a comfortable retirement, and $33,358 a year for a more modest lifestyle.

Doing the maths

“If you want $60,000 per annum and plan to retire at age 65, multiply that by 13 and $780,000 is what you’ll need,” Pride said.

“That takes life expectancy and inflation into account.

“So to have $780,000 at retirement, work out what you have now, when you’ll retire and how you can save towards that number.”

Pride further suggested that the aged pension may not be a reliable supplement to retirement income in the future, predicting that the family home will be taken into consideration when Centrelink calculates pension payments.

“It’s possible that in the future, Centrelink pensions may be less attractive than they currently are,” he said.

The aged pension is currently $21,505 a year for a single person, and $31,417 a year for a couple.

According to Pride, age 50 is a good time to start thinking about your retirement income and make extra superannuation payments or start a savings plan to ensure you retire gracefully.

“Plan well in advance,” he said.

“Be proactive and get to a finishing stage well prepared.”

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What is a variable home loan?

A variable rate home loan is one where the interest rate can and will change over the course of your loan. The rate is determined by your lender, not the Reserve Bank of Australia, so while the cash rate might go down, your bank may decide not to follow suit, although they do broadly follow market conditions. One of the upsides of variable rates is that they are typically more flexible than their fixed rate counterparts which means that a lot of these products will let you make extra repayments and offer features such as offset accounts.

How can I negotiate a better home loan rate?

Negotiating with your bank can seem like a daunting task but if you have been a loyal customer with plenty of equity built up then you hold more power than you think. It’s highly likely your current lender won’t want to let your business go without a fight so if you do your research and find out what other banks are offering new customers you might be able to negotiate a reduction in interest rate, or a reduction in fees with your existing lender.

What is an ombudsman?

An complaints officer – previously referred to as an ombudsman -looks at formal complaints from customers about their credit providers, and helps to find a fair and independent solution to these problems.

These services are handled by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, a non-profit government organisation that addresses and resolves financial disputes between customers and financial service providers.

How much of the RBA rate cut do lenders pass on to borrowers?

When the Reserve Bank of Australia cuts its official cash rate, there is no guarantee lenders will then pass that cut on to lenders by way of lower interest rates. 

Sometimes lenders pass on the cut in full, sometimes they partially pass on the cut, sometimes they don’t at all. When they don’t, they often defend the decision by saying they need to balance the needs of their shareholders with the needs of their borrowers. 

As the attached graph shows, more recent cuts have seen less lenders passing on the full RBA interest rate cut; the average lender was more likely to pass on about two-thirds of the 25 basis points cut to its borrowers.  image002

How personalised is my rating?

Real Time Ratings produces instant scores for loan products and updates them based what you tell us about what you’re looking for in a loan. In that sense, we believe the ratings are as close as you get to personalised; the more you tell us, the more we customise to ratings to your needs. Some borrowers value flexibility, while others want the lowest cost loan. Your preferences will be reflected in the rating. 

We also take a shorter term, more realistic view of how long borrowers hold onto their loan, which gives you a better idea about the true borrowing costs. We take your loan details and calculate how much each of the relevent loans would cost you on average each month over the next five years. We assess the overall flexibility of each loan and give you an easy indication of which ones are likely to adjust to your needs over time. 

Do other comparison sites offer the same service?

Real Time RatingsTM is the only online system that ranks the home loan market based on your personal borrowing preferences. Until now, home loans have been rated based on outdated data. Our system is unique because it reacts to changes as soon as we update our database.

How does Real Time Ratings work?

Real Time RatingsTM looks at your individual home loan requirements and uses this information to rank every applicable home loan in our database out of five.

This score is based on two main factors – cost and flexibility.

Cost is calculated by looking at the interest rates and fees over the first five years of the loan.

Flexibility is based on whether a loan offers features such as an offset account, redraw facility and extra repayments.

Real Time RatingsTM also includes the following assumptions:

  • Costs are calculated on the current variable rate however they could change in the future.
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  • Fixed-rate loans with terms greater than five years are still assessed on a five-year basis, so 10-year fixed loans are assessed as being only five years’ long.
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What fees are there when buying a house?

Buying a home comes with ‘hidden fees’ that should be factored in when considering how much the total cost of your new home will be. These can include stamp duty, title registration costs, building inspection fees, loan establishment fee, lenders mortgage insurance (LMI), legal fees and bank valuation costs.

Tip: you can calculate your stamp duty costs as well as LMI in Rate City mortgage repayments calculator

Some of these fees can be taken out of the mix, such as LMI, if you have a big enough deposit or by asking your lender to waive establishment fees for your loan. Even so, fees can run into the thousands of dollars on top of the purchase price.

Keep this in mind when deciding if you are ready to make the move in to the property market.

What is the flexibility score?

Today’s home loans often try to lure borrowers with a range of flexible features, including offset accounts, redraw facilities, repayment frequency options, repayment holidays, split loan options and portability. Real Time Ratings™ weights each of these features based on popularity and gives loans a ‘flexibility score’ based on how much they cater to borrowers’ needs over time. The aim is to give a higher score to loans which give borrowers more features and options.

How can I avoid mortgage insurance?

Lenders mortgage insurance (LMI) can be avoided by having a substantial deposit saved up before you apply for a loan, usually around 20 per cent or more (or a LVR of 80 per cent or less). This amount needs to be considered genuine savings by your lender so it has to have been in your account for three months rather than a lump sum that has just been deposited.

Some lenders may even require a six months saving history so the best way to ensure you don’t end up paying LMI is to plan ahead for your home loan and save regularly.

Tip: You can use RateCity mortgage repayment calculator to calculate your LMI based on your borrowing profile

What is upfront fee?

An ‘upfront’ or ‘application’ fee is a one-off expense you are charged by your bank when you take out a loan. The average start-up fee is around $600 however there are over 1,000 loans on the market with none at all. If the loan you want does include an application fee, try and negotiate to have it waived. You’ll be surprised what your bank agrees to when they want your business.

What is a cooling-off period?

Once a home loan’s contracts are exchanged between the borrower and the lender, a five-day cooling-off period follows, during which the contracts may be cancelled if needed.

What is a standard variable rate (SVR)?

The standard variable rate (SVR) is the interest rate a lender applies to their standard home loan. It is a variable interest rate which is normally used as a benchmark from which they price their other variable rate home loan products.

A standard variable rate home loan typically includes most, if not all the features the lender has on offer, such as an offset account, but it often comes with a higher interest rate attached than their most ‘basic’ product on offer (usually referred to as their basic variable rate mortgage).