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Barefoot Investor: Scott Pape labels the $1 million dollar retirement number a ‘myth’

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Wow-wee!

Last week’s column — on how much you need to retire — triggered an avalanche of reader responses.

“That’s WAY TOO LOW!”

“Are they eating baked beans in retirement?”

“You need AT LEAST $1 million to do anything half decent in retirement!”

Let’s recap:

Super Consumers analysed the actual spending data of retirees, and concluded that the average home owning Aussie couple in their late 50s needs $402,000 to fund a comfortable retirement. And to be clear, that figure takes into account the rising cost of inflation, medical expenses and aged care costs.

That figure shocked a lot of readers.

‘Why was it so much less than the ‘magical million’ that always gets bandied about?’ they asked.

Well, it’s because that ‘million dollar’ retirement figure has been largely influenced by the super funds lobby ASFA (Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia), who calculate their figure for a comfortable retirement at $640,000 for a couple and $545,000 for a single.

Yet that’s not a realistic figure for the average Aussie.

In fact, according to Super Consumers, that ASFA figure is only achievable for the top 20% of retirees. And that also explains why the government’s independent Productivity Commission advised policy-makers to simply ignore it!

However, the media has not ignored it — it has instead entrenched it. And in doing so it’s created a much bigger problem that affects millions of retirees, both wealthy and poor: they spend the little time they have left worrying about money, and hoarding it, instead of enjoying it.

My view?

The million dollar retirement number is a myth. It’s basically like telling a thirty-five year old, “look I’ve crunched the numbers, and if by now you’re not earning $200,000 a year, well I’m sorry but you’re going to live a crap life”.

Bugger off!

As long as you own your own home, you can live a meaningful, purposeful, retirement with much less money. After all, we have the amazingly good fortune to be living in the greatest country on earth, with a strong social safety net based on the aged pension plus subsidised medical and aged care.

And the truth is that whether you’re 35 or 65, once you’ve comfortably covered the basics, having more money won’t necessarily make you any happier.

Case in point, I spoke to a retiree this week who admitted he’d spent the best years of his life working in a job he hated so that he had ‘enough’ money to retire. Now, five years into retirement, he told me the things that really made him happy are: catching up with his daughter, watching the footy with his son, walking along the beach at low tide, and sitting on the porch in the afternoon sun. And none of them cost him a cent.

Tread Your Own Path!