I went to a seminar by our superannuation (retirement fund) provider at my employer today. The presenter referenced a recent Australian survey that tried to define how much income retirees need based on surveying actual retirees. They found that for a "comfortable" retirement a couple need after tax $A54k ($US58k) per year after tax, assuming that they own a house 100%. In Australia there is no tax on retirement accounts once they are in pay out mode after age 60 and so the before and after tax numbers are the same. The presenter said: "That means you need $1 million. If you want to take a bit more risk or run down your capital then you could get away with less than that." The article I linked above says you need $A815k to provide that level of income. The presenter at today's seminar was assuming a withdrawal rate of 5.4% p.a. and the article is assuming 6.6%. But it is a well-known rule of thumb that 4% of the initial amount (adjusted upwards over time by inflation) is the most you can withdraw annually without risking running out of money. And that rate assumes a moderate amount of risk (like 60% stocks and 40% bonds). Also, the advice by the presenter today made no allowance for inflation between now and the date you retire (the linked article does note that the $A815k is in today's money).
Why is this dangerous advice being given out in Australia?
Based on current expenditure we could live OK on less than $A54k a year if we didn't pay rent. $A42k would be enough - halfway between the modest and comfortable levels. But then there are property taxes and house maintenance so we can't just take our rent away to find the comparable number. So I think $50k a year is a reasonable number. But to find the required net worth you need to multiply by 25 and then adjust for inflation. If I retired at age 60 and prices rise by 3% p.a. between now and then I will need 51% more capital than now. The lump sum I get is $A1.89 million + a house. A house costs currently about $A700k near where we live. Adding the same inflation adjustment to the house gives a total required net worth of $A2.9 million ($US3.2 million) in 2024.
Something I learned which I didn't know about the tax rules for Australian Superannuation. If a non-dependent (not spouse or child under 18) inherits your superannuation account they will have to pay 15% tax on funds derived from concessional contributions (contributions taxed at 15% from pre-tax income) but no tax on non-concessional contributions (contributions from after tax income). I knew that tax could be payable in these circumstances but didn't know the details. This is a reason that you don't want your superannuation to be paid to your "estate" in the case of your death. 15% tax will be charged on the concessional contributions.