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A Time of Transition

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For many people, retirement can be a bit of a shock. After looking forward to days of leisure, suddenly the routine of working life is replaced by time that somehow needs to be filled. Using the transition to retirement rules, people approaching retirement can ease into a new routine, retain flexibility regarding their income, and possibly give their retirement savings a boost.

Making up a shortfall

Take 60 year old Jim. He earns $50,000 a year before tax, which gives him an after-tax income of $41,453. Jim no longer wants to work full time, and has the option of easing back to three days a week. However, with living expenses of $38,000 a year, Jim doesn’t think he can afford to reduce his hours. Or can he?

The transition to retirement rules allows people over the age of 55 to start drawing pensions from their superannuation funds. This provides Jim with a means by which he can easily make up the shortfall in income.

Jim cuts back to three days a week and commences a pension from his accumulated superannuation. As he is over 60, his pension will be completely tax-free.

Jim’s employment income, after tax, drops to $27,300, so to meet his living expenses; he draws a pension of $10,700 from his super fund. Even though he is drawing a pension, his employer will still be making compulsory superannuation contributions to Jim’s fund. Depending on his total superannuation balance and investment returns, it’s possible Jim’s super will continue to grow in value, even as he withdraws income from it.

Boosting savings

Transition to retirement rules can also be used to boost retirement savings without reducing working hours.

Mary is 60, earns $70,000 a year ($54,653 after tax), has a superannuation balance of $118,000 and loves her job. She wants to keep working as long as she is able, but

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is worried she won’t have enough saved for when she does eventually retire. Her living expenses are $45,000 a year, so after tax, she could contribute her savings of $9,653 a year to superannuation as an undeducted contribution.

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Alternatively, using a standard salary sacrifice arrangement, Mary could drop her salary to $56,000, and contribute an additional $14,000 a year, pre-tax, to super. After the superannuation fund pays 15% tax on this, her net additional savings to super have increased to $11,900 a year, or $2,250 more than her starting position. The combined amount of Mary’s employer and salary sacrifice contributions is $19,040, which is within her concessional contributions limit.

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Transition to retirement provides Mary with another option. She could drop her salary to just $50,000 a year, and contribute $20,000, pre-tax, to superannuation. To make up the shortfall on her living expenses, she could draw a pension of $3,550 from her super fund. The end result, after taking into account contributions tax and pension payments, is that she will save an extra $13,450 a year towards her retirement. The end result is an extra $3,797 in retirement savings each year compared to now.

Strict rules apply to transition to retirement pensions and it’s necessary to obtain professional advice to make sure your strategy meets both your short and long-term needs.

Sources: www.ato.gov.au

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