Golden years or no frills existence?: Cost of retirement rising beyond what pension can cover

It seems the golden years are increasingly gold-plated, with a new report suggesting a couple retiring in a New Zealand city need about $750,000 in the bank if they want more than a no frills existence.

The Massey University retirement expenditure guidelines have set out what’s needed on top of superannuation to get by.

Even in the provinces, it calculated that a couple would have to save close to half a million dollars to fund a “choices” life style – and just about nobody living anywhere in New Zealand could get by on the state pension alone.

The author of the guidelines and Massey Business School Associate Claire Matthews said she hoped the report would not be too depressing.

“I would hope that it’s empowering and gives people something to work towards,” she said.

For those seeking what the report calls a “choices lifestyle”, a couple would need to have $755,000 in the bank to enjoy such a lifestyle in a New Zealand city.

“It depends exactly how you want to spend that money, but it means that you’ve got choices, that’s what the title comes from,” Matthews said.

“It’s about having choices around how you spend your money and if it’s an overseas trip on a regular basis that you want, then you’ll be able to afford that.”

The weekly spend for the ‘choices lifestyle’ was just under $1600, she said.

However, Matthews said the figures were based on what current retirees were spending – and things could look a bit different for younger generations, as they reach retirement age.

“Our current retirees are of a generation, we’re talking baby boomers or older, who generally have gone into retirement in their own home, without a mortgage,” she said.

“So there aren’t a lot of household expenses in there, because that reflects the current generation.

“One of the things we do note is that the coming generation, particularly Gen-X are likely to come into retirement either standing on their home loan still or possibly in rental accommodation.

“And the reality is … in order to cover those housing costs, they are going to need a larger sum.”

The report also showed that just about nobody in New Zealand could get by on NZ Super alone, but Matthews said she had heard from some who were.

“Each year when these reports come out, I get contacted by people who assure me that they are living quite comfortably on NZ Super,” she said.

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