Advice clients warned on hidden costs in ‘frailty years’
While many retirees could manage in retirement with less than $1 million in super, clients should be careful not to disregard the substantial rise in living costs that can arise in the frailty years, warns an aged care advice specialist.
Aged Care Steps business partnership manager Lisa Gregory said some of the recent discussion around retirement income has suggested that the amount needed for a comfortable retirement has been overstated.
Ms Gregory said while many retirees could get by without less than the often-quoted recommendation of at least a $1 million dollars in super, there are significant costs associated with ageing that are regularly overlooked in traditional retirement planning.
“While lifestyle spending does tend to reduce as we enter our 70s, living costs can ramp up again considerably during the frailty years — the last three to five years of life, generally after age 80,” she said.
“It is then that we are likely to have some form of disability caused by ageing, as well as a general decline in independence, which means we become reliant on others.”
Ms Gregory said while there is a common view that Medicare can shield people from the bulk of health costs in older ages, this ignores the fact that aged care is not covered under Medicare.
“There are government subsidies, but consumers need to contribute to the costs of care — potentially both their accommodation costs and actual care needs,” she said.
“Increasing longevity and expectations around the quality of care as we age are also putting greater pressure on income needs in the later stages of retirement.”
Aged care, she explained, covers a range of support services — including home care, respite and residential care — all of which may require consumers to contribute to the cost of care via a means-tested calculation.
“The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) figures projecting the cost of a ‘moderate’ or ‘comfortable’ retirement appear to make insufficient allowances for aged care needs, giving cause for concern about the potential for families to be left unprepared when a crisis occurs,” she said.
“Provisioning for the cost of aged care is not a luxury; it’s a necessity, which is why planning for the cost of future care is critical for families to discuss before an urgent need arises.”
Ms Gregory said adult children need to talk with their parents and an advice professional about aged care options before a crisis arises.
“An open and honest discussion with family — and an understanding of quality of care expectations and affordability — can help retirees to maintain greater control and independence as they age,” she said.
Miranda Brownlee is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser, which is the leading source of news, strategy and educational content for professionals working in the SMSF sector.
Since joining the team in 2014, Miranda has been responsible for breaking some of the biggest superannuation stories in Australia, and has reported extensively on technical strategy and legislative updates.
Miranda also has broad business and financial services reporting experience, having written for titles including Investor Daily, ifa and Accountants Daily.