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Sense of control a key driver in retirement satisfaction

By miranda-brownlee-momentummedia-com-au
19 January 2023 — 2 minute read

With satisfaction in retirement strongly correlated with a feeling of control, SMSF trustees are generally more satisfied in retirement compared with other retirees, according to new research.

A new research report released by Fidelity, titled New Life Old Life, has found that one of the key drivers of a positive emotional experience at retirement is a sense of control or agency.

The research report, undertaken by research firm MYMAVINS, surveyed Australians aged over 45 to explore when they planned to retire, what they thought retirement looks like and how they are preparing for this phase of life.

Those who felt completely in control of when they stopped working full time had an overwhelmingly positive emotional experience — nine in 10 experienced positive emotions, and only one in 10 experienced negative emotions.

Those who didn’t perceive they had a choice in when they stopped full-time work had a more negative experience.

“Seven in 10 of those who felt completely out of control experienced negative emotions when they stopped full-time work, and less than one in two experienced positive emotions,” the report stated.

Those who felt completely out of control of when they finished working full time also had the lowest life satisfaction scores.

The report also found that satisfaction with wealth is also strongly correlated with feeling in control of retirement.

Four in five of those who felt completely in control of finishing full-time work are satisfied with their current wealth, while less than two in five of those who felt completely out of control are satisfied with their wealth.

While the report acknowledged that not everything can be controlled when it comes to retirement, engaging clients in retirement planning when they’re younger has the potential to positively impact their financial outcomes.

“Not only is there more time to positively impact on their financial outcomes, but there is also more opportunity to transform the non-financial aspects of clients’ lives,” the report stated.

“By instilling a sense of agency and control, clients can approach their retirement with more confidence and resilience, more certain of a positive future, which gives them a more positive day-to-day emotional experience.”

The report noted that many Australians put a lot of energy into building their careers, but not necessarily the inevitable wind-down phase of their careers.

“While most of us say we want to transition into retirement, very few take active steps to make it happen. Fewer than one in two of us makes an active decision about ending our career, which makes the transition into retirement more successful,” the report stated.

“Fewer than one in five of us becomes self-employed, when this can clearly increase agency in retirement.”

Other actions that were taken to prepare for semi-retirement included undertaking a different line of work at 11 per cent, changing employers for more flexibility at 5 per cent, changing roles with their employer at 4 per cent and retaining or up-skilling to transition roles also at 4 per cent.

Speaking at the launch of the research, MYMAVINS consulting partner Jason Andriessen said that with control and engagement with money a major driver of wellbeing, the research found that SMSF trustees are generally “having an easier time of life”.

Fidelity head of client solutions and retirement, Richard Dinham, said that SMSF trustees have taken control of their own fund and are more engaged so their sense of control is much higher than with other retirees.

“[The survey showed] that their sense of control was highest and their satisfaction was highest. Not all were advised but they’re often quite financially literate themselves,” said Mr Dinham.

“They’re determining their investments and their overall strategy and were generally much happier.

“Whether you’re in an SMSF or [an APRA-regulated] super fund, the wealth effect wasn’t as important as you might think compared with control. Those with that sense of control were happiest.” 



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Miranda Brownlee

Miranda Brownlee

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.

You can email Miranda on: miranda.brownlee@momentummedia.com.au


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