Most of us daydream about the day we finally finish work and retire… but how do you know if your super is on the right track to make your retirement dreams a reality? Our Super expert, Christina Tran discusses how much super you should have at certain stages of your life.

Finances can be a taboo subject and not something people are always open about. Not only that, but life gets busy and time seems to fly by faster each and every year. So how do you benchmark yourself to know whether you are on the right track?

Unfortunately, many people often don’t talk about super until it’s too late. Worst case scenario they’re not able to retire, let alone afford their retirement goals.

That is why it makes sense to get on top of this early and do something about it – and the new year is a great time of the year to start!

According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia’s Retirement Standard (ASFA), to achieve a ‘comfortable’ retirement, single people will need $545,000 and couples will need $640,000 by the time they retire. Assuming you have paid off your own home, these balances could achieve an income of approx. $45,962 pa for singles and $64,771 for couples each year – which is deemed a ‘comfortable lifestyle’.

See the table below on what the difference is between a comfortable and modest lifestyle according to ASFA:

Comfortable lifestyle Modest lifestyle Age Pension
Single $45,962 a year $29,139 a year $21,222 a year
Couple $64,771 a year $41,929 a year
$31,995 a year










Top-level private health insurance, doctor/specialist visits, pharmacy needs Basic private health insurance, limited gap payments No private health insurance
Fast reliable internet/telco subscription, computer/android mobile/streaming services  Basic mobile, modest internet data allowance Very basic mobile and limited internet connectivity
Own a reasonable car, car insurance and maintenance/upkeep Owning a cheaper, older, more basic car Limited budget to own, maintain or repair a car
Regular leisure activities including club membership, cinema visits, exhibitions, dance/yoga classes Infrequent leisure activities, occasional trip to the cinema Rare trips to the cinema
Home repairs, updates and maintenance to kitchen and bathroom appliances over 20 years Limited budget for home repairs, household appliances Struggle to pay for repairs, such as leaky roofs or major plumbing problem
Regular professional haircuts Budget haircuts Less frequent haircuts, or self-haircuts
Confidence to use air conditioning in the home, afford all utilities Need to keep a close watch on all utility costs and make sacrifices Limited budget for home heating in winter
Occasional restaurant meals, home-delivery meals, take-away coffee Limited meals out at inexpensive restaurants, infrequent home delivery or take-away Only local club special meals or inexpensive take-away
Replace worn-out clothing and footwear items, modest wardrobe updates Limited budget to replace or update worn items Very basic clothing and footwear budget
Annual domestic trip to visit family, one overseas trip every seven years Annual domestic trip or a few short breaks Occasional short break or day trip in your own city


These numbers may feel daunting and out of reach but the good news is that once you start and gain momentum, it gets easier. The hardest part is just getting started. Once you have your super correctly set up, the magic of time and compounding means that your super will continually grow at a faster rate each and every year until it eventually snowballs.

So the real question is how do you get to these numbers and what does that mean for you today?

To break this down into today’s terms, to achieve a ‘comfortable retirement’, AFSA recommends you will need the following balances by the time you hit certain age milestones:

Age Average Super Balance (Female) Average Super Balance (Male) Average Super Balance Recommended super balance today for a ‘comfortable retirement’ Gap
25 – 29 $23,773 $28,319 $26,046 $38,800 -$12,754
30 – 34 $45,968 $58,035 $52,002 $74,600 -$22,599
35 – 39 $72,098 $92,425 $82,262 $122,200 -$39,939
40 – 44 $98,572 $134,992 $116,782 $174,200 -$57,418
45 – 49 $127,687 $182,146 $154,917 $231,600 -$76,684
50 – 54 $159,188 $242,007 $200,598 $300,200 -$99,603
55 – 59 $207,254 $311,163 $259,209 $379,000 -$119,792
60 – 64 $251,409 $371,599 $311,504 $466,800 -$155,296

Again, these numbers may feel scary and you may have alarm bells ringing if your numbers don’t stack up. Never fear, the average Australian is also behind their recommended super balance. And that’s why we are here – we’re all about educating and empowering people to take control of their financial situation.

So if you are below average and don’t have the recommended super balance for your age group – there’s no need to get down and depressed. If anything, you could use this guide as motivation or a goal to work towards. And as I mentioned earlier, starting out and building momentum is the hardest part. It gets easier and easier over time.

Introducing some of my super tips to catch up and get ahead:

  • Consolidate multiple super funds – It’s pretty common to have more than one super fund, collected from multiple employers over time. If you have more than one super account, you are paying multiple fees and insurance premiums which is only dragging down your super fund growth. Do your research or speak to an adviser about where to consolidate your funds. Remember, any fee saving compounds each and every year which means even more money in your pocket when you retire.
  • Consider salary sacrificing – You can ask your employer to make extra contributions into super. This can be automatically taken out of your fortnightly pay before tax is deducted. The current Super Guarantee Contribution rate is 10% so I’d aim to increase your total super contributions to 15%. Because it comes out of your pre-tax salary, chances are, you won’t even notice it. Not only will you be building your super but will also reduce your income tax.
  • Tax-deductible contributions – Another way to top-up super is to make ‘tax-deductible contributions to super. This is a great way to reduce not only income tax but any capital gains tax from selling down assets within the financial year. You may be eligible to make ‘carry forward concessional contributions’ which allows you to maximise your contributions into super as well as the tax deduction you are able to claim. This is similar to salary sacrificing but the main difference is that these contributions are usually made in lump sums rather than taken out regularly from your pay. This works out well if you have considerable savings in the bank which you don’t need access.
  • Government co-contributions – If you are a low-middle income earner (earn less than $51,827 p.a) you may be eligible to receive a government co-contribution. You could receive up to $500 from the government for contributing $1,000 each year into your super fund. So if you have the spare cash sitting aside in a bank account (earning nothing), you may be better off making the contribution to super. Your funds will benefit from being invested in a concessionally taxed environment which further compounds each and every year.
  • Review your investments – When choosing your investments, you should consider your age, how comfortable you are with investment risk and your investment timeframe (how long until you retire). Some people may choose to be more conservative whilst others may choose to be more aggressive. There is no one correct approach but generally speaking, the longer your investment timeframe, the more you are able to afford risk. So if you have a long time until you reach 60, you could consider increasing your exposure to growth assets. Your funds may be subject to more volatility in the short term but your returns (and your balance) will generally be higher over the long term.
  • Choosing a low cost super fund – These days the super fund market is very competitive and even the government is getting involved in holding low-performing super funds accountable. This means that there are plenty of good quality funds out there which may be appropriate for you. Low fees play a huge part in your returns over time. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution for everyone – it depends on what you want in a super fund (low cost, diverse investment choices, flexibility, more control, more functionality etc). This is where an adviser can help you find something which not only suits your preferences but is also value for money.
  • Ensure your employer is correctly paying you – More than $5 billion a year of super is not actually being paid to employees. So being aware and staying on top of your super will help prevent this from happening to you. I recommend actively engaging with your super fund by downloading their app or registering for online access so you can regularly keep track of your balance and how your super is tracking along. Doing this one simple thing will give you more ownership and keep you accountable.

Superannuation can seem complicated and confusing (or even boring) and it’s easy to put it off as something to worry about ‘one day’. But given that super is likely to become one of your biggest assets over time, it’s worth taking the time to get this right.

Setting yourself up now will give you peace of mind that you can afford to do whatever your heart desires in retirement… whether it’s travelling around the world, campervanning around Australia or spending time with friends and family. Your future self will thank you for it!

We are here to help, please reach out if you have any questions or would like assistance with your personal super situation.