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Australia fair; how fair?

June 22nd, 2012 No comments

Australia
Highlights from OECD Pensions at a Glance 2009
 Australia’s superannuation funds have been heavily hit by the financial crisis,
with real losses of 26.7% in 2008. This is the second worst investment
performance for private pensions in the 30 OECD countries, after Ireland.
 More than one in four Australian seniors live in poverty on international
measures. This is the fourth highest old-age poverty rate in the OECD
countries and more than double the OECD average. The OECD welcomes the
government’s increase in the age pension to address this problem.
Pensions and the crisis
The financial crisis has hit private pension funds hard: they lost US$ 5.4 trillion in value in 2008 in OECD
countries. The impact on Australia is particularly significant for two reasons.
 Private pensions and other investments provide 45% of retirement incomes in Australia, more than
double the OECD average of 20%. This is a similar proportion as the United Kingdom and the
United States and only a little less than in Canada and the Netherlands. Investment losses have
generally hit hardest workers who are close to retirement. But many retirees in Australia are also
heavily affected.
 Investment losses in Australia were particularly large because of the large share of equities in
pension-fund portfolios: around 57% before the crisis hit, compared with an average of 36% in the
20 OECD countries where data are available.
1 Pension funds’ real investment returns in 2008
Note: the OECD figure shown is the unweighted average. The weighted average loss is larger at 23%, due to the importance of private
pensions in the United States.
Source: OECD (2009), Pensions at a Glance: Retirement-Income Systems in OECD Countries, Figure 1.3
-37.5
-26.7
-26.2
-21.4
-20.1
-17.4
-17.4
-16.9
-8.5
-40 -35 -30 -25 -20 -15 -10 -5 0
Ireland
Australia
United States
Canada
Japan
OECD
United Kingdom
Netherlands
Germany
Real investment return in 2008 (%)
In its new Pensions at a Glance report, the OECD recommends a “lifecycle” investment strategy for private pensions. This would ensure that investments are switched towards less risky assets as people near retirement, protecting older workers’ retirement incomes from volatile stock markets.
“Most people don’t want to make active investment decisions about their retirement savings”, said Edward Whitehouse, lead author of the OECD report. “Governments should encourage lifecycle investing because it puts people’s retirement savings on auto-pilot and will protect old-age incomes from future crises”, he continued. The OECD recommends that lifecycle investing should be the default investment option.
The OECD report also argues that governments should encourage retirees to take out annuities which offer a guaranteed retirement benefit. Most Australians continue to take out pensions as lump sums and invest the funds or as income streams. Both of these can leave the value of their retirement assets vulnerable to financial-market turmoil.
Old-age poverty
Nearly 27% of over 65s in Australia have incomes below the OECD poverty threshold (half of median household income). Only Ireland, Korea and Mexico of the 30 OECD countries have higher old-age poverty rates.
The high risk of old-age poverty in Australia is mainly due to the relatively low level of the age pension: equivalent schemes in other OECD countries are worth 25% more (compared with national average earnings) than the age pension in Australia. New Zealand’s basic pension, for example, is worth 80% more relative to average earnings than the age pension.
The OECD welcomes the government’s recent announcement of an increase in the target level of the age pension from 25% to 27.7% of average earnings. Edward Whitehouse, lead author of OECD Pensions at a Glance, said: “Australia has a very high rate of old-age poverty and the fiscal room for manoeuvre to address the problem. Public pension spending is only 3.5% of national income in Australia, compared with an average of over 7% of GDP in OECD countries”. 2 Old-age income poverty rates, mid 2000s
Source: OECD (2009), Pensions at a Glance: Retirement-Income Systems in OECD Countries, Figure 2.5
1.54.48.89.910.313.322.023.626.930.605101520253035New ZealandCanadaFranceGermanyUnited KingdomOECDJapanUnited StatesAustraliaIrelandOld-age poverty rate(% of over 65s with equivalent incomes below half population median)
3 Key facts
Australia OECD
Pension replacement rate Average earner (%) 41.6 59.0
Low earner (%) 67.0 71.9
Public pension spending % of GDP 3.5 7.2
Life expectancy at birth 81.1 78.9
at age 65 84.9 83.4
Population over age 65 % of working age population 21.5 23.8
Average earnings AUS$ 55 200 47 600
Note: replacement rate is pension entitlement from all mandatory sources of retirement income relative to individual earnings. Calculations
for a full-career worker entering the labour market in 2006. Low earner is assumed to earn 50% of the average.
Source: OECD (2009), Pensions at a Glance: Retirement-Income Systems in OECD Countries
Notes to editors
Pensions at a Glance 2009:
Retirement Income Systems in OECD Countries
Published 11.45am Paris time (9.45am GMT) on 23 June 2009
The report includes 17 indicators of retirement-income systems for the
30 OECD member countries plus four special chapters on (i) pensions
and the financial and economic crisis; (ii) incomes and poverty of older
people; (iii) recent pension reforms; and (iv) voluntary retirement
savings.
279pp. ISBN 978-92-64-06071-5
OECD
2 rue André Pascal
Paris 75775 Cedex

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Three Pillar Retirement Policy

June 21st, 2012 No comments

This is my letter,as published in the May/June Newsletter of the SA Superannuants, of which I,am a member.
Three-pillar retirement policy.
Australia has a three-pillar approach to the provision of retirement incomes, the three pillars comprising a means tested age pension and associated social security arrangements, compulsory superannuation savings through the superannuation guarantee arrangements, and voluntary superannuation and other private savings.(Quotted by Bill Shorten)
This is very convenient for the government to keep the age pensioners which depend to some degree on the age pension as poor as possible by the means testing of the pension, while the voluntary and private savings provide the retirees in this group with huge tax benefits.
When the Howard government introduced the tax-free super for the over sixties, if the income came from a taxed fund, this gave people on high incomes huge tax savings possibilities.
According to OECD, Australian pensioners are the second poorest, after Ireland among the OECD countries, and this is due to the means testing of the age pension.
I have written numerous letters to politicians of all persuasions, complaining about the unfair treatment of the age pensioners, who, like myself, have been robbed of a decent standard of living in retirement.
It would take too much space in the Newsletter, to place some letters that I wrote to Bill Shorten and others, but they can be accessed on my website “hawilspoint” or simply on Google typing in “The great Australian Super Fraud”.

Yours truly
W.Hawil

Editors note::Willi .Hajszan is an advocate of a universal age pension. This is not supported by the Executive Committee but interested members can find out more about Willi’s arguments by referring to the sources he has provided.

As the majority of the Associations members which are affiliated with ACPSRO are on super incomes of less than $30,000 and are therefore in receipt of some Centrelink age pension, being punished by the means test, this Editors note is virtually telling the members that they are mainly looking after the members who are either completely or to a great extent self funded, and I,am sure that the government will be well aware of this and I, and any other individual can complain to the government as much a we like, the government will take no notice.
How many members of this Associations are aware, that there are many top public servants with incomes of more than $400,000 per annum, who will retire on super incomes in excess of $200,000 and benefit hugely from the 10% tax offset, and will also be able to contribute extra to a taxed super fund, benefitting further from the tax-free super when they turn sixty.
The Associations listed below, and all others associated with ACPSRO, are acting in a similar way as the SA Superannuants.
All the previous correspondence I had with ACPSRO can be read on hawilspoint.

1)The Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association (SCOA)

2)South Australian Government Superannuated Employees Association Inc.
trading as:
S.A. Superannuants

3) Defence Force Welfare Association (DFWA)

The Australian Council of Public Sector Retirees Organisations (ACPSRO)

As mentioned in the “Select Committee on Superannuation” report of 2003, Australia is the only OECD country which has a means test for the basic pension, and it is mean.

The Report’s recommendation for a review of the employment-superannuation
nexus errs on the side of caution. This caution is well justified since it opens up a much broader debate on the structure of Australia’s retirement income system,
including proposals for a universal pension than that originally envisaged in the terms-of-reference. The fiscal impact of widening the spread of tax concessions is also unclear.

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