Older couple driving into the sunset via Getty
Older couple driving into the sunset via Getty

Peter Williams: When should I retire?

Opinion 30/03/2021

OPINION: Here’s something sort of related to the housing issue of which we are all still discussing, and especially if you’re looking to sell up in the city and head to the provinces - what is a good age to retire at?

To be honest, it’s a question I have been asking myself for about the last decade since I was in my late 50s. I had a friend who stopped working at the age of 58, and I’m envious of him. He’s a clever guy who worked in finance, but he got out 10 years ago and has never looked back. 

He could afford to do that. He lived on his investments and savings which are now topped up with the government superannuation of about 300 dollars a week and is about to go up for all of us oldies on Thursday. That’s the perfect retirement. 

But anyway, here I am at the age of 67, still working and sometimes wondering why. 

Retirement is something we all have to face sooner or later. Many people will have it forced on them, others will never retire. There are stories around of people working into their 70s and 80s. I don’t intend to be one of them. 

But the question: is how much money do you need to have a comfortable retirement or at least a retirement that is as comfortable as your working life? An article on Stuff recently by an actuary analyst - one of those really smart people who work out risk for insurance and investment companies - suggested that the retirement age in New Zealand could actually be reduced to 60. 

But this actuary is actually a socialist - and I would say a dreamer too -  because she was asking for those who don’t need their superannuation to cancel it and tell Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson to give it to someone who really needs it at a younger age - like someone who has worked in a manual job and whose life expectancy may be lower. 

In other words, this actuary knows that not everybody needs their government super, especially when it’s topped up with that winter heating payment, but that if the retirement age goes down to 60 it’s unaffordable, so those who don’t need the super should voluntarily stop the payments. This is a nonsensical pie-in-the-sky idea, but does this idea of paying some people the super at 60 and deny it to others at 65 have some legs? It would mean a means and asset test, but is that such a bad thing? 

So how well have you planned for your retirement? Have you thought about what life will be like when you’re not working?