Retirement juggling for retiring

What the numbers tell us

‘Life’s what happens while we’re busy making other plans’, said the inimitable John Lennon. Sadly and ironically this was the case for Lennon himself, gone way too soon at just 40. None of us can ever know what lies ahead. That’s probably a good thing. But it does help to leverage the knowledge of those who are more experienced.

That’s one of the reasons why we conduct our regular Retirement Pulse surveys – to learn from our members how retirement actually works. This enables us to supply the most relevant information and support. And to share these valuable insights with those who have yet to tackle the exit from full time work.

In the most recent, July 2023 Retirement Pulse, we have learned that retirement, too, often happens while you are making other plans.

Here’s our short summary of the insights that may help you respond to the great retirement juggling act, particularly the three-part challenge of managing health, work and money.

The responses to our questions on planned and actual retirement age, reasons to retire, concerns about life after work and contentment levels are fascinating. Mostly because things seem to change dramatically from pre-retirement conceptions to the actual experience of retirement life.

Let’s consider retirement age

When we look at what pre-retirees have planned, more than half (51%) intend to work until after 67, retiring before 75.

But that is not what actually happens. Those who have already retired tell us:

  • 17% did so between 55-60
  • 45% between 60-67, leaving only 
  • 34% who are working beyond 67.

The takeout

Things change. Intentions measured by our survey (and correlated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics) show that many people end up retiring earlier than they had planned. The key message here is to be prepared, as this may happen to you, too. Don’t wait until ill health, redundancy or another curve ball lands in your lap. The time to understand your full income options is much earlier than your intended retirement age, regardless of whether that is Age Pension age or when you can access your super (preservation age).  If you are happy to keep working well beyond this age, then your preparation won’t go astray anyway. But if your career plans are suddenly interrupted, it will serve you well if you have a clear idea of how to use your savings and super. And how to match them with all entitlements, well in advance. If you don’t know enough about how super savings can be accessed, you’re not alone. You can book one of our popular consultations where you’ll learn your full range of superannuation options and opportunities.

And now the ‘why’ …

Just as intended retirement age can change, so too do the reasons why people retire. These reasons vary significantly between the intentions of pre-retirees and the actual experience of those who have left work. 

Those yet to retiree report they will do so for reasons of:

  • Money – when they can afford to do so 25%
  • Access to super 7%
  • Health  21%
  • Reaching Age Pension age 14%
  • Loss of work 14%
  • Other 19%

Those who have already retired reveal a different experience – again in line with the data offered by the Australian Bureau of statistics. For this segment, when they can afford to do so is no longer the key driver – health is. And reaching Age Pension age has halved in importance. 

  • Money – when they can afford to do so 23%
  • Access to super 9%
  • Health  28%
  • Reaching Age Pension age 7%
  • Loss of work 13%
  • Other 20%

The takeout

Unexpected things happen to all of us, including pre-retirees. As with the previous question on the ideal age to retire, there is a 40% chance that your actual reason for retirement will be health or retrenchment related. Whilst this may not feel ideal, if it’s a reality for well over one-third of retirees it raises the question of preventative measures. Most of us want to be in control of our next life stage, so it’s a great reminder to put your health first (yes, ahead of the money) and to keep yourself skilled and prepared to work longer if that’s what you would prefer.

At last, some agreement!

The major concerns about retirement were remarkably similar for both pre-retirees and post-retirees. These centred upon money, health, staying connected and purposeful. The benefits of retirement that those still working were looking forward to were more time, rest, relaxation, independence and less work-related responsibility. And these were also largely mirrored in the reported satisfactions of those already retired, who say enjoying freedom, independence, time with family and friends and hobbies are the big wins. More time to travel was also prominent. Thus proving that it really is a good life in retirement …

And finally … come on in, the water’s fine!

The final question asked was ‘Do you agree or disagree with this statement?  

(for pre-retirees)

Overall I think I will feel happier and more content  when I retire than while I am working.


(for retirees)

Overall I am much happier and more content in retirement than when I was working.

And here’s a direct comparison of how differently this was answered:

Pre-retireesAlready retired
Strongly agree, agree49%66%
Disagree, strongly disagree16%8%


Once you’ve retired your sense of contentment is much higher. Put simply, despite the many concerns over money and not having enough, those who have already entered retirement are saying they are happy – in fact much happier than those yet to retire expect to be. 

Reducing your money fears

If you have concerns over money and retirement income, it may help to share them in a Consultation with an experienced adviser. The Retirement Essentials Retirement Forecaster tool has been designed to show you the ‘sweet spot’ when you can afford to take your foot off the pedal, be that part time or full-on retirement. Why not put yourself in the driver’s seat today.  

What do you say? 

What about you? Has your contentment level lifted after leaving the workplace? Or are you still happily working, with no plans to stop? Is your experience instructive for others who are concerned about taking the leap?