Peter Vickers, Chartered Accountant, Lindfield

When retirement is on the horizon it’s quite common for people to start taking a more active interest in their savings, partly triggered by the fear that they will not have enough to maintain the lifestyle they currently enjoy. With more time on their hands as children have grown up and left home and in an era where the availability of advice and information has never been so prolific, it has become increasingly difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The online free resources are endless and the regulated sites provide good tips and tools to help you manage your money, such as ASIC’s MoneySmart website and even the ATO has made the information on its site more intelligible. With so much advice and information at your fingertips it becomes increasingly difficult to make sure the advice that you’re following actually takes all of your circumstances into account. There are so many factors to consider at this stage in your life, particularly as so many families are now blended and it can sometimes be hard to have conversations with family members about the future.

Aged care planning can also be difficult to navigate. The whole industry is flourishing as the number of retirees in Australia increases. There are currently more than 6 million Australians over 55 and only 6% of them are living in retirement villages or residential aged care facilities (IBIS World) so it’s no wonder that the industry is growing at about 4.5% pa with a current value of around $18.3 billion.

A growth in the number of facilities in the country, large advertising budgets promoting them and the media messages about the wide range of care and services in these facilities means extra care needs to be taken when making this important decision, of where and how to downsize. Promotions of home equity release schemes via reverse mortgages can be a way to fund residential care or care at home but careful consideration needs to be given to using what is likely to be your most valuable asset in this way. It is not a risk free choice as the loan may affect your pension eligibility, interest rates are generally higher than average home loans and there are other options to consider which you should be aware of.

Selling the family home is a way to free up cash but again what you do with the cash could have financial implications that you are unaware of and it will certainly have an emotional and practical impact on you and those close to you.

Do your research, talk to people in similar situations, but above all the most important advice we can give you which could save you significant sums of money is to seek advice from your accountant or financial advisor. This will ensure that you understand all the areas that could possibly be impacted by the choices you make.