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Mortgage Debt & Superannuation – An Unlikely Pair?

A relationship has been established around superannuation and mortgage debt that could impact the stability of your retirement.

As prospective Australian retirees approach their preservation ages and retirement, those who are yet to own their own homes may struggle to maintain a comfortable retirement. Retirement plans often work out a prospective financial situation, and assume that an owned home is an already existing asset.

Housing is quickly becoming a critical aspect of retirement, alongside the pension, super and voluntary savings as the main means of ensuring a comfortable retirement for future retirees.

Mortgage debt and the threat of continued payments to pay it off is something that workers must now take into consideration when looking into their retirement, as Australians struggle to pay off their homes. Can it be paid off without the extra income earned from their work?

As more and more Australians retire with healthy superannuation balances, the allure of using that money to pay down a mortgage is strong.

Factors that may be affecting retiree’s mortgage debts could include:

  • Higher property prices (now ten times the average wage as compared with three or four times two decades ago).
  • A delayed entry into the property market as they save for a deposit, leaving fewer working years to pay off the loan.
  • Relatively low-interest rates – currently, every dollar used to pay down a mortgage is saving less than 3% on interest, while in superannuation that same dollar has the potential to return 7 or 8 per cent.

Paying down a mortgage is a growing problem for retirees who are increasingly leaving the workforce with mortgage debt, which is far from the norm among middle-income Australians as recent as a decade ago. Among retirees, homeowners in the years prior to retirement (ages 55-64) had dropped from 72% in 1995 to 42% in 2015-16.

However, those who began their working careers prior to the 1990s face another challenge as they move closer to their preservation age; the superannuation guarantee was only introduced in 1992, which means that many may have accumulated less superannuation than other generations after.

It is understandable that for those approaching retirement, preferencing super over mortgage could seem like a logical move, as the extra funds generated can be diverted back into property on retirement. Using superannuation to pay a mortgage can make some tax sense – in an assets test for the Age Pension, a primary residence is exempt while superannuation is not.

This may become a more common approach for retirees and those looking to retire within the next few years. However, you should consider what the best approach is for your situation, and whether paying off the mortgage with your super is worth it in the long run. Consulting with a professional before taking any action should be your first step in this process.

If you’re someone who often finds it difficult to make large lump sum payments for goods or services, you may want to consider looking into “Buy Now Pay Later” services.

Buy now pay later essentially means that, rather than paying in a full lump sum payment for a product or services rendered, there may be an option to pay through instalments of a certain amount over a set period to make the sum of the full amount in total. This method should allow you to pay in full for the product or service without overly straining your finances – you pay back what you can, as agreed upon when you begin the buy now pay later service.

Some popular buy now pay later services include Afterpay, Zip Pay, Brightepay, and some credit card networks such as  Mastercard and Visa, can offer buy now pay later arrangements.

Though it can be a convenient, immediate solution, it may be challenging to juggle the necessary repayments with other financial commitments. It’s not always the most appropriate method for people, and you should bear in mind your situation and ability in paying back the amounts. 

Before you sign up, keep in mind: 

  • It becomes easier to overspend with buy now pay later services, so know your limits on what you can and can’t afford.
  • You will be charged fees and costs to use the service, which can add up to a princely sum in and of itself.
  • Keeping track of your payments can be tricky if you’ve signed up for multiple services.
  • It could affect your loan applications for a car or mortgage as lenders consider buy now pay later spending just as much as your credit score.
  • Late repayments can appear on your credit report, which affects your ability to borrow money in the future.
  • Layby can be a cheaper alternative to buy now pay later, with no account-keeping or late fees to consider

If you are someone who could make use of BNPL services, you may wish to:

  • Ensure that when using the BNPL service, you stick to a set limit on what you spend so that you can comfortably pay it back later. 
  • Aim only to have one BNPL account at a time to manage payments through, rather than confuse yourself with multiple payments across different providers.
  • Always budget for bills, loan payments and BNPL payments, and 
  • Rather than use your credit card for payments to your BNPL account, consider linking to your debit account instead.

If you would like assistance in planning your financial future, help in managing your budget or some friendly advice, see us for a chat about what we can do for you.

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John Briggs

Jane Noller has been my accountant for the last 15 plus years. I can testify to Jane’s professionalism and expeditious manner in dealing with the day to day issues that surrounds our business accounting.

John Briggs

Registered Building Certifier