Retirement savings: How to invest for your future

Retirement doesnt come cheap. If youre hoping to maintain a comfortable standard of living long after ceasing work, its worth looking into investment options beyond superannuation.

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) estimates that a couple needs $59,619 per year to fund a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. That means if you retire at the age of 65 youll need almost $1.2 million to fund your retirement until youre 85.

Those can be frightening numbers considering the average Australian super fund managed to barely cover inflation with a 2.3 per cent return in 2016.

You can contribute extra money to your super fund through pre-tax salary sacrifice payments, but it might not be the fastest way to build your overall superannuation.

Instead, you could use this extra money to pay off a mortgage on an investment property or invest in the share market through a managed fund.

Invest in property

Investing in property could give your super balance a significant boost in as little as five years, depending on the state of the property market.

For example, the median house price in Sydney grew by 44.7 per cent between 2010 and 2015 from $587,500 to $850,000. If that trend continues over the next five years, a house bought for $850,000 in 2015 would be worth almost $1.3 million in 2020. Thats a return of around $450,000 in just five years enough to fund the first 7.5 years of your comfortable retirement lifestyle before you even need to touch your superannuation.

Invest in shares

Investing in shares can lead to high returns, but this can also mean opening yourself up to risk.

The top performing managed fund in 2016 delivered a 32.3 per cent annual return, which dwarfs the 2.3 per cent average return achieved by Australian super funds over the same period.

However, for every winner theres a loser. The worst performing managed fund in 2016 posted a loss of 11.4 per cent.

Many investors use margin loans, which provide a lump sum, to fund their share market investments. Like all investments, margin loans come with a risk so you need to be prepared for all situations.

If you prefer a DIY approach to share investing, online stockbrokers have made buying and selling shares much easier.

However you choose to invest your retirement savings, remember that the magic word for investors is diversification. In other words, dont put all your eggs in one basket. Its important to keep in mind that the property and share markets are both vulnerable to economic influences that you cant control and might not see coming.

A three-pronged strategy that teams making extra contributions to your super fund with property and share market investments could be the most effective way to build your retirement savings.

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