Security in Retirement: The impact of Housing and Key Critical Life Events

Dr Andrea Sharam, Liss Ralston and Dr Sharon Parkinson from Swinburne University of Technology conducted critical research into the wealth holdings of men and women at midlife (40 to 64 years of age) and recent retirees to gauge the impact of some key life events in shaping wealth.  

Approaching retirement – and retirement itself – can be a stressful and insecure time if the resources are not available for achieving, at a minimum, a modest lifestyle. This study evaluates the degree to which households are financially secure for retirement and, in particular, the impacts of partnering and divorce/separation on this security. Such critical events may have major effects on obtaining and remaining in home ownership and, accordingly, maintaining a modest lifestyle and avoiding housing problems.

The Study

Using a range of research methods, the report presents:

  • An analysis of the income and asset test applied in the assessment for eligibility for the age pension and the relationship of the associated income levels to the retirement standards of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia. This, in turn, has enabled an assessment of the capacity of households in different income and tenure circumstances to avoid problematic housing circumstances;
  • A conceptual understanding of critical life events as they relate to housing This is drawn from a review of a wide range of literature;
  • An outline of the demographics of wealth and associated risk for midlife households. This is based on a cross- sectional analysis of the ABS Survey of Income and Housing (SIH), and compares the wealth of households in 2003 to 2004 and in 2013 to 2014:
  1. Three age cohorts are examined in detail: 45 to 49 year-olds, 55 to 59 year-olds and 65 to 69 year-olds representing early midlife, late midlife and recent retirees respectively. The wealth of those 70 years and over is also examined.
  2. Of these age cohorts, lone-person male, lone-person female and couple-only households are considered in depth, permitting interrogation of gender effects and the risk effects of forming different household types. This raises the question of whether economies of consumption are available in being part of a larger
  3. Wealth is viewed in relation to tenure status with four tenure types scrutinised: owners who own or are purchasing their home and who do not own any other property; owner/owners who own or are purchasing their home and who own or are purchasing other property; private renters who do not own any property; and renter/ owners or private renters who own or who are purchasing property other than the rental home in which they
  4. The types of wealth examined are owner-occupied housing, other property, superannuation and other wealth;
  • An examination of the wealth of single parents as a separate entity, given the vulnerable position of many single parents, using the Survey of Income and Housing;
  • The impact on tenure of relationship status change is examined using the Household, Income Labour Dynamics Australia (HILDA) longitudinal survey data, and;
  • In-depth qualitative interviews with divorcees who owned or who had been purchasing a home with their former partner and who, in 2015, were between five and 10 years out from their Most were living in Victoria but not all.

Key Findings

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The full article is available online and in the HousingWORKS journal for the Members of the Australasian Housing Institute. If you're not an AHI Member, join now to receive a quarterly HousingWORKS journal, as well as many other member benefits such as opportunities for continuing education and development, the professional accreditation and access to the community of fellow housing professionals. Click here to learn more how to join the Institute.