Orford Initiative to look into conflicting views of retirement in Australia
Super funds, financial planners, industry bodies, government and the media are among some of the representatives being consulted in a new study on retirement outcomes by Melbourne Business School.
The research is part of the Orford Initiative, a three-year project looking into retirement planning behaviours and the financial security of Australians in an effort to help them optimise their post-retirement lifestyle.
Currently in its first stage, the Orford Initiative recently published its first report detailing the current retirement ecosystem and its challenges.
"The retirement ecosystem broadly includes government, media, and industry – and often these groups have quite different opinions," said Dr Teagan Altschwager, research lead of the Orford Initiative.
"These differences are problematic because every time a consumer hears conflicting information, it creates a fracture in their knowledge and trust in these groups, which can leave them feeling confused and unsure of what information is correct or in their best interests. Too much uncertainty can lead consumers to withdraw and disengage all together.
"As a first step, the Orford Initiative is working to understand who Australians trust within the retirement ecosystem, where they go for information when planning for retirement, and importantly – what holds them back, what barriers do they face."
The long-term goal of the research is to optimise the income, security and pathways to retirement that Australians can take when planning their senior years. So far, the research has clarified the barriers involved in planning for retirement and understanding what income and security is involved.
"In addition to reviewing government and media reports, we've run 18 consumer focus groups across all states and territories, in both regional and metro areas. We spoke to 168 near-retirement or recently retired Australians to understand their key retirement concerns," said Dr Altschwager.
"One recurring factor we've found is that women who have gone through divorce tend to approach retirement with a huge level of fear and uncertainty versus someone who's still married.
"We’ve also found that people are frustrated with continuous government changes in policy around superannuation, and believe that financial advisors are likely to take advantage of them, or that advice is inaccessible due to high fees."
Dr Altschwager said it was important to include the perspectives of industry, government and media bodies as well as consumers in the study.
"The focus groups have helped us to understand the retirement ecosystem from the retirees’ perspective, and now we’re interviewing representatives from various groups – government, industry, media – to find where these perspectives differ," she said.
The Orford Initiative is funded by the Orford Foundation in collaboration with Melbourne Business School.
Following stage one of the research in 2018, the Orford Initiative will move to quantitative and experimental phases of research in 2019-2020. Those phases will examine more nuanced issues within the retirement ecosystem, such as how language and information source impacts an individual’s understanding and perceptions, and what role Comprehensive Income Products for Retirement could play in ensuring Australians achieve financial security and optimising their post-retirement lifestyle.
Dr Altschwager is a senior research fellow with expertise in both quantitative and qualitative research. Her biggest hope for the project is to show Australians how to take ownership of their retirement future.
To learn more about the study, subscribe for updates or get involved, please visit the Orford Initiative webpage.