It’s easy to joke about retiring in luxury – sooner, rather than later – but the reality of post work life is much more complex.

In December 2016, the Commonwealth Treasury released a discussion paper aimed at developing a new national retirement system.

“They believe we have developed a very sophisticated system from the moment you start work, to the moment you finish at around age 65,” explained Associate Professor Robert Bianchi.

“But after that, there’s questions of who should manage your money and how.”

Peta Tilse, Associate Professor Robert Bianchi and Professor Michael Drew

The Griffith Centre for Personal Finance and Superannuation recently hosted a symposium to answer those questions, and generate discussion about the retirement ‘products’ of the future.

Four keynote speakers from different parts of the superannuation industry shared their perspectives with an audience that included staff from the Commonwealth Treasury.

“One of the key commonalities is the idea of engagement with retirees,” Assoc. Prof Bianchi said.

“When a retiree is 65, how they engage with their super fund? What are their expectations of retirement?

“A lot of people are not connected with Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter or Instagram – so how do you make that connection?”

Assoc. Prof Bianchi added that making the connection is important, because all retirees have a very distinct idea of what their life should look like.

“When we build a new retirement product, we need to work out how to convince people that it’s good product for them, even when they’re so entrenched with the inherent behavioural biases that they have.”

On top of that, research shows that a person is at their cognitive peak at age 53 – much earlier than the standard retirement age of 65 plus.

Ralph Collins, Senior Manager Investment Solutions, QSuper

“So we’re trying to talk to 65-year-olds and explain the benefits of these new retirement products, but they’re not at their cognitive peakand they’re having to make really important decisions about the remaining parts of their life,” Professor Bianchi said.

Peta Tilse, founder of Sophisticated Access and a wealth adviser, was one of the keynote speakers.

She believes technology can help with this communication process – but the industry must be conscious of various demographics and age groups.

“We have to be aware that our baby boomers need to be spoken to and how they want to be spoken to – face to face, receiving letters and not by social media,” she said.

“There’s an inter-generational wealth transfer that will happen as these people either cognitively decline or pass, and the younger generation will be taking over.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how the younger generation, who have high debt to income ratios, manage this wealth transfer while still looking after mum and dad.”

Professor Michael Drew, from Griffith Business School, said that any new retirement initiative should take into account that what people see as ‘safe’ or ‘risky’ changes throughout life.

Participants gather at the retirement symposium

“This discussion is really about thinking through living longer and living well, while addressing the challenges of ‘longevity risk’ – that is, outliving our retirement savings,” he explained.

“While planning can take into account regular life events, it’s the unexpected costs – like failing health – that are harder to manage.”

Speakers at the Retirement Symposium acknowledged that they were working with one of society’s most vulnerable groups – a fact highlighted regularly in the media.

Professor Drew said that one of the growing risks for retirees managing their superannuation is identity theft and cyber fraud.

“We need to think about computer code and technology to protect people, but also psychological protections that can be put in place,” he said.

The Retirement Symposium covered a diverse range of topics, and both speakers and attendees agreed that it was a valuable exercise in the process developing new products.

“We don’t talk enough about the fact that around half of Australians don’t actually get to choose their retirement date – they might be made redundant, or get sick,” Professor Drew said.