When accumulating savings for retirement, the investment objective is clear – to grow and maximise savings. Risk in the accumulation phase is also well-defined and focused on the loss of capital, as measured by the volatility of investment returns or related downside risk measures. Risk tolerance is then typically used to determine appropriate investment profiles, with the aim of achieving greater wealth to fund retirements.

However, the risk-return landscape becomes significantly more complex once retirement comes into the picture. The primary objective in the decumulation phase ceases to be pure growth and more about using accumulated wealth to sustain a target level of income throughout retirement. Therefore, volatility of investment returns is no longer a suitable risk measure as it does not describe the risk of failing to meet this objective.

Retirement income risk measure

Traditional measures of variance (standard deviation) focus on both upside and downside variation. However, behavioural economists commonly point out that individuals are more averse to downside variation than upside variation. A more relevant risk measure in the context of decumulation is the probability of running out of money, or a measure of income variation. This captures important dynamics such as the sequence of returns, which can be particularly damaging in decumulation.

The risk can be depicted as:

 

The importance of risk measurement in retirement products is highlighted in a Treasury consultation paper which proposes a range of standard metrics to help consumers make decisions about the most appropriate retirement income product for their own circumstances.

The discussion paper proposes that a measure of income variation be provided in respect of all retirement income products and this measure is presented on a seven-point scale.

The finance industry uses terms like longevity risk, market risk, sequencing risk and inflation risk, which are all relevant to the outcome experienced by investors in a retirement income product. However, these terms are not well understood by a lay person, so an income variation measure could help fill in some gaps.

Retirement objectives

Lonsec’s Retirement Lifestyle Portfolios are objectives-based portfolios focused on delivering a sustainable level of income in retirement, as well as generating capital growth. Specifically, the portfolios are designed to assist advisers in constructing portfolios to meet retiree essential and discretionary income needs, while generating some capital growth to meet lifestyle goals.

Differences to Lonsec’s core accumulation model portfolios are:

  • Income objective of 4% p.a. for all portfolios
  • Greater bias to AUD denominated assets – historically higher dividends, franking credits
  • Greater focus on absolute rather than relative performance
  • Constructed to manage capital drawdown risk
  • Fixed income allocations have less duration and greater credit exposure
  • Key building blocks are Yield, Capital Growth & Risk Control

In reality, risk in retirement is multi-dimensional. An individual retiree may have multiple goals, such as leaving a bequest, with a different level of importance attached to each. An individual’s risk aversion in retirement will therefore be defined by a holistic view of their retirement goals, and the risks to those goals across all scenarios that could play out during retirement. Typically, more than one risk measure is necessary, with multiple scenarios required to truly appreciate the risks inherent with each solution.

After almost 30 years since the introduction of compulsory superannuation in Australia, many practitioners have called for a review of the superannuation guarantee (SG) system before the legislated increase in employers’ compulsory contributions from 9.5% to 12% by 2025. These increases are:

 Period Super Guarantee (%)
 1 July 2002 – 30 June 2013 9.00
 1 July 2013 – 30 June 2014 9.25
 1 July 2014 – 30 June 2021 9.50
 1 July 2021 – 30 June 2022 10.00
 1 July 2022 – 30 June 2023 10.50
 1 July 2023 – 30 June 2024 11.00
 1 July 2024 – 30 June 2025 11.50
 1 July 2025 – 30 June 2026 onwards 12.00

Source: Australian Tax Office

The case against

The Grattan Institute recently published research showing that higher SG contributions would not be in the interests of many working Australians as many middle-income workers would give up wages of up to 2.5 per cent while working, in exchange for less than a 1 per cent boost to their retirement incomes. Grattan argues almost all the extra income from a higher super balance at retirement would be offset by lower age pension payments, due to the pension assets test. Pension payments themselves would also be lower under a 12 per cent super regime, because they are benchmarked to wages, which would be lower if employers contributed more to super. Grattan calculates that lifting compulsory super from 9.5% of wages to 12% would make the typical worker up to $30,000 poorer over their lifetimes.

Not surprisingly, these findings have sparked fierce debate amongst industry practitioners, with some questioning the assumptions made by the Grattan Institute, contending their calculations are based on people working until age 67 when in fact many retire before this for numerous reasons. The adequacy of the ASFA retirement standards is also a point of difference between protagonists. Grattan contends the ASFA retirement standards would mean many retirees would be significantly better off in retirement and this was not the purpose of super. Grattan’s research showed that most people reaching retirement would achieve 70 per cent of the income they had while they worked, a reasonable outcome given that in retirement most people have lower costs with children having left home and many without mortgages.

The case for

According to the Committee for Sustainable Retirement Incomes analysis, for those not eligible for an age pension (likely to be at least 40% of retirees into the future), maintaining pre-retirement living standards will require contributions of 15-20% (18% is the OECD average); for those eligible for some age pension, the contribution rate required will be lower but, even at typical earnings, would most likely be more than 12%.

Mercer contends Australia’s retirement system is not up to the standard of better systems overseas and still required the SG to move to 12% to provide comfortable retirements. Despite being compulsory, Australia’s super system covers only 75.7% of the population while comparable systems covered 80 to 90% of the population. Mercer also believes Australia’s SG contributions need to rise to 12% to ensure retirement income levels reach OECD averages. International comparisons showed Australia’s pension and retirement system in a positive light, with the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index in 2018 listing Australia at No.4 out of 34 countries examined. However, once the net replacement rate of pre-retirement income is factored in Australia does not compare so favourably. The OECD said Australia’s average net replacement rate was 40.7%, while for the OECD it was 65%.

No discussion could be complete without the views of former Prime Minister Paul Keating, the architect of the current SG system whose frustration at the current discourse was evident recently. He heavily criticised Liberal MPs proposing to scrap a plan to raise the SG, saying the suggestion that an increase would stifle wage growth was a ‘great lie’ and likening those against the SG increase to climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers.

What’s next?

There are many critics that suggest a redesigned assets test could help ensure increased savings boost retirement incomes. Grattan’s findings that an increase in savings through the SG would lead to a reduction in lifetime incomes is true of a voluntary increase in savings in any form other than increased investment in the family home. A better designed assets test, perhaps even a merging of the income and assets tests, could help ensure savings are not unduly penalised.

What would be beneficial is if industry practitioners articulated what they consider to be the objective of the retirement incomes system, and focused analysis on whether increasing the SG would or would not help to achieve that objective, and at what cost. A good starting point would be that Australians have secure and adequate incomes at and through retirement. ‘Adequacy’ would seemingly have two components, though there appears to be debate around the send point:

  • sufficient to ensure no aged person lives in poverty (the role of the age pension); and
  • sufficient to maintain pre-retirement living standards (the role of superannuation and other savings)

Only when there is broad agreement on these points can the problem of how to best achieve them can be solved.

 

With the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) cutting the official cash rate to just 1.00% on 2 July, retirees and investors face increased challenges in deriving enough income from their investments to meet their needs. This is an ongoing issue with more interest rate cuts forecast by financial markets. The following chart puts this challenge in perspective.

Key rates are on the way down in the world’s largest economies


Source: Reserve Bank of Australia, June 2019

Lonsec’s Retirement Lifestyle Portfolios are objectives-based portfolios focused on delivering a sustainable level of income in retirement, as well as generating capital growth. Specifically, the portfolios are designed to assist advisers in constructing portfolios to meet retiree essential and discretionary income needs, while generating some capital growth to meet lifestyle goals.

Differences to Lonsec’s core accumulation model portfolios are:

  • Income objective of 4% p.a. for all portfolios
  • Greater bias to AUD denominated assets – historically higher dividends, franking credits
  • Greater focus on absolute rather than relative performance
  • Constructed to manage capital drawdown risk
  • Fixed income allocations have less duration and greater credit exposure
  • Key building blocks are Yield, Capital Growth & Risk Control

With 10 year Australian government bond yields currently less than 1.50% p.a., Lonsec has opted for a diversified approach to meeting this income objective. Income in these portfolios is generated by the following funds:


Equity funds
Legg Mason Martin Currie Real Income Fund

 

A portfolio of listed companies that own ‘hard’ physical assets, like property, utilities and infrastructure (e.g. A-REITs, airports, toll roads, electricity and gas grids). Real Asset companies like these are an integral part of everyday life and are often monopolistic in nature. Their demand profile is, therefore, relatively inelastic and not pegged to the business cycle, hence these companies have more predictable free cash flow and dividends. The typically long-term nature of their cash flows (underpinned by long term contracts and favourable regulatory structures) also offers protection during market downturns, as well as upside growth potential from population growth. This means Real Asset companies typically have a low beta versus the broader equity market and can provide low-volatility, regular and dependable income streams.
Plato Australian Share Income Fund

 

A tax effective, income focused, ‘style neutral’ Australian equity portfolio that is broadly diversified (50-120 stocks) and seeks to generate income through investing in fully franked dividend yielding stocks in the run-up period to the ex-dividend dates. The Fund has been specifically designed to be tax effective in the hands of a 0% rate tax payer by capturing franking credits and exhibits a high portfolio turnover (circa 150% p.a.).
IML Equity Income Fund

 

An equity income strategy that seeks to generate income through investing in dividend yielding stocks and an options strategy. The options strategy generates income through buy-write and covered call option strategies and selling put options.
Grant Samuel Epoch Global Equity Shareholder Yield Fund

 

A long-only, benchmark unaware product that aims to invest in global companies assessed as generating free cash flow which supports both a sustainable ‘shareholder yield’ and some cash flow growth. Its objective is to generate a target return of 9% p.a. or greater over ‘a full market cycle’, expected to be derived from dividends (4.5%), share buy-backs and debt pay downs (1.5%) and cash flow growth (3%).
Talaria Global Equity Fund

 

An active long-only, ‘benchmark unaware’ investment product that invests in large cap securities within developed and emerging markets. The Fund is relatively concentrated, targeting 25-40 ‘quality’ companies that are purchased at ‘reasonable’ valuations. Approximately 50-70% of the Fund is committed to equities, with the residual reserved as option cover for put options sold. Stock positions are entered (and exited) via the sale of fully cash backed (covered call/put) stock options. The option premium earned provides an additional source of return beyond capital growth and dividends and creates a ‘buffer’ against losses by reducing the cost of stocks purchased.
Fixed Income Funds
Schroder Fixed Income Fund A Diversified Fixed Interest product normally invested in Australian and global (hedged) government and non-government debt markets and may have material exposure to credit assets, including up to 20% sub-investment grade sectors.
PIMCO Global Bond Fund

 

A Global Fixed Interest fund normally invested in a mix of bonds paying fixed rate (predominantly) coupons such as those issued by sovereign governments, corporations and other structured securities like mortgage bonds. Lonsec notes that PIMCO’s total return approach implies a degree of indifference as to the source of returns either from income / distributions (e.g. coupons) or growth (e.g. asset price growth).
Janus Henderson Tactical Income Fund

 

The Fund will normally be invested in a mix of bonds or debt securities paying fixed and/or floating rate coupons issued by Australian governments and corporates, residential mortgage backed securities and hybrid securities. The Fund is designed to actively allocate between Australian cash, Australian fixed interest and Australian credit, providing greater scope than traditional bond funds to protect capital in a rising yield environment.
Macquarie Income Opportunities Fund A relatively conservative credit fund with short duration fund which uses a core/satellite approach and distributes income monthly. The ‘core’ is a portfolio of predominantly ‘investment grade’ floating rate securities and ‘satellites’ exposures of Global High Yield and Emerging Markets Debt.

 

These funds provide a diverse source of income for retirees, though this does not come without risk. With equities generating a significant portion of the income it is imperative that equity market risk is managed through allocating to more traditional fixed income funds and funds able to play a Risk Control role in the portfolios.

For many, approaching retirement is often characterised by heightened emotion and anxiety associated with competing life goals and financial objectives. Each of these will typically have different time horizons and be prioritised in different ways. Most retirement portfolio construction approaches rely solely on risk profiling as the primary mechanism to determine the ‘optimal’ retirement portfolio. While useful, such tools are unlikely to capture all that is important to retirees who typically have multiple investment objectives. Additionally, many investment decisions are product driven, rather than strategy driven. Lonsec believes the focus should be on investment strategy, with product selection simply being a vehicle to execute a strategy, rather than the driver of the strategy.

Lonsec believes that an objectives-based approach can enhance and complement existing approaches to retirement portfolio construction in the following areas:

  • Expectations management: better communicate and manage client investment expectations, including the level of risk required to achieve those objectives
  • Alignment of strategy & objectives: Strategies are specifically tailored to individual client objectives, recognising that each client will have different retirement objectives and prioritise those objectives differently
  • Alignment of product to strategy: product selection is a result of the investment strategy; it does not drive the strategy. Lonsec believes that this is particularly relevant given ASIC’s focus on product selection driven by clients’ ‘best interests’
  • Engagement: improves financial adviser-client engagement by focusing discussion on investment strategy and how it relates to client investment objectives, rather than focusing on returns, markets and products.

This paper provides a practical framework to assist financial advisers in constructing an objectives-based retirement portfolio. It is designed to follow the key steps of the advice process and is broken into the following sections:

This paper can be used to assist financial advisers in constructing objectives-based portfolios for retiree clients, or as support material to the Lonsec Lifestyle Retirement Portfolios.

With Australia’s economic expansion under threat, house prices falling, and a wave of people set to retire over the next decade, financial advisers are under pressure to provide advice and solutions that can withstand Australia’s future retirement challenges.

Lonsec’s Retire program addresses the growing need for the financial services industry to work together to come up with those solutions and strategies.

Lonsec has been running its successful Retire program for more than five years, and it continues to go from strength to strength. The schedule of content and events planned for the next 12 months is the largest yet, with nine Retire Partners now on board to deliver in-depth retirement insights, including:                          

Alliance Bernstein Fidelity      Legg Mason
Allianz Retire+  Invesco  Pendal
Challenger Investors Mutual  Talaria

Lonsec’s Retire Partners will be providing a wealth of content to help advisers understand and deal with a range of issues faced by advisers and their clients.

The program will really kick off on May 7th with the major Lonsec Symposium event at the Westin, Sydney. With more than 600 advisers and wealth managers already registered, along with an impressive line-up of high-profile speakers and industry leaders, this is a must-attend event for all retirement professionals.

“How much can I spend?” This question lies at the heart of so many conversations between a retiree and their adviser. Although not explicitly stated, this simple question ties in to so many other related concerns – Can I spend enough to be comfortable? Will I run out of money? What are my options if my health deteriorates? What about bequests?

All these questions boil down to one thing – a craving for certainty. While this is understandable from the client perspective, the key challenge for the financial advice industry is how much certainty can we provide in answering these questions, and how do we manage client expectations.This thought piece looks at the factors driving this desire for certainty, and different solutions to the expectations gap between what clients want and what advice can provide.

In recognition of the growing challenges facing retirees, Lonsec has published a paper on the role annuities can play in retirement portfolios. The paper explores some of the common issues facing retirees such as sequencing risk, longevity risk and market risk.

The main benefits and risks of annuities are considered as well as how annuities can mitigate these risks. The paper examines how annuities can work with the age pension and other investment products to help retirees meet essential spending objectives as well as provide for discretionary spending.

Lonsec believes that annuities are an attractive proposition for retirees looking to secure part of their retirement income stream, including in conjunction with the age pension, to boost the amount of guaranteed income during retirement. Additionally, Lonsec notes that there is a mass market of retirees for whom annuities may be appropriate, typically those with retirement savings of between $250,000 to $1,500,000.

Lonsec does not have a preferred means to best make an allocation to annuities within a diversified investment portfolio but notes there are two commonly held schools of thought. The first is to allocate from the defensive assets within a portfolio and the second is to ‘carve-out’ a separate allocation for the annuity and retain the existing asset class weightings over a smaller asset base.

Important information: Any express or implied rating or advice is limited to general advice, it doesn’t consider any personal needs, goals or objectives.  Before making any decision about financial products, consider whether it is personally appropriate for you in light of your personal circumstances. Obtain and consider the Product Disclosure Statement for each financial product and seek professional personal advice before making any decisions regarding a financial product.