Ask Finder: I’ll never afford a house, what should I save for instead?

Posted: 29 March 2019 7:55 am News

It might seem like a long time away, but it’s important to start saving for your retirement now.

Hey guys,
I’m in my 30s, and I live in Sydney. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford to buy a home. What should I be saving for?
Thanks!
Rainy Day Saver

With property prices as high as they are, especially in Sydney and Melbourne, a lot of young Australians are realising that they might never afford their own home. But if you’re not saving for a house deposit, there’s something else you should start saving for instead: retirement. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, it’s likely that you’ve never given much thought to your retirement. It's so far away and, let's face it, it's not very exciting. However, the sooner you start putting some money away, the better off you’ll be.

This is especially important if you don’t think you’ll ever own your own home. It's estimated that single Australians will need about $550,000 in super to fund their retirement if they own a home. If you don't own a home, this figure doubles. Don't let this stress you out too much, though. Owning your own home would be a big financial advantage in retirement, but it's not the only way to generate wealth.

Invest your savings

If you've got some savings that you aren't planning to use for anything in particular, you might want to consider investing the money. The first, and easiest, option is to open a high interest savings account or term deposit. These accounts offer interest on your money up to a maximum of about 3.00% p.a. A term deposit is a good idea if you know you won't need to touch the money for a while, as it locks the funds away and there are no ongoing conditions to meet to earn the interest.

Savings accounts and term deposits are safe options for your cash, though they don't generate much of a return compared to some other investment options. Shares carry much more risk compared to a savings account, but shares also have the potential for a much higher return. If you're new to share trading, you might also consider investing in a managed fund or an exchange traded fund (ETF). Both of these funds invest in a wide range of companies on your behalf. For more help with shares, you can read our seven-step guide to buying shares online.

Contribute to your super

As well as investing some of your savings, you could also consider making ongoing contributions to your superannuation. Your employer is legally obliged to pay 9.5% of your annual income into your super to help save for your retirement, but there's nothing stopping you from adding even more than this.

The best way to go about this is through salary sacrificing, which is the process of diverting some of your pre-taxed income into your superannuation instead of your bank account. There are two benefits of this strategy. First, you'll add more to your super, which will help you in retirement. Second, because your money is sent to your super before you pay any income tax on it, you'll save on tax. This process isn't as tricky as it sounds, and all you need to do is chat with your employer if you'd like to start salary sacrificing into your super. You can also read up on this strategy in our salary sacrificing guide here.

Ask Finder is a regular column where Finder's expert writers answer your questions. All rates and fees are correct at time of publication and we only give general advice.

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