OREANDA-NEWS. February 17, 2016. NAB-owned wealth management provider, MLC, is calling for a more informed debate on the future of our superannuation system, starting with a fresh look at how Australians are actually living their lives now, and how they expect to live in retirement.

Executive General Manager, Wealth Advice, Greg Miller explained that MLC today released the first of a three-part whitepaper commissioned to help better inform this debate. The research shows how Australians perceive their socio-economic standing and the lifestyle characteristics they value and aspire to in order to gain a sense of financial security.

The research reveals Australians are confused by their social standing, with 66 per cent of people labelling their class as either middle or lower middle, and almost one-in-two Australians saying they are living pay-cheque to pay-cheque.

When MLC launched the Save Retirement brand message two years ago, we knew we were onto a good thing by the great feedback we received from advisers and customers, Mr Miller said.

Save Retirement resonated with advisers and customers because they know that even though we have a world-class retirement framework, too many Australians will retire with a savings shortfall and we all have a responsibility to do something about that.

While Save Retirement has been well received, in 2016 we want to take things up a notch.

We firmly believe that helping more Australians to save for their retirement should be a national priority.

When more Australians fund their own retirement, we win on two fronts we improve our quality of life, and reduce the budgetary burden of an ageing population for future generations.

But, in order to have a well-informed national conversation about our super system, we need to understand how Australians identify themselves and discover their aspirations, which is why weve released this research.

We all have a stake in this goal and NAB and MLC, as one of Australias largest super and financial planning providers, is prepared to take a lead role in the debate and offer options to bring about enduring change, said Mr Miller.

Stuck in the middle; an Australian class conundrum

The research, which involved surveying more than 2,000 Australians, reveals Australians have a striking perception problem when it comes to their personal socio-economic standing and that of others.

The Australia Today whitepaper lifts the lid on how Australians are living their financial and social lives. The report shows that Australians are confused by their social standing, with 66 per cent of people labelling their class as either middle or lower middle, when in fact only 20 per cent of Australians actually fit into this category.

The report found that 40 per cent of Australians actually fit into either the upper class or upper middle class categories, when benchmarked against a range of factors including income, occupation, employment and home occupancy.

Half (46 per cent) of Australians say they are living pay-cheque to pay-cheque, including one in five of those with a household income of more than \\$200,000 annually.

Nearly half of those surveyed told us that living comfortably requires at least \\$150,000, and an overwhelming majority say that being worth \\$1,000,000 does not make you rich in Australia today.

When asked to describe the lifestyle of a typical middle class Australian, many said that the pre-requisites are having a professional job, owning a house and car and being able to send their children to private school. With the average household income of the middle class sitting at \\$77,676 per annum, the research suggests there is a clear disconnect between the definition of lifestyle and standard of living.

In commenting on the release of the research, Andrew Hagger, NAB Wealth Group Executive and MLC CEO, said, Its clear that Australians perceptions of what the middle class is has changed dramatically from 20 or 30 years ago.

But, while we have changed our spending patterns, have we also changed our savings patterns? Is the current super system helping Australians achieve the standard of living they aspire to in retirement?

This research also tells us that many Australians are looking to government for the answers, with nearly half of those surveyed believing the government should do more to help middle class families.

Whether it be the Hawke/Keating super reforms of the 80s and 90s, or the 2006 Howard-era Future Fund, both sides of politics have made substantial contributions to help to save retirement.

Yet we know people contribute less when government tinkers or even discusses tinkering with the system. Super is a long term product that needs stable policy.

The stakes are high. When we get super right, it helps Australians in retirement and helps our economy. When we get it wrong, we risk our future prosperity.

We do believe a key priority should be to establish a clear objective for our super system one that all future reforms can be focussed on supporting.

Any reform must maximise the retirement outcomes of Australians in the future across generations, said Mr Hagger.

About the Australia Today whitepaper: MLC commissioned IPSOS to prepare a three-part whitepaper to explore the challenge of how we get more Australians to think about their retirement. Part 1 of the whitepaper is now available to download from www.mlc.com.au/australia-today, with Part 2 and 3 available in coming months.