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Pandemic exacerbated retirement confidence: Research

Research from State Street found Australian savers have been more likely to check their super and change investment strategies during the COVID-19 crisis.

Around 42% of Australian savers have been negatively impacted financially by COVID-19, according to the research.

State Street head of investments Australia Jonathan Shead said that while the short-term financial implications of the pandemic are front of mind for many, State Street were interested to see whether those worries changed long-term savings behaviour.

"Of the Australian savers in our survey, 42% said they have been negatively impacted financially by COVID-19. The crisis has seen an impact on jobs and wages through such areas as reduced pay or reduced hours in a much higher proportion compared with the United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands," Shead said.

"Although not a direct result of COVID-19, we continue to see a lack of retirement confidence in Australia. The crisis has only exacerbated long-standing issues around lack of savings and uncertainty of retirement outcomes."

The report found that while the majority expects the financial impact of the pandemic to be short-lived, Australians are already reacting with respect to their retirement savings.

Compared to the rest of the world, a greater proportion of Australians during the crisis have checked their superannuation more regularly, switched to lower-risk investments and started drawing down their super assets early.

"Australians surveyed also showed an appreciation for lower volatility strategies and companies that were managed responsibly with regard to the crisis," the report said.

"These findings provide useful insight into the kinds of funds members would like to see their savings invested in."

The research found that 42% of Australians are feeling pessimistic about their retirement; however when the same survey was done in 2018 it yielded the same result.

"We continue to see a lack of retirement confidence in Australia caused by COVID-19, as well as long-standing issues such as having no spare money, uncertainty around retirement plans and lack of trust in the retirement system," it said.

"This reinforces the need for saving regular amounts; superannuation funds providing clear member communications to help navigate uncertainty; and regulators enacting legislation to ensure a transparent, efficient and robust system."

Read our full COVID-19 news coverage and analysis here.

Read more: COVID-19State StreetJonathan Shead
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