G’ day, mate! Retirement ideas from Down Under

Published: Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 10:18 AM.

Let me make a confession; some of my columns make me cringe with embarrassment. 

No one is perfect, least of all me. Mistakes mortify me but more often my poorly conveyed thoughts. A literary demon pops up chiding me “You could have said that better.”

Thank the Lord, salvation is at hand, a child shall lead you.

In the aftermath of the election, a distraught teenager learned the hard way about missteps in the public domain. Her emigrating to Australia tweet because they have a Christian man as president went viral. No Virginia, Australia has a Prime Minister who is an atheist woman, STEE-RIKE THREE. Responses included comments outlining other aspects of Australian life, one erroneously citing gun ownership bans Down Under. While strict gun regulations exist in Australia, hunters and sportsmen can own weapons.  

Since we are going international, Australia made changes to their pension system in order to serve retirees more efficiently.  I do not pretend to be an expert on Australia’s Superannuation Guarantee program. With the magic of the Internet, someone can explain it better. 

During the ’90s, Australia looked at demographics and realized the need to improve retiree pensions. In addition to a means-tested pension system, the Aussies began a mandatory program, where employers contribute (currently 9 percent) to investment funds. The compulsory "Superannuation Guarantee” is augmented with private savings and non-superannuation programs to provide a third leg for retirees.

While individually owned, stringent guidelines restrict participants’ access to Superannuation funds prior to retirement.  Conversely, Americans have relatively easy access to retirement funds. Human nature and temptation being what they are, no one should be surprised to learn 50 percent of employees cash in 401(k) plans when switching careers.  Outside dire circumstances, withdrawals before retirement should be verboten, a thought echoed in John Bogle’s “A Clash of Cultures.”

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