Famous Last Words – “Super’s Doing Well.”

If anything is certain, it is that change is certain.

The world we are planning for today will not exist in this form tomorrow.

Phil Crosby, American Businessman

When Bill and I decided to buy into Wollongong I was working for a global shipping line, a world leader in the movement of cars and containers. It was a responsible position heading up the front-line customer service for import, export and equipment handling Australia wide.

The company had decided to migrate its computer systems onto the intranet, and integrate shipping and cargo data into real-time world-wide. It was a massive project, with Australia as the first area to go-live. It was the type of software implementation that is quoted in “how-to” manuals – under the section labelled “What can go wrong when ……….”

The U.S. team who were leading the project had joked to me that they decided to throw the Aussies on the barbecue to see how long it would take us to fry. Thanks for that collaborative approach guys. The idea was that because Australia was such a small part of their overall trade, we could serve to show up the fault lines without causing too much business disruption.

Ya’ gotta’ love testing in the live environment.

Along with other initiatives that I was driving in terms of personnel and processes, I was feeling pretty burned out by the time the project was wrapping up. The time was coming to decide whether I would stay behind in Sydney through the week; or look for work in Wollongong. Either way, Bill was retiring.

There were many factors in my decision to resign, including that I had more than forty people in my reporting line, and I didn’t want to leave them rudderless as they were bedding down the software changes.

So after consultation with various senior colleagues, at the beginning of 2008 I gave my employer six months’ notice, so as to allow plenty of time to find and train the right replacement, and to ensure a smooth handover. I knew I was taking a chance, but Bill and I had planned financially for the day he would retire, and I believed I had a job opportunity awaiting me down south.

The last thing I can remember saying in defence of my decision was –

“Superannuation’s doing well.”

Within a month of moving to Wollongong, we were all introduced to a new phrase –

“Global Financial Crisis.”

24 thoughts on “Famous Last Words – “Super’s Doing Well.”

  1. Wow, your Australian retirement processes (?) sound complicated! I was feeling comfortable with my retirement funds, until I lost more than I care to remember in a Ponzi scheme :o( – it was absolutely gut wrenchingly devastating, especially for a divorced, single woman, her sole means of support. The #!*& is in prison for the rest of his life, but that doesn’t bring back the hard-earned money everyone lost. I won’t bore you with details, but his targeted victims were retirees who had made money in real estate and needed a “tax-deferred exchange” whereby they rolled over their entire profits into assisted living facilities and were paid a nice monthly amount, while the principle investment would supposedly continue to grow… It was fine for about 3 years, and then – oooppps suddenly everything was lost. The California attorney general who threw the book at him was Kamala Harris. He’s been in prison now for over 11 years and has lost every single appeal – no more appeals available to him. He will die in prison and has expressed zero remorse for his crime. After crying for what seemed like months, I got myself together and reorganized all the remaining money I had from other sources. So far, with the help of a good and honest banker it’s worked, and since I own my home and live within a budget, hopefully it will see me through and still allow for some traveling adventures. I’m one of the lucky ones, many of the other investors (some lost millions) became destitute or reliant on family members for support. The info about the over 60 homeless women in Australia is very sad! Life has many nasty little twists and turns! Greed and inhumanity to man seems to never stop!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many people leave their super on “set and forget”. It comes out of their pay before they see it. So it’s not as complicated as I’ve made it sound. But I would have gone into a hole if I had your experience. A credit to you that you have overcome it. And so good you didn’t lose your house!

      Liked by 2 people

      • That sounds like our “social security” which is barely enough to survive on these days but somehow people do. We are in a wild real estate seller’s market now with homeless wild fire victims and people moving from San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle to less dangerous locations. A house near me recently sold at 25% over asking the first day on the market – bidding wars are rampant with zero inventory. It’s crazy. Even rentals are hard to come by. If we have another Wild West coast summer…

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        • Hi Sue, I watched Nomadland yesterday and there was a reference to a woman working since she was 12 years old and at the end of it, had $550 in social security. So that caused me to look up and I found this definition “Social Security works by pooling mandatory contributions from workers into a large pot and then paying out benefits TO THOSE WHO ARE ELIGIBLE FOR THEM. When you work, YOU PAY INTO THE SYSTEM BY HAVING A PORTION OF YOUR EARNINGS TAXED AND EARMARKED for Social Security.

          Our superannuation is quite different. The amount is paid in BEFORE TAX and is currently fixed at 9.5%. It is like forgoing a portion of your wage. Then that money is entirely yours. It is not pooled and shared. So you watch it grow and determine whether you wish to add any more to that to prepare for retirement. It would be impossible to have a balance as low as $550. You wouldn’t be bothered to leave it there as the admin fees would erode it, and the government lets you withdraw before retirement age if you have an extremely low balance (backpackers, for example).

          Our government pension scheme is closer to your Social Security in that it is pooled from Tax on Earnings and distributed to those who are eligible. There is no earmarking. The money comes from consolidated revenue. (Although those who are not eligible do sometimes grumble about the taxes they have paid in their lifetime so why aren’t they getting this pension 🙂 ) But it is intended as a safety net to stop people falling through the cracks. As you would be aware, Australian systems are generally more “socialist” than those in the States. Medicare for example. Everyone eligible for the government pension receives the same fortnightly amount, adjusted as to whether they own their home or not, and are single or partnered. Again, these figures are well known in advance so most working people have a level of control over what lifestyle they seek in retirement. Having said that, it is not easy for those who are wholly dependent on this pension and have no other savings or superannuation.

          We have our grey nomads, but I’d like to think that the majority live that lifestyle by choice.

          Hope you don’t mind the follow up comment. Obviously the film was a thought-starter.
          Have you arrived in Belgrade yet?

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks for the clarification Gwen. I don’t know Nomadland (?) but have read the summary. Van life would not be for me! Leaving for Belgrade May 2nd and am currently deep into preparation mode – can’t wrap my head around much else right now. The US stock market has performed well – but who knows what the rest of 2021 holds? If things go as planned (???) this will be another long trip, so there’s much to cover to prevent any nasty little catch-22s :(. I’ll be posting from Belgrade when acclimated. Turkey is going into full lockdown tomorrow until mid May – but they are not discouraging tourists who are “exempt” – I guess because of their dire economic situation… Will play everything by ear. A friend in the UK is foregoing holiday in 2021 altogether. My contacts in Belgrade say it’s OK to come. I’m behind on your recent posts but will catch up after the fire drills end. Although I am in my 70s, don’t feel old (yet) and think I can hold my own with those not in retirement. Hoping I don’t have to eat those words! :o)

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on The Reluctant Retiree and commented:

    With Bill working on for another two weeks, I arrived in Wollongong at the beginning of August 2008, just as the full force of the banking collapse in the US hit Australia. My expectation of a senior role in logistics and supply chain at the nearby steel mill collapsed with it. Those who had head-hunted me were made redundant themselves. A fifty-three year old female without a Uni degree whose background was in male-dominated industries, now living in a city with a fraction of the population of Sydney, had no place in what remained of a job-market. In fact, there was no job market left for anyone.
    We’d planned to live on Bill’s super (because he was old enough to claim it), but we hadn’t planned to depend on it. Since writing the following re-blogged post, I’ve picked up many international followers. So I’ll try to explain Australia’s retirement income system in broad-brush.
    Since 1992 – and in Bill’s case, 1974 – working employees forgo a percentage of their wage before tax. Currently that’s 9.5%. This money is owned by the individual, who invests it with their choice of superannuation fund. It pays to understand their performance and your capacity for risk when making that decision. It’s taxed going into the fund, but at a much lower rate than regular income tax. You cannot access it before age 55 and only then if you are no longer working. Barring embezzlement, mismanagement, fee gouging and economic downturns (all of which I’ve experienced), that regular saving grows due to the magic of compound interest. You can also add additional money if you can spare it. I used to recommend to my young clerical colleagues to forgo one store-bought coffee a day. $1000 a year over thirty years can be a nice little earner in super. By the way, combined across all the funds, Australian superannuation assets totalled A$3.0 trillion at the end of the December 2020 quarter.
    As a back-up we have the Aged Pension paid from Government coffers. This money comes into consolidated revenue from the taxpayer, but is not earmarked for the individual and has no relationship to how much tax one paid in their working life. It doesn’t cut in until you reach a certain age, and it is subject to an asset and income test, although thanks to pork barrelling by a previous government, one can have significant assets and still earn a part aged pension. It’s a not-very-generous fixed amount, depending on whether you are married or single, home-owner or renting. Not every Australian qualifies for an aged pension, but for those who are totally reliant on it, life can get very tough, especially if you are in the rental market. Our fastest growing homeless sector is single women over sixty. Casualisation of the workforce, low wages, time out of the paid workforce, ill health and family breakdown are some of the causes.
    Lots of variations on these themes, but that’s the umbrella explanation. Hope that puts this next little piece into context …

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  3. Gosh I find out more from your on line ramblings than our hour coffee stints Gwen. Thoroughly enjoying the blog and please write while you travel for us poor folks back home still working!

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    • Hope I can bring it all to life for you Penny, just as IF you were right beside me. Our first stop is a converted farmhouse in Assisi, Italy. The last time I was in one of those – it was ME doing the working 🙂

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