Impact of lower salary increases on retirement savings

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“When you consider that most South Africans retire without sufficient savings, a lack of decent increases will exacerbate the problem,” according to Twané Wessels, Product Actuary at retirement income specialist, Just.

Salary increases have been trending downwards for several years.  The Covid-19 pandemic has further added to the negative growth as many South Africans experienced wage freezes and zero increases.

Wessels points out that salary trends report from PEC Corporate Services, indicated that over five years to the end of 2019 salary, increases have, on average, only beaten inflation by 1.4%, including increases for promotions.

What effect can a zero percent increase have on retirement savings? 

“As contributions to employer pension or provident schemes are based on a percentage of your salary, the answer is clear.  The lower your increases, the lower your contributions to your retirement fund will be, as well as the amount of your employer’s contribution. And the less money you have invested to capitalise on any investment growth.”

Working longer a possible solution

One way to help address this is to work for longer, providing employers allow it.  Wessels looked at the impact of working up to five years longer to boost retirement savings.  She began with a retirement age of 65 and looked at the impact of adding savings between 0% to 20% of an individual’s annual salary over the following five years.  She considered different rates of real (after inflation) returns on these savings, from 1% to 7%.

  • If a person continues to make contributions to their retirement fund for a further five years after age 65, their replacement ratio will improve substantially, particularly if they have not saved enough.  Replacement ratio is a rule of thumb that estimates what percentage of a person’s pre-retirement income can be achieved in retirement.
  • If, for example, a person have only saved the equivalent of one year of their current salary and make no further contributions and receive no further salary increases, deferring their retirement by five years can improve their replacement ratio from 10% to between 12% and 16%. The range depends on whether their savings earn between 1% and 7% real investment returns.
  • If, instead, they save 10% of their monthly salary during the five years of deferment, they can further improve their replacement ratio to between 18% and 23%. And if they are lucky enough to be able to save 20% of their salary, they can improve their replacement ratio to between 24% and 30%.
  • If, on the other hand, a person accumulated 5 times annual salary and they continue with a 20% contribution rate during the five years of deferment the replacement ratio can be improved from 50% to between 73 and 95%.

“Working longer can help with retirement readiness, and continuing to save as much as one can while deferring the retirement date is very important.  A ‘side hustle’ or some consulting work in the years leading up to retirement can also boost the retirement savings pot, as the same benefits apply to any additional money saved,” Wessel concludes.


In the article, the income that can be achieved in retirement is based on annuity rates for a with-profit annuity targeting increases in line with inflation

Click here to download the original Just Media Release.

1 thought on “Impact of lower salary increases on retirement savings

  1. My brothers employer paid in only R7000. 00 as her share fir 9 years as his contrubution was R748. 00 every month for 9 yrs. When this was querried he was told that she only psid in what she could as the firm was in difficulty. He only received what he paid in.

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