Are you someone who would walk an extra 500 metres to avoid an ATM fee? I’m not.

It’s not that I don’t welcome Australia’s big four banks’ recent decision to scrap ATM fees – but I am willing to pay for convenience.

I’m fortunate enough to be able to outsource the parts of my life that I don’t care to manage myself. I have a cleaner; I’ll use a landscaper/painter/handyman over DIY any day of the week; and I shop online so my groceries are delivered to the door.

I do that because I value my time. And because I don’t ever want to fight with my husband about who last cleaned the toilet.

As I was taking money out of an ATM the other day – an ATM that is not owned by the bank that I bank with – I started thinking about this notion of convenience and what it means in the context of superannuation and retirement planning.

An inconvenient truth

We recently conducted research for The West Australian in which we surveyed a whopping 5,500 WA seniors – people aged 55 and over who have either not yet retired (pre-retirees) or have retired, regardless of whether they remain in the workforce (post-retirees).

What struck me the most about the results of the Retiree’s Voice research was the lack of preparedness among this demographic for retirement. Fewer than one in eight pre-retirees claim they are ‘very prepared’ for retirement.

That’s a startling statistic, given those pre-retirees surveyed were no more than 10 years away from the current retirement age of 65 – the average age at which most stated they were planning to retire.

We could put this down to a number of things: perhaps they have not been proactive enough in seeking out information that would help them make better decisions? Perhaps they didn’t seek professional advice (around 27% of our sample have a dedicated financial planner)? Perhaps they suffered from not being part of the compulsory superannuation system for the most part of their working lives? Perhaps they were retrenched in the 1990’s recession and struggled to get back into full-time employment due to their age?

Or perhaps we need to work harder to make it more convenient for people to get the information they need?

Is this about education or accessibility?

Sure, there’s been a lot of innovation in the digital space that is focused on engaging younger people in their finances, but many older Western Australians don’t spend a lot of time online – or have a preference for receiving information from humans.

Sure, super funds run information seminars, but awareness of these is often poor, and attendance low – and they are typically held in highly populated areas, making it difficult for people in regional or remote areas to attend.

Sure, there are financial planners all over Australia, many of them operating in the country. But how easy is it to find the ‘right’ planner for your needs? The CFP (Certified Financial Planner) designation is a great way of identifying quality planners, but I’m not sure the average retiree would be aware what this means.

Our research has revealed that much of the efforts of the broader community – of financial planners, super funds, aged care providers and government – have failed.

More than a quarter (26.2%) of WA seniors admit their investment knowledge is poor or very poor, while a further third (33.5%) say their investment experience is poor or very poor.

The research also identified a lack of understanding of the aged care options available, and the associated costs. Only a quarter rate their understanding of the various residential or home care options available and the cost of these options as strong or very strong (25.0% and 24.0% respectively).

There is a pressing need to improve Australians’ financial literacy, and to get them planning for their retirement at a much earlier age than many are currently doing so. But do we really need more education, or is this about improving accessibility?

The research insights should encourage anyone working in financial services or aged care to step back and think hard about whether they are really doing enough to make the relevant information accessible. About how we can better support seniors – and those further down the age curve – in equipping themselves for life in the third age.

Let’s make it so easy for Australians to get informed that there is no possible reason for a lack of preparedness for retirement beyond personal apathy.

Let’s make retirement planning and advice convenient.