If super funds have any hope of engaging the younger generations, they have to stop talking about retirement.

CoreData’s 2016 Member Engagement Research, published today, suggests around three in five (59.6%) Australians aged 29 and under are disengaged with superannuation – with almost a third of them (31.9%) ‘highly disengaged’.

While the numbers paint a fairly gloomy picture across all the age groups, the level of engagement clearly rises with age. The Member Engagement research found fewer than a quarter (23.1%) of members aged 50-59 and only one in six (16.6%) members aged 60 or over fall into the highly disengaged segments, with much higher proportions at the ‘highly engaged’ end of the spectrum.

The problem is, if people take till age 50 to start engaging with super and making additional contributions, they risk finding themselves in a situation where they’re underfunded and having to rely on the Aged Pension for income.

What’s more, the $500,000 lifetime cap on non-concessional super contributions proposed by the Government significantly impedes young people’s ability to play catch up later in life.

Clearly there’s a need to get people engaging with their super at an earlier age.

But there’s a fundamental flaw in the marketing of super as a retirement vehicle, and that is that many Gen Ys can’t and don’t envisage a time when they will no longer be working.

Our research suggests that more than 80% of pre-retirees – those aged 45 years and over who haven’t retired from full-time work – intend to keep working in some capacity once they reach retirement age.

The concept of hanging up your boots once you reach a certain age in your life is as good as dead.

Fast forward 20 years and retirement is likely to be an even more distant concept for today’s Millennials, many of whom will face the added financial burden with population ageing of supporting their elderly parents.

So why would you invest in your retirement when you have no plans to retire? That’s like investing in a new car when you don’t have a licence.

It doesn’t make sense.

The super industry needs to reshape the conversation they’re having with younger members to recognise that phrases like ‘retirement planning’ aren’t going to get the cut through they need to convince younger members that super is a viable investment for them in their 20s and 30s.

What does resonate with younger generations is the concept of financial freedom; having sufficient independence to be able to rely on no one but themselves to get to where they want to get to in life.

What does resonate with younger generations is the concept of choice; having the ability to choose the lifestyle they want, regardless of their age.

Let’s stop talking about retirement and start talking to young people about things they actually care about – like ensuring they can continue to chase their dreams, make their own life choices and achieve financial independence.

That’s much more likely to resonate than an outdated concept of retirement that is largely irrelevant for today’s younger generations.