Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Illustration: Rocco Fazzari

Australians are not saving enough for self-funded retirement. Or should I say, they're not putting away enough now to live at the standard they want in retirement.

Superannuation has been in the news lately because the government is tinkering with the taxes and putting up the rates. But poor savings for retirement can't be all the fault of the government.

When introduced in 1992, superannuation broke the rule that said governments and employers carried the burden for funding our retirements.

It shifted private retirement savings from a ''defined benefit'' system (where the employee is promised a certain amount at retirement by the employer) to a defined contribution system, where every employee has to have 9 per cent (due to rise to 12 per cent) of their earnings put in a super fund.

This shifted responsibility and risk to the individual, many of whom lacked the skills for the task.

But this system delivered choice for Australians, in particular the younger generations who would have an entire working life to build their savings. So the fact that few young people are optimising this tax-friendly retirement system with top-ups to their employer contributions is an interesting story.

Why are young Australians not engaged with their super? And when I say young, I mean people in their 20s and 30s - people who are out of school and working.

I don't think this is about whether the super rate is 9 per cent or 12 or 15 per cent. If people aren't adding to it at 9 per cent, they won't be any more interested when it's higher.

I decided to use Twitter to see what people were thinking about retirement, and two clear strands of thinking came back. First, we have a system in which all the burden falls on people to make the right decisions, but no one seems to be teaching students basic investment strategies in high school.

While teachers will understandably groan at adding one more thing to an already crowded curriculum, there really has to be an investment primer for teenagers before they join the workforce.

The second point concerns modern life: when you get into the phase of children, mortgage and/or career ambition, the last thing you are thinking about is topping up your super fund and devising a retirement strategy.

A number of respondents simply said that with a mortgage and kids, are you kidding about super?

Which is the nut we have to crack: we need people to top up their super when they're at their highest earning years to provide the income they need to live well in retirement.

But for most people these years overlap with the expense of mortgages and children while the cost of living is rising.

There are no easy answers, but I will go back to basics and remind everyone that super is their money and it's their retirement. It's never too late to become informed and active about super. You might thank yourself for it one day.

I would love to know your thoughts. Talk to me on Twitter at @markbouris.

Mark Bouris is the chairman of the financial services group Yellow Brick Road.