A legacy is seen by many as the key to a secure retirement.

Australia leads the world in terms of how much we leave our children.

Forget saving, salary sacrificing or prudent planning, most Australians expect a dead relative's generosity to provide the money to pay for their retirement.

Almost half of working-age Australians say they will be relying on an inheritance to at least partly finance their retirement. A further 14 per cent say they will “rely largely” on an inheritance to fund their retirement.

The results are from a survey of 16,000 people in 15 countries, including 1000 from Australia, by HSBC. The survey, “The future of retirement: life after work?”, found Australian retirees intend to pass on an inheritance of about US$502,000 to their heirs, four times higher than the global average and the most generous of the countries surveyed.

The research also found that almost 70 per cent of Australian retirees surveyed are planing to leave an inheritance.

Graham Heunis, head of retail banking and wealth management at HSBC Australia, puts the high value of intended inheritances down to Australia's 22 years of uninterrupted economic growth an the absence of death duties.

“Over the past decade Australian household wealth has grown 7.6 per cent a year, making us one of the richest nations per capita globally and allowing retirees to provide their children a significant financial legacy,” he said.

Mr Heunis said in Britain and the US, inheritance and estate taxes can eat up to 40 per cent of an inheritance and retirees in those countries are more inclined to gift money to their children. There are no inheritance taxes or death duties in Australia; though there can be taxes payable on the estate.

Relying on an inheritance to fund retirement is a risky strategy, Mr Heunis said. “It can overlook the fact that inheritance is often split between family members or may be eroded by children needing to pay their parents' mortgage, medical and aged care needs,” he said.

The report said that even where people can reasonably expect to receive a windfall of some sort, it is important that they do not come to rely on it entirely as they are likely to face severe financial hardship in retirement if the windfall does not materialise.

Research by HSBC released in February this year showed Australians are complacent with their retirement planning. Australians anticipated they would have a 10-year shortfall in their retirement savings and nearly 60 per cent acknowledged that they were not prepared at all, or inadequately prepared for retirement.