Why we all need to be superwomen

It’s shocking that in this day and age, women are retiring with only around half as much super as men.*

With gender equality being such a priority in Australia, we’ve come a long way over the last few decades. Women are gaining recognition in sport, there are more female university graduates than men, and more women in leadership roles in government and business.

But there’s one crucial area where women are still lagging way behind men. And that’s super.

The statistics show that women are retiring with significantly less super than men. In fact, recent research found an overall difference in super balances of 44.3%, with women’s balances being on average $43,619 less than men’s.1

As women, that’s not good news for our future.

The wealth gap – the great gender divide

Financial inequality is one of the biggest disadvantages women face today, and something that can have a profound effect on our quality of life in the future. So why are we so far behind in the super stakes? The reasons include the fact that women on average earn less than men, they’re more likely to be employed in part time or casual positions, and they often take time out to raise children – which results in less money being earned and consequently, less going into super.

This means that despite years of hard work in jobs and on the home front, many women end up retiring with a lot less money than they hoped for – all too often having to rely on the age pension. Added to this is the fact that women on average live longer than men, so it’s even less likely their super will go the distance.

“A lot of the gender gap in super comes down to cultural and societal attitudes toward unpaid work, flexibility in the workplace, and women’s role in work and family,” Self-managed Superannuation Fund Association’s Head of Policy, Jordan George says.2

The super we have vs. the super we need

Somewhat surprisingly, it’s not only the older generation facing such a massive gap in their financial resources.

Figures show that the average super balance for women aged 30 to 34 in 2015 was only $25,549.3

The problem is that continuing at this rate won’t give you enough money to do the things you want to do in retirement – and we’re not even talking round-the-world trips here, just being able to keep things ticking along without too much financial stress.

Some experts say that to have an annual income of $43,000, you’ll need around $860,000 in investments if you want to preserve your capital and live off your earnings.4

While this may seem like a lot of money, it’s amazing how a little bit of planning now can make a huge difference to your super balance later.

Taking charge like a superwoman

As well as the challenges to their earning capacity, there’s another reason women’s super is so low compared to men’s.  The reality is that many women are disconnected from their super, and see it as too complicated, confusing or – if they’re in their 20s or 30s – irrelevant.

In short, with retirement seeming so far away, most women are so busy running around after everyone else that super often goes to the bottom of the pile. Many leave it to their employer or partner to make their financial decisions. What’s more, they don’t think there’s anything they can do to improve their balance.

The good news is, there are actually lots of ways you can take your future into your own hands. And if you’ve still got 30 or more years of work ahead of you, time is on your side. The sooner you get started, the longer you have to reap the benefits of your smart decisions.

Make your future extra super, starting now

If you’re ready to be your own superhero, here are some empowering strategies you might want to consider:

  • Find any lost super you don’t know about – Some organisations, such as AUSfund and the ATO, have super search tools to check whether you have any forgotten super lying around. Wouldn’t that be a nice surprise? Your own super fund might be able to help you find your lost super as well.
  • Choose the right fund and investment options – Some super providers offer funds that have more of what women want, such as personalised investment options, transparent fees and being able to invest in things you value. Also, if you’ve got 30 or so years till retirement, you might consider taking more risk with higher potential growth investments, as it’s easier to ride out market fluctuations if you have a longer timeframe.
  • Consolidate your super into one fund – If you’re in multiple funds, you could be paying multiple fees. Bringing your super into one fund can help you simplify, save on fees and more importantly, help you manage your overall position.
  • Add to your super through salary sacrifice – With lots of working years ahead of you, salary sacrifice is a great way to boost your balance while taking advantage of super’s tax benefits (you only pay 15% on your super instead of the marginal rate of up to 49%).
  • Plan for career breaks like maternity leave – Think about how you can make up for those times you won’t be working with spouse contributions and salary sacrifice when you come back to work.

Remember, you’re not alone

When trying to make the best decisions about your super, it pays to get help from the experts. There are plenty of financial advisers who can look at your situation holistically and help you put plans in place for the kind of future you have in mind.

The most important thing? Don’t put it off. Even when retirement seems like a distant prospect, getting on top of your super can make all the difference in being able to do more of what you want later – be it yoga classes, that wine tasting tour of Europe or simply kicking back on the sofa knowing your future’s secure.

 

  1. https://www.wgea.gov.au/sites/default/files/Gender_pay_and_superannuation_gaps_by_age_group.pdf ^[TBC: Based on current age of 30, retirement age of 65, average annual salary of $75,000 etc.] 2. https://investmentmagazine.com.au/2017/04/keep-the-spotlight-on-the-super-gender-gap/ 3. https://www.amp.com.au/news/2017/august/how-much-super-should-i-have-at-my-age 4. financy.com.au/super-tips-for-millennial-women/