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Women and superannuation image

Women and superannuation

Inequality and disadvantage in retirement

If you’re a woman earning an income in Australia, then chances are, you’re likely to retire with less super to enjoy than your male counterparts. This inequality is not only unfair, but can also diminish a woman’s financial independence in retirement. It is especially worrying, since women tend to live longer than men, and therefore actually need more money to finance their retirement years.

The difference can be huge, see for yourself here.

Women vs Men
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Due to the gender pay gap and being more likely to have a career break to raise children, women contribute less to their super than men over their career. That means less money for retirement.

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Don't worry, there are things you can do now to improve your balance at retirement.
Maximise my super

Why do women tend to have lower superannuation balances?

There are two main reasons that women end up with less superannuation:

  1. On average, women earn less than men – even nowadays – and therefore, since compulsory employer contributions are based on a percentage of wage, then similarly, women accumulate less super. This gender pay gap has been stuck between 15% and 19% for two decades with women still paid less than men in many industries, despite more modern laws and changing attitudes.
  2. A woman’s working life is often interrupted by maternity leave and time off to raise their family – not to mention, it is often women who also take time off to care for elderly parents.

Many women who take time out to raise a family can access the Commonwealth Paid Parental Leave Scheme, however the normal compulsory superannuation payment doesn’t apply to this scheme.

What could this mean for me?

If you retire with a lower superannuation balance, then it means you may be more reliant on the Government Age Pension after you retire. This not only has the potential to reduce your quality of life in retirement, but it also limits your independence.

What can I do to maximise my super as a woman?

There are some important steps you can take while you are working to make sure you’re getting the most out of your super:

  1. Don’t treat super as something you only need to think about when you retire – by then it could be too late. The earlier you start taking control of your super, the more likely you'll be better placed at retirement.
  2. If you have more than one super account (as is often the case if you’ve worked at different places), look at consolidating them into one low-fee, member-focused super fund such as an Industry SuperFund. That way you may not be paying multiple management fees. Think before you switch!
    -  Are there any termination fees from your existing fund?
    -  Will you be able to get the same level of insurance in your chosen fund?
    -  Can your employer contribute to your chosen fund?
  3. Make your own super contributions while you’re working. Sure, it might mean a little bit less in your regular pay now, but there can be tax benefits attached to voluntary super contributions, and you’ll have more money to enjoy when you retire. What’s more, if you earn less than $52,697 per year, the government can contribute up to $500 to your super account. Depending on your income, this co-contribution can be as much as 50 cents for every one dollar you contribute yourself from your after-tax income.
  4. If you have a partner chat about how he or she can help boost your super by:

What can be done by the Government?

  • Recalibrate tax concessions on super to benefit the lowest paid. Currently, tax concessions on super flow to the highest income earners, who are mainly men. The lowest paid, mainly women, receive no tax break and this puts a large dent in their overall super savings. Super tax concessions should be rebalanced to support the lowest paid as they build their retirement nest egg.

See the Industry Super Australia website for more policy solutions the Government could implement to improve retirement outcomes for women.