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It’s time to close the gender superannuation gap

It’s time to close the gender superannuation gap.

Celebrating International Women’s Day under the banner of #BalanceforBetter, we will be sharing inspiring stories of how women from different backgrounds and age groups have become more super savvy, demonstrating that it’s never too early or too late to take control of your retirement savings.

In an ideal world, we’d retire from work when we felt like it, free to travel the world, take up a new interest or just relax. But, many women don’t have that luxury. They are living longer than men but retire with 37% less superannuation1 . And for vast numbers that could mean restricted choices about how they live their retirement. 40% of single women live in poverty and among married women, 44% rely on their partner’s income2 .


This gender super gap is caused by a number of reasons.

  • Women working full-time earn 18% less than men2.
  • Women are more likely to work part-time and they generally take time out of the workforce to raise a family or look after elderly parents.
  • They’re not planning ahead with super contributions if they want to start a business, travel, study or take a gap year.

 

In 2018, women in full-time work took home an average $25,717 a year less than men . While raising their children, women often return back to part-time work: 45% of women work part-time compared with 19% of men4.

How to achieve #BalanceforBetter?

Short of major changes in the world of work and superannuation policy, the way to achieve a better super balance comes down to you. Rest assured, there’s a number of ways to do it. First of all, “get educated”, says Nikki Brown, Vice Chair of Women in Super.

It’s advice that applies to any age. If your knowledge about financial matters is limited to checking your superannuation statement or balance on your app, learning how to drive your super more effectively doesn’t have to be a stretch. Your superannuation fund’s website will provide lots of information. You can also visit an independent site such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s MoneySmart for easy-to-understand information about how super works and the options available to you.

 

If that’s not your thing, the next step may be to talk to a financial adviser who can assess your financial position, discuss your plans for the future and lay out some possibilities that might suit your situation.

 

For young women just starting out in their careers, retirement is hardly a pressing concern, but making your money stretch further can be. This is a great opportunity to make one of the biggest changes to your financial fortune later in life.

Start thinking about the future now

The best thing you can do is to start early in building your retirement income. A little bit extra towards your super now could grow to a bigger amount later on. 

 

So, if you can make extra contributions to your super, on top of what your employer pays in, it could help you keep ahead5. And, if you speak to your employer, you can contribute to your super through salary sacrifice where your employer pays money out of your before-tax salary5. It means the amount is taxed at 15%, a big saving on your ordinary tax rate, if you earn more than $37,000.

Early is best but …

Don’t think that it’s too late once you hit your 40s to make a difference to your super balance. Sure, you may have stopped work for a period to have a family and you may now be working part-time. Or you may be divorced and struggling to make the rent or mortgage payments, let alone super contributions.


But, at this age, and later in your 50s and 60s, the friends of your future financial stability are continued employment (while you’re working, you can contribute to super); having a budget (live within your means); getting good financial advice (understand it yourself or talk to an expert). Your 40s, 50s and 60s are where the habits of your youth start catching up with you, says Nikki. “It’s probably the first time you really understand that retirement isn’t that far away – and it’s a really scary prospect!"

“The good news is – it’s never too late to change your habits, and it’s never too late to take your super into your own hands,” Nikki says.

Other ways to boost your super

There are two other ways to boost your super balance. If you’re married and you earn $37,000 or less, your spouse may be able to contribute to your super, and possibly earn a tax offset by doing so. Alternatively, you may be able to split contributions with your spouse. Check with your financial adviser to see if this strategy would work for you.


You may also be eligible for a boost of up to $500 direct from the government, if you make a personal (after-tax) contribution to your super and you earn less than $52,697. It’s known as a co-contribution. Check with your fund for more information.

What if you’re a small business owner?

Small business owners, struggling with insecure cash flow, often leave their own super payments in the too-hard basket. Median personal income for small business owners is around $53,000 and about a third of all small business owners are women6. But, finding a way to pay yourself first by putting aside money for your super will help you plan and take control of your future.

If you want to know how you can better manage your super and build it as an income stream for your retirement, you can talk to you super fund or seek advice from a financial adviser.

Disclaimer
Colonial First State Investments Limited ABN 98 002 348 352, AFSL 232468 (Colonial First State) is the issuer of the FirstChoice range of super and pension products from the Colonial First State FirstChoice Superannuation Trust ABN 26 458 298 557. Colonial First State also issues interests in products made available under FirstChoice Investments and FirstChoice Wholesale Investments. This document may include general advice but does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. You should read the relevant Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Financial Services Guide (FSG) carefully, assess whether the information is appropriate for you, and consider talking to a financial adviser before making an investment decision. The PDS and FSG can be obtained from colonialfirststate.com.au or by calling us on 13 13 36.