This Tuesday marks International Women’s Day (IWD), globally celebrating women’s achievements in a call for equality. This year’s theme for IWD is ‘Break the Bias,’ encouraging people to address gender inequality and create a world that is inclusive.
When I think about equality, superannuation is top of mind.
After more than 30 years of compulsory superannuation, women are still being left behind. More than 80 percent of women retire without enough super to fund a comfortable lifestyle, according to The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA).
An analysis by Per Capita for Women in Super highlights that COVID-19 has exacerbated the issue. In 2020, women across all age brackets withdrew a greater portion of their balance than men did. The impact was most significant for women aged 25 to 34.
While the pandemic has taken a toll on the daily lives and superannuation of working women, it shouldn’t be an impediment. Rather, it should be a reminder to take control, challenge the status quo and make a difference when it comes to our superannuation.
With this in mind, here are three ways for women to boost their superannuation:
Discuss spouse contributions with your partner
Women taking time out of the workforce to raise children or look after ageing parents are missing out on superannuation.
It’s not only the time they take out that’s a challenge. When they return to the workforce, women who work part-time are likely to suffer the impact of the gender pay gap – which is currently 14.2 percent in Australia.
As a woman in finance, it’s promising to see ASFA calling for the introduction of a $5,000 super baby bonus, payable upon the birth or adoption of a child. This could benefit up to 300,000 women each year across Australia who take time out to have children.
Furthermore, the recent decision to remove the $450 per month income threshold that prevented low-income workers from receiving superannuation is a step towards a more equal retirement, but there is still a way to go.
I encourage all women, especially women working part-time, to have a conversation around superannuation with their partner. For example, if you’re earning less than $37,000 per year, your spouse can contribute of $3,000 to your super and receive a $540 rebate on tax.
This is a small step towards creating a more equal world for retirement.
Engage with your super – the sooner, the better
There is a significant gap of 23.4percentt in superannuation balances between men and women as they approach retirement, according to ASFA.
That’s why the earlier you start investing – no matter where you are in your career – the earlier your money starts working for you.
Let’s take examples of two women – Sue and Jude – both 60 years old. Both have been regularly topping up their super with extra after-tax contributions. Sue has $372, 204 in super while Jude has $247,115.
Sue invested $2,000 each year from the age of 25. This is less than $40 a week. Jude invested $5,000 each year but didn’t start until age 40.
Sue invested only $70k of her own money. Jude invested $175k of her own money. With the power of compound interest Sue has ended up $125k more than Jude.
Even though Sue invested over $100k less than Jude, she has ended up with $125k more. Why? 15-year head start meant that her money had more time to benefit from compound interest.
Starting earlier has resulted in a better outcome but even starting at 40 is not too late, as the outcome by age 60 is still very good.
Understand where your money is going
When it comes to super, my advice to women is to think ahead, seek professional advice, and start early. This is the key to achieving a great retirement outcome.
That said, I understand that superannuation is complicated. Knowing where to start can be overwhelming. For example, Lucy sought advice a few years ago and was anxious about her future after a recent divorce.
She wanted to ensure her divorce settlement could help set her up for the future. Through careful consideration of various types of super contributions and reviewing her budgeting, I was able to put a plan in place which will help secure her financial future using both concessional and non-concessional super contributions.
Lucy knows she has a habit of spending funds available to her so using superannuation has been a really important part of her strategy. On meeting again recently Lucy commented on how reassured she has been from the advice received and the security of knowing financially she is making the most of her situation.
It’s important to keep delivering messages of positivity to women, so we feel empowered to take control of our financial independence.
In the spirit of International Women’s Day, now is the time to take action and create a future worth retiring for.