Many women reach mid-life with a significant super shortfall. But it’s not too late to turn things around
Track down any lost super and consolidate muliple super accounts
Making additional contributions to your super savings can also impact your lifestyle in retirement.
When was the last time you checked your super balance? The hard fact is that Australian women retire, on average, with 35 percent less super than men.1
Shockingly, one in three women across all age groups have no super at all.2 Reasons for this include self-employment, working casually or part-time in jobs where the hours worked aren’t enough to qualify for employer contributions, or having never been in paid employment.
Beyond having no super at all, there are several reasons why women find themselves well behind men in the balance stakes by the time they reach their forties and fifties. Typically, they’ve taken time out of the workforce to have children, and then chosen to only return part-time while raising them. Women are also more likely than men to become unpaid carers for ageing parents and relatives. During these busy ‘sandwich generation’ years, personal financial planning can take a back seat to more immediate family needs.
And then there’s the gender pay gap – the difference between male and female average earnings. It currently sits at 13 per cent in Australia, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.3
Because of these factors, many women head towards retirement without enough savings to support even a modest lifestyle – particularly if, for whatever reason, their spouse or partner’s super is taken out of the equation.
Making ends meet in your later years
Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Unexpected events like illness, job loss and relationship breakdown may cause significant financial challenges down the track if you don’t take steps now to secure your future. On top of working towards an adequate super balance, this is where having a plan B to provide support – for example, ensuring you are appropriately insured – is important. As is being actively involved in the financial planning decisions in any relationship.
For many Australian women, it is a lesson that comes too late. The number of homeless women aged over 55 has spiked in recent years – up 30 per cent between 2011 and 2016, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission.4 Risk factors for homelessness in later life, according to the Commission, include experiencing economic disadvantage or family or domestic violence, lack of family support, mental health issues, relationship breakdown and the death of a partner.
Many women in these situations have little or no super or savings and live precariously, struggling to cover bills and basic expenses via Centrelink payments and, once eligible, the Age Pension.
Simple steps you can take today
It’s a sobering prospect – but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re in the workforce, either full-time, part-time or casually, you can turn things around.
Boosting your super savings in the second half of your working life can make a big difference to your final balance and the lifestyle you’ll be able to enjoy when you stop working.
Review your outgoings and assets: this includes how much is in your super account to understand your position and create a plan to get back on track
Track down any lost super: you can do this via ATO Online Services
Consolidate multiple super accounts into one: this will make it easier to monitor your balance, and may prevent your super being eroded by several sets of fees and duplicate insurance premiums. You can bring your super together by lodging an online consolidation request and your super provider will do the rest. Alternatively, you can organise this yourself at the ATO website. One thing to note: consolidating super accounts can result in the cancellation of insurance policies and loss of other benefits. Before you do so, it’s important to check these details or seek advice.
Review your investment approach: consider your personal circumstances and adjust your super account investment options, if appropriate, as this may help your balance grow more quickly.
Sorting out a super shortfall
It’s not uncommon for women in their forties and fifties to enjoy a second wind in their careers, as their children achieve independence and start to make fewer demands on their time and the family budget.
If this is you, you may find it’s an ideal time to start making additional voluntary contributions to your super. You can do this in a number of ways. For example, you can ask your employer to make a regular deduction from your salary, or you could make personal contributions from your take-home pay.
Topping up your balance won’t just build your retirement nest egg, either; it could help you to manage tax.
Contributions you make with pre-tax dollars, such as salary sacrifice contributions, are taxed at a maximum of 15 per cent for most people up to the contribution caps. (High income earners may have to pay an additional 15 per cent tax on these contributions). You may also be able to claim a tax deduction for personal contributions you make to super. Depending on your income level, this can be a smart way to help manage your tax and maximise the amount you’re saving for retirement.
Looking ahead to a more secure tomorrow
Catching up on your super can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. There’s still time to tackle the issue, and doing so will help provide you with a more comfortable retirement when the time is right for you. And, if you haven’t contributed up to the limit in a previous year, you may be able to make larger contributions now or in the future to give your retirement savings an extra boost.
It’s okay to feel worried and intimidated, but don’t let that stop you from stepping up to secure a better future. Financial independence starts with you. Contact us today on (07) 4041 6777 to find out more.
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics (15 December 2020), based on median data of superannuation balances for Australians aged 55-64, Gender Indicators, Australia, accessed 24 March 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/people-and-communities/gender-indicators-australia/latest-release
2 Better Retirement Outcomes: a snapshot of account balances in Australia, Ross Clare, June 2019, https://www.superannuation.asn.au/
3 Workplace Gender Equality Agency, February 2021, https://www.wgea.gov.au/data/fact-sheets/australias-gender-pay-gap-statistics
This article has been prepared by NULIS Nominees (Australia) Limited ABN 80 008 515 633 AFSL 236465 (NULIS) as trustee of the MLC Super Fund ABN 70 732 426 024. NULIS is part of the group of companies comprising Insignia Financial Ltd ABN 49 100 103 722 and its related bodies corporate (‘Insignia Financial Group’). The information in this article is current as at January 2023 and may be subject to change. This information may constitute general advice. The information in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions based on this information. You should not rely on this article to determine your personal tax obligations. Please consult a registered tax agent for this purpose. Opinions constitute our judgement at the time of issue. The case study examples (if any) provided in this article have been included for illustrative purposes only and should not be relied upon for decision making. Subject to terms implied by law and which cannot be excluded, neither NULIS nor any member of the Insignia Financial Group accept responsibility for any loss or liability incurred by you in respect of any error, omission or misrepresentation in the information in this communication.