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Women and super: how to help your female staff secure their future 

Published 18 Dec 2019

Women need to plan ahead for a financially secure future

Career breaks and caring responsibilities can make it challenging for Australian women to amass enough superannuation to support themselves comfortably in retirement. But recognising the issue and taking steps to address it now can put them in a better position when the time comes to finishing up working life.

Research by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) showed the average superannuation balance at retirement in 2015-16 was $270,710 for men but just $157, 050 for women.

Women working part-time and in lower paid roles, and taking time out of the paid workforce for family and other reasons, are thought to account for the disparity.

Roger Wilkins, co-author of the 2018 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, which collects data from 17,000 Australians each year, says these factors typically impact women in their critical earning years. When income goes down, so do superannuation contributions.

Doing the sums

ASFA’s Retirement Standard suggests a single person will need $545,000 in retirement savings and couples will need $640,000, in order to enjoy a comfortable retirement.

A super balance at those levels should provide an income that allows a person to enjoy leisure and recreational activities, dress well, replace household goods when necessary, run a reliable car, hold private health insurance and take holidays, domestically and overseas.

They’re significant sums and it can be daunting for many people who may have modest incomes or whose super savings have fallen behind as a result of working part-time or having an extended break from paid employment.

Financial adviser Sandra Miller from RI Advice Shepparton and Bellarine Financial Solutions says setting goals and working at them, however slowly, is the key to building a balance that will allows greater security in retirement.

Taking steps to address the shortfall

There are several things women can do to ensure they don’t finish their working lives with a super shortfall:

  • Become actively involved with their retirement savings
  • Know where their money is invested
  • Know how their balance is tracking
  • Understand how much is being paid each year in fees.

“Many women, and men, are disengaged from their super because it’s such a long-term investment,” Miller says. “If someone is in their early working years, the contributions they are making now may be locked away for several decades. But it’s still their money and the decisions they make now can have a big impact on their final balance.”

Topping up super with additional voluntary contributions, at the times in your employee’s life when they have the capacity to do so, can see their savings swell significantly.

“Depositing unexpected windfalls into super or sacrificing a small percentage of pay can really add up over time,” Miller says. “If started early enough, an extra $200 a month can mean an additional $140,000 in the super account at the end of their working life.”

If your employee is a low income earner, their spouse may be entitled to a $540 tax offset if they make after-tax contributions of up to $3000 a year to your employee’s super account. The same offset may be available to your employee if their spouse is a low income earner.

The spouses may also be able to even up their retirement nest eggs by sharing pre-tax super contributions, via a process known as super contributions splitting.

The government also offers a low income super tax offset, and a super co-contribution of up to $500 a year to eligible, low income earners.

How employers can help close the super gap

  • Let your employees know more about ways to add extra to their super. They may wish to combine multiple super accounts, set up salary sacrificing or make additional voluntary contributions.
  • Consider if there are other measures you as an employer could put in place. This might be a parental leave scheme including super contributions while the employee is on leave or making extra contributions for female employees.

Knowledge is power. Educating yourself about the superannuation system and your rights and responsibilities as an employer will help you to meet your compliance obligations and provide your employees with a better superannuation experience. For more information, contact the ANZ Smart Choice Super Employer Services team on 13 47 43.

Make superannuation simple and straightforward

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