The numbers say that the average Australian woman retires with barely half (53 per cent)1 the super of the average man. As statistics go, it’s a shocking one.
That gap starts to open early in working life, with women aged 25 to 34 having an average super balance of $31,600, compared to an average balance of $41,700 for men of the same age, according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA). For many women, this gap only widens as they age.
There are many reasons for this. Most notably, women on average continue to earn less than men and are more likely to be employed in casual or part-time work.
However, if you’re in the workforce there are always opportunities to turn things around. Below, we look at some strategies that could help.
During your 20s
When you’re in your 20s, retirement feels a very long way away – and that’s why this is such a pivotal moment for your super. Compounding interest – that is, the interest on your interest – has so much more time to work hard for you that a small amount can make a huge difference. For example, a 23-year-old contributing an extra $25 a week into their super (after tax) could grow their balance by an extra $100,000 by the time they retire.
Here are more ways to supercharge your super:
Check your employer is paying your super
Firstly, check that your employer is paying your 10.5% super guarantee. Check your payslips for ‘super’ or ‘superannuation’.
Changing jobs, moving home, a name change – all can result in you having more than one super fund or losing track of your super – and result in you paying more fees than you need.
Consolidating your super by bringing it together in one place can be one of the most effective ways to grow your super, by no longer paying multiple fees and potentially multiple insurance premiums.
Learn more about bringing your super together.
Consider growth investment options
Most super funds offer a growth mix or high-growth mix with 85% or more of your contributions invested in shares or property. They’re not right for everyone but could be worth considering when you have plenty of time to ride out fluctuations in the market.
Grow your super
Discover ways you and your partner can add to your super, such as other contribution types. Or find out ways to claim a benefit, such as a tax deduction or the government co-contribution.
Our on-demand webinar, Growing your super, can help you understand the various contribution strategies and their potential benefits.
During your 30s
You still have time on your side, so strategies that work in your 20s will generally still apply. You may also need to take account of more financial responsibility, such as a mortgage or young family.
Keep track of your balance
Regularly checking your super balance is the first step to staying on track. This way you can also confirm that any extra contributions are reaching your account and, if you find you’re falling behind, respond quickly with different strategies. Your fund will provide a statement at least once a year but you can check your balance at any time by logging into your super account.
Check your fund’s performance
The growth of your super balance depends on a range of factors. The performance of your super fund can make a big difference to your balance. It’s a good idea to compare your fund’s performance with similar funds every year.
For many women, the super gap widens when they take time out of the workforce to care for children – it’s not compulsory for an employer to pay superannuation during paid parental leave.
However, your spouse may be able to add to your super account to help you both get set for a reward retirement.
If eligible, your spouse can make a contribution to your super fund and claim an 18% tax offset on up to $3,000 through their tax return.
To be eligible for the maximum tax offset, which works out to be $540, your spouse needs to contribute a minimum of $3,000 and your annual income needs to be $37,000 or less. If your income exceeds $37,000, your spouse is still eligible for a partial offset. However, once your income reaches $40,000, they’ll no longer be eligible for any offset, but can still make contributions on your behalf. Learn more about spouse contributions.
During your 40s
Your 40s is the time the super gap can start to yawn – usually because women have taken time out of the workforce then chosen to work part-time to care for young children.
Top up your super
Closing the gap means putting more money into your super. You could commit to investing any extra you receive, such as a pay rise or tax refund. You may be able to claim lump-sum contributions as a tax deduction.
Mortgage or super?
Would you be better off long term if you used extra money to pay off your mortgage faster? This will depend on a number of factors such as your home loan interest rate, the rate of return on your super fund and how much you owe on your home. Sometimes the best strategy is a balance of both – a financial coach can help.
Salary sacrifice involves swapping some of your take-home pay for additional pre-tax contributions to your super. This not only boosts your super balance, these contributions and the interest they earn are taxed at just 15% (and up to 30% if your income is over $250,000 per annum) rather than your marginal tax rate, which might be up to 47%. Salary sacrificed amounts to super are concessional contributions.
These contributions are on top of compulsory contributions made by your employer. Learn more.
It’s never too late to boost your super. If you’re 55 or over you can contribute up to $300,000 ($600,000 for couples) from the proceeds of the sale of your home if certain requirements are met (since 1 January 2023, the age reduced from 60 to 55). Read more about downsizer contributions and eligibility requirements.
In the meantime, here are other ways to prepare for a financially secure retirement.
Rethink your investment strategy
If in previous years you opted for a growth fund, you may now consider a more conservative approach. With less time to recover from any market downturns, you may want to consider replacing a portion of your higher growth investments (such as shares and property) with more defensive investments (such as bonds and cash).
Plan to be debt free
When you no longer have an income, repayments on things like credit cards and personal loans may eat into your super balance. Focus on getting your finances under control with a realistic budget, a savings mindset and a goal of entering retirement free from debt.
Boost your super: seek help
It’s never too early or too late to build your super. Your employer may already be contributing to your super account. But you might be thinking of adding a little more, because even small additional amounts, into your super today, can make a big difference down the track. And by contributing more, you may even end up paying less income tax.
If your to-do list is endless and you can never quite have time to tackle your personal finances, we can help. Call us on 1300 765 811.
1 Time’s up and the super gap, Women in Super, https://www.womeninsuper.com.au/content/times-up-and-the-super-gap/gjktn8
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 Insignia Financial 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.