The disparity between men and women with employment incomes is well known and persistent. This pay gender gap causes women to experience financial stress.
But another major flow-on impact of that pay divide is the gap between men’s and women’s superannuation balances.
Figures from the Australian Taxation Office’s most recent statistics report showed the average superannuation account balance for; men $161,834 versus $129,506 for women, a $32,328 difference or 20% less.
Considerable research shows women suffer more financial stress than men for a range of reasons. The super gap between men and women is one reason but it also exacerbates existing financial stress at retirement age.
Unfairly, family commitments have a huge impact the amount of super a woman accumulates over a lifetime.
Research by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) shows that taking a year off each for two children can lead to women having 10 per cent less in superannuation at retirement.
According to the ASFA Retirement Standard, couples ideally need to a lump sum of $640,000 and singles need $545,000 by the age of 67 to avoid struggle in retirement.
Options to safeguard superannuation for women seem on the surface limited as they are pegged to income – and significant income gaps remain between the genders.
The ATO figures show average taxable income is $74,559 for men, $21,000 more than women who earn an average of $52,798.
How can a mindful approach to money help?
Mindfulness is about paying attention to help make wise choices with your money and all personal finance options.
When it comes to super, many people don’t pay attention to it, forget about it, or don’t value it highly enough.
Being mindful with your superannuation is about keeping track of it, investing it in alignment with your values and risk profile, maximising contributions, and minimising fees.
“Paying this level of care and attention to your super fund will help it to grow,” says behavioural money coach Lea Clothier.
If you’re in a partnership, it could also mean having a discussion with your partner about ways you can boost your super savings through voluntary contributions, which have tax benefits.
Voluntary contributions can come from a range of methods including:
- Selling personal items;
- putting cash bonuses into super; and
- putting tax refunds into super.
“Why not think about contributing it to your super all or in part, if you can afford to do so, and it’s within your agreed strategy?” Ms Clothier says.
Also, consider the many incentives available to help you boost super like salary sacrifice, spouse contributions and co-contributions.
Talk about super
With all things finance and partnership, constructive, open conversations usually support the health of the relationship and the health of our finances.
There are many options available to work together to boost your super balances together, and as a team.
If increasing super is a priority, then it’s also important to communicate this priority with your accountant, adviser and any other professional that you get financial advice or guidance from.
TIPS TO SAFEGUARD RETIREMENT INCOME
- Pay attention to your super – it’s your future money. Check your contributions, investments, fees, and overall performance at least annually.
- If you’re a couple, consider Spouse Contributions to help top up the shortfall. Generally, for women earning less than $37,000 per year, their spouse can generally contribute $3,000 each year to their super and receive a $540 rebate on tax.
- Consider making small, regular additional contributions to your super fund. With the benefits of compounding, even small amounts will grow over time.
- Salary sacrifice can be a great way to boost your super savings whilst also reducing your personal tax.
- Make the most of the Government co-contribution. If you’re eligible, this amount can be up to $500.