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Why getting a decent super balance can be hard for women

In this article, we look at why women typically retire with less super savings than men and what they can do to help boost their super and overcome the gap.

Data from ASFA1reveals that women are reaching retirement age with about 20% less in super than men. Women’s average super balances at retirement are $157,050 compared with men at $270,710. According to the ABS1, women earned around 85% of what men earn, on average. It’s something the industry and the public has rightly focused on over the last few years.

If you are a woman, or if you know a woman who’s close to retirement, it’s a good idea to be familiar with the risk factors. When you’re aware of what can keep a woman’s super balance down, you may be able to plan to avoid these hurdles. In its report, Per Capita2, an independent think tank, outlines some of the major contributors. And this time, the numbers are backed up by comments from thousands of women all around Australia.

  • Part time and casual work / self-employment
    Women are more likely to take on part time or casual work during their lifetime, especially if they have kids.
  • Complexity and change in the super system
    Women who are close to retirement today may have seen several different superannuation systems through their lifetime. Also, they have typically spent less time in the workforce (than men) and therefore received less super over their working lives. Remember that compulsory super (the Superannuation Guarantee) didn’t come in until the early ‘90s, which has not been enough time for some women to have received adequate super.
  • Gender pay gap
    According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender pay gap is still above 20%. That means women get lower employer contributions, and don’t have as much to salary sacrifice.
  • No super at low pay levels
    Women in casual work may not earn enough each month (at least $450) to get paid super.
  • Carer responsibilities
    Women are still more likely than men to take responsibility for the care of disabled, sick or elderly relatives.
  • Living longer
    Put simply, a woman’s super has to last longer because stats suggest she’ll live longer.
  • Poor financial literacy
    Many women don’t have the background skills they need to make informed decisions about their superannuation, or about retirement in general.
  • Childcare costs/availability
    Because of poor childcare availability and pricing, many women are dissuaded from going back to work full time after having children. And a longer break from the workforce means a longer break from getting those super contributions.

You can read the full report at percapita.org.au/research/not-so-super

You can take action to boost your spouse’s super by making a spouse contribution. These are contributions made into your spouse’s super account to help build their super and are especially helpful when taking a career break (e.g. caring for children). A further benefit of making contributions is that a tax offset may be available if the spouse is low income earning. To learn more about spouse contributions or what you can do you boost your super, book in for a chat with one of our financial planners, it’s usually at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

Learn out more about spouse contributions with VicSuper

Find out more about growing your super with VicSuper



Important information
This is general information only and does not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation or needs. We recommend you seek professional advice for your own circumstances. Contact us to make an appointment to see one of our representatives. When members receive advice, they receive it under our financial planning business’ AFS licence. Our financial planning business is wholly owned by FSS Trustee Corporation as trustee of the fund. You should read the Financial Services Guide before making a decision. For more information call the Member Centre on 1300 366 216. Issued by FSS Trustee Corporation ABN 11 118 202 672, AFSL 293340, the trustee of the First State Superannuation Scheme ABN 53 226 460 365.


1 Superannuation account balances by age and gender.
2ASFA Research and Resource Centre. October 2017

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