We've all heard of the gender pay gap, but did you realise this gap also applies to super? Current average super account balances for women are approximately only sixty percent of the balance of men.
Because the super system is directly linked to paid work, women's retirement savings are negatively impacted as they often experience broken work patterns as a result of taking time off to raise children or care for ageing family members.
Women also continue to earn lower salaries than men and account for the majority of casual and part-time workers, many of whom don't even qualify for Superannuation Guarantee contributions (compulsory employer paid super contributions to employees who earn a minimum of $450 before tax per month).
And as if that wasn't enough, because Australian women can generally expect to outlive men, they need even more super to support a longer life.
Despite this doom and gloom, by setting goals and following a few simple steps, you have the power to take control of your super!
Lost some of your super?
If you've lost track of some of your super, you can use your Tax File Number to search for it via the www.ato.gov.au/superseeker.
What do you want and when do you want it?
Now that you've consolidated your super, it's time to set some retirement goals. Whether we want to lose weight, get fit, or learn a new language, it makes sense to define exactly what our goals are and when we want to achieve them. And it's exactly the same when it comes to planning for retirement.
It's really important to be aware of how your super is tracking, so this is a great time to have a look at your current super balance, work out when you would like to retire, and think about what you want your retirement to look like.
Do you plan to take that world cruise you've always dreamt about? Buy a fancy RV and travel around the country? Or simply potter about in the garden and do what you want when you want? These decisions will affect how much you will need to accumulate for your retirement.
How much super will you need to achieve your goals?
Now that you've thought about what you want your retirement to look like, do you know how much super you will need to achieve it? If you don't, you're not alone. Despite wanting a comfortable retirement lifestyle, an alarming number of people don't know how much super they will actually need in order to live comfortably in their post-work years. It's difficult to aim for something when we don't even know exactly what we're aiming for!
The ASFA Retirement Standard, which benchmarks the annual budget needed by Australians to fund either a comfortable or modest standard of living in post-work years, suggests that a single person will need $545,000 saved to fund a comfortable retirement lifestyle. This amount becomes $640,000 for couples.
Everyone's situation is different, however, and you may find that these figures won't allow you to achieve your ideal retirement. To determine how much super you might need, we suggest that you seek financial advice.
You might also like to visit our Tools & calculators page to help estimate your super potential at retirement.
How much should you be contributing to your super?
Contributing a percentage of your pay rather than a fixed dollar amount is a good approach to preparing for retirement as it means that the amount you contribute automatically increases with any pay increase you receive.
Research suggests that women should actually contribute an additional 7.5% in super contributions in order to have a comfortable retirement (Deloitte Actuaries & Consultants: Dynamics of the Australian Superannuation System The next 20 years: 2013 - 2033, September 2013). Again, this depends on your own unique circumstances and you should seek financial advice to help determine the amount you should be contributing to your super.
Can't afford to contribute to your super?
With the cost of living skyrocketing, many of us feel like our budgets are already stretched to capacity. The thought of contributing a percentage of our already overly-committed salaries to super can seem ludicrous.
Do you know your finances inside out? If you take a closer look, you may find that there is actually some room in your budget to allow for super contributions.
Get to know your income and know your expenses. Draw up a detailed budget including everything, even your morning coffees! Look at discretionary and non-discretionary items. Reduce the discretionary items and redirect your funds to improving your financial future. But don't forget to leave some money to allow for a bit of fun. Like with a diet or a fitness plan, if you don't cut yourself some slack, you won't stick to it. If dropping your financial information into a spreadsheet isn't your thing, MoneySmart's budget planner is a great tool to help track where your money is going and to see whether you are living within your means.
It's important to know that regular contributions, even if only small, can significantly boost your retirement savings and consequently your post-work lifestyle, particularly when combined with the power of compound interest. There can even be tax benefits to making additional contributions to your super.
This might seem like a lot of work right now, but, put simply, the earlier you begin contributing to your super, the kinder you are being to your future self and the sooner you can afford to retire.
Start the Super conversation today!
When was the last time you were having lunch with girlfriends when the topic of super came up? Never? Why? Because it's boring. Well, yes, super might be boring, but having enough money to retire when you want isn't.
Why is it that we talk openly and endlessly about illness, battles with our weight, new lines appearing on our face, the struggle to pay bills, our relationship problems, but we rarely even mention planning for our retirement? We all know that super is vital to our happiness and security in retirement, yet we show so little interest in discussing it.
One of the reasons we don't talk about super is that retirement always seems light years away. But the problem with retirement is that it sneaks up on you very quickly. It really does. One minute you're starting your first job, the next you're at your retirement party. Most of us leave talking about super until we can count the number of years until retirement on two hands. And by then it's often too late to make a big difference, or at least it's a huge struggle to play catch-up. The sooner you start planning for your retirement, the easier you are making things for your future self.
Look at the retired people you know, both single and partnered, who have the sort of lifestyle you aspire to have. If you feel comfortable, ask them how they got there! Sure, they might tell you it's none of your business, but they could also be delighted to share some of their wealth-creating wisdom with you.
Talk to your girlfriends, your sister, your mother, and make sure that we are all on track to a happy and secure retirement.
Get the Super conversation started today!
Contributory Scheme members
As a Contributory Scheme member, there are a few ways you can improve your future benefit. They include: