With over 18 years experience, Elissa is DPN’s Enterprise Strategy Leader and a passionate advocate for helping people to build financial independence.
Being comfortable in retirement is the goal of every worker: after working hard for decades, it’s time to relax and spend time with the people you love, doing the things you love or the things you’ve always wanted to do.
Unfortunately, the reality for many Australians – particularly women – is that superannuation alone isn’t going to be enough to provide a comfortable lifestyle past retirement age at 65. In fact, according to a recent report from AMP, superannuation might only provide women with one year of comfortable living post retirement.
With life expectancy rising this can mean many years – even a few decades – of living left to go once all the superannuation is gone. Especially when you consider that many women will retire with less than $100,000 in super.
Too many Australian women face retirement without adequate superannuation.
Why the gender pay gap matters
The gender pay gap for full time working women is 16.2 per cent.
We hear a lot about the gender pay gap for women and how problematic this can be. The gender pay gap is defined as being the difference between women’s and men’s incomes expressed as a percentage of the men’s incomes. Currently, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the gender pay gap for full time working women is 16.2 per cent.
Causes of the gender pay gap include discrimination in hiring and remuneration decisions, variations in female-dominated vs male-dominated industries, the disproportionate share of unpaid caring and domestic work carried out by women, lack of workplace flexibility for caring and other responsibilities particularly in senior positions, and the time that women spend out of the workplace that affects career progression and opportunities.
One of the flow-on effects of this is that women are retiring with significantly less superannuation than men. Not only are women losing out by being paid less during their working lives, but the time spent out of the workforce while caring for children often means a reduction in the amount of superannuation paid. Part-time and casual work arrangements when women return to work also add to the super gap.
And the superannuation gap is much, much wider than the gender pay gap. According to a 2017 report from Industry Super Funds, Australian women retire with a whopping 47 per cent less superannuation than men - while life expectancy for women is five more years than for men.
Single women fare much worse than their married counterparts with around 40 per cent living in poverty after retirement. Older, single women are the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia.
It's important to think about retirement now, even if it seems far away.
It’s never too early to start planning for the future
Even if retirement seems like a long way off, it’s really important to think about it now. There are some solutions to improve the balance of your superannuation account. This includes consolidating superannuation accounts so that you don’t have multiple accounts being eroded by fees and charges, moving to a better performing fund, salary sacrificing superannuation contributions and taking advantage of government incentives such as the low-income super tax offset and spouse contributions tax offset.
But superannuation is just one way to fund your retirement. Like anything, putting all your eggs in one basket can be a trap. Looking at ways to build wealth outside of the superannuation system can be the key to a comfortable retirement free from financial stress.
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Property investing is a great place to start. Unlike superannuation, where you have to wait until you reach your fund’s preservation age to access your money, investment properties can produce income and be sold at any point before or after your retirement - or even kept as an income-producing asset during retirement.
When you add in the immediate taxation benefits during your working life - the ability to deduct expenses like repairs, maintenance, interest and building depreciation, as well as negative gearing - you can see benefits almost straight away.
Like any investments though, you need to do your due diligence and do your research. But a solid portfolio of investment properties can set you up for later in life.
Many of us are guilty of taking an ostrich approach to personal finances, and this isn’t really a sustainable long-term strategy. Overhauling personal finances now, long before you hit retirement age, can also help to take the pressure off and keep you comfortable when the time comes.
You can never underestimate how powerful taking control of the household budget can be to set you up for success later on. Eliminate unnecessary expenses and work to get rid of your debts. Consider investing in shares and start adding to a savings account. Every little bit helps, and the earlier you start the more of a nest-egg you can accumulate to make retirement just a little more sweeter.
The information contained in this article is general and has been provided in good faith, without taking into account your personal circumstances. While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is accurate and opinions fair and reasonable, no warranties in this regard are provided. We recommend that you obtain independent financial and tax advice before making any decisions.