Women are getting a raw deal in retirement. Can these changes fix it? 28



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Women may live longer, but under Australia’s current system, we retire with a whole lot less.

It’s a struggle I’ve already seen the older women in my family live through. It’s a struggle that faces younger women as they take time off for their families. We all work hard. Wouldn’t it be nice if we got the same reward?

Right now, The Australian Senate is meeting to discuss the huge gap in superannuation between men and women – men retire on average with $198,000; women with $112,600 (ABS Survey of Income and Housing, 2009-10). Whether this talk translates into action, let alone meaningful change, is anyone’s guess.

Thankfully, somebody has decided to be more proactive and stand up for Australia’s women. AustralianSuper, one of the country’s biggest players in retirement, has given the Senate a powerful list of suggestions.

These changes could not only help women approaching retirement, but also assist hard-working Australians on a lower income get the super savings they deserve.

Do you think these suggestions make good sense?

Continue helping low income earners with small supplements

  • On the current system, those working with lower incomes get a small but vital superannuation boost from the Government: up to $500 per year, automatically placed into their super.
  • Sadly, this safety net (which benefits people earning $37,000 per year or less) will end in 2017.

AustralianSuper believes this payment – which they call the “single most important reform” to help women on lower incomes – absolutely needs to be kept in place.

Make sure we pay enough super to afford retirement

You can work hard. You can pay the required amount of super as you go. You can even continue contributing during time off work. But what if this still isn’t enough to comfortably retire?

According to AustralianSuper, this is the reality that faces Australian women. The current contribution amount required – 9.5 per cent – simply isn’t enough to fund the retirement we need.

While the current amount will eventually reach a more satisfactory 12 per cent, this is an agonisingly slow process. It isn’t scheduled to get there until 2025 –potentially too late for the next generation of retirees.

This needs to change now to make a meaningful difference.

3. Make sure employers contribute super – no matter what you earn

It should be a simple system: earn money, and your employer will pay superannuation into your fund.

But what if you’re working multiple jobs? What if none of them earns you over $450 a month? If so, none of your employers are obliged to make any super contribution.

AustralianSuper describes the current threshold as an “outdated policy”, denying superannuation to not only low-income earners, but also the growing number of casual and contract workers.

Australian women shouldn’t be punished for working low-income jobs, or having to combine income sources to make ends meet. If it’s income, it should count.

Keep the super contributions coming – even when you’re taking time off work

  • If you have contributed super through your childbearing years, would you be better off today?
  • Those of us who put work on hold – for children, for injury, for any reason at all – will usually stop making super contributions during this time. This means we’ll ultimately have to contribute more and retire later.

Wouldn’t it be great if the income replacement we got during this time – such as parental leave or workers’ compensation – also went toward securing a future? AustralianSuper has proposed that all such payments have a Superannuation Guarantee, just as a normal income stream would.

5. Reward those who make extra contributions to their super

We have a wonderful incentive to contribute more to our super funds (beyond that already contributed through your employer): a co-contribution scheme.

If you are a low- to medium-income earner, the Government makes a contribution to the individual’s super fund.

Sadly, support for this scheme has been dwindling in recent years. In the early stages of this scheme, the Government contribution would be an extra $1.50 super for every $1 you contributed – all the way up to $1,500 in support.

Now for a low to medium income earner ($50,454 per year or less), the maximum amount of support is $0.50c for each $1 up to a maximum of $500 – and it would require a personal contribution of $1000 to get even that. While certainly still helpful, this scheme could be doing so much more to help women.

AustralianSuper suggests an improved co-contribution scheme for low-income earners; potentially one aimed specifically at helping women.

Have you (or the women in your life) suffered from lower retirement savings? Do you feel like you got a fair go? Which of these incentives do you feel would help you the most?


This article has been sponsored by AustralianSuper Pty Ltd ABN 94 006 457 987, AFSL 233788. The views expressed are those of Starts at Sixty and not necessarily Australian Super. For more information, please visit the AustralianSuper website.


Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. Ha!!

    There’s an even BETTER way to ensure you have the “retirement of your dreams” if you have a big vision and the passion to make it happen :))

    If you’re a woman with a dream business idea but don’t know how to make it real you might like this (my sanctuary).

    The Sanctuary
    Business Co-Creation Centre
    (for heart centred smart sassy women with a big vision)

  2. I worked x2 casual jobs. Unfortunately until recently – casuals weren’t included in Super. Hence I’m in big trouble now!

  3. Stop saying this about women. It applies to low income earners, regardless of gender .
    The important issue is making workers aware to keep track of their super.

  4. I had $7000 in super when I retired from paid work to become a stay at home mum. That was 27 years ago so that $7000 is long gone. Do I feel bitter or hard done by? No. Because it was my decision to stay at home and raise my children. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I think that the taxpayer should have to compensate me for my decision? No. The aged pension is there for people like me. To catch us so we will not starve.

    4 REPLY
    • I in the same place as you I was a stay at home mum when I did go to it was part time but that money went to the kids education helping paying off the house now at 61 and working in age care it is physical and mentally hard on the body and you just can’t do it any more with only small super and hubby 65 the same we are biting the billet and retiring next year and hope we will manage

    • Unfortunately the next generation won’t have a pension to retire on. Super is often a farce. More lost than gained. Best retirement policy is own a property. Sell it or get someone in to board to assist.

    • What s that $7000 gone Debbie ?
      You can’t access it at that age .
      And it should have grown skittle at least .

    • The pension will not be there for those who retire in ten years time… give or take, so it IS essential that superannuation be sufficient to live off.

  5. The government don’t want you to retire they don’t want to pay you a pension but ok for them they don’t wait to retirement to get there bloody pension

  6. I found it hard trying to make money to pay into my super. I was self employed and a sole parent and made little money. Where I live jobs are very scarce. I thank the Government for the pension I know some people say you were lazy and didn’t try to make money for your retirement. What people don’t seem to relize is that you can work dam hard and long hours for very little return. I don’t know what the answer for people is when they find themselves in a situation like this.

    2 REPLY
    • I agree Cheryl, as a hospitality worker I probably as hard or harder than any politician. I will be retiring with hardly any super because it wasn’t available to those who are largely casual employees.

      How do we fix it? I don’t know but there has to be a safety net for all people who will retire on little or no super.

    • O worked damn hard and reared the family. Assisted a couple to get their homes. Grateful ? Ha ha! Don’t have any backing now myself. Renting fine and tgere are retirement villages. Pension helps and can save a bit and get more of a life than when working my butt off rearing a family full time job; kennel and farmlet.

  7. No way was it fair, and theres just not enough time to explain all the reasons that made it wrong but lifes about moving forward and this just brings the anger back! We all know “not everyone has lived a charmed life”

  8. My plan is to find a very rich husband….. Ummm . Think it might be hard now. I’m 65 next year and can’t be bothered. ,!!

    1 REPLY
  9. The Govt should help women with super. We were not allowed to have a fund when I was young. My husband could but not me. The law wasn’t changed till the early eighties. Before that we couldn’t do anything to help ourselves, even opening a bank account in just your name was hard. You had to have hubbies permission. I went back to a low paid job after my third child & would you believe I had to have a letter of permission from my husband. So, after all the humiliation we women went through then, we should be entitled to have a a comfortable retirement or a large pension to take us over the poverty line

  10. These recommendations are are good start. The one that constantly gets to me though is about making extra contributions to top up your super either on a regular basis or when taking time off to do your first job of raising a family. How do these people reach the conclusion that those on low or no incomes can make extra contributions? It is already well acknowledged that it is near impossible to make ends meet yet by some miracle you are supposed to find extra funds to pay for the retirement you will probably never fully attain because of your low/no income?

    2 REPLY
    • Haha, well said. and then they tell you to invest in property… what with? I like following these debates and discussions, hoping to find some hallelujah! solution somewhere.

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