Women earn less, retire with less and live longer... great.

A white paper commissioned by one of Australia’s largest banks has found that full-time working women today will earn on average $700,000 less throughout their lifetime than men and are 15 per cent more likely to retire in poverty.

The ANZ Women’s Report: Barriers to Achieving Gender Equity estimated women will end a 45-year career with, on average, around half as much superannuation as men.

While this is dire news for our daughters and granddaughters, hopefully it will trigger the attitudinal shift required to address the gender imbalance that exists today.

But where does that leave us?

In a 2011 report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that by the time we reach retirement, there is a significant gap in wealth between men and women. The average superannuation payout in 2009-10 at retirement (ages 60-64) was approximately $198,000 for men and just $112,600 for women. For single women, this amount would only last five years, even with a modest budget.

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Georgina Williams, AustralianSuper’s Group Executive, Engagement, Advocacy & Brand says, “Around 90 per cent of women are likely to finish their working lives with too little in super savings to fund a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. Women retire, on average, with about half the super of men, and one in three will retire with no super at all.

Ms Williams acknowledges that saving a decent super balance is harder for women due to their roles as carers and parents, plus the lower rates of pay women tend to receive.

“But they shouldn’t panic,” she says. “They should take action.”

Some of the steps she suggests women take are:

  1. Check that all your super is in one place. “If you have had several different jobs, you might have accumulated a few different super accounts – and be paying fees on each one,” says Ms Williams. It should be easy to move all your money into one fund via a form on your super fund’s website. “That simple move can save thousands of dollars in the long term.”
  2. Make sure you are paying the lowest fee possible. “Industry funds like AustralianSuper don’t make a profit for shareholders – so our fees are low by industry standards, and any profit goes straight back to members,” says Ms Williams. 
  3. If you’re still working, find out if you qualify for the government’s Low Income Super Contribution of up to $500 a year, which unfortunately is being phased out.
  4. And finally, top up while you can. “If you can find even a few dollars each month to put into super, it could be really worthwhile. As little as $50 extra a month can add more to your super balance by the time you retire,” says Ms Williams.

Do you worry about money in your retirement? Do you worry about your daughters and granddaughters? 


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