The numbers say that the average Australian woman retires with barely half (53 per cent)1 the super of the average man. As statistics go, it’s a shocking one.

That gap starts to open early in working life, with women aged 25 to 34 having an average super balance of $31,600, compared to an average balance of $41,700 for men of the same age, according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA). For many women, this gap only widens as they age.

There are many reasons for this. Most notably, women on average continue to earn less than men and are more likely to be employed in casual or part-time work. However, if you’re in the workforce there are always opportunities to turn things around. These tips point to some of the strategies that could help.

Your 20s

When you’re in your 20s retirement feels a very long way away – and that’s why this is such a pivotal moment for your super. Compounding interest – that is, the interest on your interest – has so much more time to work hard for you that a small amount can make a huge difference. For example, a 23 year old contributing an extra $25 a week into their super (after tax) could grow their balance by an extra $100,000 by the time they retire. This calculator can show you how.

Here are more ways to supercharge your super:

  • Check your employer is paying your super

In general, for employees earning more than $450 a month before tax, your employer must pay your 10 per cent super guarantee. Check your payslips for ‘super’ or ‘superannuation’. From 1 July 2022 employers must make Super Guarantee contributions for all employees regardless of their monthly pay.

  • Consolidate

Changing jobs, moving home, a name change – all can result in you having more than one super fund or losing track of your super – and result in you paying more fees than you need.

Learn more about bringing your super together.

  • Consider growth

Most super funds offer a growth mix or high-growth mix with 85 per cent or more of your contributions invested in shares or property. They’re not right for everyone but could be worth considering when you have plenty of time to ride out fluctuations in the market.

Your 30s

You still have time on your side, so strategies that work in your 20s will generally still apply. You may also need to take account of more financial responsibility, such as a mortgage or young family.

  • Keep track of your balance

Regularly checking your super balance is the first step to staying on track. You can confirm that any extra contributions are reaching your account and, if you find you’re falling behind, respond quickly with different strategies. Your fund will provide a statement at least once a year but you can check your balance at any time by logging into your super account online or using our mobile app.

  • Check your fund’s performance

It’s a good idea to compare your fund’s performance with similar funds every year. Look at the fees you’re charged, insurance costs and any extra services you’re paying for. If you’re concerned, a professional adviser can help you decide if your money might work harder in another fund.

  • Join forces

For many women, the super gap widens when they take time out of the workforce to care for a baby – it’s not compulsory for an employer to pay superannuation during paid parental leave. If certain requirements are met, your spouse may be able to claim a tax offset of up to $540 if they make contributions of up to $3,000 a year to your super while you’re off work or earning a low income. If you are eligible, your partner may also split part of their before-tax super contributions to your super.

Your 40s

Your 40s is the time the super gap can start to yawn – usually because women have taken time out of the workforce then chosen to work part-time to care for young children.

  • Top up your super

Closing the gap means putting more money into your super. You could commit to investing any extra you receive, such as a pay rise or tax refund. You may be able to claim lump-sum contributions as a tax deduction.

  • Mortgage or super?

Would you be better off long term if you used extra money to pay off your mortgage faster? This will depend on a number of factors such as your home loan interest rate, the rate of return on your super fund and how much you owe on your home. Sometimes the best strategy is a balance of both – a financial adviser can help you decide.

  • Salary sacrifice

Salary sacrifice involves swapping some of your take-home pay for additional pre-tax contributions to your super. This not only boosts your super balance, these contributions and the interest they earn are taxed at just 15 per cent.

50-plus

It’s never too late to boost your super. If you’re 65 or over you can contribute up to $300,000 from the proceeds of the sale of your home if certain requirements are met (from 1 July 2022 the eligible age is 60 years old or older). In the meantime, here are other ways to prepare for a financially secure retirement.

  • Rethink your investment strategy

If in previous years you opted for a growth fund, you may now consider a more conservative approach. With less time to recover from any market downturns, lower returns could be a price worth paying for greater security.

  • Plan to be debt free

When you no longer have an income, repayments on things like credit cards and personal loans may eat into your super balance. Focus on getting your finances under control with a realistic budget, a savings mindset and a goal of entering retirement free from debt.

The value of good advice

Whatever your age, the right advice can help you make the most of your income and negotiate any obstacles standing in the way of you and a comfortable retirement.

First published by MLC Insights. For more information, visit mlc.com.au

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