Even though women are generally efficient and capable at meeting their day-to-day financial needs1 , many are still lagging behind in their longer term super savings2. There are several reasons for this that are often out of a woman's control. However, women can try certain strategies to improve their financial situation.
What is the gender super gap?
Women are retiring with an average of $113,661 less than men. So, as it stands, more than 80% of women may retire without the necessary savings to fund a comfortable lifestyle.
(Source: ‘Women and Super’, Superguru, 2019)
Some people say men are from Mars and women are from Venus… However, intelligent people know, we’re all from Earth and we’re all equal so our super shouldn’t be affected. Despite this, there is still a difference between the average superannuation balances for men and women, this currently sits at 42%.
This is the gender super gap. It means that over the course of someone’s career - with regular superannuation contributions - women are retiring with an average of $113,661 less than men. As a result, more than 80% of women currently may retire without the necessary savings to fund a comfortable lifestyle.
So, why does this happen? There are a few reasons: In our society women are still seen as the primary family caregivers, and by taking more career breaks, to raise children for instance, they’re spending less time in the workforce accumulating super.
Women are more likely to work part time jobs, and get paid less compared to men, which, in turn, means reduced super contributions.
And finally, women live longer than men. Sometimes by up to 4 and a half years. And those 4 and half years aren’t free.
So, what can be done to help fix this? Learning more about super and making sure it’s all in the one place is a good place to start, so too is looking into making additional contributions before or after tax - this includes spousal contributions.
You can also learn more about government schemes and tax offsets, which can help low income earners. Closing this gap isn’t just the responsibility of women, however. Like the gender pay gap, the gender super gap needs to be called out by everyone.
Because when it comes to super, no matter a person’s gender, we all deserve a comfortable retirement.
What's holding women back financially?
Women face some very real and specific challenges when planning to put money aside for the future, including:
- Juggling day-to-day demands - Caring for others and managing household activities can take up much of a woman's day, making it a challenge for many women to balance work and family life. Even if she doesn't have kids of her own, a woman will often spend time caring for other loved ones. In fact, research shows that providing for daily family needs was a high priority for 80% of women surveyed, and is a key reason women feel limited in committing resources towards their own financial futures3.
- Taking time out of the workforce – Close to half of employed females currently work part time, with those aged 25-44 indicating raising children or looking after family members as their main reason for not working full time4. Other major reasons include study commitments and the challenge of not always being able to secure full-time work. This often means earning less, and on top of that, it results in lower employer-paid super contributions.
- Lower salaries - Among full-time workers, men in Australia earn around $17,000 more than women each year in their base salary. This inequality extends to $27,000 when measuring total remuneration, including super, overtime, bonus payments and other discretionary pay5.
- Lower super savings – The average super balance for women by retirement is $231k, compared with $454k for men6. However, women, on average, live around four years longer7 than men and therefore usually need more savings to live off for those additional years.
Common money hurdles women face
Six ways for women to start taking control of their finances
To help address some of the challenges, here are six ways women can start taking control of their finances, and get on top of their longer-term savings:
- Set personal goals – Life goals can be important for wellbeing8, but they can also provide a focus for financial goals. Make sure life goals are clearly defined, measurable and attainable. If they're linked with family goals (eg. buying a bigger house), factor in your own financial safeguards too (like being a co-signature on all assets).
- Prioritise time for money management – Juggling family life can leave little or no time for anything else. However, putting aside an hour a week to prioritise money management and savings could make a big difference in the long run. There are many ways to work on money management, such as using this time to make budgets, setting savings goals, checking on current spending, and examining accounts to make sure your current savings are working for you.
- Get on top of super – Taking control of super today is future self-care. It may help provide more choices and opportunities when you are no longer earning an income. Ask yourself 'how long will my super last?' and try our superannuation calculator to see how much you might need. You can also try completing a lost super search, consider consolidating super accounts, and consider making additional contributions to your super.
- Have a safety net – Life can have a way of not always going to plan. Research shows women are resilient when it comes to dealing with challenges involving money, including divorce, separation, or illness. However, the impact of these challenges could possibly be reduced by having a safety net in the form of emergency savings or insurance9.
- Do some salary research – Doing some online research into the market value of a role is a good way for anyone to understand the average income others are making in a similar positon. This information can be used to levy future salary negotiations, or to spark a conversation about a pay increase if a review is overdue.
- Consider investing for the future - esearch shows that women make better investors than men because they spend more time researching investments, are better at matching their goals to their investments, and don’t get panicked in fluctuating markets10. Women are more apt to take time to consider their investment options and see if any ventures offer promising returns.
Other financial advice and resources
1,3, RMIT University Research: Women and money in Australia, across the generations, 2016. Page 11 paragraph 5, paragraph 2,
2, 6 ASIC Money Smart website, Women’s money challenges infographic
4 Reserve Bank of Australia, The rising share of part time employment, bulletin, September Quarter 2017, page 21, graph 4 & 5.
5 Australian Government Workplace Gender Equality Agency report – Gender Equality Insights report 2016, Inside Australia’s gender pay gap. Page 13, paragraph 2
6 ASIC Money Smart website, Women’s money challenges infographic
7 ABS Gender indicators, life expectancy, Feb 2016.
8 Entrepreneur magazine. Article: Why our brains like short term goals, by Monica Mehta, January 2013
9 RMIT University Research: Women and money in Australia, across the generations, 2016. Page 12, paragraph 1.
10 UNSW Business School article. Business Think.Sorry guys, but women make better investors than men. January 16, 2018. Paragraph 2.
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