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International Women's Day 2023: 3 ways to level the playing field with men

The aim of International Women's Day is to embrace equality, so lets look at how women can even up their finances with men.

Headshot of Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon with a glass of water to represent International Women's Day
Nicole talks about how to man-up your money to even up the ‘paying field’ this International Women's Day. (Source: Supplied)

Timed nicely for International Women’s Day, the gender pay gap has shrunk. While last year it stood at 14.1 per cent, today it’s 13.3 per cent. Call me critical, but I can’t get excited about that.

It’s just back to where we were three years ago and pre-pandemic: 13.4 per cent. It still means that for every $100 that your partner earns, you make $86.70.

It doesn’t change the fact that the average woman still retires with 23 per cent less in super than men, according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA).

Or that single 60-year-old women have the highest poverty rate in the country, according to a recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) study.

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Read more from Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

The problem is that men earn more, men are retiring with higher super balances and they also enjoy more financial security. But there are three ways that women can level the playing field.

1. Get paid what you deserve

Now, the documented gender ‘pay gap’ is a weird thing. You may think: “But I am paid the award wage for my work… So how could I get more? In some occupations, this is 100 per cent true.

But there are other occupations where there is ‘flex’ and the fact is men are likely to flex their pay ‘negotiation muscles’ harder.

You don’t necessarily have to play hard ball. Sometimes it’s enough to ask the simple question: “Am I getting paid the equivalent to my coworkers?”

It certainly can’t hurt. Just be aware that the manner of your approach is everything. You don’t want to put your reporting officer offside.

2. Man-up your retirement money

The median super balances for 60-64 year olds show that women's super balances are around 23 per cent lower than men’s.

ASFA has long advocated super on paid parental leave and a ‘super’ baby bonus of $5,000 for new parents paid directly into their retirement accounts.

“Rising inflation, broken work patterns, COVID-19, and the early release of superannuation have all eroded the retirement savings of low-income earners and women in particular,” ASFA CEO Martin Fahy says.

But ahead of any structural changes, there are three ways you can get more super for less:

Step one: Pay in 2 per cent extra to super via salary sacrifice

More than a decade ago, an actuarial firm applied to the Human Rights Commission to be allowed to pay its female staff 2 per cent more super.

It might sounds sexist… but the application was granted.

This is the mathematical top-up needed to make up for the super ‘mark-down’, because women live approximately four years longer than men on average.

So females should look to throw in 2 per cent extra themselves in all periods they are working, remembering that before-tax contributions like this cost you less.

Step two: Pay in $1,000 after tax

Anyone earning an employment income below $57,016 can get a free $500 for adding $1,000 to their super after tax.

That’s money, if not for nothing, for $19.25 a week.

Step three: Persuade your spouse to pay in $3,000 a year

I always say, there are whole-family solutions to these super problems. This one is particularly relevant if one person has reduced their paid work to undertake the hardest work possible: raising children.

An after-tax super contribution for a spouse – whether that spouse is earning or not – can net the payer up to a $540 tax offset (it’s available for a spouse earning less than $40,000 a year).

3. Get your protection in place

Everyone needs to make sure they are financially safe.

It might not be divorce that befalls you, you could also be traumatically widowed.

So it’s important to protect each other.

That means how much money you have, where it is, how to access it and what insurances you have in place if something were to happen.

Come on ladies: Game on… You can even the ‘playing field’.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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