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A partner is not a retirement plan: 5 tips to avoid it

·3-min read
Middle aged woman looks into the distance pondering. A piggy bank sits in the corner with a calculator
Middle aged woman looks into the distance pondering. A piggy bank sits in the corner with a calculator

As a woman, superannuation and financial independence is something I have always prioritised. I learned early in life that a man is simply not a retirement plan, and I’m glad I did.

I don't miss the shoes I never purchased, I’m not sad about wearing the same dress multiple times, or the manicures I had to do myself, because instead, I began laying the foundations in my 30s that will support me for the rest of my life. That is far more valuable than any amount of Instagram lifestyle envy.

But not all women feel the same way. Not only do we have gender pay disparities and career gaps for child rearing that reduce the amount of super for women, women aren’t choosing to make voluntary payments to top up our super as much as men are. As a finance broker I hear time and time again from women that they felt marriage had given them some financial security.

But why? We seek parity in the community and retirement saving should be no different. I share the perspective with a number of my peers that we should consider government reform to superannuation which allows working spouses to contribute to their non-working spouse's fund under certain circumstances – including under extended carer's leave and the raising of children.

With an ageing population and many people opting to have elderly family members live with them or care for their elderly family, we will have many women caring for family and filling these unpaid carer roles and missing out on superannuation as a result.

We need structural reform to ensure that the gender disparity in superannuation and retirement saving doesn’t become a bigger problem in the future.

In the meantime, there are some things that women can do to take control, boost their super and improve their retirement.

5 tips to build your super

1. Understand the benefits of small additional contributions over time.

Ask yourself what could you contribute to your superannuation from each pay slip?

Even when working part-time, if you can afford it, consider additional contributions to super.

For instance, four cups of coffee not purchased could be worth as much as an extra $50 per week you could contribute to your super, which could add up to $62,000 in retirement. This is something to prioritise.

2. Don't view super as something you can raid.

During the first COVID year in Australia, we saw access to superannuation opened up. If the key is handed over to your superannuation, don’t use it. Keep it locked away for your future self.

3. You should be researching your super funds.

It’s important to be researching and actively developing an understanding of the investments your money is in and the fees you’re paying.

Keep yourself updated too – superannuation shouldn’t be a ‘set and forget’.

4. Ensure you consolidate your super if you have multiple funds.

Running multiple funds can chew away your hard earned money over time with fees, and you’ll miss out on the interest from a larger sum.

5. Seek the help from a professional.

Finally, make sure you understand the role of a financial adviser and consider seeking financial advice from a professional – it is a worthy investment in your financial future.

Don’t fall into the trap of relying on someone else’s money to get you through retirement.

Sarah Wells is a Finance and Banking specialist who’s passion is delivering strategic financing outcomes for families and their businesses.

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