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Why super is sexist (and the $236 move that rights the wrong for women)

Close up of a senior couple doing home finances and super in their kitchen.
Men typically retire with 26 per cent more super than women. (Source: Getty)

There’s no way of sugar-coating this, ladies: you need to man up. More specifically, you need to man up your super.

Exclusive analysis released for International Women’s Day this week shows women need to contribute an extra $236 per month into their super to come out with the same amount by retirement as a man.

Yes, that was a month.

Or, in the entirely unappealing alternative, you could work an extra 11 years.

Also by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

The confronting findings, from finder.com.au, highlight the inherent sexism of our retirement safety net.

Men typically retire with 26 per cent more super than women, according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia.

Males aged 60-64, today finish the nose-to-the-grindstone phase of life with $154,453 on which to live and play for the rest of their lives.

But females enter the next phase with a ‘fun fund’ of just $122,848.

When we have come so far with equality, what on earth causes this?

Structural sexism baked into our super system.

Firstly, women earn less than men. There is still, ludicrously, a shocking 22.8 per cent gender pay gap.

That equates to an average $25,800 less income each year for the average woman, according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

And super contributions, of course, are based on what you make.

Then women often make it for fewer years, because it is often the mother who still takes the career (and earning) breaks when children come along.

That Finder figure of $236 required to get a woman over the finish line at the same time as a man, assumes a salary for the man of $84,521. It assumes a salary for the woman of $60,679.

With no extra super contributions, the guy ends up with $622,209 at retirement at age 65. The girl ends up with $441,480.

The calculation does not even factor in that the woman might take time off and stop earning an income.

We then go and make it even worse by living an average of four years longer, meaning the smaller money pot has to stretch a larger distance.

So here’s what you can do.

Man-up move 1: Contribute 2 per cent extra always

Separate analysis by actuarial firm Rice Warner Actuaries has found that contributing 2 per cent extra if you are a woman – on top of the 10 per cent your employer is mandated to pay – will equalise and compensate for the differences in the sex’s longevity.

Indeed, the firm believes this so strongly that it applied and received permission from the Australian Human Rights Commission to pay its female staff 2 per cent more super.

If your employer is not so benevolent, take matters into your own hands.

Salary sacrifice 2 per cent into super - which means it doesn’t even cost you that much because it comes out pre-tax - to equal a male partner.

Just call your pay officer to arrange it.

Man-up move 2: Sort your super

It’s not as easy as it used to be to accumulate multiple super funds, since we are all (not as painfully as it sounds) stapled to our super schemes. In other words, they move with us when we move jobs, if we so choose.

But you still could have many money pots, not only if you changed your employer, but if you even just changed your name or your address.

While that might sound like a good thing, you are paying duplicate insurance premiums and fees year after year… and your super is draining away.

You can check by logging into or creating a my.gov.au account, going into the ATO section and selecting “Super”.

Up will pop the details of all your super accounts, including any you’ve lost or forgotten about. Then you can consolidate with a couple of clicks into the one fund, saving thousands of dollars in insurance premiums and fees each year.

Young smiling woman using a laptop and taking notes on a notepad.
Consolidating your super accounts into one fund avoids wasting your money on unnecessary fees. (Source: Getty)

How do you choose the best fund? Take a look at superratings.com.au for those funds that have performed above the median. Don’t look at performance over only one or two years though; you want a super fund that is solid over the longer term.

The YourSuper comparison tool on the ATO website has also just added performance data for basic MySuper products, alongside naming and shaming those that are substandard.

Man-up move 3: Work the system

There are a couple of giveaways that women, or more specifically family teams, should be taking each and every year.

The first is the super co-contribution, available to people who are earning less than $56,112.

You have to pay in $1,000 after tax but will then get a free top-up from the government of up to $500. That’s an instant 50 per cent return.

The second giveaway you should make sure you get is the spouse contribution. You don’t have to be earning for this one but if you are, you must make less than $40,000.

A spouse will get a tax offset of up to $540, so this is lopped straight off their tax bill, for an after-tax contribution of $3,000 on behalf of their (presumably lower-earning) partner.

Finally, many employers are actively trying to reduce the retirement gap for parents.

Although it is not required (in yet another fundamental flaw in super for females), 7 per cent of employers voluntarily pay superannuation contributions on both employer-funded and government-funded leave, says the workplace gender-equality agency.

A far more impressive four-in-five employers also pay super on any paid parental leave they offer.

If yours doesn’t, it can’t hurt to ask the question.

On International Women’s Day, it’s time to flex the financial muscles necessary to enjoy a full and fun retirement.

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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