“Plus, women are carers,” Menschick says. “If there’s any spare money at the end of the month, they use it to buy ballet shoes or soccer boots. They’re not looking forward 20, 30 years to their retirement.”
Then there’s the pay gap that simply can’t be ignored. For the past 20 years, it’s been between 14 and 19 per cent – the equivalent, ladies, of having worked the past 60-odd days without pay.
For Sandra Buckley, chief executive of advocacy group Women in Super, it’s not rocket science. “The current superannuation system is outdated,” she says. “It doesn’t reflect the way Australians engage in work today and needs to be changed into a fairer system for women.” As her organisation emphasises, only 2.5 per cent of women between 30 and 40 will reach retirement with an income at or above $43,601 a year, the amount the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia deems necessary for a “comfortable” standard of living.
Women In Super is lobbying for three legislative changes: for the SG to be raised from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent; for employers to make super contributions during the 18-week paid parental leave period; and for the phasing out of the $450-a-month pay threshold for super eligibility, which penalises the part-time low wage-earner, a category into which so many women fall.
In the meantime, working women need to start thinking about the future they want and putting aside the money that will enable it. Engaging with their super, the best saving tool at their disposal, is the first step. Choose your fund carefully, advises Menschick, who directs clients to ASIC’s MoneySmart website, which provides comparisons between various funds’ performances and fees. “If you have multiple accounts, consolidate them,” she urges. “It reduces fees and it’s much easier to keep track of your savings.”
Also, find out if your fund offers insurance. “Consider life and disability insurance as well as income protection,” she says, all of which become more important as we get older and accumulate dependants. Once you’ve set up your fund, monitor it, and, when you can, top it up. A 1 per cent boost now could become a 20 per cent windfall in the future.
Education around super should start with a young person’s first pay cheque, Menschick says. She shares the advice that she has given to her children and grandchildren: “Live on 80 per cent of your wage. Put 10 per cent away for a future investment – a first home deposit, say, or a new business. Don’t ever touch that. Save the other 10 per cent for a treat – a holiday or a car, something that’s probably going to devalue immediately. Oh, and when it comes to buying a car, choose the cheapest model your ego will allow!”
Helen Murdoch, general manager of corporate super at MLC, agrees that education is crucial. “We’re hearing from women who haven’t gone on the journey to being financially fit, and then, in their later years, they’re forced to deal with quite complicated, high-stakes problems and they’re not in a position of confidence to do it,” she says. “We want to support women of any age, but we especially want to get their attention early to empower them to not feel intimidated.” Last March, on International Women’s Day, Murdoch hosted a financial wellness webinar to which 500 women logged on to gain insights and tips from a round table of four financial experts, all of them working mums. More are planned.
In Women Talk About Money, Agolley tells Higgins: “Have clear goals. Know what you want. That’s where the power is – in asking the questions. If not, you’re just watching Netflix and scrolling through Facebook, right?
The information in this article should not be taken as financial advice. Please consider your personal circumstances before making any financial decisions. For more visit mlc.com.au