The Superwoman myth has new currency, according to figures released on the eve of International Women’s Day.

Nearly 90% of us don’t have enough superannuation for a comfortable retirement.

Yes, you read that right. And I’m not talking about Bollinger here.

A study by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia has found women hold only 37 per cent of total account balances, while 81 per cent have no active engagement in their super.

This should be front-page news: Generations of us could retire in poverty.

paygapTo me, superannuation is the most important issue for Australian women this century and there is a triumvirate of reasons: the gender pay gap, maternity leave, and divorce rate.

Earning 17.5% less already puts us on the back foot, and it’s worse if we’re over 45. New figures from the Diversity Council reveal we earn just two-thirds of the income of mature-aged men.

If our working lives are punctuated by pregnancy, we have a super baby debt of up to $50,000 because we don’t receive the mandatory 9% during that time.

While divorcees are entitled to a chunk of their ex’s super, many women want to avoid a legal stoush.

Whichever way you look at it, we can’t win. With both the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader courting women, you’d think this would be top of their agendas.

Think again.

The Federal Government has cut the maximum co-contribution from $1000 to $500, unless you earn less than $46,920 a year.

Now, Treasurer Wayne Swan is sharpening the axe, searching for more “structural savings” from superannuation, such as higher tax rates on contributions and earnings.

Supporters say this would only hit the top 10%, but it creates uncertainty.

During my last stint on talkback radio, dozens of women called up to say, “I’m frightened about what the government will do to super, so I’m not going to put any money into it.”

Depending on your age, the employer-funded 9% simply isn’t enough.

Australia is a world leader in compulsory superannuation, thanks to former Treasurer Paul Keating. He wants it lifted to 15%, with the extra money funding the “second phase of retirement” for people over eighty.

Instead, the government is aiming for 12% by 2019.

As for the Opposition, Tony Abbott’s weathervane is spinning like crazy.

First, the coalition announced plans to scrap the $500 co-contribution, which would hit low-income workers, including two million women. Then he wrote to the superannuation industry promising no changes to the scheme.

Which way is the wind blowing today, Tony?

My friend, Margaret, would like to know. She’s among the 50% of women, aged between 45 and 59, who have less than $8000 in their super funds. Now, at the age of 57, she has to move back in with her Mum because she can’t afford to pay the rent.

Can you believe this is happening in 2013 – in one of the wealthiest countries in the world?

rainyIt’s time we started looking after ourselves.

Put in an extra 1% for each maternity leave break; chase money owed by an ex-partner; and take an active interest in your super.

There’s a handy tool here which calculates the compounded benefits of cutting back on life’s little luxuries. Because that rainy day will come around a lot sooner than we think.

“What is the point of working so hard if you can’t afford to make spending choices and enjoy a comfortable life when you retire?” asks AFSA CEO Pauline Vamos.

Let’s pop our undies over the top of our clothes and become real Super Women.


Are you worried about your future and superannuation?


*Tracey Spicer is a Super Champion this International Women’s Day for the Association of Super Funds of Australia. ASFA is not-for-profit and non-party-political.


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*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.


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  • Reply March 7, 2013


    When it comes to my financial security, super – or rather lack of it – is more a symptom than the disease. I am 52 and haven’t had a full time job since 1983. My husband’s work kept us on the move till the late ’90’s when I studied for a degree (in one of the ‘caring’ professions) while juggling the school run and volunteer work – no pay there. By the time my kids graduated and left home my fledgling career crashed and burned because I asked to be paid for the work I’d been doing for free while qualifying. After a further decade of volunteering & trying to find work, I finally gave up trying in the interest of my mental health . Given that it took a decade it could be said I’m not a quick learner. But don’t let anyone tell you that volunteering is a good way into the work force. Volunteering is a good way to do what you like doing for no other reward.

    The only reason I’m not in a women’s shelter even now is that my husband and I still get along. Long may that remain the case.

    I have been everything I’ve supposed to have been – a supportive wife, a diligent, energetic mother, a pillar of society and defender of poor and needy – and now have only $2000 in superannuation. Don’t need a calculator to figure out how long that would last me. I am one of at least three women in my street alone in a similar position and we all feel completely invisible and left behind. Our crime – doing what we were expected to do all our lives and being paid for none of it. Now we are made to feel like bludgers and wastrels.
    So if I come off a little bitter who’s going to be the first to criticise?

    My situation did not arise solely from my child bearing, you will note but the life long expectation that whatever I did I should not expect to be paid for it – that my work, whether it was in the home or in the community, had no monetary value. So from my perspective, any discussion about women’s superannuation needs to follow a lot of action on women’s employment and the value of our labour.

    And in the meantime, what is going to happen to women like us? If you were in government what would you do?

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    I think this is a major issue for older women, especially those who are single . Once upon a time, ( ok my mother’s generation and before), women stayed in unhealthy , unhappy relationships for financial security. The appalling lack of equity in our super balances could be what removes some of the gains we have made and keeps or sends some women back there.
    This is a societal structural issue .

  • Reply March 7, 2013

    John Jay

    The following was Divinely guided, showing why the superannuation topic is misleading and misguided.


    Women are created differently from men. Women function differently from men. Women have strengths men do not and men have strengths women do not. Men and women compliment each other but are different on all levels.

    Feminism is anti-women and anti-femininity.

    Feminism damages women and involves a false identity.

    Feminism causes a cooling of a woman’s heart and causes an unnatural change energetically in women.

    Feminism at it’s core involves an energy that is hostile to humankind and has influenced many women to follow a path they are not naturally suited to.

    Feminism has destroyed many marriages, left many men bewildered and desolate, and seriously harmed many children.

    Feminism is the opposite of what you would expect the word “feminist” to mean.

    It is a destructive force, it destroys femininity, it steals a woman over time from who she naturally is.

    The Feminist path is one that all women should avoid.

    Many enter this path to “right wrongs” towards women – wrongs perpetrated by men both today and over history.

    Feminism is a false solution.

    Feminism is a stratagem that did not originate from humankind. It is a false solution that many women buy into to, as they see it, address a problem (men behaving in ways they should not towards women) .. by buying into toxic feminism they do not, however, “fix” the problem .. they make matters worse.

    Yes, male culture needs reform but feminism offers nothing towards this.

    John Jay.

    • Reply March 7, 2013


      I disagree that feminism has not added anything to male culture. It has freed men from being the major bread winner role if he wants to be a stay-at home dad and the stereotypical ‘strong always’ role.
      Feminism was set up because women:
      1.Had no right to remain in a house owned by a husband and when divorced, the law said she was not entitled to anything, even inherited money, salary or other she may have contributed. Off to the workhouse, servanthood, or the streets to live.
      2. Could only open a bank account if approved and sponsored by a man eg: father or husband.
      3. Could not take out a loan of any sort unless sponsored by a man.
      4. Had no right to education, voting or land ownership.
      5. Could not be a doctor, lawyer or banker, or stand for a political position by LAW.
      6. Could not join armed forces.
      7. Could not work outside the house.
      8.Had no pay rights – let alone equal pay.
      9. Had to stay at home and be responsible to raise the children – end of choices and story. Now thanks to nasty old feminisim, it has allowed freedom for gender roles – men are free to choose their parenting roles as well.
      10.As for Super …hahahahahahahaha

      So that’s all just for starters. It’s not perfect but… no-where is there hatred for men – only a need to change the hugely ‘patriachal roles’ and to allow EVERYBODY to have freedom of choice. It does not include being unkind to men, wrecking marriage or being unfeminine. These are caused personal problems – not feminist problems

    • Reply March 7, 2013


      “The following was divinely guided…….”, No it wasn’t. You can say it was, but that doesn’t make it so.

      For the rest: just love the couple of references to losing femininity, not! What the…..

      Sorry, not getting any respect for that response, John Jay.
      Sorry, can’t be docile and desplay my femininity today.

    • Reply March 7, 2013

      Margherita Tracanelli

      First, Tracey hit it again, right where it counts, & yes undies on the outside from now on !

      Oh my goodness !

      The John Jay “REPLY’ (read: rant by cranky man on soap box) is, & to quote Mr (I ‘m deeply cowardly and therefore afraid to reveal my real name) Jay, is “one all women should avoid”

      Yeah ? Really. What you think you know about women could fit inside a quark.

      Margherita Tracanelli
      There ! See, my FULL name, John “Jay”

      Try stickin’ that into your pipe full of misogynistic anti feminist anti female anti woman BS and see how it burns buddy.

      YUKKI poo poo, you are just awful JJ.
      I agree with Carole and Mirror, what a stinker troll.
      OOOh wait – I get it you’re beating off to this. Poverino.

    • Reply May 31, 2013


      I’m rolling my eyes at your idiotic approach on the concept of feminism. Nice try, “John Jay”. Your misogyny is showing.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    My husband and I have a self managed super fund and I have made sure that we have roughly equal amounts in our names – though I have not worked for $ since 1992. I also manage our finances and keep track of our investments, arrange our tax returns each year etc.

    I think there needs to be more education of women/girls regarding money while at school. My parents split up after over 20 years together and mum had no clue about money – and so I have always been conscious of making sure I know what is happening with our finances. I have made this clear from the outset and my husband accepts it.

    I think it is too easy for women to say “i’m no good at maths’ or whatever and happily leave financial management to their husband and hope all goes well. It is our responsibility to make sure we are protected and a real financial partner. If we are not educated about money there are plenty of courses around now.

    Financial abuse is now recognised as domestic abuse – it is every partnered woman’s right to share in their partners income and wealth.

    I realise women earn up to 20% less than men in general but I would like to see what the figure is for women without children/caretaking responsibilities – I believe they actually tend to earn more than men do on average. Of course if either partner takes time out to raise children etc their career/money making will probably suffer. Something usually gives. However, both partners should share the burdens of costs and work it out with regards to their savings/super etc. More women need to be aware of their rights and fight for them.

    (I realise their are problems with single women/mothers – however, I am talking about partnered/married women here).

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    Hi Tracey, Hoopla

    Really appreciate this article for IWD — it’s a big issue and one I’m really glad you’re talking about.

    I agree with your sentiments about women needing to work with what we’ve got and look out for ourselves, but I also think that we shouldn’t be afraid of reform and momentary uncertainty that change might create. This is a structural problem that deserves a structural response. Long term change is what we need.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    John Jay,

    Please stop trolling. Your message doesn’t have any thing to do with Super and, for the record, I disagree anyway.

    I’m in my mid-20s and I co-contribute to my super when I can afford it (which is not now). However, not one of my friends, male or female, contribute. Despite informing them of the government co-contribution and the need to prepare for our retirement all of them believe it’s so far away that we don’t need to be concerned.

    Some of them think that by the time we retire there will be no such thing as a super fund.

    Most of them (many, many women my age) don’t believe that feminism is still an important issue today, adopting the ideals of chauvinists who exclaim that “in my workplace we all get paid the same; what else is there to fight for?”.

    We don’t understand what happened in the times before us, and can’t fathom a future where it all won’t work itself out.

    That’s why my gen won’t have many superwomen!

  • Reply March 7, 2013

    Kerry c

    When I started work, in 1974, it was for private companies. There was no superannuation for women (maybe even men too) in those companies. Then I stopped work for 7 years to have babies. When I went back to work when the youngest started school, I worked for the govt. and thus got super…. Then we moved overseas for my husbands work in 2004, so now I only have about $60,000 in super and I’m 55 in a few weeks. So knows what I should do with it ad I can cash it all in in a few weeks… Probably best off investing in a trim deposit, at least if the share market crashes, it will be safe and earning a little bit of interest.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    An additional factor is that women are far more likely to be raising children below the poverty line and accessing their super just to survive long before retirement. This is increasingly frequent since the change to single parent income (mothers moved from parenting payment to newstart meant that many, many working single mothers are $100 week worse off). There is plenty of legal financial abuse occurring…. for example, the ex who has piled up heaps of super and now, rather than pay child support, they quit work. The part time working single mum then has to pay them child support while living below the poverty line with close to zero super. The kids grow up, she is left working because she can’t retire, he has a nice big super fund.

    • Reply March 7, 2013

      Rosie - the other one.

      Lala: I cannot understand why every woman in Australia has not been up in arms about the move for single Mothers from Parenting Payment to Newstart. This is plunging children into deeper poverty than before. But it is hardly ever mentioned – not even sure whether Hoopla has done a separate article on it. Most of these Mothers have only their kids’ interests at heart, many have very little support at all and now are being punished for not being able to get enough work when that work is most often just not there.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    Why do women always have to do so much more work than men to secure themselves financially? Superannuation is inherently mysoginist because it doesn’t take into account the unpaid work women do when they care for their children, families and elderly parents. And it is not just a problem for older women because there are young women out there right now earning very little or nothing caring for someone and no one will want to care for them later, when they have no money to pay for anything.
    I do not want to rely on my husbands super, I want my own but the whole system is rigged in favour of those that can work all the time in paying jobs. Those who are supported by mothers and wives.
    And those that have well paid jobs do better too because super is a percentage of pay, they can salary sacrifice and pay for advice on investments. If you are sacrificing your own food to afford food for your children you are not going to add to super, ever. What is 9% of nothing?
    Superannuation is the capitalist dream at its most brutal (except maybe child sex slavery)but done in such a way that those affected have no voice (because they have no money and the poor are ignored in this modern society).
    I am not a total idealist, I don’t expect true equality but such a big and obvious section of the community is being let down by government in such a crap way and the remaining group is reaping such financial benefits then surely politicians must see it isn’t working. It needs to be overhauled so everyone benefits, not just rich, working men. Super is compulsory after all.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    Just when you thought it was safe to go out.
    There’s John Jay like a bad smell you just can’t get rid of.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    I am 60, divorced, working fulltime with a mortgage, I will not be able to retire until I am probably 70 – 75yrs old as if I chose to retire now I would not even have enough to cover the mortgage and would then have to go on the paltry pension, how anyone survives on that is beyond me. I am lucky, I am at the moment fit and healthy but again as stated in another post, I am single and have not built up a lot of Super because, yes I stopped work to have children, then when I returned there was no compulsory Super, I can only live in hope that I can work that long and that I am not made reduntant because of my age etc because I don’t want to have to scrape and scounge for everything in my old age, I have worked most of my life, paid all my taxes and I should be able to be comfortable when I am older but alas I am sure that will not be the case.

    • Reply March 9, 2013

      Fiona Rogers

      That was my plan too. ex Army wive with no independent income for 21 years means no super. Two years ago at age 54 I was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer. I guess old age will never be my problem,but I can’t retire as there is no money to. Sometimes the commute to work is a daily climb of Mount Everest. I do have life insurance taken our 30 years ago. The payout should keep a roof over the head of my family. The small amount of super starting July 2001 will help them survive until my youngest leaves school. My husband’s income will feed them, etc.

  • Reply March 7, 2013

    sue Bell

    started my working life on unequal wages and junior wages. Women did not have/could not have super. Finally we got “equal wages”, supposedly, but still no right to have super.
    We moved around for his job, I worked but still no super. Then came babies and of course no super.
    I am lucky, I have a decent ex and now have a chance to build up the little super I have.
    I think every woman should get a payment of $20,000 into her super fund to make up for the blatant inequalities of the earlier years.
    I worry about John Jay, if he is hearing voices which he calls divine revelations, should we not, as caring people, get him some psychiatric help?

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    John Jay- feminism simply means equal rights and opportunities for women and men. How you got all of those ridiculous conclusions from that I will never know, but then again you are apparently ‘different’ to me because you have a penis.
    Honestly, grow up and join us in 2013, there are bigger issues than women losing their ‘femininity’, whatever that means to you.

    The super issue has weighed on my mind for a long time and I am 30 this year. I think I need to start voluntary contributions asap. I don’t really plan to have kids, so there’s that in my favour, at least. And if I did I wouldn’t stay out of work for long. So it’s not so much a gender issue for me personally as much as it’s just a financial issue. I’ve never been well off, never even had savings until last year, so the prospect of having enough money for retirement is daunting. And when you consider we can potentially live for decades after retirement- can we really be sure we have enough? I only have $15,000 at the moment. Hardly anything.

    So this article was a good kick in the pants. Thanks Tracey, and thanks for being a feminist voice for us in a media which is often not on our side.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    PS thank you for the Super Guru link, I just projected how long I would last in retirement based on my situation and thankfully it said I would be ok until age 94 (in theory). So I feel a bit better.

  • Reply March 7, 2013


    John Jay used to be a regular on this site, always with the same “shit” . I thought we were rid of him but he’s obviously just been on “hols” ,
    either that or he’s just been released .
    The best way to deal with him is to completely ignore him & don’t comment on anything he has to say & deprive him of his regular “hit”.

    • Reply March 7, 2013


      @carole/m. Thanks for the heads- up for us newbies Carol:-)

    • Reply March 7, 2013


      John Jay is Piers Akerman’s “lunatic in residence”. If anyone has ever dared to check out Akker’s daily hate, you’ll find John Jay in his natural habitat. It seems he has decided to spread the good news wider than just the wanks and cranks of the loony right.

  • Reply March 7, 2013

    John Jay

    I pass on what has been given to my by the Divine.

    I attack no one personally

    Forces of feminism/darkness attack me here.

    The word of the Divine cannot be mocked.

    Over the centuries many have tried.

    All have failed.

    John Jay.

  • Reply March 7, 2013

    eva cox

    sorry Tracey, super isn’t the answer, as most women can’t save enough because of the range of reasons you outline. it is designed for the mainly males who are in the top 30% of earners and worked for 45 years plus at above average wages. the tax concessions mean that the top 5% grab more than 30% ($10B ) of the tax concessions. That is our money and if it went into a better pension would give older women the security they need. An earnings related system can’t work for low income earners.

  • Reply March 8, 2013

    Tracey Spicer

    Eva, so thrilled you commented! I know, the issue is extremely complex, particularly when it comes to low income women. In a perfect world, these women would be assisted and protected by the system. But, unfortunately, whichever party is leading, we face a future of diminishing pensions and greater reliance on the sharemarket. I figure, if we’re being forced into this, we might as well grab the reins in any way we can. Personally, I’d like to see greater employer contributions and continuity during mat leave, as well. We can live in hope. Or move to Scandinavia – which I fantastise about an awful lot. Happy IWD!

  • […] Women’s Day there are important discussions being had about violence against women, a woman’s financial state and the future of feminism. The reality of our world is sometimes unbearably frightening,  I […]

  • Reply March 10, 2013


    So glad this topic is being brought up.
    I work now, instead of staying at home, so both myself and my family have a secure future.

    I find many families, do not consider the overall financial impact of a lengthy stay out of the workforce. All they take into account is can they pay the immediate bills. They never factor in lost super, lost future earnings, as it is so much harder to ask for greater $$ when being out of the workforce for so long.

    I believe there is not enough basic financial education out there for both woman and families.

  • Reply May 31, 2013


    I have been reading the Hoopla for a while and feel that any discussions on issues regarding male female imbalance are just an excuse for John Jay to inject his brand of anti woman rhetoric. Time to ban him, I wold say. There are plenty of websites where men can discuss the evils of feminism, his posts amount to bullying.
    It is misguided courtesy and it is not right to permit readers ( some of whom, judging by past posts,have survived domestic violence, workplace bullying, myriad assaults etc) to be subjected to this. His prefacing his remarks by saying they are “Divinely guided” matters not; he is a misogynist and a bully and I am sure I am not alone in wanting him banned.

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