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.
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.
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?
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. www.superannuation.asn.au
MORE ARTICLES BY TRACEY SPICER
*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 www.spicercommunications.biz or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.