Australia needs to put an end to a superannuation debate that continually focuses on a minority of rich people while alienating the rest of the population, the head of a major industry fund says.
Between the unattractive jargon, inequitable government policy and overdramatic media headlines about needing $1 million in retirement, many Australians, particularly women, are tuning out when it comes to super, HESTA boss Debby Blakey says.
As chief executive of the industry super fund for health and community services, most of Ms Blakey’s members are middle-aged women on modest wages, juggling part-time work with motherhood and with little superannuation to speak of.
Most of them will live on the age pension and use their super for little luxuries, like buying Christmas presents for their grandchildren, or having friends over for dinner, she says.
“Some of the mainstream media is obsessed with us needing $1 million in retirement and for many of our members, when they hear that, it actually switches them right off and they take the attitude that, ‘well I’m never going to reach $1 million so I won’t even bother’,” Ms Blakey said.
“Who benefits from the conversation about needing $1 million in super? There’s a very small part of the financial planning community that benefits from that conversation.”
The whole point of superannuation is that it’s for every Australian, Ms Blakey says.
The conversation needs to start including low income earners and women. And while policy is needed to bridge the super gap between women and men, women also need to stop being complacent about superannuation, she said.
“The reality is that women don’t think about it,” Ms Blakey said.
“The reality is that nobody expects their marriage to end and the reality is that if it does, women are often left in a more difficult situation.”
Super funds also need to do their bit, Ms Blakey said, by demystifying the complex language they use and communicating simple messages.