The gender gap in superannuation still drags women’s retirement years into poverty in many cases. But female workers are fighting back.
New figures from research house Rice Warner show as women move towards retirement, they are pushing more money into their super balances.
As the next chart shows, men’s incomes also outstrip women’s as they move through middle age. That allows them to build bigger superannuation balances.
“Unfortunately, this trend is exacerbated, as statistics show that women retire earlier than men, and live nearly three years longer, giving them a longer period in retirement over which to spend their retirement benefit,” Rice Warner’s research says.
“Our data shows there is evidence that women are making an active effort to close the gap through contributing to their superannuation. This is evident in Graph 3 which shows that the average voluntary contribution by females is typically higher than that of men in a similar age cohort, and markedly so closer to retirement,” Rice Warner says.
That late-career savings boost appears to be having a positive effect on women’s balances. The following chart shows that they are gaining ground on men in those years.
The following chart from Roy Morgan, which measures a different sample six months after Rice Warner, found very similar outcomes.
It also showed that in the 10 years to August 2018, the gap between men’s and women’s balances has shrunk significantly.
Analysis of behavioural finance suggests that men invest more aggressively than women, which should lead to higher returns.
“However, while Rice Warner’s data does confirm that males who elect an investment choice do invest slightly more in aggressive assets than females, the difference is minor.”
Given that most fund members are in default super products where no choice has been made and there is no difference between where men’s and women’s money is invested, there is virtually no difference created by investment preferences, Rice Warner says.
Currently women have about 40 per cent less superannuation than men. and, as the above chart shows, it lasts through life.
Rice Warner recommended women and their employers take the following actions to improve their super situation
- Use the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset (LISTO). Low-balance members can receive up to $500 in government contributions per year with females being favoured for these contributions as a result of their lower balances
- Use the government superannuation co-contribution. The government makes available $500 per annum to match contributions for low-to-medium-income members who make personal contributions to their funds
- Employers could pay Super Guarantee (SG) contributions into superannuation on maternity leave to alleviate the impact of women taking time off work to care for children
- Employers could pay higher SG contributions to female employees to draw attention to the superannuation gender gap and show that they are prepared to help close it.
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