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Retirement

Women facing double-whammy hit to retirement incomes

By Helen Baker
  • July 21 2020
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Retirement

Women facing double-whammy hit to retirement incomes

By Helen Baker
July 21 2020

Why are Aussie women statistically more likely to be underemployed and have less in super than men? Being a caregiver to both older and younger generations simultaneously plays a huge part, writes Helen Baker.

retirement incomes women

Women facing double-whammy hit to retirement incomes

author image
By Helen Baker
  • July 21 2020
  • Share

Why are Aussie women statistically more likely to be underemployed and have less in super than men? Being a caregiver to both older and younger generations simultaneously plays a huge part, writes Helen Baker.

retirement incomes women

It’s now 2020, and women are still yet to achieve full equality, especially when it comes to money. Australia’s gender pay gap is 13.9 per cent or $242.90 per week. Women are also overrepresented in the part-time and casual workforce and, on average, have 20.5 per cent less in superannuation than men.

A major part of this is that women are still the dominant caregivers. And increasingly, they are being called upon to do so for multiple generations.

I am seeing an increasing number of women who, while raising their children, are also the primary caregivers to ageing parents/parents-in-law. It’s a noble role, but one which sadly goes unrewarded financially.

Meeting the needs of their children and their elderly parents/in-laws is a delicate balancing act. Getting the kids to and from school, fed, clothed as well as to and from extracurricular activities like sport and music lessons, there’s the needs of elderly parents — housework, meal preparation, medication supervision, accompanying to medical appointments and errands etc.

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Add the commute time between them, and it’s clear why full-time work is simply not an option for many, even if they are willing and qualified to do so.

Unintended ramifications

By being forced out of full-time work, women are being pushed into an increasingly fragile financial state later in life. Reduced income lessens their independence and equates to substantially less money in super once they reach retirement age.

Add to this the facts that many relationships break down and that women statistically outlive men by 4.2 years. Together, it means that many women face the prospect of financial ruin in their golden years, despite having worked their guts out their whole lives.

Is it any wonder that we’re now seeing women in their 50s and 60s becoming the new face of homelessness?

What can be done?

It’s a complicated issue with no easy fix or single solution. But the message we want to get out to women is, the first step is to recognise that there is a problem.

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • Where do I want to be when I reach retirement age?
  • What does my future look like with what I currently have?

Doing so can reveal a huge disconnect that you never realised, because your days are focused on playing taxi, chef, nurse, housekeeper, project manager and homework supervisor.

Once you know what you need to work towards, then you can develop a sturdy plan to get you there. That plan may, wisely, involve getting help from a financial adviser, accountant, tax specialist or other skilled professional, who can lay out the various options available to you.

Additionally, there are a few things I generally encourage women (and men) to take up that can make a material difference to their financial independence:

  • Upskill yourself: While you’re not working full-time, enhance your qualifications and training. Those extra skills can make you more employable — and at a higher salary — once you are able to re-enter the workforce full-time.
  • Examine your family’s living arrangements: Think creatively about how you all live and what efficiencies could be achieved. For example, can you add a granny flat in your backyard to keep your parents/in-laws close but still independent? Can they get professional carers, whether privately or publicly funded? Can they downsize to a smaller property?
  • Consider super catch-up rules: A little-known rule essentially allows anyone with under $500,000 in super to make additional tax-deductible contributions. In effect, you can “catch up” on periods where there’s less or no new funds going into your super.
  • Share financial decisions: Many women, for whatever reason, leave it to their partner to oversee joint finances. By not taking an active role in financial decisions, it can be tricky should your partner die suddenly or you separate. You may find out the decisions were not suitable for you, or you missed out on strategies, or they just didn’t do anything because they didn’t know what they didn’t know. 

Ultimately, it’s your future health and happiness on the line here. So many women say, “I didn’t know that” or “I wish I met you sooner”.  So, take an interest and make a plan — one that doesn’t involve the old head in the sand!

Helen Baker is a licensed Australian financial adviser and author.

Note: This is general advice only and you should seek advice specific to your circumstances.

Women facing double-whammy hit to retirement incomes
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