Women tend to live longer than men, making it even more essential that they accumulate enough superannuation to last through retirement.
But women face unique challenges when it comes to retirement savings. Lower pay, time out of the workforce to raise children, and running a single-parent household, can make it challenging to build a reasonable amount of super. However, some simple strategies make it possible for women to overcome these hurdles.
Super is good for you
Superannuation is a very tax-effective way to save for retirement. Your super fund pays a low rate of tax on contributions and investment earnings while you grow your nest egg. From age 60, you can withdraw your super tax-free.
Without super, many women are forced to rely on the age pension in their senior years. But the pension is designed as a safety net and won't provide for a comfortable old age. So it's essential to focus on growing your super.
Our career break super calculator can help you work out how working part-time or taking a break from paid work (to have a baby or due to carer responsibilities) affects your super.
Video: Women and super
Pauline Vamos from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) talks about the financial challenges that women face and gives her top tips on boosting your super.
Get to know your fund
Your employer should be making super contributions on your behalf. These contributions will be worth around 9.5% of your annual wage or salary.
If you haven't given your employer instructions about the super fund of your choice, it's likely the contributions are paid into a fund your employer has chosen. This may not be the sort of fund you would prefer.
By law, you can normally select your own fund and have your employer's contributions paid into that. If you have several super funds, it's a good idea to roll over or consolidate your super into your preferred fund. This will save you the administration fees charged by any extra funds.
To choose a super fund, look at the fees it charges and the sort of investments the fund chooses. It's important that you are comfortable with your super investment options. Don't base your choice on past investment returns, as past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.
When choosing a fund also consider the insurance it provides and the level of cover you require. For more information see insurance through super.
Options to grow your nest egg
There are a number of ways to build your super. You cannot normally access your super before you retire, so only contribute money you can afford to set aside.
Ask your employer to pay part of your pre-tax wage or salary into your super fund. Before-tax salary sacrificing can be a tax-friendly way to grow your super.
Make super contributions out of your own pocket. These after-tax super contributions, known as 'non-concessional' contributions, are not subject to the 15% contributions tax that can apply to other types of contribution. Depending on your annual income, you may also be eligible for a government co-contribution to your fund. It's an easy way to give your super a valuable boost. Find out more from the Australian Tax Office: Super co-contributions.
Ask your partner or spouse to make contributions on your behalf. He or she may be able to claim a tax offset on the contributions made to your fund.
Even small contributions can make a big difference over time. Try it out on our calculator.
Case study: Ajinder boosts her super savings
Ajinder was concerned that she didn't have much superannuation, and wasn't keen on the idea of relying solely on the age pension. She decided to take action to get her super under control.
'It struck me that I have 15 or so years until I retire. My super isn't great at present, so I've started adding a bit extra to my super each month by making payments out of my own pocket. It means I get the government co-contribution each year.
'I'm also going to ask my boss if I can salary sacrifice a small amount direct from my pay – and that means I pay less income tax. It's not a lot but my super balance should grow over time thanks to investment returns. Every extra bit I add now will make a difference to my retirement.'
Track down lost super
If you have ever held a part-time or casual job, or moved house, you could have superannuation invested in a fund that you've lost track of.
Use myGov to keep track of all your super and combine multiple super accounts into one, which will make it even easier to manage your super. More more information, visit the ATO's page on checking your super.
Superannuation is very important to the quality of your retirement. By adding even small amounts to your super now, you will make a big difference later in life.
Reproduced with the permission of ASIC’s MoneySmart Team. This article was originally published at https://www.moneysmart.gov.au
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