Urgent super reform needed now, ASFA warns

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Low confidence in retirement among women is a clear indicator that more must be done to improve women’s retirement outcomes, says the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA).

The most recent results from the Qantas Super CSBA Retirement Confidence Index (RCI) show that women have far less confidence than men that they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement.

The RCI is a quarterly barometer of Australian adults’ retirement confidence and asks respondents to rate their confidence in having enough money to retire comfortably, awarding a score of between 0 and 10, where 0–3 represents little to no confidence, 4–6 some confidence and 7–10 indicates a high level of confidence.

Although the gender gap has closed slightly on the previous quarter, the RCI found that women were awarded an overall retirement confidence rating of 4.8 compared with 5.4 for men.

Only 30 per cent of women say they have a high degree of confidence they will have enough money for a comfortable retirement, compared with 39 per cent of men.

Cost of living/inflation was the most mentioned external factor causing difficulty in planning retirement, closely followed by the global economy and general high cost of living.

“These findings highlight deep concerns around the realities of retirement for women and the perception that they will not be able to adequately fund a dignified retirement.”

ASFA chief executive Dr Martin Fahy said: “The lack of confidence reflects how women are retiring today, with average balances at retirement a little over half those of men. While the gap is gradually closing, more needs to be done to address the disparity.”

Median super balances for men and women in 2015–16, according to ASFA, were:

  • 50 to 54-year-old men $99,000; women $45,000
  • 55 to 59-year-old men $115,000; women $50,000
  • 60 to 64-year-old men $110,000, women $36,000
  • 65 to 69-year-old men $32,000; women $9900.

Average balances in 2015–16 for all people aged 15 and over were $111,853 for men and $68,499 for women.

Dr Fahy said important social policy issues arose due to women’s lower super balances and that narrowing the gap would lead to better standards of living in retirement for women.

For example, 52 per cent of Australians living in poverty are female, according to Poverty in Australia 2018 prepared by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the University of NSW.

Dr Fahy said: “Structural policy reform to protect and enhance the economic security of women in retirement is something that ASFA has long advocated for. It is of critical importance to ensure that women are not condemned to experiencing poverty, and even homelessness, in retirement.”

“Today, around 50 per cent of women retire with a very low superannuation balance under $50,000, compared with 33 per cent of men. Unless we take active steps to fix this problem, confidence will remain low.”

He said ASFA continued to advocate for policies to improve women’s economic security in retirement, including:

  • paying Superannuation Guarantee on paid parental leave and other income replacement payments (such as salary continuance and worker’s compensation)
  • removing the $450-a-month threshold for Superannuation Guarantee
  • maintaining the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset (LISTO) that provides tax refunds and makes superannuation fairer for those on low incomes
  • enabling employers to contribute more for women without being considered to have breached anti-discrimination legislation.

“While we continue to advocate for policy improvements, the good news is that there are a number of steps that women can take to increase their confidence and improve their retirement prospects,” said Dr Fahy.

ASFA recommends four easy steps:

  • Open your mail from your super fund and look at your account balance
  • Use a calculator tool, such as the one on ASFA’s Super Guru website, to find out whether your savings are on track
  • Learn on Super Guru what you can do to improve your balance by contributing a little extra and letting the power of compound interest do the rest
  • Talk to your super fund to find out whether your money is invested the right way for you, according to how much risk you are willing to take on.

Are you diligent about checking how your super is faring? Are you confident your fund is performing well? Are you confident your super is in the best investment category for your goals?

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Written by Janelle Ward



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