Disability support worker Debbie Gunn hoped she’d be on the road to retirement by now.
But the thing standing in the 53-year-old’s way is her superannuation balance.
“It’s terrifying,” she says. “Looking at the balance that I will have at age 60, there is no way I can reasonably retire, or partially retire, and do that comfortably and have any semblance of a lifestyle.”
The Melbourne resident has been working since she finished high school 36 years ago. But she has no idea how she’s going to support herself in retirement.
“I’m not talking about luxury lifestyles – you know, holidays overseas several times a year – I’m talking about the difference between putting food on the table and paying the bills,” she says. “It’s just not good enough. I’m sick of it, and I want to see some real action happen for women.”
On average, in Australia, women have almost 40 percent less superannuation than men, meaning they retire with about $113,000 less to live off. But financial experts say it’s a problem this year’s federal budget, which will be handed down on Tuesday, can start to address.
Starting out behind
Kelly Power is a general manager at the banking company Colonial First State. She says while female participation in the workforce is growing, the gendered superannuation gap is actually widening.
“Employer superannuation contributions are a percentage of your salary, and we know that, on average, women earn less than men, so they’re starting off with a lower superannuation amount,” she says.
“So when you start to add up that impact, and you take into account compounding interest and returns, that can have a significant impact when you hit retirement age.”
Ms. Power calls for the government to guarantee superannuation payments for those on parental leave and start making genuine progress on closing the gendered pay gap. She also encourages women who can access financial advice to properly set themselves up for retirement.
“We’ve seen in our membership that if a woman goes and sees a financial adviser, she’s 250 percent more likely to make a superannuation contribution. That’s a pretty amazing stat,” she says. “So, if you do see a financial adviser, you’re more likely to contribute, and you’ll have a better retirement outcome.”