Superannuation Companies need to lean in.
Or we could see a generation of women retiring in poverty.
Last month, research by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia found one in three women have no super savings: zero, zip, nada.
Those who do? Well, it’s about half as much as men, at an average of $105,000 compared with $197,000.
We know the reasons: taking time out to bear children or care for relatives; working part-time or job share; and the 17.5 per cent gender pay gap.
As the CEO of ASFA Pauline Vamos writes on the Money Smart website,“ Addressing this gap will require action, from both government and from individuals”.
Ms. Vamos is urging the federal government to lower the threshold on the superannuation guarantee, and reinstate the Low Income Super Contribution of $500p/a for those who earn less than $37,000 (which the Coalition plans to repeal).
She’s also launched the Super Sorter Power Hour, encouraging us to consolidate unnecessary accounts to avoid paying extra fees, ask employers about salary sacrifice, and search for lost savings.
These are worthwhile measures – but surely the funds have a role to play as well. Some employers now have strategies to address the gender superannuation gap.
Some employers now have strategies to address the gender superannuation gap.
Consulting firm Rice Warner received an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act to redress the imbalance.
Deputy CEO Melissa Fuller came up with a package of incentives, in which women are paid 2 per cent more retirement income than men, and earn superannuation
during the firm’s 18 weeks of paid parental leave, plus a further 12 months of unpaid leave.
Surely superannuation firms should follow suit, offering incentives to women to switch funds…?
He’s also lobbying the government to ensure super contributions are part of any Paid Parental Leave scheme. “Women taking career breaks need every bit of support they can be given,” Mr. Russell says. Media Super is looking at reducing account fees for people with punctuated careers – who are predominantly women.
“There are very strict rules and regulations in this area, but we’re exploring possibilities,” he says.
As an extra step, Australian Ethical advises women to seek “complete transparency” around where their money is invested.
“If you don’t want your funds invested in weapons, slave labour and gambling you need to be with a fund that is transparent and, if they are not, consider switching,” a spokesperson says.
Let’s commit to sending an email to our super funds, asking one simple question: What are you doing for women?
Until government and business get on board, all we can do is shove money into our accounts during the times of feast to prepare for the famine.
In the words of Pauline Vamos, “The bottom line is: women live longer than men and they are going to need to look after themselves”.