I will not be retiring in the manner to which I would like to be accustomed. This has recently been driven home by the latest research showing that women have only half as much super as men when they retire. Hello! Let’s hope nobody was paid a lot to come to that deduction considering one had to be living under a rock to realise that women do not earn nearly as much as men in their working lives.
Financially, we know the facts: women are screwed. Not only do we get paid less for the same jobs, most women don’t ever really get to work full time their entire working career. We are too busy carrying and raising children, so our careers and superannuation contributions flat-line for a good decade or more. When we go back to work, 45% of us only get part-time jobs. And just as the kids become independent, we have to care for ailing parents.
And somewhere along the line, one in three of us will have gotten divorced, a financial punch in the face if ever there was one. Yes, I bet some of you have heard stories of women who escape with the house, maintenance and half her ex’s super. Sadly most of us end up Centrelink Chicks on the dark side of town with nary a sniff of shared super or maintenance payments. The only house we get are the ones with massive mortgages.
When I tried to argue with my FOK (Father of Kids) that I had given up salary and super while raising my kids which should be noted in property settlement, I was told: “Working only twice a week until the kids went to school was YOUR choice – your choice – so suck it up and deal with the consequences.” But like all mums, I found juggling children and work tricky, and focus on super was easily overlooked when I had to cut down on work hours. But more of that in a future post!!
Single women in first world countries will live into their 80’s – and will probably have to work till their 70’s to afford retirement unless they married well and or their husbands lives were nicely insured. At the moment, the gap in Australia between men and women’s super is around $92 000. But of the girls being born now, most will live beyond 95 years old, which means we all need to enter into some serious discussions about the future financial security of older women.
Policymakers everywhere need to urgently address issues women have with their pension funds and superannuation, else many women will be living in poverty when they retire. I fear being a bag lady wrapped in scarves smelling faintly of urine, sharing my cat’s food while we take shelter in a doorway. Or being sick and dying while living in the local caravan park with no coins for hot showers.
Perhaps the answer is compulsory super repayments with parental leave. Maybe the people selling retirement annuities and pension plans and superannuation need to understand the needs of women better, and employ financial advisors who understand the lives of real women. It is certainly NOT the right time for Abbott’s government to be talking about repealing the Low Income Super Contribution (LISC). This payment is a government superannuation contribution of up to $500 per year on behalf of low income earners. The amount is generally paid directly to the individual’s super fund if the individual is making extra payments into their super.
Maybe we all need to enter into a sensible and modern dialogue without women fearing that if they push for special treatment, nobody will employ them in the child-bearing years.
It’s also imperative that women take charge of their super. It’s too late now to worry about making small contributions to rely on compound interest as we don’t have that luxury of time. So we better take our heads out of the sand, stop hoping financial worries will all go away, and make a plan. Sit down with an advisor and look at where you stand. If you are married, make sure you know what is going on with your finances. What will the government pay you? Do you own your house? Where do your children fit into your plans for when you are too old and infirm to live alone? When will you retire? How much will you need for the kind of retirement you expect (not want!) to be content. How can you use the system in place to make your money work best for you.
Do it. Do it SOON. Do it while you can.