Why women need a unique focus on their finances

Posted on 9 April 2021
Why women need a unique focus on their finances

Money and Life
(Financial Planning Association of Australia)

For many reasons, women face additional hurdles when it comes to achieving financial freedom. So it's important to take control of your finances now, and be proactive when it comes to planning your financial future.

Ladies, it's time for a reality check. The unfortunate truth is that women experience low-income and poverty at a much higher rate than men. In fact, up to 40 per cent of older, single, retired women now live in poverty, according to not-for-profit foundation Women In Super.

There are many reasons why women end up with less later in life, but it largely comes down to structural and systemic issues. The so called gender pay gap, super gap, wealth gap, investing gap, time spent on unpaid work and the 'pink tax' all play a role.

Luckily, it's not all bad news. Flourix Wealth principal advisor Rachel O'Connor says with a little knowhow, women can take control of their finances and overcome some of the well-known financial traps.

"While keeping up pressure to close the gap is important, women can't afford to wait for the world to change," Ms O'Connor says. "We need to take things into our own hands and make sure we're managing our finances to minimise the impact of this on us personally."

The shocking statistics

In case you're in any doubt about the seriousness of the issue, consider that women retire with 47 per cent less superannuation than men, yet live five years longer on average.

Why is that the case? Here are some of the key drivers behind the gap:

  • Women spend an average five-years out of the workforce to care for children and other family members, missing out on income, promotions and superannuation payments.
  • They're more likely to work part time (43%), spending five-hours more per day caring for children than men.
  • Even when women do work full-time, they earn 18 per cent less than men. Sometimes for the same job.
  • Female graduates earn $5,000 less than their male counterparts, again, sometimes for the same job.
  • Yet the 'pink tax' means that women pay seven per cent more across the board, on items ranging from clothing and personal care products to pens and kid's toys.
  • Finally, women are more likely to dip into their own savings when things go wrong in a relationship, choosing to provide for their family while neglecting their own retirement.

It's little wonder that women over 55 are considered the fastest growing homeless demographic in Australia.

So what can you do about it?

Plenty, according to Ms O'Connor, who says it's essential to have proper planning, investment and protection strategies in play.

"One element is being aggressive with your strategies, for example setting stretch goals for saving and investing in growth assets. Other aspects include mitigating risk, so that a setback doesn't make an already challenging situation impossible.

Supercharge your super

One of the best ways to save for the future is through your superannuation fund, due to the associated tax benefits. But not just any strategy will do. Women need a tailored approach to ensure their money lasts as long as possible.

Ms O'Connor says one of the biggest contributors to the super gap is career breaks, whether it's for family or other reasons, such as returning to study, change careers or travel.

"Making voluntary super contributions before you leave the workforce will give you a head start and help reduce the impact of a break in your career," she says.

"Many employers will allow you to salary sacrifice a bit more of your pay into super, which can increase your balance and also reduce your tax. This can be a great way to take control of the situation and ensure that you aren't falling victim to these gaps."

If your income has dropped due to unpaid leave or part-time work, you may qualify for the government super co-contribution. Or, if you have a spouse, they may qualify for a tax offset if they contribute to your super while your income is low. Another option is contribution splitting, where up to 85 per cent of your spouse's super is transferred to you each year to even up your balances. Speak with a financial planner to find out what's the best option for you.

Invest with purpose

While having a strong savings plan is important, you may also need to take a proactive approach to investment to reach your goals.

"Investing, even a small amount, whether in your own name or via extra super contributions is a good place to start," Ms O'Connor says. "Many online investment platforms enable you to start with a very low balance (though be sure you know what fees you're paying, because this can eat into the returns pretty quickly on lower balances)."

And it's never too early, or too late, to start.

"The strategies you adopt and the areas you focus on are likely to differ depending on your age, but the end goal will be the same. To increase your financial freedom and security."

Insurance

Once you're on track to building your financial nest egg, it's important to have the right protection strategies in place. That includes adequate insurance and an emergency fund of at least three month's living expenses.

"Illness and injury can totally derail your financial plans, so it's really important to consider what you and your family will need to stay afloat should the worse occur," Ms O'Connor says.

"Insurance can be structured to be relatively cheap depending on your circumstances. It can be similar to the cost of your mobile phone bill each month depending on a number of factors."

Starting young

Creating a better financial future for all women means we need to start early, by teaching our girls money management tools and techniques that will help them overcome these hurdles.

Start a savings plan early and look into online investment platforms offering 'children's accounts'.

"These can be a great way for kids to start learning about investing," Ms O'Connor says. "They can start with relatively small amounts and watch their money grow using the app. Due to compound interest, starting early could give our girls a serious head start."

Make sure to do your research thoroughly before signing up, as fees can quickly eat into low account balances. Look for accounts that are fee-free for those under-18.

Perhaps the most important thing women can do to reach their financial goals is get expert financial advice. A financial planning professional can give you advice on the best superannuation and investment strategies, as well as which insurance/s you'll need, to reach your financial goals sooner.

Posted in: News  

'Your future, your super' laws need work

Posted on 8 April 2021
'Your future, your super' laws need work

Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)

Superannuation laws due to take effect in less than 90 days are a $3 trillion concern for the superannuation industry and consumer advocates.

Martin Fahy, chief executive of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, wants the introduction of the laws delayed until July 2022.

He also wants the proposed performance test watered down into a two-year "trial run".

Super Consumers Australia director Xavier O'Halloran agrees the proposed bill needs work but warns delay will hurt consumers.

"For too long trustees have been left alone in the dark with our money," Mr O'Halloran told a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday.

"Australia's superannuation system must move to a model which does more to ensure all people have a single, high-performing superannuation fund."

Under the new laws, underperforming funds will be cut off from new members and required by the prudential regulator to shape up or exit the market.

But the proposed performance test covers investment performance and not costly administration fees.

This approach will turn up the heat on underperforming fund managers, but does little to target inefficiently administered funds, Super Consumers Australia said.

Multiple accounts are also a target for lawmakers as savings can get lost and workers can be assigned to a default fund that might turn out to be a dud.

The new laws should create a "best in show" model where people get the information needed to select a fund when they enter the workforce, Mr O'Halloran said.

There are 850,000 unintended multiple accounts created each year, and holding multiple accounts can reduce a typical worker's balance by $51,000.

Underperforming products can reduce a typical member's balance by more than $500,000 by the time they retire.

But Dr Fahy said the July 1 start date will place an "enormous burden" on employers to manage the changes, including the transition to one default account for workers.

He said the bill should not be passed until the draft regulations that detail how it will work are available.

Scott Donald, director of the Centre for Law, Markets and Regulation at the University of NSW, is also concerned about the lack of detail and loose wording for "ministerial discretion".

He said investment managers won't be able to determine what will fall foul of the new laws.

 

Posted in: News  

Australia hits right balance in recovery

Posted on 26 March 2021
Australia hits right balance in recovery

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)

Treasury chief Steven Kennedy believes few countries have experienced what Australia has achieved in responding to last year's recession relatively good health outcomes, smaller economic impacts and now, rapid recovery.

"By any measure, Australian governments have struck the right balance," Dr Kennedy told senators in Canberra.

"Our outcomes have been world leading, both in the health and the economic sphere."

He said the economy has now recovered 85 per cent of the decline from its pre-COVID level of output.

"Growth will now begin to moderate as we move past the initial phase of the recovery," he told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.

"While the economy is recovering strongly, well supported by fiscal and monetary policy settings, we are well below our pre-pandemic economic growth path and it will take some time to fully recover."

He said the peak in unemployment now appears to have passed following strong employment gains in recent months.

In the mid-year budget review released in December, Treasury had predicted the unemployment peaking at 7.5 per cent in the March quarter.

Instead, the unemployment rate has steadily fallen, dropping to 5.8 per cent in February.

"Nonetheless, while outcomes to date have tended to surprise on the upside, there is still significant spare capacity in the labour market," Dr Kennedy said.

New figures show there remains strong demand to hire staff with job advertisements posted on the internet jumping by a further seven per cent in February to be 24.8 per cent over the year.

This is the 10th straight month job ads, as compiled by the National Skills Commission, have risen after striking a record low in April 2020 and the depths of last year's recession.

Job ads grew in all eight broad occupational groups monitored by the commission and recruitment activity increased across all states and territories.

But Dr Kennedy expects the number of people defined as being in long-term unemployment those who have been looking for, but been without, paid work for a year or more will jump in coming months.

"This reflects the flow-on impacts of the spike in unemployment at the onset of the crisis in March and April last year," he said.

Meanwhile, Australia recorded its third consecutive goods trade surplus above $8 billion for the first time in history.

Preliminary trade figures show exports grew by two per cent in February, buoyed by a record $1.3 billion of cereals exports, which helped offset a 12 per cent decline in iron ore shipments to China.

Imports also grew by two per cent, led by a 24 per cent increase road vehicle inbound shipments.

Posted in: News  

Expect jobless rate 'bump' after JobKeeper

Posted on 25 March 2021
Expect jobless rate 'bump' after JobKeeper

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)

Treasury boss Steven Kennedy expects a "bump" in the unemployment rate as the JobKeeper wage subsidy comes to an end next week.

Addressing senators in Canberra, he expects between 100,000 to 150,000 people receiving the JobKeeper will lose employment.

Even so, he predicts the unemployment rate will continue to fall across the course of this year and into the following years.

"We expect the unemployment rate to have peaked and will continue that downward trajectory even if there is a bump or two in the next month or so," " Dr Kennedy told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Wednesday.

The jobless rate dropped to 5.8 per cent in February after steadily declining from a 22-year peak of 7.5 per cent during the depths of last year's recession.

There were around 1.1 million employees still reliant on the JobKeeper subsidy at the end of January, smaller than the 1.3 million Treasury had predicted in the mid-year budget review released in December.

Dr Kennedy said JobKeeper has played a crucial role in supporting the economy and driving the recovery.

"In our view it is appropriate for the program to end as other support measures take effect and to allow the economy to continue adjusting," he told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.

"We believe that in the order of 100,000 to 150,000 JobKeeper recipients may lose employment at the completion of the program, though there is a wide band of uncertainty around this estimate."

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said small businesses and workers have been warning the government for months that cutting JobKeeper will cut jobs, but those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

"If the Morrison government hadn't wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on companies which didn't need JobKeeper, there'd be more room to support those small businesses and workers which still do," Dr Chalmers told AAP.

Since JobKeeper was first introduced in April, more than 2.7 million employees and about 680,000 business have left the scheme, representing a 72 per cent reduction.

Australian Taxation Office data also shows that all industries have seen a significant decrease in the number of employees covered by JobKeeper, including a 83 per cent fall in retail and a 69 per cent drop in accommodation and food services.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the final JobKeeper numbers for January confirm that Australia's economic recovery is broad based across all states, regions and industries.

"We know that some families and businesses are still doing it tough and our message is that the Morrison government continues to have your back," Mr Frydenberg said.

He said the government's economic recovery plan will continue to provide support through targeted measures as well as tax cuts, business incentives and a record investment in skills and training and infrastructure.

Posted in: News  

Super contributions reflect gender pay gap

Posted on 15 March 2021
Super contributions reflect gender pay gap

(Australian Associated Press)

The gender pay gap means men receive $12 billion more in employer superannuation contributions each year than women.

Analysis of ATO tax file median balances also reveals that women retire with 36 per cent less super than men and women have less super at every stage.

The super balance gender gap begins to expand when a woman hits her 30s, increasing from just under seven per cent for women in their late 20s to almost 35 per cent once a woman reaches her late 40s.

And one in three women retires with no super balance at all, according to a 2016 Senate report.

A report by financial comparison website Finder reveals women retire with an average $122,848 compared with men who retire with $154,453.

Meanwhile, the Financy Women's Index fell in the December quarter, predicting that the time frame for achieving financial equality increased to 101 years.

"We are unlikely to see equality in Australia until the year 2122," Bianca Hartge-Hazelman from the FWI said.

Industry Super Australia strategic engagement director Gemma Pinnell said lifting the rate to 12 per cent as legislated was vital to lift women's savings, with more women than men likely to receive the super rate increase.

"Until we fix inequities in the super system, like the outdated $450 threshold, we will continue to see women retiring with balances that are persistently lower than men," she said in a statement on Monday.

New research reveals three-quarters of women are unlikely to retire having received a full 40 years of super contributions, and yet key government modelling assumes everyone retires with four decades of super.

Women average just 30.1 years of contributions, while men average 36.2 years.

The research to be released this week analyses two decades of Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey to estimate the actual labour force experience of women over their life.

It highlights a dramatic flaw in the Retirement Income Review base case modelling which assumes everyone receives 40-years of super contributions leading to big overestimates in retirement balances.

The report's co-author Roger Wilkins said it "seems likely" COVID would have increased the unpaid work disparity last year.

"The increase in child care provided at home brought about by closure of child care centres and learning from home is likely to have been disproportionately borne by women," Mr Wilkins said.

A recent retirement survey, commissioned by Industry Super Australia, found that on average women spend 12 years less in the full-time workforce than men, with that time away from work having a dramatic impact on their super balance.

ISA deputy chief executive Matt Linden said modelling based on wrong assumptions had serious ramifications, with some wanting to cut super for millions who otherwise wouldn't save enough for retirement.

"This would be a terrible outcome as a more realistic working life pattern shows the current super rate is not adequate for most women to fund a secure retirement," he said.

Posted in: News  
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