Making the most of your superannuation: Strategies to maximise your retirement pot
17 August 2021
Superannuation builds up throughout your working life, so it stands to reason that when women leave the workforce to have children, their superannuation balances tend to suffer.
According to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, as of 2019, women continue to retire with roughly half the superannuation of men, with the overall gender difference in superannuation balances standing at 38.8% .
While the superannuation gap is slowly narrowing, women still have less savings than men making them vulnerable to poverty in retirement. There are many reasons for this but taking time out of work to have children and returning to part-time or casual work after kids are major contributors.
The gender super gap
When it comes to the amount we could be missing out on, women take an average career break of six years to have children. This is a whopping $48,734* in missed superannuation contributions, based on the average income.
Six years seems like a long time, but this is in part due to the fact that women are more likely to remain the primary caregivers when they return to work, often taking part-time or casual positions. While 47.2% of the workforce are women, only 37.9% of full-time employees are women . Consequently, women are also less likely to hold senior or managerial positions.
Further exacerbating the situation is the gender pay gap and women’s longer life expectancy. Currently, women are paid 13.4% less than men  but a 65-year-old woman can be expected to live three to four years longer than a man .
Issues women face in retirement
All of these factors mean women remain chronically unprepared for retirement when compared to men.
22% of women aged 55-64 have no super compared to 16% of men.
8.5% of women between 65 and 74 still have a mortgage.
55.1% of people receiving the age pension are women.
36% of women rely on their partner’s income as the main source of funds for retirement compared to 7% for men 
Superannuation is an important strategy to help women address inequitable outcomes in retirement. And fortunately, there are some simple strategies you can employ to help maximise what you have.
Strategies to help boost your super
Co-contribution & low-income super tax offset (LISTO)
Superannuation co-contributions help eligible people boost their retirement savings.
If you earn less than $54,837 and make personal (after-tax) contributions into super, the government may also contribute up to a maximum amount of $500.
If you earn $37,000 or less a year, you may be eligible to receive a LISTO payment. This is usually paid directly into your super fund. The LISTO is a contribution by the Government which seeks to return a 15% tax paid on concessional (before tax) contributions.
Consolidate super funds
Moving all your super into one account makes it easier to manage and helps to save on fees. But before you consolidate, do some research into each fund to see how they have performed and what services and features they offer. However, remember that returns represent past performance only and are not indicative of future performance. Also check where your employer contributions are being paid and if there is any insurance attached to the fund.
Once you have chosen your super account you can easily consolidate your funds online through the ATO. Go to my.gov.au and follow the steps to link the ATO and manage your super.
Member contributions made by your spouse into your superannuation can help accumulate funds for retirement. This is a contribution made using after-tax dollars, where a tax deduction has not been claimed.
The benefit of this strategy is that the contributing spouse can claim an 18% tax offset through their tax return. For your spouse to be eligible for the maximum tax offset, which works out to be $540, they need to contribute a minimum of $3,000 and your income needs to be $37,000 or less.
Contributions splitting can help single income couples share the accumulation of superannuation in a similar way to dual income couples.
It allows for a low income earning or non-working spouse to increase their superannuation balance by splitting super contributions. However, not all super contributions can be split and not all super funds will allow it.
You can apply to split super contributions either in the same financial year in which the contribution has been made or in the following financial year, however this will need to be checked with your fund.
Superannuation is important. The more you have, the more comfortable your life can be in retirement. And the sooner you start looking at strategies to maximise it, the more opportunity you will have to see results. Small changes implemented now can make a significant difference in retirement.
* Calculation based on the average female full-time salary of $1,562 per week multiplied by 10% missed Superannuation Guarantee Charge (SGC) over the six years. $1,562 x 52 weeks x 10% SGC x 6 years = $48,734