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Who’s the Boss Survey: Women big losers in super savings

Australia’s superannuation system is failing WA women, putting them at risk of having to rely on the age pension or their husbands in retirement.

The insecure future facing women has been exposed in a groundbreaking survey of the inner financial affairs of WA families.

More than 1600 people responded to the Who’s the Boss survey — carried out for The Weekend West and WA Super — which found only half of single WA women could expect to have enough savings for a semi-independent retirement and less than one-quarter could expect to be comfortable in their golden years.

The survey also revealed financial vulnerability was not limited to women:

  • 23 per cent of West Australians worry about money and many are relying on an inheritance and rising house prices to bankroll the future.
  • Four in five baby boomers intend to put an enjoyable retirement ahead of leaving an inheritance.
  • The biggest money worries are in households earning $100,000 to $150,000 a year; and
  • People in regional WA worry most about money.

CoreData WA director Kristen Turnbull said some of the biggest risks were faced by so-called “silver splitters” — women who found themselves alone in their later working years with lower savings. “The husband isn’t a retirement plan, but women in a relationship are whole lot better off,” she said.

Uniting Care West deputy chief executive Kim Brooklyn said there had been a big increase in women in their 50s being homeless after years of marriage. “They end up homeless or couch surfing because they don’t have enough money,” she said. “It’s an incredibly distressing experience.”

A detailed analysis of savings and incomes shows more than 40 per cent of men are well-placed to get beyond the $545,000 savings figure the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia says a single person needs for a comfortable retirement.

Only 25 per cent of women could expect to accumulate $545,000 — and only if their careers were not interrupted by raising children and they enjoyed similar career progression to their male counterparts.

The average super balance of men is more than 70 per cent higher than women, with some of the biggest differences when women head into their 50s after years of job interruption.

WA Super chief executive Fabian Ross pointed to Roy Morgan research showing that at age 42, a working woman’s average earnings were about $68,000 a year and their superannuation balance about $115,000. Male workers averaged $93,500 in earnings and a $153,500 in super.

Mr Ross said a woman in that position would need to save $140 a week to reach a comfortable retirement goal — versus about $45 for the average man.

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