Actuaries walk the walk on women's super

Rice Warner Actuaries wants to pay its female employees more superannuation than its male employees and has applied to the Human Rights Commission for an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act.

Rice Warner Actuaries wants to pay its female employees more superannuation than its male employees and has applied to the Human Rights Commission for an exemption from the Sex Discrimination Act.

Rice Warner, which provides management consulting and actuarial advice to the financial services industry, wants to pay its women workers an additional 1.5 percentage points above the 9 per cent superannuation guarantee. The push follows the release of its report Valuing females and rewarding them in retirement, which identifies the barriers that leave women with less retirement income. The report, written by Rice Warner's deputy chief executive officer, Melissa Fuller, suggests employers could be doing more to help close the retirement savings gap.

Rice Warner estimates its female employees will live on average three years longer than men and undertook modelling to calculate how much additional super would be required to cover this period. As well as living longer, the report says women retire two years earlier.

One of the main reasons women retire with less than men is that women are paid less. The Australian Bureau of Statistics said this year that the gender pay gap was 17.4 per cent. The biggest gap, of 33 per cent, is in the financial services sector.

To help women with their retirement savings, the report says the government could include the superannuation guarantee on its paid parental leave scheme. The scheme is 18 weeks on the minimum wage with no superannuation guarantee. The Coalition has a policy of 26 weeks on full salary, capped at $150,000, with the superannuation guarantee.

The planned increase in the superannuation guarantee - from 9 per cent to 12 per cent in the financial year beginning July 1, 2019 - will help boost Australia's super balances over time.

But Fuller says women need to engage with their retirement savings. "Super funds and employers can help make women aware of the issues, but women have to take action themselves," she says.

Three steps to get ahead

Three tips on how women can build their retirement savings:

Make voluntarily contributions in your 20s to compensate for any pause in contributions during your 30s when you are likely to begin a family.

For those earning less than $31,920 a year, any voluntary after-tax contributions will be matched by the government up to $1000 a year. The co-contribution scheme's matching reduces for those earning more than $31,920 until income reaches $61,920, when there is no government contribution.

Another strategy is to work longer and defer retirement. Working longer extends the period of superannuation contributions and earnings on the super and means the retirement nest egg will be needed to fund fewer years in retirement.

Source: Rice Warner Actuaries

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