This article has been sponsored by MLC.
Women are at a disadvantage when it comes to retirement savings.
We still tend to earn less than men, even within the same career path. And we tend to live longer. That means we have to stretch a smaller superannuation further.
If you’re a mum who has taken time out to care for children, your superannuation will be even less at retirement because of months or years of not contributing to your superannuation at all.
The good news is you can create a superannuation strategy that maximises your retirement savings.
The key is to not ignore your super or defer retirement planning while you focus on raising a family, but to take a proactive approach to your super while you’re still young and keep on top of the savings options available that will allow you to maximise your super.
Below are three strategies for mums to maximise your superannuation.
*As always, this is for general information only and is no substitute for professional financial advice. Consult a professional financial adviser to get specific advice based on your own personal circumstances.
STRATEGIES TO MAXIMISE YOUR SUPERANNUATION
1. BE PROACTIVE WITH YOUR SUPERANNUATION
Don’t ignore your superannuation or put off until ‘later’ and trust that it will all work out ok.
Instead, make your super a priority, spend a couple of hours a year (which isn’t very long) assessing your super strategy. If you automate any voluntary contributions you make, your nest egg will build nicely while you get on with everyday living.
Check your statement from your super fund each year. Check your balance, the contributions that have been made throughout the year (and whether they are accurate), check the fees (low fees means higher returns for you) and the performance of your fund. Make sure your super fund has your tax file number and all of your details are up to date.
Does your super fund offer insurance for accidents and illness? While you may not get paid for being a mum, what you do is invaluable. If something was to happen to you, paying people to do your job would put a real economic burden on your family. Insurance can give you and your family peace of mind.
Finally, consider whether you are going to make extra personal contributions and how much extra you will contribute as part of your long-term retirement strategy.
2. PAY EXTRA WHILE YOU’RE WORKING
My mother recently retired and as superannuation wasn’t an option when she was younger, her super wasn’t as healthy as she would have liked. So for the last few years of her working life, she salary sacrificed as much as she could into her super to top it up for retirement.
But you don’t want to wait until the last minute to do this.
Depending on your personal circumstances, making extra voluntary contributions to your superannuation on top of your employer contributions may be a savvy move, particularly if you plan to have time out of the workforce to raise children. By pre-empting this time-out and putting extra contributions into your super beforehand, you can mitigate some of the loss.
It’s hard to think of topping up your super when you’re trying to save for things like a house deposit or starting a family. But even just a few dollars a week can make a huge difference at retirement.
If you decide to make extra contributions to your superannuation, you have two options:
- salary sacrificing
- after-tax contributions
Salary sacrificing into your super means forgoing part of your pay and having it placed into your super fund instead. This amount is not counted as assessable income for income tax purposes, but it is taxed in the super fund, possibly at a lower rate than your income tax.
For more information on salary sacrificing, it’s criteria and limitations, see the ATO website here.
Alternatively, you can make after-tax contributions to your super fund (see details from the ATO here). If you’re a low or middle-income earner, you may be eligible for the super co-contribution scheme. This is where to government match your extra contribution up to a maximum amount ($500 in 2014-2015).
For more information, see Super Co-contribution on ATO’s website.
A financial advisor will tell you which option is best for your circumstances.
3. CONTRIBUTE WHEN YOU’RE NOT WORKING
If you’ve chosen to have time out of the workforce to raise a family, or you work casually or part-time, you can still make voluntary contributions to your superannuation.
You have 2 options:
- you can make voluntary contributions as per above from any income you receive, including part-time or casual income, self-employed or business income, the Family Tax Benefit, gifts and ‘informal’ income
- your spouse can make contributions on your behalf
Your spouse (married or de facto) can make contributions to your super on your behalf so that it continues to grow.
Your spouse can:
- make voluntary after-tax contributions
- split their own super contributions
Whether these options are right for you will depend on your individual circumstances and your combined income, so it’s important to seek professional advice first.
If your spouse makes after-tax contributions to your super, they may be eligible for a tax offset. For more information on eligibility criteria, see the ATO website.
Alternatively, your spouse can choose to ‘split’ their super contributions with you by having some of their super contributions transferred to your super account. Contributions that can be split include the compulsory employer contributions, salary sacrifice contributions and tax-deductible personal contributions (for self-employed people) and they can only be split at the end of the financial year.
You will need to check whether your super funds offer super splitting and whether there are fees involved. Other eligibility requirements apply, so again, check out the ATO website page on contribution splitting or speak to your super fund or financial advisor.
Being a woman, and particularly, being a mum can put you at a disadvantage at retirement time. Mitigate this by being proactive with your super throughout all the stages and phases of your life.