Superannuation for parents: Learn the basics and boost your super

Trying to wrap your head around superannuation can feel overwhelming. However, getting a better grip on your super can help set you up for both your career and your family. 

Erika Jonsson of Australian investment service Six Park takes us through the superannuation basics, including how to protect your super and build a safety net for your future.

Superannuation isn’t usually the first consideration when you start a family. In fact, many Australians don’t think about super at all, with many of us simply crossing our fingers and hoping the powers that be are managing our super accounts just fine. 

The following tips are helpful for all working parents, but with the gender pay gap remaining steady, it’s important for working women to pay particular attention to this issue.

Have you heard about the 2019 superannuation changes?

More than half of Australians are unaware of the 2019 superannuation shake-up. If you’re one of them, let us give you a quick rundown of some of the key points: 

  • All super fund exit fees are banned.
  • Super balances of less than $6,000 now have fees capped at 3% (which may see fees reduce for some members).
  • Life and disability insurance will now lapse for superannuation accounts that have been inactive for 16 months.
  • Superannuation accounts which have not received a contribution for 16 months and have balances below $6,000 will be transferred to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), who will attempt to auto-consolidate the amounts into the member’s active account.

The superannuation pay gap

A recent survey on super attitudes found less than a quarter of women have a long-term financial plan and only 29% report knowing the exact value of their super1. The fact is, women have a greater need to think about super, particularly before or during any break from the workforce. On average, women retire with half as much in savings as men, while one in three women retire with no super at all.

According to the latest Superannuation account balances by age and gender report, women retire with an average of $157,000 in super compared with $270,710 for men2. Both figures fall a long way short of the $545,000 recommended for a comfortable retirement3, but women have more ground to make up—and they generally live longer, too.

Why do women have less super?

The gender pay gap and women’s greater role as carers come together with stark financial consequences. Figures from the ABS and Workplace Gender Equality Agency show:

  • In 2016-2017, women took 95% of the primary parental leave used by non-public sector employees. Conversely, 95% of secondary parental leave was taken by men4.
  • Women make up 68.1% of all part-time workers, while nearly two thirds of the full-time workforce are men5.
  • The national gender pay gap currently sits at 14%—a difference of $241.50 per week6.

Many women don’t make super contributions for years after having a baby, which means they miss out on the compound growth so critical to building a healthy retirement balance.

What can working parents do to boost their super?

OK, so that’s the figures out of the way. Now to the important part: what can you do, as a working parent, to boost your super? 

First up are some simple measures to protect the super you already have. Second is considering how to build super efficiently, making every dollar count.

Protecting current super

  • Review your fees: Knowledge is power—so empower yourself! If you’re paying more than 1% in fees, you should consider switching funds: low fees are critical to compound growth, and what seems like a small difference now can make a big difference to your retirement balance. ASIC offers excellent information on how to choose and compare funds.
  • Review your fund’s performance: Consider growth as well as whether your funds are invested according to your attitude to risk and your investment horizon. Again, ASIC’s tips for choosing a super fund provide a solid starting point.
  • Consolidate: If you have super in more than one account, roll over to the fund with the lowest fees and best performance. While you’re at it, search for any lost super.

Building future super

There are lots of ways to contribute to super, so you may want to seek financial advice on the best strategies for your situation. In the meantime, some options to consider include:

  1. Make voluntary contributions: There can be significant tax benefits to contributing more to your superannuation. Consider before-tax contributions such as salary sacrifice, as well as after-tax contributions. Visit the ATO’s website as a starting point to learn more about personal superannuation contributions. We also recommend checking out ASIC’s handy super contributions optimiser calculator.
  2. Plan ahead if possible: You might be able to make extra contributions leading up to a career break or, if you have a partner, they can make contributions for you. Employers can have different conditions around paying super while you are on parental leave, so check in with them before or during your leave.

Action now equals more money later

There are never enough hours in the day as parents, and at times getting through each day can feel like a win. But prioritising your finances around critical milestones has the power to change our lives—so don’t wait.

Helpful links: 

Written by Erika Jonsson, Head of Communication at Six Park.


1ASIC, Australian Financial Attitudes and Behaviour Tracker, March 2018
2ASFA, Superannuation account balance by age and gender, October 2017
3ASFA, How much super will I need?, June 2019
4ABS, Gender Indicators, Australia, September 2018
5WGEA, Gender workplace statistics at a glance 2018-19, August 2019
6WGEA, Gender workplace statistics at a glance 2018-19, August 2019

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