Women are faced with new retirement realities since Coronavirus hit


Kelly Power

Australians are feeling less confident about their retirement in a post Coronavirus world and think they might be forced to delay retirement and work longer than expected, according to new research by Colonial First State (CFS).

The new CFS Retirement Realities research found:

  • Nearly half (45 per cent) of Australians are either scared or do not feel financially very confident about retiring.
  • 23 per cent of Australians aged 30-65 say they will be forced to delay retirement and work longer as a result of the Coronavirus.
  • A third of women do not feel confident about retiring compared to men (33 per cent versus 25 per cent).
  • While those over 55 are more confident they can still retire as planned, Australians aged between 35-49 are the most sceptical and financially underprepared.

While one in three Australians (34 per cent) confirmed that they saved less than usual because of loss of income and / or increase in bills, half are planning to change their lifestyle financially after the pandemic, reducing spending and keeping a closer eye on their budget.

Colonial First State’s General Manager, Product, Kelly Power, said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has significantly changed the world, not only socially but financially too. These are extremely challenging times for many people.

“It has been a big wake up call for those Australians in their prime working age regarding their employment, savings, expenses, investments and super, and many have been forced to get a better grasp of their finances.

“Younger Australians who still have time before retirement are feeling more anxious about retiring than their older counterparts because they’re still building up their savings pool while the reality of retirement costs start sinking in.

“The good news is there are some simple ways to re-build your nest egg and boost your retirement income, and we’re already seeing some Australians starting to tackle this. Our research found that many of us are willing to make sacrifices to get back on track, reducing spending and keeping a closer eye on our budgets, which is a positive sign,” Ms Power said.

Women could be worst impacted

The research confirmed that while Coronavirus has shaken retirement plans for many Australians, women have felt the financial impact more than men.

A third of women do not feel confident about retiring compared to men (33 per cent versus 25 per cent) as they have been able to save less during the pandemic. However, women are more willing to reduce spending compared to men (53 per cent versus 46 per cent) once this is over.

The research also found that a third of women (32 per cent) surveyed do not have an investment portfolio outside of super, compared to just 17 per cent of men, potentially leaving them with less income after retirement.

Ms Power said: “The gender gap in the Australian superannuation system is a real issue that sees women financially disadvantaged in retirement. It was an issue before the current crisis, and it will be an even bigger problem when we emerge from the recession.

“As an industry this is something that is concerning for us and we need to do everything we can to support women impacted by Coronavirus, help them protect their wealth, and rebuild as the economy recovers.

“Women would benefit from further initiatives and incentives to make additional contributions to super to ensure they have adequate retirement savings. Specific measures include mandating super contributions on paid parental leave and removing the $450 per month threshold for superannuation to be paid. This will also improve the retirement savings adequacy for low-income earners and casual participants in the workforce who often hold multiple jobs, many of whom are women.”

Australians are ‘super-savvy’ but there’s a way to go

If there’s one good thing to come from the pandemic, it’s that more Australians are starting to talk about their retirement money.

The CFS Retirement Realities research revealed that while 42 per cent of Australians confirmed they regularly check their super balances, an additional 16 per cent of Australians have started checking their super balances more frequently since the Coronavirus pandemic, increasing to 26 per cent of Australians for those aged 35-39.

Ms Power said: “It’s encouraging to see that that Australians recognise the importance of super as a savings vehicle for retirement and are showing higher levels of engagement.”

However, Ms Power said the research showed there was still room for improvement as a quarter (26 per cent) of respondents said they didn’t know what their super balance was or what fund it was in.

“We know that there have been a lot of Australians needing to access their super early as a way of surviving income loss, but either way super has become a more important topic of discussion in Australian households.

“Being actively engaged with your super is critical given a quarter of Australians aged 30-65 years old don’t have an investment portfolio outside of super.

“We want more Australians to engage with their super and take positive action to make their personal retirement goals come true,” Ms Power concluded.

Taking control – simple strategies to help Australians rebuild their nesteggs:

  • Know your number: Everyone’s circumstances are different and planning for the future starts with understanding how much you will need to lead a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. Make the most of free tools like ASIC’s MoneySmart retirement planner calculator.
  • Make small top ups: Once you are back at work, making a small super top up of $10 a week could make a big difference over the long term and how much money you have in retirement. For example, by salary sacrificing just an extra $10 per week of before-tax income, a 30 year old could save an extra $25,404* in today’s dollars by retirement at age 67*. Just beware there are caps or limits to how much can be contributed to super each year and various tax rules apply. You can make before-tax concessional contributions, such as salary sacrifice, or after-tax contributions.
  • Understand what eligibility you might have for government support: Check whether your eligible for the low income super tax offset (LISTO) if your finances have changed. LISTO is a government super payment of up to $500 per year to offset tax on concessional contributions and help low income earners save for retirement. For people who have earned less than $37,000 it will happen automatically when they lodge their tax return, providing the super fund has a copy of the super member’s tax file number. Additionally, low to middle income earners could also be eligible for an extra $500 from the government via super co-contribution, providing they meet the criteria, including making an after-tax contribution.

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