The super divide and strategies to equalise

The superannuation divide

On average, women earn 14.2% less than men based on full time earnings. If you take overtime into account, the gap is 16.8%. When part-time work is taken into account, this figure blows out to 31.3%. And, the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the pay gap.

Given that 93% of all primary carer leave is taken by women, it’s not surprising that there is a divide between the superannuation balances of men and women on retirement. While the gap is diminishing over time reflecting the positive shifts in work participation and the earning potential of women, it is currently estimated to be around 42%. That is, when a woman retires, she retires with around 42% less superannuation than a man.

While the situation is much better in SMSFs, a gap remains. Over the five years to June 2019, the average member balances of women increased by 28% to $654,000, however the average balance of a male was $784,000.

The Federal Budget proposal to remove the $450 threshold on superannuation guarantee payments (the minimum amount someone needs to earn in a month before an employer is required to pay superannuation guarantee) will help reduce the superannuation divide, but this is not intended to commence until 1 July 2022.

Superannuation equalisation

Where couples have significantly different superannuation account values but are of a similar age, there are practical reasons why they might look at evening out any gap.

Where one spouse is close to or likely to reach their transfer balance cap (between $1.6m and $1.7m), redirecting superannuation contributions to the spouse with the lower balance means that together, they maximise their tax-free income in retirement. Together, the couple can accumulate between $3.2 and $3.4 million tax-free.

You can make a contribution to your spouse’s superannuation fund up to their non-concessional cap (currently up to $110,000 depending on their superannuation balance). If they are under 67 years of age, you might also be able to use the bring-forward rule and contribute up to 3 years’ worth of non-concessional contributions in one year (up to $330,000 depending on their superannuation balance).

If your spouse is not working or a low income earner (assessable income less than $40,000), there is also a tax offset of up to $540 available on contributions you make on their behalf.

If your spouse is under 65 and not retired, you can split your superannuation with them. Up to 85% of your concessional superannuation contributions from your employer or salary sacrifice each year, can be directed to your spouse’s fund.

Actively addressing the value of each spouse’s superannuation account might also help to manage some of the issues that can occur when a spouse dies. While superannuation will pass to the beneficiary nominated in the death benefit nomination or estate, this does not always occur in the most practical or tax effective way. The superannuation rules in this area are complex, particularly when there have been family breakdowns in the past. It’s important to seek advice to ensure your superannuation is managed in a way that delivers the best possible outcome for your beneficiaries.

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