When I ask people what their retirement dreams are, the answers tend to be simple. Most of us just want to have enough saved to live a comfortable life doing more of the things that we enjoy. But for many of us, particularly women who take significant time out of their careers to care for others, the idea of living a comfortable retirement can seem more like a stretch target than a certainty. So, let’s delve deeper into women’s super.

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This article is brought to you by Nuffnang and Suncorp Super.

You may have heard the term ‘salary sacrifice’ around the office. Perhaps you didn’t bother looking into it, because let’s be honest, who wants to sacrifice even more of their salary? But did you know that it can actually reduce the amount of tax you pay? Yes, you heard right. Less tax to the government, and more money to you—or your super fund, anyway.

Let’s start by defining basic terms. Gross earnings is your pay before the tax is taken out. A marginal tax rate is the percentage of tax you pay depending on your gross earnings. In Australia, this starts at 19% for every dollar over $18,200, and goes up to about 30% on your first $180,000 and 45% for every dollar after that—and don’t forget the levies, which add an additional 4%! Ouch.

Now here’s where salary sacrifice comes in. This is when you take money from your gross earnings and put it into your super fund. Why? Because unlike your salary, all contributions to your super fund are only taxed at 15%. That’s a huge difference if your marginal tax rate is closer to the 45% end of the scale!

For those who are planning ahead for retirement, research has found that a couple in Australia wanting a comfortable retirement will need approximately $58,444 a year. Even assuming both retire at age 65 and get the age pension, that’s still roughly $510,000 you need in your super fund.

By starting early and getting more money into your super fund now, it will mean a larger difference. By sacrificing as little as $20—one meal out!—a week, you could have an extra $184,205 in your super fund if you start at age 25. Or for those of us a little older, $93,484 extra if you start at age 35. The ideal contribution amount for each person varies wildly depending on circumstances—it’s best that you talk to a financial adviser or financial planner so that you can get advice for your particular situation.

What does salary sacrificing mean for your take-home pay? How much is your pay actually reduced by? For someone earning $60,000 a year, without contributions they would take home about $920 each week. But here’s the thing—sacrificing $20 a week does not mean your take-home pay goes down by $20. Because your gross pay is now decreased by $1,040 a year, you are taxed on the decreased amount. This means that each week, your pay only goes down by $13 for that $20 sacrifice. (Do note, after the 15% super tax, only $17 goes into your super fund—but you still end up ahead!)

For those interested, you can see the full details of the calculations and assumptions below, kindly provided by Suncorp Super.


Before you get carried away by the benefits, however, keep in mind that you can only sacrifice up to $30,000 a year—or $35,000 if you’re over 49 years old. That includes the mandatory 9.5% that your employer contributes.

As salary sacrifice can be a somewhat complex topic, Suncorp has created a fun online game called Super Slinger that you can play to get a better understanding of how salary sacrificing works—and how it can work for you. (Added bonus: It doesn’t keep asking you to buy additional in-game items!) Leaders in Heels had a chance to play with it, and not only was it rather addictive, it was also helpful in learning about salary sacrificing. Sounds like an odd combo, right?

The game itself is simple to play, where you have a number of projectiles that you need to fling at a structure to topple the prize nested above or within. The theme itself is cute, related to the idea of salary sacrificing. Your projectiles are coins—your money—and you’re flinging them into the future to secure items like hoverboards and time machines. At the end of each successful level, you’re not only rewarded with your prize, but with an interesting fact about salary sacrificing.

Of course, it never hurts to hear from experts in the field, either. Below, Suncorp Super answers some common questions:

1. How can someone get a rough estimate of the amount they need to retire, as different people have different views of ‘comfortable’?

Take a look at our Retirement Simulator. All you need to know if you current super balance and how much you earn!

2. How does my super fund earn money?

Earnings will depend on your investment choices. Even with the cyclical nature of markets, in general, topping up your super on a regular basis means you should have more in retirement. Your investment returns will compound as you contribute more.

3. What are your top tips in regards to salary sacrificing for anyone, regardless of age?

  • Start early
  • No amount is too small
  • Don’t exceed your contribution limit. There’s a limit to the amount you can contribute to your super each year, before and after tax, depending on your age without incurring additional tax.
  • Check if it’s the best strategy for you. For those earning under $50,454, an after tax contribution may be more effective as you may be eligible to receive a government co-contribution.

When it comes to superannuation, everyone should be aware of the basics behind it – how it works, how to grow it and why it’s important. But for many, superannuation is a confusing conundrum, and if you’re young and starting out in the workforce, it isn’t even a consideration.

But if you’re a female, understanding superannuation and how it affects you should be a priority. An April 2014 article in The Age states that “women in their 50s and over have roughly half the super balances of men the same age”. When women are more often than not the primary caregivers in their families, and therefore the ones who work part time or stay home full time, their ability to earn consistent money to top up superannuation is depleted.

So what can women do to ensure their superannuation is secure, regardless of life and career stage?

The hard truth about women and super

Aside from the fact that women will spend more time than their male counterparts in either part-time work or without an income due to at-home family responsibilities, the reality is that women live longer than men too, and it’s therefore even more important that women accrue enough in their super to retire. You will also need to take into account that single parents are often women, and therefore the ability to generate money for retirement is harder for a single mother.

But there are ways for women to take care of their superannuation!

“If you’re a female, understanding superannuation and how it affects you should be a priority”

Explain Superannuation to me!

Superannuation is vital because it’s your retirement money. This money is gathered throughout your working life and comes from assistance in the form of contributions from your employer, and at any point can be topped up by you, too. Co-contributions from the government can also make up your superannuation account.

There are many superannuation funds you can chose from and it’s important you read the documentation and make decisions based on what’s right for you. CareSuper, for example, is run only to profit members and not shareholder or financial planners, so that means more of YOUR money goes back to YOU.

Understanding your Super fund

Whether you’re finally getting off the company-set super fund you were automatically given, or simply re-evaluating your super fund options, it’s important to understand what your super fund can do for you, and what areas of your fund you should focus on. When comparing super funds, remember to:

  • Look out for low account keeping fees
  • Choose a super fund that has done well in the past 5-6 years or so,and not just last year’s Money Magazine’s top winner
  • Analyse the fund’s investment options and see if they suit you
  • Check that you have insurance (life, disability etc.) if you – or your family – want to be covered in the event of a loss of income

“Women more often than not … work part time or stay home full time … their ability to earn consistent money to top up superannuation is depleted”

Building your super – Spouse Contributions

You or your spouse can help the other via Spouse Contributions, a system wherein your spouse/partner makes contributions to your account regardless of your income. The spouse making the contribution can put in up to $3000 into your account each year, and if they’re helping someone that is a low-income earner, they may receive a rebate.

CareSuper offers this facility and is particularly valuable for women who work part-time or stay home full time.

Building your super – Co-contribution

This scheme allows those earning up to $49,488 to be eligible for a tax-free contribution to your superannuation from the federal government, provided you also make an after-tax contribution to your super account. You might receive up to $500 in one financial year as a co-contribution amount from the federal government, however this depends on the amount you also contributed.

“Lost super … is just poor money management, particularly as each account attracts account keeping fees that are probably eating away at the paltry amount of money it holds”

Building your super – Consolidate!

Lost super floating around in the ether in a number of different super accounts is just poor money management, particularly as each account attracts account keeping fees that are probably eating away at the paltry amount of money it holds. If you’re one of those women who have switched jobs often, then consolidating your super is a great way to boost your retirement fund. Track down your lost super via sites like www.findmysuper.com.au or the ATO’s SuperSeeker page.

Building your super – Salary sacrificing

Grow your super – ask your employers about salary sacrificing. This is when you agree with your employer, on top of the 9.5% they must contribute to your super fund, to also pay part of your before-tax pay into your super fund.

Educate yourself

If you’re still unsure about the best ways for you to top up your super, choose a fund that’s right for you or if you have any other general enquiries, it’s important that you get that information cleared up for you.


Featured photo credit: jDevaun via photopin cc

This post is in collaboration with, and has been sponsored by, CareSuper. Terms and Conditions apply to any product you consider. This post contains factual info and my own opinion about super in general. It doesn’t take into account your situation. While Leaders in Heels does not personally recommend CareSuper, information about superannuation can be obtained from their website caresuper.com.au and it’s always good to get your own advice about financial matters.