The COVID-19 crisis has seen many Australians taking steps to stay afloat with their finances. With women more likely than men to withdraw super to make up the shortfall in their income, what does this mean for their long term financial wellbeing? This article explores the reasons why a super withdrawal at this time could leave women financially vulnerable.
The Australian Government’s early access to superannuation scheme has seen 2.1m  Australians raid their retirement savings to cushion the financial blow of the COVID-19 economic fallout. The scheme, which allows a withdrawal of up to $20,000 over two financial years from April to September 2020, has recorded an average draw down of $7,486  per person in the first tranche. According to analysis from AMP, 21 per cent of women have already withdrawn their super balances, compared with 17 per cent of men.
A recent report released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) reveals the top four superannuation funds with the highest number of withdrawal applications were Australian Super, Hostplus, Sunsuper and the Retail Employees Super. These funds represent the highest proportion of members that work in hospitality, tourism, recreation, sport and retail, and paints a bleak picture of the industries most affected. Given that women represent more than 55 per cent of employees  in these sectors, a withdrawal of $20,000 could seriously undermine future financial security for women taking up the scheme.
Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Mind the gap
Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) , found the average superannuation balance for women aged 25 to 34 was $33,200, aged 35 to 44 is $69,300, and aged 45 to 54 estimated at $129,100. A withdrawal of $20,000 could potentially mean a reduction from $33,200 to $13,200, which is a 60% reduction in her superannuation balance. Given that women retire with an average of 40 per cent less superannuation  then men, this withdrawal leaves a sinkhole in her retirement savings and further widens the gap.
Industry Super Australia (ISA) calculated that the financial gap from now to retirement equated to $120,000 for a 25-year-old woman who accessed $20,000 of her super, while a 30-year-old would stand to lose out on $100,000, and a 40-year old $63,000. When compared to the average balance of a 65 year-old female’s superannuation at $245,100, you realise the extent of the damage.
2. Playing catch up
You may be thinking, ‘I’ll play catch up and make up the amount down the track’. We recognize that for some, covering the rent or loan repayments now takes priority over their future retirement. However, to recoup the equivalent of $10,000 back into superannuation requires an annual salary of $123,839 paying 9.5 per cent per annum in superannuation guarantee contributions. According to the ABS, the average weekly earnings for a female is $1,508.50 (or $78,442 per annum), which falls short of the six figure income required to replenish the shortfall.
3. Broken working patterns
Perhaps the thought of working extra hours has crossed your mind. Here is a sobering thought. A report from the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) on Women’s Economic Security in Retirement found that women are more likely than men to be working longer in a part-time capacity. This figure rises to 61% for women who care for family, stay-at-home mums, take a career break to study or are unable to find suitable full-time employment. The report goes on to say that the broken working patterns adversely affect a woman’s security in retirement.
4. Locking in losses
Chances are, your super is invested in a ‘balanced’ option. The average balanced portfolio has lost 10-12 per cent in the last month, underpinned by sharp falls in equity markets. A withdrawal now could potentially mean that you are withdrawing an amount of $20,000 that would otherwise be valued at $22,727, crystalizing a loss of $2,727, that should have been working for you within your superannuation.
5. Loss of insurance cover
A sizeable withdrawal of $20,000 from your super, combined with regular fund fees and insurance premiums, added to a break in working patterns, could push your account balance below $6,000, leaving you vulnerable to automatic cancellation of insurances within super. According to a report by Lifewise, with 95 per cent of Australians underinsured, you’d want to be sure to hang on to this valuable safety net.
Understandably for some, there may be no other option to keep the household finances afloat during these times, however, it should be considered as the very last resort.
Speaking with a financial planner can help you explore ways to make the most of every area of your finances. If you would like to know more, feel that you or anyone you know requires advice, or would simply like a review of your financial situation, please visit our contact page call our office today to arrange an appointment on (07) 5574 0667.
We encourage all of our clients and colleagues to Like and Follow us on Facebook as we will be posting exclusive content including business updates throughout 2020.
 COVID-19 Early Release Scheme – Issue 8, 22 June 2020
 COVID-19 Early Release Scheme – Issue 8, 22 June 2020
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, 6291.0.55.003 Labour force, detailed, quarterly, Feb 2019
 Source: Household Income and Wealth Australia, 2017-2018, Australian Bureau of Statistics.
 Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Women’s economic security in retirement insight paper, February 2020
Note: This communication is general advice only and does not consider your personal circumstances. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your individual needs, and not act on any information without obtaining professional financial advice specific to your circumstances. This communication including any attachments is intended solely for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed. Any unauthorised use, dissemination, forwarding, printing, or copying of this communication including any attachments is prohibited. It is your responsibility to scan this communication including any file attachment for viruses and other defects. To the extent permitted by law, we will not be liable for any loss or damage arising in any way from this communication including file attachments.
The information has been given in good faith and has been prepared based on information that is believed to be accurate and reliable at the time of publication.The information is general in nature and does not take into account your particular financial needs, circumstances and objectives.