Women closing retirement incomes gap, but slowly

Women are slowly closing the retirement incomes adequacy gap, according to the latest data released by Roy Morgan Research.

The research has found that in the pre-retiree group aged 50 to 64, average retirement savings among the 1.4 million women in the age cohort has risen from 57.7 per cent of the male average in 2008 to 63 per cent this year.

However, the Roy Morgan data makes clear that women remain well behind their male counterparts, and this is a problem that continues to require focus.

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The research found that since 2008, the average net wealth of pre-retired women had gone from $183,000 to $232,000, an increase of 26.8 per cent, while for men in the pre-retired group, the growth in average net wealth had increased from $317,000 to $368,000, an increase of 16.1 per cent.

The Roy Morgan analysis said these growth rates were partly due to the recovery from the global financial crisis (GFC) but despite this more rapid growth in average net wealth for women their average balance was still less than two-thirds (63 per cent) of their male counterparts.

Commenting on the data, Roy Morgan Research industry communications director, Norman Morris, said that although progress was slow, there were at least now signs that the gap in retirement funding between men and women was gradually closing.

"This has been partly as a result of increased awareness and effort to improve the retirement funding for women and their increased participation in the workforce," he said.

"Since 2008 the proportion of women employed has increased by 2.1 percentage points, whereas male participation is down by 2.8 percentage points. Given the compulsory nature of superannuation contributions, employment levels obviously play a major role in the level of retirement funding."

He said that with the number of pre-retirees being close to three million, they were the next wave that would put pressure on government to cope with retirement funding and rule changes.

"With an average age of 57 in the pre-retirement group there is limited working life remaining for many in which to make up for any shortfall. This segment is likely to be more engaged regarding superannuation than most," Morris said.

"Their proximity to retirement means that they will be paying close attention to any superannuation changes and particularly the current high-profile uncertainty that will possibly reduce confidence in the system and has the potential to divert funds into areas outside of superannuation and encourage postponing retirement."

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