Super: mums missing out

3rd of September 2012 | by RateCity Staff

If you believe the pundits, taking just two years out of the workforce to have children can leave women up to $50,000 worse off in retirement.

Researchers at Suncorp Life and the Association of Superannuation Funds in Australia, which came up with this figure, based their calculations on a woman aged 32, who takes two years out of the workforce, suspends her normal superannuation contributions and retires at age 65.

Admittedly, the woman in question would need to be earning $115,000 to be $50,000 worse off at retirement. However, for a woman earning $65,000 the "baby debt" at retirement would still be $28,000 and for an income of $85,000 the debt would be $36,500, the research showed.

The researchers found that to make up the deficit, women merely needed to make an additional 1 percent super contribution for every two years out of the workforce, for the rest of their working life.

You'll also need to work out how you can survive with less money, according to Michelle Hutchison, spokeswoman for RateCity.

"Start by finding out about government assistance. There are benefits and allowances to help with the costs of raising children," she said.

"A major concern for most new parents is how they will manage the mortgage repayments when they drop from two incomes to one – even for a short period of time."

Brad Fox, the national president of the Association of Financial Advisers, suggests talking to your lender about switching from principle and interest repayments to interest only, to allow you some breathing room while your cash flow is reduced.

"However, it should only be for a short period," Fox told RateCity. "Treading water is not a good long-term strategy."

A good way to ensure you don’t fall too far behind your repayments while paying interest only is to pay a little extra in advance into your home loan directly (and later redraw on the balance when necessary) or use an offset account as a kind of savings pool, according to Hutchison.

"By adding just $100 extra to an average-sized mortgage each month, you'll build a tidy amount to redraw down the track. If you can afford to keep it up you could save more than $60,000 over the life of the loan and shave four years off a 30-year term (based on $300,000 mortgage repaid at a rate of 6.5 percent)," she said.

Another important consideration is insurance.

"Life insurance is a must – you will probably have some life insurance in your super fund, so it's worth finding out how much you're covered for. Income protection is equally important, particularly if you're the breadwinner," she said.

Finally, before you even fall pregnant aim to get yourself into good financial shape, she added.

"Give yourself a financial health check to ensure you've got the most suitable financial products, such as home loans and savings accounts, to suit your changing lifestyle."