Planned for super: But didn't plan for this

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Successful magazine editor Deborah Thomas explains how starting a financial plan early helped her become financially independent, but she didn't plan for everything.

Thomas hadn’t even heard about superannuation for women until she was 33 and stumbled across the concept. Until then, super had been something that her father had, that her parents used when they retired.

“I rang a financial planner and I got my super started at 33. I’m now 57 and I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did that, which is why I think it’s so important to get that message across.”

At the FPA Congress last week, Thomas explained to planners the sorts of challenges they need to think about with female clients, using her own life experiences.

Thomas had spent her life focusing so much on her work that she says she “forgot to have a baby”. So when she found out she was pregnant at 42 years of age, her world received a sharp wake-up call.

“At 42 years of age, I hadn’t really planned; I’d planned my super, I’d planned my income protection, but I hadn’t really thought about myself as a mother.”

Unfortunately, Thomas lost the baby. However, at 45, life threw her another curveball. Thomas was pregnant again and had a successful pregnancy. But she says she had to ask herself some tough questions.

“What does my future look like, and his future look like, in terms of my health and longevity, as well as finances?

“Often women don’t start thinking about that I think, until you do start a family. And these days, with women having their babies much later, it’s important that we start thinking about it earlier.”

Thomas says that many women are having their babies at a time when they’re about to earn a lot more money, but they’re going to lose out on it.

“I wish there was something such as a catch up super. A lot of women that hadn’t had super around my age now need to catch up,” says Thomas, who just started her own SMSF. “Sadly there’s women my age I know that are having to draw their funds out of super and that’s not a good position to be in.”

The MLC Australian Wealth Sentiment Survey reaffirms Thomas’ view. It found that Australians are very concerned about saving for their retirement – especially women.

Key superannuation from the MLC Australian Wealth Sentiment Survey findings:

  • When asked to rate their current concerns about risks in super and investments on a scale of one to 10 (low to high concern), at an average 7.02, women are the most concerned about inadequate savings in retirement (compared to males at 6.74).
  • Looking more closely by age, females aged 50+ were the most concerned (at 7.21), compared to their male counterparts of the same age (6.22).
  • Males are typically more concerned about missing investment opportunities.
  • Those within 5 years of retirement tend to invest more conservatively for income than growth.  However, females aged over 50 are more than 60% more likely to nominate this strategy than their male counterparts (9.92% to 6.06%).