Superannuation for nurses

Written by: Melanie Wong
Published by: Jay Lee

Letters to ourselves. In an age of digital technology, letter writing has become a thing of the past yet some of you may find yourselves discovering a folded piece of paper from a decade ago, addressed to the you of today. Whether it be from 12 year old you, starting high school, or 23 year old you, graduating as a nurse, these little letters act as windows into who you once were, little gifts from the person who knew you best – yourself.

But letters aren’t the only gifts you should be leaving for future you. One word you may have heard tossed around is superannuation.

Nurses, of which a large percentage are women, are notoriously shocking at managing their own superannuation. The name itself can trigger confusion, disinterest, or flashbacks to Year 10 maths class, prompting many to put super on the back-burner. After all, isn’t superannuation for old people?

Not quite.

Studies have shown that men retire with almost twice the amount of superannuation as women, increasing the potential for women to be financially dependent in retirement or increasingly at risk of homelessness or poverty. The superannuation gap has existed for many years, yet statistics now show a 42% gap between men and women’s supers at retirement – in simpler terms, if a woman retires with $96,000, her male counterpart will have $156,000 of superannuation. While this is a problem in itself, it’s rooted in society’s gender roles and a need for cultural shifts. This is influenced in part by some women having to work part-time due to their role as the primary caregiver and the issues and stigma of paternity leave that can prevent men from taking up that role too. Doesn’t sound fair, right?

But most people who are working, including nurses, don’t even know what superannuation is. In fact, nurses can often have multiple active super accounts scattered across different funds, administration fees chipping away at their own money without their knowledge.

People’s perceptions of superannuation need to be reframed and recalibrated. Superannuation isn’t just money for oldies – it’s your money and your wages being put aside for you when you can no longer work, almost like a gift from the present you to the future you. Especially for women, it means being able to rely on yourself financially to go on all the adventures you’ve always wanted to go on, to live comfortably without having to worry about whether you’ve got enough money for the next meal or next electricity bill. So, what can be done?

The first step in sorting out your superannuation is making the decision to do so, as opposed to procrastinating it. As the old adage goes, there’s no time like the present and this is especially so for superannuation. Author Pauline Taylor suggests you start by looking at your annual benefits statement, which will give you a good indication of where you’re currently at with your super. At first, trying to figure out all the details of superannuation can seem like a cause for stress. However, rolling all of your super into one fund or requesting employers to pay into an existing fund is easier than it seems. Amalgamating all of your super accounts can be easily done by following the prompts on, making your super more accessible and easier to manage.

But what fund should you choose? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of super funds in existence and it can be daunting trying to choose the right one to suit your needs. The nursing industry recommends superfunds such as Hesta or First State but consider what these funds can provide you with, as well as voluntary contributions into super and the benefits of doing so.

Of course, your superannuation needs will shift and change depending on your age and situation but all the more reason to start understanding it early. As my high school maths teacher never failed to tell us, it’s never too early to set up your superannuation and maybe one day, you’ll thank yourself for it.

If you’re interested in learning more about superannuation, have a listen to ‘Become a super woman’ with Claire Hooper.

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