Financial planning for women, closing the super gap

“I was desperate to understand money. Not to make it, to understand it. I wanted to know how it worked, and I wanted to know so that I would have enough and would be able to make good financial decisions.”

Mellody Hobson, chairwoman of Starbucks Corporation

International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

Unfortunately, in finance women are not equal. According to the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency annual update, the gender pay gap is 21.7 per cent. It means on average, for every $ men earn in Australia, women earn 78c.1

Add in that women are more likely to have taken breaks from the workforce to care for children or elderly parents, then the financial gender gap in retirement is large. The average superannuation pay gap is over 40 per cent at each five year age cohort for those aged between 50 and 65 years.2

The disparity is both stark and alarming. The following guide provides some tips on financial planning for women, and ways to start closing the gap.

Avoid mistakes

Women (and men) can avoid some of the mistakes3 people make when dealing with money.

  1. Do nothing. That is a common mistake. Push it aside and don’t think about it. The better option is to be interested in your financial position now and in the future.

  2. Assume that having a good income is enough. It isn’t. Future financial security takes planning.

  3. Not using tax concessions, especially super. Talk to your financial planner about ways to take advantage of tax concessional treatment of super.

  4. Ignoring cash flow. Something as simple as writing down on a piece of paper your inflows and outflows can be a very powerful way of understanding your cash flow and how you can make savings.

  5. Not staying engaged with your money.  Keep revisiting your financial situation, your cash flow, your superannuation options. It will pay dividends.

Engaging with a financial adviser is a first step to avoid making mistakes.

Understand how you spend your money

This is beyond budgeting, which often concentrates just on stripping back expenses.  With a conscious cashflow, you take account of your income and explore ways to increase it.

Have you ever considered the idea of spending money to buy time? For example, maybe you can cut back by not paying for a cleaner once a month. But rather than think about it only as a saving, include in your calculation how much extra money you might earn if you don’t have to do household chores.

You could also revisit your biggest bills and try to save money, perhaps by negotiating a better price or rate, or switching suppliers.

If you’re aware of where your money is going, it’s far easier to limit waste and ensure your money is working harder on the things you want.

A good way to think about your income/​expenditure is with the 50/​30/​20 rule.4

  • Spend 50% on daily essentials like food, mortgage costs and other loans.
  • Allocate 30% on nice to haves like eating out and travel.
  • Save 20% to build future wealth.

Make superannuation part of your financial plan

It can be easy to focus on short-term finances as these are where you’ll see the immediate changes. But it’s important to also think about the future. Superannuation helps you build retirement savings, and as with any investment, forgetting about it or cashing out at the wrong time can be costly. 

Consider making additional contributions to boost your super. If your employer is already making the compulsory Super Guarantee (SG) contributions then that’s a great start, but there’s more you can do. 

You can make additional contributions to your superannuation and income is taxed at 15 per cent. Depending on your marginal tax rate, this may be advantageous. If you have a spouse or partner, it may be worth them making a contribution to his or her fund.  There are some limitations to super and your financial planner is best placed to explain them to you. 

Seek financial equity in your relationship

Financial equity in relationship is important but is not always easy to achieve. That’s because most people enter a relationship with different levels of wealth and financial knowledge. Some have great money habits and bring little debt and good savings, while others bring a suitcase of financial problems.

What’s important is not how it starts, but how you resolve these issues and build a sound financial future together. Communication and transparency are key. Talk about your goals and concerns. Work through them together, remember that conscious cashflow tip from earlier, and don’t forget to make any plan realistic, because if it’s not you’re unlikely to stick to it. 

Prepare for a growing family

Having a baby is one of life’s most rewarding moments, but once the ecstasy of the newborn baby bubble has gone, you might start to worry about the financial pressures of parental leave. 

Just as you prepare for a baby’s arrival by purchasing clothes, a pram and a cot, you should also take time to review your finances and consider your new reduced cashflow. A baby might be small, but the impact on your income and your discretionary spend is likely to be quite significant.

Make sure you take time to research all the financial help that’s on offer. Speak to your employer about paid leave so you understand what you’re entitled to, and take advantage of government benefits such as Parental Leave Pay.


There is a final point that highlights why women need to plan for retirement even more than men. On average, they live longer.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the average Australian retirement age in Australia, is 56.3 years.5 With the life expectancy6 of a 65-year-old now 85.2 years for men and 87.8 years for women, many of us can expect to be retired for a long time. And women can be expected to be retired for even longer.

Ask for advice

Finally, as you go through this guide, keep in mind that you don’t have to do it alone.

A financial adviser can work with you to help you better understand your goals and challenges and develop a plan to get you where you want to go.

1. Gender pay gap falls 1.1 percentage points to new low of 21.7% | WGEA
3. Basis of this section comes from finance experts Julia Newbould and Kate McCallum, co-authors of “The Joy of Money”.


This document has been prepared by BT, a part of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 233714 (Westpac) and is current as at 20 March 2024. The information in this document regarding taxation and legislative change is based on policy announcements which are yet to be passed as legislation and may be subject to future change. This information does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to these factors before acting on it.