PEOPLE: How Pascale is tackling the problem with women and superannuation

Hundreds of thousands of Australians have been leaning on their superannuation funds earlier than planned, due to the financial pressures introduced by the coronavirus pandemic. While finances and superannuation are top of mind for many, it doesn’t necessarily make these things easier to manage.

Many Australians are still confused about how to best plan ahead for their superannuation, including basic decisions such as whether to have one fund or many. And the stats show that women are far worse off financially than men, when it comes to building their superannuation fund over time.

This, among many other factors, is why Pascale Helyar-Moray set out to launch Super-Rewards.

  • What was the original intention when you launched Super-Rewards? Have your goals and objectives for the business changed over time?

The goal for launching Super-Rewards was really to deliver a practical solution for women to contribute to their superannuation without having to fund it themselves.

In terms of what sparked the Super-Rewards idea, it was a combination of:

1. Education – my years in financial services saw me actually writing the brochures about compound interest and salary sacrifice – so I was educated enough to do salary sacrifice in my twenties and thirties. This compounded sufficiently to mean that, despite my years out of full-time work as a mother and entrepreneur, my super is still in reasonable shape.

2. Experience – previous experience saw me present to rooms filled with women who, when they learned about the super gap, would ask me the question – ‘But what do I do?’ That moment of panic and fear – as well as the realisation that they’re stuck financially (they can’t double their pay, get a second/third job, divest themselves of their caring responsibilities) – stayed with me.

3. Insight – working as Director of Comms with the Australian Gender Equality Council helped me understand that the headline problem of women retiring with 58% as much super as men persists because the problems that feed into it – gender pay gap, cost of childcare, inactivity on policy, and a culture that doesn’t value “women’s work” – don’t change. So it’s ridiculous to expect that the topline problem will change.

The goals haven’t changed – we only launched 6 months ago.

  • What have you specifically customised or changed about the product so that it appeals particularly to women? Can men benefit from these customisations as well?

Women make 80% of household shopping decisions, and have a huge amount of responsibility and burden in looking after others. The average woman who works fulltime also spends another 14 hours per week – 2 whole days! – on unpaid domestic work. So we have combined this decision making, plus the requirements to care for others, into a money-generating opportunity into their super.

40% of the Australian female population aged 18-64 is not in fulltime work. How do you contribute to your super when you don’t earn an income? Answer: you can’t.

There are 1.8 million women in Australia who are not in the workforce. They are raising the next generation, or caring for the elderly or their communities. But there’s also a huge number of men who are unpaid carers – 900,000, and we recognise that they too don’t earn any super. So Super-Rewards is designed for women but open to any gender.

  • Why did you decide to innovate in the superannuation space? Have you been tempted to tackle other sectors?

Superannuation has long been a topic close to my heart. I’m very fortunate that from the outset of my career, I did salary sacrifice and so my super is now at a reasonable level.

But I know – from seeing it with my friends, and my networks – that I am in a tiny minority.

I was also highly frustrated by the work that I was doing with the Australian Gender Equality Council. Let me clarify; the Council’s work was and remains really valuable – but the pace with which various touchpoints we dealt with was glacial. Whether it was government or corporates – even the everyday person. Did you know 1 in 5 people don’t think the gender pay gap exists? This was despite Equal Pay being legislated over 50 years ago!

So on one hand, I was seeing this firsthand data of our country not recognising the problem with women and superannuation. Or, what I did see, was just another report which effectively restated the same thing.

On the other hand, I was also seeing data where 40% of single women retire into poverty. And that the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia is the 55 year old woman, who has spent a lifetime of service to others.

This frustration eventually led to the formation of Super-Rewards.

In terms of tackling other sectors – not yet. There’s so much work yet to be done in this one!

  • What have been the most challenging aspects of building Super-Rewards, including during COVID-19?

The most challenging part has been the lack of industry infrastructure around making payments into super funds, outside of the employment framework. It simply highlights yet again that when superannuation was conceived, no one considered how someone not in the workforce would be able to easily and regularly make payments into their fund.

Covid-19 is proving to be incredibly beneficial for Super-Rewards. The conditions have meant that everyone has been forced to be shopping online anyway – and that suits Super-Rewards perfectly! We have seen a bit of a slowdown in revenues as job prospects and concerns about the economy have slowed how much people spend online. However on the flipside, covid-19 has – as a result of the early super access – meant everyone is now talking about superannuation voluntarily. Which is nothing short of miraculous, and means we are well positioned to jump into the conversation about rebuilding super.

  • What other things can women be doing today to adequately prepare financially for their retirement and how critical is this preparation in your 20s vs your 30s, 40s and 50s?

Superannuation is a complex beast to understand. Retirement can be frightening to think about.

But the most effective thing anyone can do – no matter their age group – is just add as much as you can, as often as you can. Particularly if you’re a woman, because the super system was not designed with women in mind.

Thanks to the power of compound interest, all those little amounts add up and become a far more meaningful amount over time.

There are a raft of other superannuation basics women, and people can be doing – head on over to Super Guru for various tips and strategies.

About the expert

Pascale Helyar-Moray has over 20 years financial services marketing and brand-building experience. A seasoned entrepreneur and startup advisor, her latest venture is Super Rewards. Super Rewards is cash rewards for women for super, in a bid to help women close their super gap. Previously Pascale was the Head of Marketing for the Investment Trusts and WealthManager+ businesses of JPMorgan Asset Management in London, and has also held senior marketing roles at BT Financial Group and BNP Paribas. She is the Director of Communications for the Australian Gender Equality Council, an independent national organisation dedicated to achieving gender equality. Pascale holds a BA (Hons) and Master of Commerce, both from the University of Sydney.