Empowering Women: Bridging the Superannuation Gap with SMSFs

Australian women retire with nearly half the superannuation savings of men, a gap currently under scrutiny by the Federal Government. Self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs) are narrowing this gap, with female SMSF balances averaging 84% of male balances. Since 2017, female SMSF balances have grown faster than male balances, with the average female balance of $745,000 in June 2022 up 18% from 2019-18 and 30% from 2016-17, compared to male balances of $882,000, which increased by 16% and 26% respectively.

Young women have been instrumental in the growth of newly established SMSFs, supported by increased educational resources and higher female participation in the workforce, including in business ownership and management positions. With Australian women poised to inherit a significant portion of the $4.9 trillion intergenerational wealth transfer and facing increased responsibility for managing finances post-divorce or outliving a spouse, there is a growing interest in SMSFs and financial advice among women seeking greater control over their wealth and financial independence.

Women Outpace Men in Seeking Financial Advice

Data reveals distinct investment profiles and information needs between male and female trustees.

In the 69% of SMSFs jointly held by spouses, the primary decision-maker is typically the man, leading to women feeling less confident in managing their SMSFs. Vanguard's 2022 findings show that female trustees seek more investment advice than their male counterparts.

Despite comprising 47% of SMSF members, women, who perform more unpaid work and have a longer life expectancy than men, need more empowerment to manage their retirement savings and close the superannuation savings gap.

Research by the SMSF Association and Commonwealth Bank highlights that women who take parental leave often find themselves needing to work longer for retirement. In hindsight, many would have made special arrangements for their super to cover caregiving periods.

Events such as divorce, job loss, or the death of a co-trustee during SMSF management are common. It's crucial for women to feel as confident in managing their retirement savings and investments throughout their SMSF's lifecycle as their male counterparts.

Bridging the Gap for Female SMSF Investors

Vanguard's '22 Annual SMSF Report reveals that just 27% of SMSF members received financial advice in the past year. ATO data indicates that only 53% of SMSF funds are currently advised or on an advised platform, with the remaining 43% directly held.

Despite this, multiple studies indicate a desire for more financial guidance among SMSF trustees, particularly in strategic advice, identifying good buying opportunities, and understanding regulatory updates.

According to Vanguard's 2023 SMSF Report, about one in fiveSMSFs not using advisers are open to seeking advice in the future, especially female-led trustees and those transitioning to retirement.

Research also suggests that high-net-worth women prefer female advisers, believing they better understand their life situation. 

Reasons for not seeking advice include trust issues, past poor experiences with advisers, and unclear costs, as found in Vanguard's research.

Empowering Women in SMSFs and Wealth Transfer

In the next decade, more Australian women will establish SMSFs to build wealth and inherit a significant portion of the intergenerational wealth transfer.

However, this transfer may lead to complexities and conflicts, especially within modern 'blended' family structures.

Advisers and estate planning professionals will play a crucial role in supporting women to manage finances effectively for themselves and future generations.

There's a growing demand for financial advisers, particularly female providers with transparent fee structures, and those who offer regular updates on regulatory changes and SMSF investment options.

For more information on SMSF administration services from Prime, please contact Kate Alexander, Supervisor, Prime SMSF, at

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