Leo D'Angelo Fisher Columnist

Leo covers management and leadership issues, business trends and corporate strategy. He is a former senior business writer at The Bulletin and a former host of The Business Hour on 3AW.

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Super complicated

Published 17 May 2012 05:00, Updated 17 May 2012 09:27

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Superannuation is a well-established feature of working life and retirement planning, but for many Australians the inner workings of their pension fund is a mystery.

In case a reminder of this was needed, a survey by Suncorp Life and the Association of Superannuation Funds in Australia has reinforced consumer complaints that superannuation is just too hard.

The survey found that it is women in particular who feel alienated by superannuation, with 52 per cent of female respondents complaining that superannuation regulations are too difficult to understand, compared with 42 per cent of men. This is especially the case for those women who take time out of the workforce to care for their families.

Suncorp Life head of superannuation Vicki Doyle says that her industry must “acknowledge and address the complicated relationship between women and super”.

One of the main culprits in the alienation of female superannuation clients, she says, is the use of jargon.

“Due to the legalistic and regulatory nature of the industry we’ve become preoccupied with industry jargon, leaving our customers feeling disempowered to act,” she says.

“Add to this the recent years of economic turmoil [and] the constant tinkering with the rules and it’s little wonder women feel uncomfortable even thinking about super.”

The survey found that the complexity of superannuation has a deeply emotional effect on women. One in four (25 per cent) of those surveyed say superannuation makes them feel “inadequate”, 21 per cent feel “ashamed” because they do not understand it and 42 per cent feel “powerless”.

“How the industry chooses to address this emotional connection will ultimately influence our approach to re-engaging with women on their superannuation,” Doyle says.

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