Divorce and Your Super Savings

According to research by a large retail superannuation firm, going through a divorce can lump 10 more years on to the average Australian’s working life, as they endeavour to re-establish the level of retirement savings they may have accumulated through their married lives.

Suncorp Superannuation’s Untying the Knot report purports to have uncovered the until-now unappreciated real cost of divorce for Australia’s divorcees (estimated to be close to 100,000 people annually).

Suncorp said the most common considerations during divorce were property, child custody, the family car and the partner’s income. However thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars were often excluded from a divorce settlement because superannuation may not have been taken into account in every case. The study found that up to 83% of divorcees did not consider superannuation in their divorce settlement.

The report found that most happily married Australians expect to retire in their mid to late 60s, while divorcees expect to work well past age 75, preventing them from getting the most out of their golden age.

“The hidden cost of divorce is that it adds 10 years to your working life,” Suncorp said, given that the extra 10 years is how long the study considered it will take divorcees, on average, to establish the same wealth and lifestyle they had in married life. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that there were 49,917 divorces in 2012.

“Legally a divorcee is entitled to half their partner’s super,” Suncorp said. “Considering super during divorce could mean the difference between being able to retire when you want to, rather than having to work well into your 70s and beyond. It is critical, especially for Australian women, that they consider their partner’s superannuation as our survey shows that divorced women are more than twice as likely to feel like they need to be more resilient and smarter when it comes to money.”

Given that Australians are most likely to divorce in their early to mid-forties, Suncorp said there is a considerable amount of superannuation involved, with a 45 to 54 year old male typically possessing an average superannuation balance of $128,000, according to the ABS. This compares to $73,000 for women of the same age, but this figure is more likely to be $42,000 for women due to their average age at divorce, Suncorp said.

The Untying the Knot report paints a picture of what an average divorce looks like, including surprising insights into Australians’ attitudes towards lifestyle and financial arrangements:

■approximately 50,000 divorces occur every year in Australia

■the average age of men at divorce is 45, while for women it is 42

■one in two divorces involve children (48%) and typically involves two children

■January is the most popular month of the year to call it quits, and

■Queensland is the divorce capital of Australia per capita (two in five) while the Northern Territory has the lowest rate of marriage breakdowns in the country (one in five).

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