For women in the retail industry, the last year has left many with a sense of uncertainty. Despite the challenges, today’s ‘super women’ are looking for ways to power up their finances and superannuation and move forward towards a personal-best post-pandemic recovery.

It is safe to say that the pandemic did not play a fair game across all industries of the economy, impacting the retail industry in a way that forced retailers to pivot and rethink their consumer strategy. While those with an online sales presence may have managed to adapt and survive the tumultuous wave, it seems those retailers who relied on the foot traffic of a brick-and-mortar store front had a much harder struggle. It was one that not only impacted their sales and business, but which also directly affected the lives of the many retail workers who either lost their jobs or saw a significant reduction in hours. For the most part, and as a recent study conducted by the SDA (2020) highlights, these retail workers were predominantly women.

The study, which looked at the Gendered Impact of COVID-19, made it apparent that in the early stages of the pandemic, industries with female-dominant employment were in fact hit harder. The statistics showed that in April last year, 80,000 more women than men were out of work. This undoubtedly left many women in a position to rely on their savings, or to access their superannuation through the Government’s Early Release Scheme, in order to survive financially through the pandemic. Many of these women are now in a position to have to rebuild their nest egg by funding their own COVID recovery.

Taking a look at Rest’s membership base, which is mainly comprised of women, and has strong ties to retail employers and the retail sector, the impact of the Early Release Scheme on the gender gap is evident. For those who accessed the scheme, we saw the gender gap between our male and female members grow even further, meaning that even more women will retire with less money, particularly for women aged 40-60 who have less time to rebuild their balances.

With the gender gap still prevalent, and many women in a position where they might be relying on their partner to help fund their retirement, women can empower themselves by taking positive steps to building their super balances. In fact, many female Rest members have already taken the first steps to re-evaluate their financial situation, to make measured decisions in actively rebuilding their finances.  Last financial year, we saw the number of female Rest members using our digital financial advice quadruple, as more women are turning to advice as the first step in taking control of their finances. For those who are wanting to proactively get their super back on track, here are three top tips to consider:

Consolidate your super

One of the best ways to grow your balance is to keep your super in one place. For one, this makes it easier to track and manage your balance. Additionally, the compound interest could also help grow your balance, if you have all your money in one fund, and it also means you avoid paying multiple  administration fees. Additionally, some individuals may find that over time they have accrued multiple super accounts that have been opened through various employers. To find lost super, you can search through tools provided by your super fund, or through the myGov tools on their website.

Learn and skill up

Financial literacy is important when it comes to understanding how super works, what investment options work best for you, and how you can reach your personal-best retirement outcome. This comes in the form of understanding the basics of super, the impact of career breaks on super (and how you can combat this), and how your life stage can impact your super, among other things. Funds such as Rest, have Online Learning Centres that help you make the most out of your super at your own pace.

Seeking advice is a good place to start

For those who aren’t quite sure where to start, or would like a little bit of direction, the best advice is to seek financial advice. If you are wanting some extra help in understanding more about your super or would like to know what investment options are best for you, your fund may include access to simple advice as part of your membership. If they do, take the opportunity to speak to an adviser either online or on the phone, or access any online advice tools on offer.

Deborah Potts is group executive of employer and industry engagement at Rest