finance

The financial conversation every woman should have with her partner about maternity leave.

There are a million things on your mind as you prepare to give birth to your first child. Choosing a name that will suit them when they become prime minister. Whether you should change the words to “Baa Baa Black Sheep”. If you’re really willing to give up a good night’s sleep for the next year or two.

Oh, and making sure that you keep up your superannuation contributions. No?

On average, women retire with only half as much superannuation as men. Where the gulf between the sexes really starts to widen is when women take time out from their jobs to have children. That gulf just keeps widening if women only return to work part-time or in lower-paid roles, or never return at all.

Finance expert Sarah Riegelhuth thinks that when women are getting set to go on maternity leave, they should consider talking to their partners about contributing to their superannuation. It’s called spouse contribution splitting. What it means is that after the financial year ends, the working partner can choose to transfer up to 85 per cent of their superannuation contributions over to the non-working partner.

“I think it’s a really good idea,” Riegelhuth tells Mamamia. “If that’s your agreement in your marriage, that you want to be equal partners, then try to keep your super balances around equal as well.”

Riegelhuth, co-founder of financial advisory firm Wealth Enhancers, has a compelling reason why women should bring up the idea: the divorce rate.

"We should be valuing the work that the stay-at-home person is doing to raise the family and look after the household just as much as we value the person going to work every day.” (Image: Getty)
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“I know it doesn’t sound very nice, but nothing’s guaranteed,” she adds.

“Obviously, as part of divorce law and separation law, you can also look at superannuation, but why not just try to keep it more equal as you’re building wealth together?”

Riegelhuth says couples can talk to their financial adviser about how to split super contributions.

“If you don’t have a financial adviser, just contact your super fund and they’ll talk you through the form and how to fill it out and what your options are.”

She believes the fact that women generally end up with much less superannuation than men shouldn’t be ignored.

“Really, we should be valuing the work that the stay-at-home person is doing to raise the family and look after the household, whether it’s the husband or the wife, just as much as we value the person going to work every day.”

LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud discuss - does maternity leave ruin a woman's career?

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