No children doesn’t mean more savings for single women

New Australian research has debunked the assumption that single women without children have no career interruptions and healthy retirement savings.

Researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of NSW and Curtin University found two-thirds of study participants experienced an involuntary career interruption despite not having children. The researchers found that single women over the age of 45 without children were more likely to have caring responsibilities for ageing family members than people with partners and/or children.

The report to be released on Monday, found that while not having children increased earning capacity, being single meant that financial costs could not be shared with a partner.

Jennifer Ford.
Jennifer Ford.

Jennifer Ford, 46, moved from Sydney to Tamworth to reduce her cost of living and find more affordable housing.

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She moved after accepting a job last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought it to an end. She is now working for a company that is based in Newcastle.

She said she was fortunate to be able to temporarily move in with her mother in Tamworth and said it had been difficult saving for a home loan deposit and building her superannuation savings.

“It took a really long time to get a house deposit together and now that my employment is less secure I don’t know that I’ll be able to get a mortgage,” she said.

Ms Ford said she had taken on the bulk of caring responsibilities for her parents because her siblings were married with children.

“When my dad was sick I was the one who came home,” she said.

In previous jobs, colleagues with families assumed she was always available to cover for them when they had family commitments.

Associate Professor Myra Hamilton from the University of Sydney School of Business said the research analysed data from the national Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, focusing on nearly 4000 women aged 45 and older who were single without children. The women were compared with seven other groups including single women with children, men and women with and without children and partners. An online survey and telephone interviews were also conducted with a group of 45 women single women without children, accountants and financial planners.

Dr Hamilton, who is principal research fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research, said this was the first report “to take a comprehensive look at the experience of single, older women without children”.

“We found that these women are more likely to have career interruptions later in life – in their 50s or 60s – as they take on caring responsibilities for elderly parents,” she said.

Some women in the study felt “locked out” of the housing market, unable to secure a mortgage as a single person.

“Many didn’t have the disposable income to save, and this limited their opportunities to add to their super and enter the housing market and lead to more frequent experiences of financial hardship,” Dr Hamilton said.

One study participant said: “Being an older woman now with no children, [I] have retired to the fact that I will rent forever. [The] price of real estate is too high and banks would not consider a loan.”

Report co-author Professor Helen Hodgson from Curtin University said the biggest worry for older single women without children was getting secure accommodation. Like mothers, this left them with limited superannuation in later life. But unlike mothers, they did not have adult children to support them as their care needs increased.

“Although they may take home a higher pay cheque than their married co-workers there is little left to save after they have paid their rent or mortgage,” she said.

Richard Holden, professor of economics from the University of NSW, said people who don’t take time out of the workforce generally benefited in terms of skill development, income and retirement savings.

Whether single people ended up taking more responsibility for caring responsibilities than couples would be a “pivot point” pushing in the opposite direction.

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Source: Thanks smh.com