Australians have $18 billion in savings sitting in super accounts* they have lost track of. Tracking down an old account could make a big difference to your retirement.
Fiona Tannick-Jones is sitting in her car, waiting for her turn at the petrol pump when we call to hear her story. The 66-year old is not phased by the queue. She knows that she can’t fight uncontrollable circumstances. Sometimes you simply have to ride out periods of frustration and try to make the best of any given moment in life.
Fiona has had a diverse career working for Australia Post, completing studies in naturopathy and remedial massage, working in massage at a Broome football club and later transitioning into an executive assistant role with the Western Australian state government. She endured change and uncertain economic circumstances while raising her daughters, now aged 22 and 19.
‘It’s really easy to think you’re still going to be with your partner or you’re still going to be in a particular situation but life changes so quickly. You have to redefine your life time and time again as you move through it,’ Fiona says.
As a busy mother of two, retirement and super weren’t high on her list of concerns, but when she heard that older and middle aged women are the highest growing proportion of homeless people during a seminar run by AustralianSuper, she sat up and took notice. ‘As you become older you become less employable. And your super’s already been reduced because you’ve been out of the workforce for a period of time with children,’ she explains.
After the session, Fiona completed a lost super search and found $45,000 from her time at Australia Post. ‘I was a bit gobsmacked. I thought it might have been a clerical error. That’s like winning the lottery,’ she recalls.
These days Fiona is living in a multi-generational home in Perth, caring for her elderly mother and 19-year-old daughter. ‘I am quite sure the things that I am experiencing – being caught between young adults and older family members – is simply going to be exacerbated for my children’s generation,’ she points out. Recently, she took six months of unpaid leave to work full time as a carer, getting up during the night when her mother is in need, which has been difficult. She will soon return to work with the state government in a newly created role as a policy research officer. Eventually she’ll build to full time and aims to work until she’s 70. ‘I’m well valued within my workplace which is something you don’t often get told,’ she says.
Fiona urges other women to consider their financial future carefully. ‘I tell everyone I come across to do a lost super search. Make sure that you’re going to make a conscious effort to cover your expenses once work has gone for you,’ she says.
In the lead up to retirement, Fiona is making the most of her remaining working years. ‘I’m excited about going back to work. I think it keeps you healthy. It keeps you engaged with your community and it gives you a purpose,’ she says.
But she always has one eye on the future, too: ‘You never know what’s around the corner.’