When Megan Watts' marriage of almost 30 years broke down, she was plunged into financial turmoil.
The 56-year-old became homeless, spending weeks moving from couch to couch.
Watts had a good job in academia and had worked for all but four years of her adult life, including for periods as a public servant, a chef and in family day care.
But that hadn't been enough to secure her financial independence; to allow her to overcome a structural inequity that hits single, older women harder than any other demographic.
Staring at a superannuation balance a quarter of the size of her ex-husband's, Watts said she struggled to meet daily living expenses while trying desperately to grow her retirement nest egg. At the lowest point, when she was waiting for the house to sell, she had just $325 a fortnight to spend on accommodation, food, petrol and medical expenses.
"It is a hugely stressful," she said.
"There is this constant threat of 'If I don't get money into super I will still be living like this when I retire', against making sure I have money to eat."
Watts' predicament is not unusual. It's a "horrifying thought", she says, to think of how many Canberra women are silently suffering because of what's known as the gender superannuation gap.
New analysis from Industry Super Australia has revealed just how wide that gap has become in the nation's capital.
The average super balance of a Canberra women in her 60s is, according to the analysis, roughly half that of a male at the same stage of life - $231,400 compared to $432,800.
The gap is widest in the federal electorate of Canberra, where the average man is approaching retirement with a superannuation balance almost 70 per cent larger than women of the same age.
The research showed that women earned more super than men in their 20s and 30s. But men had accumulated more than women by the time they reached their early 40s, with the gap stretching to 30 per cent a decade later.
Frances Crimmins, the chief executive of women's advocacy group YWCA Canberra, said the superannuation gap was the product of a system which had been designed for people who worked their entire adult life without breaks.
"In other words, a system designed for men," she said, adding that super balances reflected other structural inequalities such as the gender pay gap.
In Canberra's competitive and expensive private rental market, Ms Crimmins said a single, retirement-aged woman would now have to spend 75 per cent of their weekly income to keep a roof over their head.
"At that stage, you have to make cuts, to the health choices, to the food you eat," she said.
Ms Crimmins said there was a number of simple policy changes the federal government could make to help close the gap, including paying superannuation on Commonwealth paid parental leave.
Industry Super Australia also wants that measure introduced.
It has also called for the abolition of the income threshold below which employers aren't required to pay super, currently set at $450 a month. It argued that provision disproportionately affects women, as they are more likely to work multiple part-time jobs.
"It is time we bridged the gender super gap in Canberra, it's not right that Canberra women retire with balances persistently lower than men," Industry Super Australia advocacy director Georgia Brumby said.
Industry Super last month launched a major campaign warning against any freeze in the legislated superannuation guarantee increase.
There has been speculation the Morrison government could put a brake on the super guarantee, which is scheduled to rise to 10 per cent from July 1 and then incrementally to 12 per cent over the next few years.
Minister for Superannuation and Women's Economic Security Jane Hume said the super guarantee increase were scheduled to go ahead as planned. However, no final decision had been made.
"This is an important decision, and one that will be made in light of all the evidence and in the economic circumstances of the time," she said.
Senator Hume said tipping increasing amounts of income into retirement savings was "not the answer".
"Deferring more of your wages today comes at a trade-off to your standard of living in your working life," she said.
Senator Hume said increasing female workforce participation was the key to providing more financial security.
On that front, she said, the Morrison government was delivering.
Female workforce participation rose to a record 61.8 per cent in March, up from 61.4 per cent in February.
Of the 77,000 jobs created in March, 55,400 - or 78 per cent - went to women.
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