After working hard her whole life and raising a family, Debra Moxon had always hoped to retire by the time she was 60 so she could travel.

But that birthday came and went and the grandmother was still working as a nurse, still renting, and still struggling to accumulate the super she needed.

Then she decided she’d had enough.

She walked away from the career she had once loved, bought herself a campervan with some of her super, and set her sights on travelling around Australia with her little dog.

“I’ve never been out of work my whole life, so it’s a really big thing [for me],” Ms Moxon said.

“I can’t afford to do this really, but figure I can’t afford not to.

“So many people have horrible things happen to them and they pass away and they haven’t done [the things they wanted to]. You know, you only get one chance.” 

To prove to herself she could, she drove her new home on wheels 2,600 kilometres from Adelaide to Townsville in just three days.

Debra Moxon has left her job and is hitting the road full time with her dog to see Australia rather than keep renting.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Super tax concession to worsen gender divide

While it is a good seven years before Ms Moxon is eligible for the age pension, she said she “definitely” will not have enough superannuation for retirement.

The Australia Institute lead economist Greg Jericho.(Supplied)

It is a common story for many women in Australia where superannuation is the biggest driver of wealth inequality.

But according to research published by think tank The Australia Institute, the federal government’s new super tax concessions will exacerbate income and gender inequality even further.

The concessions, which will be given to those who make voluntary contributions to their super, will overwhelmingly benefit high-income earners, the report said.

The Australia Institute lead economist Greg Jericho said the current system of superannuation tax concessions would soon outpace the age pension in costs to the federal government and ultimately leave low-income earners, women, and small business owners in the lurch.

“[In Australia], we are very much on the low end of the scale when it comes to incomes and, unfortunately, we’re at the high end of the scale when it comes to the proportion of people over 65 who are in poverty,” he said.

“When you’ve got a situation or retirement policy based on how things were in the 1980s and the 1990s, it may be time to change the way we think.”

And he said if the situation remained unchanged, the gap between those who retired in poverty and those who retired into wealth would only widen.

Debra Moxon had worked hard her whole life but at 60 her super amount was ‘minuscule’.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

“We will be in this rather absurd situation where it is costing the government more to provide benefit to wealthy people than it is to provide benefit for lower–middle income earners,” Mr Jericho said.

Tax system failing many

Before becoming a nurse 20 years ago, Ms Moxon had worked in aged care. 

Then she spent a decade buying, renovating, and selling cafes with her then-husband while raising her two daughters.

“That was the best and worst time of my life. I used to work 100 hours a week, but I absolutely loved that work, but that was 10 years out of my superannuation,” she said.

“Here I am [now] and you just think, ‘All that work, and it’s still not going to be anywhere near enough to retire on.’

“The amount [in my super] is just minuscule. [The system is] pretty useless.”

Debra had put off her dream of hitting the road for years, but recently used her super to buy a campervan so she could finally do it.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Mr Jericho said the system needed to be rethought, as other elements like the cost-of-living crisis and Australia’s ageing population come into play.

He added that narratives about how the system worked needed to be quashed.

“It’s not a death tax, it is not a tax on retirement, it is more to do with fairness and to ensuring that we’re reducing tax avoidance by the very wealthy,” he said.

“Australia’s retirement system is very much based on people owning their own home and having paid it off. And if you are not in that situation, then you are really going to be behind the eight ball,” he said.

In a statement, the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones said the federal government supported the tax concessions for superannuation. 

“They encourage and reward retirement savings but they have to be sustainable,” he said.

“Our Better Targeted Super Concessions Bill is aimed at this.”

‘There’s got to be a better life out there’

Adding to Ms Moxon’s woes was the age discrimination she said she spent the last few years of her nursing career dealing with.

Debra Moxon walked away from her nursing career after suffering age discrimination.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

So when her finances took another hit by a rent increase on her Townsville unit, she decided to change her situation.

“I ended up working myself into the ground … and I was absolutely exhausted,” Ms Moxon said.

“It totally dashes your whole self-worth. Nursing has lost its shine now. I sort of think if that’s nursing today, I don’t know that I want to do that anymore.”

Debra Moxon and her six-year-old Maltese cross Georgie in their new campervan.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

She decided to put her happiness first and embark on the adventure she had dreamed of for years but was forced to “put on the back burner”.

“I thought to myself ‘there’s got to be a better life out there’. I’ve watched so many of my family’s friends [get sick] and … you hear about that all the time,” Ms Moxon said.

“Once you hit 60 you do sort of think about mortality a little bit. 

“I just think ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’

“I think I can do it. I really do think I can do it. It’s scary. Absolutely scary. But it’s exciting as well.”

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