Advice matters
Why the gender retirement savings gap is widening

Women planning for retirement have a conundrum to navigate.

On average, they live longer than men. So, they have longer retirements to plan for.

But on average, they tend to retire with less money than men. So, they have less to fund those extra retirement years.

While efforts are under way to address the country’s gender pay gap and other inequalities, there are signs that the gender retirement savings gap is widening. And that could be a big problem for women in future.

Here’s what is happening and what you can do about it, if you’re worried about your own potential retirement outcomes.

What’s the problem?

Research from Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission found there was a 25% gender gap in average KiwiSaver balances last year, up 5% from a year earlier.

It wasn’t just a problem for older people. There were gender gaps in every age group category, and the gap for 18- to 25-year-olds had widened by 7 percentage points, to 23%.

Director of policy and research Dr Suzy Morrisey said that was particularly worrying because it meant younger women were potentially missing out on the benefits of compounding returns over their investing lifetimes.

Why is this happening?

There are a few reasons that women’s balances may be smaller. The Commission noted that men and women both tended to be invested in lower-risk funds if they had small balances and more growth assets if they had more money invested.

But because women had lower balances, on average, that could lead them to take less risk, which reduced their returns over time.

The widest gaps were in people in their 40s and 50s, which could reflect the impact of women taking time out of the workforce to have children, or working reduced hours, or in lower-pay jobs, to balance family commitments.

What can you do?

If you’re a woman who is worried about your retirement savings, there are things you can do.

  • Get your fund choice right: It’s important that you take a level of risk that’s appropriate for your risk profile. Taking too little risk over your investing lifetime can mean missing out on returns. But too much can also sometimes be a problem if you’ll need to withdraw money soon. As investment advisers, we can talk through what might be appropriate.
  • Set goals and tweak your contribution level accordingly: Think about the type of retirement you’d like to have, and how much you might need to fund that. From there, you can work backwards to determine how much you need to contribute to reach that goal.
  • Check in regularly: Don’t set and forget your KiwiSaver or other investments for retirement. Each year, take some time to look at how your account is growing, and whether you’re still on track to meet the goals you’ve set.
  • Don’t let it slip off the radar: If you’re taking time off work to look after children, for example, you could talk to your partner about whether the household could continue to make contributions to your KiwiSaver account to keep you on track.

Like to talk?

If you’d like to make sure you’re on track for the sort of retirement you’d like to have, get in touch with us. We can help you work through your KiwiSaver options and determine what sort of fund, and which provider, might be appropriate to help you meet your goals.

Taking an active interest in your KiwiSaver investments is a big part of getting the best out of the scheme.

Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.