Ryan Boyd 12 Jul 2022

New Zealand Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson

As a result of pay inequity and career interruptions, women arrive at retirement with less.  

In fact, the current average KiwiSaver balance for men is 20% higher than it is for women. This gap is even wider for women of Māori, Pasifika and Asian descent.  

"The Gender Retirement Gap is real,” said New Zealand Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson at a Westpac-hosted discussion on the topic.  

“The data is clear, and the reasons are obvious. We earn less over our working lifetimes, we spend more time out of the workforce, we bounce back less successfully after financial life shocks, like divorce, and we live longer." 

And while the issue is clear, how to go about reducing the gap is a harder question to answer. 

“The solutions are not simple,” Wrightson said. “The answer is less likely to be more education - there’s plenty of that out there for those that wish to find it - and nudging people to find it is the hard bit.  

“The answer is more likely to be smarter, more corrective ways to nudge long term behaviour change.” 

Other members of the discussion panel included Michelle Corse-Scott from Milford Asset Management and David Boyle from Mint Asset Management. 

Left to right: Jane Wrightson, David Boyle, and Michelle Corse-Scott

Michelle Corse-Scott said talking more openly about money and savings was key to helping guide such a change in behaviour.  

“I think we need to learn to talk about money, and specifically KiwiSaver and retirement,” Corse-Scott said. 

“If we speak about it often and openly, people get more comfortable with the topic and start understanding a few more of the levers that affect their KiwiSaver. 

“By being open to conversations about KiwiSaver, it’s possible for each of us to put ourselves into a much better position, to be better informed and to understand how to grow it.” 

David Boyle said these conversations need to start in school and that financial independence is a vital message that needs to be shared, especially with female students. 

“It’s important to ensure each person takes control of and manages their own financial wellbeing,” Boyle said during the panel discussion. 

“One of the key messages I’d like to see in schools, in the curriculum, and in financial capability for students, and for female students, it needs to be loud and clear that the material that we do develop is building their own individual financial independence.”