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How do we improve the retirement gap for women?

17 June 2022

It’s a fact that when I was at school woodwork was not my forte. What made things worse, my father was a highly skilled cabinet maker and carpenter. He spent many hours reviewing my work and offering help to improve my future projects. One of his biggest bugbears was around the gaps I left in my joins. He would say “If a job is worth doing, it’s  worth doing right.” In other words, there are no shortcuts if you want to have a great outcome.

Personally, I didn’t see the issue and I had no idea what the consequences of this meant until much later in life.  He actually used the analogy when building homes, because the long-term impacts could be really costly if the house was not built properly in the first place.  My attitude was ‘she’ll be right’, I mean, what harm can a little gap really do in the long term?

In 2016 his words were ringing in my ears when I found out we had a leaky home and the cost was crippling to have it addressed.  

Much can also be said about the gap between men and women around financial outcomes when retirement comes knocking on your door. If left unchecked, the unintended consequences of a little gap early on can have a material impact on your overall financial wellbeing.

We know there are a number of environmental impacts that have not helped fix the gap between men and women when it comes to long term investment and retirement outcomes. The two key areas that have contributed to this have been the wage gap between men and women and the time many women take out of the workforce to start a family.

I know there is still plenty of water to go under those bridges but at last we are seeing not only acceptance of these issues but moves to help improve them.

There is a third lever, and this is about raising awareness of the financial gap and also improving access to good information, so women are able to take more control of their own personal circumstances.

Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission has long been an advocate of this for some time. More recently the Financial Services Council (FSC the organisation that represents financial services providers) and industry participants as a whole have pulled together to spotlight the issues and provide some good resources and information to help the greater cause.

“It Starts With Action” is an initiative the FSC has developed to support Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission's National Strategy that aims to make impactful change in growing women's financial confidence and wellbeing.

There are a number of reports and research that both organisations have provided, which give insights into how women feel about money and their own capabilities, along with more detailed research on women’s overall financial wellbeing in Aotearoa.

FSC’s research paper “Money and You” identified:

  • Over 60% of women worry about money daily, weekly or monthly.
  • 62% of women don’t feel prepared for retirement, however money worries decrease with age.
  • Over 80% of women rate their financial wellbeing moderate, low or very low.
  • 60% of women rate their investing literacy low.
  • 32.4% of women use or plan to use digital tools and investment platforms for investing

Like all research it’s good to know where the challenges are, however what’s more important is what you do with that information.  This is where the FSC and other financial service providers have taken the challenge to do something more, based on the key issues.

For example, there is a great resource called Money Talks. It contains a series of questions that are designed as a game to make you think about your own personal circumstances.

Here are a few questions that are quite thought provoking and, if nothing else, would create some interesting conversations at home or with friends over a wine or dinner.

Q. Is building wealth good, bad or morally neutral?

Q. How much of your income do you save?

Q. What’s one thing you would tell your younger self about money?

Q. What do the words financial freedom mean to you?

And my fav: what’s your money kryptonite? In other words, your weakness when it comes to spending.  My answer here is vinyl records. I cannot walk by a record store without popping in to have a wee browse and leaving with something under my arm.

A number of financial service providers have taken the challenge to video their staff answering some of these questions, which I think is a great way to normalise the conversations that sometimes can be hard to have.  Check out how the Mint team answered some of these questions here.

Life back in my parents’ day was pretty much the same for everyone. The formula, in most cases, was you went to school, got a job, got married, bought a house, had a family, kids leave home (yep they used to do that in the old days), save some money and retire at 60. When I write it down like that, it sounds more like a fairy tale and we all lived happily ever after. Yeah right.

“It Starts with Action” is a great initiative and, in my view, there are five things that you can do right now that will help you get started:

  1. Do a budget and find out where your money is going. Get rid of high debt and build a rainy day fund
  2. Write down your goals and start planning for tomorrow today
  3. Make sure you are in KiwiSaver and in the right fund
  4. Understand the difference between good debt and bad debt
  5. Seek some qualified financial advice to help you make your plan a reality or visit the Sorted website. They have some great tools to get you started.

There are so many variations to how we live our lives today. Cutting corners when it comes to your financial wellbeing in the short term is like a leak in a house. You can’t see any real impact on a day-to-day basis, until it’s too late to fix without sacrificing a lot to do so. Filling in the gaps as soon as possible can provide you with a far better foundation for your future self and the best time to start is right now. As a first step count how many pay days you have to retirement, it might just give you the nudge you need.

Disclaimer: David Boyle is Head of Sales and Marketing at Mint Asset Management Limited. The above article is intended to provide information and does not purport to give investment advice.

Mint Asset Management is the issuer of the Mint Asset Management Funds. Download a copy of the product disclosure statement here.

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