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Interim Retirement Commissioner Peter Cordtz explains why many women arrive at retirement financially worse off than men and looks at how this could be addressed

Interim Retirement Commissioner Peter Cordtz explains why many women arrive at retirement financially worse off than men and looks at how this could be addressed

By Peter Cordtz*

“Duty of care” is term bandied about in various settings, most often in reference to our obligations as employers or providers of service. The standard definition offered is “a moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others”.

Having said that, the first experience we all have of this duty is the one that goes largely unrecognised and unrewarded. This is, the care we’re provided by our primary caregiver through our most vulnerable years.

I say unrewarded but as a father of four, I understand the real rewards of that labour of love. I say unrecognised, but I will be eternally grateful to my wife for committing two decades of her working life to being there for them when it really counted (and when I couldn’t be).

Now we’re 54, relatively financially secure and our children grown, you might say we ‘survived’ that decision. However, the reality is my wife has paid more for that than me. Without wanting to jinx our 30th wedding anniversary next year, if for any reason things don’t work out for us (sorry dear, I’m just trying to make a point), she starts again from a very different place than me.

Notwithstanding the gender pay gap of 9.2% and the impact of a 20-year gap in your career progression, she also missed the opportunity to save or invest through that time. That includes little or no contribution to her KiwiSaver account for the decade 2007-2017.

I know our collective assets are part of the matrimonial property that would be considered if we split (including KiwiSaver), but it still represents a loss. In fact, even if our twilight years go swimmingly well together, it represents a loss for both of us.

We know women arrive at retirement 18% financially worse off than men, on average. To make the road harder, they also live longer. It’s not surprising then that research commissioned by CFFC noted there are more than twice as many women as men living in poverty beyond 65 -  14% compared to 6.6%.

That research paper, prepared by Jennifer Curtin and Yanshu Huang of University of Auckland’s Public Policy Institute, suggested one way to address this would be to pay a ‘care credit’ into women’s KiwiSaver accounts to recognise the time they take out of paid work to look after family.

They cite examples of other countries’ efforts to redress this disadvantage, including Estonia which pays employer contributions for up to three years per child, Norway that credits individuals for periods of care work with approximately 71% of the average full-time wage, and Finland, where women’s pensions are topped up with contributions of up to three years per child.

This and other insights from the research commissioned to inform the 2019 Review of Retirement Income Policies will be important in shaping our recommendations in the report due to be tabled in Parliament in December for the government’s consideration.

The scope of this year’s Review includes the perennial issue of the fiscal sustainability of NZ Super, but we have also been tasked with considering the effectiveness of policies in addressing financial vulnerability and equity. That’s why we’re looking closely at the issues that hold women back from entering retirement as financially secure as men, and what New Zealand could do to help right this imbalance.

This and the other areas of interest can be found in the full terms of reference for the 2019 Review at, along with relevant research and a platform for New Zealanders to provide feedback. Public submissions close on October 31.

*Peter Cordtz is New Zealand's Interim Retirement Commissioner.

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If she deserves redress then that should come from you, as you are the person who benefitted. I don't understand why you think the country should subsidise your choice to not take time off from work yourself. You could have split the load 50/50, you didn't, thats your free choice, but has nothing to do with me or my tax dollars.


Wait, women still indefinitely exit the workforce to look after children?

Also, what's mine is hers and what's hers is hers. I earn considerably more than my wife, yet she spends considerably more. If she's going to receive a payment at retirement for being frivolous with my money then I want recompense from the tax payer too!

Hey Nzdan you cant say that. Thats toxic masculinity

"To make the road harder, they also live longer." - What the hell? Today I learned living a long life is a penalty?! No comment on why they might live longer due to their very physiology or how they can potentially work longer due to being disproportionately represented in the less physical jobs, and also the aforementioned physiology?

“Remember that the door is open. Don’t be more cowardly than children, but just as they say, when the game is no longer fun for them, ‘I won’t play any more,’ you too, when things seem that way to you, say, ‘I won’t play any more,’ and leave, but if you remain, don’t complain.” (Discourses I.24.20 Epictetus)

Of course, research presenting worse outcomes for women is immediately responded to with every comment explaining how men are actually the *real* victims.

Primary caregivers are disadvantaged, in principle, by their partners, not by society at large. It's up to each couple who will do what.

Men are the real victims. They have it so hard. Poor men getting the shit draw card yet again. Feel incredibly sorry for them and their hard road.

Nah, children are the real victims as retirees try to justify sucking every last cent from the tax pool to fund themselves.

Ok so now that more women than men are going to university it won't be long before lots of women earn large amounts of money. Problem solved eh?
However many of these women will not end up married with children due to hypergamy.

This is actually a fascinating area I've been reading a little more on since seeing a photo exhibition in Newmarket on paid paternal leave. Some good food for thought in the experiments and research going on.

Some of the initial research I've been looking in to suggests that both men and women are better off from paid parental leave being offered equally to men and women, in that women are likely to increase their lifetime earnings, men don't seem to be negatively affected in the same, and the couple and children benefit overall. As does society.

Compare our situation at present. We subsidise low wage population migration ($52k) into New Zealand and fund their kids school education (~$12,500 per year) plus other social services all for the benefit of companies (hospitality etc.) wanting cheap labour, instead of creating conditions in which young New Zealanders will find it practical to have more than one or two children, should they desire to.

Question is why we rely on subsidising population growth from overseas rather than creating conditions under which childraising and retirement of the local population are both improved first.

Why not encourage more local fertility by supporting the fertility rate and recognising its role in the country's economy?


Why do we need population growth and at which point, if we do, will we have reached "enough".

We don't necessarily, but if we are going after it why not support the locals to do it rather than subsidise population replacement off their wages? Unfortunately, we're already taking their wages and subsidising the importation of other folks' children instead of supporting them.

Also, it's not even necessarily growth so much as stability / replacement rate at least.

Stability/replacement rate would be well appreciated. Growth, not so much... Next year, 5 million people in country. This is not a mark of stability.

You never heard of the globalist ummm UN (NWO) agenda to replace/mix all western civilisation with everything else??? :p

I think the politicians have population growth confused with economic prosperity


The real argument is not totally about money. This is a chapter of life, but not necessarily the most important one. In fact, our current thinking (& writing) is very skewed towards the money side of... well, just about everything. Life is more than money. Life is about love (if you're lucky) & relationships (if you're lucky) & family (if you're lucky) & having enough means to live one's life in relative comfort, safety & peace (if you're lucky). My father's generation got drafted into war. So did his father's generation, so don't be too hard on the blokes, okay? We have been fortunate to have lived when & where we have. We've been able to make our own choices in life, when many others have been told what to do & how to do it. Even now, we are still are very fortunate country & we know that because half a million immigrants here in NZ can't believe their luck. The problems of selfishness & greed keep raring their ugly heads, but still today we are one of the great small nations on planet Earth. Re the article above: Get married, stay married, raise a family & be grateful for what you've got. It's a lot.

If there are couples out there who sit in front of a retirement-savings calculator together, input some numbers without taking a note of their plan to have 10 or so years without one of the two contributing to kiwisaver, then that is hardly an unexpected loss when retirement comes without the calculator's big total in the bank.

I don't think it frames the discussion very well at all to say that the wife missed the opportunity to save or invest while she was raising children.

I would prefer we say
- those with poor financial literacy might not take into account time away from work has meant time away from saving for the future
- the career-progression gap is significant and has long term effects
- any single parent that raises children while not being able to invest for their retirement is going to miss a big chunk
- and we could discuss policy - that people who take a career break to raise children could have their kiwisaver propped up

But being fairly financially literate, I will be propping up my wife's kiwisaver/regular-investments and not expecting someone else to do that for us.

Have a contributory pension scheme that takes 35 years FT work to pay for.
Then, give women with children a minimum of 18 years credits for the childcare years.
That is what UK does.
It also goes some way to dealing with the "affordability" argument.

You talking about primary care giver or women alone? If it is the latter then it is a sexist policy. :D

I suspect the definition and focus of the wealth contained in the term "Financially" is part of the problem. I also suspect it is going to receive a challenge from the real world in the not too distant future.

All in all life choices have consequences down the road and it is not up to the state to meddle into family's private arrangements.

You collectively made the decision to have four children and that your wife withdraw from employment. Of course that has financial implications for her, this has to be the worst piece of research ever commissioned. There is no god given right that you have equitable economic outcomes if one of you takes extended leave from the work force.

How about you research the retirement outcomes of Maori against NZ European females and come back to me, you might actually find something real.

I struggle with this debate, because all the article writers and the vast majority of observers/commenters ignore our history. Right through to the end of the 1970s the Government message to the people of this country was that you do not have to worry about retirement because a part of your tax is being put aside to fund that retirement. The Government Super Fund was where all this money resided. So all the boomers were given a very clear message - they would be well looked after. BUT then the politicians had to fiddle. Piggy Muldoon dreamt big, and in doing so almost broke the country. So while the economy and his dreams went down the gurgler, he was casting around for a pool of money that would save his chops, and guess what he found? The GSF! And at the time it was so big it was actually embarrassing! I can't remember if he had invited it to invest in his projects, and the fund refused, or not, but in the end his government re-wrote the law and dumped this literal pot of gold into the consolidated fund. 40 to 50 years on that debit cheque is coming home to roost and our politicians are searching for ways to avoid having to pay it, while they themselves have their snouts in the taxpayer trough. It is a lot like global warming - those in power have used and squandered the resources to their own benefit, (they knighted Muldoon) without a single thought for those they were stealing from. To quote Greta - HOW DARE THEY!

The current super fund is trying to invest $6billion in a tram from Auckland to the airport.

Oh the poor boomers, if only they'd been given more of a chance to profiteer off things like housing or education or the other things they got cheap as chips but somehow think they have the right to fist the younger generations over. Won't someone think of the poor, perpetual economic victims that are the baby boomers.

To ignore history is to forever relive it. The Governments of the time told people their tax was elevated, so that a portion could be put aside to fund their retirement, and then they literally stole it, and your best response is "poor boomers"? What would you do if the Government today nationalised all your Kiwi Saver funds? Exactly the same thing. Don't say it can't happen, because it has before. Don't forget they make the laws!

The state of affairs today is as a result of the politicians, power hungry, greedy and self serving, not the boomers. Don't argue that we could have voted for someone else because we did! We changed between Labour and National several times and guess what? They are all the same!

What did they do with the stolen funds? And didn't National campaign on abolishing the Superannuation Scheme with the "Dancing Cossacks" advertisement? So why were they voted in?

Muldoon was the leader of the then National Government, and if my memories serve - like today he was voted in on the promises made and most people making a gut decision. I was too young to vote at the time, so details are sketchy.

I am not sure which history book you have been reading. The Labour government in the 1930's introduced comprehensive "Social Security" via specific taxation, originally at the rate of one shilling in the pound and soon after at one shilling & sixlpence.....ignoring Treasury advice that this sum was insufficient to cover the ambutious range of benefits. In fact no separate investment was made. Ie, the contributions covered (or attempted to cover ) annual superannuation (etc..) outgoings.
In the 1970's the Kirk Labour Govt. Introduced compulsory superamnation for all workers but shortly after, the incoming National government, yes at the behest of Rob Muldoon, scrapped the fund and repaid the contributors, favour of our current, merged PAYE/Social Security taxes which fund super out of the general tax funds. Yes, many regretted that Labour's (actually the young Roger Douglas's) fund was terminated, however, voters apparently did not buy into the idea of a rapidly increasing, largely government controlled, investment fund which would quickly hoover up a significant percentage of NZ's public companies, & I suspect voters didn't trust future governments not to "borrow" to fund wonderful, imaginative, new projects!
So, there was certainly no "embarrasingly large pot of gold" squandered by Muldoon. The best that might be said is that very few of our politicians have managed to design, let alone sell any long term self-saving scheme, beyond the current voluntary Kiwi Saver scheme.
Is their fault or just us Kiwi's,.... champagne tastes on a beer income, but a touching belief in the Tooth Fairy?

The boomers are going to suck every last cent out of the Super Fund leaving nothing. As a cynic I fully expect a lot these types of "explanations" from the retirement commissioner over the next 20 years. Increasingly innovative ways for achieving "fairness", "equitability"and "sustainability" will be presented in the form of an increasing bill on current and future taxpayers. Everyone currently under the age of 40 will be made to pay through the nose.

But no unaha, I have it on good authority the Boomers were "lied to" by the Government at the time, who despite campaigning on abolishing the recently enacted Superannuation Scheme were still voted in and followed through with it.


When my wife and I met each other in our mid 30's, I owned a 6 hectare lifestyle block with a 4 bedroom house and a few cattle on it. I worked a job and had just started my own business in my spare time, which I am now the full time manager of. I had a small share portfolio and a superannuation account.

My wife rented a one bedroom flat and owned 57 pairs of shoes and a new car. She would go out on the town every friday and saturday night with her friends. Despite the fact that she earned more than I did at the time, she had a student loan (which at 46 years old now she is still paying off).

If we were to separate now, perhaps the above factors would contribute to why she might be 18% worse off at retirement than me.

The sad but true point is, during our 20's - 30's men focus more as a rule on building equity than woman do. Just sayin'.

I have a suspicion that modern men are moving more towards your wife's approach to their 20-30s. Especially if they agree with the media message that says the home-ownership dream is beyond reach (i.e. why bother).
Women have different modern message of "you can have it all (but you need to work for it)" which is probaably making them become more financially responsible in their 20s in preparation.