International Women’s Day: Mind the gender financial capability gap

A deep dive into research on women’s financial capability has highlighted how gender gaps across the personal finance spectrum impact overall financial wellbeing.

More than 1500 responses from women who participated in Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission’s New Zealand Financial Capability Survey have been further analysed to better understand the drivers for why many women are ending up worse off than their male counterparts.

This study shows that along with the gender pay gap, which impacts women’s KiwiSaver contributions and ability to build assets, the gaps are driven even wider by poorer access to relevant financial education; how women use and understand financial products; and in terms of resilience for the future and preparedness for retirement.

Combined, the results suggest that women’s lower average financial resilience and preparedness for retirement is consistent with the findings in recent research conducted by the Financial Services Council. It shows little change in patterns over the last three years since the last report on gender pension gaps was completed for Te Ara Ahunga Ora.

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson says despite the data showing women generally having very good attitudes to spending, saving and borrowing, it’s clear there’s still a long way to go to closing the gender gaps around financial capability.

“Women not only earn less on average, but typically take more time out from paid work through maternity and family commitments and are often worse off than men after relationship breakdowns or other life shocks. This impacts earnings, KiwiSaver contributions and ultimately retirement balances.

“As such, women are disadvantaged in their ability to add to their own savings and grow their money to supplement NZ Superannuation income. This has a negative impact for women’s quality of life in their later years.”

The Government has asked Te Ara Ahunga Ora to look at women as a priority audience, along with Māori and Pacific Peoples, as part of the 2022 Review of Retirement Income Policies.

“In general, these three groups tend to arrive at pension age less economically well-off and it’s important that the reasons why are clearly understood from a systems perspective,” Wrightson says.

“Our latest research shows women are less aware of their KiwiSaver settings, less confident at investing, and fewer women than men seek financial advice. Women are disproportionally impacted financially by divorce and domestic violence, and by downturns in the labour market.  

“What are the barriers to women seeking sound financial advice? What can the advice industry do collectively to address this?  We know there’s no one solution to what are complex issues. It’s something that needs to be considered both at a policy level and by the financial capability sector.

“It seems appropriate on the eve of International Women’s Day to share these insights and continue to highlight the inequities women face when personal income plays such a significant role in women’s financial resilience and wellbeing.

“There will always be more that can be done. But just because these might seem like wicked problems to solve it doesn’t mean we should stop fighting to close the gaps.”

The gaps:

  • More than 1 in 5 women have a KiwiSaver account but don’t contribute (22% compared to 16% of men).
  • 39% of women with KiwiSaver estimate they have $10,000 or less in their account compared to 26% of men, and 26% of men believe they have over $50,000 compared to only 14% of women
  • Women in this study were more likely than men to earn less than $30,000 p.a. personally (39% compared to 33% of men). Conversely, men are more likely to earn more than $70,000 personally (32% compared to only 13% of women).
  • There is also a gender gap in terms of using and understanding financial products (for instance checking they fit their needs, or checking the terms and conditions).
  • Financial education in schools and workplaces fails to reach or engage women as well as it does for men, although wāhine Māori and Pacific women are more likely than average to say they are accessing this information at work.
  • Women score lower than men in terms of resilience for the future and preparedness for retirement that is exacerbated by relationship status, with widowed women receiving the lowest scores.
  • Women score higher on day-day money management attributes such as saving and budgeting.
  • Women are also more likely than men to plan their budget exactly and to keep to the budget. In terms of budgeting, wāhine Māori who play a role in finances are more likely to budget exactly and stick to it.
  • Women scored higher in long-term thinking and impulsivity control compared to men.


Notes to editors: 

About the New Zealand Financial Capability Survey

A comprehensive New Zealand Financial Capability Survey to explore financial wellbeing.

Alongside this substantial study three supplementary reports focus on priority audiences (women, Māori, and Pacific people). The three audiences are the focus for the National Strategy for Financial Capability.


The main survey involved 3027 adult New Zealanders and was conducted in early 2021. It measured a range of financial capabilities and outcomes using the financial wellbeing model designed by Prof. Elaine Kempson (2018). The framework for the model is derived from interviews and focus groups in several countries, and contains 21 components of financial capability which are each scored on a scale of 0 to 100.

Full reports are available here TAAO-RC-NZ-FinCap-Survey-Report.pdf and the technical report Technical report to accompany the financial capability report 2021.


About the RRIP 

Under the New Zealand Superannuation and Retirement Income Act 2001, the Retirement Commissioner is required to carry out a Review of Retirement Income Policies (RRIP) every three years.  Key topics to be focused on for the 2022 review relate to three broad areas comprising New Zealand Superannuation, housing, and private savings including KiwiSaver.    

More information, including the terms of reference, is available here.  


Media contacts: 

For more information, or to arrange any interviews contact:  

Anika Forsman | Director, Stakeholder Relations 

Mobile +64 21 246 4302