kōura petitions to change the KiwiSaver Act
Introducing the KiwiSaver Parity Project
kōura has today launched a petition urging Parliament to change the KiwiSaver Act to create a Contribution Sharing Scheme to address gender inequality in retirement.
The voluntary Contribution Sharing Scheme would allow couples (whether married or de facto) to share KiwiSaver contributions to ensure that the person foregoing paid work to have and/or care for children, earning less due to family responsibilities, or earning less due to various pay gaps compared to their full-time working partner is not financially disadvantaged in retirement.
The petition would benefit all families, which come in different shapes and sizes, and would particularly bring retirement parity to women who have lower KiwiSaver balances due to the gender pay gap (9.2 percent in 20221) and who typically are the ones who take time out of the workforce to have and care for children.
The Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission has reported in 2022 the average KiwiSaver balance for women is 20 percent lower than for men2. The report also said 39 percent of women estimate they have a KiwiSaver balance below $10,000 compared with 26 percent of men. This is without delving further into the intersectionality of pay parity3.
kōura founder and managing director, Rupert Carlyon, says the gender disparity in retirement savings is something he has seen a lot of in his role, and which also impacts his own household.
“I was aware that gender inequality in KiwiSaver was a problem that needed addressing,” Carlyon explains. “When several financial hardship claims hit my desk and the more conversations I had, including with my wife, Olivia, it bought home the sense of insecurity and lack of freedom many forecast for their retirement because of this inequality.
“Olivia has a KiwiSaver balance which is less than 40 percent of my own. This is driven by differences in pay, but most importantly, it is because she has taken time off to look after our three kids and now works part-time to help manage our busy family life. I recognise we are in a fortunate position that Olivia can work part-time but the question is, why should she be penalised when her taking time off for maternity and childcare is of great benefit to both of us?”
Carlyon adds that years of research pointing to gender inequality in KiwiSaver show the system needs to be fairer, but the topic has been debated with limited solutions until now.
“This proposed change is a no-brainer, but it took time for us to find a responsible answer and actionable solution. kōura was founded to help Kiwis achieve the retirements they expect and deserve. Right now, we are not doing that because the overall system is inequitable, and that’s not good enough. We want a groundswell of support for this petition to make a change and bring about fairness and freedom in retirement for everyone.”
Taking one-year off work on parental leave is expected to cost the average KiwiSaver member $5,100 to an individual’s KiwiSaver balance, based on a 35-year-old earning $80,000 per year. That can compound up to $16,000 by the time someone reaches the age of 654 if the person has taken years off or works part-time to care for children.
The team at kōura believe one size does not fit all and that couples should be given the option to make financial decisions that benefit them and their family.
The petition is step one of kōura’s KiwiSaver Parity Project, and they will work with industry groups and the Inland Revenue Department to implement the change.
kōura suggests when the Contribution Sharing Scheme is adopted that a couple (whether married or de facto) could volunteer to split a mutually agreed amount of either partner’s KiwiSaver contribution on a yearly basis for a duration which they both agree on.
Both people in the relationship would need to agree and opt in, signing consents with their individual KiwiSaver provider, with the ability to opt out at any point in time.
4 Based on a 35-year-old earning $80,000/ year contributing 3% of their salary investing in a growth fund up until they turn 65