A petition to improve gender equity in retirement has been launched by the KiwiSaver company kōura Wealth. It is aimed at allowing couples to pool their contributions.
The scheme stems from long-standing worries that women are missing out on the value of their KiwiSaver funds due to suspended contributions during time taken out of the workforce to help raise children.
Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission has estimated the difference to be 20 percent in the balance of funds at the end of people’s working life. The petition urges Parliament to change the KiwiSaver Act so that a couple’s contributions can be accessed equally.
This would create a Contribution Sharing Scheme, under which couples could share their KiwiSaver contributions, whether they are married or are a de facto pair.
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It would ensure that people taking time off work to raise children would not be disadvantaged compared to their partners who keep on working.
Such a change would reward both partners equally for their joint interest in raising a family.
The founder and managing director of kōura, Rupert Carlyon, said the current gender gap creates a "sense of insecurity and lack of freedom" in people’s retirement.
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.
Carlyon said it would be a voluntary scheme with both parties needing to opt in. The value of the contributions would be split annually for as long as the couple wanted the scheme to last for.
The kōura petition is an alternative to earlier suggestions that the state could pay so-called care credits, which would maintain KiwiSaver payments for a person taking time off work for a baby.
But the Government has shown no interest in agreeing to this. Some companies make these payments available to highly valued staff, but lower-paid people generally miss out.
A splitting regime, as proposed by kōura, is thought likely to be easier to manage and would be universal.
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Semi-Retired, Eric worked in journalism for 45 years across print, radio and television, in New Zealand, Australia and Britain. He has specialised in business, finance, energy, mining, transport and agriculture. He was also foreign correspondent for RNZ for many years. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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