The KiwiSaver company Kōura Wealth has started a petition to improve gender equity in retirement.
The petition will urge parliament to change the KiwiSaver Act so that a couple’s contributions can be pooled.
This would create a Contribution Sharing Scheme, under which couples, either married or de facto, could share their KiwiSaver contributions.
This would ensure that people taking time off work to raise children would not be disadvantaged compared with their partners who keep on working.
Such a change would reward both partners equally for their joint interest in raising a family.
At present, the law means that women who usually take time out for child rearing end up with less money in their KiwiSaver accounts when they retire.
Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission has estimated the difference to be 20%.
The founder and managing director of kōura, Rupert Carlyon, has seen the gender gap many times in his career and says it creates a “sense of insecurity and lack of freedom that many forecast for their 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 would be easier to manage and could be universal.