Answered: The top questions women ask about investing.

08 March, 2024

5 mins

When is a good time to start? Shares or funds? What happens to my KiwiSaver after a divorce? And other key investing questions, answered.

Unfortunately, the gender pay gap is still real: according to Te Ara Ahunga Ora (Retirement Commission) the average investment in KiwiSaver for women is 25% less than men and there are gaps across all ages. There are many reasons why women fall behind men when it comes to investing. Women tend to take more time off work than their male counterparts and more commonly there is a lack of understanding around investing. This gap is concerning considering that women live longer than men so need to save more, and additionally feeling in charge of your finances can help with mental wellbeing.

Keen to explore how you can help reduce the gap? Here are some answers to the top questions women ask our customer service team.

When is a good time to start investing?

A general assumption made by people new to investing is that you need to have lots of money to do it. People ask if there’s a threshold; should I only bother if I have a spare $10k? The simple answer is that you can start with $5 a week and the sooner you start the more you will have over time due to the power of compounding returns. If you want to invest outside of KiwiSaver you can do this through a managed fund or Sharesies.

How can I learn more about investing?

Talk to your friends. Sharing ideas on salaries, investing and budgeting could make a difference towards reaching your savings goals. The Financial Services Council NZ have developed a set of free conversation cards to help get you started - organise a ‘money date’, grab a glass and #letstalkaboutmoney.

Online resources: Pathfinder have a learn page - find ideas on how to make the most of your KiwiSaver investment and reach your savings goals faster, to what common financial terminology means.

If you are a podcast fan, we have collated a listen page on all sorts of investing topics from various platforms.

The Curve: This financial education platform is full of insightful podcasts for all stages of investing and life related topics aimed at women. Their website has some free resources including a beginners guide to investing and includes an online classroom if you want to deep dive further. Interestingly, they recently released a salary survey so you can learn more about how much others are paid for roles that might be like your own.

Find an adviser: Financial Advisers are professionals who advise on financial planning, insurance, investing and other financial services. Make sure you choose one that is qualified and registered (they will provide you with a disclosure document which will show their professional qualification and registration number. They charge in different ways, so find out what their fees are first. We also offer all our KiwiSaver members access to advice . Contact us to talk to an expert.

Should I invest in shares or funds?

Investing in shares from a single company, or a handful of companies, is considered a higher-risk strategy. This is because each one of your investments (or companies) represents a larger portion of your portfolio, and if one of those companies fails or their shares decreases in value, your investment will decrease proportionately.

When you invest in a fund, your money is pooled with other peoples and spread across many companies, therefore diversifying your investment across multiple companies to reduce your risk.

Buffy Ellen, was an executive director at Goldman Sachs before she started Be Good Organics. On her podcast “How to invest smarter not harder” with The Curve she encourages women to give investing a try but be mindful of what you are getting into.

“You'll never learn about it until you try. But if you're feeling unsure then go with a fund as opposed to going with your own Sharesies type thing.” She likens investing in shares to cutting your hair – you might give yourself a small trim, but you’d probably use a professional if you were going all in

What are the risks?

Like most things in life, investing also carries risk. Some parents let their kids jump off the high rock into the water, while others suggest they stick to the lower ledge. We all have a different level of risk that we consider acceptable based on context and capability – this is referred to as your ‘risk appetite’. To work this out, you could think about:

Your investment goals: What are you investing for and by when? What kind of return are you hoping to achieve to reach your goal? Do you want your investments to align with your values. (Try our values quiz to find out more).

Your investment horizon: The more time you have to leave your money invested; the more risk you might feel comfortable taking on. The share market goes up and down over time, so if you have time to ride the ups and downs you could take on more risk. To help we clearly state the suggested time horizons for each of our KiwiSaver and Managed Fund investments.

Your risk tolerance: How much can you tolerate seeing your investments increase and decrease in value and how comfortable are you with this? As a general rule of thumb, higher risk investments will bounce up and down in value more but generate higher long term returns than lower risk investments.

Your financial situation: How much money do you have to invest? How much can you afford to lose without it causing you significant financial stress? Do you have a separate ‘emergency fund’ for unexpected expenses that pop up? At the end of the day our goal is to help your well-being, rather than add stress.

How much should I put into my emergency fund?

Although having an emergency fund is not strictly related to investing, it can help your investing if you have savings set aside that you can easily access if something goes wrong. Let’s face it, sometimes when it rains it pours - your car breaks down, you need to take time off to care for someone or you get an unexpectedly large bill.

Emergency funds give you a financial reserve to cover outgoing costs should unforeseen expenses occur - allowing you to dip into them without having to take money from your investments. It’s up to you how much you want to put aside for emergencies. suggests putting away $1,000 as quickly as you can, but a general rule of thumb is to have at least a month of savings that equates to all the costs you’d need to cover in that month (rent, mortgage, bills, food etc).

I want to take time off for my kids, how do I keep contributing to my KiwiSaver?

Paid parental leave from the government does not include KiwiSaver contributions currently. However, a Beehive media release states that from mid-2024 new parents will receive a 3% government contribution if they continue their own KiwiSaver contributions. Parental leave paid by your employer is subject to KiwiSaver deductions unless you take a savings suspension.

It’s important to be aware that KiwiSaver is considered relationship property – this means it must be split equally under the Property (Relationships) Act for the time you are together. So, if you do need to take time off work, make sure your spouse is topping up their KiwiSaver. Or alternatively they can make payments into your account on your behalf, more about this in the next section.

“When I took time out to have our children, my KiwiSaver balance was negatively impacted by not working; once I returned to work it was really important to have a fund that helped me recoup those losses”. Emily O’Hara. Emily invested in the Pathfinder Growth Fund.

It's generally recommended to try and contribute enough each year so that you receive the government contributions. You can contribute to your KiwiSaver at any time by making a bank payment.

What happens to my KiwiSaver if I separate from my partner?

Sadly, its best to be prepared. Under the Property (Relationships) Act, the assets that you have attained during the time you are together must be split 50:50. This means any KiwiSaver contributions you have made during your time together, will be pooled with the rest of the relationship assets and split between you. Learn more about relationship property, prenups and separation agreements in this great article by MoneyHub.

Like some extra help?

Each person’s situation is unique and getting bespoke financial advice is key before making financial decisions. If you would like to learn more or have any burning questions, please contact us, we are always happy to help.


Past performance is not an indicator of future returns. This article is not intended to be used as financial advice. Product Disclosure Statements are available on our website.