Young women should be encouraged to care about money from a young age to help overcome a gender gap in financial knowledge, says Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson.
Her comments come after a financial literacy survey showed only half as many women as men answered all questions correctly, and the gap in financial knowledge widened with age.
“Many women have a disconnect between not valuing money per se, and appreciating what money can achieve for them,” says Wrightson. “They rate making money lower than caring for others, yet it is money that will enable them to look after their children and wider whānau.”
Wrightson’s office, the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC), ran the survey among more than 3000 New Zealanders from January to June this year. It used questions from an OECD toolkit to measure understanding of basic financial concepts such as interest, inflation and risk diversification. The CFFC’s report identifies areas of need and opportunity when targeting delivery of financial education, including through its Sorted in Schools programme and soon-to-launch Sorted Women course.
Only 22% of respondents answered all questions correctly. Results showed that while New Zealanders had a good understanding of inflation, interest and risk and return, they struggled with understanding compound interest, risk diversification and the time value of money – key concepts in growing money long term, particularly for retirement savings.
In the youngest age group (18-34), men and women started with the same score but men increased their financial knowledge more with age.
“New Zealand’s results are consistent with other OECD surveys in which women score lower on financial literacy tests than men, and show they are risk-averse when it comes to investing,” says Wrightson.
“Yet we also know that women are, on average, better than men at managing money in the short term, and when they do invest, are on average more successful than men.”
Wrightson says knowledge is key, and financial capability education is essential for girls while still at school.
The CFFC’s Sorted in Schools programme is helping address the issue; 62% of secondary schools are now using the programme, and students can gain credits toward NCEA by learning financial capability.
“This is helping normalise financial education, and making it a positive thing for girls and boys to be good with money.”
The CFFC is also launching a Sorted Women course that will be taught by women for women in workplaces and the community. Sorted.org.nz provides a digital source of lifelong learning that women can access at any age.
“All of us can help the young women in our lives by showing them that knowing how to make money work for you is an essential life skill. It will help them become independent, achieve their life goals and take care of those they love.”