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Maori Women more likely to head into retirement in debt / little in savings

In December of 2018 the New Zealand Maori Council released the results of a survey called “What keeps Maori awake at night?”. Financial security loomed large in the survey results and over the last several months Council has been unpacking the results and discovered that Maori women are more at risk of becoming homeless, less likely to be able to have financial security and stability in retirement and more likely to head into retirement in debt. Council Executive Director, Matthew Tukaki, said the results themselves were not surprising, but what was surprising is how many people didn’t know what to do about it or how to talk about it:

“These sorts of surveys and research have been conducted overseas on a regular basis and it really is time we gave a voice to what was happening to many Maori women across the country when it came to the hidden shame of not being able to afford to live. That’s why we went back to a closed survey group to get more information and this is what we found”

  1. Maori women felt that they were unable to save for retirement because of the pressure of rising costs and low wages

  2. Maori women were concerned that they could be a burden on whanau if they were diagnosed with things such as dementia and Alzheimer’s

  3. Maori women were more likely to go into retirement in debt

  4. Maori in general are less likely to own their own homes in retirement and more likely to still be burdened with debt

“One of the tragedies we have at the moment is many of our elders are moving into retirement with little or no financial security and there are a growing number who are reliant on whanau to support them and help them. Thankfully many Maori families will always find a way but with they themselves struggle to get by.” Tukaki said

“The other challenge many families face is the rising today of dementia and Alzheimer’s amongst our people and the complexity of care required. No one necessarily plans for a time when they need to care for parents or loved ones. In each case we have our elders with a lack of financial security in retirement and also our younger generations who are also picking up some of those costs and therefore no always able to save for their own financial future.” Tukaki said

“Another challenge we have is that many Maori women will not have the same retirement savings as either their husbands and partners nor non-Maori. In fact this is a challenge for women more generally because they have spent longer outside of the workforce not earning because of raising families and so on.” Tukaki said

“In addition to all of these things Maori women, in particular sole parents, are more likely to be earning less than most other New Zealanders which presents yet another challenge around financial security over all. In fact, Maori women appear to be more likely heading into retirement with debt.” Tukaki said

“Finally we have the situation where we have a higher divorce and separation rate. The harsh truth is that many women in their later years will come out of a marriage less likely to be able to afford a new home and, in some cases, less likely to be able to afford market rent. In other words we have a growing number of Maori women at risk of homelessness.” Tukaki has said

“So what does Maori Council intend to do about it? Firstly we intend on establishing a national taskforce on women’s empowerment that will be headed by respected educationalist Raewyn Harrison. The second thing we are going to do is take a good look at developing a financial literacy program for whanau or if one is already out there than can grow to scale then let’s get in and support it. The third thing we need to do is work on a campaign to get more of our people thinking and talking about retirement now as opposed to leaving it off to a distant time n the future.” Tukaki said

“Our focus needs to be to ensure that our people are secure in retirement; that they can live active and fulfilling lives without having to always worry about the next lot of rent money is coming from.” Tukaki said

Maori Council has called on more whanau to get involved and is now also seeking expressions of interests for member of the new National Taskforce on Women’s Empowerment.

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