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Everything Fair In Love And War? Research Reveals The High Cost Of Breaking Up After 50

A new study has delved into the complex journey of dividing assets after a relationship break up later in life and the financial impact this has on retirement.


The research conducted by TRA, on behalf of Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission, included a survey of 155 people, 12 in-depth interviews with people who had separated in the past five years, and expert interviews with five specialists working in this area.


More than half of survey participants indicated their circumstances were reduced post-separation, with those feeling financially uncomfortable jumping from 21% before separation to 64% following. Women were more affected than men, likely linked to the impact of women assuming a primary caregiver role, and then having reduced earning potential when they return to the workforce.

Te Ara Ahunga Ora Research Lead, Dr Jo Gamble, says this research highlights the financial difficulties many New Zealanders face at retirement following a life shock like separation in later life.

“For New Zealanders who separate over 50, thinking about how assets are divided and the implication this will have on their retirement savings is incredibly important,” she says.

“Unfortunately, people don’t seem to access the support they need to protect their retirement plans from the negative impact of dividing up assets.”

The research revealed that 9 in 10 did not consider retirement when dividing financial assets at all, yet 66% of Kiwis reported having their retirement plans negatively affected by separation.

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Dr Gamble says few people included KiwiSaver in the relationship property asset pool, despite contributions made during the relationship being relationship property.

“The feedback suggests that KiwiSaver is often viewed separately to the joint assets, with couples believing it to be money they have earned as individuals and out of scope of the wider division of assets.

“Only 25% of people included KiwiSaver when dividing their assets but 65% took bank savings and other investments (including property investments) into account.”

Other key findings include:

  • 60% of men said their decision making when dividing assets was influenced by a desire for fairness towards both parties.
  • 44% of people who were influenced by protecting their children psychologically found the outcome fairer
  • 50% just wanted the process to be over and this influenced their decision making.

About Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission

Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission aims to help New Zealanders to retire with confidence. Retiring with confidence means New Zealanders feel secure they’ll have resources to live and the know-how to make ends meet.

We focus on three areas: Retirement Income Policies, Retirement Villages and Financial Capability.

Te Ara Ahunga Ora runs Sorted, Sorted at Work, Sorted in Communities and Te whai hua – kia ora, Sorted in Schools.

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