More men than women have used KiwiSaver housing grants to help buy their first home despite thousands more women being signed up to the scheme.

Figures from Housing NZ, which administers the scheme's first-home subsidy, show nearly $28 million was paid out to 8722 people in the year to May. Of those, 54 per cent were men and 46 per cent women.

Of the country's main cities, the gap was biggest in Christchurch. But thousands more women than men have been consistently signing up to KiwiSaver each year since it started six years ago.

Women make up 51.29 per cent of the 2.11 million members - that's 65,000 more women than men signed up for the scheme since it began in 2007. Taking into account the population difference in the 17-64 age group (45,000), the difference is likely closer to 20,000.


Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O'Sullivan said national figures were not collated on the sex of a person buying a house and whether they were a first, second or third home buyers, so the KiwiSaver first-home subsidy figures were a good indicator of the trend.

She was surprised more men were buying more homes.

"Women are very much involved in the process - I don't think they'd be leaving it all up to the blokes - as with any other major purchase decision."

Ms O'Sullivan warned first-home buyers not to get complacent and rely on the subsidy as it was just $1000 for each year of contribution to the scheme, up to a maximum of $5000.

KiwiSavers can apply once they have been with the scheme for three years.

On top of the subsidy, KiwiSaver users can also access their savings and employer contributions.

The Herald reported yesterday that 10,733 people accessed their savings in the past year, withdrawing an average of $11,200 - a total of $120.2 million.

North Shore Budgeting Service adviser Sue Deason said more women than men came through her doors seeking advice on saving, and many were mothers living on child benefits.

"Women do seem to take responsibility more and are much more likely, if children are involved, to look after the children."

Men "were slower to grow up" than women when it came to dealing with money, so fewer would think about signing up to KiwiSaver, but women's incomes were on average lower than men's so it was more difficult for them to save, Ms Deason said.

A survey last month found that women earn between $8000 and $20,000 less than their male colleagues in some industries, despite their qualifications.

Faye Langdon, managing director of Global Women, an advocacy group for women in business, said of the gender pay difference: "Senior executives and managers need to be cognisant of the unconscious bias in the workplace. Where women are promoted earlier, where they give women the challenging assignments that in turn give them senior visibility, where pay parity is the norm, and where there is a commitment to developing talent - both men and women equally."

Daniel Carney of Auckland-based Goodlife Financial Advice said his biggest clientele group was single women in their 40s or 50s.

"We do have quite a large demographic, compared with the male side ... of females wanting to plan for their futures."

Richer reward if you're willing to wait

Left alone in a room with a chocolate fish, most children would gobble the treat within seconds.

But if they're told they can have two if they wait, it seems many have self-control.

KiwiSaver provider AMP conducted the experiment to use as an analogy to illustrate how investing in something now can reap a greater reward in the future - like saving for retirement.

The concept involved 60 Auckland children aged between 3 and 5 being given a chocolate fish and told they could eat it straight away or, if they waited, they would get two later.

They were left alone in a room in an Avondale studio for about five minutes, with a camera hidden behind a wall.

The children employed several temptation-resistance techniques, including looking away, licking but not eating the chocolate fish, shouting and staring at the treat.

Fifty of them, or about 80 per cent, managed to resist temptation.

The idea was based on a series of studies on delayed gratification conducted at Stanford University in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

In those studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward - a marshmallow, biscuit or pretzel - provided immediately or two small rewards if he or she waited until the tester returned after 15 minutes.

In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by exam results, educational attainment and body mass index.

The NZ experiment started screening as AMP's new advert for its KiwiSaver schemes.

"Most of the children were able to resist temptation for instant gratification because it resulted in greater rewards in the future," said Blair Vernon, AMP's general manager of marketing and customer sales.

"Savings and retirement is not something these kids need to think about just yet, but it is something their parents and other working-age New Zealanders should be thinking about if they want to achieve the quality of life in retirement they aspire to."