We hear it all the time - women are better savers and more cautious investors than men. So why do many women end up with less money than men?
The answer, according to New Zealand's Financial Markets Authority, is risk - women don't take enough of it.
There's an old saying which attempts to sum up the difference between the genders: Men play the game; women know the score. But, in financial circles, while women are regarded as better savers and more careful investors, they often end up worse off with a worse 'score' than men in saving for retirement.
Research in the US from Fidelity Investments, published in Fortune magazine last year, showed that while men save 7.9 per cent of their salaries, women save 8.3 per cent.
But, when it comes to putting that money to work, women suffer. New Zealand studies show men take more risk*. According to the FMA, that puts women at a disadvantage when it comes to retirement income.
That view is supported by the latest research from the UK, where website This Is Money reported in May that women's investment income there is lagging behind men's by more than 50 per cent - far more than the gender pay gap (9.6 per cent in the UK).
After research done by equity investment specialist Radius Equity, the website said suggested reasons included the gender pay gap - giving women less ability to save - and that their investments often reflect a much lower appetite for risk than men. In London, the gulf between genders was even more pronounced than the national average, with the average annual male investment income at $11,500 - about 80 per cent higher than the $6,400 earned by women.
Over a period of years, that can add up to an enormous difference. FMA director of external communications and investor capability, Paul Gregory, says women could regain some ground by better embracing the concept of investment risk and reward.
"Risk isn't bad, it's a normal part of investing. When balanced with reasonable fees, taking more risk can significantly improve your chances of getting a good return. Nothing is guaranteed, so you will always need to take some level of risk - what's important is that it is calculated."
Most of New Zealand's 2.65 million KiwiSaver members, for example, have years or even decades before they can access their accounts. But experts say there is a predominance of investment in low-risk, low-return conservative funds rather than the balanced or growth funds that take greater risks - but offer better returns over long periods.
Studies also demonstrate women's risk aversion relative to men**; the FMA also undertook a focus group last month, asking financial advisers about advice they'd given to investors at the point of retirement.
Most agreed women were more likely to seek a meeting with an adviser because they were more security-conscious, liked to plan ahead and didn't want to carry debt over 50. Men tended to be more focused on the mechanics of investing - "knowing what they're getting into".
According to the FMA's 2014 study, New Zealand's Investment Market - a Segmentation Analysis, men are more likely to have investments in shares or managed funds but only slightly more likely to have a will, a KiwiSaver account, or health insurance.
Women trade less - a positive for eventual investment outcomes, as it incurs lower transaction fees, and makes it less likely they will sell out when markets are down. But it also means they may miss profitable investment opportunities.
Women were more likely than men to specify 'maintain all the money originally invested' as the most important investment goal; men preferred to 'make the best return' or 'earn a reliable income'.
A more conservative attitude to risk is not the only reason women aren't financially as well-positioned as men in retirement, says Gregory - statistically, women live longer, meaning they need income for longer and live on their own for longer.
Narrowing the gap can be as simple as transferring a KiwiSaver account into a more growth-oriented fund: "It's a matter of matching risk with your goals and the amount of time you have to achieve them. If you need higher returns, you will need more risk."
He says all investors need to think about risk, return and cost. Conservative investors tend to need their money soon and don't want to risk short-term losses if financial markets are going through a bad patch.
Balanced investors want a bit of risk and a bit of certainty, while growth investors don't need their money in the short term and are prepared to take greater risks in the reasonable expectation of greater results - "but don't put all your eggs in one basket; allocate them to investments that perform differently in the same market conditions."
*Men take more risk when investing - FMA Investor Segmentation Report, March 2014
**The difference between male and female investors - Global Accounting Alliance, February 2013
The FMA is the New Zealand government agency responsible for financial regulation. They are part guard dog (they regulate financial markets) and part guide dog (they provide information to help New Zealanders make better investment decisions).