Dissertation Abstracts

Barriers to, and Triggers of Nurses’ Retirement Savings: A Decision-Making Approach

Author: Tan, Louise M, louise.tan67@gmail.com
Department: Oxford Institute of Population Ageing
University: University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Dr. George Leeson
Year of completion: 2013
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: retirement income , superannuation , women, nurses , ageing
Areas of Research: Poverty, Social Welfare and Social Policy


Australia places a strong emphasis on self-provision in later life, which is embodied in its earnings-related superannuation system. Women have been identified as a group poorly served by the existing retirement income framework and more vulnerable to financial insecurity in old age as a result of lower wages and interrupted working profiles. The implications of this for women’s retirement incomes provide the context for this thesis.

Although there have been various explanations for women’s low retirement savings, not enough attention has been paid to the factors that influence the decision to save for later life. This study uses a consumer decision-making framework that identifies key stages in the decision-making process. This thesis argues that the decision-making process can be broken into two main stages: activities associated with deciding to save for retirement; and the activities associated with actual savings behaviour.

Using nurses as a case study and a mixed methods approach, this study investigated retirement planning behaviour and explored factors that contributed to retirement saving success or failure. Information was collected through semi-structured interviews with 37 nurses in South Australia in 2007, complemented by a self-completion questionnaire.

Findings were generated from the analysis of the primary interview and questionnaire data, as well as data from the retirement module of Wave 7 of the longitudinal Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey (HILDA). HILDA data were used to support the results of primary data analysis or to identify areas of difference. Within the HILDA sample (N= 13,327), it was possible to identify a nurse population (n=200). Whenever possible, responses of the nurse population are highlighted separately.

A typology was constructed and explained to show that individuals can be classified into eight groups according to subjective and objective criteria based on retirement planning behaviour, as well as to the level of expressed concern about their financial future.

Knowing the factors that influence the decision to save or purchase a financial product, along with the factors that sustain that decision and associated behaviour, could contribute to an individual’s success in being financially self-sufficient in retirement. This requires a clear understanding of the barriers to saving for retirement and, conversely, the factors that trigger individuals to adopt sustained savings behaviour. This study identifies a number of important barriers to, and triggers of, women’s retirement saving. Barriers included: poor financial literacy; limited information networks; the adverse influence of personal sources of information; and a lack of engagement with retirement. Reaching the age of 40 emerged as a major trigger of active retirement saving amongst participants in this study. Other significant triggers were: family influence; changes in family structure—marriage, divorce and/or children; improved financial circumstances; and relocation. These are incorporated into an extended decision-making model that can be more readily adapted to long-term decision making.

The findings of this study have analytical, practical and policy implications, especially for the increasing proportion of women who must rely on their own retirement savings. This research highlights current policies that affect financial security for women in retirement and identifies areas for reform.