Expenditure patterns of New Zealand retiree households

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Couples spend more per capita
but have higher wellbeing
than singles in retirement

Retirees spend less
especially on non-necessities
as they get older


This research delves into expenditure patterns of retiree households in Aotearoa New Zealand.


The findings will help inform the public about the level and type of expenditures they need to financially prepare for throughout different stages of their retirement. The research can also inform policy discussions and decisions surrounding retirement planning, income security, and overall well-being of senior citizens, as well as provide financial product providers with insights into the needs of their customers.


In the latest year of analysis (2018/19), the average annual expenditure for retiree households was found to be $55,700. This amount was distributed across various categories, with 13% allocated to groceries, 19% to housing, and 14% to other necessities like household utilities, communications, and insurance. Remarkably, discretionary expenses accounted for the remaining 54%.


We show a profound connection between subjective well-being and various demographic and socioeconomic factors. Retirees with higher qualifications, who own their homes, enjoy greater incomes, live with their partners, and have no dependent children tend to experience higher subjective well-being levels. Those with lower subjective well-being are rent-paying renters, single retirees living with others, and Māori households.


A significant revelation from the study is the relatively positive financial situation of retiree households compared to pre-retirement households. Retirees are more likely to report having sufficient income to meet daily needs and express greater satisfaction with their lives. They are less inclined to report financial strain, which suggests a degree of financial security in their post-work years.


We show a discernible divergence in expenditure patterns across different demographic groups and income levels. The analysis reveals that, on average, single retirees living alone spend $30,700 annually, while couple-only households spent a higher average of $65,100 per annum.


As retiree households advance in age, their spending patterns exhibit significant shifts, particularly in discretionary expenditure categories such as clothing, transport, and recreation and culture. This indicates a natural evolution in priorities as retirees progress through various life stages.


Le, Trinh and Euan Richardson. 2023. “Expenditure patterns of New Zealand retiree households". Motu Working Paper 23-07. Motu Economic and Public Policy Research. Wellington, New Zealand.


DOI: 10.29310/WP.2023.07


Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission

See also