Females and those aged 35-60 are at risk of not meeting their retirement objectives while weak investor sentiment continues, according to The University of Western Australia and Colonial First State Global Asset Management (CFSGAM) research.
The findings are based on the CFS-UWA Business School Equity Preference Index (EPI) which measures a sizeable database of managed fund data to gauge investor sentiment in Australia.
The overall results show a decline in concern over the vulnerability of equities has developed since September 2011. However when those figures are broken down, women continue to appear more sensitive to current changes in market performance than males.
Females were more likely to move out of equities than males after the Global Financial Crisis, which began in 2007. While this trend follows a historical pattern the researchers consider it could also follow that since the GFC, female employment has been slower to return than male employment.
The research cites that since a labour market trough in June 2009, unemployment among men has fallen 17 per cent compared with unemployment among females which has risen three per cent.
"The cautious investment behaviour of women raises concerns about lower female superannuation balances, with growing risk of not meeting their retirement objectives unless savings level increased," report author Winthrop Professor Ray da Silva Rosa said.
More generally, traditional investor groups aged over 35 have also shown a tendency to move out of equities and into capital preservation compared with younger investors.
"It's unclear if this lower preference for equities will continue but in Australia the relatively attractive deposit rates are creating little incentive to return. If confidence in equity markets fails to return, it's likely to have a severe impact on superannuation benefits, particularly for those most risk averse groups, which include females and middle age groups (35-49 and 50-59)," Professor da Silva Rosa said.
The report concludes that if investor confidence in equities does not return, there will be a need for an increase in savings levels to compensate for lower expected returns to meet the retirement needs of Australia's ageing population.