The KiwiSaver scheme logo.

The KiwiSaver scheme is a New Zealand voluntary long-term savings scheme which came into operation from Monday, 2 July 2007. The main purpose of the KiwiSaver fund is for retirement savings, but younger participants can also use it to save a deposit for their first home.

A policy initiative of the Fifth Labour Government of New Zealand, it is aimed at improving New Zealand's low average rate of saving. It is governed by various Acts of Parliament including the KiwiSaver Act 2006, passed in September 2006.

KiwiSaver has been critiqued as being a part of a strategy to reduce New Zealand Universal Superannuation provision and expand New Zealanders reliance on private financial institutions to fund retirement income,[1] and can be seen as part of the wider global strategy of pension privatisation originally promoted by the World Bank and others.[2] Winston Peters has critiqued KiwiSaver as a 'billion dollar rort' by the finance industry and proposed alternatively that private KiwiSaver funds should be invested in a government run "KiwiFund" which would invest mainly in New Zealand assets and infrastructure.[3] Russel Norman of the Green Party has earlier proposed directing KiwiSaver funds into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund (also known as the "Cullen Fund") to reduce high fees paid to financial industry.[4]

Basic operation

Anyone aged 64 and under, who is entitled to live in New Zealand indefinitely and who normally lives in New Zealand, is entitled to join KiwiSaver. Those under 18 require parental consent to join.

Employee participants can choose to contribute 3%,[5] 4% or 8% of their gross pay, and can switch rates three months after setting a rate (unless employers agree to a shorter time frame). These contributions are deducted from an employee's pay, and sent by the employer to Inland Revenue alongside their PAYE tax returns. The self-employed and unemployed can choose how much they want to contribute; while most KiwiSaver schemes have minimum contribution amounts for people in this category, several schemes allow any level of contributions.[6][7] All eligible participants aged 18 to 64 starting a new job, with some exceptions, are automatically enrolled in KiwiSaver. New employees can choose to opt out from day 14 to day 56 of their employment.[8]

Participants choose to put their savings in one of several "approved savings schemes". They can only belong to one scheme at a time, but can change schemes at any time. If they do not choose a scheme, and the participant is aged 18 or over, they will be assigned either to the employer's default scheme or to a government-selected default scheme. Each scheme offers several managed funds to invest the participants' savings in, with varying degrees of expected risk and return.

Employers are required to contribute at least 3% of an employee's gross pay to the employee's KiwiSaver account. The employer contribution is taxed at the employee's marginal tax rate, so the actual amount the employee receives in their account is between 2.01% and 2.685%.

From the start of the scheme until May 2015, those who joined KiwiSaver received a $1,000 tax-free "kick start" to their KiwiSaver account from the government. The Fifth National Government removed it effective 21 May 2015 as part of its 2015 budget.[9] Those aged 18 and over also receive from the government a "member tax credit" (MTC) of 50 cents per dollar contributed (or part thereof) for the first $1,042.86 contributed per year (1 July to 30 June). The MTC is not a true tax credit; it is a monetary contribution paid by the government via Inland Revenue, mainly to offset the tax paid on interest earned. Those withdrawing KiwiSaver funds to help buy a first home may also get a deposit subsidy of up to $5,000 (existing homes) or $10,000 (new builds) from Housing New Zealand, provided they meet the required income, deposit and house price requirements.

A participant can access all their KiwiSaver contributions once they reach the age of entitlement for New Zealand Superannuation (currently 65), as long as they have been a KiwiSaver member for five years. Otherwise, KiwiSaver contributions can only be accessed (with restrictions) in the following circumstances:

Mortgage diversion

Some provider funds offer a mortgage diversion scheme where some of the employee contributions can be used to make mortgage repayments instead of going towards Kiwisaver, after a person has been signed up for 12 months. This is only allowed for repayments on the main home, and not for other properties such as investment or holiday homes. Employer contributions will not be able to be used for the mortgage.

This option was abolished by the National Government that came into power in 2008, though employees who used this option prior to June 2009 can continue to use it as long as their provider offers it.

Contribution holiday

Persons on the scheme can take contribution holidays after 12 months for any period from 3 months to 5 years without any limits on future contribution holidays.


Persons under 18 years of age may join KiwiSaver if the provider allows their enrolment. If not employed, the child has to agree to a level of contributions with the provider. As soon as the child is employed they must contribute and can never opt out.[10] Children are not entitled to the tax credits.[11]

As of 30 June 2013, there were 352,600 KiwiSaver members aged under eighteen.[12]


Each scheme offers several managed funds to invest the participants' KiwiSaver savings in, and members may invest parts of their savings in different funds. Each managed fund has different risks, returns, investment composition and fees.

Inland Revenue and the Commission for Financial Literacy and Retirement Income both divide funds into five broad categories, based on their investment composition:[13][14]

Some providers offer a "lifetime" fund option, which sees the member's savings move to more defensive funds as the member ages. An example may have members aged under 35 in an aggressive fund, those aged 35 to 49 in a growth fund, those aged 50 to 59 in a balanced fund, those aged 60 to 64 in a conservative fund, and those aged 65 and over in a defensive fund.

Withdrawing savings

As the main purpose of the KiwiSaver fund is for retirement savings, money can be withdrawn from the fund at the age at which the person is eligible for government superannuation, currently 65, as long as they have been a KiwiSaver member for five years.

However, money can be withdrawn before retirement in a number of circumstances which are outlined in Schedule 1 (KiwiSaver scheme rules), of the KiwiSaver Act 2006.

If a New Zealander permanently emigrates to Australia, they may choose to keep their KiwiSaver savings in New Zealand or transfer them to a complying Australian superannuation fund. Likewise, if an Australian permanently emigrates to New Zealand, they may choose to keep the Australian superannuation savings in Australia or transfer them to a complying KiwiSaver fund. Regardless of where the money is held, Australian superannuation savings can be withdrawn once the person turns 60 and retires from working, or turns 65 regardless of employment status. Australian savings cannot be withdrawn to help buy a first home.

Political issues

The KiwiSaver scheme was one of the promises on Prime Minister Helen Clark's controversial 2005 pledge card as part of the Labour Party's promises for that election. In 2008 John Key, then Leader of the Opposition, stated that a National led government would mean "there won't be radical changes...there will be some modest changes to KiwiSaver".[15] KiwiSaver therefore has broad political support, being supported by both the National and Labour parties. National has since capped employer contributions at 2% and reduced compulsory employee contributions to 2%, with effect from 1 April 2009.[16] Mortgage diversion is no longer available.

Additionally, fee subsidy for those poople who become members after 1 April 2009, has been removed and for those people who joined before 1 April 2009 only 1 or 2 years fee subsidy will be paid (depending upon the date the member joined).

An Otago Daily Times opinion article suggested a number of consumer-oriented reforms.[17] It said that Kiwisaver fund managers should reveal the exact investments they are making, rather than broad categories and percentages. American mutual funds reveal the top 10 investments as a matter of transparency. In the same article, the author wrote that one should be able to attach a KiwiSaver account to a discount broker (e.g. Ameritrade, E-Trade, or the like) and choose a large number of investment options, including shares, exchange-traded funds, mutual funds, bonds, and derivatives. Americans and Australians have the ability to make such investment choices in their retirement accounts, the article claimed.

On 16 July 2009, the governments of New Zealand and Australia announced plans[18] to allow funds in KiwiSaver and Australian superannuation to be transferred between the two schemes. This would allow New Zealanders who have worked in Australia to repatriate their superannuation money to New Zealand, and likewise for Australians who have worked in New Zealand to repatriate their KiwiSaver money to Australia. Trans-Tasman portability of retirement savings came into force on 1 July 2013; from that date New Zealanders could no longer withdraw their KiwiSaver funds in cash on the basis of permanent emigration to Australia.

In 2013 Labour said it would like to make the KiwiSaver scheme universal, in the face of the rising cost of superannuation,[19] while financial organisations called for raising the minimum contributions to 7 percent.[20]

As part of the 2015 New Zealand budget, the National led Government repealed the $1,000 "kick-start" payment.[9] Following the presentation of the budget, Finance Minister Bill English indicated the government was considering "mass auto-enrolment" of all workers under the age of 65.[21]


It was announced on 30 August 2007 that nearly 130,000 New Zealanders had signed up for the scheme.[22][23]

In October 2007, after 3 months of operation, 200,000 people had signed up, leading Revenue Minister Peter Dunne to say that

If take-up continues at this rate it might be easier to make the scheme compulsory, thereby removing the employer compliance costs associated with people opting out.

However he said that these were his personal views and not those of the government.[24]

On 6 December 2007, 5 months after the start of KiwiSaver, it was announced that 316,000 people had signed up. Over half were under 45, nearly 20% were under 25, and 33,000 were under 20.[25] By 31 May 2008 uptake had more than doubled to 673,000, with more than $900 million having been paid into KiwiSaver schemes.[26]

KiwiSaver statistics[12]
As at Active members % of population
under 65[27]
Total contributions
$m (year)
Total contributions
$m (cumulative)
30 June 2008 716,600 19.2% 1,037 1,037
30 June 2009 1,100,500 29.2% 2,116 3,154
30 June 2010 1,459,900 38.4% 2,648 5,801
30 June 2011 1,755,900 46.0% 2,911 8,712
30 June 2012 1,966,400 51.5% 3,248 11,960
30 June 2013 2,146,800 56.0% 3,070 15,030
30 June 2014 2,350,600 60.9% 4,096 19,126
30 June 2015[28] 2,488,994 64.5% 5,239 24,365
30 June 2016[29] 2,608,383 72.77% 8,999 28,474

As a comparison, the cost of New Zealand Superannuation for 2014/15 is $11,589 million.[30]

Maximising returns

There are several strategies that can be employed to maximise returns from the KiwiSaver scheme. These strategies depend on individual circumstances.

See also


  1. "Kiwisaver". Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  2. "Orenstein, M.A.: Privatizing Pensions: The Transnational Campaign for Social Security Reform. (eBook and Paperback)". Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  3. "Scoop Business » Stop the Billion Dollar Kiwisaver Rort, Introduce Kiwifund". Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  4. Cheng, Derek (2011-11-08). "PM concedes value in slicing KiwiSaver fees". New Zealand Herald. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  5. KiwiSaver changes in the 2014 tax year
  6. Self-employed - your guide to KiwiSaver KS12. Inland Revenue Department. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  8. KiwiSaver – Change or stop contributions
  9. 1 2
  10. Archived 13 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. The Dominion Post: local, national & world news from Wellington's daily newspaper. (18 September 2007). Retrieved on 19 August 2011.
  12. 1 2 "KiwiSaver annual statistics". Inland Revenue (New Zealand). Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  13. "What types of investment funds are available?". Inland Revenue. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
  14. "Fund types - Must-knows of KiwiSaver - Sorted". Commission of Financial Literacy and Retirement Income. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  15. "Key signals 'modest changes' to KiwiSaver". National Business Review. NZPA. 9 July 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  16. Bill English (9 December 2008). "Changes make KiwiSaver more affordable for all".
  17. andrewudstraw (22 September 2009). "Kiwisaver is opaque and rigid, and needs reform". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  18. "Ministers Take Single Market Forward, Sign Up To Trans-Tasman Retirement Savings Portability". Australian Treasury. Retrieved 2011-12-23.
  19. Labour backs universal savings scheme. 3 News NZ. 10 October 2013.
  20. FSC wants KiwiSaver contributions at 7pc. 3 News NZ. 14 October 2013.
  21. "Govt considers KiwiSaver 'mass auto-enrolment'". Radio New Zealand. 29 May 2015. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  22. Rt. Hon. Michael Cullen and Hon. Peter Dunne (30 August 2007). "KiwiSaver take-up figures take off.". Scoop. Retrieved 30 August 2007.
  23. "Nearly 130,000 people signed up to KiwiSaver.". Radio New Zealand. 30 August 2007. Archived from the original on 13 February 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2007.
  24. Nikiel, Christine (27 October 2007). "KiwiSaver 'could become compulsory'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  25. "More than 300,000 join KiwiSaver". The New Zealand Herald. NZPA. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  26. "KiwiSaver numbers closing in on 700,000". KiwiSaver press release 18 Jun 2008.
  27. "Estimated Resident Population by Age and Sex (1991+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 10 October 2016.
  28. "KiwiSaver Annual Report 30 June 2014-30 June 2015" (PDF). Financial Markets Authority (New Zealand). Retrieved 6 October 2015.
  29. "KiwiSaver Annual Report 30 June 2015-30 June 2016". Financial Markets Authority (New Zealand). Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  30. "Vote Social Development – Budget 2015" (PDF). New Zealand Treasury. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
  31. Scherer, Karyn (5 November 2007). "KiwiSaver: The devil's in the details". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2011.

External links

Lists of KiwiSaver scheme providers

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