Most 65-year-olds don't want to retire - Retirement Commissioner

The Retirement Commissioner wants to end the stigma that being old enough to receive superannuation means you're old.

"Sometimes when I'm talking about 65-year-olds, you guys will show a photo of a 95-year-old with a little cane," Diane Maxwell told The AM Show on Monday.

"I'm thinking, that's not a 65-year-old."

As our lifespans increase, more people are continuing to work past 65. Combine that with falling birth rates, and you've got a recipe for fiscal disaster.

"By mid-century, we really will have a pressure point," said Ms Maxwell.

"Over one in four New Zealanders will be 65-plus. The cost for super is about $38 million a day today - in 20 years it'll be closer to $100 million a day, and the number of people working relative to the number of people retired will have [fallen]."

There's a pretty good chance by then the retirement age will have gone up. It was Labour policy while in Opposition, but the then-National Government refused to budge. But last year, the parties traded position - now it's Jacinda Ardern promising to resign if she raises the age, and National that's promising change.

Ms Maxwell says we need to stop thinking about it as the 'retirement' age.

"It's not the retirement age - it's the age of eligibility for super. But what people are saying is... they said they want to retire between 68 and 72. It's not old. You'll have lots of 68-year-olds watching and listening this morning going, 'I am not old.'

"The problem is we have this vision of people at 65 being old. People don't see themselves as old - they want to keep working."

Much of the opposition to raising the age comes from the youth, who want the same entitlements their parents and grandparents had, and manual labourers, who fear working into their 60s and 70s will simply kill them.

Ms Maxwell says as technology develops, there won't be as many of the latter around.

"You've got to remember those jobs are reducing - many more jobs are not manual, because increasingly robots are doing those jobs. What we need to do is invest in people in their 50s so that if they want to make a career change, they can do it. There's lots of other things people can and do want to do. Most people don't actually want to sit down and knit and have cups of tea."

An unscientific AM Show poll found 61 percent of viewers don't think they'll have enough to retire at 65. Ms Maxwell says they should be taking advantage of schemes like KiwiSaver - but many aren't.

Of the scheme's 2.7 million members, she says half don't put in more than $1000 a year so they're missing out on the Government contribution of $520 a year - and half of that group aren't contributing anything at all.

The Commission for Financial Capability, which Ms Maxwell heads, is holding a summit this week looking at the challenges New Zealand faces as its population ages and the "pressure point" approaches.