'Don't expect future generations to look after you': Economist's warning for retirees

"If you haven't prepared, don't expect future generations to look after you." 

That's the stark warning from economist Shamubeel Eaqub, who's convinced our universal superannuation scheme can't last much longer. 

New figures released to RNZ show the number of high-earning over-65s still collecting the pension has tripled in the past 10 years. Thirty-one thousand people earning $100,000 now collect $600 million a year in welfare simply because they're 65 or older, and that's believed to be an underestimate as it doesn't include those living off investment income and capital gains. 

The Retirement Commissioner and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have both said there's no need to means-test superannuation, and that it's sustainable in its current form for the next 30 years thanks to the Super Fund.

Eaqub isn't so sure, with rising lifespans making it cost more and more, per person, every year.

But even if it was affordable, he questions whether we should be giving money to the well-off, when there are places it could be spent where it would have a bigger impact.

"We need to raise the retirement age and we need to means-test it - particularly on wealth," he told The AM Show on Thursday.

"What the data shows is we're spending about $600 million on people who don't really need it. If we spent that $600 million on poor older folk, their lives would be much, much better.

"There are a lot of older people who are really struggling - they don't have their own homes, they're struggling with their housing costs, health costs, things like aged costs."

Shamubeel Eaqub.
Shamubeel Eaqub. Photo credit: The AM Show

He said people shouldn't feel entitled to a pension after a life of paying taxes, as that's not how our tax system works.

"New Zealand doesn't have a save-as-you-go system. We've actually not prepared for the cost of aging. Everybody thinks 'I've paid enough taxes', well sorry - no you haven't... So if you haven't prepared, don't expect future generations to look after you." 

The Westpac Massey Fin-Ed Centre last year said a city couple would need $787,000 saved to live comfortably in their retirement, while in the regions they'd need $493,000. The Commission for Financial Capability in 2016 came up with a figure of $649,779. Both figures assumed the retiree would own their own home.