Strong support for compulsory KiwiSaver, increase to contribution rates - research

A report commissioned by Financial Services Council in April shows 78 percent support compulsory KiwiSaver.
A report commissioned by Financial Services Council in April shows 78 percent support compulsory KiwiSaver. Photo credit: GettyImages.

The majority of Kiwis support making KiwiSaver compulsory as well as having the option to automatically increase their contributions over time, new research shows.

KiwiSaver started 14 years ago in July 2007. It's a voluntary savings scheme to help Kiwis save for their retirement. After three years, members can choose to withdraw most of their savings to buy a first home.

Research commissioned by the Financial Services Council of over 2000 people released on Tuesday, shows three-quarters (78 percent) think KiwiSaver should be mandated for all working Kiwis.

The research also shows Kiwis are worried about their options in retirement: almost three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents thought they may have to work past the retirement age of 65.

Over half (65 percent) thought their savings weren't on track and 64 percent said they may not be able to afford where they wanted to live.  Over a quarter (33 percent) were unsure of the monthly amount they'd need.

Financial Services Council chief executive Richard Kilpin said the research highlights Kiwis' concerns they'll be able to live comfortably in retirement and want KiwiSaver's role to be increased.

"With 78 percent supporting compulsion and almost three quarters (73 percent) supporting an increase in contribution rates, there is widespread public support for action in both areas," Kilpin said.

Two-thirds of respondents said they rely on KiwiSaver to save for their retirement and 38 percent are using it (or plan to use it), for a first home.

But almost one-quarter of respondents were unsure how much they'd need in retirement. Across all age groups, 43 percent thought they'd need up to $750,000, 15 percent thought they'd need $750,000 to $1 million and 17 percent more than one million.

While making KiwiSaver compulsory isn't among policy plans, Kilpin says concerns around whether savings are adequate is a starting point for discussion.

"We can't slow-march to a retirement future if we don't plan for it… the underlying concern and anxiety of 'will I have enough' is playing out clearly in the data," Kilpin said.

The latest Financial Services Council data shows the average KiwiSaver balance is just over $25,000.

The biggest portion of respondents (31 percent) were contributing the minimum rate of 3 percent of their income (pre-tax). Slightly less (15.7 percent) were contributing 4 percent and a collective 24.5 percent were contributing 6 percent, 8 percent or 10 percent.

"What this research is alluding to is [that] you can't put in 3 percent and assume you're going to be in good stead by the time you retire," Kilpin said.

A 2020 New Zealand Retirement Expenditure study by Massey University's Fin-Ed Centre shows a single person living in New Zealand's metro centres wanting to live a 'no frills' lifestyle could expect to spend $693.30 per week ($983.60 for a 'choices' lifestyle).

The Financial Services Council confirms that based on Massey's expenditure guidelines, a 'no frills' lifestyle would require savings of $721,032 ($693.30 x 52 weeks x 20 years). This doesn't take into account NZ Super, which for a single person in 2021 is $436.94 per week ($873.88 per fortnight, tax code 'M').

Current Financial Services Council data shows there are around three million KiwiSaver members, with $82.2 billion invested in KiwiSaver funds. But National Capital founder Clive Fernandes said collectively, there needs to be somewhere between 4.5 and 8 times that amount.

Telling people they have to save more might not be enough, he said. Most people who are savers are already doing so.

"We've got a looming retirement issue, so a compulsory KiwiSaver will most likely happen," Fernandes said.

Once people are in the habit of saving, see it grow and get "into the headspace" where they enjoy putting money aside, contributions can be increased at a comfortable pace, he said.

He also suggests people get advice to set a goal for how much they need to save for retirement - and create a path to reach it.

The Financial Services Council 'KiwiSaver at Crossroads' report is based on research conducted over April. It looked at what Kiwis think of KiwiSaver, the role it plays in planning for retirement and where it needs to head in future.