Another chance to improve KiwiSaver

Since conception, KiwiSaver has gone from strength to strength. Any initial hesitation has been replaced, on the most part, with acceptance. The latest figures show two million New Zealanders are  now signed up – a fantastic uptake.

The latest KiwiSaver Performance survey from Morningstar showed that funds have grown from $954.10 million as at 30 June 2008 to $14.48 billion as at 31 March 2013. And on top of this, investment funds have been performing especially well over the last 12 months. Growth has been remarkable, but we have a long way to go yet.

While the recent 1% increase of the minimum contribution to 3% is a positive step in the right direction, this rate needs to be much higher. The upcoming budget is the perfect opportunity for the Government to further increase this minimum contribution to ensure future generations will be comfortable in their retirement.

A recently released Infometrics report commissioned by the Financial Services Council (FSC) has shown that if 80% of the workforce was contributing to KiwiSaver, and if this contribution was increased to 10% (5% by employees and 5% by employers), the KiwiSaver fund would grow from its current level of $14.48 billion to $731 billion by 2066. This would have a fantastic effect on New Zealand’s economy, productivity and our capital and job markets.

Australia is way ahead of us in their retirement scheme. Australian employers currently contribute 9% and this is increasing to 12% by 2020. This is smart and New Zealand needs to follow their lead – the sooner the better.

The Infometrics report also found that if contributions were increased to 10%, those starting work today would get twice the pensions they would be entitled to currently from NZ Super when they retire.

Only 9% of New Zealanders believe that NZ Super alone will be sufficient for them to live on when they reach retirement, according to a Horizon Research survey released by the FSC.

And this majority is right - the current entitlement of approximately $13,000 to $18,500 per annum would barely cover most people’s essential household expenses.

Demographic changes show that people are living longer and are more active in their retirement. As these changes continue, a much bigger nest egg will be required to fund these lifestyles.

While everyone’s needs and requirements are different, a typical rule of thumb is that people should look to have a post retirement income at a level of 70% of their pre-retirement income, if they want to maintain a similar lifestyle.

The bottom line is, that to be comfortable in retirement, every New Zealander needs to be saving roughly 10% of their income. And while some people will achieve this across a range of  measures, the majority are unlikely to do so without Government intervention.

Hopefully this year’s budget results in further improvements to the KiwiSaver scheme. While it’s unlikely there will be an increase to 10%, any small increase will be another step in the right direction.

For further information please contact:

Roger Sutherland            
Director, Grant Thornton Wealth  Management Limited
T +64 9 308 2570