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Types of Kiwisavers

Defensive Kiwisaver

Defensive KiwiSaver funds hold less than 10% in growth assets. Growth assets are things like stocks and shares, which can fluctuate in value. Instead defensive funds hold things like cash and government bonds.

Conservative KiwiSaver

Conservative funds hold 10% to 34.9% in growth assets. Conservative funds are generally suitable for investors who are comfortable with some ups and downs in value.

Balanced KiwiSaver

Balanced KiwiSaver funds are typically suited to investors who are comfortable seeing a fair degree of variation in their balance. The payoff is potential greater long-term returns than those offered by conservative or defensive funds.

Aggressive KiwiSaver

Aggressive KiwiSaver funds are for investment thrill seekers with an extremely large appetite for risk. These types of KiwiSaver funds hold a large proportion of their investments in growth assets – at least 90% and as high as 100%.

What is a KIWI Saver?

Anyone 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%,4%, 6%, 8% or 10% 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.

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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.


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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 from 21 May 2015 as part of its 2015 budget.

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.


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What is a KiwiSaver?

A KiwiSaver is a voluntary savings scheme to help set you up for your retirement. You can make regular contributions from your pay or directly to your scheme provider.

When it’s time to withdraw your money

After you reach 65, you become eligible to take all or some of your contributions, your employer’s contributions, the government’s contributions, plus returns. In short, the whole thing.

How fast you open the tap is up to you: keep it off for now and leave your money invested in KiwiSaver, open it slightly to drip-feed some income, or open it right up to spend or invest the entire amount (although you may not be able to rejoin KiwiSaver if you draw it down entirely).

Mortgage Diversions

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.

Do I have to withdraw the money?

There’s no rush – you can leave your money where it is while you work through all the issues and decide. For example, if you want to make regular withdrawals, there may be a minimum amount required or some fees.

It may be worth talking with a financial adviser about your financial needs and risks, and work out the best course of action to reach your goals. Find out how to find a financial adviser in our guide.

Contact your KiwiSaver provider directly to find out what’s involved and to make arrangements.

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