More than 2.5 million Kiwis are signed up to KiwiSaver but many people aren't making the most of it, according to Ana-Marie Lockyer.

"There's a risk in thinking you're on track for a comfortable retirement simply because you've joined KiwiSaver," says the general manager of wealth products and marketing at the ANZ bank.

Some people may not be saving enough to pay for the kind of retirement they want while others are not saving at all.

Latest figures from the Financial Markets Authority - the government body which regulates KiwiSaver - showed 43 per cent of KiwiSaver members had not made any contributions in the two months leading up to June 30, 2015.

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While many of those members will be under 18, a large number are adults sitting on a contribution holiday.

Savers can apply for a holiday after being in KiwiSaver for a year and can apply to put their contributions on hold for up to five years and then reapply again after that timeframe.

But Lockyer said taking a five-year break from saving could be costly and some were doing it out of pure forgetfulness.

A survey of 400 ANZ KiwiSaver members on contribution holidays found 112 were not contributing because they had forgotten about KiwiSaver.

"Taking a five-year break from contributing to KiwiSaver would leave a $50,000 hole in the retirement savings for a 20-year-old, contributing 3 per cent of a $27,500 salary for 45 years."

Lockyer said it was also important to continually check whether your savings were on track for where you wanted to be in retirement.

"What was right for you as a 25-year-old may not still be appropriate when you're 40 or 50."

So how do you know if you're on the right track?

Have a plan

A comfortable retirement starts with a clear plan.

What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement? What will that cost? How much can you afford to save?

Taking the time to develop this plan - and revisiting it regularly - is possibly the most important investment you can make. The Financial Markets Authority has a list of Authorised Financial Advisers who can help formulate a plan.

Save more

Do you know how much money you will need in retirement and are you contributing enough to reach this goal?

There are some good calculators available online that can help you to check up on whether you are on track.

Circumstances change so it's worth checking in regularly.

For example, if you've taken a break from contributing to KiwiSaver, you may have some catching up to do.

You can vary your contributions or make lump sum contributions at any time.

Choose a fund

Choosing the right KiwiSaver fund is vital.

In general, growth KiwiSaver funds are designed to produce higher investment returns over time, while conservative funds aim for lower-risk but more moderate returns.

Even a 1 per cent difference in investment performance in your KiwiSaver fund over time could give you an extra $100,000 when you retire. (This is based on a 22-year-old contributing 3 per cent of a $45,000 salary, along with employer contributions of 3 per cent, until the saver is 65).

You can choose to move your KiwiSaver money into a different fund at any time.

An online risk-profile questionnaire can help you work out the type of fund that best suits you.

Or you can choose a Lifetimes option which automatically moves your KiwiSaver money into a fund that is appropriate for your age.

Check your tax rate

Make sure you're not paying more tax than you need to on your KiwiSaver. The Inland Revenue website can help you calculate your prescribed investor rate (PIR). Contact your KiwiSaver provider to ensure they have the correct information.

Maximise the benefits

• KiwiSaver offers a number of benefits so make the most of them.

• Member Tax Credits - The Government will also give you up to $521 each year, provided you contribute a minimum of $1042 before June 30 each year. Make sure you've contributed enough - you can make a lump sum top up to your KiwiSaver to ensure you qualify.

• Employer contributions - your employer will contribute 3 per cent of your pay to your KiwiSaver if you are contributing regularly.

• Buying your first home - you can use your KiwiSaver money (including your employer contributions and the Government's annual member tax credits) to help buy your first home.

Connect online

It's all too easy to "set and forget" your KiwiSaver.

If you connect online, you can keep an eye on your contributions and see how your savings are growing. Visit your KiwiSaver provider's website to find out if they offer this option.

Seniors lack plan for retirement funds

Heading into retirement and don't know what you will do with your KiwiSaver cash?

You're not alone, according to research by the ANZ.

The bank's latest retirement savings barometer found 40 per cent of those surveyed were unsure of their plans once they hit 65.

A further 35 per cent said they would take it out, while 21 per cent planned to leave it in KiwiSaver.

Many savers are uncertain about their future plans for retirement funds once they reach the crossroads of being 65 years old. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Many savers are uncertain about their future plans for retirement funds once they reach the crossroads of being 65 years old. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Of those who planned to take it out around half (53 per cent) said they would reinvest it in a term deposit or similar account.

When people turn 65 and are eligible to gain access to their savings they can either take part or all of the money out or leave it in and withdraw it later.

John Body, managing director of ANZ Wealth, said around 44 per cent of its ANZ KiwiSaver members withdrew all of their money when they turn 65, but the bank was starting to see more members leave their money in KiwiSaver.

"We currently have over 7,000 members of the ANZ KiwiSaver Scheme who are over 65.

"In the current low-interest environment, many of these members are choosing KiwiSaver over term deposits given the performance of KiwiSaver funds and the fact they can withdraw all or some of their investment at any time."

The average return for conservative KiwiSaver funds was 6.2 per cent per annum for the five years to September 30, according to research firm Morningstar.

Meanwhile, term deposit rates have sunk under 4 per cent.

Body said many people turned 65, withdrew all of their money from KiwiSaver and then invested some of it in a term deposit.

"But they could leave their money in KiwiSaver, continue to earn investment returns, and access their money any time they want - unlike term deposits which are for a set time."

Body said the uncertainty shown in the survey indicated many people would benefit from some sound financial advice around KiwiSaver.

"We're all living longer and young people today may need their retirement savings to last for 30 years or more so it's vital that you have a plan to both save enough and make good use of the money you've saved."

The survey also found people's confidence in their ability to meet their retirement income goals had dipped since the last survey in April.

Those who felt confident declined from 44 per cent to 41 per cent, with women's confidence dented the most.

Of the men surveyed 51 per cent felt confident, down from 53 per cent, and of the women it was 33 per cent down from 38 per cent.

Just under 700 people were questioned for the barometer.

Savings plan

• 40% unsure of their plans for KiwiSaver money once they hit 65 years of age.
• 35% would take the money out of the savings scheme.
• 21% plan to leave it in their fund.
• 41% confident about meeting retirement income goals.