Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Helen Twose: There is a time limit on starting

Trusts and companies cannot be members of a KiwiSaver scheme.
Trusts and companies cannot be members of a KiwiSaver scheme.

Q: My sister and I are trustees of an investment our 68-year-old sister was left by our parents.

She is rather rash with money and Dad wanted to ensure she would eke it out and not blow it in one go. Our parents died 10 years ago and since then her inheritance money has reduced from around $80,000 to $30,000.

She has used some every now and then and has some of it on-call for this reason.

She is paid out $500 twice a year. The money was spread around over various so-called safe investments.

The best one ended up with South Canterbury Finance - I got the lawyer to move this before they folded. Most of it is now in term deposit or in an on-call account. The lawyer is concerned it is languishing in a low-return account. My other sister wants to invest in KiwiSaver but I'm not sure a) whether she would like this and b) whether she would be able to at her age? The final query is: does it have to be left in KiwiSaver for a minimum number of years?

A: Unfortunately, it is three years too late for your sister to join KiwiSaver.

Westpac's head of investment products, Nigel Jackson, says KiwiSaver is open to most Kiwis provided they meet the eligibility rules. "Specifically, you're eligible if you are a New Zealand citizen or entitled to be in New Zealand indefinitely; normally living in New Zealand; and under the age of eligibility for New Zealand Super (currently age 65). You will not be able to join KiwiSaver if you are over age 65 when you first apply.

"In most cases you cannot withdraw your savings until you reach New Zealand Superannuation age [currently 65] and have been a KiwiSaver member for at least five years," says Jackson.

Trusts and companies can't be members of a KiwiSaver scheme, adds Jackson. "So you won't be able to replicate a trustee structure through KiwiSaver scheme.

"Also, any person making an investment on behalf of someone else would first need to be properly authorised to do so, for example, have a power of attorney."

For those who have joined KiwiSaver prior to turning 65 there is no requirement to withdraw the funds or close your account once you are 65 or eligible to access the money. It is possible to leave it in KiwiSaver, add contributions, move it between KiwiSaver funds or make small withdrawals.

The Commission for Financial Capability recently crunched the numbers and found 62 per cent of people had made no withdrawals after hitting eligibility age. Of the 29 per cent who had taken all their money out, nearly half had moved it to a savings or term-deposit account.

A further 8 per cent had dipped into it occasionally and just 1 per cent had made regular withdrawals.

Even if you leave your KiwiSaver account open and make contributions you won't get the member tax credit once you turn 65 and if you're still working your employer no longer has to contribute.

- Herald on Sunday

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Personal finance and KiwiSaver columnist at the NZ Herald

Helen Twose is a freelance business journalist who writes regularly about KiwiSaver and entrepreneurial companies. She has written for the Business Herald since 2006, covering the telecommunications sector, but has more recently focused on personal finance and profiling successful businesses.

Read more by Helen Twose

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