Q I am a long-term ACC person. I want to know if I can join KiwiSaver and if so, who do I contact for more information?
A As long as you are under 65 and living in New Zealand you can join KiwiSaver.
It is easy to join KiwiSaver, there are 16 companies that offer the scheme. Possibly the easiest ways to sign up are either through your bank or online through one of the fund managers.
If you want to get advice on your particular situation before you sign up, you can only get that from an Authorised Financial Adviser who will assess your risk profile, discuss your circumstances, and give you advice on what they believe is the best option for you. Look under Investment Advisers in the Yellow Pages or search for Authorised Financial Advisers on the internet. Some advisers may charge a fee, but they will let you know in advance what it will be. Others won't charge you anything but may receive commission from the fund manager. They are required by law to give you details of any commission they will receive.
Because you are not employed, you would be able to choose how much (if anything) you want to contribute to your fund.
If you sign up and don't contribute anything you will still receive the $1000 "kickstart" from the Government. That will be yours to spend when you turn 65 and can access your KiwiSaver account.
If you can contribute $20 a week (or $1042 per year) then the Government will top up your fund by $10 per week (that's called Member Tax Credits, and you get it in a lump sum of $521 in July each year). Some fund managers require investors to contribute a minimum amount of $80 per month if they are making regular savings. If you can't manage regular savings but have surplus cash from time to time (for example from a garage sale) then you can put that money into your KiwiSaver by sending a cheque to your fund manager. Saving in this way will also entitle you to the Member Tax Credits from the Government. If you manage to save $200 in a year, then you will get $100 in Member Tax Credits.
Because KiwiSaver is locked in to age 65 it means that you can't spend it - for some people that is a useful feature. It means you can't spend the money until you are 65 and it also means that family members can't ask you to lend them money from your KiwiSaver. For people who find saving difficult, this can be helpful.
Some people are suspicious of KiwiSaver and think that the Government can take their savings away from them (they can't). It is, in fact, a flexible, subsidised savings scheme which is helping New Zealanders save more.
Shelley Hanna is an Authorised Financial Adviser FSP12241. Her disclosure statement is available on request and free of charge by calling 8703838. The information contained in this article is of a general nature and is not intended to provide specific or personalised advice. If readers have any KiwiSaver questions they would like answered please go to www.peak.net.nz or email firstname.lastname@example.org.