Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

KiwiSaver survey finds support for making scheme compulsory

A UMR survey commissioned by the Financial Services Institute of Australasia found 57 per cent of the 1001 people who participated believed retirement savings via KiwiSaver should be compulsory. Photo / Thinkstock
A UMR survey commissioned by the Financial Services Institute of Australasia found 57 per cent of the 1001 people who participated believed retirement savings via KiwiSaver should be compulsory. Photo / Thinkstock

Most people support KiwiSaver becoming compulsory, a survey suggests, as the Government considers "soft compulsion", which would see everyone not already in the scheme automatically enrolled.

However, the organisation that commissioned the survey warns KiwiSaver is at a turning point and further tinkering runs the risk of destroying trust in what has proved to be a successful scheme so far.

A UMR survey commissioned by the Financial Services Institute of Australasia found 57 per cent of the 1001 people who participated believed retirement savings via KiwiSaver should be compulsory.

The online survey conducted after the Government reduced incentives in its last Budget also found 54 per cent of respondents believed those changes had weakened the scheme.

Fears of further changes to the scheme were the main reason given for not being a member, aside from those who had other forms of savings and investments sufficient to provide for their retirement.

The changes did not appear to have put off those already in the scheme with 84 per cent saying they would not alter their contributions.

But Finsia chief executive Russell Thomas warned any further changes risked undermining KiwiSaver, which had already proved successful in terms of take-up in spite of being tweaked twice.

"To send a message at the outset that the levers can be so easily changed from one cycle to the next undermines confidence overall in KiwiSaver.

"This is the turning point because if the Government is seen to fiddle too regularly with the incentives that drive people to sign up then the original goals are subverted."

Finsia - which has about 700 members in this country, primarily in the banking sector - believed KiwiSaver's policy objective of shifting some of the burden of providing for retirement from the state to the private sector was a sound one.

However, unlike other finance sector figures, Thomas did not believe making KiwiSaver compulsory or even using soft compulsion was necessary or desirable.

"You either go down the compulsion route and you raise the level of contributions so it can meaningfully offset the cost of NZ Superannuation, or you have a voluntary-based scheme with compelling incentives."

Soft compulsion was "part-way between two policy goals that haven't been clearly articulated", he said.

"You've gone down a very commendable policy path and made some great inroads in four years. Stay the course, otherwise the public purse will not reap the benefits."

Officials are working on the Savings Working Group recommendation that all people working and not already members of the scheme should be enrolled while their right to opt out is preserved.

Finance Minister Bill English yesterday said the Government did not favour compulsory retirement savings because many people simply could not afford it.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 31 Jul 2014 01:55:08 Processing Time: 815ms