Break from work for family reasons usually means a KiwiSaver pause but voluntary payments a good idea.
My wife and I both joined KiwiSaver. At that stage she was employed. She is no longer employed.

Our family income consists of my salary plus interest on jointly held investments such as term deposits and savings accounts with savings totalling about $200,000.

She is no longer making contributions to KiwiSaver through employment.

But, am I right, she could still make voluntary contributions and would she reap benefits through her share of our joint interest income?

Contributing to KiwiSaver is easy for those with a job.

Each payday the money is whisked away into your KiwiSaver account before you even notice.

Those who are not on a salary or wage, including women who are taking a break from work to raise families or support their partner, can still belong to KiwiSaver.

Ana-Marie Lockyer, general manager products and marketing at ANZ Wealth, regularly analyses membership of its KiwiSaver scheme to investigate trends in retirement savings among women.

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She explains how KiwiSaver works for someone like your wife.

"Good on you for taking an interest in your wife's retirement savings," says Lockyer.

"ANZ research has found that New Zealand women, on average, are likely to retire with around $60,000 less than men, based on current savings patterns.

"When you consider that women, on average, live longer and retire earlier, their retirement savings potentially need to stretch further.

"This is an issue we should all be concerned about.

"An estimated 85 per cent of New Zealand women take a break from working to raise or care for family.

"Many women stop contributing to KiwiSaver during this time which can further increase the gap in their retirement savings.

"If possible, your wife should continue contributing to KiwiSaver.

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"You are right, she doesn't need to be working to make contributions to her KiwiSaver account - she can make voluntary contributions at any time, for any amount.

"Your wife can either make single lump sum contributions, or set up regular contributions.

"Anyone can make voluntary contributions to another person's KiwiSaver account, so you could make contributions to your wife's KiwiSaver account if you decided as a couple to do this.

"We suggest your wife contributes at least $1042.86 a year, before the end of June, to her KiwiSaver to ensure sure she receives the government's annual contribution of $521.43.

"This is an easy way to increase her savings as the government will give her 50 cents for each dollar she contributes up to a maximum of $521.43 a year.

"This is free money from the government.

"She can reach this amount by contributing about $20 a week.

"Your wife should contact her KiwiSaver provider to find out how to make voluntary contributions.

"Some providers will require her to complete a form, while others will allow her to do this online.

"On top of her voluntary contributions and the government's annual contribution, her KiwiSaver savings will attract investment returns which should see her KiwiSaver account balance increase.

"It's important that she reviews her fund choice to ensure she is in the appropriate fund for her risk profile as her choice of fund will affect her investment performance," says Lockyer.

For mums and dads taking paid parental leave when their baby is born, KiwiSaver contributions, both from their pay and their employer, will stop until they start back at work.

If you're planning to go back to your job at the end of your parental leave you can choose to keep up contributions to your KiwiSaver while you're at home with your baby in which case you'll need to get in touch with the IRD.

Disclaimer: Information provided is stated accurately to the best of the respondent's knowledge at the time of publication. It is general in nature and should not be construed, or relied on, as a recommendation to invest in a particular financial product or class of financial product. Readers should seek independent financial advice specific to their situation before making an investment decision.

Questions

To have your KiwiSaver questions answered by the Herald's panel of industry players email Helen Twose, helen@helentwose.co.nz. Sorry, but Helen cannot answer all questions, correspond directly with readers, or give financial advice.