KiwiSaver is set to undergo more change this year with tweaks in a tax omnibus bill and three reviews on the cards.

The Taxation (Annual Rates, Business Taxation, KiwiSaver, and Remedial Matters) Bill was
introduced to Parliament in July last year with three KiwiSaver proposals.

They include allowing people over the age of 65 to join KiwiSaver, changing the name of the contribution holiday to savings suspension and adding contribution rates of 6 per cent and 10 per cent to the existing 3, 4 and 8 per cent rates.

A select committee report on submissions to the bill is due in early January before it goes for a second reading in Parliament.


If given the thumbs up by politicians the contribution rate changes and savings suspension name change are set to come in from April with the over 65 change set to come in from July.

The Government will also start its seven yearly review of the default providers.

There are nine providers who currently have default status which means that when a person joins KiwiSaver and does not choose a fund they are randomly allocated to one of the nine.

At the last review in 2014 the provider numbers were increased from six while a financial literacy element was added.

The Government has indicated fees will be part of what it looks closely at as part of the review this time which will see changes made in 2021.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has also said he wants to look closely at how to get more low-income New Zealanders into KiwiSaver while commerce minister Kris Faafoi has committed to a review looking at how members with a restricted life expectancy might get access to their money earlier.

Kiwisaver experts also want other tweaks to the scheme, which turns 12 in July.

Ayesha Scott, a finance lecturer at AUT, believes the minimum saving rate needs to increase from 3 per cent.


"I think ultimately KiwiSaver in the way it was set up has some real strengths. But there needs to be an increase in the minimum contribution rate.

"There is no perfect number. But if the ultimate goal is to make sure New Zealanders are retiring with enough savings to live comfortably...we know living costs are going up. So people are going to need more savings."

Scott said people were already retiring on less than what they needed and she urged people in their 30s and 40s to think about what their consumption might be like in retirement.

"Will your expenses be more or less or the same?"

She said thinking about that and coming up with a figure put a tangible number of something that was fairly abstract.

Claire Matthews, a KiwiSaver expert at Massey University says the biggest change she would make is allowing more flexibility in how much people contribute by setting the minimum at 3 per cent but letting people increase it by half a percent at a time.

"That means if you have a pay rise you can step it up without having an adverse impact."

Matthews believes the best way to get all people into KiwiSaver is to make it compulsory for everyone starting a first job.

People starting a job or moving jobs are automatically enrolled at the moment but can still opt out between two and eight weeks after the auto-enrolment.

She says the problem with those who are already working is that joining KiwiSaver feels like a pay cut.

"They are likely to find it difficult if they lose money from their disposable income."

But that means those people are missing out on their employer contribution and the government's annual incentive.

She is also concerned about those on total remuneration packages where their employers' contribution is paid out of their total salary.

"That is fine for people on high incomes like CEOs." But she says it makes it tough for those on low incomes who also have a power imbalance making it hard for them to argue against it.

Ultimately Matthews says less change would be better.

"There has been a lot of change. I am supportive of most of the changes in the current bill. But would like to see a period of stability. Constant tweaks create an environment of uncertainty."

Martin Hawes, chair of Summer KiwiSaver's investment committee, says one thing he would like to see changed is the requirement on employers to contribute to KiwiSaver after a person turns 65.

At the moment it is optional for employers which means some people who keep working are effectively being given a pay cut.

"I think it is historical and needs to be sorted. But it is subject to an employer's good graces."

Hawes will be happy to see KiwiSaver opened up to over 65 year-olds who are living and working longer and need more options to invest.

"If people haven't joined KiwiSaver by 65 or have pulled all their money out they can't get back in."

He believes the change will benefit those with moderate savings at retirement with $50k to $150k who can't easily get advice because their assets are too small but need investments that are going to produce more than a bank term deposit rate to help fund them through 20 or 30 years of retirement.

Hawes believes switching KiwiSaver providers will also become more common in the future as providers battle it out for market share in a saturated market.

"I think this decade will be about switching."

"There is still a view that switching is difficult."

But he says it is easy and people don't have to call their existing provider.