Q: I would be interested in your thoughts about how people struggling to live on the minimum wage can participate in KiwiSaver. The benefits are well publicised and people are encouraged to join, but first one has to live.

My wife and I have recently been on a short holiday with my sister and her daughter, who live together in a small North Island town.

My niece, a very diligent employee, works in an aged care facility where she is involved in food preparation and delivery. She is on the minimum wage. Although her job may seem menial, if she wasn't there to do this work the home would not be able to function.

During conversation, she said she did not have a KiwiSaver account because she couldn't afford it, preferring to save a few dollars each week to a bank savings account.

Although she was aware of the benefits of KiwiSaver, she did not accept my comment that she couldn't NOT afford to belong to this scheme. As she said to me, "You just try to live on the minimum wage and see how you would manage." I don't know how I would manage. In fact I'm sure I wouldn't cope.

I felt somewhat saddened after the discussion. Most letters to you seem to come from people who are well off and their questions relate to the maximum amounts and benefits that can be gained from KiwiSaver.

My questions to you, which would be helpful to my niece, are:

• Is there a minimum amount that needs to be paid into KiwiSaver each week?
• If my niece did join KiwiSaver and made small payments, would her employer be obliged to make identical regular payments?
• Can my niece ask her bank to set up the KiwiSaver account for her rather than ask her employer?
• What advice would you give to my niece?

A: I agree that too many letters in this column are from fairly well off people. And there are more that I don't publish because not many readers would relate to someone with that


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