After losing $80,000 in the failed Hanover finance company, an elderly Auckland couple decided to become guinea pigs in a medical trial to earn some "pocket money".

The retired husband and wife earned $300 each for taking part in tests of a new flu vaccine for people aged over 65.

The 71-year-old former teacher, who did not want to be named, said she and her husband agreed to the trial after hearing about it from friends. They were given an injection and had to monitor themselves for a week before reporting back to medical staff.

"It's a bit of pocket money. Every little bit helps," the woman said. "We have a lot of friends who have lost money but it doesn't matter to them because they have lots of other money. But in our case it was fairly important. "

The couple will probably have to sell their home on the North Shore, which they call their "retirement project", to make up for the Hanover losses.

The woman said she and her husband, 74, weren't fully told the risks when they invested in Hanover five years ago.

"As far as we were concerned it was a legit company where we spoke to human beings on the phone. It was all fine. But then about eight months before they crashed we were starting to have bad feelings.

"Things were getting edgy in the world economy too. I inquired at the end of 2007 to see if we could break our investment but we couldn't. So you were just left in this limbo of waiting and hoping because Hanover was one of the last ones to crash."

Directors Mark Hotchin and Eric Watson have come under fire for spending mega-bucks on lavish houses and birthday parties after leaving about 17,000 investors out of pocket.

"I think the main thing that we and our friends feel is how let down we are by Hotchin and Watson," the woman said.

"I hope it will be on their conscience because I don't think they have a clue about how much they have hurt people."

But last night Hotchin denied that the couple would not have been able to get their money. "If they had a reasonable reason for wanting it back... well I'd be very surprised if we didn't give their money back because there was still a lot of cash [at that time]," he said.

"Clearly nobody wanted this to happen. We have lost more than anybody, an enormous amount of money."

Hanover was controversially bought out by Allied Farmers in a $400m deal late last year.

Despite their massive losses, the elderly couple are able to carry on a relatively normal life.

"We walk the dogs and we are still driving two cars and surviving."

She said their children pitched in to help them go on a dream trip to Asia last year.

"We were just about to book ... it was the day after the Hanover crash so we just cancelled that. Later on our two children said, 'you have to go, it's the most amazing place to go to'.

"It was an enormously, wonderful experience. So every time something happens and I think 'oh, God we are poor', I think of Asia, that there are a lot of people worse off than us."