There's a new man in the Retirement Commissioner's life and she's pinning her hopes on him big time - Batman.

Diane Maxwell is banking on Batman, now 77, to succeed where so many others have failed. He's one of the stars of a new series of tongue-in-cheek videos that aim to get people talking and transform the usually fun-free task of preparing for retirement.

The cast of superheroes, along with iconic dolls Ken and Barbie, tackle some thorny issues - including which of them should get NZ Super, who's going to pay for it and what they can do if they want to keep working past 65.

Maxwell says: "Just quietly, Barbie is the brains behind the discussion and some of the guys are just catching up - they hadn't realised there's a super-sized problem on the horizon."


That problem is centred around our changing population. The number of people aged 65 and over will double in the next 30 years to 1.4 million; the net cost of NZ Super is expected to triple in the next 20 - from $11 billion now to $36b in 2035/36, soaring to $56b 10 years later.

Over the past century average life expectancy has increased by 20 years. From 1980-82, the average number of years people lived beyond 65 was 13.3 for men and 17.1 for women. From 2013-15, it was 19.1 and 21.4 respectively and it continues to climb.

There will also be fewer people of working age supporting the retirees. At the moment, for every person aged 65 and over, there are 4.4 people aged 15-64. That is forecast to drop to 2.8 in 30 years.

These issues are hugely important but can be dry to discuss, which is why the Commission for Financial Capability has called in Batman, Ken and Barbie. The videos are no ordinary creation - you don't just watch, you join in. They are hosted on Wirewax, an interactive video platform that allows you to click on hotspots to uncover a smorgasbord of other content.

Throughout each video is a wealth of research, blogs, podcasts, survey results, videos and expert commentary, as well as a range of recommendations for change that the CFFC is making to the government in its three-yearly review of retirement income policies.

Proposals include seven ways to improve KiwiSaver, and changes to NZ Super so that people get the support they need, when they need it, in a way more sustainable for the country.

Maxwell says: "Even Ken can see that we're going to have a lot more older New Zealanders in the future, with fewer people of working age to support them. Unless we start making a plan now, something will have to give and it's our children and grandchildren who will be worst affected. Barbie, who's 57, doesn't like the thought of that and nor should we."

It's a first for New Zealand: policy reports are usually presented to the government in printed documents that rarely grab the public's attention.


The last retirement income policies review, which came in at 99-pages, was downloaded 1300 times in three years. The new Toys Talk Retirement approach notched up more than 1500 downloads on the day it was launched. That's since risen to 3080.

But why toys and superheroes?

"It's an odd mix, but that's what makes it interesting," says Maxwell. "Take a complex subject and deliver it via toys in a way that raises a smile. We came up with the concept in-house then worked with a stop motion animation company which brought the toys to life.

"This was then loaded onto the Wirewax digital platform, which has been used by Shortland Street and the BBC's Sherlock series as a new way of getting people to interact with those programmes.

"We really hope New Zealanders will take a look, appreciate something a little different, and get involved with a subject that will affect every one of us."