Rules can mean it’s easier for single-parent child to get passport or medical care than to join savings scheme.
You recently suggested that opening a KiwiSaver account for children is a good idea. So it seems to me.

But there is a discriminatory hurdle that certain applicants face. That hurdle is the requirement for both parents or guardians to sign the application. I am a widow, so this is impossible.

When I explained this to a provider, their response was to require a statutory declaration stating that my child's father is dead. Is this really a legal requirement?

I have applied for my child's passport, consented to medical treatment and made a host of consequential parenting decisions — all without being required to take an oath explaining the absence of a father or otherwise "prove" his death. But opening a KiwiSaver account is so fraught with risk that it requires two guardians to agree to it? This affects anyone raising a child whose "other" parent is unavailable or unco-operative — absconded to Australia, in prison or absent for some other reason that the caregiving parent might find painful to share.

I agree it seems ridiculous that it's harder to get your child into KiwiSaver than to get him or her a passport or medical care.

Let's look first at the rules. "The Care of Children Act 2004 specifies that a guardian must act jointly with any other guardians of the child," says an Inland Revenue spokesperson.

"If an under-18 has more than one guardian, all must agree to enrol that person to KiwiSaver — one cannot act in isolation. For example, if the under-18's parents are separated and new partners have been appointed as joint guardians, all four guardians must agree."

This is why the KiwiSaver Act says that for children under 16, all guardians must sign.

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There are different rules, though, for 16- and 17-year-olds. They need to get just one of their legal guardians to co-sign their KiwiSaver application form. And if they don't have a legal guardian, they can simply enrol themselves.

"The special rule for 16-17s recognises that as a child grows in intellectual capacity and maturity, a legal guardian's role is limited to offering advice and guidance to help children decide matters for themselves," says Inland Revenue.

"It balances the need for the child to be involved in the process and the need for the child to have some protection in the form of parent/guardian oversight."

Okay, so that's the law. But still, I asked Inland Revenue, was it necessary for a provider to ask you for a statutory declaration? The reply: "The provider is required to validate an enrolment application and may request any information or support that they deem necessary."

It seems to me, though, that you've found a provider that's heavy handed. I suggest you email other providers and ask what they require, and perhaps go with a less demanding one.

More broadly, I think the law's too tough. It doesn't seem right that some children — who may well be having a hard time anyway — are cut out of KiwiSaver because of an unco-operative guardian, while their classmates belong.

Anyone would think they were being signed up for something dodgy.

I struggle to imagine how a guardian could argue that their child would be harmed by joining KiwiSaver and receiving the $1000 kick-start. After all, the child can easily choose to never contribute anything, by taking repeated contributions holidays throughout their working lives.

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Perhaps the lawmakers should consider relaxing these rules.

Question of balance

Just a question about KiwiSaver. I recently logged into the IRD KiwiSaver website and had a grand total of $57,803.

I transferred to my KiwiSaver provider, which is Westpac whom I currently bank with. I then logged into the Westpac site to get my account balances and see a balance of $41,209.

Why are there two different balances?

That's a big and worrying difference. The short answer to your question is that neither Inland Revenue nor the provider gives you the whole story — although the latter will usually be closer to reality.

Says an Inland Revenue spokesman, "The amounts that show in myIR are the funds that have accrued on the monthly schedule from their employer, government contributions and any voluntary contributions that they may have made to IR." In other words, it's what's come into your KiwiSaver account via IRD.

Adds Westpac, "The IRD balance does not show any withdrawals, account fees, voluntary contributions made direct to schemes and investment gains." To which I would add, "or losses". There haven't been many recent KiwiSaver losses, but there were in the past and there will be again, especially for people in riskier funds.

Where does all that leave you? While most employees will have made no withdrawals, some will have contributed directly to their provider. And given that investment gains usually outweigh fees, we would expect the provider's balance to be bigger than Inland Revenue's. So how come yours is not?

After you gave me permission to give Westpac your name, the spokesman found out that you made a substantial first home withdrawal a while ago. Mystery solved.

One more detail, though. Why did I say the provider balance doesn't give you the whole story either? For employees, there will always be some money sitting with Inland Revenue that's still to be transferred to your provider.

Well done for keeping track of your KiwiSaver account. Other readers might want to go to www.KiwiSaver.govt.nz and click on "My KiwiSaver" in the top right corner, to register for myIR and check on the different contributions going into their account.

I'm sure all the providers also offer account info through their websites. Let me know if yours doesn't, or doesn't do it well.

"The main reason to check myIR is to ensure all the correct contributions — from yourself, your employer and the Government — have been made," says the Inland Revenue spokesman. He points out that while providers also give you contributions information, sometimes it's only totals for a period.

Super entitlement

Just reading the first clip in your last column — on the 27- and 22-year-old children and NZ Super — and it got me very grumpy (in a good way!).

I'm a 25-year-old young professional, work damn hard for everything I've got today and don't take anything for granted. I've been very fortunate to have done some amazing things, owned a business and now have a career that allows me to not go without. I'm debt-free and invest wisely, both directly in the sharemarket, managed funds and bonds and through KiwiSaver. Yet reading about those two 20s children all I could read was a large sense of entitlement, although that's maybe a tad harsh. Why would anyone want to be 100 per cent reliant on the Government for their future ability to live life, etc, in their latter years? I certainly don't want this to be the case.

Granted there are pitfalls with KiwiSaver, yet find me a system that's perfect. Take advantage of something while we have it and make it work for you!

I'm personally banking that by the time I get to retirement there will be no super and I'm going to have to fund it all on my lonesome. Once resigned to that fact, move on — life's far too short to worry too much (insert young person slang of YOLO)!

Assuming they have student loans, if they are so worried about what future Governments do, and don't want to lose their super, are they happy for interest to be charged at a market rate on their outstanding balances that my generous taxpayer dollars have helped fund?

Unfortunately I believe my generation has a sense of entitlement, which needs a hard dose of reality — it's your life, so take control. Everything is not served to you on a silver platter, you rarely get a six-figure paying job straight out of university, and if you don't vote, you really don't get a say (and you're a bit mad).

I do applaud this mother's attempts to educate her kids, yet they just don't seem to get it.

Rant over :) Have a great weekend Mary!

Thanks. And I hope you did, too, having got that off your chest. You make some excellent points.

I have just one comment, about your assumption that NZ Super won't be there when you're old.

In 2012-13 I worked with Treasury on a publication called "Affording Our Future — Statement of New Zealand's Long-Term Fiscal Position". It considered different ways the country could cope with the costs of an ageing population over the next 40 years or so.

One of the scenarios we looked at was raising the NZ Super age to 67 and increasing the super payments in line with inflation, instead of the current increases in line with average wages. Wages tend to rise faster than inflation.

Making those two changes would make a huge difference to total costs to the Government. And yet it's far from ending NZ Super altogether. For more on this see a 10-page summary of the report at www.tinyurl.com/affordingfutureguide.

While it's wise not to count on much NZ Super, it's too pessimistic to count on none.

A note for old fogies: YOLO stands for "You Only Live Once" — which some would debate, but let's not go there.

Reluctant kids

About your lead letter last week, about the KiwiSaver parent and reluctant kids — yes, the parent deserves a beer and the kids a good slapping.

I was able to join an employee super scheme at age 18 in 1966. I contributed for the next 35 years, and never really gave a thought to how much of my pay went into it.

I stopped contributing in 2002, at age 58, and became self-employed, finally doing what I really wanted to. The employee super payout started then — about $2500 a month. In 2010, the NZ Super started to give me $1400 a month as well. In 2011, my self-employment struck a snag, recovering now, but I got no income from it until 2016. So kids:

• Get into KiwiSaver.

• Get a good education.

• Get a job and then forget about what you are putting into KiwiSaver each pay.

• Scrape together a deposit for a house and don't draw out your KiwiSaver or you will regret it.

• Buy out of Auckland at half the price.

You will retire into a vastly different world from now, and you will have some income to enjoy the last 20 years of your active life.

I'm not sure that your comment about slapping — which we don't do these days — will win the young over to your way of thinking.

That's a pity, because you have some good thoughts, especially about setting and forgetting retirement savings.

But I disagree about not withdrawing KiwiSaver money to buy a first home. Making a withdrawal will get people into their own homes earlier, and with smaller mortgages, so it can often be a good move in terms of long-term financial well-being.

• Mary Holm is a freelance journalist, member of the Financial Markets Authority board, director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, seminar presenter and bestselling author on personal finance.

Her website is www.maryholm.com. Her opinions are personal, and do not reflect the position of any organisation in which she holds office. Mary's advice is of a general nature, and she is not responsible for any loss that any reader may suffer from following it. Send questions to mary@maryholm.com or Money Column, Business Herald, PO Box 32, Auckland. Letters should not exceed 200 words. We won't publish your name. Please provide a (preferably daytime) phone number. Sorry, but Mary cannot answer all questions, correspond directly with readers, or give financial advice.