The number of New Zealanders saving regularly has dropped in the past four years despite more than a quarter of adults joining KiwiSaver.

A Retirement Commission survey carried out in March and April has found that only 49 per cent of adults aged 18 and over are now saving regularly, down from 53 per cent in the commission's first survey in 2005.

Although 29 per cent have joined KiwiSaver, this has been partly offset by declines from 23 per cent to 18 per cent in the numbers in personal superannuation schemes, and from 16 per cent to 14 per cent for those in workplace super schemes.

The survey, released today, coincides with a Research New Zealand poll which shows the majority of New Zealanders are worried about how future governments will provide for the retired.

In last month's Budget, the Government announced it would pay a reduced amount into the NZ Superannuation Fund this year, and make no further contributions to the fund for the next 10 years. The poll of 505 people found that almost three-quarters of New Zealanders who were aware of the Government's cuts were concerned about how future governments would be able to provide for the retired.

Research New Zealand director Emanuel Kalafatelis said young New Zealanders, aged 15-29, who were aware of the changes to the Super Fund were the least concerned, at 46 per cent.

"Not surprisingly, the very young aren't concerned about how future governments will provide as retirement probably seems a long way off. The over-60s were also less likely to care, at 70 per cent, because they were possibly already receiving super," he said.

"It's all those Kiwis in between who had high levels of concern."

New Zealanders climbing the career ladder and in their 30s were very concerned.

"Perhaps this is because their generation is very aware of the need to save for their retirement." Mr Kalafatelis said.

"They are the first of the student loan generation who experienced high unemployment in the 1990s and are struggling to buy their first homes."

Meanwhile, Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan said people who did not have to keep a close eye on their finances in good times were now keeping a much closer eye on things in case they lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts.

The survey - based on face-to-face, hour-long interviews throughout the country with 850 people aged 18 or more - found other signs of recession-induced financial worries.

The proportion saying they "feel confident about managing my financial affairs" slipped from 83 per cent four years ago to 75 per cent, and those saying they could manage for three months if they suffered a major loss of income fell from 62 per cent to 57 per cent.

People appear to be cutting corners on insurance. Those with vehicle insurance dropped from 78 per cent to 75 per cent, and those with house or contents insurance fell from 75 per cent to 69 per cent.

But surprisingly, despite the recession, those saying they "find it hard to make ends meet" also dropped slightly from 26 per cent four years ago to 22 per cent.

The proportion saying they "feel out of control with my borrowing and debt" was steady at 9 per cent.

There have been no significant changes in the numbers with bank savings accounts (85 per cent) or investments in shares (22 per cent), but the small number with money in managed funds or unit trusts (15 per cent in 2005) has dropped to 11 per cent.

The changes may be an obvious effect of the recession. as people who have lost their jobs or had their working hours or pay cut find it more difficult to save.

But they also appear to vindicate KiwiSaver sceptics. Auckland University economist Susan St John said the survey confirmed that many people had simply switched their saving out of unsubsidised investments into KiwiSaver to collect its Government subsidy.

"If you look at national savings, the effect will be zero by the time you look at the Government contribution, which detracts from the Government's saving," she said. "People will shift money to subsidised forms of saving from unsubsidised forms, repay their mortgages less quickly, and also their student debt is not such an urgent one to repay because the interest doesn't apply."

The survey found that the proportion of adults with mortgages (excluding investment properties) dropped slightly from 29 per cent to 27 per cent, in line with declining home ownership. The proportion with student loans increased from 12 per cent to 15 per cent.

- additional reporting: NZPA