Almost two-thirds of New Zealanders nearing retirement have not yet worked out how much money they will need to keep afloat after retiring, a new survey has found.

The Colmar Brunton survey of 1052 people aged 50 and over found only 6 per cent of those still working believe they will be able to live on New Zealand Superannuation alone - $375 a week for a single person living alone or $576 for a couple.

But only 34 per cent said they had worked out how much more they would need on top of NZ Super. The other 60 per cent did not know.

"The gap between people's expectations about retirement and the reality is quite large," said David Boyle of the Commission for Financial Capability, which co-sponsored the survey with the Financial Markets Authority.

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"Those in that situation [aged 50-plus] haven't given much thought around planning for the future, and let's face it, it's not something you get excited about."

However, Dr Claire Dale of Auckland University's Retirement Policy and Research Centre, said other findings, such as one that 54 per cent of those aged 50-plus and still working said they had a financial plan for their retirement, were encouraging.

"Generally, I'd say it shows a better picture than I would have expected," she said.

She warned that the survey might be biased towards wealthier people because it was conducted online. But Colmar Brunton selected a sample that exactly matched Census income figures for the two groups aged 50-64 and 65-plus.

The survey paints a generally positive picture of those who have already retired. A majority said they could afford either "all the things we want" or at least "some luxuries on top of the basics". Only 4 per cent said they were "struggling to make ends meet".

About 88 per cent of retirees have some savings or investments on top of NZ Super. And 78 per cent of those still working expect to own their homes mortgage-free by the time they retire - more than the 74.5 per cent aged 65-plus who actually owned their own homes, with or without a mortgage, in the 2013 Census.

Changes pile on pressure

Ann Wilson, who turns 50 next year, is an accounts services manager for a Hamilton law firm and has had a managed fund for her retirement since she was 19.

Ann Wilson has had to cut back her working hours to look after grandchildren. Photo / David Kerr
Ann Wilson has had to cut back her working hours to look after grandchildren. Photo / David Kerr

Although she and her husband separated in 2006, she bought him out of his share of the family trust which still owns her house in Hamilton and an investment property in Tauranga, which is rented out to pay the mortgage. She also pays 3 per cent of her income into a KiwiSaver fund.

But then she found herself looking after two grandchildren who are now aged 5 and 6.

She has had to cut back her working hours to 30 hours a week.

Like many other members of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, she is now unsure whether she will have enough when she hits 65.

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