The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly affected the incomes of a great many New Zealanders, says Bernice Mitchell of Stratford Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).
"We have had a lot of people asking how to withdraw their KiwiSaver money because they are experiencing money problems now. But it's important to know not just what's involved in applying for this, but also what the financial consequences might be."
Bernice says financial hardship is one of the grounds in which you can apply to withdraw your KiwiSaver funds early. However, this should be a last resort, because it means you will have less to live on when you retire. There are other things you should try first.
"For example, if your income is reduced you might be eligible for financial assistance from Work and Income to help cover urgent costs like food, accommodation, and repair of crucial appliances like your fridge or heater.
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"If you have debts that you are having problems paying back, it's important to talk to your lender, preferably before you miss any repayments. They might agree to a repayment plan that is manageable for you. The same applies with talking to your power company if you can't pay the power bill."
She says people should also be aware there are strict rules around withdrawing some of your KiwiSaver on hardship grounds and it can take a while for an application to be processed.
"For example 'hardship' means that you are unable to meet your living expenses and accommodation costs. Also, normally you would need to complete a statutory declaration about your financial assets and liabilities, and for this you need a Justice of the Peace. So you will need to check with your KiwiSaver provider about exactly how they want you to make your application."
Bernice says people can call the team at Stratford CAB to find out what their options are.
"Although we can't see you in person, we are still available by phone and email. You can also call the nationwide freephone number 0800 367 222 or use our online chat facility."
Stratford CAB will reopen for face to face interviews using level 2 restrictions on Tuesday, May 26, operating from 10am-1pm Tuesday to Friday at 270 Broadway, under the clock tower.