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Commissioner: Pension age shouldn't increase

New Zealand’s pension costs might be rising but wellbeing and equity concerns mean we cannot afford to increase the pension age, the Retirement Commissioner says.

Wednesday, January 29th 2020, 5:00AM 3 Comments

The commission has recommended, in its past two three-yearly reviews, that the age of eligibility be increased from 65.

But now it says that financial constraints on future retirees mean that would be unwise.

The commission had to consider wellbeing and equity issues as well as fiscal sustainability, he said.

“Our research found that there will be more people in need of state support as they enter retirement in coming years, not fewer, due to declining home ownership, rising levels of debt and the changing nature of work inhibiting people’s ability to save,” acting Retirement Commissioner Peter Cordtz said.

He said updated projections meant it was likely that the cost of super would be below 7% in 2060, a manageable level by international standards.

Cordtz said financial advice would be important to help New Zealanders approach retirement in the best position possible.

He said people should be taking an active rather than passive role in retirement preparation to make their money work harder for them, reviewing KiwiSaver and other investments regularly.

“Asset accumulations shouldn't just be about the perennial property discussion. They need good financial inflation and advice."

The commission was asked to look at New Zealanders’ decumulation options. The Retirement Policy and Research Centre has suggested a “KiwiSpend” annuity product to help people create income through retirement.

But the review report said it could not find any consensus on how the Government could best support New Zealanders managing their own assets and savings.

“While some say they would welcome advice and support from the Government to help them manage decumulation, others say they want no role for the Government in helping them manage their own money or constraining how or when it should be spent."

A decumulation work programme would be a priority this year including establishing an advisory group to consider demand for potential products, consult with the public and engage with officials.

The 19 recommendations made by the review are:

1. Governance for the Retirement Commissioner and their office should be provided jointly by the Ministries of Social Development and Business, Innovation and Employment.

2. The regular review cycle should be amended to fall in the year after an election, rather than prior.

3. Value and ensure the ongoing provision of NZ Superannuation at its current settings.

4. Establish a new government "employment connection" service.

5. Introduce a "Small Steps" employee contribution programme to KiwiSaver as the default for new members, and as an option for current members.

6. Target the government contribution to KiwiSaver members to incentivise voluntary contributions by non-employees. This would be $2 for every voluntary $1 contributed, up to a maximum $2,000.

7. Phase in employer contributions for KiwiSaver members aged over 65, and consider implications of doing so for those aged under 18.

8. Phase out the inclusion of KiwiSaver in total remuneration packages.

9. Model the potential range of impacts if the owner-occupied requirement for first-home withdrawals from KiwiSaver was to be withdrawn.

10. Establish a centralised financial capability hub for KiwiSaver hardship applications.

11. Add a sidecar savings facility to KiwiSaver for short-term emergencies.

12. Auto-enrol beneficiaries in KiwiSaver through a government contribution.

13. Consider the introduction of care credits to KiwiSaver accounts to reduce the risk of being penalised for time out of employment caring.

14. A purpose statement for New Zealand’s retirement income system to be advanced by the Retirement Commissioner.

15. Exclude fixed fees from low-balance KiwiSaver accounts. For all balances under $5,000, require providers to remove fixed fees.

16. Display fee projections on KiwiSaver members’ annual statements, and include a comparison to the average fee projection for that type of fund.

17. Mandate improved disclosure around share investing in KiwiSaver, further distinguishing between emerging vs established markets, as well as New Zealand vs Australian shares.

18. Make Prescribed Investor Rates (PIR) tax refundable. This would change PIR status to "not a final tax", and accommodate people who use incorrect tax rates.

19. Introduce taxpayer funding of Mindful Money to guarantee the charity continues to publish unbiased, responsible investment information, and erase any potential conflict of interest.

Tags: decumulation KiwiSaver NZ Super Retirement Commissioner

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Comments from our readers

On 29 January 2020 at 5:10 pm Murray Weatherston said:
Can anyone throw any light on the process the Retirement Commissioner uses to come up with her/his 3 yearly review?
This year there has been a recantation of Diane Maxwell's previous 2 reports that the Retirement Age should be increased , to this one which says "No, the age should remain the same". Why the change?
Who provides input to the the RC upon which it models its recommendations?
Who was it that was able to "ask the Commissioner to look at NZers retirement decumulation options?
How about a bit of transparency?
?


On 29 January 2020 at 7:22 pm Pragmatic said:
For an alternative perspective, Michael Chamberlain and Michael Littlewood have updated their 2017 report The Missing 2016 Review. It is now re-cast as a submission for the 2019 Review and is called Informing the 2019 Review – 133 questions that New Zealand needs answered. The new report lays out what the authors suggest should emerge from the Retirement Commissioner’s 2019 Review of retirement income policies. Read it at: https://alt-review.com/
On 30 January 2020 at 3:46 am mike d said:
John Maynard Keynes famously said words similar to “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?"
It would be good to hear from the RC what facts have changed. Increased life expectancy and health at older ages has not to my knowledge changed much (so an ability to work), the ongoing pressures of an aging population on superannuation costs continues and workforce participation at older ages continue. As far as I can see the arguments for increasing the super entitlement age are broadly unchanged.
The RC seems to take a narrow view of equity. Leaving the retirement age unchanged means a greater burden on taxpayers as the population ages - what about equity towards the younger generation who have to fund this.

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