You’ve signed up for KiwiSaver, set your contribution rate and selected a fund. You see your balance growing. Now, how exactly do you get the money?
First up, KiwiSaver was created to help New Zealanders be better off in retirement. By enrolling people when they start a new job, it was an easy means of getting people started with a retirement fund. While this remains it’s primary purpose, you may have heard that there are other instances where you can withdraw your funds, like to buy a home.
As always, BetterSaver is here to give it to you straight. What can you use your KiwiSaver funds for, when and how do you get access, and how much will you have?
Let’s get into it.
What can I use my KiwiSaver fund for?
The two main things you can access your KiwiSaver funds for is retirement and buying your first home.
There are other instances in which you can withdraw your funds if necessary, but in these cases you may want to consider your KiwiSaver funds a last resort. Bear in mind that you are borrowing your retirement fund from your future self and potentially making it harder for yourself later on.
When: At the age of 65, you are entitled to withdraw your entire fund. There used to be a requirement to have been a member for at least 5 years, but that is no longer the case. If you’re still working at retirement age, you can choose to keep contributing or stop your contributions.
How: Contact your KiwiSaver provider when you turn 65.
Tip: Figure out how much you should be saving for retirement here.
When: Once you have contributed for a period of 3 years, you can withdraw your KiwiSaver funds to go towards your first home. You have to leave $1,000 in your account and you have to live in the property (not rent it out).
How: Contact your KiwiSaver provider to apply. You may also be eligible to apply for a First Home Grant through Kainga Ora, where you can get up to $10,000.
Tip: Read about Tracy, the owner of DebtFreeDiva, and her experience using KiwiSaver to buy her first home.
When: You can apply to access your funds if you are experiencing significant financial hardship. You have to provide proof of hardship, and it has to be “significant” - like you can’t meet living expenses, you’re facing losing your home, or you have medical treatment or funeral costs to cover.
How: Contact your KiwiSaver provider to apply. If you have only been a member for 2 months or less, apply to Inland Revenue (IRD).
Tip: Check out our guide to emergency funds to help you prepare for unexpected expenses.
When: If you suffer an injury or disability that permanently affects your ability to work, or you were born with a condition that means your life expectancy is less than 65 years, you may be able to withdraw some or all of your KiwiSaver fund.
How: If you have been a KiwiSaver member longer than 2 months, contact your KiwiSaver provider. If your membership is less than 2 months, apply through IRD. In any case you will need to provide proof of your condition from your doctor.
When: If you permanently move anywhere other than Australia, you can withdraw your KiwiSaver fund after one year. However, you will lose any of the government contributions you have accrued.
If you permanently move to Australia, you can either keep your KiwiSaver fund going as is or you can choose to move it to an Australian superannuation fund.
How: contact your KiwiSaver provider.
Tip: Debating whether to put down some roots or keep your options open by renting? Check out our pros and cons.
Other Extreme Circumstances
There are other circumstances in which you may be able to access your funds.
- To pay debts when you become bankrupt; contact your provider.
- In the event of divorce, KiwiSaver funds are considered relationship property; contact your lawyer.
- You have transferred funds to your KiwiSaver account from a foreign superannuation scheme and have foreign tax or foreign student loans due; contact your provider.
- You die; the person in charge of your estate must contact your provider.
How much will I have?
Now that you know when you can withdraw your KiwiSaver fund, you want to know that you’ll have enough money in your account when you need it. How much you will have depends on what fund you are in, your contribution level, and how long you contribute before withdrawal.
There are some calculators like this one over at Sorted that can help estimate how much your KiwiSaver balance could be in the future.
The key here is to make sure that you are in the right fund to maximise your balance when you want to withdraw it. There is no magical fund that is right for everyone.
Which KiwiSaver fund is better for you depends on:
- What you are going to use it for
- When you expect to use it
- How much risk is acceptable to you
- Your ethics and values
BetterSaver’s Fund Finder quiz is designed to find the best KiwiSaver fund for you in less than 5 minutes. Whatever you use your KiwiSaver for, there is no better time than now to get it sorted.