Mixed messages over KiwiSaver changes

The Prime Minister and her deputy are sending mixed signals over potential changes to KiwiSaver for those over the age of 65.

Once a person reaches retirement age, their employer no longer has to make contributions to their KiwiSaver fund, even if they keep working.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Minister for Seniors Tracey Martin were at a Grey Power conference yesterday to announce an injection of more than $8 million to revamp the SuperGold card website, a new app and in funding digital literacy training for seniors.

During the announcement, Ms Martin stressed the importance of maintaining a workforce over the age of 65.

"We are going to increasingly need older people to stay in paid work if they want to. We can not have 1.2 million seniors dropping out of the workforce," she said.

At the conference, Horowhenua Grey Power president Terry Hemmingsen, who was called in to work as a part-time teacher again after he had retired, asked why his employer - the government - had scrapped its contributions to his fund.

"The day you turn 65, that 2 percent employer contribution stops. With government agencies, so, being in education I could keep paying in myself and did, but I lost the 2 percent. Now, that's discriminatory on the basis of age, wouldn't you think?"

He told Morning Report that having turned 65 he was entitled to take money out of Kiwisaver but was not doing so and believed he should still be getting employer contributions because of it.

"They want us and they need us in the workplace. I got called into work because there was a gap and I filled it and filled it willingly and I continued to pay into my Kiwisaver account but that 2 percent disappeared the day I turned 65."

"From a speech that Winston Peters made recently where both he and Tracey Martin said that they need seniors coming back into the workforce - they bring experience, they bring stability, older people have less absenteeism except on health issues, and we have a history of coming through and working, and working actively and not changing jobs all the time.

"As seniors we're being asked to go back into the workforce. There are jobs that need to be done that seniors are very very good at - and then they turn it round and go 'here we are, we're going to take the 2 percent away from you."

Peters agreed it was not right and said Cabinet was looking into the matter.

"Why would we not keep on encouraging older people to keep on saving. So, it's a serious issue, we're looking at it right now, he said.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern refused to confirm that at her weekly prime ministerial media conference.

She told reporters she would not speculate on potential changes and suggested Peters was merely reiterating New Zealand First policy.

That was despite Peters specifically saying: "The government and the Cabinet is looking at that matter as we speak".

She told Morning Report the government had already changed the rules to allow over-65s to enrol in Kiwisaver, and the settings around Kiwisaver were being reassessed.

"There was some early work being done on Kiwisaver settings more generally but no decisions have been made yet," she said. "I'm pretty sure the Deputy Prime Minister prefaced his speech by saying no decisions had been made yet."

She could not say at this point what changes were being made, however, including whether changes to employer contributions for over-65s would be introduced.

"I haven't looked into why historically the settings have been drawn up that way. I imagine probably at the time it was something about incentivising people to enjoy their retirement, but as has been pointed out there's a number of reasons why people stay in the workforce."

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