Minister progresses KiwiSaver withdrawals for people with life-shortening conditions

  • Hon Kris Faafoi
Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Two independent advisers will help Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi find the best way for people with life-shortening conditions to withdraw their KiwiSaver funds when they need to retire.

Dr Claire Matthews (Massey University) and Donna Mitchell (IHC) will advise on changing the withdrawal criteria. Mr Faafoi met with Tim Fairhall earlier this year, who drew attention to the issue of people in situations like his – a life expectancy well short of 65 yet unable to access their own KiwiSaver.

“KiwiSaver helps New Zealanders enjoy the best retirement they can,” Kris Faafoi says. “Part of the success of KiwiSaver as a retirement savings scheme is because funds are not available until the age of 65, so the savings grow and help people considerably towards a financially secure retirement.

“However, it’s important KiwiSaver works for all New Zealanders. Tim has Down Syndrome and is aging prematurely. He hopes to retire in his mid-40s and access his savings – but at the moment, he can’t.

“I think it’s fair and just that New Zealanders who have been paying into KiwiSaver throughout their working life should expect to one day enjoy the benefits of their savings in their retirement – be that at 45 or 65.”

There are currently some circumstances when people can access their KiwiSaver, such as when buying a first home or suffering from serious illness. However, people with life-shortening conditions are typically only able to withdraw their savings at a stage they are permanently unable to work or at imminent risk of death.

”I think we have to acknowledge that the one-size fits all retirement age does not work for this group faced with life-shortening conditions – so we are going to fix that,” Kris Faafoi says.

“Dr Matthews and Ms Mitchell have been tasked with looking into how special circumstances could cater for people like Tim, enabling them to withdraw their money at the point at which they choose to retire.

“The two advisors will consult with people who are faced with this issue, with medical practitioners and KiwiSaver experts, before reporting back to me in early 2019.

“It is a technically complex area so I can’t promise a quick fix for Tim personally but I am going to move this forward because this Government is committed to ensuring its policies work for all New Zealanders.

“Everyone deserves the right to use the money they have saved for their retirement.”

Advice is expected back to the Minister by the end of February. Changes to the KiwiSaver withdrawal criteria would require legislation.


Dr Claire Matthews is Director of Academic Quality at the Massey Business School. Her research background is in consumer finance, with a particular interest in retirement planning and KiwiSaver. She is a Fellow of the Financial Services Institute of Australasia, a Certified Member of the Institute of Finance Professionals New Zealand, and a Research Associate with the Westpac-Massey Fin-Ed Centre.

Donna Mitchell is the General Manager Service Development and Strategy and a member of the Executive of IHC New Zealand. Donna has been working in the rehabilitation, mental health, older people, long-term conditions and disability support sectors for more than 30 years and returned to IHC in 2017. Donna's focus is to improve the quality of the lives of the people the IHC Group supports. She currently serves on the Board of New Zealand Disability Support Network, the Home and Community Health Association, and has previously served on the Board of Careerforce.

IHC New Zealand advocates for the rights, inclusion and welfare of people with an intellectual disability and supports them to live satisfying lives in the community. It fundraises to provide community programmes and advocacy and supports 4000 people through contracted disability services.