How to use KiwiSaver for retirement
Whether retirement feels like it’s just around the corner or still a lifetime away, it’s worth sitting down and making a plan. Here’s our guide on using KiwiSaver to take control of your retirement.
First—some basics to know
Your withdrawal options
Currently, you can withdraw your KiwiSaver balance for retirement from age 65. Most KiwiSaver providers give you the option to withdraw your balance as a lump sum, set up regular withdrawals, or make partial withdrawals when you feel like it.
If you don’t need the money right away, you can choose to keep your money invested in your KiwiSaver scheme for as long as you like.
Working past age 65
Prior to turning 65, the Government matches $0.50 for every dollar you contribute to your KiwiSaver account, up to a maximum of $521.43 each year. Once you reach retirement age, these Government contributions stop, and you can instead apply for NZ Super (which gets paid into your bank account—not your KiwiSaver account) if you’re eligible.
You can choose to continue making KiwiSaver employee contributions at 3%, 4%, 6%, 8%, or 10% of your before-tax pay, or you can stop making these contributions by completing a non-deduction notice for your employer (you can always restart contributions later if you want).
Your employer isn’t required to continue contributing to your KiwiSaver account once you turn 65 (which is usually 3% of your salary per year). However, if you continue to contribute as an employee, many employers opt to follow suit, so it’s worth talking to your employer to see if this is an option.
Note that exceptions may apply for those who joined KiwiSaver before 1 July 2019 at age 60–64 and who have been a KiwiSaver member for less than five years.
The battle against inflation
Inflation refers to the general increase in prices over time. This is relevant for KiwiSaver members because, as living costs rise, your savings lose value. Meaning, the money you withdraw from your KiwiSaver account could lose value if it’s just sitting in your bank account.
This is one reason why you might consider leaving some of your KiwiSaver balance invested in a scheme when you turn 65. Plus, if you’re already happy with the fees you’re paying and the service you’re receiving from your KiwiSaver provider, it might feel like less of a mental load keeping your balance invested, rather than needing to manage the money yourself.
How to prepare for your withdrawal
Regardless of how far away your 65th birthday is, it’s never too early to make a plan for retirement. Here’s how you can go about it.
Set a goal amount to withdraw
To figure out an achievable withdrawal goal, start by looking at how long you have until retirement (this is called your ‘investment timeframe’). If retirement is just a couple of years away, you have a relatively short investment timeframe. If it’s over 10 years, that’s a relatively long investment timeframe.
Next, what kind of life do you want to live when you retire? Does it involve a yacht and bi-annual European summers? A simple life in the countryside? A 2023 study by Massey University found that a ‘no-frills’ retirement (so just enough for the basics like food, shelter, bills, transport, and healthcare) would cost a single person living in the city around $826 a week. While a retirement that allowed for travel and other luxuries would cost around $1,163 a week.
Once you have a vague idea, think about the money you’ll have access to that isn’t from KiwiSaver. For example, do you think you’ll have investments, savings, or assets (like a house) by the time you retire?
Put this all together and you should be able to work out approximately how much you want to have in your KiwiSaver account by the time you retire, and how long you have to reach this number.
Align your KiwiSaver strategy with your goal
You can use your investment timeframe and withdrawal goal to create a KiwiSaver strategy. This involves choosing a KiwiSaver provider and deciding how to invest your KiwiSaver balance and ongoing contributions.
For example, say you have 40 years until retirement and you want to grow your KiwiSaver balance as much as possible. Since you have a while to ride the ups and downs of the share market, you might opt for a KiwiSaver scheme that allows you to invest in higher-risk investments (like an aggressive or high-growth fund).
Higher-risk investments may achieve higher returns over the long term, but might also fluctuate more in value along the way. So you’d need to make sure this strategy aligned with your personal risk appetite.
Decide how you want to receive your money
Closer to the time of your retirement, it’s worth thinking about how you want to organise your KiwiSaver withdrawals.
Two things to weigh up are inflation and sequencing risk. We know that if you withdraw your KiwiSaver balance as a lump sum, the value of your money could degrade over time due to inflation. However, if you decide to keep your balance invested, you face the risk of something like a share market downturn affecting the amount you have left to live off (this is called sequencing risk).
To manage inflation, you could consider making regular partial withdrawals so that you avoid a lump sum of money sitting in your bank account for several years. Regular withdrawals (like monthly rather than annually) can also help protect against sequencing risk because you aren’t at the mercy of the market at a single point in time.
Another way to manage sequencing risk would be to switch to a lower-risk KiwiSaver fund around (or in the lead-up to) the time you retire. Since lower-risk investments are less likely to fluctuate as much in value over time, you can have more certainty over the amount you have remaining to withdraw.
How to make a retirement withdrawal from Sharesies
Withdrawing your whole balance
If you’re aged 65, you can request to withdraw some or all of your KiwiSaver balance from the Sharesies KiwiSaver Scheme. When you’re ready, email us at email@example.com to receive a KiwiSaver first retirement withdrawal form.
To complete your form, you need:
your IRD number
your bank account number (which must be an NZ bank account) and a bank statement or internet banking screenshot from the last 6 months that shows your account name, account number, and your bank’s logo
You may also need:
dates of any period you lived overseas and didn’t have permanent residence in New Zealand (any government contributions you’ve received during these periods need to be refunded to Inland Revenue).
If you’ve provided all the right info, the withdrawal should take 10–15 business days to land in your bank account.
Making a partial withdrawal
For your first partial withdrawal from the Sharesies KiwiSaver Scheme, follow the steps above. For any future withdrawals, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a KiwiSaver subsequent retirement withdrawal form.
For this form, you need:
your IRD number
to sign (electronically or physically) the form.
If you want to change the NZ bank account your withdrawal goes to, you’ll need to provide a bank statement or internet banking screenshot from the last 6 months that shows your account name, account number, and your bank’s logo.
If you’ve provided all the right info, the withdrawal should take up to 10-15 business days to land in your bank account.
What happens after your withdrawal
As long as there’s some money in your KiwiSaver account, we keep running your account like normal—investing contributions according to your investment plan and keeping you updated with the performance of your investments.
Then, once your entire balance has been withdrawn, your Sharesies KiwiSaver Scheme account is automatically closed.
Ok, now for the legal bit
Investing involves risk. You aren’t guaranteed to make money, and you might lose the money you start with. We don’t provide personalised advice or recommendations. Any information we provide is general only and current at the time written. You should consider seeking independent legal, financial, taxation or other advice when considering whether an investment is appropriate for your objectives, financial situation or needs.