Know your rights around KiwiSaver withdrawals
FSCL receives complaints each year from consumers who have unsuccessfully applied to withdraw money from their KiwiSaver funds. In this fact sheet we explain the limited circumstances in which you may be able to withdraw funds
KiwiSaver was introduced to help people save for their retirement. KiwiSaver is a voluntary scheme. The funds you invest in KiwiSaver are not Government guaranteed.
Generally funds are ‘locked in’ until you qualify for superannuation, currently when you turn 65 years of age. For more information about KiwiSaver see www.kiwisaver.govt.nz.
Withdrawing funds from KiwiSaver
You cannot access your funds before the age of 65 unless you are:
- buying your first home
- suffering significant financial hardship
- seriously ill
- moving permanently overseas.
If you think you meet the criteria to withdraw funds from KiwiSaver you can apply to your KiwiSaver provider. You will need to complete an application form and provide the supporting information. Your KiwiSaver provider may ask its trustee whether or not to approve your application.
The trustee’s role is to ensure that KiwiSaver scheme providers are complying with their obligations under the KiwiSaver Act 2006. The trustee makes the decision as to whether or not you can withdraw your money from the scheme.
Buying your first home
If you have been a KiwiSaver member for three years you may be able to withdraw some of your savings to buy your first home.
It is very important that you check with your KiwiSaver provider, before buying your first home, that you are eligible to withdraw funds and that you follow the correct process.
This is especially important if you are buying a bare piece of land to build your first home on. You may need to apply to withdraw your KiwiSaver at the time you purchase the land and build the home within a certain time after the land purchase.
Significant financial hardship
If you are suffering significant financial hardship you may be able to withdraw some or all of your KiwiSaver savings to help you meet your:
- minimum daily living expenses and/or,
- mortgage repayments if a mortgagee is threatening to sell your home because your loan is in arrears.
You will need to:
- show you have explored all reasonable alternative sources of funds
- complete a statutory declaration about your assets and liabilities
- provide supporting documentation.
To provide consistency between trustees when assessing significant financial hardship applications, Workplace Savings New Zealand produced the Significant Financial Hardship Processing Guidelines. You may like to refer to the guidelines for more detailed information about how a trustee assesses a significant financial hardship application at: http://workplacesavings.org.nz/assets/Best-Practice-Papers/WSNZ-SFH-Processing-Guidelines-April-2015.pdf
You may be able to withdraw all your KiwiSaver savings if you have a serious illness, injury or disability that totally and permanently affects your ability to work or if you are terminally ill.
If you do not meet the serious illness criteria you may like to consider whether a significant financial hardship application would be more appropriate for your circumstances.
Moving permanently overseas
With the exception of moving to Australia, you can withdraw your KiwiSaver savings (except the tax credits) if you have moved overseas permanently and have lived there for a year. You will need to provide:
- a statutory declaration that you have permanently emigrated
- evidence of departure and
- evidence that you have lived overseas for a year.
If your KiwiSaver trustee declines your application to withdraw your KiwiSaver funds you can refer a complaint about the trustee’s decision to us.
We will investigate your complaint, and if we think the trustee has made a mistake we will ask the trustee to reconsider. It is important to remember that the trustee has the discretion to approve or decline a KiwiSaver withdrawal. If we are satisfied the trustee’s decision was one it could reasonably make on the evidence before it we will not substitute our decision for the trustee’s. We will only ask the trustee to reconsider if we are satisfied the trustee failed to take into consideration relevant information or has misapplied the law.
Sometimes we can assist you by suggesting you give additional information to the trustee which may support your withdrawal application and may cause the trustee to reconsider your application.
If your complaint is about something your KiwiSaver provider has done we may be able to help. If your KiwiSaver provider belongs to another dispute resolution scheme we will let you know.