KiwiSaver not helping NZ - report

RICHARD MEADOWS
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014

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Kiwisaver's initial success has been cast into doubt by a report suggesting it may have done little to improve household savings or support the New Zealand economy.

A briefing paper from the University of Auckland's Retirement Policy and Research Centre has analysed the efficacy of the Government-backed scheme, which began in July 2007.

"Simply citing that there are 2.2 million members and $19 billion in the scheme doesn't actually tell you anything," the paper's author, Michael Littlewood said.

"It just tells you that KiwiSaver's popular - and why wouldn't it be, with the incentives that it has."

Littlewood said with the limited data available, there was no way of knowing whether New Zealanders would have saved just as much without KiwiSaver.

His analysis of Reserve Bank data found that managed funds, including KiwiSaver, were a smaller proportion of households' total financial assets in September 2013 than they were back in 2007.

KiwiSaver funds under management at the end of last year made up just 7.5 per cent of financial assets, and an "insignificant" part of total household wealth.

The high proportion of funds in cash or invested overseas also suggested the New Zealand economy was getting little help from the KiwiSaver scheme, the report said.

It stated that direct Government subsidies to KiwiSaver had totalled $4.9 billion, with ongoing servicing costs on top of the debt.

Households' increased debt levels -from $101.7b in 2003 to $199.9b in 2013- had probably helped finance members' personal contributions, Littlewood said.

The report concluded that Kiwisaver was currently a "relatively insignificant influence" in New Zealanders' financial lives, but said that could change.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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