Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi has appointed two independent advisers to advise the government whether to facilitate a rule-change around facilitating an early withdrawal from KiwiSaver funds – a fund earmarked for retirement – particularly for life-shortening conditions.

Dr Claire Matthews (Massey University) and Donna Mitchell (IHC) will advise on changing the withdrawal criteria.

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.

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.”

”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, and report back to the Minister 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.”

Changes to the KiwiSaver withdrawal criteria would require legislation.