12 December, 2017

Divorce, Death, Disaster and what it means for your KiwiSaver

A survey of KiwiSaver members by Westpac NZ shows many people have little idea about what happens to their savings in the event of unforeseen circumstances, such as divorce, death or financial disaster.

In a survey of more than 1000 people, just one in four respondents knew that funds in KiwiSaver may be split between parties in the event of a divorce.

Thirty-five per cent of people believed KiwiSaver investments accrued by an individual stayed with that person in the event of a relationship split, while 40 per cent said they did not know.

Westpac NZ General Manager of Consumer Banking & Wealth, Simon Power, said for many people it is likely KiwiSaver would be one of their largest financial assets so it was important they knew how it was treated by the law.

“Perhaps because KiwiSaver is held by a single member, away from a couple’s joint bank accounts, and in most circumstances those funds can’t be accessed until retirement age, people don’t tend to think of it as relationship property.

“Actually, in the event of divorce or a de facto separation, the savings can get split up like other assets.”

The survey also drew mixed responses when people were asked about what happens to a person's KiwiSaver balance following their death.

Six per cent thought it went to the Government and 35 per cent did not know.

“Asked to pick from a list of outcomes, some people were in the dark,” Mr Power said.

“Actually, on the death of a member, all the money in their KiwiSaver account goes to their estate.”

The research also revealed that 51 per cent of respondents did not have a will.

KiwiSaver members were also surveyed on what options were available to them in the event of significant financial hardship.

They were asked whether they could apply to withdraw their KiwiSaver funds if this happened.

Sixty-six per cent of survey respondents knew this was possible, compared to 10 per cent who said it wasn’t and 24 per cent who did not know.

Mr Power said the research suggested people needed to read up on the ins and outs of KiwiSaver.

“Most people think about their KiwiSaver in the context of retirement or saving for the purchase of a first home.

“This survey is a reminder that they should also think about what happens to their funds in the event of unexpected and undesired circumstances.

More broadly, it was important for all KiwiSaver members to keep an eye on their savings.

“Our survey showed 12 per cent of people don’t know who their KiwiSaver provider is, while 21 per cent don’t know what type of fund they are in. Being engaged with your savings and choosing the right fund are vital to getting the best return on your money,” Mr Power said.

Nexus Planning & Research was commissioned by Westpac NZ to conduct the research. It surveyed 1007 KiwiSaver investors in October 2017. The margin of error is +/- 3.1%.

Survey responses: Divorce, Death, Disaster

In the event of divorce, is KiwiSaver treated as marital or individual property?
• Marital property (will be divided between the two parties) - 25%
• Individual property (will remain with its owner) - 35%
• Don't know/ Not sure - 40%

In the event of death, what happens to the deceased person's KiwiSaver balance?
• It goes to the Government - 6%
• A family member can ring up the person's KiwiSaver provider and ask for the balance to be transferred to them - 10%
• It goes to the person/s specified in the deceased's will - 49%
• Don't know/not sure - 35%

In the event of significant hardship, can KiwiSaver investors apply to withdraw KiwiSaver funds?
• Yes - 66%
• No - 10%
• Don't know/ Not sure - 24%