24 May 2024

Why some MPs take a pass on KiwiSaver

10:58 am on 24 May 2024
Members of Parliament, from top left clockwise, Winston Peters, Barbara Edmonds, Melissa Lee, and Mark Cameron.

Members of Parliament who are not yet investing in the KiwiSaver scheme, from top left clockwise, Winston Peters, Barbara Edmonds, Melissa Lee, and Mark Cameron. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro, Angus Dreaver, VNP / Phil Smith

KiwiSaver is New Zealand's national superannuation scheme, intended to help more of us save for a comfortable retirement.

But while more than 3.25 million New Zealanders have an account and more than $100 billion is invested, there are 11 members of parliament not invested.

They include National Party's Melissa Lee, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, ACT's Mark Cameron and Labour's Barbara Edmonds.

Edmonds said she had not joined the scheme because she could not afford to at first.

"I was the sole income earner of a family of 10 and also supporting elderly parents."

She was also paying for two family homes, because one is used for the parents.

"I'm in the process of looking for a scheme to join," she said. "But initially every dollar counted. Now we're in a position where we can plan more freely for that but the main reason is it's expensive to have a family of 10 and elderly parents. My focus was on trying to settle in, my kids are aged 10 to 20 and have a lot of extracurricular activity... now we are in a position where we are settled, with much more stable income, we know what our outgoings are and we're ready to start."

Lee said she opted for a private superannuation scheme instead.

A spokesperson for Cameron said he had decided to invest his income in his farming business.

Simplicity was the most favoured KiwiSaver provider among those who had opted in to the scheme.

Other former default providers, such as ANZ, AMP and ASB were popular.

Speaker Gerry Brownlee said he was a member of AXA KiwiSaver, and Labour's Jenny Salesa said she was a member of Tower's KiwiSaver. Neither scheme has existed under those names for more than a decade.

Simplicity founder Sam Stubbs said people who were not in KiwiSaver were missing out on "free money".

Those who contribute at least $1042 a year qualify for a $521 member tax credit.

MPs also have access to a superannuation subsidy up to two-and-a-half-times their contribution to a maximum 20 percent of salary.

A backbencher earning $168,600 contributing 3 percent of their salary would get a contribution of $12,645.

"They may have an ideological opposition to it, they might have just not got around to it. They might not have had a job where they were defaulted into it," Stubbs said.

The reference to schemes which had since been acquired by other providers reflected "how much attention they pay to it", he said.

"There's no logical reason why they shouldn't have it."

There were many people in the wider population still not in the scheme, or not contributing, he said.

"The tragedy of that is that those are probably the people who most need it. The problem with KiwiSaver now, it's a wonderful scheme but it is exacerbating a wealth gap rather than narrowing it."

Independent economist Shamubeel Eaqub said it reflected a tendency of New Zealanders not to be deliberate about their money.

"Have you actively and deliberately made those financial decisions? That's really important for everyone."

NZ Council of Trade Unions policy director Craig Renney said some MPs might not want to tie up their savings until they were 65, as KiwiSaver required.

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