11 Aug 2018

'This is Tim's money': Call for change to KiwiSaver

9:57 pm on 11 August 2018

The mother of a man with Down Syndrome is calling for a law change after discovering his KiwiSaver is locked away despite his condition meaning he's unlikely to reach the age of retirement.

Most retirees will eventually rely on superannuation.

Most retirees will eventually rely on superannuation. Photo: 123RF

The law means Tim Fairhall, 39, cannot access the $8000 he has put into Kiwisaver until he is 65.

However, his mother Joan Fairhall said the average age of death for people with his condition was 57.

"This is Tim's money, he saved it from his earnings but under the current KiwiSaver framework he's never going to benefit from that. He and all the others deserve to have a retirement that's got some value and some pleasure and some benefit."

Because he aged earlier, she said, he would need to retire in his mid-40s.

"He's saving for himself so he can have his dream come true and go and visit his brother in Italy."

While KiwiSaver has a number of opt-out clauses, she said her son and those in his circumstances were not considered.

"The opt-out clauses just don't apply. The closest that his provider thought it might pertain to a serious or life-threatening illness. Down Syndrome is not an illness it's a condition."

She said she feared going public as that would mean some might get a "sad surprise" when they realised this was an issue they were going to have to face.

"I have talked to a lot of people over the last three years about this and what surprises me is it appears other parents, even financial advisers, people who are working with people with disabilities, and indeed the providers of KiwiSaver, didn't know."

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell has given her support.

"This issue cannot end up in the 'too hard basket'. It may not be easy but it just requires a commitment to work until we get the settings right for more and more New Zealanders," she said.

A select committee is currently considering the Taxation (Annual Rates for 2018019, Modernising Tax Administration, and Remedial Matters) Bill which contains a number of improvements to KiwiSaver.

Joan Fairhall has put forward a submission on her son's behalf and is expecting to speak before the committee next month.

"I'm feeling very hopeful that there'll be a solution for Tim and many others."