Retirement review not funny: report
The ‘‘jokey’’ approach taken by the Retirement Commissioner in her review of retirement income policy last year has been criticised in a new report.
Among Diane Maxwell’s recommendations were a call to increase the minimum KiwiSaver contribution, raise the pension age and require people to live in New Zealand for longer before they could claim state superannuation.
But a new report from Michael Chamberlain, co-founder of KiwiSaver provider Superlife, and Michael Littlewood, co-founder of the Retirement Policy and Research Centre, said she had missed an opportunity.
‘‘The findings were cloaked in a jokey, cartoon-like [online] presentation … and amounted to 34 recommendations and observations with little to no supporting evidence for nearly all of them.’’
They said Maxwell seemed set on strengthening KiwiSaver, but had not asked whether the scheme was working.
Chamberlain and Littlewood said taxpayers had spent $8.5 billion on KiwiSaver tax breaks and another $740 million would be spent this year.
‘‘Treasury reports before KiwiSaver started suggested that New Zealanders were probably slightly over-saving for retirement,’’ they wrote.
‘‘Subsequent Treasury reports suggest that KiwiSaver hasn’t made much difference to households’ financial behaviour so why do taxpayers continue to spend large sums subsidising KiwiSaver?’’
They said that citing the number of members did not prove KiwiSaver was working.
They also called for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, which was set up to invest to provide money to pay for the government pension in future, to be disbanded, its assets sold and the proceeds used to pay off debt.
But Maxwell defended her review and the style in which it was conducted.
‘‘The end result of the review, an online interactive portal, didn’t look like a report,’’ she said.
‘‘In reality, it contained more data, analysis and submissions than previous reports but some stakeholders found the form challenging. Some resistance to the approach stemmed from the view that if the public became more informed it would undermine the role and status of those working in this space.’’
She rejected Chamberlain Littlewood’s suggestions.
‘‘I do not believe it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to invest time and resources asking if KiwiSaver should exist. Over 2.7 million Kiwis have over $40 billion in funds under management. It’s here,’’ she said.
‘‘Across 2016 we spoke to and heard from thousands of New Zealanders … The alternative is to sit in a room looking at spreadsheets, talking to people just like ourselves.’’