In financially stressful times like these, our minds quickly run to those piles of money in KiwiSaver. It’s natural to think about tapping into your KiwiSaver under the significant financial hardship option.

Weigh all the options first

“I’m dealing with redundancy, I’ve got people depending on me, I’m just trying to meet personal expenses – that’s what hardship withdrawals are meant to be for, right?”

Well yes. But you want to make sure you exhaust all your other options first. It needs to be a last resort.

Withdrawing now is a big deal, because you both:

  • Lock in your recent losses caused by COVID-19 disrupting the markets
  • Miss out on the money that would be yours if you stayed in KiwiSaver. Tens of thousands of dollars could be at stake. (See below.)

So it’s important to not run and do anything hasty. No fear-based, rushed decisions, please.

The response to the COVID-19 crisis includes all sorts of help you can look at before you need to apply for a hardship withdrawal. Use your support system first.

Get advice for your situation

Often there are alternatives out there we don’t even know about, but because our KiwiSaver fund is ours, we turn there first. But ideally you want to understand all the options and make a good choice.

The MoneyTalks helpline gives you access to expert financial mentors via live chat, phone, email or text: moneytalks.co.nz, 0800 345 123, help@moneytalks.co.nz or text 4029. You can even speak with them anonymously.

Help from lenders and banks

Remember that banks and other financial service providers are willing to work with customers who are struggling financially. This could be by restructuring loans or giving access to short-term credit, for example. 

You have a legal right to ask for changes to your loan repayments when you are experiencing unforeseen hardship.

No-interest loans

The No Interest Loan Scheme is run by Good Shepherd, and the Covid version of these types of loans can even be used for bills and debt to get through, and even by migrant workers. They are a great alternative to high-interest payday loans, for instance. There's more information at goodshepherd.org.nz/good-loans/

Government support

The government has announced a number of relief packages to help us through the COVID-19 crisis. Have a look to see if any can work for you:

If you’ve lost your job, can’t work at the moment or your income has fallen, you may be able to get a benefit or some other financial help from Work and Income. If you’re struggling to meet living costs or had an unexpected bill, they may be able to help you, even if you’re working. Find more information about financial support from Work and Income or call 0800 779 997 (8am–1am, 7 days a week).

How big a deal is it to withdraw from KiwiSaver?

When you’re looking at how much to withdraw, you can run your numbers using our KiwiSaver savings calculator to see how it affects your long-term prospects. Enter your current balance, see what you’re on track to achieve, and then reduce your balance by the amount you want to withdraw. Your final figure will reduce significantly.

To give an idea, let’s say you’re 35 years old and have $22,000 in a KiwiSaver growth fund. If you withdrew $20,000 now, by age 65 you would end up having $74,000 less! That’s a lot to walk away from (even when you adjust for the effects of inflation over that 30 years at 2%, it would still be $41,000 less).

A word of caution

If you’re aiming to withdraw funds to give to someone else, particularly someone you’ve never met in person, make sure you’re not the target of a scam. A crisis like the one we’re in brings out the worst in some people, and there are frauds out there exploiting the effects of COVID-19. Keep your money safe!

How hardship applications work

You are generally able to withdraw your KiwiSaver savings if you are experiencing financial hardship. This means you are not able to pay your essential living expenses or your mortgage, suffer from serious illness, or have to pay for medical treatment. It can even be for funeral costs in some cases.

The key thing to know is that significant hardship is for when you are unable to meet everyday expenses like food or shelter, and not to pay any of the following:

  • Credit card debt
  • Fines or infringement notices
  • Debt collection agency bills
  • Hire purchase debt for non-essential living expenses
  • Holidays
  • Travel to visit a sick relative.

You generally can’t take out any government money that has gone into your KiwiSaver for hardship. You may only be able to take out a specific amount.

After you’ve pursued all your options, contact your KiwiSaver provider directly to apply (or if you’ve been in KiwiSaver for less than three months, contact Inland Revenue).

Tapping your KiwiSaver is a big decision and will shape your future in one way or another, so you want to be sure it’s a smart choice.

Comments (18)

Gravatar for Daniel Mahuta tapaitau

Daniel Mahuta tapaitau

2:27pm | 15 Jun 2020

Hi,I had just been released from prison an I'm getting income from winz but I am still struggling through out this difficute time and really need my kiwisaver an I feel like it could help me out in some way

Gravatar for Adeline Edwards

Adeline Edwards

8:59am | 14 May 2020

Hi, I really need to apply for hardship, it's been really tough from the beginning of lock down as my son and I had to take over a house (renting) that we we're boarding in, as the person we were living with had up and left without us knowing so we were stuck and had no choice but to take on the house, the first 4 weeks we had to pay $500 a week rent, I was getting subsidised with only $390 a week and my son was helping to the best he could, he is only 17yrs, I also had to loan a $2500 bond which now I need to start paying back, good was a struggle but we got by, now I've also got power that I need to maintain, I really need help it's a bad struggle, at the moment in doing roughly under 20 hrs 5 days a week if I can, selling help, please

Gravatar for Esmarie Smith

Esmarie Smith

12:33pm | 12 May 2020

I would like to access my kiwisaver for hardship. both my husband and I have had our income reduced and we are struggling to make ends meet. I just want to settle bills.

Gravatar for Stuart Larmer

Stuart Larmer

5:51pm | 28 Apr 2020

Would like to apply for hardship thanku

Gravatar for Havila Aiono

Havila Aiono

6:37pm | 27 Apr 2020

Hi my name is Havila aiono applying for hardship thank you.

Gravatar for Tui Herewini

Tui Herewini

6:33pm | 26 Apr 2020

Consolidate loan

Gravatar for Troy Baker

Troy Baker

5:06pm | 26 Apr 2020

what's happens if I die who gets the money

Gravatar for Miria TeWhata

Miria TeWhata

11:40am | 24 Apr 2020

How can I find out how much or if any Kiwi Savings do I have?

Gravatar for

2:06pm | 14 Apr 2020

The government needs to make it much easier to access Kiwisaver funds in the current situation. I have another 15 years to rebuild savings for retirement, and assets I will be able to sell in future, yet presently have zero income coming in and I'm self-employed in a tourism business which will be slow to recover.

Gravatar for Dave

Dave

2:02pm | 11 Apr 2020

Hi can I apply for hardship while under lockdown and pay has been basically halved, struggling with rent, bills. So stressed don't know what to do? How quick can a decision be made by provider? I use AMP can it be done over phone or is it a long process? Thanks Dave