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 (31)

Gravatar for

3:07am | 4 Jun 2021

Is being homeless hardship enough to withdrawl part of your kiwisaver

Gravatar for Nishu

Nishu

4:30am | 7 Feb 2021

Hi there

I invested into a lot 1.5 year ago. I had to give 10% to developer that time. Remaining amount is due at title issuance.
1.5 years ago bank told me that I will get loan at a deposit of 20% of lot price and build loan will be at 0% deposit.
Now when title is due in 2 months. Bank said that policies are changed & they want deposit of 10% of both lot & build. I have 9% amount for deposit. It’s hard to save that 1%. I really want to use my KiwiSaver. But I was not NZ resident before so I have been investing only since 1.5 year. I don’t know how to withdraw my own KiwiSaver savings.

Gravatar for Bob

Bob

2:43am | 23 Jan 2021

Evening,
If I withdrawal money from my kiwisaver due to financial hardship will winz consider that it is income? Therefore canceling my benefits....

Gravatar for Elisapeta Ioane

Elisapeta Ioane

7:03pm | 19 Jan 2021

Hi I moved in Australia but I need to withdraw my kiwi saver to help my family in Samoa to build our new home please

Gravatar for Tom from Sorted

Tom from Sorted

5:34pm | 22 Nov 2020

Thanks for commenting. To get your balance, you'll need to contact your KiwiSaver provider directly. If you're not sure whom your with, you can easily find out by calling 0800 KIWISAVER or 0800 549 472. In terms of using KiwiSaver to pay off arrears on your mother's estate, this is a long shot, but you should also reach out to your KiwiSaver provider to go over your situation. Cheers

Gravatar for Kim

Kim

5:16am | 18 Nov 2020

Hi, How am I able to get a balance of what's in my kiwisaver?

Gravatar for

4:56am | 18 Nov 2020

Hello I am a beneficiary of my mother's estate, which is in arrears due to the executive not putting it in probate. Now it's in arrears with the mortgage and rates.
Can I use my KiwiSaver to pay off the arrears? I am in financial hardship to pay this with the income I get.

Gravatar for Tom from Sorted

Tom from Sorted

2:22pm | 17 Nov 2020

Hi everyone, if you're looking to apply for hardship, you'll need to get in touch directly with your KiwiSaver provider, cheers.

Gravatar for Timothy jackson

Timothy jackson

4:07am | 16 Oct 2020

Hello my name is Timothy I would like to apply for my financial hardship please

Gravatar for Ashley

Ashley

8:57am | 30 Sep 2020

i am currently stranded in NewZealand as i was here on holiday when the covid-19 had hit. Not long after The borders were closed off leaving everyone unable to get thru, which unfortunately left me without employment as my job was unable to keep me on, due to being uncertain to when the border would be Reopened.

I have been trying to find work here but have found it very difficult with only limited identifications as i had only brought my passport and bank cards along with my medicare and and other cards ect which is no use here.

At the moment i am finding it hard and unable to pay my bills payments/debts and other liabilities am seeking financial assistance and would really appreciate access to my KiwiSaver funds as I am in financial hardship thank you.