KiwiSaver and Covid-19 hardship applications

When you can and can’t crack open your nest egg.

20may kiwisaver hardship applications hero

If your income has taken a hit from the Covid-19 lockdown, you could be eyeing up your KiwiSaver funds to help ease the pain. However, the rules for withdrawing your retirement cash early are strict. Here’s what you need to know.

When can I access my KiwiSaver early?

You can only withdraw your funds early if you’re:

  • buying a first home
  • moving overseas
  • suffering a serious illness, or
  • experiencing significant financial hardship.

If you’re struggling to make ends meet, you can make a hardship application to your KiwiSaver provider to withdraw your funds. However, approval isn’t a given.

You’ll need to show you can’t meet your living expenses and rent or mortgage payments. You’ll also need to show you’ve exhausted all other means of financial support.

What other options are available?

If you need help with essential costs or you’ve lost your job, you may be able to get a benefit from Work and Income.

Support may also be available through the government’s Covid-19 relief package. Check online at covid19.govt.nz. Alternatively, call the free helpline: 0800 779 997.

If you have a mortgage, you could consider putting repayments on hold to help tide you over. Be aware, while this can give you some breathing room, your loan will continue to accrue interest.

What’s the downside of accessing KiwiSaver early?

Covid-19 has hammered financial markets, so you’ve probably noticed your KiwiSaver balance may not be as healthy as it was a couple of months ago.

However, if you cash out now, you’ll be leaving the scheme before the market has a chance to recover and therefore locking in the loss rather than riding it out.

You’ll also be losing the income you would have earned if you left your money untouched until you turned 65.

Withdrawing funds on hardship grounds related to life-shortening congenital conditions means you won't be eligible to receive government contributions or compulsory employer contributions if you want to restart KiwiSaver.

How do I make a hardship application?

You’ll need to contact your KiwiSaver provider and fill out an application form.

You’ll need to supply a lot of evidence including bank statements, proof of wages or redundancy, statements to show the bills you have to pay and that you’ve attempted to access other types of assistance.

Normally, the process would involve visiting a Justice of the Peace or lawyer to get them to witness a statutory declaration. However, lockdown restrictions mean you can get the declaration witnessed via video channels such as Skype, FaceTime or Zoom.

When assessing hardship, KiwiSaver schemes have discretion to release all or part of your funds, depending on the amount considered necessary to help you. It won’t include any contributions the government has made to your KiwiSaver.

Our advice

  • Before applying to withdraw your funds, find out what other financial support could be available. You’ll need to demonstrate you’ve done this if you decide to make an application.

  • If you need help, free budgeting advice is available from MoneyTalks (freephone 0800 345 123). MoneyTalks is run by FinCap (the National Building Financial Capability Charitable Trust) with support from the Ministry of Social Development.

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