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How the New Zealand pension system works

Have you recently moved to New Zealand or planning to settle in this country? Read on for some key things to know about the NZ pension system.
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New Zealand’s pension system is one of many things that new migrants probably have questions about when they settle in this country.

For most New Zealanders, there could be three key streams of income in retirement: NZ Super, their KiwiSaver, and other investments. Here is what you need to know about how they fit together.

NZ Super

New Zealand’s pension system is sometimes referred to as being quite generous by international standards, because it is not means-tested. As long as you meet residency criteria, you almost always qualify to receive payments when you turn 65.

Until July 2024, you need to have lived in New Zealand for at least 10 years since the age of 20 to qualify, with five of those years being after you turned 50. From July 2024, the residency requirement will gradually increase to 20 years by July 2042. There are some instances where you may be able to use residence in a country that has a social security agreement with New Zealand, or is a New Zealand realm country to meet the criteria.  

The level of NZ Super payments is set by the Government each year and is adjusted to take into account the cost of living and average wages. The after-tax rate for couples who both qualify is based on 66% of the average ordinary-time wage, after tax. For single people, it’s about 40%.

If you are being paid a pension from an overseas government, this can reduce your NZ Super payment, depending on the structure of the system. Work and Income can provide more information about which countries’ pensions this applies to.


Launched in 2007, KiwiSaver is a scheme that is available to all New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, to help them save for retirement. For people who are employees, their contribution is taken automatically from their pay by Inland Revenue and sent to their KiwiSaver provider.

There is a range of providers and funds available, and people are free to choose the one they think is the most appropriate fit for their circumstances – advisers can help with this.

If you’re an employee aged between 18 and 64, employers also make a contribution, usually equal to 3% of the employee’s salary. Plus, regardless of whether you’re employed or not, the Government offers an annual contribution of 50 cents for every dollar contributed, to a maximum of $521.43 per year, subject to eligibility criteria being met and how much of the year you are eligible. Money is locked in until the age of NZ superannuation entitlement, but at that point people can start to withdraw it, either in small amounts or in one lump sum.

Other investments

Many people have other investments running alongside their KiwiSaver account to help them in retirement – maybe an investment property or other managed funds. These can provide more flexibility, because the restrictions on access to KiwiSaver investment funds are relatively rigid.

As investment advisers, we specialise in UK Pension transfers but we can also help you understand what other options are available and how they relate to your current circumstances.

Need more information?

If you’d like to learn more about the ways that New Zealanders fund their retirements, and how your overseas pension might fit in to that picture, drop us a line or give us a call. We can help you understand the options available to you, and help you to work through whether transferring an overseas pension to this country is a potential option for you.


Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.